Friday, July 29, 2005

PSA: Just say "no" to government nosiness

The federal government is authorized by the Constitution to conduct a census every ten years, for the purpose of figuring out how many people live where for the apportionment of seats in the US House of Representatives. And, in terms of investigating the population as a whole, that is all the federal government is authorized to do: Count heads.

It's not authorized to poke into how many people have what skin color.

It's not authorized to hector you for information on your religious beliefs.

Or your income.

Or your occupation.

Or anything else.

It is authorized to count how many people live where in America. That's it. That's all. Period.

Over the years, however, the Bureau of the Census has taken to distributing detailed questionnaires and getting persnickety when people decline to discuss their private business. The latest iteration of this stupid government trick is the American Community Survey -- a 24-page laundry list which is eventually supposed to replace the Census Bureau's "long form" (which shouldn't even exist -- the required, and the permitted census would fit on an index card, as it would include only address and number of residents).

I don't know about you, but when next the census taker knocks on my door, he'll get precisely the information he's entitled to and not one word more. But why should taxpayers be picking up the expense of even printing the illegal "American Community Survey?" And why should those who don't read blogs like this one be falsely led to believe that they are under any obligation whatsoever to fill any of it out?

Here's a petition intended to set things right. If you'd rather the government minded its own business instead of yours, drop by and sign.

Rove Watch, day nineteen

What, did you think it would go away?

The heat beneath Karl Rove's derriere has been turned down low for the last couple of weeks, partly due to coincidence (the London bombings, for example) and partly due to the Bush administration's (not entirely incorrect) assumption that the best defense is a good offense. The president is taking an unstated "I'm not going to let this matter derail my policy agenda" tack -- hitting his marks with the Roberts appointment, pressing CAFTA through to victory in the House and floating trial ballons about withdrawal from Iraq.

All to protect Rove (and Libby, and Cheney, and in a peripheral way maybe even Condoleezza Rice)? I doubt it ... but it can't hurt. And for a president who had a "lame duck" sign taped to his back a month ago ... well, let's just say that Bush has always shown a surprising capacity for coming out of the corner just when you think he's got himself painted completely in. He's more than a little like his immediate predecessor in that respect.

So the heat's low ... but it isn't off.

As Robert Novak -- whose column outing Valerie Plame as a CIA agent initially sent this dog off and running -- now writes:

The general feeling by Republicans is that the White House has handled this case very badly, though it has not risen to the level of a major political threat. ... After an investigation of this length, at least one indictment is expected. The damage inflicted on the Bush Administration will depend on who is indicted.

Of course Novak follows that with the qualifier that the White House has assured supporters that it won't be Rove who ends up in the dock. Interestingly, though, earlier in the column, he refers to journalist Matt Cooper's emails as having "incriminated" Rove. That's a pretty strong statement, especially given the source, and at odds with a lot of the chaff the Republicans have been throwing off to create the impression that there was no crime in the first place, and therefore no criminal to be held accountable.

The White House seems determined to get Rove off of the hot seat one way or another. Right now they're stalling the outcome, but my gut feeling is that, sooner or later, a dark horse candidate will emerge from the pack and claim the honor of going down with the SS Plame. I even have one in mind: Rove's foreign policy advisor, Mussolini fanboy (no, really) and National Review columnist Michael Ledeen.

As one of the chief apologists for (hell, one of the architects of) the administration's failed war policy -- one with a real knack both for being dead wrong and for hyping the hell out of whatever piece of absurd quackery catches his fancy at any given moment -- Ledeen makes a great candidate for ritual sacrifice to the Gods of Political Retrenchment. Throwing him to the wolves in PlameGate would allow the White House to defuse that situation ... and implicitly distance itself from its own foreign policy failures without an overt admission of error. And while we're awarding bonus points, Ledeen's connections with the AIPAC spy scandal pretty much make the hat trick: The administration can throw a bone to the Right's anti-Israel faction without getting in the pro-Israel faction's face about it.

Is it going to be Ledeen? That's my tentative prediction -- but they won't do it until they've dragged things out long enough for scandal fatigue to minimize the impact, and until a plausible story can be concocted that has Ledeen whispering "she's CIA -- and no, that's not classified" in Rove's ear.

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Drama, oh

So here I am, once again in BlogExplosion's "Battle of the Blogs," sitting across from an opponent whom I'm pretty sure will beat me like a red-headed stepchild (and not undeservedly so, and maybe I'll even like it).

I like "Battle of the Blogs." As I've mentioned, it's a good "investment" in traffic, if played correctly.

But oh, the drama. Every two or three days, the controversy pops up. Secret cliques conspire to vote for each other. A new blog can't get a fair shake. The fix is in.

I understand. I felt the same way when I went something like 0-for-11 at the beginning. It's frustrating. So you try to come up with explanations. You start wondering why you keep losing to blogs that aren't much, if any better, than your own.

So let me explain: There are no explanations. You're losing because you're losing, and that's just the way it is.

Yeah, there are some voters who have preferred/friend blogs they'll always vote for, no matter what. Maybe they even get together to arrange reciprocity. Who knows?

Yes, some people game the system to maximize their records and the credits they win, both in the challenges they accept and the votes they cast.

Yep, it can become more competitive than maybe it really merits (I am just aching to hit 300 wins before I hit 200 losses).

But guys ... it's a game.

Nobody dies when they lose a "Battle of the Blogs."

There are no stock market crashes, no job losses, no broken marriages because The Shrinking Wop got all Valentine's Day Massacre on your ass, or Blackberry Lou served you up a big portion of Loser Pie, or Jenny decided it would be nice to cast you as Tantalus-of-the-moment.

Why do people vote the way they vote? I tried to analyze it once, but I've given up. Some blogs I like, some I don't. Some I want to see a fresh post from (if you have time for battle, you have time to blog), some I cut some slack (OldGuy is, after all, old and maybe he just didn't feel like cranking out something new today, you know?). Maybe it's two that I really like and I flip a coin. Maybe it's someone I really dislike (and no, I won't say who) and just will never vote for. Maybe it's a new blog and I want to encourage them. Maybe it's a not-quite-new blog whose author seems to have more persistence than talent.

Why do people take the challenges they take? I try to make myself just take the first 10-credit challenge available, or set one up myself, so that I don't fall into the trap of gaming the system and getting all wrapped up in it.

Because drama is okay ... but melodrama gets old, really quick.

Blog. Battle. Have fun. Be nice.

Things fall apart ...

... and history is littered with the wreckage of empire.

Fortunately, George W. Bush's version (the "new democratic order") seems to be unraveling with a relatively short whimper instead of a series of extended bangs. We do things quickly nowadays -- instead of centuries of agonizing decline a la Rome, the US frittered away its post-WWII position atop the Pile of Powers in 60 years flat, most of it in the last 15, and most of that in the last four. The consolation prize for the Fritterer-in-Chief is that at least it doesn't end in a bunker suicide with the Soviets a few hundred feet away and closing in.

A majority of Americans now realize that the US is not going to win the war on Iraq (although most of them don't yet realize that it's already long lost). A slightly smaller majority now realizes that they were sold a bill of goods in order to gain their support for it in the first place. Talk of withdrawal is now emanating from the places where that kind of talk means something. Precisely what it means is important and difficult to tease out, but we'll get there in a moment. [For the poll numbers and the withdrawal trial ballon, see any number of articles -- here's one from the Hong Kong Standard]

Political division on the war issue is already beginning to transform itself from "for" and "against" to "knew it was a bad idea all along" and "we could have won if it hadn't been for those people who kept insisting on bringing up inconvenient facts and sapping our morale."

This latter position is just a natural outgrowth of politics. Admitting error is difficult. Admitting multiple and massive errors is wrenching. Admitting total error is damn near impossible. We're going to have to learn to live with the fact that the neoconservatives will never, ever, ever be able to bring themselves even to the point of Arthur Fonzarelli's "I was wr ... wrrrrrr ... wro ... well, you know what I mean." They will go to their graves believing that imminent and glorious victory, followed by world hegemony, was within their reach, and that Justin Raimondo stole it from them.

