Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Support the troops. Really.

The hits just keep on coming for the War Party. Fukuyama's flown. Buckley's bailed. Babbin blames Bush. All the fattest rats are backstroking like hell away from their obviously sinking ship -- and now, even the Yellow Ribbon Caucus looks set to go wobbly on Bush's foreign policy project:

A poll of U.S. troops currently serving in Iraq -- reportedly the first of its kind -- shows that 72% advocate a U.S. pullout within a year, with only 23% for staying as long "as necessary," reports Nicholas Kristof in his New York Times column today. Some 29% urge withdrawal "immediately."

[Hat tip to Steve Gordon at Hammer of Truth for a flash on the Times article -- I'm quoting the Editor & Publisher take, so you don't have to fork over money to read the whole thing]

This isn't just blue-sky guesstimating -- it's Zogby, based on a 944-person sample. Thats pretty large given the target population of 130,000; statewide polls and even nationwide presidential surveys in the US routinely boast proportionally far smaller samples.

Nor was the poll conducted only among rear-echelon National Guard typists, or right after last week's explosion of "sectarian" violence:

A check of the poll's methodology finds that it was conducted from mid-January to mid-February. Three quarters of the troops had served multiple tours. Those in the reserves and National Guard are strongest in favor of withdrawal, but 58% of Marines also back a pullout in the coming year.

So now we know what kind of support the troops really want: A ticket on the Freedom Bird. A ride back to the World. Not just for themselves, but for the guys around them and preparing to follow in their footsteps ("within the year" translates to "I'm willing to serve out my tour ... but it's time to put a fork in this thing and admit it's done").

What comes next? At the Beltway level, it's predictable:

- The War Party diehards will publicly stomp on their own cranks as they usually do, but this time really hard. Look for them to blame the troops and start whining about how Patton wouldn't have given up and how all the boys and girls in uniform are just a bunch of disloyal wusses if they can't or won't make William Kristol's wet dreams come true and buy him a pony as well.

- The Bush administration will blame the media -- and DoD will probably ban further polling of members of the armed forces in Iraq.

- Republicans in Congress will lean hard on the White House to have troops visibly returning home in large numbers by the height of campaign season.

- Many, if not most, Democrats will desperately try to take credit for the withdrawal and run like hell from their records of support for the war.

But what of the Yellow Ribbon Caucus? This is sure to push the honest among them in one of two directions. Some of them will continue to "support the troops" by joining the call for an end to this three-year circle jerk. Others will quietly remove the ribbons from their bumpers, try to wipe away the outlines, and continue to follow The Leader.

And, of course, some small hypocritical remnant will try to have it both ways, "supporting" the troops by ignoring their clearly stated opinions. They'll spend the next 30 years crying in their beer with their neocon friends about how it was just that there Evil Liberal Media Conspiracy what kept them from turning Baghdad into a suburb of Peoria complete with Rotary Club and The Disney Store.

This war isn't over, folks -- but most people can no longer get around the fact that it's irretrievably lost, and that's the first big step in getting it over.

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Meme of fours

I've been tagged (actually, several days ago -- just catching up).

Four Jobs I've Had
1. Marine
2. Boat builder
3. Ice cream truck driver
4. Ghost writer

Four Movies I can watch over and over
1. The Matrix
2. John Carpenter's Vampires
3. Full Metal Jacket
4. Reds

Four Places I've lived
1. Lebanon, Missouri
2. Springfield, Missouri
3. Saudi Arabia
4. St. Louis, Missouri

Four TV shows I love
1. Seinfeld
2: Sealab 2021
3. What's My Line?
4. Futurama

Four highly regarded and recommended TV shows I haven't seen (much of)
1. 24
2. Third Watch
3. Dharma and Greg
4. That Geena Davis woman-as-president thing

Four places I've vacationed
1. Las Vegas, NV
2. Washington, DC
3. Beaufort, SC
4. Memphis, TN/Tunica, MS

Four of my favorite dishes
1. Prime rib
2. General Tso's Chicken
3. Steak fajitas
4. Pizza

Four sites I visit daily
1. Rational Review News Digest
2. AntiWar.Com
3. Salon
4. LewRockwell.Com

Four places I'd rather be right now:
1. Dublin, Ireland
2. Manila, Philippines
3. Tel Aviv, Israel
4. Hot Springs, AR

Four new bloggers I'm tagging:
1. Brad Spangler
2. The Curbstone Critic
3. Mr. X
4. Kirsten from Enjoy Every Sandwich

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Saturday roundup

A bunch of BLL

After a round of eliminating sites without the required ring code, Blogosphere of the Libertarian Left includes 35 web sites. While those sites comprise a wide range of opinions, I think that we're at or approaching the point of "critical mass," where we can actually be effective when and if we want to pick a topic and press it. 35 blogs posting on the same topic or advocating the same action in concert should make a blip on the blogosphere radar. Of course, like I said, there's diversity of opinion. Some of the sites are anti-political, some of them partyarchist, etc. But it's still cool and I think we'll make our mark sooner rather than later -- the ring itself has already delivered in excess of 20,000 hits to its member sites (more than that, actually, as I'm not counting traffic to the sites which have been eliminated).

Is your site part of the Blogosphere of the Libertarian Left? If not, why not change that?

Some recent ring site highlights: Kenneth R. Gregg on Proudhon; Brad Spangler announces the launch of Agorism.info (visit the new site for a new booklet by BLL member Wally Conger, foreward by Brad); freeman, libertarian critter on the Olympics v. individualism; Wally Conger on the LP's Rothbard Caucus and Rothbard's strategic insights (and another piece on the lost/secret memo; James Leroy Wilson on "Neocons, Dershowitz and the value of predictions;" and that's just five of the ring's 35 sites (I'm going to start occasionally picking five to flog until I've promoted them all, then start all over again).

Any port in a storm

On the one hand, when left and right agree, I get suspicious and tend to assume that they're both on the wrong side. On the other hand, when leftists and rightists start citing me, they're obviously frolicking at the trailhead of the One True Path. I'm pleased and flattered to find myself approvingly referred to by both the Louisiana Conservative and Battlepanda on the Dubai Ports World issue. It's going to be interesting to see how this one plays out, but it's nice to know that there's still room to make an argument and have it considered.

Computer capers

As I mentioned a few days ago, I had a complete computer meltdown last weekend. I'm pretty much fully back up now, and I'd like to hand out the roses and razzes involved.

Hardware: I got my new Microtel PC because my older (given me by a friend) CompUSA job was running like a snail with a stomach-ache, because I was hesitant to tear into the box (better a slow computer than no computer), and because I was asked to do a job that the computer seemed like a good fee-in-kind for. I went cheap because I didn't want to rip the client off. And, frankly, I think Microtel ripped me off. The machine never recognized its internal modem (I strapped on an external). It was obviously thrown together cheaply. I could deal with those things, but not with it laying down and dying after a month. I'm still convinced that the problem was in the switch or power supply, but it doesn't really matter ... it wouldn't be worth shipping the damn thing back and forth to get it fixed, I'm not convinced that it would arrive back from being fixed in operating condition, and I'm not convinced it would be more than another month before something else went wrong. In short, I won't be dealing with Microtel any more. On the other hand, the parts I cannibalized (I naturally removed the floppy, hard drive, CD-RW/DVD combo, modem, RAM and Intel 2.8GHz processor before throwing away the case) will probably come in handy; maybe the sum of the parts was worth more than the whole.

