Friday, July 31, 2009

Election 2012, GOP handicapping update

The latest adjustments to my GOP 2012 presidential nomination odds line:

I've downgraded Jeb Bush -- the Tucker Carlson interview was good, but I've heard nothing from him since, and the early game is important. Down 5% to 10%.

Ditto Fred Thompson. His candidacy has been pretty much notional on my part, and the longer it stays that way the less likely it is to become reality, or to get anywhere if it does become reality. Down 10% to 5%.

Tim Pawlenty is definitely starting to pull up into the pack. He's been elected vice chair of the Republican Governors Association. He's making forceful speeches to the RNC and chumming it up with party leaders in key states. He's definitely on the trail. See Matthew Berger at The Faster Times for an argument on his behalf.

I still don't see Pawlenty as a likely nominee, but he's got more mojo than I initially credited him with and he's busting his ass to make himself a contender. Up 10% to 11%.

Newt Gingrich gains 5% on "wow, did you see the size of that machine?" grounds.

No, I'm not downgrading Mike Huckabee, his less than stellar fundraising efforts notwithstanding. His TV and radio exposure more than make up for the gap between his take and the war chests of Mitt Romney or Sarah Palin. They're concentrating on raising money to make themselves look good later. He's making himself look good now. He's still the man to beat. 35% and steady.

I'm still thinking that this will come down to Gingrich or Huckabee, with Pawlenty in good shape for the VP slot.

Birth of a Notion

My Friday column is up at the Center for a Stateless Society. Teaser:

Like 9/11 "Truthers" a few years ago, Obama "Birthers" suddenly seem to be everywhere, spreading a bizarre gospel of alien invasion at the highest levels of government.

Their curious belief system is a dog's breakfast of dueling bureaucratic paperwork types (one kind of birth certificate makes you good to go, the other just won’t do at all), misinterpretations of mistranslations of excerpts of interviews with grandmothers who aren't actual grandmothers, citations of foreign law from as far back as the 1750s, and whatever else they can dig up -- or make up -- to convince themselves and those around them that Barack Obama is certainly ineligible to serve as President of the United States, probably an illegal immigrant, and maybe even a Communist plant from birth.

All of which is almost certainly nonsense, of course, but it's part of a promising trend.

Read the rest here.

What we learned from the beer summit

First, that Professor Gates is the only one whom I'd even consider trusting to pick up a sixpack on his way over for a backyard cookout. He had a Sam Adams Light. I'm not a huge Sam Adams fan, but it's a solid beer ... it works.

Sgt. Crowley went all fru-fru, ordering a Blue Moon. Good basic instinct (it's a wheat beer), bad pick (it's a Coors/Molson product and it's flavored with orange peel and usually, including this time, served with an orange slice). For the love of all that's holy, man, if you want a wheat beer, go with a hefeweisen, not a witbier: Boulevard if you can get it, Widmer Brothers or Paulaner if you can't.

Leave it to Joe Biden to go to a beer summit and not have beer. He had a German beer substitute, Buckler, made by Heineken. Sort of like going to a wine tasting and asking for a cup of vinegar.

As for the president ... wtf? Surely the leader of the free world, messiah of the Democratic Party, ayatollah of rock and rollah, etc., etc., can find something better than Bud Lite in the White House fridge. God help us all if he decides we need a national beer care plan. And I'd feel much better knowing he's got control of that nuclear football thingum if he'd ordered, say, a Fat Tire.

Obama was correct in pointing out that this wasn't really a summit. Beer and pretzels do not a summit make. For a summit, you need Kentucky bourbon and barbecue.

[Source for the participants' beer -- and non-beer -- libation orders: New York Times]

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Whiskey in the jar

Or there was, anyway. Most of it's gone now. I generally recommend against Posting Under the Influence, but here's the deal:

I've been up all night with a toothache and the standard non-prescription analgesics aren't getting the job done, so I've turned to strong drink. I'm committed to two posts every weekday ... might as well let good 'ol Jim Beam ghost write one of them.

I've mentioned this before, and anyone who's seen me in the last couple of years knows: My teeth are going to hell in a handbasket. I brush twice a day, etc., as I always have, but they're just literally falling apart. Some of it's genetic, some of it's old US Navy dental work finally disintegrating after lasting for far longer than it was supposed to, but man, my mouth is ugly.

I've heard rumors that what I have going is a case of "meth mouth." Those rumors are understandable, but please allow me to put them to rest. For the record, no, I am not a habitual, or even casual, user of methamphetamine. I tried it one time, more than a decade ago, to see what it was like. I had my reasons -- among them, a woman who had pretty much destroyed her life with it for reasons I wanted to understand, and a town (the sleepy, rural, "family values" town that I'd grown up in) that was literally awash in meth and meth-heads for, I say again, reasons I wanted to understand. Quick review: It wasn't unpleasant, but neither was I impressed enough to be interested in using it again, especially given the possible legal and medical ramifications.

So anyway, that's that -- I'm not a meth addict or even a casual meth user. Believe it if you want, don't believe it if you prefer not to.

Anyway, the stars finally aligned correctly, the chicken entrails revealed the right omens, and Tamara nodded without knitting her brow and hesitating when I asked if the money was there ... Huzzah! So, last week, I visited my dentist, who agreed with me that the top teeth have to go ASAP and that a denture is in order (the bottom teeth he thinks he can work with). X-rays were taken; insurance was discussed; some time next week I should get an estimate of how much cash on the barrelhead is required, after which we'll do impressions for the denture and the yanking of teeth shall begin in earnest.

In the meantime, though, one of those teeth has kicked up a fuss. It hurts, in the way that only a tooth can hurt (I've been stabbed; I've had broken bones; this is much worse). I'm going to call the doc and see if I can get a prescription for something that will kick its ass today, but until then I'm eating aspirin like candy. And chasing it with Kentucky Tavern®. And bellyaching to you.

And that, my friends, makes one post down, one to go for the day.

Update: The alcohol worked as a stopgap measure, but now I've got painkillers (propoxyphene plus acetaminophen, a/k/a Darvocet®, which worries me a bit) and antibiotics (cephalexin, a/k/a Keflex®). Much better! The sooner we make with the pliers, though, the happier I'll be.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Addressing Brian Holtz's alleged "asymmetry"

The alleged asymmetry:

[A]narchists get to complain if the LP doesn't say nearly everything anarchists believe, but smallarchists have to shut up and smile if they disagree with anything the anarchists make the LP say. And heaven forbid the LP actually say anything the anarchists disagree with.

I don't think any LP radical has ever even grasped this asymmetry, let alone tried to justify it.

My response:

That particular alleged asymmetry exists entirely in Holtz's fevered imagination.

There is, however, an asymmetry built into the Dallas Accord.

The anarchist end of the Dallas Accord is that the Libertarian Party's official dogma isn't to be used to demand that the state must, or should, be abolished.

The minarchist end of the Dallas Accord is that the LP's official dogma isn't to be used to demand that the state must not, or should not, be abolished.

This does leave anarchists with a somewhat more free doctrinal hand than minarchists:

Anarchists can seek to put the LP on record in favor of the abolition of any particular state function or program without violating the Accord, because the abolition of this or that government function or program (or even any particular set of such functions or programs) does not necessarily imply abolition of the state itself.

Minarchists, however, fall afoul of the Accord if at any point they seek to put the LP on record in favor of retention or expansion of any existing state function or program, or the introduction of any new state function or program, because such retentions, expansions or introductions do necessarily imply retention of the state itself.