Look closely. The "we were defeated at home meme" is already starting to grow like mold on the rotting underside of the Jacobin blogosphere.

The Busheviks know the jig is up. Right now, they're adjusting the "cooking time" on the withdrawal. If things continue to go to hell in a handbasket as is obviously happening, they want to be out several months ahead of the 2006 elections. But not too fast -- they're still drawing it out and hoping against hope for some unforeseen development which proves sufficiently "positive" to justify another stroll around an aircraft carrier deck and another declaration of "victory" before throwing in the towel.

But let's get to those inconvenient facts, shall we?

- In 2003, the neocons threw a full-bore temper tantrum when Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Chief of Staff (thanks to Tony Torres for the correction) General Eric Shinseki told Congress that it would take several hundred thousand troops to pacify Iraq. Their anger knew no bounds when Secretary of the Army Thomas White backed the general's estimate:

White said it is reasonable to assume the Pentagon will need more than 100,000 U.S. troops in Iraq to provide stability for at least the next year. Pentagon officials envisioned having about 100,000 troops there immediately after the war, but they hoped that number would be quickly drawn down.

White was driven from office and the neocons got their way. Today, 140,000 US troops remain in Iraq and the place isn't even close to pacified. History says that the number needed would be more along the lines of 480,000 troops. In the fever swamp of the neoconservative mind, it is all the fault of Shinseki and White for bringing the matter up, rather than their own fault for not paying attention.

- Right now, the US military looks stretched. It isn't just stretched, though -- it's shredded. The Pentagon objective of maintaining a force which can fight two simultaneous conventional wars is in tatters. For all their kvetching about the cuts introduced by Bush the Elder and continued by Clinton, the neocons have done a far more thorough job of destroying American military readiness than both of those former presidents combined. Here's why:

Since Korea, the reserve and National Guard have evolved into institutions designed to do two things: Train on weekends and two weeks a year, and deploy for action over the short term or in a catastrophic situation of total world war. This direction has been apparent for at least 15 years: After a mere six months of deployment for the first Gulf War, reservists/Guardsmen, their families and their employers were raising holy hell about getting the troops home (so much so that when I applied to extend my tour in Saudi Arabia in 1991, I was refused because the Pentagon was tired of hearing the bitching about reservists being kept for too long).

As the war on Iraq drags into its third year, reserve and Guard enlistments aren't keeping up with the Pentagon's demand for troops. The people who enter the reserve and the Guard want to serve their country -- but for the most part they want to do so in an auxiliary, "on call" capacity while they get educated and start families. If they'd wanted years of active duty, they wouldn't have joined the reserve or Guard, they'd have enlisted (or stayed on) active duty.

The neocons blew the US military advantage. In calling up the reserve and Guard for extended tours of duty in an optional war, they greatly weakened the force that would be needed in a future necessary war.

On the active duty side, it's a mixed bag -- but I doubt that we're being told everything. The Army seems to be the only service having real problems meeting its recruitment quotas, true. But I believe that that problem is worse than advertised. The Army admits that it has failed to recruit enough troops for the last four months, and that's bad enough ... but guess which troops they're having trouble recruiting. I doubt that they're going without when it comes to clerks, aircraft mechanics and cooks. Those quotas are probably filled and then some. No, the troops they're not getting are almost certainly ... riflemen. In other words, the troops that they need most desperately for the job at hand.

Since going back to an all-volunteer force after Vietnam, the military has depended on incentives to get young men and women to enlist. One of those incentives -- unstated but definitely at play -- is that while the kid is building a college fund and learning a skill, there's a limit to the amount of tear-assing around the world on bullshit missions that's acceptable. Yes, every kid who signs on the dotted line knows, or should know, that there's a possibility of war in his or her future. But there's also been a basic trust that America's leaders would only take the country to war under certain conditions (the Soviets rolling their tanks into western Europe circa 1985; "peacekeeping" duty in Bosnia circa 1995). Catastrophic wars, yes. Short-term deployments for realpolitik, fine. Optional forever wars versus endless insurgencies in sandpits which represent no threat to the United States -- not. The GI Bill can buy a high level of dedication, but raw credulity sports a higher price tag.

Once Iraq wraps up, if Iraq wraps up, and if America gets back on a reality-based military policy track, it will probably take a full decade to get back into the good graces of the 18-year-old grunts who are an absolute necessity to any viable military force.

- So, what did we get for sending a force of insufficient size into a war of (at its very best) dubious justification?

The WMDs were MIA.

Al Qaeda was nowhere to be found in Saddam Hussein's Iraq as of March 19th, 2003. Now they're thick on the ground.

The conflict has devolved into de facto civil war between a Shiite Islamist government and a Wahabbe Islamist insurgency -- heads the Islamists win, tails the US loses. The only thing the Busheviks have accomplished is to topple an evil former ally and turn Iraq over to an evil current enemy, at the cost, so far, of 1,784 American lives and the virtual destruction of the US military as a deployable asset.

Forget this talk of "quagmires" and such. Let's call a spade a spade. While our soldiers' heads are bloody but unbowed, the Jacobins back home have led the US into debacle, fiasco and abject defeat.

Which, pretty much, is what the reality-based community predicted.

Of course, the neocons will spend the next 20 years blaming us for predicting it and insisting that if we hadn't, their fantasies would have magically come true.

Unfortunately, many of the troops whose trust and dedication were abused in this misadventure will probably bitterly buy into that line, making common cause with their abusers in abusing those who stood against this mistake in the first place. We saw it after Vietnam, and we'll see it again. Many warriors have difficulty distinguishing their own honor from the honor of the leaders who sent them off to war, and will defend the honor of the dishonorable in the mistaken belief that their own rises or falls with it.

But maybe, just maybe, they -- and we -- will remember all this the next time our ever-present gaggle of armchair Tojos starts hawking the war nostrum.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Apropos of nothing

Even when I've thought of myself as "on the Left" (early in my life, and after I began to realize that there were different kinds of libertarians), I've never really been able to think of myself as a "liberal." The word has just been too tainted with less-than-savory associations.

I tried to think of myself as a "classical liberal," but that evokes the image of a guy in a powdered wig, standing on a bench in the House of Commons and yelling "Bloody good, old chap!" or something.

So, yesterday, I took the kids out to the swimmin' hole. This entailed a walk, a train ride and another walk. In order to get change we stopped at a thrift store and I grabbed a book to read on the train and at the swimmin' hole. Halfway through the train ride, I realized that I am still not in any mood to read Bonfire of the Vanities and that, in fact, even having it made me feel, well, a little weird.

So, we get off the train. I leave Tom Wolfe laying on a bench for someone who wants to read his stuff. It's 90+ degrees, and still a bit of a walk to the swimmin' hole. We stop in at the first shop we pass to pick up cold drinks, and I decide to get a newspaper to read now that I'm bookless. And I'm still feeling a little weird, weirder all the time.

Then it hits me: I'm walking down a city street in shorts, a polo shirt and sandals, drinking an iced fer-fuck's-sake latte and carrying a copy of the New York Times. The only thing that would make the whole "liberal" image more complete would be a "Visualize World Peace" button.

Yerk. I'm looking into rehab programs right now.

I must be getting old

I've been playing video games since I was a sprout, although being on the low side income-wise has usually kept me a system or three behind (and, to be brutally honest, I still prefer IntellivisionTM and Sega GenesisTM and plain vanilla GameBoyTM to the newfangled stuff). We've got a PSOneTM, a Nintendo 64TM and a couple of GameBoysTM around the house. I aspire to XBoxTMdom. Eventually.

Thing is, 20 or even ten years ago, I'd have followed reviews and known quite a bit about the new systems that were coming out. Nowadays, I get blind-sided.

I had heard a little bit of buzz about the Sony PSPTM -- but I didn't pay much attention. For some reason, I just assumed that it was a portable knockoff of the original PlayStationTM, like the cheap PSOnesTM -- let the kiddies play their old PlayStationTM games in the car on an LCD screen. No biggie. So, when I got around to hopping on the web and punching in the code from a McDonald'sTM Big MacTM, and found out I'd won one, I was just like, "cool -- hope it gets here in time for the 7-year-old's birthday. He'll really like playing Spyro when we're driving somewhere."

