Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pretty hate machine

The Other McCain (as seen on Instapundit and Outside the Beltway!) is a-hatin' on the Palin-haters. Seeing as how I resemble that remark, might as well swoop in for a piece of the action and hopefully a grand FMJRA slam. Speaking of which, I guess I should work in the applicable Memeorandum references ASAP: Here and here (serious side note: McCain pointed me to Memeorandum once when I complained of writer's block. It is Teh Cure).

Yeah, I guess I'm a Palin-hater. I wasn't pre-disposed to be one (I encouraged McCain to pick her months in advance, and if I damned that pick when he made it, at least I did so with faint praise).

My first step toward Palin hate was the realization that she is not (the assurances of people in that crowd, assurances I had made a little blogosphere bank on notwithstanding), repeat not a "libertarian Republican" in any meaningful sense of the word. I have to take the hit for that one. I fell for the hype of a known hypester there.

Beyond that early error on my part, though, it's all on her. Vice-presidential nomination in hand, she proceeded toward every iceberg in sight at flank speed, almost immediately making Tina Fey's impressions of her superfluous. Her public rallies looked like some kind of mutant offspring of the 700 Club and heyday-era Jerry Springer. Her personal interviews? It was obvious who prepped her for those:

Contra the fun stereotyping of (The Other) McCain, I don't hate Palin because I'm a gay man with mother issues (I'm fairly heterosexual, and Mom's a great lady). Nor do I object to attractive female politicians with children (an attractive female politician is the mother of two of my children).

If I hate Palin -- I think that term is a bit strong, but hey, let's just keep rolling with it -- here are a couple of clues as to why from the new Vanity Fair article referenced in that second Memeorandum link:

What does it say about the nature of modern American politics that a public official who often seems proud of what she does not know is not only accepted but applauded? ... she was casual about the truth and totally unfit for the vice-presidency ... The clouds of tabloid conflict and controversy that swirl around her and her extended clan -- the surprise pregnancies, the two-bit blood feuds, the tawdry in-laws and common-law kin caught selling drugs or poaching game -- give her family a singular status in the rogues' gallery of political relatives. By comparison, Billy Carter, Donald Nixon, and Roger Clinton seem like avatars of circumspection.

And that's just the adult relatives (excluding near-adult, but still young and vulnerable, Bristol's pregnancy)! Poor Bristol, Piper and Trig just got used as cheap campaign props to hype the "loving mom" and "we don't smoke abortion in Wasilla" memes. It was disgusting, and all it gave us to look forward to are the future tell-all memoirs of middle-aged, post-detox Palin offspring. (The Other) McCain may be right about "mother issues," but I think he's looking in the wrong place for them.

In all fairness, I shouldn't hate Palin. If the game is "how do we destroy the Republican Party?" she's going to be any sane manager's top draft pick for the 2012 season. As unsympathetic to the GOP as I may be, however, I'm also, well, embarrassed for them. If Sarah Palin is the best they can come up with (and to all appearances that's the case), they should either pick a random name out of the phone book or call it quits.

Some of their best friends are gay

Quoth AllahPundit (hat tip -- Little Miss Attila):

What does a president get from a gay audience when he's publicly against gay marriage, unwilling to take bold action to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," and so terrified of the political consequences of challenging the Defense of Marriage Act that he'll actually defend it in court? Why, he gets "thunderous applause," of course — if he's a Democrat.

And his veep? Six figures for the DNC war chest, baby.

Question for my LGBTQ friends who keep voting for Democratic candidates and writing checks to the Democratic Party and waiting/hoping for the payoff: How's that working out for you?

There's a better way of going at this.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Zelaya Agonistes

My latest at the Center for a Stateless Society. Teaser:

From an anarchist perspective, there’s a lesson in the Honduras story which may not be obvious. It’s the same lesson emanating from Iran, the same lesson to be found in Al Gore’s decision to concede the 2000 US presidential election even though he could be reasonably sure that he had won it (as was subsequently proven to a high degree of probability to be the case).

That lesson is this: The state, regardless of whether its apparatus is controlled by “left-wing” or “right-wing” actors at a given moment, is organically conservative. Its pieces and parts have evolved, through a sort of natural selection process, toward the object of maintaining the status quo at all costs.

While an individual state actor may press for change (good change or bad), or articulate a desire for change (honestly or dishonestly), the machinery of an established state is big enough, it’s heavy enough, and it has enough momentum that it’s usually going to roll right over that actor unless that actor has hitched his wagon to forces that have amassed considerable weight and momentum of their own — in other words, revolutionary forces external to and in competition with the status quo.

Madoff: Small fry

No other white collar case is comparable in terms of the scope, duration and enormity of the fraud and the degree of the betrayal. -- US District Court Judge Denny Chin on the Madoff scam

Oh, I'm pretty sure I can think of one.

Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison today, and also ordered to forfeit $170.1 billion, representing the total proceeds/property of the specific crimes he was sentenced for.

Madoff's a piker: The Social Security scam's take in 2008 alone was more than four times as much ($805 billion). It turned an annual profit of $180 billion.

The difference of degree between what Madoff did and what Social Security does is that Social Security is a much bigger con.

Differences of kind? The Social Security Ponzi hasn't fallen down and gone boom -- yet. Its victims aren't given the choice of buying in or begging off. And the culprits running the Social Security racket remain, for the moment, at large.

Let me explain

From Politico:

Mitt Romney says publicly he's not considering another presidential campaign, most recently on Sunday during an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press." But many of his loyalists expect one and remain at the ready for 2012.

Image: WikipediaAin't never gonna happen, and I can explain why in one word: RomneyCare.

Between now and 2012, one of two things will happen. Either President Barack Obama will manage to ram through his own health care plan, or he'll fail in the attempt. Either way, Romney's screwed as a potential GOP standard-bearer.