I don't see that this asymmetry is necessarily a bad thing. Anyone care to argue that it is, and why?

Cthulhu approaching on his Harley

Well, that's what I think it looks like, anyway. Your mileage is by definition invited to vary -- the image is Plate 4 of the Rorschach Inkblot test.

A Wikipedia user -- Dr. James Heilman, of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan -- posted all ten of the Rorschach plates on the site last month, and now all hell is breaking loose in the "psychology community."

Apart from the obvious financial implications -- one company has been selling the plates to practitioners for the better part of a century and they currently go for $110 and up; now those practitioners can just crank up the office printer on some good card stock instead -- some psychologists complain that the publication of the plates "jeopardiz[es] one of the oldest continuously used psychological assessment tests." Those who expect to be assessed using Rorschach, they say, can now know what's coming and game the system to produce the results they choose, rather than giving the assessor real insights into their minds.

Color me skeptical of psychologists' grounds for complaint. This particular kind of "assessment" strikes me as very similar to palmistry, astrology or "cold reading" parlor trickery in the first place. Yes, information can be extracted from the responses, but that information really comes down to nothing more than how the patient's responses plot against a bell curve of a data set of prior responses.

Sure, the psychoanalyst can figure out whether or not the patient is "normal" (i.e. tends to respond toward the center, rather than one or more standard deviations out toward the edges, of the bell curve) in some sense. But when it comes to what "abnormal" responses mean ... well ... I've never heard hard, testable claims, not even correlative ones like "some significant X% of those who answer Y to Inkblot 4 are subsequently found to be ax murderers," or "some significant A% of those who answered B to Inkblot 9 were subsequently diagnosed with tumors in their cerebral cortexes." That would at least be of value to, say, epidemiologists.

It's a set of blots, guys. That's all it is -- and the responses to those blots aren't meaningful objective pieces of information, they're just starting points for you to riff on. After nearly a century of use, any "trade secret" shiny has long since worn off. Get over it and get a new prop if you think this one is compromised.

[Note: I picked up on this topic at Techmeme.]

The Era of Paying for Operating Systems is officially over redux

I said it before ... anyone still want to dispute it now that Microsoft and Yahoo are planning a search/advertising merger?

For 30 years or so, operating systems and office applications were Microsoft's bread and butter. That era has ended. It may not seem like it has, but it has.


If you think otherwise, allow me to gently suggest that you are in much the same position as a man toodling down the street in a Brougham, circa 1903, staring uncomprehendingly at one of Henry Ford's new Model A "horseless carriages" passing you on the street and assuming that the thing represents a passing fad.

Windows 7 may make it off the launching pad, but it lost its shot at dominance the minute Google announced the free Chrome OS. Even if Microsoft grills up a fine Porterhouse steak of an OS (unlikely), it won't sell many of them at $200 a pop when Google is giving away reasonably good cheeseburgers. Yes, I just shifted metaphors on you. Sue me.

There's still a future in apps, but not in selling CD-ROMs and licenses that a company has to pay an IT team to run around installing. The apps of the future will run in your browser. If they're not free, then the licenses will come with URLs and logins, not CDs. Microsoft is already migrating its office suite to "the cloud."

Google has forced the issue, and Microsoft, with the launch of Bing and the merger with Yahoo, has conceded: The future is in offering search services and selling ads, and maybe selling access to the best apps. The OS is something they'll give away (with a browser that defaults to their search engines and has their app offerings prominently bookmarked, of course).

The OS won't be the steak. It won't even be the cheeseburger. It will be the bowl of pretzels they put out on the bar to make you thirsty so you buy beer.

At some not too distant future point, I suspect we may even see the computers themselves being given away, or at least heavily subsidized -- configured, of course, to make it difficult for the user to defect from the sponsor's OS/browser/search/apps suite, or perhaps tied to a contract with the sponsor for Internet access (that's already being done with hand-held devices and 3G networks, isn't it?).

If all of this sounds outlandish and unlikely, well, a lot of other things sounded unlikely and outlandish right before they happened, too. A computer that would fit on a desktop, for example. Or a worldwide network that that desktop computer could access all kinds of cool stuff (cough ... porn ... cough) through, for another. Or a phone that would fit in your pocket and work virtually anywhere, no cord. They're all here now, and they're all a lot cheaper than they were when they first arrived. Things change, and what's changing right now is the role of the OS.

Like all my predictive stuff, this piece won't disappear. Come back in two or three years to mock me if I'm wrong. More likely, I'm right but you'll forget I told you so.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Couple of questions for Obama "birthers"

Setting aside the fact that every last iota of credible evidence says Barack Obama was born in Hawaii ...

1. Where were the "birthers" in 2000 and 2004 when Texas's electors illegally cast their votes for two inhabitants of Texas, thereby making either George W. Bush's presidency, or Dick Cheney's vice-presidency, constitutionally illegitimate? If constitutional qualifications for election to office didn't matter then, why do they matter now?

2. Why are military "birthers" so concerned that their Commander in Chief may be constitutionally unqualified? They've been fighting two constitutionally unqualified, i.e. undeclared, wars (in Afghanistan and Iraq) since 2001 and 2003 respectively. If the Constitution doesn't matter when it comes to sacrificing hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars and thousands of American lives on the altar of the military-industrial complex, why is it suddenly of paramount importance when the issue is which yahoo (from among a rigged selection of thereof) gets to hang out at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for four years?

Bonus Question: Can "birthers" name a president since, say, Grover Cleveland*, who hasn't treated the Constitution as at best an annoying inconvenience to be circumvented at every turn, and at worst as low-grade toilet tissue to be used thusly and then disdainfully discarded? Why the double standard for Obama?

Cleveland's predecessor in office, by the way, was Chester A. Arthur, a dual (US-British) citizen by birth. A few years later, America elected a president (Woodrow Wilson) who had been born in the US, but who had subsequently been a citizen of another nation (the Confederate States of America) for four years, being re-"naturalized" at the end of the Civil War. And John McCain was born in Panama. Nothing new under the sun in terms of the "natural-born citizen" controversy.

Almost as good as "Rocket Man"

It takes Shatner to get me to blog about Palin any more. Here's his artistic rendering of part of her resignation speech (hat tip: Matthew Yglesias). And yes, it really is from the speech (here's a transcript):

Update: Thanks to Ray for pointing me to the original source when YouTube pulled the video.

Yet another "paid to search" idea ...

This one's called "Swagbucks" and looks interesting. You rack up points ("Swagbucks") by searching, shopping, even recycling your cell phone, and redeem the points for prizes. Hey, why not? Widget doesn't fit the sidebar, so I'm sticking it here for those who are interested.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Are new, used computer prices converging?

I don't have a whole lot of data points to apply here (just what I'm seeing on eBay and around town and such), but the ones I do have point to a possible trend. For example, while but out and about this weekend I noticed:

- This new 1.6Ghz CPU, 2Gb RAM, 160Gb HD Vista PC at Wal-Mart for $298.

- A 1.8GHz CPU, 1Gb RAM, 100Gb HD XP PC at a used store for $165. It had a monitor, but not an LCD/flat panel monitor; rather, a 17" VGA CRT of the type they were selling for $5-$10 on the shelf below.

I'm pretty sure both machines had DVD R-W, built-in card reader, more USB ports than you could shake a stick at, etc. Both machines were the same brand (eMachines).