Then I read somewhere that the makers of Grand Theft AutoTM would be producing a PSPTM version, and it began to penetrate my pea brain that this was a new gaming platform altogether. So, I finally decided to do the obvious and spend five seconds on GoogleTM figuring out what's up with this thing.


And I'm giving this thing to the kidling?

I can already tell that Dad is going to be borrowing it. Often.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

If we turn on the light ...

... maybe the cockroaches will scuttle away.

We knew it had to happen eventually: A blogger arrested for pissing off the powers that be. Actually, I seem to recall that a military blogger was recently arrested on bogus charges of "campaigning for political office" as well (it was, of course, just coincidence that he was telling the truth about the war on Iraq, while in uniform and actually there). In this case, it's a local thing.

DuBois' "crime?" Exposing some fairly nasty political corruption and prosecutorial abuse in his little corner of Ohio. Here's a chronology of events.

I don't know about you, but I'd rather not let the practice of turning bloggers into political prisoners take root and become "normal." If you can manage it, even a small contribution to DuBois' defense fund would be enormously helpful. And, of course, exposing the government thugs in Ottawa and Cuyahoga counties by blogging your own comments on this case may help convince like-minded government thugs elsewhere that if they screw with bloggers, they'll lose.

Hat tip to Kathryn Weitzel, co-director of Libertarian Action Network.

It's only a flesh wound

Keep movin', movin', movin',
Though they're disapprovin',
Keep them doggies movin' Rawhide!
Don't try to understand 'em,
Just rope and throw and grab 'em,
Soon we'll be living high and wide.

Yeah, I know. I really, really need to get a new column in to FMNN ... but I have writer's block. Click on the link -- maybe sending some traffic their way will placate them.

So, what to do when there's just no Really Big Idea saying "write, me, dammit ..." Why, emulate The Evil One and do a roundup, of course!

The Democrats are starting to unfold their 2008 strategy -- (New York Times links sometimes require registration -- feel free to use "rationalreview" as both userid and pwd). Summary: They intend to pitch fiscal responsibility and the Busheviks' military incompetence. Good memes, but I think they need more.

The Italians are out for blood -- A court has issued six more warrants for the arrest of CIA agents believe to be involved in kidnapping a Muslim cleric and smuggling him out of the country to be tortured in Egypt. That makes 19 warrants. Foreign policy tip #1: Don't kidnap people off your allies' soil. Foreign policy tip #2: If even the friggin' Italians can identify 19 personnel involved in a clandestine op, there's a big security problem at CIA. Or was -- Porter Goss has taken over since the incident in question, so maybe some things are changing. Or maybe not.

San Diego goes to the polls -- Good luck to libertarian mayoral candidate Richard Rider!

The space truck hits the road again -- NASA officials decided to launch Discovery despite continuing problems with a fuel gauge. Godspeed and good luck to the astronauts ... now let's get space travel into the private sector where it belongs so we can get out there instead of continuing to dick around in orbit in obsolete, aging shuttles.

In case you were wondering -- The current number is 1,778 1,782.

A few notes on blogrolling

I try to keep up with my blogroll. Really. But the thing is, I run five of them, I don't want to pay for blogrolling's premium multiple blogroll/reciprocal roll service (I'm a cheapskate, guys), and this is Blogger, not WordPress.

Which means that every link is manually coded into one or more of five lists over in the right sidebar: BlogLinks (stuff related particularly to blogging per se), LeftLinks (Left-Wing sites), LibLinks (libertarian/anarchist sites), RightLinks (Right-Wing sites) or JustLinks (sites that aren't really political or blog-oriented).

I try to keep up, but I know I'm not perfect. I just went back over the last week's posts to add a bunch of links. If you link to me, I try to reciprocate. If you comment here, I try to remember to put a link in. If I just come across your blog and like it, you're on. But be patient, and drop me a line if you think you should be linked to and aren't yet.

Oh, the humanity!

I did not win a new blog design from Digitally Essential.

Naturally, this development has raised great consternation among my key advisors. The Minister of Haiku committed suicide earlier this evening after submitting a seventeen-syllable apology for his abject and inexcusable failure. The general staff counsels me that Kn@ppster's conquest of the world may be delayed by as much as 24-48 hours due to this development -- possibly longer. We won't know for sure until the extent of the market collapse in Asia occasioned by the defeat becomes clear.

Congratulations to the winners: Sneaky, web_loafer, Ruby and Captain Hops. You've postponed the day of reckoning ... for now.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Kn@ppster juggernaut rolls on ...

As of last week, my Technorati ranking was about 10,500th among the 13.9 million blogs tracked by Technorati. This week, it's 4,797th.

Wow. Top 5,000 out of 13.9 million. That's something like the top 1/30th of 1% of blogs. Technorati doesn't track blogs by traffic, which can easily be manipulated. They track them instead by how many other blogs link to them. Which pretty much means that my high rating is due to y'all.

Thank you. ("They like me! They really like me!")

Yeah, you better watch out, Glenn. I'm coming for you ;-)

TLEClip: My Rebuttal to Chris Claypoole's Rebuttal of My Rebuttal of His Rebuttal of the LP'S "Exit Strategy For Iraq"


Q: What does the "Exit Strategy" portend for the LP?

A: It portends the LP jettisoning its ideological faction and becoming a political party. So far, it is engaging in incrementalism, but not compromise. This rubs the outgoing ideological faction the wrong way, because they regard accepting anything other than an instantaneous jump to the final state envisioned in the platform as a "compromise."

The LP may experience increasing political success, or abject failure, if it begins to actually operate on a political model. But at least it will have the chance to succeed or fail instead of simply being held back from doing either (and thus failing by default).

It is possible that the ideological wing may be able to pull the political wing back from the edge of following the course it has obviously set for the party, which would mean a return to the status quo ante, albeit in a weakened position with respect to credibility. Parties of
any type don't release plans, and then denounce themselves for what they've just done, if they want to be taken seriously; sometimes you just have to have some balls and forge full speed ahead even at the expense of schism.

Here's the rest.

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Recommended: Ender's Review of the Web

When it comes to daily "roundups" of politically-oriented news and commentary, I like to think that I publish the best of them. For a more concentrated, weekly roundup, however, I highly recommend Ender's Review of the Web.

Comparison: Rational Review News Digest excerpts and links to anywhere from 25-40 political commentaries a day, or 125 to 200 a week. Ender's Review excerpts and links to 40 or so per week. It's not really a matter of quality versus quantity; over at RRND, we try to be firstest with the mostest, including the most interesting (in our judgment). Tom Ender chooses to be weekly with just the most interesting (in his).

Check it out.

Stupid drug warrior tricks ...

... or, "just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean they're not out to get you."

I confess: I'm blogging this particular bit of trivia not only because I find it interesting and instructive, but because I want to cover my own ass. I've been performing some ... interesting ... web searches, and when I say "interesting," I mean "the kind of searches that I'm afraid might make me a 'person of interest' if Uncle Sugar really does eavesdrop on Internet activities." If a bunch of masked thugs with guns and "DEA" on their shirts show up at my house, I want to have things on the record beforehand.

So, it goes like this: My significant other received a prescription awhile back for hydrocodone, an opiate-based painkiller (the original brand of this stuff was Vicodin).

Being the mordbid type, and also preferring to know just what is in our medicine cabinet in case the kids get into it or something, I noted the prescription and decided to find out just how bad this stuff is. Specifically, how much does it take to kill you? So, I headed on over to Google and punched in "hydrcodone LD50." LD50 is an acronym for "Lethal Dose 50," and refers to how much of a particular chemical it takes to kill 50% of the people who ingest that amount. It's a good thing to know, if you know what I mean. It lets me know, for example, what to do if one of the kids manages to climb high enough to get into the medicine cabinet (which they can both do no matter how high that medicine cabinet is), and if they manage to pick the "wrong" drug (which, in a given amount, could be any of them from aspirin on up), and if they manage to get off the childproof cap (you're kidding, right? When I have a problem opening a medicine bottle, I yell for the six-year-old). Should I should be racing to the ER with them or just raising the roof with them about how one never takes a pill without Mommy or Daddy knowing?