If ObamaCare passes, Romney will lack the credibility to persuasively critique it -- he was the architect of its state-level prototype, after all -- nor will those who supported his idea need him to implement it.

If ObamaCare fails, even with a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress, then Romney is still hoist with his own petard. If that Democratic majority won't give ObamaCare to Obama, it's even less likely to give RomneyCare to Romney. And even as feckless and stump-silly as Republican congresscritters are, I can't imagine them signing off on it either, not even for a Republican president. Nor can I imagine GOP primary voters rallying to Romney: If he promotes RomneyCare, they'll reject him. If he renounces RomneyCare, they won't believe him.

So, it all comes down to a simple question: Will health care still be a big issue by the time the 2012 presidential campaign heats up? Unless !Teh 911! Evildoers! take center stage again in a big way, you can bet it will be.

Get over it, guys. He's done.

Meanwhile, back at the A-Jad ranch ...

The demonstrators haven't given up.

I don't speak Farsi, but allegedly the chant is "death to dictators." I'm puzzled as to how these people are able to walk ... every one of them has NBA regulation size balls to still be out on the streets facing down the regime.

Win or lose -- and whether or not what they win turns out to worth a plug nickel -- I find it impossible not to stand awed by the courage on display.

In other news: Michael Jackson, Farah Fawcett, Ed McMahon and Billy Mays are still dead.

Hat Tip: Gateway Pundit, via memeorandum.

Blogging goals and baby steps

Last week, I decided to get back to blogging here at KN@PPSTER regularly, with an eye toward turning it into a money-making proposition. Not necessarily a "get rich" proposition, but at least renumerative enough to keep myself hooked on it instead of moving back and forth between "blogging a lot" and "I wonder what's on the Discovery Channel?"

The Reign of the Terrible Ads has returned. Yes, I know the "interstitial" ads where you get taken to another screen and have to click to get back can be annoying, but it needed to be done. I recently corresponded with another blogger whose revenues from AdBrite were substantially higher than mine in a way not explained by the difference in traffic numbers, and I want a piece of that action. They're set to only do that to any given user a maximum of once per six hours.

My politics aren't going to change, of course, and I'll continue to offer boooooooorrrrrringggg trenchant commentary on the issues of the day and the occasional boooooooorrrrrringggg enlightening theoretical piece. However, you'll also see more of the stuff I've been doing the last few days (like this), when I decide something like that is interesting. Why? Simple -- it gets eyeballs here, those eyeballs see ads, and I make money.

Ditto for the occasional and seemingly gratuitous use of phrases like "donkey sex" and "Britney Spears sex tape." Eyeballs and ads, folks, eyeballs and ads -- and I'm going to follow scripture on the eyeballs end of the process.

Short-term goals:

- As of today, KN@PPSTER is averaging about 300 visitors per day (up from less than 200 at the beginning of last week, and down from about 1000 during its last Golden Age). By the end of July, I want to be at 1,400+ visitors per day (10,000 per week). If you've got friends you don't mind pitching stuff at, please send them the URL.

- As of today, KN@PPSTER's Technorati "authority" is 52, down from a height of nearly 200 during the aforementioned Golden Age. By the end of July, I want to see it back at 200. If you have a blog and don't link here, pretty please with sugar on top do so. And if I'm not linking to you, let me know in comments or via email and I'll hook you right up.

Long-term goals: Donkey sex! Britney Spears sex tape! World domination!

Update: Maybe I should have gone with "John Edwards sex tape." Or, rather, I guess I just did. But ... ewwwwwwwww.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Top Michael Jackson conspiracy theories

They range from the inevitable (he's alive, just like his ex-father-in-law, Elvis) to the not entirely implausible (assisted suicide) to the truly bizarre (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had him killed to draw the world's attention away from the streets of Tehran).

What? You think I'm trying to puff up my blog traffic with sensationalism? You're damn tootin'. This thing is going to be a circus whether I score hits off it or not. Might as well throw in, as long as I try to add some value (analytic value, entertainment value, whatever).

Let's go through the standard repertoire first:

Assisted suicide

Jackson held assets of variable value, such as a back catalog of records and recordable songs which might sell faster or slower depending on how high his public profile was at any given moment. He also had huge debts (the numbers I've seen are in the $400 million range), and three kids whose futures he probably wanted to provide for.

He was 50 years old, with past injuries (broken leg, broken vertebrae) and about to kick off a physically intensive "comeback" concert series.

25 years ago, there was nobody who could move like Michael Jackson, and that amazing bodily fluidity was just as big an element of his public persona as the voice or the songwriting talent. At 50, after a decades-long hard ride on his own body, could Michael Jackson himself move like that?

Maybe not. Maybe his body was telling him, in the rehearsals, that this was just not going to happen -- that he was more likely to break down injured after a couple of shows and leave the crowds disappointed than to pull off a triumphant return.

If his post-death financial affairs are competently handled, there's every chance that sales of albums, story rights and such over the next few months will be big enough to wipe out his debts and leave his heirs an unencumbered estate. People have killed themselves for similar reasons before.

Furthermore, his death leaves that "comeback" a gleaming, never to be realized potential ("he was back on top of his game when he went out") instead of a distinctly possible failure ("after two shows, Jackson was hospitalized for exhaustion; his body had given out under the strain of attempting to dance like his 25-year-old self"). Once again, it wouldn't be the first time someone committed suicide for "legacy preservation" purposes.

He's alive! It was all a fake!

See above -- especially those debts and the possibility of a failed comeback. Add to that the now decades-long history of sexual abuse allegations that hung over his head, constantly threatening to come back at him in the form of extortion, ruinous lawsuits or even criminal charges.

Maybe he socked a few million away in hidden places, secretly had a retirement villa built in the jungles of Paraguay, and then just got off the bus.

This one strikes me as much less likely than suicide due to the sheer technical demands of pulling it off ... but hey, he wouldn't be the first person to fake his own death in an effort to escape creditors and enemies.