In any case, I threw a salvaged hard drive (and shortly after, a salvaged CD-ROM) into the old CompUSA rig, and it perked right up. It has a slower chip speed (650MHz) and less RAM (128Mb instead of 256Mb) than the Microtel (I wasn't able to get it to recognize the Microtel PC's RAM, but may try some other things), but it runs okay.

Software: I started by trying to install VectorLinux SOHO 5.x; no go (I think it was due to scratches on the install CD, but I went ahead and replaced the CD-ROM anyway, and still no go). I like Vector, but I wasn't too worried about it. I couldn't get Xandros to install, but I can't remember if that was before or after the CD replacement -- more below). I had Mandrake Linux 9.0 install CDs, but didn't want to fall back that far. Finally, I settled on Knoppix 3.02, a "boot directly from CD" fork of Debian Linux. Worked okay, but still an older version. After installing it to the hard drive, it worked fine for awhile, then had problems with the modem, even though it still worked fine on a CD boot. And then I accidentally erased the hard drive install while futzing with it. So, I tried Xandros again, and ...

I have nothing but good things to say about Xandros SurfSide Linux. It runs about $50, but I got mine OEM with the Microtel PC, and so far as I can tell I'm entitled to continue running one copy -- the machine that it came on is dead. On the second attempt, it went like a breeze -- quick install, flawless operation. Xandros is another riff on Debian, but it comes with lots of extras, including "Xandros Networks," which makes downloading and installing applications (something I've always found problematic in Linux) a snap. It's just a damn good operating system. It only runs noticeably more slowly on half the RAM when I really load up a bunch of apps or windows. An allure of most Linux distros is that they're "free," but if I'd paid (directly) for Xandros, I'd have felt like I was getting my money's worth from the extras, the well-put-togetheredness of it all, etc.. I paid twice as much for Windows 95 in 1995, and Xandros is, even in the context of a decade of change, a better OS.

So: Roses to Xandros, razzes to Microtel.

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I pledge allegiance ... to what?

As I do not terribly infrequently, I'm about to address a matter of some controversy within the Libertarian Party: "The Pledge." And, as always, I'm going to issue a few disclaimers so that there's no misunderstanding of where I'm coming from:

- I am an anarchist. Please, make no mistake about that. Given my druthers, this here society would be stateless starting some time yesterday. I'm not going to argue that libertarianism and anarchism are incompatible, nor am I going to argue that they're identical, because they are, in fact, neither. Anarchism is a subset of libertarianism; many of its adherents plausibly claim that it is the only such subset which is consistent, either internally or with reality, and I tend to sympathize with that assessment, but a car with a blown engine is still a car.

- I am, for better or worse, a political libertarian. I often veer toward the anti-political, but two things drag me back into electoral politics. The first, I'm ashamed to say, is addiction. I can't stand to be on the sidelines when the teams are on the field. I love working on electoral causes and for electoral candidates and campaigns. I'm not going to stop doing so until and unless electoral politics as such ceases to exist (and I don't expect it to do so in my lifetime). The second is that since it exists, and since I expect it to continue to exist, it makes sense to me to influence it as best I can to produce the best possible outcomes from the standpoint of increasing freedom and decreasing the size, scope and power of government.

- Because I am an anarchist, I have no problem with certifying that I oppose the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals (which is the content of the Libertarian Party's membership "pledge"). However, since I want the Libertarian Party to achieve political success -- to elect its candidates to offices from which they can more effectively work to increase freedom and decrease the size, scope and power of government -- I don't believe that it's wise to exclude from party membership those who aren't anarchists and who will, if they understand the provenance and meaning of "the pledge," decline to sign.

The recurring debate, of course, is whether "the pledge" is actually anarchistic (or at least minarchistic to the exclusion of, say, coercive taxation), or whether it means something else entirely. I despair of ever putting this argument entirely to bed, but it doesn't hurt to go on record with the facts every once in awhile and hope that some of the disputants take notice. This morning, in the course of arguing the subject on an email discussion list, I had occasion to do a wee bit of jackleg historical research, and I think it's worth sharing.

The context: Often, when debating the meaning of "the pledge," Libertarians cite David F. Nolan, the "founder" (with a few others, but generally recognized as the prime mover in the founding) of the Libertarian Party, to the effect that "the pledge" was simply intended to let the FBI know that the members of this new political party weren't bomb-throwing revolutionists who would shortly be assaulting the Nixon White House with molotov cocktails.

Now, as a matter of fact, I'm uncertain (and have been unable to easily determine) when "the pledge" was adopted as a membership requirement. It may have been later, at one of the LP's more organized conventions during the Ford, Carter or Reagan administrations, in which case, Nolan's opinion of its meaning may carry slightly less weight -- although there's no doubt that he was a moving force in the party throughout that period, as he continues to be. But I'm willing to provisionally accept the notion that "the pledge" was adopted at or around the time of the party's formation, either some time in its first year or possibly even around the table in Nolan's Denver apartment at its first organizational meeting. Let's use that timeline as a starting point.

I've stated the content of the pledge. In every form I've seen, it includes the very specific phrase "initiation of force." That's important. That phrase has a history which pre-dates the formation of the LP by at least a decade-and-a-half and possibly longer. It is a phrase which carried great weight among the adherents of two particular schools of libertarian thought throughout the 1960s: The Objectivists and the Misesian "anarcho-capitalists" (i.e. the disciples/compatriots, respectively, of Ayn Rand and of Murray N. Rothbard).

Nolan -- or at least those who cite him -- expect the rest of us to believe that the occurrence of the phrase in the LP's membership pledge was a mere coincidence: That it did not arise from the ubiquitous use of that phrase within the movement from which the party emerged. Even at first blush, that assertion looks pretty untenable. Nonetheless, earlier today, George Phillies took it a bit further (on the aforementioned list), which inspired my little research binge.

Quoth George: "[In the 1960s, I did] however, note that except in a few places objectivism had a peculiar cult status, and it is therefore not surprising that Nolan, the author of the party pledge, might not have taken the phrasings of the objectivists or their politics foes, the anarchists, seriously."

The following is an extended and revised version of my reply:

Nolan himself says that he did take them seriously. In the very first paragraph of the article which he wrote in 1971, promoting the formation of the Libertarian Party ("The Case for a Libertarian Political Party," published in the July-August 1971 issue of the Society for Individual Liberty's "The Individualist" magazine, available online at http://elfsoft.home.mindspring.com/politics/nolan.htm), Nolan describes the movement to which he belongs, and which he hopes to form into a party, as a coalition of "Randists, Miseists (sic), and elements of the old 'radical right.'"

If Nolan didn't take the Objectivists (Randists) and anarchists (Murray Rothbard was the de facto leader of the Misesian anarchists) seriously, why did he describe them as the core of the party he wanted to establish? And given the fact that he did describe them in such terms, why the hell should anyone believe that the use of a term of art with specific, explicit meaning to those two groups would meaning something entirely different when adopted as the membership criterion for such a party?

Nolan's biography at the Advocates for Self-Government site specifically lists Ayn Rand as a writer who "cemented his innate libertarianism." Is it possible that someone who regarded Rand in such terms, and whose libertarianism took the form of political action, would entirely miss the core principle of the political branch of her philosophy?