I was relieved to find that the LD50 of hydrocodone is huge -- as best I can tell, something on the order of 375 milligrams of the drug for every kilogram of body weight. For a 40 pound kid, that would mean almost seven grams of the stuff. The prescription was for 20 tablets, each containing a whopping five milligrams of hydrocodone. In other words, if I had four bottles of it, I could reasonably expect to have half a chance of killing a 2.2 pound premature baby.

Yeah, I know -- I worry too much. So sue me. But there's more ...

When I looked at the bottle, I realized that this was not a bottle of five milligram hydrocodone tablets, but a bottle of "five milligram hydrocodone/500mg APAP" tablets. So, uh, what the hell is this APAP stuff? Back to Google.

APAP is acetaminophen (the stuff in Tylenol, a non-prescription analgesic) -- and the search results made it pretty clear why the stuff is combined in pill form with hydrocodone. There are numerous web pages dedicated to performing what's called a "water extraction" to separate the hydrocodone from the acetaminophen so that one can get high on the former without the latter causing one's liver to go berserk. No, I'm not going to duplicate those instructions. If you want to be a junkie, you'll have to do the legwork to be a healthy (or at least surviving) junkie yourself.

The LD50 of acetaminophen is pretty high, too -- I came across a bunch of conflicting estimates, but it looks like somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 milligrams per kilogram of body weight ... but far smaller doses, especially if repeated, can cause severe liver damage.

This is the FUBAR logic of the drug warriors: "We regard recreational drug use as harmful to people, and we don't want people to hurt themselves. So, if they engage in behavior that might hurt themselves, why, we'll just make damn sure that, uh, they really hurt themselves."

The DEA's "schedules" -- drug classifications -- make hydrocodone more easily available as the accompanying acetaminophen content goes up, and less easily available as it goes down. I read a few contentions that the mixture was for "effectiveness ..." but surely physicians would prefer flexibility to prescribe X milligrams of one drug and Y milligrams of another, instead of having a pre-determined ratio forced on them in the manufacturing process. No, this is about deterring junkies.

It doesn't work, of course -- recreational users just perform their "water extractions" and go about the business of getting high. All it does is add an additional layer of risk for non-recreational users who may need the relief that hydrocodone offers, but who may already have (or could develop) liver function problems and most manifestly do not need acetaminophen in their diet.

I do my best to keep medicines well out of reach of my kids and to teach them to never put pills in their mouths unless they've been told to by the doctor/Mommy/Daddy. But with this particular prescription, the drug thugs have changed a potential case of "don't you feel awful and dopey and don't ever do that again" to a potential case of "Jesus, I hope we can get this kid to the ER before he dies and before his liver is so far gone that he requires a transplant."


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Saturday, July 23, 2005

Because they can, part two

[Continued from here]

Our city doesn't have a business district as such. What it has is frontage on one commercial street, to the extent of three buildings, at the edge of town. In one of those buildings, a lady recently opened a thrift store. It's cool. I like it. I try to take the kids down once or twice a week to grab a few useless tchochkes -- and pick up some used books as well, of course.

Fronting on the thrift store building is a wide concrete sidewalk -- actually, an apron or porch of sorts. When the thrift store opened, it made perfect sense to put certain items -- bicycles, furniture and such -- out on that porch each day. It wasn't a mess. It was a completely appropriate business display. It drew attention to the business. It brought customers into the business who otherwise might not have even noticed the business.

Naturally, of course, something had to be done about such a flagrant exercise of property rights. What if it caught on? What if the other businesses (none of which sell the type of goods that benefit from out front display, but who cares about facts?) emulated her or suddenly got the idea that they might be within their rights to oh, say, wipe their posteriors after defecating without a city permit in triplicate, five inspections and a special town meeting? Anarchy! Blood in the streets!

So, a couple of the apparatchiki dropped in, brandishing an ordinance that clearly didn't apply, and intimidated the lady into moving her goods inside until the thing could be sorted out. When she showed up at the next board meeting to mildly remonstrate with them over what was clearly a severe blow to her business, they got serious. When I say "serious," I mean "seriously pissed that a friggin' peasant would dare question our authority to make her do whatever we damn well want her to do. Doesn't she know that her job is to cough up her property taxes and keep her mouth shut?"

At this latest meeting, the board's purpose was to come up with an ordinance to close the "loophole" that was represented by the unfitness of the cited ordinance to actually address the "situation" they wanted to "correct" (this must be done constantly, since the serfs still haven't figure out that anything not mandated by city ordinance is obviously implicitly prohibited by city ordinance).

What the board ended up doing was adding businesses to the city's garage sale ordinance. Under that ordinance, citizens can have up to two garage sales a year of up to (I think) three days each, for which they must get a cheap permit (I think it's a dollar).

Never mind that the purpose of the garage sale ordinance was to prevent people from running businesses in the residential area, while the thrift store is in the er, ah, business area. And never mind that the businesses buy, ahem, business licenses so that they can, uh, do business 365 days a year. This lady had quite obviously pissed someone on the board off (I'm pretty sure I know who) by failing to appropriately bow, scrape and whine "yes, massa" when spoken to by a member of the political class. So, they took away a significant part of her business for 358 days of the year ... because they could.

Like I said, the vote was unanimous. I was especially disappointed in one alderwoman whom I thought had better morals, or at least more sense, than to stoop to this kind of blatant and pointless bullying. I happened to be sitting about three feet from her, between my two sons. When the vote had been taken, I leaned over to my seven-year-old and said "Daniel? Remember awhile back when you asked me what evil was? You just saw it."

The alderwoman did a bit of a double take. And she at least had the conscience to look a little embarrassed for the rest of the meeting. But the damage is done. If this woman loses all the money and effort she's put into building a business to provide for herself and her family, the city board won't even notice ... because, you see, they classify their "neighbors" into two sets:

1) Those whom they are trying to "help" by mandating everything from maximum grass length to minimum downspout diameter; and

2) Those whom they presume to regulate "for the public good," with said good subsisting in whatever the politicians' collective mood happens to be on any given day.

Neither group, of course, being nearly as important in and of itself than the personal whims of the politicians themselves.

Unlike government at the federal, state, or even large county level -- where at least the budgets and stakes are high enough that countervailing interests achieve some sort of balance through lobbying and such -- at the small city level, there are virtually no checks on government power.

They do what they want, when they want, because they can. And, unless they happen to mess up and find themselves tangling with a Carl Drega or a Marvin Heemeyer, they'll never even understand why they shouldn't.

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Friday, July 22, 2005

A note to supporters of the war

Dear supporters of the US war on Iraq,

Sorry the "weapons of mass destruction" thing didn't work out for you. Too bad the "in cahoots with al Qaeda" claim turned out to be horseapples. And that Madrid, London and other places far afield seem to disprove the whole "terrorist magnet/flypaper/fight'em there instead of here" theory. Being wrong sucks -- I know, I've been there. I feel your pain, more truly than, say, your fearless leader down at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue likely feels the pain of the families of more than 1,700 Americans whose lives he has so far sacrificed to the delusions you share with him.

And I'm sorry -- I do mean this, I am not trying to be sarcastic -- to see another of your rationalizations, perhaps the grandest yet, go down the tubes.

Your "freedom and democracy for Iraq" arrived. You weren't home, so I signed for it when the FedEx lady brought it to the door. No problem -- I just love those shorts they wear during the summer. This lady obviously owns and uses the "Buns of Steel" boxed set. Legs all the way up to her neck, too. But ... well, I guess I should have looked more closely at the package before accepting it instead of trying to look down her shirt. Or maybe you should have read the fine print before ordering it, because frankly it's pretty goddamn shoddy even by the standards of the International Council of Banana Republics.