X had him murdered!

A-Jad? Er ... doubt it.

On the other hand, there may have been parties who stood to make more -- or lose less -- money from his death than from his continued life, even counting the costs and risks involved in having him taken out of the picture. Enough said.

What I Think

Personally, I think Jackson's death is probably exactly what it looks like: An aging star with a dysfunctional childhood and family life, an apparently sad and lonely personal -- and increasingly physically painful -- existence, and a permanent cloud of suspicion over his head, finally hitting the full chamber in an ongoing game of Russian roulette with the prescription drugs he used to numb the physical and mental pain.

I was never exactly a fan, but there's no disputing that Michael had enormous talent -- singing talent, songwriting talent, dancing talent and the ability to put that all together. In that last area alone, pretty much every choreographed pop dance routine since 1982 is shot through with his influence.

Yes, that talent made him rich and famous, but he paid a huge price for it from the very beginning -- first as a crassly exploited child star, then as an object of ridicule for his personal physical problems and alterations, and finally as an accused predator and effectively a recluse. His life was transparently a sad thing in many ways, and his death is sad also.

That doesn't mean that it isn't all fair game for weird, exploitive theories, and if someone's going to drag in the clicks with said theories, it might as well be me. So, on to the "entertainment value added" stuff, the stuff even more bizarre than "Ahmadinejad had him assassinated."

Michael Jackson was the Alien Contact Interface

Some time in the early 1980s, the Greys finally decided it was time to start revealing themselves to us Earthlings. Knowing that we'd find their physical appearance strange and disturbing, they decided to first spend a few decades acclimating us to that appearance, using a well-known human as an "interface" who would alter his own physical appearance to match theirs.

Both images from the public domain

Those who wish to detect (read: create) hints at this most secret of all secret missions will find them, among other places, in the video for Scream.

He's not dead. He's just finally been allowed to collect his reward -- an all-expenses paid cruise on the Mother Ship.

Michael Jackson was also Kurt Cobain

He's faked his own death -- and a completely different life -- before! Think about it ... have you ever seen them together?

Jackson mugshot -- public domain; Cobain head shot by Elena M. at http://diccionariperaociosos.wikispaces.com/IMMORTALITAT, published under Creative Commons license at http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5

Into what container is the legendary entertainer moving his talents now? I have my suspicions.


Too cool not to include, if for no other reason than that it gives me an excuse to point a hat tip link at the Fred whom I suspect to be the Fred who pointed it out:


The Michael Jackson photo is a public domain mug shot from his 2003 arrest.

The Grey is a public domain drawing by Wikipedia user LeCire.

The Kurt Cobain head shot is by Elena M., published at Diccionari Per Aociosos under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 license.

Another reason to end the war on drugs

As reported by New York Daily News:

A Brooklyn day care center where kids slept through a robbery and gunfight was actually a drug house with 10 pounds of marijuana and $100,000 cash in its basement, police said Saturday.

If marijuana was legal, more people would grow their own, the people who bought it would buy it at Walgreens, and the amount of cash lying around wouldn't be much different from any "legitimate" enterprise.

Because it's illegal, nobody wants to get caught with a plant on the window sill, so they buy their weed from dealers who assume the risk of growing it, transporting it, etc.

Because of that risk, it goes for outlandish prices.

Because of those outlandish prices, everyone knows the dealers are handling large amounts of cash.

Because selling pot is illegal, everyone also knows that that cash isn't going into a bank vault, or at least not immediately. It's going under a mattress or into a rinky-dink wall safe until some of it can be used to front for more product and the rest can be "laundered."

Finally, because selling pot is illegal, most dealers aren't going to call the cops to report a robbery. In this particular case, the cops did get called, but this case was an exception. Maybe the caller panicked because his wife was in the clutches of a gunman. Maybe he has a conscience and wasn't willing to let the gunmen run wild a minute longer in a building full of children. Maybe both. But I'd bet money that if the robbery had come off cleanly and he had heard about it only after the fact, 911 would never have been dialed.

For all practical purposes the "war on drugs" might as well have been designed, on every major point, to create situations just like this one. The war itself is far, far more dangerous and deadly than the drugs ever were. There are many good reasons to end it, but this incident proves that the old standby, "for the children," applies in spades.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The political class is in session

My latest column over at the Center for a Stateless Society. Teaser:

Do you often find the operations of government confusing and seemingly counterproductive? You're not alone. It's not your fault. There's actually a simple explanation, but understanding that explanation requires you to mentally rebel against a lifetime of "education," conditioning and propagandization.

Here's that simple explanation:

The purpose of all, or nearly all, functions of the modern state is to facilitate and maximize the transfer of wealth from the pockets of the productive class to the bank accounts of the political class.

Same as the old boss, I've lost count which part


Obama administration officials ... are crafting language for an executive order that would reassert presidential authority to incarcerate terrorism suspects indefinitely ...

"Reassert" in one hand, defecate in the other. See which hand gets full first. No matter how many "re"s Barack Obama's pet officials stack in front of "assert," no matter how hard they click their heels together and chant "there's no place like Airstrip One" in unison, this alleged presidential authority will remain alien to the US Constitution.

I have to wonder how many Democrats understood, when they entered their polling places last November, that they were voting for a third Bush term.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Comes around, goes around

Bill Johnson is running for governor of Alabama.

I haven't seen Bill since, oh, 1996 or so. Back then, he was executive director of the Missouri Libertarian Party and had served as the LP's 1994 US Senate candidate in that state. I'm pretty sure he still holds the Missouri LP's percentage vote record for a statewide race -- 4.7% or so [inline update: Per Richard Winger, Bill's actually in second place -- the record holder is Janet Lewis, who received 6.2% of the vote for State Treasurer in 1992]. He was also one of the two individuals most responsible for recruiting me into the LP (the other was L. Neil Smith).