I've purchased systems from the used place before and found both the boxes and the prices (usually about 1/4 to 1/3 of new) quite satisfactory. It's a thrift store, not a computer shop, but the guy seems to know his stuff, and a $5 doorstop of a machine gets priced at $5, not $50, there.

Based on past used-to-new pricing ratios of roughly equivalent systems (the used machine is usually going to be a generation behind on OS and probably not have quite as much RAM), I'd have expected to pay maybe $100 for this machine at this store (and almost certainly would probably have bought it at that price).

What gives? Are the prices on new machines falling faster than used sellers can afford to match? Or are the prices on used machines just plain going up? I'm leaning toward the former explanation, but I'm sure someone out there has a lot more data at his or her disposal to answer the question.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

How to get like a bazillion hits on your blog

Just so you know, I'm testing a theory here -- the theory that writing an article about how to get like a bazillion hits on your blog will result in me getting like a bazillion hits on my blog. And since "bazillion" is "a very large indefinite number" (emphasis mine) I can rightfully lay claim to have already reached it.

If you're looking for a tutorial with a more specific and successful pedigree, I highly recommend The Other McCain's How to Get a Million Hits on Your Blog -- not only because it's a damn good article by a guy who got a million hits on his blog in its first year, but because every time I link to him I get a Full Metal Jacket Reach Around (see the article) which itself brings in some small portion of a bazillion hits back to me.

But anyway ... where were we? ... tap, tap ... is this thing on? Oh, yeah, like a bazillion hits. As of this writing, KN@PPSTER's had 656,074 Sitemeter-counted visits, which at a conversion factor of 1.2 page views per visit (which seems about par for the course) translates to not quite (there's that "indefinite" fudge factor) 800,000 "hits." That's over the course of about five years, but I think things are starting to pick up. So, here's how I'm doing it.

- First, blog. If not several times a day, at least several times a week. The more you blog, the more readers you're going to have. Your regular readers will visit more often to see what's new, and the search engines will have more stuff to index, which means they'll send more people your way. More on that last bit below.

- Second, promote. Sign up with Technorati. Join Networked Blogs on Facebook. Google "free search engine submission" and use one of the services you find to make sure the search engines know you're there. When you blog something you expect will be of interest to your friends on the Obsessed With Plushies listserv or the Got A Model Train in Mom's Basement Yahoo! Group, send a a note. Plug your posts into the various social networks and bookmark services -- and make sure your readers can, too, by pasting the "Add This" gizmo into your blog template.

- Third, promote some more by interacting with other bloggers. Plug the ones you think are good, attack the ones you think suck, but link, link, link, and make sure those other bloggers know you're linking. If they don't link back, then by God ask them to link back. The worst they can say is "no" (okay, they can say worse things, but those worse things are all variants of "no").

Now, a note on the search engines. Like I said, the more content you have, the more people are going to see your site. It can be the gift that keeps on giving. Four years to the day after this post, I still get five or ten visits a day, every day, from it because junkies never stop trying to figure out how to get high and they've learned how to use Google.

I'm not going to tell you to game the search engines, but it never hurts to know what key words and phrases people are hot on. If working "free non-alcoholic beer" or "Lichtenstein cameltoe" or "live nude alpacas" into a post is feasible and if you think it will attract readers, knock yourself out (here's an online keyword suggestion tool for your convenience). Pictures of nekkid women (with a headline like "Pictures of Nekkid Women") and stuff like that may help, too.

And that, my friends, is how to get like a bazillion hits on your blog. Matter of fact, I see a very large, indefinite number of you heading this way right already.

Friday, July 24, 2009

It's not about race

At least not per se. What it's about is the increasingly bad attitude of "law enforcement," an attitude not just tolerated but generally backed up by everyone from President Obama to Joe Sixpack.

Attitude like this:

"We're not going to take abuse," [a 13-year veteran of the Denver police force] said. "We have to remain in control. We're running the show."

Well, no, you're not. In theory, at least, you work for us, remember?

"We pay these officers to risk their lives every day," says another interviewee in the story. True enough ... but so what? It does not follow from the fact that being a cop may entail some level of risk that we, their putative employers, are in any way obligated to bow, scrape and genuflect every time a badge is flashed.

Like the man said, we pay them. They're not conscripted. They choose the job -- a job which, by the way, is not only not the most dangerous job out there, but doesn't even make the top ten list. And if a cop finds the level of risk in the job unacceptable, well, maybe Nerf® is hiring.

I do not know exactly what transpired at the Cambridge, Massachusetts home of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Neither do most of the people running their yaps about the incident on either side. What I do know is that the professor's account is facially more believable than the police officer's account -- not because of the racial characteristics of the individuals involved, but because of the institutional arrogance of "law enforcement," an arrogance put front and center by the "law enforcement" establishment in the fallout from this incident and visibly manifested every day on America's streets.

Project Linkin' Log

I'm relatively certain that my blogroll is in a state of atrophy. There are probably some dead links there (I occasionally take time to look for and delete them, but they creep up on you), and there are certainly some links that should be there and aren't.

If I'm not linking to you and you think I should be, please hit me in comments with your blog's title, URL and brief description. Reciprocity is not necessarily a requirement, but it's certainly motivational if you know what I mean.

If I had a million dollars ...

... I'd consider spending $695,000 of it on this.

Your own totally private island in the beautiful Monadnock region of southwest New Hampshire, USA, just over the Massachusetts line. The 2.5 acre heavily wooded island is improved by only one residence, a dramatic Acorn post and beam multi-level contemporary with 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, vaulted ceilings and lots of glass. The island waterfrontage is approximately 1,280 feet.

Looks like a perfect HQ for the Free State Project! It's even located near Keene, the apparent epicenter of Free State activism.

Brief LP notes

Wes Benedict is now in harness at the Watergate as the Libertarian Party's new national executive director. He was hired earlier this month and attended last weekend's LNC meeting en route from Texas to DC.

Comment: Very smart pick by LNC chair Bill Redpath. Wes is an incredibly competent "nuts and bolts" kind of guy. As the Texas LP's executive director he helped that state's party build an impressive fundraising and candidate recruitment machine. He's respected across the party's factional lines because he avoids diving into the 24/7/365 ideological disputes, preferring instead to concentrate on what he can do to build the party as an organization.

Mark Hinkle has announced his candidacy for chair of the Libertarian National Committee. The text of his announcement is available at Independent Political Report. Hinkle has served four terms on the LNC and was chair of the California LP for six years.

The party's 2008 vice-presidential candidate, Wayne Allyn Root, has been quoted as publicly stating that he may seek the chairmanship if incumbent chair Bill Redpath chooses not to run for a third term.

Also rumored to be considering a run for chair is Jake Porter, publisher of Libertarian Strategy Monthly and an alternate to the LNC representing Region Six.

At last weekend's LNC meeting, Bylaws Committee chair (and Region Five North representative) Dan Karlan talked up the committee's Internet survey as a way for party members to weigh in on proposed changes.

Without commenting on the particulars of any of the proposals now in play (I'll do that some other time), I would like to compliment the committee on its relatively open and transparent mode of operation. Mr. Karlan informs me that this approach "is not perceived as an end in itself," but rather the committee is going with it because its members "believe it will maximize the chances for acceptance of the greatest number of the most important proposals."

I happen to be a "transparency for the sake of transparency" guy, but I'll take it any way I can get it, and would love to see more of it from other LP committees, up to and including the LNC itself. One benefit of this approach vis a vis the bylaws is that the party's membership has an opportunity to discuss and critique the proposals well in advance of the convention. Hopefully that will translate to more carefully crafted proposals and fast, fair up-or-down votes with a minimum of "on the spot" amendments and other time-consuming parliamentary stuff.