Let's have a look at the new Iraqi constitution [link is to a PDF file] which was supposed to justify the effusion of so much American blood (at least after all the previous excuses went south on you) [hat tip to Justin Raimondo at AntiWar.Com, whose article on this abomination made writing this one much easier]:

Freedom of association -- "It is forbidden to construct civil society organizations whose activities are aggressive, harmful to the interests of the society, secret, military in character, or take the form of militias." [Emphasis mine throughout these quotes] So much for opposition political parties, labor unions, etc.

Freedom of speech and press -- "All individuals have the right to express their opinion and publish it in any manner in accordance with the law, provided it does not disturb the public order or public morals. ... Freedom of opinion, expression organization, publishing, the press, media, advertising, meetings, peaceful demonstration and parties is guaranteed ... insofar as public security and morals are not harmed." If you're not an idiot, this should be pretty self-explanatory. If you are an idiot, here it is in simpler English: You're permitted to speak and write, as long as the government likes what you have to say. If not, well, it sucks to be you, doesn't it?

Speedy public trial -- "Court decisions are public unless the decision of a court make them secret."

Double Jeopardy -- "It is forbidden to try someone more than one time for the same accusation after his acquittal unless new evidence has appeared." Translation: If we want to get you, we'll hold back evidence and try you over and over again until we get a conviction or you hang yourself in despair, feeding in a little new evidence to justify each trial.

Right to keep and bear arms -- "Citizens are forbidden to possess, bear, buy or sell weapons except with a permit ..."

Conscription -- "The Iraqi citizen is to defend the homeland and preserve its unity provided that military service is organized by law and voluntary service can be the equivalent of this service."

Freedom of political conscience -- "The idea of the dissolved Ba'ath Party and all thought based on racism, sectarianism, accusations of apostasy, and terrorism are forbidden and are not permitted to be part of political pluralism in the state." Hope that there mind-reading project works out, folks. I'm sure it will -- just coincidence that the people who are "thinking bad thoughts" will be the people who happen to be opposite you in the political arena, right?

Just in case anyone in Iraq forgets who's in charge:

"The Iraqi people are one people, unified by belief and the unity of the homeland and culture. Anything that exposes this unity to danger is forbidden."

"Public and private freedoms are protected provided they do not conflict with moral values and public decency. ... Citizens' private lives are protected. Citizens may enjoy it in compliance with moral values and decency. No citizen has the right to deviancy in the use of his right or to exercise any of his rights ..."

Elsewhere in the document, it is made apparent that although "religious freedom" is "guaranteed," the standard of "moral values and public decency," "culture" and "deviancy" -- and therefore of law -- is whatever the mullahs think Allah wants this week.

Most police states create constitutions full of high-minded phrases about liberty and such, and then ignore them. At least these tyrants are honest. But that's cold comfort -- or at least it should be -- for learning that one applauded the loss 1,700+ American and uncounted Iraqi lives for no higher purpose than that of turning Baghdad into a suburb of Tehran.

Proponents of the war started piping down on the whole "democracy and freedom" thing last week after the leaders of the new Iraqi government paid a friendly visit to Iran, complete with reverent visit to the grave of Ayatollah Khomeini. Apparently they saw this coming, and apparently the next item on the "excuses for this debacle" talking points memo doesn't fly even with them. I haven't been able to procure a copy of said memo, but an inside source tells me that we're down to "got a free set of steak knives" now. Good luck with that one.


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Thursday, July 21, 2005

There can be only one ...

... or can there? I'm assuming that's the case, although I guess maybe not. But let's assume that yes, there can be only one.

Look guys, I was serious ... I really am going to win a blog design from Digitally Essential tomorrow.

So why are y'all so persistent? I mean, I told you and all. Yet the entries keep coming like lemmings off a cliff. Just since my last notice on the subject, these people:

The Purling Prude
Diary of a Tired Mom
San Francisco Liberal
Scooter McGavin's 9th Green


Silly Bahraini Girl

... have entered the contest that I'm going to win.

How many hungry refugee children could they have fed? How many socks could they have darned? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a ... um, belay that last. How many shocking exposes could they have written? But noooooo, they just wanted to waste time unsuccessfully trying to horn in on my free blog design gravy train. I mean, I'm just saying ...

Well, we'll show them. Here's what we're gonna do. We're gonna sit here and stare at this blog entry and not click on those ever-so-convenient links above. Yep, we're just gonna sit here on the Group W bench, not clicking ... wait for it to come around on the guitar again ... hey, easy on the mouse button there, Tex ... we are not going to avail ourselves of the opportunity to broaden our horizons by visiting those other sites. We're not gonna do it ... not gonna ...

Okay, are we finished not clicking on those links (which, I may have forgotten to mention, would have conveniently opened in a new browser window or tab if you had clicked them, which I'm absolutely certain you didn't) yet? Good. Now we're going to very strenuously not click on any links which might lead us to the sites of Leslie or Jen of Digitally Essential. Leave them alone, y'hear? They're busy thinking about how they're going to remake my blog. Not yours. Mine. So whatever you do, don't go clicking or anything. Just don't do it. You'll go blind and grow hair on your palms.

And don't even think about writing a haiku (for those of you not in the know, that's a poem with three lines -- five syllables on the first line, seven on the second, five again on the third -- the best ones are about beer) and entering it into the contest according to the rules as conveniently summarized by The Weiner Dog, or anything like that. Don't even let that thought lazily contemplate the possibility of considering the notion of crossing your mind.

All right, I think we're done here. I hope you learned something about humility and self-restraint. And modesty. Yeah, modesty. That's an important one.

The fire this time

Details on today's attacks in London are still sketchy, but thankfully there appear to have been no deaths and only one, or at most a few, injuries involved.

Early take: Either this is a major embarrassment for al Qaeda, or it didn't involve al Qaeda at all. I suspect the latter.

Item: The Islamists don't screw around with low-casualty operations for the purpose of "sending a message." When they build a bomb and detonate that bomb, their intention is to create carnage and fill body bags.

Item: Even the most inept terror group, Islamist or otherwise, is likely to get at least one of four bombs, and one of four deliveries, right. If no fewer than four bombs were smuggled onto trains and buses at great risk to the smugglers, and if all four were detonated, the fact that the detonations were small was intentional.

Working hypothesis: Someone wanted to demonstrate that London's public transit infrastructure is still vulnerable to attack. Maybe they wanted to demonstrate it in order to prove that the UK's "enhanced" security measures haven't made traveling by bus or tube any safer -- either to encourage further "enhancements" or to encourage rolling back the existing ones. Maybe they wanted to convince Londoners to walk or ride bicycles. Or maybe they were just following through on a bet they made down at the pub the other night.

In 1981, a teenager leapt out of the crowd lining a parade route and unloaded a pistol at Queen Elizabeth II. He was firing blanks, and the Queen was unharmed. At trial, the prosecution held that he was conducting a "fantasy assassination" because he couldn't procure the tools for a real one. His defense was that he was simply out to show how poor the Queen's security was so that it would be improved. He spent five years in gaol (and the Queen went back to Buckingham Palace, where a year later she woke up to find an intruder at the foot of her bed, wanting to chat).

At first blush, I think we may be something similar here. Of course, I could be wrong.

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Because they can, part one

Like most people, I occasionally allow myself to be lulled into complacency by arguments for "decentralization" and "local control." The theory, such as it is, is that the lower the level of government, the closer it is to the people and therefore the more amenable it is to being reined in and kept from getting to big for its britches.

It doesn't take much to explode this theory. One need look no further than Kelo v. City of New London -- the basis of a recent, and very bad, Supreme Court ruling -- to get an idea of just how predatory local government can be.

But if you really, really, really want to see the whole nauseating spectacle up close and personal, just attend a meeting of your own local governing body.

I live in a small city, albeit one right smack in the middle of a metro area. Fewer than 800 people -- and the city ordinances, in book form, seem to weigh 800 pounds. There's an ordinance telling you how many holes per inch your window screens have to have. There's an ordinance prescribing placement of your garbage cans. Hell, there's even an ordinance asserting that the city owns the land between the sidewalks and the street -- and another one stating that property owners have to mow the grass on that land in front of their homes (apparently nobody's told them about the Emancipation Proclamation).