"Whatever may be open to disagreement, there is one act of evil that may not, the act that no man may commit against others and no man may sanction or forgive. So long as men desire to live together, no man may initiate -- do you hear me? No man may start -- the use of physical force against others. -- from Galt's Speech in Atlas Shrugged (1957), and For the New Intellectual (1961), by Ayn Rand

The recognition of individual rights entails the banishment of physical force from human relationships: basically, rights can be violated only by means of force. In a capitalist society, no man or group may initiate the use of physical force against the others. -- from "What is Capitalism?" in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1966), by Ayn Rand

Next let's look at Rothbard -- leader of the second faction which Nolan wanted to form a party around. The specific phrase "initiation of force" or "initiate force" seems to be less prominent in his earlier writings, but his followers (who mixed it up with the Objectivists quite a bit) used the phrase to describe his holdings and to contrast them with what they considered a heretical Randian reading thereof, and which are summarized as follows in this quickly found, pre-LP, pre-"pledge" quote:

The fundamental axiom of libertarian theory is that no one may threaten or commit violence ("aggress") against another man's person or property. Violence may be employed only against the man who commits such violence; that is, only defensively against the aggressive violence of another. In short, no violence may be employed against a nonaggressor. Here is the fundamental rule from which can be deduced the entire corpus of libertarian theory. --- from "War, Peace and the State" (1963), by Murray N. Rothbard

The actual phrase "initiation of force" seems to have crept into Rothbard's personal vocabulary later rather than sooner, but by 1973 (when he also became involved with the LP, according to Justin Raimondo's biography, An Enemy of the State, although he'd certainly been active in circles including LP activists before that) -- after the LP was created, but I'm pretty sure before the pledge was codified in the bylaws -- he'd published a book based on and flowing from the following premise:

The libertarian creed rests upon one central axiom: that no man or group of men may aggress against the person or property of anyone else. This may be called the "nonaggression axiom." "Aggression" is defined as the initiation of the use or threat of physical violence against the person or property of anyone else. -- from For A New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto (1973), by Murray N. Rothbard

Rothbard had previously explicitly described this "libertarian creed" extensively, including in a 1971 editorial in The New York Times. While he may have been fairly obscure within the context of 1971 America, he was by no means obscure within the libertarian movement. He could even be reasonably described as a founder of that movement. He had been a prominent figure within that movement for two decades and he'd contested status as the most prominent figure within that movement with Ayn Rand since the mid-1950s.

It strains credulity well beyond the breaking point to state with a straight face that David Nolan, the other people around his table in Denver, or the 85 "founding" members of the LP -- let alone those who presumably subsequently gathered in convention and passed bylaws incorporating "the pledge" -- were blithely and completely unaware of the history and tenets of the movement which they were trying to take into the political arena, of the identities or ideas of that movement's intellectual leaders, whose writings had largely formed their own views.

Taken in its obvious historical context, the pledge clearly derives from a Randian and/or Rothbardian worldview and therefore -- at a bare minimum -- clearly and indisputably binds its takers to a no-coercive-taxes approach (which even the "Randian minarchists" held to), and less clearly and less indisputably (but still arguably) to Rothbardian anarchism.

The only way to get around that conclusion is to assert that the framers of the pledge were a bunch of drooling morons who in some strange trance state spontaneously and collectively forgot the entire content of the ideas they stood for, while simultaneously functioning efficiently enough to put together an organization to politically support said ideas -- even running a presidential ticket as early as a year after the party's formation -- and who just happened to randomly pick words out of the dictionary which were identical to nearly two decades of predominant phraseology relating to those ideas, for the purpose of saying something entirely different.

As the folks at Alcoholics Anonymous like to say, the first step in recovery is admitting that one has a problem. Likewise, the first step in dealing with the issue of "the pledge" -- whether one wants to keep it, alter it or abolish it -- is to treat it as what it is, rather than what some, at this late date, would like it to be seen as.

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Friday, February 24, 2006

More mercenary link-bait for charity

Awhile back, I offered links from this blog to anyone who donated to AntiWar.Com. The scheme brought in a few bucks to help that venerable and valuable site reach its fundraising goal (and come to think of it, I should add those contributors to the blogrolls, and will).

This time, I'm fundraising for a cause that will probably blow some minds: The "public" schools.

The story, as short as I can make it:

My son is in a government school (first grade), due mostly to his own agitation. We've talked with him about homeschooling, and he will probably eventually make that transition; but for now, he wants to be around a horde of other kids his own age, etc. Since we're paying for it whether he goes or not, since we're confident that we can monitor the ideas he's exposed to and correct the screwed-up ones, and since he likes it, that's where he goes.

Academically, he's ahead of his class and bored as hell. But he loves art -- art class, an after-school "art club," and constant sculpture and drawing at home. He quite obviously has some real talent going (one of his favorite activities is to watch cartoons on the idiot box while simultaneously creating astonishingly true-to-detail, hand-sized sculptures of the characters).

When I picked him up after "art club" today, I was talking with his teacher, who was busily cutting up a bunch of cheap paper she'd found somewhere into sketch-paper-sized sheets. Seems that she doesn't have enough "real" paper (i.e. 76-lb. white construction paper for painting and drawing) to make it through the rest of the school year ... and her requisition got turned down.

You see where I'm going with this, don't you? I'd like to purchase some of this for use in the Mrs. Schmutz's class. My target is $200 worth, but the minimum is $50 to get "free" shipping of the paper and make this a cost-effective thing.

Here's the drill: Anyone who contributes $5 or more to the cause gets a link at the bottom of this article (and, when I get to it, in my blogroll). Advisory: The links aren't quite as valuable as they used to be. Technorati seems to have "lost" about 200 links to this site since my last such promotion, so I'm in the top 4,000 instead of the top 3,000 ... but I suspect a permanent link is easily worth a fiver if you're looking for Google PageRank (Kn@ppster is a 6) and such. The offer runs until this article rolls off the front page (but the links will, of course, remain in the archive).

I'll even make it easy for you:

Please -- drop me a line after you contribute -- I don't want to miss any links or have the money get mixed up with other incoming PayPal payments.

For those seeking a spiff in the form of libertarian outreach, when I deliver the paper, I plan to ask the teacher to let her kids know the Free Market, in its Invisible-Handed Goodness, is carrying them as free riders ;-) I rather suspect that she'll understand and appreciate that, as she seems rather smart and competent to be working where she is.

Contributors to Daniel's Art Class Paper Drive

Mr. X
A Pox On All Their Houses
Social Memory Complex
Granny Geek

Running total: $40.00

Update (this section will change as things develop): With $40 contributed, I just placed the first order with Staples:

Order number: 9160425105
Item 432881
Construction Paper, 12" x 18", White Expected business-day delivery: Tue 02/28 Qty: 13.0
at $3.99 50 Sheets/Pack

Subtotal: $51.87
Coupons: $0.00
Delivery: $0.00
Pre-Tax Subtotal: $51.87

Thanks for the help so far -- if more money comes in, more paper will be ordered. I'll also make sure that Mrs. Schmutz knows about the bloggers who helped her out.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

... and justice for all

I heard this story on NPR (yes, I listen to NPR) this morning. Short version: A lot of individuals are cooling their heels in jail while the New Orleans "justice" system gets around to hearing their cases. At least one judge is -- as he ought to do -- threatening to dismiss the cases of defendants who aren't receiving the "speedy and public trials" guaranteed them in the Constitution.

A big part of the story, however, is the public defender angle: What with people fleeing the flood and all, the public defenders' office is understaffed and, as always, under budget. This wouldn't have caught my attention, except that the city prosecutor was also cited as admonishing the public defenders to "live within their means" like regular people. And that raised some questions in my mind.

