Thursday, June 30, 2005

That other war

Afghanistan produces news stories on a daily basis, but they usually don't carry the same weight as what's going on in Iraq. Why? Well, total US casualties in Afghanistan, after nearly four years, are about 1/7th of those in Iraq over a little more than two years ... 234 as of yesterday.

That number -- and public notice that there's still a war on in that country -- took a big leap today when the US military confirmed the deaths of 16 Americans in the downing of a Chinook transport helicopter.

Why the lower casualty figures? Well, there are also about 1/7th as many US troops in Afghanistan as in Iraq, and they've never been tasked with actually taking over the country (there's a NATO force for that, which is apparently about as useful as teats on a boar). They rousted out the Taliban, installed a new "government," and then went into a holding pattern (al Qaeda having already packed its important trash and moved out of the neighborhood while said rousting occurred). Afghanistan remains a patchwork of feudal warlord fiefdoms. The Taliban never really controlled the place, either ... but to the extent they did, they still substantially do, outside the confines of the government district in Kabul and the perimeter of the US air base at Bagram.

The newspapers talk about a "resurgent rebellion," but that doesn't seem to be what's going on. The Taliban continues to take leisurely swats at those who've allied themselves with Washington's proxy government -- kidnapping an aid worker here, assassinating an official there, overrunning a district capital over yonder, what have you ... but it's not a rebellion. It's business as usual, with the Taliban a bit annoyed -- but not overly incovenienced -- by the fact that former US petroleum industry consultant Mohammed Karzai is sitting in what they consider their chair.

The Taliban knows better than to attempt large-scale assaults on the US troop presence -- it's a slaughter every time they sound the bugle. And the US military knows that digging the Taliban's troops out of their mountain redoubts would be a very, very bloody task.

So, it's a waiting game, with attendant effusion of blood. Three guesses which side can probably wait longer.

Until the US invasion in 2001, no foreign invader had conquered Afghanistan since Alexander the Great. Since the US invasion in 2001 ... no foreign invader has conquered Afghanistan since Alexander the Great. The proper approach would have been for the US to concentrate on crushing al Qaeda and getting the hell out -- but the White House wasn't particularly interested in either objective.

An American soldier who dies in Afghanistan is just as dead as an American soldier who dies in Iraq. His family misses him just as much. His nation's loss is just as grievous. And the person responsible for his needless death lives at the same address -- 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Battle of the Blogs: Do the math!

BlogExplosion's "Battle of the Blogs" has been reformulated, and it's even better. But I just don't understand some of the large wagers. Math lesson time:

1) The minimum number of credits you can bet is 10.

2) When you wager 10 credits -- which otherwise could have been redeemed for 10 visitors -- you instead receive 15 visitors, who view your blog, view your opponent's blog, and then vote.

In other words, "Battle of the Blogs" is a good investment in traffic. Half again as good as just using those credits.

Of course, if you win, you get back half again as many credits as you wagered. If you lose, your wagered credits are gone. But either way, you got 15 visitors for the price of 10.

You get 15 visitors, whether you wager 10 credits or 100. It's just that if you wager 100 credits and lose, you've paid 6.x credits per visitor instead of 0.66666 ... credits per visitor. So why wager 20, 30, 100 credits ... unless you're really sure you can win, which, given the fickle nature of the viewers, is never a sure thing?

Insane addictive greed, I guess -- and no, I'm not putting you high rollers down ... it's just the only explanation I can come up with. By all means, keep betting big -- I like getting those credits for voting, too ;-)

Personally, whenever I rack up 10 credits from viewing blogs, I go play "Battle of the Blogs." When I'm winning, I'm winning. When I'm losing, I play until they're all gone (I'm running about a .370 batting average right now) and then go earn 10 more credits. Kind of addictive.

But do the math. Really.

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The LP has a plan

The Libertarian Party has a plan for getting out of Iraq.

I have some reservations about that plan, which I'll get to shortly, but let's get thing straight up front: The LP has been, and continues to be, the only party offering a plan to get the US out of Iraq. The Democrats keep kvetching about it, but the farthest they've gone is to hector the Bush administration to offer a plan of its own. Some Republicans are starting to get antsy, but they haven't taken their leader to the woodshed yet.

In the 2004 presidential campaign, John Kerry refused to commit to any kind of timeline, while Libertarian presidential candidate Michael Badnarik offered a realistic, detailed promise of US withdrawal (I didn't find that detailed proposal right away on his site, but I know it exists -- I helped write it -- and a Google search on "Badnarik" "Iraq" and "withdrawal" will turn up a number of interview references).

So: Hats off to the LP. It isn't too often that they get to be the only realistic political party on stage, and this is one of those times.

Now, to my problems with the plan:

1) It envisions a one-year withdrawal, with re-routing of many of the troops in Iraq to "other bases in the Middle East."

If Iraq was at peace, a year would be a realistic timeline. Iraq isn't at peace -- so, if there's going to be a withdrawal, it needs to be a quick one. Badnarik's 90-day phased withdrawal was the timeline most consistent with the safety of the troops. Any faster, and security would become lax to accomodate speed of movement. Much slower, and significant numbers of troops would be left in a less secure environment for a longer time than necessary. Either of these scenarios increases the potential for attacks on US troops that need not happen.

Also, the withdrawal from Iraq should be part of a general withdrawal from the Middle East. If there is still work to do tracking down al Qaeda in central Asia/Afghanistan (after letting them get away in 2001 while the US messed with "nation-building" instead), fine ... but the US presence in the Middle East was the casus belli for, and is the enabler of, the terrorism which the US is purportedly fighting. It's time to bring the troops home from the entire region, not just from Iraq.

2) It envisions a "direct aid" program from the US to Iraq.

Leaving aside libertarian ideological arguments as to how such an "aid" package would be financed, this is just a euphemism for reparations. I don't have a problem with reparations, but paying reparations while pretending to instead be extending magnanimous aid loses two ways: Everyone knows you're paying reparations, and you're hiding your face in shame and pretending to not be doing what you're doing. If the US is going to pay reparations, just eat the damn crow and call them reparations. If the US is going to accept the ignominy of paying reparations for its aggression in Iraq, then it should hold its head high and claim credit for paying its debts, instead of arrogantly pretending that it's just throwing money at a panhandler out of charity.

Even with those flaws, however, the LP is ahead of the curve. It is the only political party speaking for the majority of Americans who now realize that the war on Iraq was a bad idea and is a failed venture. I don't know if I can overcome my objections and sign on to the plan, but I applaud the LP for being the only party to take a mainstream approach to the problem -- and, moreover, for having stood on principle and waited for the mainstream to accept reality, instead of abandoning principle and reality to chase that mainstream.

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The blogosphere: Red light district?

Hat tip to The Blog Factory for this story on how some bloggers take money from USWeb to review -- or maybe just flog -- their clients' products.

This is, predictably, raising ethical questions. I guess that's a good thing, but to me the important thing is disclosure. Let's take this from the top:

1) There's nothing wrong with being paid for writing. Really.

2) There's nothing wrong with being paid for writing about particular things. Really.

3) If you're receiving financial or other considerations to write about particular things, it's generally polite to make sure your readers know. Their perception of your opinion may be affected by that knowledge, and maybe it should be.

So, a bit of disclosure on my part is in order: I write book reviews. Often, review copies of those books have been made available to me for the purpose of doing so, at no cost to me. Occasionally, the author or publisher even purchases a paid ad on my site to promote the book. The only promise I make to authors who send me review copies or buy ads is this: "If I don't have something nice to say about your book, I won't say anything at all." I've never been offered a fee to write a review on my blog, but I do earn a dollar now and again for reviewing over at Epinions.

Speaking of which, I have reviews to write, Real Soon Now, of two books which I've received review copies of, one book which has been advertised on this site (and which I then bought), and one book which I just bought because people I trust told me I needed to read it (they were right). And, per the above, I have nice things to say about all of those books, or I wouldn't be planning reviews.