All photos by me -- this post was brought to you by my compulsion to justify the purchase of that camera phone and because Tamara won't let me post the ... candid ... pics I've been taking at home.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tie goes to the runner

Well, it wasn't just Nick -- everyone seems to identify the string tie with fried chicken, and nobody seems to think it works well as personal branding/identification. That was the unanimous finding of a hastily convened panel at last night's St. Louis area Libertarian Meetup, anyway.

I'm not going to give up on the linen suit and Panama hat (seen here in a poor quality cell phone photo and worn with a black collarless shirt because the string tie hadn't arrived yet). I am, however, going to switch to bow ties, probably in black, red and fuchsia for different occasions. Maybe I can get some Rothbard mojo going.

Because I'm a cheapskate who enjoys sharing cool finds with other cheapskates, and because I got really good service, I'm going to put in a plug for the company I bought the string tie from. I plan to buy the bow ties there, too, unless they notice this post, designate me their Internet spokesmodel, and hook me up with all the ties I can eat (hint, hint).

They're called SolidColorNeckties.Com. Their main product line -- which is, as you might imagine, solid color neckties -- starts at $3.75 plus shipping and handling. I can't find a decent tie for less than five bucks used at a thrift store, so this sounds like a very good deal to me.

The string tie ran $4.95 plus shipping and handling for a total of $7.76. I chose the cheap (US Snail) shipping option. The receipt said it would take 4-7 days to arrive. It took two. The tie was well-made, fit comfortably (I got the band collar, not clip-on), and looked exactly like it was supposed to (calling forth the ghost of Colonel Sanders was my mistake). I have to assume the quality, etc. will be true of the other varieties of ties they sell.

So anyway, if you're looking for a cheap tie that doesn't look or feel cheap, SolidColorNeckties.Com are the go-to guys. I haven't received any comps or payments for saying so. Yet. They did enclose a nice pen with my order, though.

It's a mixed up muddled up shook up world except for LOLA

LOLA activist Allison Gibbs
Ladies of Liberty Alliance, that is. "Conspiring to attract libertarian women into the movement One activist at a time."

Many libertarians react negatively to anything that smacks of "identity politics." These complaints usually evaporate among heterosexual male libertarians when the specified identity is "female" and there are calendars involved. Dunno why, it just seems to be that way for some reason. I guess heterosexual male libertarians are just really obsessed with what day it is or something.

As for me, I think that "identity politics," rightly done, can be a great starting point. If it's an end in itself then that end is a dead end, but it's just a fact that a bazillion years of evolution have made us into creatures who do tend to viscerally identify at a group level, and we're better off taking advantage of that fact than fighting it.

To put it a different way, it's probably easier for a libertarian to talk libertarianism to a non-libertarian if the two already have something in common -- be it race, gender, sexual orientation, profession or a love of beer or music or model trains or whatever.

Anyway, good luck to LOLA, and let's get with that calendar action already.

Of ways and means

Daniel G. Shorthouse @ FR33 AGENTS:

It should be self-evident that the attainment of condition x by action exclusive to condition x is a self-defeating philosophy. Unfortunately, many of those who share the same goals with [Agorists] do not recognize that fact. Minarchists, partyarchists and others who believe that freedom can be gained through the political process are no different from those Muste was criticizing by that saying: those who believe that peace could be attained by violent means.

First, I'd like to separate the categories "minarchist" and "partyarchist."

Minarchists do not share the same goals with Agorists. Minarchists define freedom differently than Agorists (and other anarchists) do. Their definition of freedom allows for the existence of a minimal state; Agorist and anarchist definitions of freedom do not. Minarchism doesn't treat the political process as a way to freedom; rather it includes includes the (or at least a) political process in its definition of freedom. The inclusion of minarchists in Shorthouse's argument is, in other words, a strawman (presumably an unintentional one).

Partyarchy, on the other hand, is a more complex phenomenon. Canon:

Partyarch: [T]erm coined by [Samuel Edward Konkin III] in 1972 to denote "anarchists" who had rejected the State (head of the octopus) only to embrace its tentacle, a political party.

I can't blame Shorthouse for incorporating a naive ipse-dixitism fallacy in his argument -- as far as I can tell, all of SEK3's arguments against partyarchy rested on the same fallacy.

The fallacy in question is the assumption that affiliation with a political party necessarily implies acceptance of the proposition that "freedom can be gained through the political process." As a matter of fact, the coining and usage of the term "partyarch" specifically as a pejorative seems to me to have that fallacy built into it.

In point of fact, I can think of at least two reasons for an anarchist or Agorist to join a self-described libertarian political party, neither of which in any way imply acceptance of that proposition.

The first reason is that a self-described libertarian political party is a prime recruiting ground. Even at its worst statist extreme, a party like the Libertarian Party is chock full of people who are already at the point of questioning the efficacy, and perhaps even the morality, of the state.

Yes, some of them will remain minarchists (or even "smaller-good-government" types), but they're dawdling just barely inside the door of the Temple of the Cult of the Omnipotent State. Some of them are bound to respond favorably to the guy who persuasively points them to the EXIT sign. Minarchist libertarians are low-hanging fruit for conversion to anarchism or Agorism -- and libertarian political parties are where minarchist libertarians gather. Anarchists and Agorists can reasonably join libertarian political parties for the same reason that military recruiters visit high schools ... because that's where the people they're seeking are to be found.

The second reason is that nothing makes for a better demonstration of the political process's inefficacy at securing freedom than ... well, a demonstration of the political process's inefficacy at securing freedom.

When an anarchist or Agorist joins a libertarian political party, dons a suit and tie (or pants suit), gets all the talking points down, puts in an honest effort, runs the best campaign for political office that he or she knows how to run ... and gets 2.4% of the vote ... what you have there is -- guess what -- a demonstration of the political process's inefficacy at securing freedom. And that demonstration takes place right there in front of all those aforementioned prospective recruits, the ones who've been knocking on doors and stuffing envelopes and buttonholing their neighbors.

And if the Agorist or anarchist actually wins an election? Even better! Now those recruits get to see that libertarian politician turned into a human lightning rod, fighting valiantly for a 1% reduction in the tax levy or a looser interpretation of zoning rules and coming away with metaphorical third degree burns over 80% of his or her body every damn time.

Nothing turns an open-minded minarchist into an outright anarchist faster than a window office over the floor of the sausage factory. If you don't believe me, ask former North Kansas City councilman Brad Spangler.

There may be reasonable arguments against "partyarchy" on grounds of strategy, i.e. that anarchists' and Agorists' time would be more productive if spent in direct counter-economic activity than in recruitment of new anarchists/Agorists from the ranks of libertarian political parties. The standard arguments -- of SEK3, and now of Shorthouse -- however, fail because a key part of their premise is fallacious.

[Update, 08/26/09: Shorthouse responds in turn, and it's quite an interesting one. I may come back at him again, but I'm going to want to chew on it for awhile first. Well done!]

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dingoes ate my bailout!

Last September, a Treasury spokesperson infamously told Forbes that the $700 billion price tag on government "bailout" schemes wasn't "based on any particular data point .... We just wanted to choose a really large number."

Large number? That ain't no large number. Try $23.7 trillion, says TARP special inspector general Neil Barofsky. Now that's a large number!