These days, he's transformed himself into a "compassionate conservative" (read: Big-government Republican) who, until he resigned today to pursue his gubernatorial run, ran ADECA, the Alabama state agency in charge of graft distribution ("community development" and "faith-based initiatives" and so forth -- oh, and this year, $18.7 million for "drug task force personnel"). He apparently minimizes his Libertarian past and writes off inconvenient parts of the LP's platform (marijuana, prostitution) as things he disagreed with but had to put up with since he was running on our ticket.

Back when, though, his subsequent denials notwithstanding ... well, let's put it this way: He personally played a big role in radicalizing me.

Sarah Palin swallows!

Too much of her own hype, that is.

What, you thought I was talking about something else?

Palin spent two months hauling Baby Trig from stage to stage, waving him around in front of audiences and TV cameras like some kind of voodoo fetish in an effort to rack up the "awww ... isn't that the cutest thing you ever did see?" vote.

She used the rest of her family in precisely the same way. Frankly, the only reason I tuned in was to see when she'd trot Bristol out with a fresh new beard courtesy of hormone injections, or have Todd try to jump a pit full of hungry crocodiles on his snowmobile in a fringed-leather red, white and blue jumpsuit (with Lee Greenwood or Hank, Jr. caterwauling in the background, of course). That's entertainment!

Now she seems to be arriving at the realization that freakshow won't carry a four-year campaign for the top slot. She needs to be taken seriously. So, David Letterman's an asshole and a picture of her with her campaign prop baby is "an iconic representation of a mother's love for a special needs child."

Feh. Buy the ticket, take the ride, lady.

h/t -- Wonkette
Photoshop -- Blue Gal

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Smoot-Hawley redux

In 1930, with the United States in the midst of a king-hell economic downturn, a couple of typical genius politicians convinced their fellow congresscritters to raise tariffs on the import of more than 20,000 goods. Against the advice of more than 1,000 prominent economists, President Herbert Hoover signed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act into law.

The effect?

U.S. imports decreased 66% from US$4.4 billion (1929) to US$1.5 billion (1933), and exports decreased 61% from US$5.4 billion to US$2.1 billion, both decreases much more than the 50% decrease of the GDP. ... Unemployment was at 7.8% in 1930 when the Smoot-Hawley tariff was passed, but it jumped to 16.3% in 1931, 24.9% in 1932, and 25.1% in 1933.

Glad the politicians have learned that lesson. Oh, wait. Looks like they haven't. Not content to just impose "cap and trade" on American industry, Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) want to slap tariffs on goods from countries whose own idiot pols don't adopt similar schemes.

Me, I'm fine with a tariff ... on bullshit. Let me know how much it comes to for two overstuffed sacks, and I'll try to scrape up enough money to export Waxman and Markey to some locale more suitable to their dispositions. Pyongyang, perhaps.

Friday Update: The Calvinist Right's answer to Perez Hilton, Robert Stacy McCain, covers Waxman-Markey as legislative bacchanal over at The American Spectator.

Where was Sanford?

He was in Argentina ... but who cares?

The legislature is not in session, so it's not like there were going to be bills piling up on his desk awaiting signature or veto.

Emergency? South Carolina's constitution provides for that:

In the case of the temporary disability of the Governor and in the event of the temporary absence of the Governor from the State, the Lieutenant Governor shall have full authority to act in an emergency.

The Democrats are trying to make hay, of course:

"Being a chief executive means being on call all the time, and Gov. Sanford either doesn't get that part of the job or can't handle it," Hari Sevugan, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, scolded.

I rather suspect that Sanford was, in fact, "on call" in case of emergency ... but the tabloids and the Democrats getting their panties all in a wad over his whereabouts doesn't constitute an emergency (as a matter of fact, file it under "business as usual"). Just because Mark Sanford's staff wasn't telling Hari Sevugan (or anyone else) where Sanford was, that doesn't mean Mark Sanford's staff didn't know where Sanford was.

Get a grip, folks. When you take a vacation, do you leave messages on Mark Sanford's machine so that he can know exactly where you are at all times? If you don't, why should he?

Update: So it turned out to be about who's shtupping who in the non-political sense of the word. No, I'm not surprised. Yes, I'm still all so-whatsy and who-caresy. Maybe even more so -- above and beyond the fact that all these yahoos had no "need to know" where he was anyway, "I'm going to Argentina to shack up with my forbidden lover for a week" is precisely the kind of thing I'd keep to myself too.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Various and sundry thoughts on Iran

Some agreement, some disagreement with Eric Dondero:

I agree with Eric that there's a degree to which the libertarian movement is "AWOL" on Iran. Or, more to the point, the libertarian movement is pre-occupied with the prospect of US intervention in Iran, and not paying enough attention to Iran itself.

They're dying in the streets over there, folks, and what they're dying for is some version of the idea of freedom. We could argue all day over whether that version would pass Rand/Rothbard muster, but I don't think that's particularly relevant. The impulse is there, the flame is lit, and that flame deserves to be fed and fanned, not ignored or scoffed at or, especially, snuffed out.

I'm trying to be a consistent libertarian here.

One the one hand, I don't support foreign military interventionism by governments (which means that I favor the Libertarian Party, which deals in that arena, either keeping its organizational mouth shut or coming out against intervention).

By the same logic, though, I don't recognize national borders as legitimate barriers which should prevent individuals (or non-state organizations) from supporting struggles for freedom anywhere, any time, by any moral means, even if only by way of saying "we're with you."

Of course, perhaps we can do more than that. There may be some small effect from the whole "green your Twitter pic, change your time zone" stuff. Maybe we can smuggle some pro-freedom propaganda into the mix over there. Hell ... I suppose an Abraham Lincoln Brigade type project (perhaps renamed to preempt paleo conniptions) isn't entirely out of the question.