But I digress.

Here on Kn@ppster, I'll try to be up-front about whether or not I've received any consideration, financial or otherwise, from the sellers of products I review. But I don't see anything wrong with being paid to blog per se. I just may see if I can get in on that USWeb deal myself. If I don't have to lie to or deceive you to get the money, I'll gladly take it.

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Sauce for the gander?

It's top-notch guerilla theatre: Logan Darrow Clements of Freestar Media, LLC, wants to use eminent domain to confiscate Supreme Court Justice David Souter's home and develop a hotel/museum complex.

Souter, who voted with the majority in the court's Kelo v. New London ruling certainly would have no grounds for complaint ... the ruling holds that if a city governent stealing someone's home and turning it over to private developers would result in greater tax revenues, it's acceptable. Clement's tourist attraction would easily pass that test.

Clements proposes to build the "Lost Liberty Hotel," with an attached museum that would focus on the loss of American liberty characterized by things like the Kelo ruling. That connection, of course, establishes why Souter's home, in particular, is a good development plot -- it's real estate that's connected to the topic. The seizure story alone would enhance its value in that respect.

Here's where I'm going to get all contrarian, though. Guerilla theatre? Sure -- let's do it. Raise some awareness, sell some t-shirts for whatever worthy project, make the point.

But where the rubber meets the road it's important to establish that while Souter, as a Supreme Court justice, may not respect the property rights of Americans, libertarians do -- even if the American happens to be David Souter.

Hopefully, Clements will manage to get his proposal in front of the Weare, New Hampshire board of selectmen ... and then take advantage of his bully pulpit to argue against that proposal and for a commitment from the city to never, ever use eminent domain as corporate welfare.

Because, you see, we are not like them.

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Same as it ever was, but different

Were you hoping for a special announcement last night? An explanation, perhaps? Maybe even an admission of just a little culpability, even if it was handed off as understandable and minor error rather than as monumental hubris or intentional dishonesty?

C'mon. You knew better. You knew exactly how the President of the United States was going to describe the debacle in Iraq. You knew exactly what he was going to say.

He invoked 9/11 (although, of course, he offered no plausible link between 9/11 and Iraq, there being none to offer).

He told us how much the terrorists hate our freedom (although, of course, he offered no explanation as to why they don't hate us less as the government he heads persists in taking more and more of that freedom away, or why the birth of their hatred of our freedom so closely correlated in time with the US presence in the Middle East).

And then he laid down the Big Lie with the self-assurance of a man who's done so so many times that he's forgotten he's even lying: "Our mission in Iraq is clear. We're hunting down the terrorists."

Hmmm ... two-and-a-half years and nearly 1,800 American lives ago, the mission in Iraq was clear, too. It's just that it was an entirely different mission. Anyone remember WMDs or regime change? Anyone want to guess what the mission will be next week?

I have to profess a certain grudging admiration for the President and his administration. I used to think that he was just out-Clintoning Bill Clinton, but I've come to understand that his approach is significantly different.

When Clinton stepped on his own crank, he followed up with a trench-warfare defensive strategy: Begin with a denial; wag the dog a bit (usually by bombing Iraq); slowly retreat to a "mistakes were made" position; and, finally, hole up in the impenetrable keep of "let's move on"ism and skulk there until everyone got tired enough of the whole thing to find another issue du jour.

Bush emulates Sherman instead: He begins with a denial, too, but then he cuts loose from his supply lines and moves forward past whatever's in the way, burning as he goes. It's never "mistakes were made." It's always "I never said that -- the media just has defective cameras and recorders -- and if you go back to look, there's nothing but smoke and destroyed crops back there now, so let's go ... this way." He sends out smaller raiding parties in different directions to sow confusion as to just where he's going (this last week, those raiding parties have been led by Dick "last throes" Cheney and Karl "liberals want therapy for terrorists" Rove). Instead of hunkering down and trying to blunt the assault, he moves ahead, fast, and never, ever ever admits that he's going in a different direction than he was five minutes ago.

Clinton was more than willing to make his stand behind a stack of rhetorical bodies -- to jettison appointees and bureaucrats as necessary, leading them out behind the barn for the bullet that he would otherwise have to take himself. Bush uses real bodies (and real bullets), but he doesn't stack them up and hide behind them -- while we're busy burying them, he deftly circles around the obstacles on the field (in the case of last night's speech, the Downing Street memos) and tries to ride far enough ahead of his pursuers to leave those obstacles out of visual range behind them when next they catch up. Out of sight, out of mind. When the terrain of the battlefield is not in his favor, he just finds better terrain.

This man is not stupid. Nobody, not even a scion of wealth and power, raises himself from coke-snorting deserter to drunk driving playboy to corporate welfare queen to President of the United States in thirty years flat without something on the ball.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Out on a limb ...

I'm not completely alone in thinking that we may see a well-timed retirement and a recess appointment to the Supreme Court. The neolibertarian network's Jon Henke calls the notion "entirely plausible."

On the other hand, I'm not seeing the prediction elsewhere, Kerfuffles has a different idea and Logan Ferree of the Democratic Freedom Caucus is skeptical ... so I guess I'm either out of my mind or ahead of the game.

Here's why I think it's not just plausible, but likely:

- The Democrats have made extensive use of the filibuster and/or threat of the filibuster to hold up President Bush's judicial nominees. Now I'm a Democrat, and I regard the filibuster as an entirely legitimate parliamentary tactic, but it's also a tactic that exposes the party using it to accusations of foul play (and Democrats have been the first to raise such accusations when Republicans have held up confirmation votes using it). Thus was born

- The nuclear option: A proposal by the GOP Senate leadership to do away with filibusters by having the President of the Senate (Dick Cheney when he's in town) rule that a majority vote is sufficient for cloture, and then by having a majority of the Senate uphold the ruling of the President on appeal. This led to

- The compromise: Fourteen Senators, seven from each party, agreeing to head this off: The seven Republicans agreeing to vote against upholding the "nuclear option" ruling, the seven Democrats agreeing to vote for cloture and let some of Bush's nominees be confirmed.

So, where does this leave us?

Right back where we started, of course.

Call your bookie. See what kind of odds he'll give you on a bet that the Democrats won't filibuster whomever Bush nominates as the next Chief Justice. 100 to 1? 500 to 1? You could get rich if you won. But you won't. We know it's going to happen. Bush could appoint Bill Clinton as the new Chief Justice. He could appoint Howard Dean. Hell, he could appoint Dennis Kucinich -- and five minutes later the Democrats in the Senate would be busting their guts screaming about the right-wing monster whose confirmation would guarantee the overturn of Roe v. Wade, the return of segregation to government schools and, quite possibly, the descent of a plague of locusts upon our prostrate nation.

If Bush makes a normal appointment, it's either filibuster city or the nuclear option.

Even if Bush believes that the GOP will retain its majority in the 2006 elections ... even if he believes that the GOP will gain a filibuster-proof majority in the 2006 elections ... he won't want to leave a seat on the court vacant for that long. And, in fairness, I wouldn't either if I was the president.

The nuclear option might work. Or it might not. And even if it does, it smacks even more of parliamentary trickery than the filibuster does. The filibuster, at least, has a history.

Recess appointments have a history, too. A little Googling says that no fewer than 15 Supreme Court justices have come to the court via recess appointment, the first one in 1795.

So ... be the Bush, Danny ... be the Bush. Are you going to:

a) Leave the Supreme Court one man short, and that a man on your side of most political divides, by not making an appointment or by making an appointment and leaving the appointee in filibuster hell?

b) Trot out a parliamentary trick that didn't work last time, might not work this time and will carry baggage for your party even if it does work? Or

c) Do something that's legally sound, has numerous historical precedents, and puts the jurist you want -- any jurist you want -- on the bench for at least a year-and-a-half?

Maybe I'm giving the Bush administration more credit than it deserves for thinking things through and winning fights. But I don't think so. I think this will happen.