One of these days, I'm going to comb through that ordinance book very carefully and find out if it's possible to get a measure on the ballot to rename the city. Pyongyang has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

So, how did such a little town get such a big case of bad law? To understand that, one need only attend a meeting of the board of alderpersons. I've done so on several occasions -- my significant other isn't on the board proper, but she is an elected city official. Usually, I honyock around outside with the kids during the meeting, but occasionally we go inside to see what's up. "Sausage being made" doesn't even begin to describe it.

How did we get so many laws?

Well, for one thing, it appears that local politicians have difficulty saying "no." When an ordinance is being considered, it is given a bill number and, if passed, an ordinance number. On the agenda Tuesday night, I heard these being called out. For example, "Bill Number 527, Ordinance Number 517." What this means is that (as of that time), 527 bills had been moved ... and 517 of them had been passed. That's a rejection rate of less than one in 50. Break wind near city hall and there'll be a flatulence ordinance on the books next week.

Not only do local politicians have a problem with saying "no" -- at least to proposals to regulate how bright the sun may shine and during what hours it may rise above the horiizon -- but they also seem to have a problem with ... um ... how shall I put this ... paying any attention to precisely what it is that they're passing. For example, at the Tuesday meeting, the board adopted the county's new building codes. They did so by reading title -- not the text -- of the ordinance twice, and then counting yeas and nays (there were none of the latter).

I'm sure these were very long, very complicated codes. Hell, it took two minutes to read the titles. The philosophy of local government seems to be that if something is too long to read, digest and understand it ... just pass it and let the peasants bear the consequences. Those building codes are the basis for home inspections in the city. In order to get an occupancy permit, one's home has to pass those inspections. The logic in adopting the county codes is that the city contracts with the county to do the inspections.

Now, these codes may make differences of thousands of dollars to any given household in the city. It seems to me that if the board is going to make decisions with that kind of impact, it should probably take the time to know just exactly what the hell that impact is before doing so. If they can't be bothered to understand what they're doing with the inspection process, then the logical thing to do is to do away with the inspection process. Fat chance. Actually let people live unmolested in their homes? Perish the thought -- surely humanity didn't rise from the primordial soup all the way to the Space Age without the diligent supervision of the bureaucracy!

The saddest event of the night, however, was watching the board do its damnedest to destroy a woman's livelihood for no better reason than that they could.

To Be Continued

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

He's dead, Jim

James "Scotty" Doohan has died.

No eulogy from moi, at least for now. Res ipsa loquitur and all that. I'm sad.

Hat tip to Gary at the Ex-Donkey blog.

Notes of interest ...

Have you heard about Blogathon 2005? Check it out and support a charity with your money or your blogging efforts. I may do the blogging bit -- undecided right now. As far as charities to sponsor, there are a bunch to choose from, but I hope you'll consider this one.

I'll be guest blogging at Crazy Like a Fox on August 22nd. What am I going to write about? The only thing I've decided so far is: Not politics. Tune in.


OK, I got bit by the bug. I'm going to do the Blogathon thing.

What charity? Well, this is a political blog, and I had some in mind ... but I'd rather pick a charity that just about anyone, regardless of political views, will feel comfortable helping. The envelope, please?

Doctors Without Borders

These people go all over the world -- often at risk of life and limb -- to provide medical care to people who need it in the worst way, due to war, natural disaster, etc. I hope everyone agrees that medical care is, well, a good thing. Even I agree with that, even if I refuse to patronize doctors myself (I don't want to know, dammit!).

So, here's the deal: I drag my aching carcass to the computer and post something boring and inane every half hour for 24 hours, and youse guys cough up a little bit of jack to help these people keep someone alive who might very well otherwise die. That work for you? If so, here's the direct link to "my campaign" (which is pretty much useless unless you register first, which you can find out how to do here).

As a side note, the campaign that I mentioned above is equally worthy of your support. Flip a coin, spread the wealth, whatever.

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Gaming the Roberts nomination

I didn't have to turn on the television, or cruise the news sites, to know that president Bush had finally named a replacement for Sandra Day O'Connor. All I had to do was watch my inbox fill up with email from the usual suspects, alternately urging me to "help the President prepare for the fight against obstructionist Democrats" or to "oppose the right wing corporate lawyer and ideologue."

Which, of course, is pretty much what I predicted. It's going to be a nasty little spin fight, and it would have been almost regardless of whom Bush nominated.

So, uh, who is John Roberts? Let's sort through some of the spin.

The administration definitely had its talking points in order, and obviously had those talking points distributed to its supporters in advance. Here's what the "conservative" press had to say within hours, if not minutes, of the announcement:

A brilliant lawyer, devoted husband and father, and judge respected on both sides of the aisle .... near unparalleled experience .... a career well within the legal mainstream .... Hardly the track record of the extremist his opponents will try to make him out to be. ... confirmed by a more heavily Democratic Senate to his current seat on the D.C. Circuit by a unanimous voice vote — at a time when other nominees were stopped cold in their tracks. -- Shannen W. Coffin in National Review

In choosing among judicial conservatives, there are safe picks and risky picks. With Roberts, Bush took the safe route. Related to this, there are cautious judicial conservatives and bold judicial conservatives. The president tilted to the cautious side in naming Roberts. ... impressive credentials as a brilliant legal scholar and man of solid temperament and character. More important, he's already been tested in the Senate and passed muster. In 2003, his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia sailed through the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 16-3 vote. He cleared the full Senate on a voice vote. ... Social conservatives were hoping for more. No doubt they'll line up in support of Roberts when Democrats like Schumer and groups such as People for the American Way begin to attack him. ... Is Roberts likely to join a anti-Roe bloc on the court? Probably not. -- Fred Barnes in The Weekly Standard

The Republican spin is "moderate, not anti-Roe, confirmable." The Republican game is to pre-emptively paint any questioning of Roberts's fitness as "obstructionism." This is good strategy -- and the Left walked straight into the blades.

In nominating John Roberts, the president has chosen a right wing corporate lawyer and ideologue for the nation's highest court instead of a judge who would protect the rights of the American people. Working for mining companies, Roberts opposed clean air rules and worked to help coal companies strip-mine mountaintops. He worked with Ken Starr (yes, that Ken Starr), and tried to keep Congress from defending the Voting Rights Act. He wrote that Roe v. Wade should be 'overruled,' and as a lawyer argued (and won) the case that stopped some doctors from even discussing abortion. -- MoveOn

As a deputy solicitor general for George H.W. Bush, Roberts wrote a brief arguing that doctors in clinics receiving federal funds shouldn't be able to talk to their patients about abortion (the Supreme Court agreed) and in passing called for the reversal of Roe v. Wade. ... an opinion that the 50-year-old judge joined just last week in the case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld should be seriously troubling to anyone who values civil liberties. As a member of a three-judge panel on the D.C. federal court of appeals, Roberts signed on to a blank-check grant of power to the Bush administration to try suspected terrorists without basic due-process protections. -- Emily Bazelon in Slate

The Democrat spin is "greedhead lawyer, anti-Roe, anti-civil-liberties."

My opinion?

Smooth move, and I mean it, for Bush. He picked an appointee whose previous Senate confirmation went well, even with Democrats. He's effectively put Roberts's career prior to 2003 off-limits for criticism. "If he was good enough for unanimous confirmation in 2003, why isn't he good enough now?" To effectively fight this, the Democrats are going to have to concentrate on a) Roberts's opinions and rulings since 2003, and/or b) "previously undiscovered" material.

I don't think the Democrats can win on this one. As a matter of fact, I'm not sure they should even try. Bush has nominated Schrodinger's Justice. After taking a beating for obstructionism in confirmation, the Democrats either Bork him (and get bloodied for it) or he makes it (and then there's a very good chance that they'll like him as a Justice).

Meanwhile, they'll have hemorrhaged huge amounts of credibility opposing him -- and there's a very good chance that they'll need that credibility in the next 2 1/2 years. Bush will probably have the opportunity to appoint replacements for Rehnquist and possibly Stevens before 2008 ... and he's hoping the Democrats step on their own collective crank this time so that he can roll over them with bolder appointments next time.