Sadly, I have to disagree with Eric on his description of this as a "fall of the Berlin Wall" moment. I suspect it's going to look a lot more like a "massacre at Tiananmen Square" moment. All the more reason to feed the flame now -- perhaps it can be kept alive, even at a slow burn, instead of being snuffed out entirely.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Share Our Wealth! Redux

Over at Slate, Bruce Reed weighs in on Lamar Alexander's plan to distribute shares of General Motors to the taxpayers (see my friendly amendment to that proposal here).

Reed points out that the proposed distribution would make a pretty thin gruel (about $5 per taxpayer). What's interesting, though, is the way he describes Mitt Romney's support for the plan:

Mitt Romney, master of reinvention, is at it again. Now he's the new Huey Long. In 1934, here's how Long described his plan to cap millionaires' holdings in Standard Oil: "[Give] the balance to the people of America who own the balance of what the Standard Oil Company is worth!" Here's how Romney sells his share-the-wealth plan 75 years later: "Distribute the shares to the taxpayers of America, let them buy and sell amongst themselves."

It's worth reading the whole article for that. The portrayal of Rush Limbaugh as anarcho-syndicalist is just the cherry on top.

Not that I believe Romney constitutes a Kingfish-level threat to American capitalism or anything. Long was, by most accounts (and from footage I've seen), a fantastic orator and charismatic individual with an unassailable power base in his home state. I'm not sure Romney even has a home state, and listening to him run his yap is about as exciting as watching paint dry.

Can Politics Be The Answer?

My latest column at C4SS:

Among "minarchists" (those who desire a much smaller, less powerful role for government), participation in electoral politics is usually regarded as a morally acceptable activity. Libertarian political parties, or libertarian caucuses within existing parties, constitute a visible and powerful part of their activities. Some minarchists do, however, raise the question of whether this approach is effective, and may opt instead to pursue education or propaganda efforts without themselves putting up or endorsing candidates for public office.

Anarchists, of course, want to do away with political government entirely: To smash the state and create a society in which there are no "public offices" to support the election of candidates to. Surprisingly, however, some anarchists do support "political activity" in pursuit of a stateless society.

Friday's piece was on Iran:

Incipient revolution, regardless of its ideological content or where it takes place, gives politicians the willies. It keeps them up nights, or else causes them to bolt awake with the irresistible urge to make sure the world outside their windows still believes it needs them.

Thus, even in a situation seemingly tailor-made to address the alleged complaints of the US government against the government of Iran, President Barack Obama finds himself unwilling to do much more than damn the people of Iran with faint praise.

From the perspective of a man in Obama's line of work, the worst of all possible outcomes is the "failed state" -- a state where the political class experiences "loss of physical control of its territory or a monopoly on the legitimate [sic] use of force." Such a situation is always pregnant with possibility: The possibility that the dying state will be replaced, even temporarily and provisionally, by something other than a new state.

No Album Sale On The Horizon

Sooner or later, the music industry is going to have to come to grips with the fact that the "file-sharing" cat is out of the bag and that their business models must drastically change.*

I've decided to help them along in that process.

Last week, a jury awarded $1.92 million to plaintiffs Arista Records LLC, Capitol Records, Inc., Interscope Records, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, UMG Recordings, Inc., and Warner Bros Records Inc.

The defendant, one Jammie Thomas-Rasset, was accused of illegally downloading and sharing (over a P2P network) 24 songs. Offhand, my recollection is that the number of "shares" (people downloading the songs from her hard drive) was alleged to be in the neighborhood of 1,700. So, here's the math:

- Any of the songs likely retailed as an MP3 download for 99 cents.

- 24 downloads at 99 cents each is $23.76.

- An additional 1,700 re-downloads at 99 cents each is $1,683.

- So, total actual damages max out at $1,706.76.

There's just no reasonable way to get from $1,706.76 in actual damages to $1.92 million in statutory or punitive damages, and if the record companies spent that much on attorney fees, well, they got rooked and it's their own damn fault. The award is an outrage. I'm offended and displeased. Fortunately, I am empowered to act on my offense and displeasure.

I don't buy a lot of music, but I do buy some music, and I've recently been contemplating buying an album sold by one of the plaintiff labels, Interscope.

I'm not going to buy that album. Instead, I've donated the sale price of the album ($8.99) to Jammie Thomas-Rassert's legal defense fund.

As per usual, I challenge those who agree with me to act in the same fashion.

* I'm personally up in the air on the whole idea of "intellectual property" and expect, once I've worked through certain arguments, to address it, probably tediously and at length. That is not what this is about. Even if copyright is justifiable, the punishment in this case isn't. And as a practical matter, these record labels are wasting time and money and making themselves look like asses -- the digital age has made copyright enforcement impossible, and has therefore made copyright itself effectively obsolete. No amount of litigious misbehavior toward single moms in Minnesota is going to reverse that.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

This is what theocracy looks like

Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed, if so celestial an article as Freedom should not be highly rated. -- Thomas Paine

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A modest proposal

Peter Hannaford, writing in The American Spectator:

[US Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN)] is the lead sponsor for the Auto Stock for Every Taxpayer bill which would distribute the government's stock in GM (and Chrysler, too) to the 120 million Americans who paid income taxes on April 15.

Interesting idea, but I'd like to one-up it.

Stipulated: That the auto bailouts and the government assumption of stock positions in the car companies were both very bad things which never should have happened, of course; and that social engineering through tax policy is also a very bad idea. But the former's already been done, and if the latter is going to be done ...

... instead of giving that stock to "taxpayers," why not give it to non-taxpayers of a specific type?

I'm thinking of those taxpayers who collect the Earned Income Credit, and specifically of those taxpayers whose EIC results in a "refund" larger than the amount that was withheld from their paychecks in the first place.