If I'm reading the Bureau of Economic Analysis's latest reporting right, that figure represents more than a year-and-a-half of the country's entire current GDP (about $14.1 trillion). From that same reporting, I'm sure you'll be happy to hear that although GDP continues to slide, corporate profits are rising again. Can't imagine why.

Darcy Richardson, quoted with permission from personal email:

The entire taxpayer-funded bailout and rescue is nothing more than a massive transfer of wealth from future generations of taxpayers, most of whom aren't even born yet, to prop up the waning fortunes of the country's wealthiest citizens. Only in America would the taxpayers allow a massive subsidy to a company like AIG, whose employees, or at least the vast majority of them, live and work in Europe and enjoy a safety net (including fully paid health care when unemployed) that far exceeds the meager unemployment insurance that jobless Americans receive.

Whether this thing ends in mass starvation or in the stretching of some plutocrat necks is anyone's guess. My own guess is both.

"Reform," get your "reform" here!

Tonight, President Barack Obama will hold a prime-time press conference for the purpose of promoting and defending his health care "reform" plan. The solutions he will offer to high costs, lack of access, poor quality of care, etc., will amount to retention and expansion of every stump-stupid idea that has increased costs, impeded access and blocked advances in quality of care for more than a century.

If Obama is serious about real health care reform, he'll offer a very different plan than the one you know he's going to offer. Something along these lines would be a decent start:

- Repeal of the Controlled Substances Act, all of its amendments and subsidiary/complementary laws, and all of it enforcement agencies, effective immediately (pharmacies would, of course, remain free to require a doctor's prescription for a medication if they so choose).

- Abolition of the Food and Drug Administration, effective January 1, 2010 (the insurance industry will likely have an analog to Underwriters Laboratory up and running in short order to replace FDA's regulations with recommendations).

- Phased repeal of Medicare in reverse by part (i.e. from D to A) beginning on January 1, 2010 and proceeding in six-month phases to conclude December 31st, 2011.

- Repeal of federal Medicaid funding and oversight, effective January 1, 2010 (if the states want to keep their ends of that program running, well, the 10th Amendment says they're allowed to be stupid in areas of stupidity not delegated to the feds).

- Effective January 1, 2010, invocation of the federal government's power to regulate interstate commerce for the purpose of exempting from all licensing requirements any health care provider who offers treatment to patients from outside the state in which his or her primary practice is located.

Of course, we know that Obama isn't serious about real reform, so BOHICA.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bikinis! Sledgehammers! Economics! Win!

More than just eye candy -- a good explanation of why "Buy American" is a friggin' silly idea from the folks at

Regarding Ralph Peters

I want to be clear. If when the facts are in we find out it's through some convoluted chain of crack use, neurosyphilis, paranoid schizophrenia and accidental lobotomy that he came to say that, he deserves a bed in a VA hospital and all the Thorazine he can eat. But if he doesn't suffer from organic brain damage and if he really meant it -- I don't care how hard it sounds -- as far as I'm concerned one of PFC Bergdahl's comrades and his handy-dandy 9mm can save us a lot of annoyance by putting the worthless SOB out of his deranged misery.

And that's all I've got to say about that.

I'm baaaaaack ...

... My backslide on the "two posts per weekday, one per weekend day" pledge was very temporary. I spent most of the weekend a) at the LNC meeting; b) hanging with others who attended the LNC meeting; c) traveling back and forth to the LNC meeting; or d) sleeping off the LNC meeting. And a good time was had by all, etc., etc., but something had to give and what gave was blogging.

Hopping right back into the saddle, I'm going to pimp my latest project. A cause which is near and dear to my heart is making it possible for as many Libertarians as possible to attend the LP's 2010 national convention here in St. Louis. In particular, I'm interested in getting the "povertarian" segment of the party -- the activists who have no problem giving the party their blood, sweat and tears, but who can't afford to drop a couple of thousand bucks on this sort of thing -- here in large numbers.

So anyway, I'm researching the subject of "making this thing cheap." And I'm starting to post the results of that research on a new blog: St. Louis on the Cheap.

Between now and next Memorial Day weekend, STLotC will be focused on the downtown area (and perhaps a few Metrolink-accessible places further away). The idea is to help "povertarians" (or just plain cheapskates) cut the cost of attending the convention so that they'll choose to do so.

My goal is to get the necessary out-of-pocket costs, excluding travel or gas to actually get here, down to the $200-$300 range. That means I'll be looking at meals for under $10, rooms for under $50, and free or ultra-cheap attractions for the tourism-minded. In addition to finding this stuff, I also plan to hit up business owners to offer "Libertarian Convention Discounts" to get things slightly out of that range into that range.

After the convention, I hope to get filthy rich by expanding the target audience to cheapskates of all political persuasions (or no political persuasion at all) and the coverage area to the entire St. Louis metro area -- as well as offering interested bloggers around the country their own "[Insert City Here] on the Cheap" franchises with an advertising split or something of the sort.

Anyway, check it out, especially if you're thinking of coming to St. Louis next May.

Friday, July 17, 2009

LNC meeting -- the pre-game show

David Nolan, generally regarded as the founder of the Libertarian Party, has issued an open letter directed to the Libertarian National Committee on the occasion of its meeting this weekend in St. Louis. Excerpt:

[T]he most important principle, for libertarians, is the principle of self-ownership, as set forth in the Preamble to our Platform, and our Statement of Principles. These are the standards by which every policy statement and every campaign must be judged. Anyone who is uncomfortable with this yardstick probably ought to be in another party -- one where "the most important principle is winning."

Read the whole thing at Nolan Chart.

That meeting will be webcast, Insha'Allah and the creek don't rise, at UStream. It starts at 8:30am Central on Saturday. I'm planning to pick up a new cell phone today. If I manage that, I'll probably tweet commentary from the meeting as well.

Apropos of not much, I'm hoping (but not optimistic) that my new tie will arrive today. It should go wonderfully with the linen suit/Panama hat ensemble I'm planning to wear to tomorrow's session of the aforementioned meeting. Since it's intended specifically for "branding" purposes (if it's well-received, I plan on buying additional ones in an assortment of colors), I didn't think twice about reporting it to my presidential campaign's treasurer as an in-kind contribution/expenditure ... apparently setting up (unbeknownst to me at that moment) a potential cage match with the FEC.

For me, the LNC thing kicks off at 7:30 tonight under the Arch with a free Sonic Youth concert. Hopefully some of the Libertarians coming to town for the meeting will join me for that (there's another free concert tomorrow night, same place -- Little Feat).

"We believe we could strongly support your position"

For $2 million, anyway. I'd really, really, really hate to be stuck working for the American Conservative Union's fundraising branch today. Or tomorrow. Or ten years from now.

After this, they should at least have the decency to come out strong for legalizing prostitution. Drugs, too, as they've obviously been smoking crack if they thought for a minute that they wouldn't get outed over this kind of thing.

I'm not a conservative, but I know a few conservatives, and I guaran-damn-tee that most of them would not even consider selling their principles for that amount of money or any other. They may wronger than wearing white after Labor Day 90% of the time, but at least they're honest in their own wretched, deranged way. These ACU greedheads just gave them a black eye they didn't deserve.

I expect it will be getting busy over at memeorandum any time now.

TipDrop: Things that make you go hmmmm ...

TipDrop is clever idea -- a micro-blogging platform that's topic-based rather than member-based (like Twitter). Instead of "following" a particular person, the user posts to (or reads, or creates) "tip sheets" organized by topic.

Its creator seems to envision it as a narrow-topic ("how to get more hits to your blog," etc.) kind of thing, but I've already created a more general "tip sheet" for breaking political news, which I assume is allowable and which could constitute a continuous reciprocal "tip timeline" for political bloggers.