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I'm suspicious

The Supreme Court ended its term yesterday, recessing until October ... and Chief Justice William Rehnquist did not, as many expected, announce his retirement.

That doesn't especially surprise me -- Supreme Court justices are notoriously unpredictable and independent. Hell, maybe Rehnquist, who is often more moderate than he's given credit for, just doesn't want his successor appointed by George W. Bush.

On the other hand, the White House reaction to questions on the matter leaves me suspicious. From Wired News:

At the White House on Monday, where spokesmen have said President Bush was ready to step in with a quick nomination if there is an opening, spokesman Scott McClellan refused to answer questions about whether the White House had been notified of any vacancy."

"I'm not going to go down that road, I wouldn't read anything into it one way or the other. If, obviously, there is something to announce, I imagine it would come out of the Supreme Court," McClellan said.

A classic non-answer.

Prediction: Rehnquist will give notice of his retirement on the afternoon that the Senate goes into its holiday recess. Bush will make a recess appointment -- effectively putting whomever he wants in as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court through 2006, if I read it right. From C-SPAN:

Any recess appointment the President makes during the first session of a Congress will last until the end of its second session [each Congress is split into two sessions of approximately one year each].

If I'm right, you read it here first. If not ... well, you read it here first anyway.

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Monday, June 27, 2005

The deal is off

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that property rights are so trivial and unimportant that it's okay for any politician with a bribe in his pocket and a wild hair up his ass to take your home at gunpoint, bulldoze it and build a parking lot where it used to be.

Today, the Supreme Court ruled that property rights are of such paramount importance that anyone who creates a tool which might conceivably be used to violate them can be held liable if anyone does violate them.

Apparently the importance of property rights depends on just whose rights we're talking about -- your real ones, or the imagined ones of governments and corporations.

Even as an anarchist, I've generally been willing to work within the established order ... to attempt to keep the system to, or bring it back within, its constitutionally mandated limits. I've always figured that the stage could be set for anarchy by first achieving minimal government.

I was wrong.

To the extent that the Constitution can be treated as a "social contract" (it can't be -- but that's how the state advertises it), the Supreme Court has, over the last week, made it finally and abundantly clear that the state has no intention of allowing itself to be bound by the terms of that contract, in any particular or to any extent whatsoever.

Okay, fine. Screw the Supreme Court and the horse it rode in on. If the state is not bound by the "social contract," then neither are we. The contract is null and void for reason of non-performance by one party of the terms of said contract. The deal is off. The union subsisting, etc., etc., is hereby dissolved. If the nine doddering imbeciles who style themselves the "final arbiters" (yes, Robert, I am speaking to your conception) want my rights, I have but one answer for them: Molon labe, if you can.

Henceforth, the only flag I recognize is the black banner upon which nothing is written.

Res Publica Delenda Est!

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Domain names for sale

Sometimes I buy a domain name and the idea for it just doesn't work out. Other times, a good domain name and idea occur to me, and I just don't have time to do them. So I have these domains just lying around ... and they're for sale: -- This domain name was inspired by an article on Slate, proposing "the next big idea in blogging." I don't know if it's all that, but it sounds like a nifty idea. Or maybe there's another use the name could be put to. -- For some reason, the other day I described Rational Review News Digest as "the go-to gallery of news and opinion hooks for bloggers to riff on," and that idea's just been with me ever since. RRND is actually a libertarian-oriented news and commentary digest ... but what if someone started a news/commentary aggregation service, possibly automated, and aimed at the audience of bloggers seeking topics to blog about? Sounds like ad-revenue flypaper to me, and I may just do it if I don't sell the domain first.

News-Digests.Com was, for awhile, the home of RRND and several other news digests, but I ended up moving them all back under Rational Review's roof when we were remodeling our database and content editor scheme. Another good name for an aggregation site. and are more marginal, I think. The former was a site on which I sold my "No-Bullshit Guide to E-Zine Publishing" for awhile, along with some other ebooks by myself and others. I just got tired of maintaining it. The latter was an idea for one of those "paid to read email" jobs, and I just never did find a script that I thought met the needs (the idea was to forward news items to the readers by email, each accompanied by a link to an advertiser's site -- the readers would be paid a few cents for clicking on the link).

Anyway, I'm entertaining bids. I don't really plan to turn down any reasonable offers; but having looked at the domain name auction facilities on the web, none of them seem worth the trouble (I put a couple of these names up on a new auction site that seemed to promptly disappear awhile back). Just drop me a note.

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Sunday, June 26, 2005

Things change

Sometimes I get cynical and forget that not all of the recent changes in American society have been for the worse. Usually, there's something to remind me that things do get better sometimes. This weekend was one of those somethings.

We homeschool, and Friday is "field trip day." But this week, we put the field trip off until Saturday and took the kids to PrideFest: Civics, social studies and American culture in Tower Grove Park. It was, I'm sorry to say, too oppressively hot and humid for us to stay as long as we would have liked (there was a multi-couple commitment ceremony wedding scheduled for the afternoon). The kids got hot and cranky and we cut our time there short.

But ...

I'm not even forty years old yet, and I can remember when it was simply considered impermissible to acknowledge that homosexuality existed or that if it did that it was anything other than an aberration.

I remember when calling someone a "fag" or a "queer" was considered the ultimate insult.

I remember when people lost, or failed to get, jobs on the basis of the perception that they might be homosexual. I knew teachers about whom it was whispered that they were "light in the loafers" and it was obvious that they were under closer and more constant scrutiny than their fellow teachers. That still happens some, I'm sure, but not as often.

I remember when gay and lesbian groups were very cautious about giving out their meeting locations and times from fear of being attacked. And I can remember a few of those attacks (the firebombing of the Metropolitan Community Church in Springfield, Missouri, for example -- by the same group that attacked the local synagogue).

I remember -- it was only 16 years ago! -- when a friend's house was burned down while we were at a candlelight vigil for the victims of AIDS. He was one of the leaders in a group supporting a university theatre company's decision to produce Larry Kramer's "The Normal Heart." The "God Hates Fags" nutjobs were thick on the ground and still thought they were in control.

And now, PrideFest is just another day in the park. Yeah, there's certainly a higher concentration of same-sex couples in one place, and there's a festival emphasis on sexual orientation, but there's nothing that's unusual in and of itself (including the festival emphasis -- ever been to a wet t-shirt contest? Much more focused on sexuality as such).

Even sixteen years ago -- even ten years ago -- a same-sex couple walking down the sidewalk holding hands were doing something incredibly brave, for which they might just find themselves in a fight. Now ... they're just another couple out for a stroll.

It's still an uphill battle, as the nutjobs fight their last-ditch action to keep their fellow Americans from exercising their right to marry ... but tolerance is winning. Matthew Shepard is the exception instead of the rule. Being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is fast becoming just another one of those differences that makes no difference unless you're looking for a romantic or sexual relationship.

That's a good thing.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Saturday Symposium

It's time for a new national anthem. "The Star-Spangled Banner" is so 1812. We need something that's more reflective of the true character and majesty of American government in this, the Year of Our Lord Vader, 2005. And something you can maybe, like, dance to. My nomination:

Everybody knows
That the world is full of stupid people
So meet me at the mission at midnight
We'll divvy up there

Everybody knows
That the world is full of stupid people
But I got the pistol so I keep the pesos
That seems fair

-- "Banditos," by the Refreshments [Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy, 1996]

Your turn. Rules: Close your eyes. Meditate on the essential natures of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Congress and the nine ninnies in black robes. Imagine what their theme song might be if they took time out of the organized crime racket to put together a focus group and choose a theme song. Click Comment and share.

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Friday, June 24, 2005

FMNNClip: The state versus anarchy

My latest at Free Market News Network. Excerpt:

Why should it be that people regard being "without rulers" as tantamount to chaos? The deep embedding of this notion in society is not accidental. The state, first and foremost, guards the idea of the necessity of its own existence.