If Senate Democrats are smart, they'll roll out the red carpet, put on their best smiles, effusively endorse and overwhelmingly vote to confirm Roberts. They should save their ammo for the much more meaningful fights that are probably coming their way.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Ode to PlameGate

If you're wondering what's in a name
Take the outing of Valerie Plame
Though they did for Bibi
Mister Rove and poor Libby
Surely wish they'd not heard of the dame

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Rove Watch, day six

"They are stonewalling."

That's pretty much the sum and substance of today's news on PlameGate. Other than that, it's all about why they're stonewalling.

Brief review:

"If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration." -- White House spokesman Scott McClellan, 2003

"If someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration." -- President George W. Bush, July 18th, 2005

In two years flat, Bush has descended from his original position of protecting the integrity of the White House to a new posture of protecting the sinecures of political appointees who happen to work there.

Is Bush really trying to pull Rove's chestnuts out of the fire?

Is he playing a damage control game intended to end in firings, including Rove and possibly Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, "Scooter" Libby, under conditions that leave Cheney and other administration principals untouched?

Or is he possibly dragging it out for no better reason than to distract attention from other matters -- such as the fact that his presidency is dead in the water on every major issue it's attempting to make policy on?

I see the outlines of a theory of recent presidential history emerging:

Richard Nixon -- Re-elected after first term; hounded into resignation over Watergate

Ronald Reagan -- Re-elected after first term; dogged by the Iran-Contra affair

Bill Clinton -- Re-elected after first term; impeached over the Lewinsky affair

George W. Bush -- Re-elected after first term ...

I'm not thinking in terms of conspiracy theory here ... more like an inchoate "general will" -- or maybe just Beltway bias -- which mandates that a president may only have one 'successful" term. Term two is tearing down time.

Or maybe not. Washington operates on its own strange logic. Every politician is a Brutus -- or a Caesar -- in waiting, and every day is the Ides of March.

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Never mind the haiku ...

... Digitally Essential' s competition, which is supposed to ultimately result in a new, cooler design for Kn@ppster, now serves as the inspiration for epic poetry.

OldGuy is cool. And in the know -- as evidenced by who he mentions first. Mwuhahahaha!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Dean gets it

"People say, 'Why'd you come here? This is a Republican state,' but they're wrong. This is a libertarian area. We're going to win on a Western platform next time." -- Howard Dean in Idaho, 07/16/05

"Citing the 2004 election of Gov. Brian Schweitzer, Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean said Tuesday he believes the red Rocky Mountain states are ripe for gain by his party. In a telephone interview, Dean cited the 'strong libertarian' and strong fiscal conservative beliefs of many Rocky Mountain states' residents." -- Lee State Bureau (Montana), 07/13/05

"The reason I'm really outspoken is because I think one of the problems in the Democratic Party is they don't understand how to fight. I don't want to get run over by these right-wingers. We're going to fight back." -- Howard Dean in Utah, 07/13/05

Libertarians in the duopoly diaspora

As a libertarian Democrat, one of the chief arguments I've had to contend against is that "Republicans are more libertarian than Democrats." Having conducted my own evaluation (here, here and here), I reached my own conclusions which contradicted that notion, so here I am.

Of course, the argument persists.

Here's my latest salvo from the "libertarian" Republicans Yahoo! Group, with respect to some interesting Google search results:

From: "Thomas L. Knapp"
Date: Mon Jul 18, 2005 12:26 pm
Subject: Re: Libt. Republican kills Libt. Democrat 14 to 1

Quoth Eric Dondero:

> "Libertarian Republican"........... 14,400
> "Libertarian Democrat"............. 537
> So much for the Thomas Knapps of the world who believe that
> the "libertarian Democrat" strategy is the "wave of the future."

When and where did I say that "the 'libertarian Democrat' strategy is the 'wave of the future?'" I don't recall doing so ... but as the case may be, I'll destroy your specious claim right now.

"pro-choice Republican"...........8,850
"pro-choice Democrat".............839

"pro-life Democrat"...............9,940
"pro-life Republican".............5,650

The relative prevalence of the terms indicates that the term which produces more results indicates the EXCEPTION, and that the term which produces fewer results indicates the RULE.

Thank you for establishing that Democrats perceive themselves more as, and/or are more generally perceived as, libertarians than are Republicans. It's a nice datum to have at hand, especially when someone else does most of the work for me.

Tom Knapp

Now, I'll admit that I didn't expect to get those results, but they are interesting. It seems that in many cases, partisans feel it necessary to label themselves within their parties ... and that when they do so, they are doing so to distinguish themselves from their fellow partisans, not to identify themselves with those fellow partisans.

Does the average Democrat decline to label himself or herself "libertarian" because he or she believes that to do so would be ... redundant? A preponderance of Democrats do seem to label themselves "civil libertarians," but they don't attach "Democrat" to that label because they seem to assume that of course "civil libertarians" are Democrats.

Stay tuned. This little teapot tempest may be going places.

Rove Watch, day five

The outlines of the White House strategy for riding out PlameGate are beginning to emerge more clearly, and it's an unusual strategy from an administration best known for just plunging ahead past fact and reality and counting on them never to catch up with it. The retreat seems to be proceeding in good order, but it clearly is a retreat. The West Wing is worried, people.

Observed elements of the strategy:

1. Maintain official silence

Two years of vociferous denials were probably "necessary" from the standpoint of delaying reckoning as long as possible, but we're way past the shelf life of credible denial now ... and the White House knows that with the increasing velocity of disclosures, anything Scott McClellan says on the matter is bound to come back and bite them in the ass sooner rather than later. Mum's the word.

2. Continue to hold the old line through proxies

The White House isn't talking, but it's begging others -- especially the Bushevik Blogger Brigade -- to talk in its stead. The Big Lie has worked so often for these people that they can't imagine it failing them now -- so out come the talking points. "None of us did it" and "everyone already knew" are staples, of course. They've been superseded by "one of us did it, but only to correct the record," and "everyone knew, but what they knew wasn't quite accurate -- we were just helping out." Now that sufficient details have been made public to flesh out the legal situation a bit, the latest addition is a firmer line on how the law probably wasn't technically violated.

3. Spread the blame, contain the damage

Until Rove's flank got exposed, the Bushevik line was "nobody here did it." Now that we know that at least one of them did do it, the line is evolving into "well, actually, a bunch of us did it." The bunch involved, of course, will include mostly people previously accused, as indicated by the promotion of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby to the head of the line. There are a couple of reasons for this. First of all, if heads are going to roll, they might as well be heads that are already under the guillotine. Secondly, sacrificing a few pawns early in the game may be key to saving a bishop -- Rove -- or even the queen -- Cheney -- later.

The new White House approach to PlameGate is assuming the characteristics of a more traditional method of dealing with scandal: Put up firebreaks and hope they hold until the White House can retreat into the clear or until the thing has burned itself out. That's a page from the Clinton playbook -- the plaintive cries of "move on -- please!" are already circulating -- and definitely a departure for an administration which usually attempts, at any cost, to retain the initiative for itself.

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Saturday, July 16, 2005

Review: Molôn Labé!

Molôn Labé!
by Boston T. Party
Javelin Press, 2004, $24.00, 454 pp.

Synopsis: A group of libertarians relocate to Wyoming, assume political control of the state, and create a libertarian society.

My rule of thumb when reviewing books -- especially books whose authors have sent me free review copies -- is "if you don't have something nice to say, say nothing at all." I adhere to that rule rigorously enough that I generally interpret it to mean "unless my quibbles with the book are so minor as to be inconsequential, I'm just not going to review it -- it's impolite to bite the hand that sends review copies."

From the next paragraph, the reader might reasonably construe this review as a violation of the rule. That's why I'm going to take the unusual measure of asking the reader to mentally commit to reading beyond the next paragraph. Okay, then:

Molôn Labé! is a train wreck as a novel, repugnant as a philosophical treatise, annoying as a political manifesto and unrealistic as a tactical or strategic blueprint or plan.

And I love it.