TipDrop appears to have launched in beta about a minute before I got an email about it (the beta announcement is dated July 17th). I can see it doing big things, if they issue an API and people are willing to create third party apps to make good use of it.

Anyway, I'm in.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Troglodyte chic

[U]nlike Meghan [McCain], Jamie [Kirchick] is attractive. This I state as a journalist describing an objective fact since, as a married father of six, my hetero bona fides are beyond reproach. (Ignore that legion of online amateur psychologists shouting "overcompensation!")

Beginning to wonder, Stacy. Beginning to wonder. Lately, everything with you is gay. Gay motors. Neocon cocktail party hijinks as gay date rape. David Brooks gay grope envy. Gay this, gay that, gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, gay.

Play the gay card a little, why don'tcha? Every time I drop by lately, I half expect a pop-up window to come up with audio of Molly admonishing me not to open Fibber's closet.

So what's going on here? "Over-compensation?" Blind rage that McCain and Kirchick scooped you on the "Joe the Plumber is a Dumbass" story (if it can be called a "story;" most of us have known that for the better part of a year now)? Just trying to run up the gay-centric ad revenues? Inquiring minds want to know!

There -- how's that for a Full Metal Jacket Reach-Around voucher?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sotomayor and "strict construction"

I'm always looking for reasons to link to Becky C's "Just a Girl in short shorts talking about whatever." Here's one:

On gun control, Sotomayor is a strict constructionist. She has ruled that the Second Amendment only puts limitations on federal firearm restriction -- but the states and localities are free to do as they wish.

I shall now gripe.

I have not carefully reviewed Sonia Sotomayor's record on gun issues, but if that record is as described above, she's about as far from "strict construction" as it's possible to get. We don't have to chase down any 14th Amendment or "incorporation" rabbit holes to establish this. Rather, let us just strictly construct.

The First Amendment, just to set the baseline:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Now the Second Amendment:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Emphases mine.

One amendment prohibits a specific entity from violating certain rights; the other issues a general prohibition on infringement of a right.

Like I said, we don't have to go to 14 or to "incorporation" here. There's an obvious difference between "X shall not do Y" and "Y shall not be done." There's no simply no way to "strictly construct" the latter to mean "states and localities are free to do as they wish."

Just to pile on a little, let's name-check one more amendment, the Tenth:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The Second Amendment clearly prohibits the power to infringe the right to keep and bear arms to the states, because it prohibits that power without qualification. Shall. Not. Be. Infringed. Period.

Presumably the mythical "people" could exercise such a power ... but the only obvious way of doing so would be for them to completely unordain and disestablish the Constitution which they purportedly ordained and established, in which case all bets would be off anyway.

There just isn't any honest way to stuff a government (at any level) power of victim disarmament into the Constitution. Not through "strict construction," not through "original intent," not no way, not no how. The Constitution allows for a lot of bad things, but "gun control" is not one of them.

One (possible) step forward after two steps back

George Phillies, from an email message circulated in a number of Libertarian Party discussion fora:

There is a fundamental difference between politics, political differences settled by political means, and political warfare in which the objective is to destroy the other faction. ... It was utterly foolish of the gang of ten to move from politics to political warfare by hounding Angela [Keaton] from the LNC and preventing debate on the Wrights motion, but that's what they did. The cats are now out of the bag.

True as far as it goes, and if that's all there is to it we're very likely set for a second full year of complete dysfunction at the national party level pending the selection of new leadership at next year's national convention.

Hopefully, that's not all there is to it.

In my opinion, the "Gang of Ten" in question is not a monolithic conspiracy of ten Libertarian National Committee members pledged to a specific set of goals, but rather a set of two or three LNC "mini-factions" bound together by temporary and provisional alignments of perceived interest. If I'm right about that, it leaves open the possibility that members of one of those "mini-factions" might be persuaded to re-evaluate their interests and defect from their current pattern of behavior.

In that vein, I'd like to appeal to the interests of one of these hypothetical "mini-factions," which I will label the Decorum Caucus (I didn't make that name up -- I stole it). Here's the pitch:

Next year in St. Louis, the Libertarian Party will send its current chair, secretary and treasurer home to spend more time with their families. Also replaced will be all of those at-large members, and most or all of those regional representatives, whom the delegates perceive as generally aligned with those three officers.

I'm not going to argue the point of whether such a cutting of heads is justified or wise. That's not the point here. The point is that that's what's going to happen. Thermidor will come early next year, and its arrival won't be pretty. To quote George W. Bush, "you can write it down."

So, to those of you on the LNC who've been lining up with the Gang of Three-and-a-Half (cut camera briefly to Vanna White posing and pointing as the letter "M" is turned onto the board -- no need to buy any vowels) on the basis of decorum, propriety, going along to get along, etc. ...

... you've got a year to credibly dissociate yourselves from the Gang and all its works ... if you want to continue to exert influence on the party's direction and operation.

If I'm right -- if you've been voting for your notion of what best promotes collegiality and decorum, rather than for some esoteric Principle of Piss-Poor Party Governance -- there's no time like the present to take notice of the fact that the Gang of Three-and-a-Half's escapades stopped serving your interests some time ago, if indeed they ever did.

Angela Keaton's resignation was at best a Pyrrhic victory that left the LNC looking petty.

Your coalition got its head handed to it on the R. Lee Wrights fiasco (and that's by no means over -- the Treasurer's misbehavior in the affair is, I believe, on the agenda for discussion at this weekend's LNC meeting in St. Louis), leaving an identifiable majority of the LNC looking not just petty, but petty and vengeful.

The agenda for this weekend's meeting is packed full of opportunities to complete the visible transformation of the LNC from something resembling a political party's governing body to the equivalent of one of those herds of clowns who zip around piling in and out of little cars during circus intermissions. In considering how you'll comport yourselves vis a vis those agenda items, I hope you'll consider not only the foregoing appeal to a narrow interest in decorum, but this choice:

With your support, the Gang may be able to maintain its power of position for another year ... but there's only thing it seems likely to effectively use that power for, and that's to "scorch the earth" in hope of leaving a smoking ruin of a party behind them when they unwillingly depart from power. Or:

With your support, the current opposition can become a functional LNC majority. It's already got momentum which it will continue to build between now and the convention, but with your help, it can start rebuilding the party now.

Do the right thing(s).

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Frankly, my dear ...

Announcing that the government should mind its own business on marijuana is really not that hard. There's not a lot of complexity here. We should stop treating people as criminals because they smoke marijuana. The problem is the political will. ... there should be a small number of things that the government makes illegal, but the great bulk of human activity ought to be none of the government's business. People can make their own choices.

Everybody stand back! Get up against a wall and hang on for dear life, because Eric Dondero's going to come charging through any minute now, foaming at the mouth, knocking over the furniture and trampling the women as he tries to get at this guy and pin a "libertarian Republican" button on his suit before he gets away. Oh, wait ... one problem ... Barney Frank isn't a Republican, is he?

And let's face it, he's not the elusive "libertarian Democrat" (NEVER BEFORE SEEN IN THE WILD!) either. But he does get it right on some issues. Aside from marijuana, he's also right on Internet gambling, on marriage apartheid and on "don't ask, don't tell," three issues that most allegedly "libertarian" Republicans (Ron Paul included) come down dead wrong on at least two of.

Monday, July 13, 2009

This isn't track and field

According to the New York Times, "Obama Faces Hurdles in Closing Guantanamo."