Organizations operate in a manner roughly analogous to organisms. Just as the individual cells in a human body work to assure that body's survival, so the individuals in an organization, intentionally or not, tend to operate first on the imperative of the organization's survival. This imperative supersedes any other alleged function of that organization. A community Little League club, for example, must preserve itself as an organization -- it can build ball diamonds, organize teams or sponsor games only if it does so.

As with other organizations, the first mission of the state is to ensure its own survival. Not the survival of those whom its functionaries claim to serve (although that may be a secondary concern and will certainly be a cited justification for the state's existence), but the survival of the organization itself. And, in practice, survival means growth and expansion, not atrophy or reduction in size. Thus, it is in the interest of the state, and of the state's functionaries, to portray the absence of the state, or even any reduction in its role, as an unthinkable horror.

Here's the rest.

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PSA: Support your libertarian POWs

The thugs in Washington tell us that they're engaged in a "war on drugs." I agree -- and I know which side of that war I'm on.

In wars, there are casualties (we will not forget you, Peter McWilliams), and there are prisoners. The prisoners deserve the support of their comrades outside the wire. They were captured, after all, during a fight for our rights and against the depredations of the enemy. We should be as supportive as possible until they escape or are released, or until the war ends.

Now, I don't have the resources to keep track of, let alone assist, every last POW who's captured with a joint or has a gram of coke "found" under his car seat by a cop enemy soldier filling a quota. Neither, likely, do you. But, I'm sorry to report, a POW will soon be going behind the wire whom many of us know, who has made innumerable and valuable contributions to human liberty, and who I can, and will, help and ask you to help.

Don Meinshausen has been a part of the freedom movement since the 1960s. He's been present at, and deeply involved in, important movement actions that entire time -- from the burning of draft cards on the floor of the 1969 YAF convention in St. Louis to the debates between Libertarian presidential candidate Michael Badnarik and Green Presidential candidate David Cobb last year.

Don's been sporting a piece of Big Brother jewelry -- a tracking shackle to keep him under "house arrest" -- for two years. Now he's about to enter the Federal "Correctional" Institution in Fort Dix, NJ for 42 months on charges of "conspiracy to distribute MDMA and hemp."

I propose that Don's fellow libertarians make his stay in the gulag -- and no, I am not going to apologize for using that word -- as comfortable and humane as possible. That may mean sending money for the commisary (if he's allowed to receive it). Or publications (if he's allowed to receive outside reading material). Or just supportive letters. I'll find out, as quickly as I can, what is permitted and what is probited. Until then, please don't send anything that you have even an inkling might cause problems for him. Don's address is:

Don Meinshausen
Inmate number 08496-050
PO Box 7000
Ft Dix NJ 08640

Res Publica Delenda Est!

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Whatever happened to ...

RedPaper? Great pay-for-content model, good buzz ... it had everything going for it. It's still a very sound idea, and it should be doing better than it is.

I published via RedPaper for awhile. As a matter of fact, you can still buy my ebooklets Roulette for the Leisure Gambler and Tom Knapp's No Bullshit Guide to E-Zine Publishing, as well as chapters one and two and 3 thru 6 of my still-unfinished novel The Halaunbrenner Grant there. (Note: Don't buy Writing the Libertarian Op-Ed there -- it's now available free in the files area of the Rational Review News Digest list.)

My main endeavor at RedPaper was a daily news and commentary roundup -- a subset of RRND -- which I quit doing because I was really busy and something had to go. I always meant to publish more there, and just may start doing so.

The RedPaper model is simple: You make a small PayPal deposit (two or three bucks, I think), and establish an account out of which micropayments can be made for individual pieces of content. By moving these tiny transactions onto their site, RedPaper solved the problem of PayPal's commissions, which essentially make any transaction of less than 50 cents or so -- in practice, a buck or less -- a wash. When you sell on RedPaper, the micropayments accumulate in a different account, which you can roll back over into PayPal whenever you think there's enough there to make it worth doing so.

If it's a buzz thing, hopefully I've done my part -- a RedPaper Renaissance would be nice.

More on revenue models

I suppose I could have just posted this in the comments area of the original post. But you know, I don't have to ... and I'd rather get a couple of links to the commenters' -- Mike Linksvayer and I.M. Dedd -- blogs up front where they're more likely to get some clickage goodness.

So, that's taken care of. Now, to the actual comments.

Mike: Your adsense ads are in about the worst possible location according to the adsense heat map ...

Me: Yup. I've messed with the AdSense scripting a bit. For awhile, I had it trying to poke a one-ad unit into the bottom of each post, but it didn't reliably do so. I'd get an ad in one post, and not in another. Never figured out why, but it limited the number of posts I could keep up front, since Google says "three ad units max per page." I may revisit things later and try to figure out a way to more prominently feature the AdSense material.

Then again, I'm honestly happier with BlogAds anyway. The ad content isn't targeted by some algorithm -- people buy BlogAds on my site because they think my readers will dig what they're offering. And with BlogAds, there's a set price, I get that money less the service's commission, and it's done, instead of trying to figure out what the hell Google's formula is for paying (or not paying) me. Even if I keep AdSense, I won't be moving it up above BlogAds any time soon, because there are paid BlogAds showing, and it would be unfair to the people who paid for them to move the BlogAds strip to a less prominent location than they paid for.

AdSense is on probation with me. If I can figure out how to make it work well, and how to make it produce a reliable income stream -- it doesn't have to be a huge income stream, just a reliable one that's worth the trouble and worth making the space for it on my page -- I'll keep it. If not, I won't. I figure I'll know by the end of July whether it stays or goes.

I.M. Dedd: "Adsense and Blogads are going to bring money in based on your current readership, but what are your plans (and any of our plans, for that matter) to increase readership? How do we get this stuff in front of more eyes. More importantly, how to we get our stuff in front of non-blogger eyeballs (i.e., not the B/E and B/C crowd)? That's always my concern."

Me: I get a certain amount of my traffic from exchanges -- especially BlogExplosion -- but I'm trying to make Knappster stand up more and more on its own.

I advertise here and there when it's cheap and looks like it might be effective. I buy banner impressions on sites likely to be read by those whom I think would also like mine, or I buy targeted visitors on the basis of topic. One thing I've noticed, with both advertising and traffic exchanges, is that I tend to get multiple page views from the visitors. That means they like my stuff and want to see more of it, so they're raiding the archive. That's cool ... if I start getting down toward only one page view per reader on average, I know I'm losing my chops and need to get more interesting, fast.

I try to link to other blogs when they have interesting material, and of course take a trackback on those links. Even BlogExplosion is, for me, more of a networking tool than a "click-for-traffic" kind of thing. If you'll recall, it was via BlogExplosion that I happened across Dead Guy. I could have spent 30 seconds on your blog and collected my "half of a visitor." But when I find a blog via BE that is worthwhile, I try to leave a comment, maybe run a link to it. That gets conversations, and links back and forth, going. Last time I looked, Technorati said that something like 111 other blogs that they track link to me. The more links I have, the more traffic I get ... and then it's up to me to be interesting enough to get people to bookmark the blog and come back. It doesn't hurt to get noticed by some of the "mainstream media" outfits. I've been lucky enough to get a few links from non-blogosphere articles. They help. And they're archived, so there's going to be residual traffic, which is cool. [Addendum, added when I realized I had forgotten: When I like a blog at all, I also usually make it a point to click on an ad if they're running any -- hey, they're providing the content for free, it's the least I can do - TLK]

For your site specifically, I have a suggestion: Each week when you do the toon, use one panel out of it as a "teaser link generator." Store that panel on a free media storage site (I use VillagePhotos, and it looks like you do, too, but there are dozens of choices). Store it under the same file name every time, i.e. "deadguyteaser.gif," and replace the image each week. Then ask your readers to stick that image URL in their blog somewhere, linked to your site. That way, you have a single panel of each week's strip showing on a bunch of other blogs, just begging to be clicked on so they can read the whole toon. If you do this, I'll damn well run it in my sidebar. It might cost you a buck or two more in monthly bandwidth, but it should up your traffic considerably.