Assuming that, for the foreseeable future, prosecution of crimes will be tax-financed (and we all know that it will be), and that, for the foreseeable future, the right to counsel will be construed by the courts to require a tax-financed attorney for those who can't afford to pay their own (and we all know that it will be), then I don't see any reason why public defenders should have a budget problem, because:

In every criminal prosecution, there is a prosecutorial team and a defense team. If both teams are tax-financed, then they should receive equal amounts of tax money to pay for their operations.

In other words, the public defenders' budget should be the same as the prosecutor's budget, perhaps with a rebate-to-the-treasury requirement for each criminal defense that the public defenders don't handle. A public defender should be paid as much as a prosecutor. A public defender should have just as much money to investigate, test evidence, etc., as the prosecutor opposite.

A few minutes on Google didn't suffice to find the budget numbers, but I'm willing to bet that Mr. Live-Within-Your-Means's budget for the city prosecutor's office is a double-digit multiple of the budget for the public defenders' office.

I'm willing to bet that his assistant prosecutors take home a bigger paycheck than those public defenders, and that there are more of the former than the latter.

I'm willing to bet that the prosecutor doesn't bat an eye at spending money to have a DNA sample tested on the off-chance that it may prove guilt -- and that the public defender doesn't have enough money to do so on the off-chance that it may prove innocence, unless he or she is able to get a judge to order the testing done.

And I'm willing to bet that it's that way not just in New Orleans, but everywhere.

The Constitution enumerates several rights of the accused, and none for the prosecution -- so why should the accused be placed at a disadvantage in a matter of public expenditure? The American tradition of jurisprudence rests on presumption of innocence -- so why should the work of proving guilt be given a financial advantage at public expense?

The usual caveats, of course: Yes, I oppose public funding of just about everything. But to the extent that the justice system is publicly funded, shouldn't the justice system be ... justly funded?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

BlogProps: Fred's Humboldt Blog

I actually knew about this weeks ago, but lost track of the email: One of our very own frequent commenters (and I may have been the first to blogroll him!) is royalty: King of the Local Bloggers in Eureka, California. Check out Fred's Humboldt Blog, and enjoy.

Yes, we have no bananarchists

See what a tangled web we weave when we toy with repudiation of the Dallas Accord?

"The current LP membership pledge does not allow for limited government," writes Dr. Carl Milsted. "Some initiation of force is required for a government to do its job. Some taxation is necessary."

I could quibble over this a bit (there's a difference between "government" and "the state"), but I've eschewed doing so before -- I carry no brief for converting minarchists into anarchists. My main concern is that Dr. Milsted has hoist himself by his own petard: He says that he understands the pledge, and he says that he disagrees with it. By so stating, he has de facto resigned his membership in the Libertarian Party (per Article 7, Section 1 of the bylaws), and is therefore of course ineligible to continue serving on the party's bylaws committee (per Article 13, Section 7a), the mechanism through which he had hoped to mount a campaign for removal of the pledge requirement from the bylaws.

Persuading Dr. Milsted to rejoin the LP -- in good faith, anyway -- would require convincing him to become an anarchist (according to his own stated interpretation of the pledge), and I'm not confident that I'm up to the job.

By Dr. Milsted's own stated reasoning, only anarchists (and those who don't understand the pledge, and who therefore took it and continue to hold to it in good faith) are eligible for membership in the Libertarian Party. And those who don't understand the pledge and who continue to believe in good faith that it is compatible with minarchy, aren't going to think that removing it is a solution to any kind of actual problem. QED, there cannot exist a "reform" caucus dedicated to removing the pledge requirement from the bylaws unless that caucus is composed of anarchists who wish to open the party to non-anarchists (this, as it happens, is the classification to which I belong).

"It is time to decide: If we want to continue being an anarchist party, we should practice truth in advertising, and change the name to Anarchist Party," writes Dr. Milsted. "Or, if we want to be a truly libertarian party, we need to either change or eliminate the membership pledge."

The purpose of the Dallas Accord -- under which disposition of the ultimate issue of the legitimacy of government per se was set aside -- was to allow minarchists to meaningfully participate in an anarchist party (according to anarchists). The purpose of the Dallas Accord was to allow anarchists to meaningfully participate in a minarchist party (according to minarchists). Now, a minarchist has defined the party as anarchist -- and, in so doing, has also defined his minarchist self out of the party altogether and, if the party membership accepts his argument as valid, abrogated the Accord and, well, pretty much automatically purged the party of its minarchist majority.

That sucks, because so long as minarchists continued to insist that they accepted the pledge in good faith as not requiring anarchism, there was hope for a resolution in favor of ditching the pledge and setting up a "big tent" in which all Americans who favor less government and more freedom could be invited to camp. Although I personally favor such a course, I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority among the anarchists to whom Dr. Milsted has bequeathed exclusive ownership of the party.

Dr. Milsted might want to rethink his anti-anarchist jihad and withdraw his anti-anarchist fatwah, unless he wants the party to get a lot smaller and move in a direction opposite that toward which he points.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Dubai, Dubai do

I'll lay it out flat for you: I'm with Bush on this one. No way around it: The deal which delivers operational control of six major US ports to a Dubai-based, UAE-government-owned company (Dubai Ports World) is a win-win situation for everyone except al Qaeda.

It may strike you otherwise -- especially given the hysterics on both sides of the aisle in Washington and on all sides of the blogosphere ramparts -- but hang with me for a minute while I explain.

I'm not thinking in terms of libertarian principle here (Brad Spangler's already done a bang-up job on that end). Like Brad, I'd prefer to see the decision in either private or genuinely public hands, but since that's just not going to happen, I'm going to dive straight into the realpolitik of the thing.

Let's go with the alternative scenario first, and assume a situation in which the ports are operated by a US-based company or companies. Those companies would, of course, be bound to follow the US government's security procedures (as red-tapish and ineffectual as those procedures are). And if they screwed up -- if, through action, inaction, error, negligence or any other failure, they allowed terrorists to use those ports in a manner detrimental to the US -- they would pay a price. Big fines. Loss of contracts. Maybe jail time for some executives who fudged the logbooks or cut corners. That kind of thing.

Now, let's imagine what happens if Dubai Ports World screws up -- through action, inaction, error, negligence or any other failure -- and terrorists utilize one or more of those ports in conducting attacks on the US. There won't be fines. There won't be a few random jailings of culpable executives. Instead, the State Department will add the UAE to its list of state sponsors of terrorism, the President of the United States will freeze and/or seize not just the Dubai Ports World investment, but every UAE asset in the United States, and the armed forces of the United States may just decide to locate a shiny new crater where Dubai used to be.

Now, tell me: Which company do you think is going to be more particular about genuine port security?

That's not by any means all, of course. It's just the stick. Here's the carrot:

By making the UAE a multi-billion-dollar trading partner, the US gives the UAE a stake in the success, rather than the failure, of the US. That's a built-in incentive to be helpful rather than harmful to the US.

There's some talk that the UAE has, in the past, subsidized terrorism. It's probably true. A lot of people may not remember, but Kuwait used to subsidize terrorism too -- if I'm not mistaken, until the late 1980s, or maybe even the magical year of 1991 when Papa Bush and a few of us apes did them a Way Big Solid. Kuwait's government was very up-front in asserting that it paid its "terror tax" on the insistence of the big bully on the block, Iran, and under threat to its vulnerable oil shipping if it didn't cough up.

Baby Bush doesn't have any pretext for sending the 1st Marine Division into the UAE to kick the Iraqis out. Hell, he hasn't even been able to kick the Iraqis out of Iraq yet. But he can still do the Way Big Solid routine in the form of a huge trade deal. He can make the UAE a profiting partner instead of a jealous client. And that's what he's doing.