As of this week, lawyers reviewing each detainee's case have completed the initial sorting process for only about half the total Guantanamo population of 229 men, though officials said that by October they expected to complete the initial evaluations, determining who could be transferred to other countries, prosecuted or detained without charges.

Last time I looked, Barack Obama was Chief Executive Officer of United States of America, Inc. He can and should tell these jokers "you have until the end of July to decide which detainees are to be charged with crimes in the US court system; if you can't get it done, turn in your resignations and I'll find people who can get it done."

As for those who aren't to be charged and tried (in real courts, not by kangaroo "military commissions"), there's no question of "transferring them to other countries" except by way of repatriating them to their countries of origin if they want to go there. Extradition to other countries on other charges is a legal process. It's not applicable to illegally held abductees. For those don't want to go "home," a green card -- on top of a substantial financial settlement, of course* -- sounds about right by way of compensation for several years of illegal detention.

If Obama doesn't get this done, it will be because he decides not to get it done. There's nothing "difficult" about it.

update, 07/14/09: Memeorandum is listing the Times story now (they weren't when I posted).

* A million bucks each, tax-free, each sounds like a nice, reasonable round number. I suspect most of the abductees would choose retirement in the Caribbean as opposed to being dropped off outside Kandahar with that kind of bankroll.

Today's big show

Unless she drops trou, waggles her ass at the US Senate, and tells them to pick a spot and kiss it, Sonia Sotomayor will be confirmed in her appointment to the US Supreme Court. The confirmation hearing doesn't even rise to the level of mere formality; they could have taken the vote yesterday and the result would have been the same as it will be when they're done. The whole show is nothing more or less than an irresistible opportunity for Senators to grab some face time and toss off a few bon mots for voter consumption.

But I blogged about it anyway, oh yes I did.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

They still don't get it

Rob Hof writes at BusinessWeek:

First of all, let's put to rest the notion that Google expects to replace Windows, at least anytime soon. ... I'm not sure why Chrome OS couldn't be a second operating system on the same machine. After all, it's free, and both disk and flash-memory storage is pretty cheap, so I'm not sure I see much downside in installing both on a machine.

Don't see the downside? Here's the downside: $119.99 for the home edition upgrade to Windows 7. That's the low end of purchasing Windows 7 outright, and probably not much more than the cost of getting it pre-installed on a new machine.

With Google's announcement (obviously timed to prang Microsoft's rollout of a new, expensive product), The Era of Paying for Operating Systems is officially over.

That era could have, maybe should have, been over with the introduction of Linux, but there were some rough patches to get past.

To the general public, Linux and the open source movement looked like a bunch of hippies pushing flower power; Microsoft looked like the safe, solid choice.

Linux also looked complicated at first, and most people still don't seem to have noticed that, these days, most Linux distributions are now at least as easy to install and configure as any recent Windows version.

And, of course, there was that huge library of applications that one would have to give up to make the change (because configuring WINE to run them sounded complicated and scary).

What's changed? Everything!

Google is now perceived by most people as a "safe, solid choice" just -- like Microsoft. It ain't no gang of hippies pushing this new OS, it's one of the biggest players in the industry.

The new OS is going to come pre-loaded on new machines from major manufacturers, just like Windows used to ... and those new machines won't cost as much as their twins which come with Windows 7. If you want to install it on an existing machine, it will be free to download and damn near free to buy on CD-ROM.

Finally, applications are moving into the "cloud." Doesn't matter what OS you're running. As long as you're running a browser (and perhaps a plug-in, which the app manufacturer will certainly make available for all major browsers), you're good to go. Even Microsoft realizes this and is busily moving its own major applications online. Within a couple of years, that old Windows apps library (excluding some games) will be as obsolete, and of interest to as few people, as WordPerfect for DOS is now.

Look at it from the perspective of a business which currently runs hard-drive-based applications and maintains an IT staff to constantly maintain and update them. Soon, those applications are going to be accessed via the web instead of at the machine level, and the maintenance and updating is going to be done from the vendor side. Even if the licenses just cost as much (unlikely), the customer's overhead is going to go way down.

With the mere announcement of the new OS, Google has effectively destroyed one of Microsoft's two major profit centers (operating systems) and made a major dent in the second (applications). Google has a fighting chance at dominance of the "cloud" apps battlefield, and a dominating position on the one remaining battlefield, search.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Family matters

Rachel Maddow seems to be developing a bit of an obsession with "The Family," a religious organization now being tied to the John Ensign and Mark Sanford scandals. Here's a segment from last night:

She hit the story again tonight -- no clip available yet, but if it comes up later I'll plug it in. Some glaring omissions:

- She describes them as a "secretive" group -- and in order to protect that characterization, she doesn't mention that they're the organizers of the annual National Prayer Breakfast, a public event attended each year by more than 3,000 members of the nation's political elite from both major parties. How elite? Well, this year one of the speakers was President Barack Obama.

- She relentlessly ties the group to Republican politicians. Last time I looked, "Family" member Hillary Clinton was still a Democrat.

- She attempts to tie the group to totalitarian ideology by showing excerpts of sermons comparing the demands Jesus made of his followers to the demands Mao and Hitler made of their followers. When the minister quotes Jesus as saying "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple," she pulls the old raised-eyebrow "really?" routine as if to write off the possibility that Jesus actually said that. According to Luke 14:26, he did. Personally, I suspect that those sermon clips were taken out of context, and that the preacher was actually alluding to Mao and Hitler as "fake messiahs" rather than setting them up as examples for the politicians in the audience to emulate.

Now, I don't object in principle to examining the religious affiliations of politicians, especially to the extent that those affiliations may be reasonably assumed to shape, or at least exert influence on, those politicians' policy stands.


Let's be honest about it. The political connections of "The Family" are very bi-partisan. The group is far from "secretive" and in fact goes out of its way to publicize its views. Its doctrines may be fundamentalist, but they're hardly "off the beaten path" of modern evangelical Christianity. Maddow could easily have taken this story on effectively without trying to turn it into The Da Vinci Code Does the Potomac.

If you want some really noodle-baking religious-political footsie to obsess over, try this on for size:

At the March 23 ceremony in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) wore white gloves and carried a pillow holding an ornate crown that was placed on [Sun Myung] Moon's head. The Korean-born businessman and religious leader then delivered a long speech saying he was "sent to Earth ... to save the world's six billion people. ... Emperors, kings and presidents ... have declared to all Heaven and Earth that Reverend Sun Myung Moon is none other than humanity's Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent."

And don't take that as a dig at the Democrats, either. Moon is well-known for backing conservative political causes, and is the founder of the Washington Times, DC's conservative newspaper (hooray! I managed to work in a Robert Stacy McCain angle!). He's also "bi-partisan."

Addendum: Musical Accompaniment

Tickled pink

By the Libertarian Party lately. Since I'm usually at the front of the line when it's time to bitch, I like to acknowledge the good stuff as well.

- Wes Benedict has been hired to serve as the party's national executive director. He's not a fire-breathing radical, and that's fine by me. He's competent (as executive director of the Texas LP, he grew that party's membership, budget and candidate base), he's always respectful of people across ideological lines, and he understands that the ED's job is to promote the party, not set (or re-set) the party's line. I think we're going to see good things happening at LPHQ with Wes at the helm.