In other words -- and I'm just making the numbers up as a ferinstance here -- someone who had $1,000 withheld from his paycheck for income taxes last year but, because of the EIC, will be getting $2,000 as a "refund" when he fills out his 1040.

Why not issue all "refund" amounts in excess of amounts actually withheld in GM/Chrysler stock instead of in cash?

In this scenario, the hypothetical filer above would get his $1,000 back, but that other $1,000 would be Chrysler/GM stock instead of pictures of dead presidents.

The two obvious and intended consequences:

- The cash cost to the Treasury of EIC-enhanced "refunds" would be reduced to the amount of actual refunds. No filer would be receiving more cash from Uncle Sugar than Uncle Sugar took from him in the first place.

- Those "poorest Americans" we're always hearing about, the ones the EIC is intended to help, would be picking up business ownership stakes -- a piece of "the American dream."

Sure, some of them would go sell the stock immediately (probably at a huge discount due to glut) and take whatever cash they could get for it -- but even that would get the stock back into the private sector where it belongs, and the cash would be coming from private investors, not the Treasury.

Others might hold on to their stock, reinvest dividends, start building their nest egg retirement or something else important to them.

The Duh, Vin, See? Code

Rad Geek has already pretty much pwned Vin Suprynowicz's posterior (see comments), but really this situation (and not just with respect to Vin) is well past the "Requires An Intervention" stage. It's tough love time.

Yo, libertarians: Put down the Hoppe / Brimelow / Wooldridge crack pipe. Please. You're embarrassing yourselves, and frankly this business of having to constantly roll your semi-conscious carcasses out of your own ideological vomit is getting a little old.

For Vin's part, he now asserts that those who favor even a slight move toward the libertarian position on immigration are "speaking in code to disguise what they really mean."

Odd allegation, coming as it does from a guy who, to even facially substantiate it, has to preemptively impose a downright Byzantine code of his own on his readers: A code characterized by a state-as-deity re-definition of terms like "immigrant" and "trespassing," an assertion of "constitutional" powers found nowhere in the Constitution, and a bizarre moral comparison of the "crime" of working for a living without first bowing and scraping before some bureaucrat, begging the privilege of handing over baksheesh for "identity papers" to ... wait for it ... rape and armed robbery.

Fuck that noise, Vin. You know better than this. You are better than this. All you have to do to prove that to yourself is read your own column and count the number of irrational twists you had to put on the language and the number of willful denials of reality you had to weave into the narrative to get that column to "work."

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

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Recommended reading

The relevance of Robert Shea's "Empire of the Rising Scum" quickly becomes obvious to anyone involved in activism. I find myself coming back around to re-read it on a regular basis when I find myself up against certain tactical or strategic problems.

Money quote:

Every combination of two or more human beings has both a useful aspect and a political aspect. These tend to conflict with each other. As the political aspect becomes more and more influential, the organization ceases to be useful to its members and starts using them.

Why does this happen? Because the better an organization is at fulfilling its purpose, the more it attracts people who see the organization as an opportunity to advance themselves.

The ability to get ahead in an organization is simply another talent, like the ability to play chess, paint pictures, do coronary bypass operations or pick pockets. There are some people who are extraordinarily good at manipulating organizations to serve their own ends. The Russians, who have suffered under such people for centuries, have a name for them -- apparatchiks. It was an observer of apparatchiks who coined the maxim, "The scum rises to the top."

I'm not by any means the first to observe that libertarian political organizations tend to make even less headway toward fulfilling their purposes than other types of organizations before getting drunk on their own apparatchikism, falling down and passing out in the vomit.

Solutions? I haven't found them yet, but doing so is an ongoing project I take a good deal of interest in. Some of the ideas I put into the Boston Tea Party's scheme of organization were intended to test the idea of an "apparatchik quarantine" which would retard the concentration of power in "leadership" and keep activism under the control of activists. Jury's still out on that one, in my opinion, but surprises of both varieties (pleasant and unpleasant) have abounded.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bureaucrash and Bureaucrash Social are dead ...

... long live the Free Agents Network and Free Agents Network Social.

As for why, I'd rather point you at explanations from Brad Spangler and Rad Geek than go into my own long-winded opinion on the matter. Without necessarily agreeing to every jot and tittle of their opinions as to why Bureaucrash is a dead stick, I agree with them that it is.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Brief Review: Root on the Radio

As a candidate, I've repeatedly promised "a different kind of presidential campaign." While this isn't exactly what I had in mind when I came up with that slogan, it seems to fit into the general theme -- I'm going to say nice things about one of my opponents.

Wayne Allyn Root has his own radio show. Not just "Internet radio," either -- it airs on Saturday mornings in three major markets (New York, Chicago and Los Angeles).

Folks, it ain't bad. I've listened to a lot of talk radio in my day (and done some myself), and I've heard worse -- a lot worse. Wayne's ... enthusiastic ... style, which comes off as overbearing in some settings, is just a little north of normal in this shock-jock-dominated medium.

IMHO, he's better than Savage by a damn sight, and better than Boortz too. He can't touch (for example, and once again in my opinion) Free Talk Live or Scott Horton, but hey, give him time.

Only two weeks in, Wayne's already setting a pretty high standard for guest "draw" quality -- US Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and Faux News analyst / former New Jersey Superior Court Judge Andrew Napolitano appeared on the first episode and this week he had MSNBC's token conservative, Joe Scarborough, on.

Sure, I could bust Wayne's chops over a few things. He refers to himself on air as a "libertarian conservative," and it would be nice if he would decide which one's the descriptor and drop the modifier, for example. And it would be nice to see him pull out some libertarian issues positions that he expects a "conservative" guest and audience to disagree with and make mind-changing arguments on them. Of course, we're only two episodes in here. Maybe he has some surprises up his sleeve.