As far as attracting traffic from outside the blogosphere, make sure your site is search engine optimized. If you aren't familiar with search engine optimization, just punch "search engine optimization" into Google (or, while this post is up on Knappster's front page, take a look at the Google ads -- they'll probably be blazing with links from my use of the phrase).

Anyway, sorry to pontificate so much. I'm working on this stuff myself, and think I'm making some headway. Or maybe not. Time will tell. At least I got those links up there ;-)

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In your face, tax thugs

The jury says Joe Banister is not guilty. Pardon the New York Times link -- it's the only "mainstream media" source I've found for this breaking story, which I heard about via email from Dick Boddie and on the Smith2004-discuss list. If you haven't registered with the Times, and don't want to, just use "rationalreview" as both login and password.

This is a body blow to the IRS, and they're already scurrying to minimize the impact.

Says the Times: "The verdict stirred concerns that it would encourage more Americans to refuse to pay taxes, which the Treasury, I.R.S. and the Justice Department have all acknowledged is a growing problem."

Ummm ... problem for whom, exactly?

The Times quotes a "tax analyst," J.J. McNab on the real rub for the tax thugs: "This is going to encourage thousands more people who were on the fence, who were paying taxes only because they were afraid they would be criminally prosecuted," she says. "If too many people do this, the tax system will collapse because it is based on people voluntarily complying ..."

Heaven forfend!

I have my own, different views on taxation than those who question the language of the revenue code, but I still find this encouraging. Coming as it does on the heels of Vernie Kuglin's similar acquittal, it may signal the beginning of the end for the income tax as it has existed since WWII. Not that that will stop Uncle Sugar from attempting to play the Dane, but it's a start.

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Meanwhile, back in the tooting my own horn department ...

One of my guilty pleasures (as a Gonzo-esque blogger, I'm supposed to affect disdain for the mainstream media's opinion -- even the mainstream Internet media's opinion -- of what's going on in the blogosphere) is dropping by the "Today's Blogs" column at Slate each night to see what the latest buzz is.

Well ... check out the first blog reference in today's Today's Blogs.

BOOYA! You may kiss the ring.

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Well, that about wraps it up for property rights

Well, the nine political hacks in black dresses have screwed us again -- and this time they didn't even bother with niceties like petroleum jelly. In what can only be called a complete break with the Constitution, history, tradition, the English language and, well, reality, the Supreme Court has ruled that a local government stealing the property of a private citizen in order to hand it over to a private business enterprise constitutes a "public use." Corporate welfare on demand is now the Law of the Land.

This epilepsy of jurisprudence seems to center around John Paul Stevens. He keeps turning up like a bad penny, writing the court's most bizarre and unsupportable recent majority opinions (such as, for example, Raich vs. Gonzales). Unfortunately, William Kristol thinks that it will be the (relatively) less monstrously insane Sandra Day O'Connor who will retire next ... and that she'll be replaced by the heretofore alluded to Alberto "The Law -- It's So Quaint And Obsolete!" Gonzales.

Ladies and gentlemen, America has left the building. Someone please turn out the lights.

Res Publica Delenda Est!

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In search of a working revenue model

Yes, I know that some in the peanut gallery think the blogosphere should either be entirely "not-for-profit" or else limited to things like begging people to buy cell phone boosters so you can get a free iPod. Whatever. I agree that any income generated by blogging is going to be speculative, and I try not to let revenue-seeking overwhelm the larger purpose of the blog ... but I'd like to eventually turn it into more than an extremely marginal source of income.

Right now, there's apparently no "irrational exuberance" or "growing bubble in the blog advertising industry." Unless you're Glenn Reynolds, Markos Moulitsas ZĂșniga or Andrew Sullivan, you're probably doing well to pay your ISP bill by blogging.

I've been doing some thinking -- and some acting -- on this.

What do I have to work with? Not to blow my own horn (well, okay, just a little -- quoth Mencken, "he who does not toot his own horn, the same shall not be tooted"), but according to Technorati, I'm in the top 1/10th of 1% of the more than 11 million blogs they track, and about to enter their top 10,000. I'm running in the neighborhood of 500 visits and 900 page views per day on average, and that's going up. Google Page Rank, 5, up from 3 a month ago.

Obviously, I'm not in Instapundit's league, but 15,000 visitors a month is a pretty reasonable pile of eyeballs for advertisers to reach. I've sold a couple of BlogAds, and recently implemented Google AdSense. I'm constantly checking out other opportunities.

BlogAds is pretty much a self-selling thing -- if my traffic level and niche audience versus my rates look good to an advertiser, it's a done deal. I seem to be fairly underpriced in relation to the BlogAds affiliates with similar levels of traffic, and I plan to wait until I increase traffic even more to increase rates.

AdSense, on the other hand, doesn't seem to be working out so well yet. I've had a couple of days with close to a dollar's worth of click-thrus, but I'm averaging about 15 cents a day. At that rate, it will take about two years for me to wring a $100 check out of Google. I've done a little bit of reading up about how to game the system, but I'd really rather not spend all my time figuring out how to work terms like "home mortgage" and "Prozac"TM into my blog posts without ruining the quality of the writing ... and I also question whether that really works. Presumably, people who are looking for that kind of advertising are looking somewhere other than Knappster. Sure, they have higher rates per click-thru, but I'd rather have more click-thrus for stuff that my readers are genuinely interested in.

My goal, by the end of the year, is for Knappster to be bringing in $500 a month in income. I expect to have doubled my traffic by then, so it's a matter of wresting about 1.6 cents per month in ad and affiliate commissions out of each reader. That doesn't sound too difficult ... but I suspect it will be.


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Woke up this morning and I got myself a beer ...

OK, so, I didn't really. But maybe I should have.

After all, beer is known to the states of Connecticut and New York to enhance the skills of aviators. [Hat tip: Fark]

And the bottles can come in mighty handy if you're caught in the Five Points area and have to fight your way out past Amsterdam Vallon.

Beer can inspire its devotees to awesome feats of innovation and ostentatious displays of physical endurance (not to mention, as recently featured on this very blog, poetic endeavors).

Ah, beer. What else would we bourbon drinkers drink when we aren't drinking bourbon?

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Two good things

Wally Conger is quickly bulking up the library of the Symposium on Building a New Libertarian Movement. Two new posts:

- Web publication of a 2001 print article, co-written with the late, great SEK3, on the nature of the Movement of the Libertarian Left.

- A plug for the seminal Rothbardian Left/Right synthesis journal, aptly named "Left and Right," and now available online at no charge from the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Yes, Iran, U-2

The military is reporting the crash of a U2 spy plane in "Southwest Asia," a/k/a "the Middle East." The exact location of the crash hasn't been divulged because of, depending on whom you ask, "host nation sensitivities" or "security reasons." But it's not too difficult to figure out:

- The plane was operating out of the United Arab Emirates.

- The plane was returning from a mission over Afghanistan.

Presumably, there would be no "host nation sensitivities" at stake if the plane had crashed over Afghanistan (which admits to hosting US troops), or over the UAE (which admits to hosting US troops), or over the Persian Gulf (which is a body of water that has no government to object to its territory being overflown by U-2 spy planes).

Kinda narrows it down, doesn't it? Barring some kind of bizarre flight plan -- which would be unnecessary, as the US could have flown its Afghanistan recons from its airbase in neighboring Uzbekistan if it wanted to avoid overflying Iran -- the plane went down over Iran. And no, I'm not telling secrets. Anyone who hasn't figured this out already either doesn't own a globe or can't read.

So: Is the UAE, as host nation, "sensitive" to having the fact that it's hosting spy aircraft which are overflying Iran publicized? Or is Iran the host nation, involved in some kind of secret, not-to-be-mentioned agreement to let US spy planes cross its airspace en route to Afghanistan? The safest bet is on the former, of course ... and the map reveals something else, too.