Think a bunch of UAE citizens, cashing paychecks which flow directly from Dubai Ports World's operations in the US, might be a little less inclined to sympathy for a bunch of Islamist nutjobs whose operations threaten those paychecks?

Think the bureaurats in Dubai -- already an economic powerhouse -- might find it more sexy to play footsie with Washington than tag with Tehran?

Yeah, I think so to. As a matter of fact, if Bush can pull this one off, it will be the first real national security accomplishment of his administration (his not-too-bad immigration and border liberalization proposals would have been the first if they hadn't been torpedoed).

As a libertarian, I don't care much for the statist assumptions on either side of the pond, but so long as those assumptions are going to remain operant, Bush's approval of this deal makes perfect sense with respect to US economic and national security interests.

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Tuesday Roundup

There they go, getting all TIPSy again

Remember the TIPS program -- citizen spies and all that? The whole idea was quickly round-filed after a bit of public outcry. But like all really, really bad government ideas, it refuses to die. Here's Bruce Schneier on the idiocy of training school bus drivers to look for terrorists instead of keeping their eyes on the damn road.

The Talent show

Interesting discussion over on Politics1 yesterday about Jim Talent's stem cell flip-flop. Frankly, I think it's being over-analyzed. It's really quite simple: Talent is desperate and flailing.

Talent has always been a weak candidate -- after four House terms from a "safe" GOP district, he lost his gubernatorial bid versus Bob Holden, and barely squeaked into the Senate past a non-politician appointee, the widow Carnahan. Now his party is collapsing around him just as he faces a hardcore opponent ... and he's never won a truly competitive race. He knows that unless something changes, big-time, he's going home after November. So he's already running Hail Marys in the first quarter.

The issue itself? He has precisely zero credibility on it. In the first debate of his 2002 Senate campaign, he explained his opposition to cloning thusly (verbatim as best I can do from memory): "I don't want to be walking down the sidewalk and meet myself coming the other way." Deep thinker, this guy.

On the other hand, flip-flopping has worked for him before:

In the House, Talent was thoroughgoingly anti-gun, supporting the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban and other assorted victim disarmament nastiness.

While preparing his 2000 gubernatorial run, he opposed Missouri's half-assed concealed carry initiative, which would have required the state government to pay some minimal respect to the constitutionally guaranteed right to keep and bear arms (provided those wanting to exercise said right stood in line, filled out forms, paid the requisite tribute, etc.).

Then, halfway through the Senate campaign, he stopped bragging about his anti-American gun record, plastered an "I'm the NRA" sticker on his forehead, and managed to scrape through.

So maybe he's onto something with this flip-flopping thing -- but I doubt it. IMHO, he'll be lucky to get within 5 points of Claire McCaskill come November.

Psycho killer, qu'est que c'est

New review at Blogcritics: Talking Heads, 77. I'll be doing Little Creatures later this week or early next (I managed to snag review copies of both on Rhino Records' reissue/remaster w/bonuses of all 8 of the band's studio albums).

And boy are my arms tired

Nice weekend -- Tamara has been working truly grueling hours lately, so we decided to take a "mini-vacation" to Columbia: Hotel with indoor pool and high-speed Net, pizza at Shakespeare's with Libertarian (Hugh and Andy Emerson) and Democrat (Robin Hastings) friends, shopping at Cool Stuff and The Peace Nook. And a good time was had by all, etc.

And then the hangover

So we get home, and the computer. Is. Dead. I'm referring to the vaunted "new machine." I said it was a cheap box. I was right. I said you get what you pay for. I was right. I turned the thing off on Friday when we left, and it just wouldn't start when we got home. Power supply or switch, I'm not entirely sure.

So: Improvisation. I took the old "dying" box, threw a cannibalized hard drive and CD-ROM into it, and poof ... it wasn't "dying" any more. It's not as much machine as the new one, but it works. I'm blogging to you from a 650MHz-P3/128Mb/7.xGb machine running Knoppix 3.02 (hard drive install), KDE and Mozilla 1.3, which is better than not blogging at all (and a damn sight better than blogging on a Windows machine). There are, however, some quirks to work out (like posts vanishing into the aether -- that sort of thing). I've got the latest Knoppix on the way, but may go with some other distro by the time I get done with all this messin' around. I'll be back to regular posting ASAP ... and sorry for the downtime.

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Friday, February 17, 2006

Unsolicited advice: MO-9

Missouri's 9th US House district is a tough nut to crack -- something I should know, as I managed Libertarian Party candidate Tamara Millay's 2004 campaign for that seat. Kenny Hulshof is an entrenched -- and more importantly, well-liked -- incumbent in a mostly rural, mostly conservative district (with the exception of Columbia, a university town). Campaigns & Elections magazine's Political Oddsmaker rates Hulshof as 88% likely to be re-elected (7-to-1 odds).

Nonetheless, 2006 is a year in which big things can to happen. The Republican Party's foreign policy and national security credentials are shot to hell. Any notion of fiscal conservatism flew out the GOP's window and fell under its rear wheels a long time ago. And while corruption is permanent and pandemic inside the Beltway, it's most visibly symptomatic -- for the moment, anyway -- on the Republican side of the aisle.

Hulshof is as vulnerable as he's ever going to be: He's had the bad luck to serve in the House through the entirety of the Bush administration's misrule and to have helped hatch many of the chickens which are now coming home to roost. He's accepted (and in October, quietly gave to Katrina relief charities) money from Tom DeLay's Abramoff-tainted PAC, and one of his campaign's other contributors, former Bush administration GSA chief of staff David Safavian, is fighting charges of lying and obstruction of justice over his connections to Abramoff.

Hulshof's Democratic opponent (Politics1 lists no Libertarian contender yet), Duane Burghard, looks like he's well-qualified to take on, and perhaps even take out, Hulshof. He's a veteran -- part of the Band of Brothers slate -- and a savvy, experienced businessman in the tech industry.

Unfortunately, even at this early date, Burghard's campaign already looks like it's in big trouble. This is 2006 -- and his web site looks soooo 1996.

OK. Stop and hold. I know what some of you are thinking. Yes, the power of campaign web sites is over-hyped. Every campaign is not going to be Dean for America. It's not all going to be untelevised revolutions and Kossacks charging across the virtual steppe to victory.

But, in this day and age, a campaign web site is certainly an indicator of a campaign's status. So let's look at Burghard's:

- The only item in the "news" section is Burghard's campaign kickoff -- from two months ago.

- Likewise, the only thing in the "upcoming events" section is 60-days-stale kickoff.

- The "press releases" section is "under construction."

- The "contact" and "volunteer" pages list a phone number. No form. No email link.

- The "issues" section includes a few well-worn, safe bromides. Nothing out of the Democratic mainstream ... and nothing that's likely to excite potential volunteers, activists or voters.

Q What is the key issue in this year's congressional elections?

A National security, and specifically the war on Iraq

Q What is Duane Burghard's postion on national security, and specifically the war on Iraq?

A Hell if I know. There's nothing about it on his web site.

Correction: I do know something about Burghard's position, thanks to Google's cache of his old non-campaign site (if you try to reach the page live, a 404 comes back). He opposed the war. I assume he still does. He was willing to say so when he wasn't running for Congress. Why hasn't he been saying so since he became a candidate?

Perhaps because he hasn't been saying, um, anything. I'm not just making assumptions based on the sorry state of his web site. Type "Duane Burghard" into Google News and there's not a single article mentioning him (Google returns 90 recent articles mentioning Hulshof). This means either that he hasn't been making public appearances, or that he doesn't have a media component to his campaign yet.