Yes, you read that correctly. I've read the book twice now. I intend to read it a third time. I heartily recommend it as required reading for anyone who claims to be interested in the future of freedom on the North American continent. As a matter of fact, I can't help but consider a willingness to read it as a test of the seriousness of those making such claims.

Let's take this from the top, going through my objections and why those objections don't matter.

- Molôn Labé! is a train wreck as a novel

I have a great deal of respect for Boston T. Party as a writer, based on public and personal correspondence, and on his non-fiction work, especially Boston's Gun Bible.

I was therefore surprised to find that, as a novel, Molôn Labé! is, to quote a number of other reviewers, a "mess." The story changes tenses, seemingly at random and sometimes within the same sentence. The typos and grammar problems occur frequently enough to peg my "insane obsession with incorrect usage" meter. The book jumps from vignette to vignette. Interspersed between the narrative elements are speeches, quotes, synopses of political and cultural developments at the point the plot has reached, and other distractions which constantly threaten to overwhelm the story.

But ... they don't overwhelm the story. It comes through loud and clear. Somewhere around the middle of the book, I paused in my obsessing over this ... this ... this literary calamity ... and realized that I hadn't put it down since picking it up. That I couldn't put it down. And that I was desperate to know what happened next. Congratulations, Mr. Party. Your writing style is highly irregular, as were Joyce's and Faulkner's. I've still never finished wading through Finnegan's Wake or The Sound and the Fury. But I've finished Molôn Labé!. Twice.

The measure of a book's worth as fiction, it seems to me, is whether or not it engages the reader. Molôn Labé! does.

- Molôn Labé! is repugnant as a philosophical treatise

There's some overlap between this complaint and

- Molôn Labé! is annoying as a political manifesto

... so I'll handle both complaints at once.

Boston T. Party is, it seems, a "conservative" libertarian. Or, at least, he regards conservatives as more philosophically and politically inclined toward comity with libertarians and sympathy with libertarian ideas. This translates to the political realm in the statement (included in the non-fiction appendix The Wyoming Report), "Since 57% of Wyomingites are registered Republicans, and since Republicans are closer to our political philosophy than are Democrats, we must focus most of our efforts on them."

Party's culturally conservative orientation (and apparent Christian faith) does not dominate the book, but it certainly colors the judgments that Party renders, both in the fictional realm and where he crosses over into actual advocacy.

Now, I happen to be a partisan Democrat, a "left" libertarian and, in many ways, about as un-conservative as one can get (and I think I have a fair handle on what conservatism is). I don't have a problem with conservatives as such. I believe that a libertarian polity would enable them to realize their core values. But I believe that a libertarian polity would also allow non-conservatives to realize their core values, and I disagree with Party's contention that conservatives are by nature more amenable to adopting libertarian ideas than liberals.

All in all, however, this is a minor defect. Molôn Labé!'s audience is probably primarily on the "conservative" end of the spectrum to the extent that that spectrum has any meaning at all. And if Party's plan proceeds, the worst result of his apparent miscalculation is likely to be a pleasant surprise when Wyoming's Democratic counties turn out to be more supportive than expected.

- Molôn Labé! is unrealistic as a tactical or strategic blueprint or plan

Well, uh, c'mon, folks. The book is about a bunch of libertarians moving to Wyoming and, in a coordinated political "attack" spread over 15 years, turning it libertarian and bringing it to the point of effectively seceding from the United States.

It has to be unrealistic. Here's why:

1. If it was realistic, Boston T. Party wouldn't have time to write it, because he'd be in the middle, instead of at the beginning of making it happen.

2. If it was realistic, the book wouldn't be necessary. It is the promotion of unrealistic ideas which, over time, creates the context in which they cease to be unrealistic.

When Molôn Labé! was being written, and at the time of its release, the 2004 election had not yet occurred. Who would have predicted, prior to that election, that the Left would be bandying about secessionist ideas by the beginning of 2005?

The last great American secession -- that of 1860-1865 -- seemed to explode out of nowhere. But that is an historical illusion which exists largely because the winners of wars write their histories. The roots of secession went back nearly to the beginning of the nation, and a number of individuals (William Yancey, Edmund Ruffin et al) had been working hard for southern secession for decades before it "suddenly" became a reality.

There's a growing body of secessionist literature -- fiction and non-fiction -- proliferating in America right now (see, for example, The Third Revolution by Anthony F. Lewis). A decade or three from now, when secession "suddenly" arises as a reality, that body of literature will be largely responsible, whether it is acknowledged as such or not.

I'm still not ready to move to Wyoming (although I hope to visit the state again next year). I'm already committed to eventually moving to New Hampshire pursuant to the Free State Project's plan, and as yet see no reason to seek release from that commitment, and I have an interim enclave in mind as well (without being explicit, I'll just point out that I am a southerner by both birth and inclination). But those who write off Party's Free State Wyoming project are making a serious mistake. I already know of libertarians who have relocated there, and they are people of quality and character with records of doing what they set out to do.

A number of friends in the tech industry have noted, in various words, that the slicker a startup's business plan and prospectus, the less likely it is that there's any underlying substance. People compensate for a lack of substance with a slick presentation. They're hoping to clean up and sell out before the thing caves in. And while the opposite is not necessarily true, I suspect that in the case of Molôn Labé!, it is. Defects in Boston T. Party's writing and a rough-hewn presentation of his plan do not diminish the power of his vision. And a fine vision it is.

Rove Watch, Day Three

Naturally, we can expect the weekend talking head shows to roll Karl Rove around, bounce him off the walls and floor, etc. I'm keeping one ear on'em, and not hearing much on either side that hasn't been going round the room for awhile.

Jon Henke at Q&O did an interesting wrap-up yesterday, but I think he did miss some key points. Quoth Henke:

"The only questions that remain are:

"1. ...whether Rove acted unethically by talking about Valerie Plame at all, and..

"2. ...who did, in fact, first mention Plame to a journalist."

To that, I would add two more questions that we're probably going to have to wait to get the whole truth on:

3. Who said what to the grand jury?

4. To what extent, if any, might White House damage control ops have slowed down the sorting out of the whole thing?

It wasn't cigars and stained dresses that brought Bill Clinton to the Senate as only the second president to be impeached. It was perjury.

It wasn't the Watergate break-in that ultimately brought down Richard Nixon. It was the cover-up.

This isn't going to go away any time soon -- unless the grand jury concludes its work and gives Rove a clean bill of health with respect to honesty.

It isn't going to go away any time soon -- unless the White House is able to convincingly say that it didn't engage in games to drag the thing out without a resolution that might reflect badly on the administration.

It may become boring. Hell, it may already seem trite. But it's going to get chewed on until it either disintegrates in the chewers' mouths or provides them with some sustenance.

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Friday, July 15, 2005

Perhaps I failed to make myself perfectly clear ...

... so I'll try again.

When I posted "I'm going to win a blog design from Digitally Essential!" ...

I meant it.


As you can imagine, I'm somewhat perturbed to see that other sites are also putting up, or considering putting up, posts titled "I'm going to win a blog design from Digitally Essential!", complete with haiku and all that stuff.

Sites including, but possibly not limited to:

Life with 4 Kids and a Dog
The Weiner Dog Report
Ho Hum What?
The Grass Isn't Greener
Movie Reviews
Fighting Inertia
A TiggerMom's Life
Beer Haiku Daily
Chris and Her Crew


Sanity's Bluff

Quit wasting your time, folks. I told you once, don't make me tell you again: "I'm going to win a blog design from Digitally Essential!". Don't make me pull this car over ...

Oh, hell ... I just publicized my competition, didn't I? I just gave them an edge in the quest to elicit blog design goodness from Mrs. Flinger and The Greek Goddess of Digitally Essential.

I'm going to have to get a better strategy than linking to my opponents, I guess. After all, if I link to them, people might be tempted to click, visit and read. Disaster would surely ensue. I might even lose. What do you people think this is supposed to be, a good-natured exercise in cross-linking and mutual promotion or something? Bah! Battle to the death! Pyramids of skulls and burning blogvillages!

Now go, and haiku no more, or I just might get surly.