The U-2 is a high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft, flying at heights of up to 70,000 feet. Given its likely flight footprint over Iran, and its high altitude, this was either a catastrophic malfunction that killed the pilot or rendered him unconscious before he could react, or else the plane was shot down. If the pilot was conscious and had any control of the aircraft at all, he could have, and almost certainly would have, gotten it out over water before ditching.

The lips in Tehran seem to be sealed -- seems the Iranians don't want an international incident over the matter. If it crashed, they're studiously ignoring the violation of their airspace; If they shot it down, the intent is to send a "don't screw with us" message to Washington rather than a "Washington is screwing with us" message to the world.

Either way, it's always sad to see a pilot go down. Slipping the surly bonds of earth is risky business, especially at 70,000 feet at any altitude when bad guys are down below.

Now let's see if "been there, been shot at, all I got was this damn t-shirt" airplane driver John Stone cares to tear my assessment apart.

Addendum: I don't go back and change essential parts of posts -- that would be dishonest. So consider this the "I was wrong" part. The U-2 crashed in the UAE, not Iran. Why this had to be kept secret for any length of time, I don't know, unless the UAE was nervous about admitting to hosting planes that are obviously overflying Iran. It's been public knowledge that the US bases planes in the UAE at least since the first Gulf War. Anyway, it crashed in the UAE, and that means it's very extraordinarily unlikely that it was shot over Iran. My bad.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

What he actually said ...

Okay, so Dick Durbin (D-IL) had some things to say about Gitmo. And the Busheviks, are all, like, pissed off about it. Nothing new there. The Busheviks are pissed off any time proper deference is not shown to their anti-American, death-worshiping leader.

But, from the Democratic reaction to the whole thing, I assumed that Durbin had, in one way or another, actually stepped on his own crank -- that he had called the anti-American, death-worshiping Busheviks something like "anti-American, death-worshiping Busheviks" or something.


Here's what Durbin actually said.

Yes, this 100% accurate, 200% pro-American, moderate, considered, mild statement is what drove the anti-American, death-worshiping Busheviks over the edge. Who'da thunk?

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BlogProps: Carson on Rothbard

Kevin Carson explores the origins of the "Rothbardian Left" over at his Mutualist Blog. Tremendously informative!


- Carson distinguishes Rothbard's approach to the left as "abortive" and notes that he later gravitated toward the "paleo" position most notably associated with LewRockwell.Com and the Ludwig von Mises Institute. However, it's worth noting that LRC frequently publishes or links to material from left-libertarians such as Anthony Gregory and anti-authoritarian Leftist publications such as CounterPunch. The left-libertarian/paleo divide has been narrowed by recent foreign policy considerations, which are precisely what brought Rothbard and the Left together before. Perhaps a more permanent rapprochement will come out of this latest alliance of convenience.

- Carson also mentions Larry Gambone, an author with whose work I am unfamiliar. Given that he's also been favorably mentioned to me recently by Ken Macleod, I'm going to get familiar with him ASAP.

As a side note, I'm looking for a graphic artist who's willing to work for, well, pretty much nothing designing a logo for a project I have in mind. If you're interested in the whole idea of a "New Libertarian" or "Left Libertarian" movement focus, I think you'll like the project. Gimme a yell.

As another side note, see the comments on a previous New Libertarian/MLL post for an alternative view, courtesy of Dr. Carl Milsted, on the nature of the left/right dichotomy.

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Symposium entry: What's Left?

The "Building a New Libertarian Movement Symposium" got off to a slow start, but Wally Conger just contributed a great first entry with quite a bit of interesting material on the origins of the Movement of the Libertarian Left. This is the kind of history that needs to be thoroughly preserved and "Internetized." It provides a context for the MLL's future. Just because we're anarchists, that doesn't mean we are -- or can afford to be -- a movement without form, history or roots.

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Monday, June 20, 2005

A tip for "Battle of the Blogs" participants

Okay, I've worked my way up to a .500 .470 batting average in BlogExplosion's ongoing "Battle of the Blogs" -- 8 wins and 8 9 losses.

In this game, players wager anywhere from 10 to 100 credits (that they've earned by surfing member blogs, and can also redeem for getting visitors to their own blogs) and challenge other bloggers to a "battle." Players can't challenge particular other blogs (unless they arrange for the opponent they want to be waiting and pounce to be first to accept the challenge); they just effectively say "I'll wager ten credits that I can beat whoever accepts the challenge." Then nine viewers -- first come, first served -- view the blogs and vote. The winner gets 75% of the total wager; the nine voters split the other 25% between them.

The most efficient bet for this game is the minimum, 10 credits. Think about it: Even if you lose, your site gets nine hits, from those nine voters, so you're only one credit down. If you win, you walk away with 15 credits in return for the ten you put in.

Thing is, if you bet 20 credits and lose, you still only get nine visits. If you bet 50 credits, nine visits. 100 credits? You guessed it -- nine visits. So, unless you are absolutely, positively sure that you're going to win (and therefore get back 150% of your wager), 10 credits is the best way to go. At the very worst, you're down one credit, or one tenth of your bet, in terms of redemption for visitors.

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BlogProps: MoxieGrrrl

... actually, the post in question is by "Kid Bastard," who -- according to Bring It On!, which (via BlogExplosion) gets the hat tip -- is MoxieGrrrl's husband. Damn. Another fantasy shattered.

Anyway, I'm not going to try and pull a money quote out of "There's a reason we oppose him", because you need to read the whole thing anyway. So do.

You'd think -- but you'd be wrong

The autopsy report [link is to a PDF file] on Terri Schiavo is in. And, to read the "mainstream media" accounts you'd think that it supported the arguments of the "Kill the Bitch" crowd.

You'd think -- but you'd be wrong. The KTB faction is doing the same thing with Schiavo that George W. Bush has been doing with Iraq for lo on two years now: Trying to change the subject now that its core claims have been completely discredited.

What was the core claim? That Terri Schiavo was in a "persistent vegetative state" (some even went so far as to use the plainly incorrect "brain dead").

What was the evidence for that claim? "Her cerebral cortex is gone. It's liquid."

Every time evidence was presented that Terri Schiavo reacted to external stimuli, interacted with loved ones, etc., the reply was "impossible. There's no cortex there. Trust us: It just couldn't have happened."

The autopsy report, of course, says precisely the opposite: "The insular cortex and frontal and temporal poles were relatively well-preserved."

Side claims:

The alleged causative heart attack? Never happened. "Mrs. Schiavo's heart was anatomically normal without any areas of recent or remote myocardial infarction."

The alleged eating disorder? "[T]he main piece of evidence supporting a diagnosis of Bulimia Nervosa is suspect ..."

The autopsy report militates against pretty much every claim for the "Kill the Bitch" case.

So, the KTB crowd is trying to attract attention toward the fact that the autopsy didn't prove that Michael Schiavo caused the "incident" by beating Terri Schiavo ... and away from the act of cold-blooded murder by starvation and dehydration that the autopsy reveals.

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BlogProps: Beer Haiku Daily

The more you drink, the smoother it reads. Cool.

The grape is passe
We judge fine beers instead now
"Complex flavor" rules

Ah, summer

An extraordinary weekend ... the only bad thing about it is that summer is probably downhill from here, even though it doesn't officially start until tomorrow!

The Significant Other has, of course, been very busy at work, but was finally able to pry a Friday loose for vacation. The Six-Year-Old had received a Six Flags ticket as part of a reading program he was involved in, and we'd been promising to take him for two years, and the Four-Year-Old was finally old enough to hold his own as well, so ...