Yes, it's early -- but make no mistake about it, early is when long shot campaigns have to develop momentum.

A serious candidate should be stumping in front of every group that will listen (especially groups of the younger voters -- students at the University of Missouri, for example -- who are going to be the backbone of his volunteer effort if he can get one going.

A serious candidate should be putting out a minimum of one press release per week -- which means putting on at least one real campaign activity per week.

A serious candidate should be getting on record with real positions on relevant issues -- if for no other reason, so that when and if he gets to butt heads with his opponent, he's already handled the big questions, honed his debate skills and staked out his territory. A candidate who isn't willing to forcefully address the key issues of the day from the git-go might as well just pack it in.

If it looks like I'm going a little rough on Duane Burghard, I am -- because he needs it. I've been back in the Democratic Party for a little over a year. I want to see Democrats pick up a couple of House seats in Missouri in 2006, and my "other party" doesn't have a horse in the race (yet). Based on his resume, Burghard would make a competent congresscritter; I can't speak to his positions because he hasn't really shared any yet, which is part of the problem.

I hope Duane Burghard will get serious about winning this House seat. Democrats can't afford to run half-hearted campaigns this year. Even losing campaigns need to operate aggressively, so that there aren't any "safe" GOP districts from which money and effort can be shifted to "key" races. At this point in the race, a couple of volunteers and a few hours of hard work a week would be sufficient to put Burghard in the running -- and that's exactly where he needs to be.

Any Democrats in the Columbia area? Have a talk with him. Don't make me come down there.

Addendum -- Update on Duane Burghard's campaign and the amazing progress it's made here

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The decline and fall of the 9/11 myth

In feedback -- from various people and various places, including especially readers at Free Market News Network -- I've been questioned a number of times concerning my opinion of 9/11. Or, to be more precise, concerning my opinion of the "official" version of what happened on that day. Like many writers, I'm careful about walking out on "conspiracy theory" limbs. But I owe those readers -- especially one E.S., who took the trouble to send me copies of two films on 9/11 to review -- an honest answer. So here it is.

First, a bit about the two films: Dylan Avery's "Loose Change" and "9/11: In Plane Site" from an outfit called "Power Hour," directed by William Lewis and produced by Dave vonKleist. [Note: "In Plane Site," as well as a number of other films, will be screened at a film festival to be held in conjunction with the Missouri Libertarian Party's 2006 convention; vonKleist is also a speaker at that convention]

I was pleasantly surprised by the production values of both films (more so by "In Plane Site"), and recommend them to viewers, although not without certain reservations. It would be a big stretch to say that I endorse all of the conclusions in either film, or that I find each and every evidentiary "claim of fact" supportable on the evidence the films offer. In some cases, claims are made without evidence to back them up, particularly in "Loose Change" -- for example, the bald assertion that some of those named as 9/11 hijackers are still alive, without any evidence offered to support the claim, or the claim that a certain airplane part can't be what the government says it is, because it doesn't have the triangular bezels shown in a sketch ... even though outline of at least one of the bezels is visible in the photograph of the disputed part.

On balance, though, both films raise important questions and establish probable cause -- in some cases, more than probable and bordering on definitive -- to doubt some of the most important elements of the "official" story.

With respect to the World Trade Center attacks, I have been of the opinion since early on that the towers collapsed not due to the aircraft impacts, but due to the presence of secondary explosive charges detonated some time after those impacts. Both films increase my confidence in that assessment. Firsthand accounts -- including live news broadcast footage and interviews with firefighters who were on the scene -- seem to confirm that there were explosions after, and not directly related to, the aircraft impacts, and that explosive devices were found on the scene by first responders. And the theory that burning jet fuel weakened the buildings' support columns never has seemed to hold much water.

Of course, it's a big leap from "there were bombs there" to "al Qaeda didn't do it." For one thing, al Qaeda has done exactly that kind of thing on a smaller scale, before and since: Planting two bombs, detonating one, then detonating the second once a crowd had gathered or police/troops/emergency responders had arrived. And for those who claim that al Qaeda couldn't have penetrated security to plant bombs in the WTC towers ... well, they also allegedly penetrated security at Logan International, which I suspect was slightly more strict than in the WTC parking garages and such.

It's an even bigger leap from "al Qaeda didn't do it" to "the US government did do it." That's not a leap I'm prepared to make. For one thing, an operation of that scale might ... might ... have been manageable beforehand and through the attack, but there would have had to be too many people involved for all of them to have kept quiet about it in the four years since. If the government is feeding us falsehoods, I suspect the reason is more a desire to minimize the extent of the security failure (especially if that failure included specific warnings that should have allowed the attacks to be prevented) than anything else. But, I could be wrong.

I had problems with some of the claims concerning the plane impacts themselves. For example, both films emphasize the alleged presence of a protuberance on the bottom of the second plane -- a protuberance that, as hard as I looked, I simply couldn't see. Maybe I need a large screen television. They also emphasized "flashes of light" which appeared on the surface of the buildings, apparently just before the aircraft impacts ... and frankly, the "flashes" seemed to be enhanced and I couldn't tell if I was looking at glare, light from within the buildings shining out as the huge aircraft engines sucked the darker windows loose, or just cheap special effects.

With respect to the Pentagon attack, the films convinced me: Something is rotten in Denmark. I am not a munitions or aerodynamics expert, but I've seen what a cruise missile or "smart bomb" hole in reinforced concrete looks like (at al Jabr airbase in Kuwait in 1991, and it looked a lot like the hole in the Pentagon), and I've seen no evidence that tends to support the government's claim that a 757 was what hit the building. No wreckage consistent with a 757, no damage consistent with a 757, no footage of a 757, and several pieces of wreckage and numerous eyewitness accounts that tend to militate against the notion that it was a 757.

What happened to American Airlines Flight 77? I don't know. I don't claim to know. Maybe it's at the bottom of Chesapeake Bay or somewhere else ... but I've read several "debunkings" of the "conspiracy theory" that it didn't hit the Pentagon, and they all boil down to "the government and the government's hired 'experts' say it, I believe it, that settles it." That dog won't hunt. As the "debunkers" like to quote Carl Sagan apropos of the idea that Flight 77 didn't hit the Pentagon, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof." But on basis of the visible evidence and eyewitness accounts, the claim that it did is the extraordinary claim precisely because of the complete absence of evidence or proof -- extraordinary or otherwise -- so far offered to support it.

I could frame any number of hypotheses as to what did happen at the Pentagon ... but I'm not going to, because I don't have the evidence, or access to the evidence, to prove or disprove those hypotheses. Keep in mind, however, that I don't have to know what did happen in order to reach a reasonable conclusion as to what didn't happen. Nor do I have to explain why the government would offer claims not supported by the evidence in order to conclude that it has done so.

This far, and no farther: I find significant questionable elements and just downright untenable assertions in the "official" accounts of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, and I applaud those who are attempting to discover the truth of the matter. I do hope, however, that they won't allow their desire to know what really happened get ahead of their ability to discover what really happened and lead them into making untenable claims of their own ... because that would reduce their credibility to the same level as the government's, which is low indeed.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Present upon your piece!

No matter how hard I try to avoid it -- if for no other reason than it strikes me as a form of navel-gazing -- the question keeps coming around: Why blog? Right now, the hot topic is, as Evil Glenn would have it, "for love or money?" See here and here for other current articles on the subject of blogging for cash.