Anyway -- I'm trying here to see things from the viewpoint of those who believe that a "mainstream" and "conservative" audience make the best target for libertarian evangelism ... and from that viewpoint, I'm not seeing much to complain about. That viewpoint isn't something that Wayne pulled out of his sock drawer one morning. It's been part of the libertarian movement for decades and has always carried substantial weight in the Libertarian Party. Do I disagree with it? Yes, I do. But since Wayne doesn't disagree with it, I can't blame him for picking up the ball and trying to carry it down the field in that direction.

A+ for effort and enthusiasm, A+ for lining up guests that can draw an audience, C+ (from a hostile grader!) for content. Here's the second episode, for those who are interested.

Self-promotion, oh

I've been remiss on the self-promotional front. Time to start catching back up.

From my most recent column over at the Center for a Stateless Society:

We've got a bailout tsar, a car tsar, a climate tsar, a technology tsar, a general "regulatory" tsar, war and foreign policy tsars galore. Can't swing a cat in Washington DC these days without knocking over a would-be Romanov heir. I half expect Obama to appoint a tsar tsar to keep track of all of them (maybe he can find someone named Binks to fill the position).

From an anarchist standpoint, the unveiling of the New Tsardom strikes me as a positive development ... an honest development. The root of the word "tsar" or "czar" is the German "kaiser," which in turn derives from the Latin "caesar." No need to rehash the entirety of Roman history here: Suffice it to say that Julius Caesar's rise to supreme power in Rome was anti-climax -- the inevitable result of increasing vestment of power in the executive, power yielded to that executive by a putative "republic" which kept its decorative democratic trappings in place long after the transfer of real power had become fact.

Nothing new under the sun, folks. This is the nature of government.

You can read the rest of "My God! It's Full of Tsars!" over at C4SS. Also available and not previously promoted here:


Say it with me one more time

Last year, I wrote:

The quickest way to remove the mullahs from power in Iran is also the approach dictated by libertarian foreign policy prescriptions: Lift all sanctions, bring down all trade barriers, and announce that the US will henceforth treat Iran (or, to put a finer point on it, Iranians) as ... friends!

The consensus I'm seeing on all sides of the "Iran policy question" in US political circles, from "nuke'em 'til they glow then shoot'em in the dark" hawks to absolute non-interventionists is that the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was possibly a case of outright election theft and almost certainly, at the very least, a manipulated and corrupted poll.

If that's the case -- if the majority was silenced at the polls and is now being suppressed in the streets -- what I wrote last year is more applicable than ever. Here's another snippet:

Lift the sanctions, declare friendship ... and the theocratic regime in Iran would be lucky to last a year.

The US lacks the moral standing to criticize Iran for vote-rigging, etc. -- we have yet to deal with our own stolen presidential election of 2000 or with the highly plausible allegations of large-scale fraud in the two presidential elections since (the alleged Republican "Diebold coup" in Ohio in 2004, or the Democrats' alleged nationwide registration fraud operation through their ACORN proxies in 2008).

Instead of censuring, or attempting to bring pressure on, Iran's government over the kind of stuff that happens here all the damn time, the US government should just take away that government's biggest bogeyman, its trump card -- the US as Great Satan. Doing so would add momentum to the obvious popular discontent and, I predict, lead relatively quickly to a revolution, maybe even a relatively peaceful one, that would put a regime more friendly to the west in power.

I wonder if Obama has the stones for this kind of Hail Mary?

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Instead of a comment ...

... by a man whose comments get deleted when they become embarrassing to the proprietor of Barely A Blog.

I'm not going to whine about "censorship." Ilana Mercer owns the place, and I'd never set forth the claim that she's not within her rights to selectively withhold commenting privileges there. It's her place. This place is my place, and using it to expose falsehood and cowardice, even of a minor and petty sort, seems like as good a purpose as any for it.

Our little saga begins with Ms. Mercer's latest column, "Beware of 'Absolut' Libertarian Lunacy" (the link is to the excerpt at Barely A Blog -- click here for the full column at WorldNetDaily).

As I'm occasionally inclined to do when reading blogs (even if they're just barely blogs), I posted a comment. If you're interested in the comment, feel free to read it, but it's not really the point. The point is that Ms. Mercer's retort included a factual error:

My column is never ever carried on the restricted libertarian organ you run.

To which I replied:

Actually, it is -- when one of our editors notices that you've written a piece that he or she thinks our readers will find interesting.

And then Ms. Mercer again:

Manifestly untrue. I read your news items regularly; my column is NEVER carried by your mouthpiece.

Seems like a simple enough question to answer, so I did ... and she deleted that answer. So here it is for those who care one way or another:

Racism or realism? by Ilana Mercer
War apologists still unapologetic by Ilana Mercer
Remember Reno! by Ilana Mercer
Paris's plight by Ilana Mercer
Granny's home is government's castle by Ilana Mercer
At least Saddam kept order by Ilana Mercer
The unbearable nothingness of news by Ilana Mercer
Conservatives for killing Terri by Ilana Mercer
Is the FBI entrapping idiots? by Ilana Mercer
Harvard hucksters hype Israeli pseudo-historians by Ilana Mercer
Virtuous Vikings by Ilana Mercer
Is Israel done for? by Ilana Mercer
The plight that never shuts up by Ilana Mercer
"A Christmas Story:" Nullified by the state by Ilana Mercer
Iraq -- the war and its cost by Ilana Mercer
About those 650 thou dead in Iraq by Ilana Mercer
Mel's "malady;" Foxman's fetish by Ilana Mercer
Shafting boys by Ilana Mercer
Bush to complete Comrade Kennedy's mission by Ilana Mercer
Dear Al (Zarqawi) by Ilana Mercer
Saddam's much-missed suzerainty by Ilana Mercer
Those cartoons: A reply to Walter Block by Ilana Mercer
Democracy a la Dubya by Ilana Mercer
Jack Bauer: The state's bitch by Ilana Mercer
Capital flight by Ilana Mercer
Shades of Waco? by Ilana Mercer
Israel's folly by Ilana Mercer
The Chinese visit by Ilana Mercer
The Iraq Study Group's magic realism by Ilana Mercer
A storm in a teacup, apparently by Ilana Mercer

Those are the articles that a simple Google search turned up on Ye Aulde "restricted libertarian organ." I suspect they constitute a fraction of the total body of Ms. Mercer's verbiage which have appeared in that publication over the years, given that a good three years of back issues got lost in a database crash. For a few years before that, Ms. Mercer's columns were covered with some regularity by a predecessor publication (the "old" Freedom News Daily) which I helped put together.