Apart from the outrageous prices ($80 to get the other three of us in, even with discount coupons, and, get this, $10 to park so that we could give them the $80) , it was a lot of fun. We started with the ferris wheel, then headed for the "Loony Toons" area and let the kids ride the kiddie coaster, motorized swings and such. Then the first big ride of the day, Scoobie Doo. It's an indoor water ride. Kinda hokey, and the Significant Other outshot me with the little laser guns, but the kids loved it.

After that, a couple of turns on the "log flume" ride -- not greatly adventurous, but fun with one little near-vertical drop at the end -- then Thunder River, a rather pedestrian "river raft" experience. After that, we hemmorhaged some more money (a sports bottle full of soda, a turkey leg and a pretzel -- Seventeen Damn Dollars, and if I'm going to pay that much, I'm by God going to write it out in words and capitalize it), watched an alligator wrestling show, and split up: Significant Other and Four-Year-Old to ride the train, Dad and Six-Year-Old to tackle a real coaster.

His first: The Screamin' Eagle. It was the only one of the "monster coasters" in the park that he was tall enough for. The Eagle is a wooden coaster, and once upon a time was the fastest in the world. No loops, of course, but some really hair-raising verticals and turns, and those wooden coasters are mucho scary -- they always feel like they're about to fall to pieces around you. The Kid Did Good. He was a little disoriented at the end, but shortly wanted to go again (and we would have, but we didn't know how long the train ride would be, and we were supposed to hook back up with the Family Unit).

If I'd gone on the Screamin' Eagle at age six, I'd have soiled myself, run home to Mommy and committed myself to a lifetime of isolation and safety. Bubba just shook himself off and demanded more. We went down and rode the Big People's motorized swings -- the ones that actually get a little speed on them and, due to the centripetal force, get up in the air a bit. This was where Four-Year-Old had his first real meltdown. He wasn't tall enough to ride, and was he pissed. But hey, we'd been there for close to six hours; he's Four Years Old; do the math. We went back for a few more turns on the log flume and back to the kiddie area, and then it was closing time. Through the day, I considered knocking off on my own to hit the thrill rides, but we were having plenty of fun together -- I can wait another year or two to ride Mr. Freeze.

Six Flags is just not something we can afford to do on a regular basis but, all in all, it wasn't really much more expensive than going to the county fair where the rides aren't as cool. I didn't even dare look to see how much a funnel cake cost. These guys were charging more than $3 for a six-ounce frozen lemonade, $3.50 for a corn dog, etc. Next time, we pack a picnic lunch. This time, we did McDonald's on the front end, shakes at Steak'n'Shake for the chaser, and managed to avoid the worst of the ripoff in the middle, I think.

The rest of the weekend was less exciting -- and less expensive -- but just as idyllic. We took the kids to a public playground on Saturday for a few hours (where I managed, I think, to bruise my tailbone chasing one of them down a slide), then grabbed some some handyman needs at Home Depot. I installed a new deadbolt Saturday night, did a little plumbing work on Sunday. "Uncle Scottie" came over on Sunday, bearing a belated birthday present for Four-Year-Old -- a bike, which he loved until he'd taken a few spills. There's no going back to the tricycle, though. He's tough. Meanwhile, Scottie worked with Bubba on riding without training wheels. He's getting it. We grilled brats and dogs and drank Boulevard Wheat into the evening.

So, why am I telling you all this? Well, I've noticed that over at BlogExplosion's "Battle of the Blogs," I keep getting my ass whipped by blogs that consist mainly of mommies chronicling their little monsters' every bowel movement, temperature tantrum and skinned knee. So, I figure I might as well cater to the market at least a little.


Saturday, June 18, 2005

Spittin' image

Hat Tip: The New Oklahoma Democrat via BlogExplosion

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BlogProps: RightWatch

I can already tell that I'm going to disagree on some significant issues with the (unnamed) author of RightWatch ... but at the same time, that author's main claims -- that authoritarians are increasingly adopting and attempting to coopt the libertarian label, and that this harms the libertarian movement -- are correct.

I might as well get some of the disagreements out of the way right now:

RightWatch: "Objectivism is a subset of libertarianism."

Reality: Objectivism is a philosophical approach covering metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics and esthetics. Libertarianism per se is a political approach, i.e. an approach to one small area of philosophy. It would be more correct to say that Objectivism's logical political results are libertarian, and that therefore an Objectivist politics is a subset of libertarianism. However, Objectivism itself is not. I'm sure someone with a math background could (and maybe will) diagram for us the idea of a set composed of pieces from different, otherwise mutually exclusive, sets. Of course, many Objectivists do regard the attempt to create such a set as futile, because they believe that a politics devoid of the correct philosophical context is bound to be full of deadly contradictions. I even agree with them to a point -- especially when I see them dropping context and accomodating contradictions themselves, as so many have done to justify their support of the Kantian war on Iraq. I understand and agree with RightWatch's criticism of the Ayn Rand Institute, an irrationalist, authoritarian cult trafficking on the status of its founder, Leonard Peikoff, as Rand's heir. I find it odd, however, that the author of RightWatch categorizes Solo, an Objectivist forum, as "intolerant." I've been posting there for some time, and have not been banned or in any way censored. "Tolerance" and "agreement" are not the same thing.

RightWatch: "We have 'paleo-libertarians' who have allied themselves with racists and bigots! " -- referring to the Mises Institute and LewRockwell.Com.

Reality: Libertarianism proper is a political philosophy with one tenet (non-aggression). It does not address itself to issues of racism or bigotry other than to the extent that those may manifest themselves as coercion. It is entirely possible to be a perfectly consistent libertarian and to hate or regard as inferior (insert arbitrary designation of race, religion, sexual orientation, lifestyle, etc. here). All that libertarianism requires is that one not advocate the initiation of force in order to eliminate, or impose one's edicts upon, said group.

LewRockwell.Com has associated itself with some writers -- Gary North, for example, a "Reconstructionist" who would like to see a society where homosexuals are stoned to death -- who cross that line. However, it may be a mistake to regard this as an endorsement of the particulars of those authors' views. Rockwell launched his site with the view that it should be idiosyncratic, and idiosyncratic it has been. The fact that an author on the site advocates X does not mean that the organization publishing the site advocates X, or that either is holding X out as "libertarian."

I do agree with RightWatch, however, that to the extent that libertarians are seen as associating themselves with unsavory ideas like racism and anti-gay bigotry, it can harm our case. For that reason, I look forward to seeing RightWatch examine its chosen area of interest.

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BlogProps: A smashing idea

WHEREAS, the College Republican membership has always fully supported the war in Iraq ...

A modest proposal for boosting military recruitment from Upper Left.

Not that it will have any effect, of course. Let's face it: The College Republicans' idols are chickenhawks, and the College Republicans are chickenhawks. Menial jobs like actually fighting the wars they love so much are for those other people -- you know, the disposable ones whose daddies couldn't get them into Yale.

S'ok. Reckoning soon come. Not too long from now today's College Republicans will vigorously deny that they were ever Busheviks. We'll know, though -- they'll be the ones who start shaking, urinating all over themselves and mumbling "yeah, I was, a, uh, Green activist in college" whenever CNN runs the "whatever happened to" story with the famous courtroom artist's sketch of Bush, Cheney and cabinet on a single chain, in orange coveralls and legirons, at their mass arraignment.

Then again, maybe my naturally sunny and optimistic disposition is leading me into error. The bastards just might make it out of the country ahead of the indictments.

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Friday, June 17, 2005

These are a few of my favorite things

Not all of them, of course. Just a few. I've been trying to do the "give credit where credit is due" thing ever since starting this blog (with BlogProps, BlogClips, etc.), but I never seem to catch up, and often my selections link to the more ephemeral side of things -- one-shot posts or single threads. So, I'm going to start posting occasionally and just mentioning two or three sites that I appreciate. Today:'s random thoughts is a great ongoing compendium of interesting tidbits. I actually stop by there less often than I'd like to, simply because I have my own roundup gig, and I don't want to go all brain sluggy from having my work done for me. So, it's a guilty pleasure.