And I think the question should probably be phrased differently. It's not "why blog?" but "why write?" Blogging is a means, not an end. I've been writing since about the time I started reading, and like any other writer I write for many reasons. Love and money are two of those reasons, so my answer to Reynolds's formulation is "both, and then some." I blog because I like to write. I like to make money, too, and I make some by blogging (not enough, but some).

A third reason, of course, is politics. It's natural to cast politics in military terminology, and as a military type, I'm especially prone to that kind of analogy. I'm a grunt in the political wars, and the blog is my weapon.

What kind of weapon is it? From the title of his forthcoming book, An Army of Davids, I can reasonably forecast Reynolds's answer, and I agree (I'll be reviewing it in full on Blogcritics, btw, and will of course let you know when that happens).

Blogs are definitely in the "small arms" category. Reynolds analogizes to the sling, but I'm going to go in a different direction to offer my own historical context: The blog is a rifle. The blogger is a grunt on the virtual political battlefield. He (or she -- consider the gender-neutrality flag waved and let's move on) wields his own small piece of Internet weaponry as an individual. Even on "gang blogs" -- crew-served weapons, perhaps, but one individual is on the trigger in any given post -- the separate authors normally take aim and fire in their own ways. Even when one ideological wing of the blogosphere fires at the enemy by battalion, each blogger chooses his own targets. There are big differences with respect to caliber, muzzle velocity and such (see part two of David Sifry's latest "state of the blogosphere" report for the three-tier analysis), but whether it's a .22 bolt action or an elephant gun, we all carry it on our shoulders and pull the trigger ourselves.

The cool thing is that the Age of Rifles -- generally defined as that time between the redcoats' discovery that a single rifleman shooting from behind a tree could put the hurt on a much larger number of organized musketeers and the emergence of heavy artillery, tanks and aircraft as forces which could break up massed formations of rifle-bearing soldiery -- never really ended in meatspace, and it's not going to end in virtual space, either.

Oh, the "mainstream media" and the political machines will bring out their heavy artillery for sure. They're already trying. And they're losing. Whether firing by battalions or stalking flyover country in ragtag little guerilla bands, or laying in the brush awaiting the opportunity for a well-placed snipers' shot, the Internet Rifleman is here to stay. The best the MSM/politicians can hope for is to minimize casualties. They can't win a war of attrition and although the environment is target-rich, their weapons aren't suited to its fluidity or the mobility of the other side's forces.

The Internet and political blogging have evolved from matchlock to wheellock to flintlock to caplock to breech-loader to semi-auto in a few very short years. Formations from squad to army size have coalesced. But it still all comes down to putting a hole in the other guy, one hole at a time, every shooter taking his own aim. Grassroots political activists finally have weaponry suitable to their mission (and not just blogs -- check out CivicSpace). Make ready.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Wednesday Roundup

I'm going to lay a bunch of "short shorts" a la Evil Glenn on you today. I don't plan to make a habit of it, though, and I may post something more substantial and original before the sun sets.

- Happy Chodorov Day, courtesy of Kenneth Gregg.

- Psychopolitick on the usual suspects shoveling the usual corporate welfare, with pass-thru hat tip to Logan Ferree.

- The February edition of Sunni's Salon is up! I'm taking a leisurely read to make it last longer. Of special interest: An interview with Bacchus, proprietor of ErosBlog. As a big fan of dirty pictures and witty pro-freedom commentary, I'm sold.

- Stuart Richards notes that the US government considers bloggers a threat (hat tip to Keith). As well they should. The bureaucrats will be the first ones up against the wall when the singularity comes.

- It may have changed by the time you read this, but right now is the first time I've noticed Mary Ruwart pulling ahead of even unlikely candidate Ron Paul in this Libertarian Party 2008 straw poll over at TheNextPrez. She hasn't declared her candidacy, but she's well positioned to do so. More on the 2008 nomination from The Girondin.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Tuesday Roundup

How to win links and influence the blogosphere

A blog "establishment?" Eh, yup. Read all about it in New York Metro (hat tip -- Eric Berlin).

No great revelations, of course -- but an interesting look at how natural networking (albeit at the speed of fiber) builds niches, cliques and a pecking order in the same way it always has.

Okay, now that the blogosphere is having its Dale Carnegie moment, where's Napoleon Hill and when can I expect my review copy of Blog and Grow Rich?

Democrats can't Hackett

Why is the Democratic Party's "old guard" determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by pushing new, exciting, credible blood out of key races? And, more intriguingly, why is none other than Kos shilling for this kind of Tammany Hall horseshit?

Yeah, there's a blogosphere "A-List" (see above), but what the "C-List" is saying may be more important:

Notio - "This is what's wrong with the Democrats"
Distracted Mind (Ohio blogger) - "If anything, this has just cemented my decision to move back to Independent status in the voter's booth."
Now That's Progress (Ohio blogger) - "[T]he news that Paul Hackett dropped out of the Senate race because of intense pressure from the Democratic Party is, at the very least, annoying."

Got the t-shirt? Redux

Those Bastards! have done it again. And while I'm at it, I might as well gravy train on their Open Trackback Hangamajigger.

Cheney Tee

Well, I thought it was funny ...

... or at least I would have if I'd seen it. Or at least funny if you forget that the subject at hand is a vice president who can't be bothered to be sure of what he's shooting at sitting right there, a heartbeat away from control of the Big Red Shotgun What Unleashes Armageddon. Or something. Anyway, Malkin's got her panties in a wad again (what's new there, and why isn't ever somewhere really useful, like on my bedroom floor?), this time over Dana Milbank, who, coincidentally, I mentioned in my first Blogcritics review just yesterday as author of Smashmouth, my favorite account of the 2000 presidential campaign.

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Everyone's a critic

Okay, maybe not everyone -- but I am. I like writing reviews, I write a lot of them, and now I'm affiliated with the coolest review blog going: Blogcritics. I may reproduce some of my Blogcritics articles whole here, but at least this first time, I'd rather point you there to check out my review of Ronald A. Faucheux's Winning Elections: Political Campaign Management, Strategy and Tactics.

As a side note, Winning Elections is the main text (the secondary read being Joe Trippi's The Revolution Will Not Be Televised) in Campaign Management 101 at the Libertarian Leadership School -- the class I'm assisting Steve Gordon with.

Monday Roundup

Allen wrench

Mackubin Thomas Owens sees the same danger to GOP dominance that I do in the candidacy of James Webb versus George Allen for a US Senate seat from Virginia. Of course, Owens is a Republican and I support the Democratic and Libertarian Parties, but that just underscores the obviousness of what we're seeing:

The Democrats are zoning in on an issue (national security) and a constituency (Owens identifies that constituency as the "Scots-Irish," people who are "family-oriented, take morality seriously, go to church, join the military, and listen to country music") that the Republicans thought they had cornered and which they can't afford to lose.

Of course, Owens goes over the top a bit -- he also identifies this Democratic move as a move to "throw off the shackles imposed by Moveon.org, the Daily Kos, People for the American Way, NARAL, and the like." Personally, I think that the two described groups enjoy considerable overlap, and that what's been lacking in the Democratic Party has been the emergence of a set of serious candidates with real credentials and backbone.

This was a void which Wesley Clark tried unsuccessfully to fill in 2004 (an effort which his fans hope he'll continue at). I never thought that Clark was up to the job, and I still don't. But in 2004 Democrats faced a tougher climb. Most Americans didn't yet understand that the war on Iraq was a debacle in progress, that the sacrifices of liberty demanded of them weren't producing any real security, or just how cynically the Busheviks were exploiting the national situation for political gain, even at the sacrifice of national security.