I try not to make a habit of trolling for gratitude -- our standard of coverage is whether or not our audience will find the material interesting, not whether or not the material's author sucks up to us -- but when someone tells a lie about me, and then pusillanimously attempts to cover up that lie, well, I've got a blog too.


Update: Ms. Mercer, to her credit, has edited the entry in question to reflect our little spat. I'm happy to reciprocate in kind.

Yes, as Ms. Mercer notes -- and as I didn't notice -- it's been awhile since one of her columns has appeared in RRND/FND.

Why might that be? I'll be honest here: I'm not sure.

One easy guess is that it had something to do with a personal email exchange between myself and Ms. Mercer which didn't end especially well in terms of our personal regard for each other. Before readers start tittering and making weird eye gestures, no, it was nothing like that -- without going into any more detail than necessary to squash such rumors before they start, it had to do with me being insufficiently respectful (in Ms. Mercer's view) toward a particular publication which she considered valuable.

That easy guess would be wrong: Many of her columns' appearances in RRND/FND post-date that little personal teacup tempest, and many of those later columns were personally entered into RRND/FND's database by me.

Nor does it have anything to do with me being a "left-libertarian" and Ms. Mercer being a Woman of the Right, or with Ms. Mercer being a woman in general, or with my dislike of her evangelism for the beliefs of the Hoppe/Brimelow Borders Cult. RRND/FND links and blurbs to any number of "right-wing" publications and articles, articles by women, and articles by anti-immigration writers, even writers much less sophisticated in their analyses than Ms. Mercer. We link to just about anything that we believe may be of interest to libertarian readers, and don't require that the things we link to pass any particular litmus test of libertarianism itself. The only real blacklisting criterion we adhere to is that we don't publish clearly racist (including anti-Semitic) material.

My best guess as to why it's been awhile since one of Ms. Mercer's columns appeared in RRND/FND is this:

Awhile back, I and my fellow editors did some "source trading." We picked publications that we were personally tired of covering, threw them into a common pool, and each editor picked different publications to cover from that pool. The idea was to reduce each editor's personal tedium level.

I distinctly recall that one of the pubs I threw into the common pool during that exercise was WorldNetDaily, where Ms. Mercer's column appears -- not because I dislike Ms. Mercer's writing (that's very much not the case), but because it she was the only columnist at WND whose work I hadn't become tired of reading on a weekly basis.

Apparently Ms. Mercer's column got "lost in the shuffle" -- the editor who picked up WND either lost it off "radar" (possibly because it appears on Friday, usually after our editors have finished putting together the last edition of the week) or didn't find it interesting (I doubt that, but it's possible).

I can and will fix that by the simple expedient of personally taking charge of Ms. Mercer's column as a publication in its own right as opposed to part of some other editor's larger coverage responsibilities.

And now, back to our regular programming.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Thoughts on the BTP's "meatspace gathering"

I just spent a tremendously enjoyable weekend in Kansas City at the second annual Boston Tea Party "meatspace gathering." Thanks to Jim Davidson for putting this event together. Notes and asides:

At one point "confirmed" attendees for the event numbered in the 30s. The actual active1 attendance was 50, but only with application of the Bob and Doug McKenzie metric conversion factor ("double it and add 30"). Folks, if you aren't going to attend an event, don't RSVP "yes, I'll be there!"

That said, having only ten (non-metric) people in attendance allowed for a nice, intimate "roundtable" affair.

A plurality of attendees were in one way or another formally affiliated with, and damn near all would likely characterize themselves as supporters of, the Alliance of the Libertarian Left. Two attendees were past vice-presidential candidates, two were current presidential candidates, two were past chairs of the Boston Tea Party, one was a past and one a present "public official." One was "a vegan, but not an asshole," the rest were apparently omnivores. Attendees came from as far afield as California and Maryland. 20% of active attendees and 23% of nominal attendees were female. I could probably think of other ways to demographically describe the makeup of the event, but enough's enough.

I had considered trotting out my stump speech as a presidential candidate, but even in advance that didn't feel quite right.

By the time we got to Kansas City, my intent was to riff on William Blake's maxim, "the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom." I won't try to pass that off as particularly original ... it just struck me as a new and possibly attractive skin for some of L. Neil Smith's hardcore "don't move to the center, move the center" wine.

By the time Brad Spangler was done with his presentation, it was clear that the weekend was going to be given to brainstorming on the best ways to raise revolutionary consciousness, and to hashing out strategy in terms of "politics" versus "anti-politics." I can't think of group better coincidentally composed for the purpose of such a discussion.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I came home with a lot to think about, including how to convert one of my own digressions into a paper. Seeing as how Spangler referred to that digression as "maybe the most sophisticated argument" he'd ever heard in favor of engaging in electoral politics as part of an anarchist/agorist strategy, it seems like a worthwhile thing to follow up on.

In honor of our own counting methodology, we split the evening between English (12 oz.) and metric (750 ml.) units of measurement. It occasionally got loud, but it never got ugly. A good time. Thanks again, Jim!

[update: Jim Davidson has posted his opening remarks from the gathering here]


1. There were actually 13 people who came to Kansas City for events, but three of them -- Tamara and our sons -- took their anti-politics all the way and spent most of their time on recreation rather than on formal event participation. I think they may be onto something.