I really, really, really do not generally like "fiction blogs," but John Newnham's Final Cut is the exception that proves the rule. I don't know what his longer work looks like (yet), but the blog entries are generally short, well-rendered cut scenes that are interesting in themselves and hint at fine back story, later story or larger story. I've had the pleasure of interacting with the author in "non-fiction political/philosophical mode" over at Solo, an Objectivist forum, and so I also happen to know that he's a mensch. I do have to wonder, however, how much blog-originated email he gets from Randroids evaluating his "sense of life" on the basis of their esthetic judgments of his fiction.

And, of course, there's the latest in an all-too-short line of women who want to get all fertile and stuff with moi. Had to get that one in there. But, seriously, I've known Sunni Maravillosa (and her husband, Lobo) for several years, since working with them on Free-Market.Net. It's a nice win-win situation right now, since I got to pick up additional circulation for that aforementioned roundup gig, simultaneously freeing Sunni's time up to do cool things for the rest of the universe with her blog and, lately, with Sunni's Salon.

Which should, of course, lead into a mention of Tom Ender, Endervidualism and Ender's Review of the Web, and from there to ... well, you get the idea. But I have to stop somewhere, at least for now. So I will.

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Thursday, June 16, 2005

BlogProps: Deja vu all over again

Reconstitution notes a curious phenomenon:

Normally I wouldn't even bother posting on this, since the "Zaraqwi Capture of the Month" is as much a MSM staple as Jacko's sleepover parties.

But this is really beginning to grate on my nerves. Does the cheerleading MSM think that we all forgot that US forces also captured Zarqawi's right-hand man last month, and the month before that, and the month before that, and..... you get the picture.

This guy must have more right hands than Shiva. You'd think they'd mention something that noticeable on the reward poster, though.

Hat Tip: BlogExplosion

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Anarchy versus the Abominable Dr. X

Volumes -- fiction and non-fiction alike-- have been written on the hypothetical scenario in which an anarchist society is confronted with the attempted emergence of a state or a state-like attempt to "corner the market on force." I can't deal dispositively with that hypothetical in a blog post as those books attempt to at length, but I do find the question interesting. Here it is, as posed by Robert Bell of Libertopia fame, in a comment on my recent airport security/civil disobedience article:

Suppose, however, that all security was private, with no state monopoly. Further suppose that uber wealthy Dr. X insists that his personal security detail, dispatched at every airport, conduct an extensive search of every individual before allowing them to board their plane. The purported rationale is that Dr. X has business interests throughout the world that could be hindered by interrupted air travel, resulting from another hijacking or fear of such. This conflicts with the airline’s security policy of unmolested access to all paying customers. How is this resolved peaceable without someone’s ox being gored? Whose liberty stands and whose is abrogated? Who is to be the final arbiter?

My reply:

- It's Mr. X, not Dr. X -- he's a soon-to-be-lawyer. And, frankly, I'm shocked, shocked! at his hypothetical behavior. I'll try to get together with him soon over a bottle of bourbon and talk some sense into him.

- Replace "Mr. X" with "Uncle Sam," and you've got exactly the current situation with exactly the same questions raised. Is there any particular reason why, in order to be (as Robert puts it) "feasible," anarchy must pass tests that the state does not? Let's assume that, in an anarchy, there would be substantial risk that Mr. X would try to impose a monopoly on airport security for his own protection. Right now, in a non-anarchy, that's not just a risk ... it's a reality. The only real difference is that, in an anarchy, Mr. X would presumably have had to accumulate the wealth to hire an army and impose his will on the market substantially via the voluntary mechanisms of that very market, where in a state system, the current reality is financed by robbery-at-one-remove-from-gunpoint from the victims.

- In hypothesizing an anarchy, it needs to be hypothesized in full. We can't just assume that a population, some large portion of which in the past had (certainly tumultuously and possibly violently) rejected the state would react to provocations in the same way as a population which continues to accept and accomodate the state.

- We especially can't assume that owners of businesses (such as airports) would simply stand aside as someone occupied those airports and attempted to take over some function of, or institute some new function in, the operations of those airports. My first line of argument is that Mr. X's personal security detail, "dispatched at every airport," would be in turn quickly find themselves dispatched to nearby morgues. This is not especially hypothetical -- it happens to people who try to burglarize homes or rob liquor stores every day. The difference between those homes and liquor stores and airports right now is that the state has asserted a monopoly on airport security and that airport owners (not surprisingly including many local governments which have "socialized" air travel in their locales) have accepted that assertion. In an environment where the state had been rejected, it can safely be assumed that that distinction would cease to exist. Armed thugs would be treated like armed thugs, not deferred to. Obviously, this is not a "peaceful" resolution. I reject the notion that all problems are now, or ever will be, even in an anarchy, settled peaceably. That notion is utopian and unrealistic.

- Of course, this also begs the question of whether our overbearing Mr. X would even attempt what you posit him as attempting. If he's "uber wealthy," why wouldn't he just buy or build his own air fleet and airports, or else make an offer to incentivize existing businesses for doing things his way? If he maintained his own fleet and ports, then his security procedures would obtain with them. If he "bought the security franchise" for existing businesses, then the customers of those airlines and airports would be free to accept his security procedures ... or to patronize other airlines and airports which did not deal with Mr. X, or, finally, to in turn buy or build their own airlines and airports. Mr. X didn't likely build his fortune by being an idiot, and so he would likely realize that it was cheaper to go his own way or to offer incentives than to attempt to impose and maintain a standing army on other people's properties against their wills. That latter is an expensive proposition -- so expensive that it takes the state, with its coercive power of taxation, to accomplish it.

In summary:

- All arguments are not resolved peaceably in a state environment. The instant case is an example -- in order to "resolve" its argument with Mr. Kanning, the state resorted to kidnapping him, then holding him hostage and demanding (an admittedly small) ransom. There's no likelihood that all arguments would be resolved peaceably in an anarchy, either, and no particular reason to demand that anarchy pass a test that the state itself doesn't pass in order to be considered a "feasible" alternative. In one respect, however, anarchy is preferable to the state on this test, and that is that in an anarchy, no entity would have a prior enforceable claim on the wealth of everyone within the polity to use for the purpose of resolving disputes unpeaceably, as is the case now.

- Oxen are going to be gored. Everyone does not get everything they want. Anarchy is not some weird utopia in which disputes never arise or in which all disputes are somehow magically resolved to everyone's satisfaction. That's life. However, once again, in an anarchy no entity would have a prior enforceable claim on the resources of others for the purpose of purchasing extra horns, and maybe some body armor, for its oxen.

- Whose liberty stands and whose is abrogated? Ultimately, that question is answered every day, state or no state, as follows: The liberty of those who can and do defend their liberty stands. The liberty of those who can't or won't defend their liberty is abrogated. It seems obvious to me that decentralization of power away from state and to individual makes it easier for people to defend their own liberty and that of others, and more likely that they will choose to do so when it is threatened.

- The idea of an over-arching "final arbiter" is a myth. With the exception of deity, if there is such a thing, no such arbiter exists, and any pretense that the state constitutes, or ever has constituted, such a final arbiter is utterly false. In order for any arbitration to be final, all parties must accept its outcome, an acceptance that no state has ever achieved. Objectifying the state and attempting to place outside of the context in which it operates so that it can wave magic wands and resolve disputes with finality is superstition.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

BlogProps: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

Check out Kevin Carson's (Partial) Neoconservative Lexicon! Excerpt:

Moral Relativism. Aka historicism. The denial of any unified, objective standard of value. The diametric opposite of Moral Equivalence (q.v.).

Moral Equivalence. Judgment of the United States government by the same unified, objective standard of value as the governments of other countries. The diametric opposite of Moral Relativism (q.v.).

Moral Clarity. The Zen-like state of mind from which it is possible accuse the same political enemy, simultaneously, of both Moral Relativism and Moral Equivalence.

... and there's a lot more. Hilarious ... and deadly accurate.

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