This year, the Democrats have the whip in hand, if they have the guts to use it and the skill to hit Republicans where it hurts most. Allen may win in Virginia (although I wouldn't count on it), but he won't cruise and he won't emerge unscathed. And his, of course, is just the most prominent such race -- "red" districts across the country will be offered a choice between armchair generals and real veterans this November.

Other bloggers on Webb: NoVA Democrat, techn0goddess, J.C. Wilmore, valley iconoclast, Will Vaught, Lowell Feld.

The American Way

Esmay asks: "Where did this cynicism, this paranoia about the government, begin do you think?"

That's a tough one. It's been around a long, long time. I'd say its first really high point would be found in late 1775 with the publication of Tom Paine's lovely pamphlet, or perhaps somewhere around oh, say, July 4, 1776 (Magna Carta wasn't cynical or paranoid enough by a damn sight).

Of course, Esmay's question comes in the context of those who don't give a lot of credence to Bush's "we foiled attacks" stories. That's not really cynicism or paranoia: It's just recognition of the long-established and indisputable fact that when the guy's lips move, he's probably lying.

Just asking, again

Is it time for Dick Cheney to go?

I know -- having him continue in office is bad for the Republicans, and I'm supposed to like things that are bad for the Republicans. His vice-presidency gives credence to the whole "corporate corruption" critique of the administration; he's been an albatross around Bush's neck since the Plame Affair broke; and he may well go down with (or instead of) Scooter Libby. Politically, I'd love to see him stay right where he is, at least until November.

But there's his health, and now there's the shooting. Naturally, the silliness has commenced on that already (although I've yet to see any Burr comparisons), but let's take a sober look at it. As a lifelong shooter, a graduate of the NRA's hunter safety course when I was a kid, and a former Marine Corps marksmanship instructor who has conducted firearms safety training and served as a range safety NCO, I think I have my ticket punched to talk about this:

If you shoot someone, it's not an "accident." Period. It's one of three things: It's intentional, it's negligent, or it's a sign that the shooter is not competent to be handling a gun.

I don't have to like Cheney to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he a) didn't mean to shoot his friend and b) didn't shoot his friend because he was being careless.

But giving him the benefit of the doubt on those two counts narrows it down: Cheney isn't competent. Either he lacks the ability to concentrate his mind to safe handling of the gun, or he lacks the physical ability to handle the gun safely (and doesn't understand that, else his decision to handle a gun in spite of that knowledge would constitute negligence).

A man who's incompetent to handle a shotgun is by definition incompetent to handle a nation's arsenal -- and apart from presiding over the Senate, the vice-president's main function is to stand ready to do exactly that should the president die, be removed from office or otherwise become incapacitated.

Send this guy home, Mr. Bush. If you must do so with ruffles and flourishes instead of in disgrace, by all means have your party. But send him home, for his own good and the good of the country.

Furthermore deponent saieth not ...

... on this from Jaime O'Neill. Hat tip to The Left Coaster.

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Friday, February 10, 2006

Anyone got a match?

For my $5 donation to AntiWar.Com? See the site's front page for the "dire situation" alert.

Special offer, for what it's worth: If you contribute $5 or more to AntiWar.Com before this post rolls off the front page (that may take one day, or it may take a week -- no promises), you'll get a permalink to the site of your choice right here in the post (and if you're not already on my blogroll, I'll try to get around to rectifying that too). That's one, eventually two, permalinks from a blog with a Google Page Rank of 6 and a top-3000 Technorati ranking. Just email me with the receipt and the subject line "gave to AntiWar.Com," or paste it into a comment, with any details you don't want to share x'ed out.

[Update, Monday, February 13th: AntiWar.Com made their goal. Thanks to all who helped -- and if you gave, or give, before this post rolls off Kn@ppster's front page, the link offer is still open! - TLK]

The "Matching Funds" Honor Roll

Pong God
Hammer of Truth
Spurious Libertarian
The Orange Gadsden
mushin no shin

Estimated running total (based on forwarded receipts, etc.): $135.00

Friday Roundup

Who knew (who)?

It seems that George did know Jack. And that Harry knew Jack, too. Washington seems to be turning into friggin' Knew Jack City.

I guess I need to take Jim Cannon out for dinner -- he can have the prime rib, I'll dig into the crow.

Can I just get a scooter and the change?

Don't believe that the Era of Big Government Being Over is over? Read it and weep. Hat tip -- Balko.

It's a bird ... it's a plane ...

... it's another tall Texas tale ... maybe. The Agonist's Sean Paul thought so, but is trying to keep an open mind.

The bottom line for me is that even if the story is true, it has no bearing on whether or not the warrantless wiretapping Bush is defending with it is legal. It isn't. Period. If anything, the story points up Bush's failure on the national security front: If such a plot existed, and if it was foiled without, instead of with, the required warrants (which are almost never denied and which can be procured retroactively if there's not time to apply for them beforehand), then accessories to that plot may very well avoid conviction when and if they are apprehended and prosecuted. Terrorists, or those who aid and abet terrorists, may walk free because Bush didn't want to follow the rules.

In other words, as I've said before: Bush is willing to put his ahistorical, extra-constitutional assertions of executive power before the national security.

No-knock, knock

It's not just Cory Maye. If you've ever looked up and found yourself surrounded by a SWAT team (yes, I have), consider yourself lucky to be alive and reading this. Angelica asks why this keeps happening, and the answer is simple: Because we keep allowing it to.

Side note, while I'm talking to Angelica: Why'd you have to go and break my heart?

Scooter squeals ...

Making it that much more likely that some other little piggies are gonna get stuck.

Wonder how many headlines I can work the word "scooter" into today?

Yeah -- what he said

Steve Gordon has a few words to say about Badnarik's big brass balls. I concur.

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Thursday Roundup

And the hits just keep on comin'

Just noticed over at Politics1: Curt Weldon (Moonie-PA) faces a new challenger for his US House seat. I'm thinking Weldon may find it something of a challeng to paint Admiral Joe Sestak (USN, Ret.; former Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, former National Security Council) as "weak on defense."

Will 2006 be a new Year of the Mugwump?

Did you see the size of that chicken?

Joe Sifry's latest State of the Blogosphere is out. High points: It's getting bigger, 'magine that. Low points: Spammers and other lowlifes continue their scams and continue to get more sophisticated. High points again: Technorati's on the job.

A theological thought

I've read in several places -- here's a randomly picked sample from The Australian -- that "Islam is interpreted to forbid any illustrations of the prophet Mohammed for fear they could lead to idolatry."

Pardon me -- or don't -- but what word could possibly be more descriptive than "idolatry" for rioters, arsonists and murderers raising images of Mohammed to a higher level of importance than the teachings of Mohammed?

[Abraham] said to his father and his people, "What are these statues to which you are devoting yourselves?" They said, "We found our parents worshipping them." He said, "Indeed, you and your parents have gone totally astray." -- Quran, Surah 21:52-54

The libertarian agonistes revisited

I linked to posts at Liberty For Sale and Jacqueline Passey's blog yesterday. I'm doing so again because there's plenty of fresh meat in the comments -- not just on the Costa Rica elections, but on "purism" versus "pragmatism" and such in general, on "reform" efforts in the LPUS, etc.

Speaking of reform in the LP, the Libertarian Reform Caucus has been busy: They're running Blogads over at Reason and print ads in Reason, Liberty and LP News. If nothing else, the LRC and Tim West deserve a lot of credit for moving the discussion over the future of the LP out of traditional "mailing list mouthing" and into the real political environment -- PACs, party committees and ultimately the convention floor.

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