- Here in Missouri, the Greene County LP is definitely raising the bar. They've always been a solid party, and a couple of years ago, they finally elected their first Libertarian city councilperson, Doug Burlison, in Springfield, Missouri's third largest city (population 150,000+). This year, they not only elected a second councilman, Robert Stephens, but did so in a run-off election in which the final two were both Libertarians. And a couple of weeks ago, a third Springfield Libertarian (Teddy Fleck, the Missouri LP's 2008 candidate for Lieutenant Governor) was appointed to the city's traffic advisory board.

Solid party, elected officials ... and now they're beginning to move to the front in a big way, beyond mere representation and into overt leadership of the council. Burlison is now publicly pushing for repeal of a bad, stupid, anti-freedom city ordinance.

Specifically, it's an "anti-gay" ordinance. Seeking its repeal takes a lot of guts in a place like Springfield. The city is the buckle of the "Bible Belt" -- headquarters for several evangelical Christian denominations, including the Assemblies of God and home to several Pentecostal and Baptist bible colleges. It's smack in the middle of the state's very conservative 7th US House district, represented by Roy Blunt.

I'm not putting down Springfield, mind you. I lived there for many years (Doug was a volunteer on my 1997 campaign for city council), still have family there, and love the place. But this is obviously a bit of an uphill battle, and I'm grateful to Doug for leading the charge.

- I got a snail mail fundraiser from LPHQ the other day. For the first time in a long time, it wasn't one that tried to tickle my non-existent conservative funny bone. Great theme: Envelope disguised as a brown paper sack, slugged "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch." The pitch letter was from Tonie Nathan, the LP's 1972 vice-presidential candidate, the first woman and the first Jew to receive an electoral vote in a US presidential election for vice-president (h/t -- Richard Winger; Barry Goldwater, doh!). Someone at LPHQ seems to have finally realized that "disgruntled Republicans" aren't the LP's only potential supporters.

Good stuff, and very encouraging. See? I'm not all negative.

The nuclear option

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

Not only does the existence of nuclear weapons not constitute an argument against the stateless society, precisely the opposite is true: Only states or state-privileged organizations are likely to command the resources to build nukes, or to have any motive to do so. Only states or those attacking states have any incentive to use nukes as instruments of warfare.

"Private nukes" are not, and never have been, a serious threat except to the extent that the existence of the state makes them one. However, I can envision a scenario in which "private nukes" might contribute to the peaceful establishment of stateless societies ...

Election 2012: Adjust!

Based in part on some Rasmussen numbers (hat tip -- David Weigel), some significant adjustments to the odds:

- I've taken Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty down from 5% to 1%. As any number of analysists have pointed out -- I think it was Dick Morris talking about Hillary Clinton who first caught my eye with it -- "unfavorables" are at least as important as "favorables" in evaluating a candidate, and a candidate with unfavorables in the 35% or higher range might as well pack it in. Pawlenty's unfavorables are at 34%, his favorables are only at 38% ... and this is before he's really moved into the fight, and a year after the GOP's national convention was held in his state, giving him a chance to showcase himself. I don't see him going anywhere but down from those numbers, and I expect to take him completely off the board soon.

- Newt Gingrich, on the other hand, gets a 5% boost, up to 25%. I was surprised to see his favorable ratings at 65 ... I'd anticipated more in the 50 range. I also expected his unfavorables to be right up against that 35 "doomed, doomed" number, but he came in six points under at 29. He's aggressively promoting himself, and it's working.

- I was surprised to not see Bobby Jindal or Fred Thompson in the Rasmussen field. As much buzz as Jindal's had, I think it was a mistake to exclude him and I haven't adjusted his number. Apparently I over-estimated Thompson's continuing cachet; I've taken him down to 15%, but still think he may throw in and do well.

- I'm now thinking that I got a little prematurely and impulsively bullish on Jeb Bush. Rasmussen didn't bother to include him, and the other McCain usually serves as a pretty good mood barometer for the GOP's Feral Confederate Chihuahua faction. Downgraded from 15% to 10%.

- As has been pointed out, I was probably unfair to Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney by starting them at zero. I still don't think either of them will be viable candidates for the GOP's nomination come 2012, but the numbers say I'm wrong, at least for now. I've redistributed the left-over percentages to them, 5% and 4% respectively, by way of acknowledging that they seem, at least for the moment, to have a shot.

- The Rasmussen numbers confirm my contention that Mike Huckabee is the guy to beat. He has the highest favorable ratings (78%) and the lowest unfavorable ratings (17%) in the field. He's keeping his mug on TV and his voice on radio, and seldom a day goes by that I don't see email promo stuff from him -- stuff which I assume goes to a VERY large list. He stays at 35%, but with a definite bullet.

A lot can change in three years, but as of right now my guess is that we'll end up seeing a Huckabee/Gingrich faceoff for the GOP's 2012 nomination. Huckabee will play it populist and "outside the Beltway;" Gingrich will trot out the latest version of his highbrow/wonky take on Reaganism.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Helmet, shmelmet

Dondero reports that Missouri governor Jay Nixon has vetoed legislation to repeal the state's motorcycle helmet law.

Maybe we can get an override. I haven't analyzed the House vote yet, but the vote to pass this wasn't even close in the Senate: 23-6, with support from a majority of Democrats and all but one Republican. My state senator, one of the five Democrats who voted against the bill, has already received a strongly worded constituent message from me urging her to come to Jesus and support an override if one is attempted.

Columbia Tribute publisher and editor Henry J. Waters III, writing on the matter, calls himelf "a determined smallish-government quasi-libertarian," but then says:

Given the fact the world remains imperfect and mandates for seat belts and helmets are relatively so benign, we’re better off with the mandates.

I disagree. The fact that the world is imperfect is precisely what makes these mandates so malignant.

In an imperfect world, one-size-fits-all "solutions" dreamed up by politicians are likely to have unforeseen and unintended consequences, not all of them necessarily good. One of the bad consequences -- although I'm not sure it's unintended -- of benign-sounding mandates like this one is that letting politicians make these kinds of decisions for us encourages us to, well, let politicians make these kinds of decisions for us.

We propose to move immediately upon your works

Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats -- HL Mencken

For 22 years, anarchists in the Libertarian Party generally resisted that temptation, choosing instead to adhere to the Dallas Accord.

The accord was an instrument meant to encourage d├ętente between anarchist and minarchist libertarians, and it came down to this: The anarchists would not insist that the LP's platform and official communications advocate abolition of the state, and the minarchists would not insist that the LP's platform and official communications advocate retention of the state. The idea was that this would allow for a "big tent" in which anyone who supported less government (a little less, a lot less, none at all) would feel welcome.

In 2006, the minarchists breached the Dallas Accord, and in 2008 they bulldozed right over what was left of it. The LP is now officially on record as approving of the existence of the state.

Throughout this period, we LP anarchists have generally limited ourselves to attempting to re-establish the Dallas Accord. We haven't insisted that the LP become an anarchist party, we've merely worked to get back to the "big tent" concept.

That hasn't worked. The accord itself never really worked, either, and it's time to be honest about why: The minarchist faction continually violated the spirit of the thing.

Every time the LP failed, the minarchists screamed that it was those anarchists' fault, that if there hadn't been someone over in a corner somewhere advocating for legal heroin or private ownership of nuclear weapons, Ed Clark would have been elected president and Andre Marrou would have become Speaker of the House for sure.

Every time the platform came up for re-consideration, the minarchists would try to smuggle pro-state material into it, and then bellyache that anyone who opposed that material was agitating for "anarchy next week" and scaring the Rotarian vote away from our Water Board candidate in East Armpit, New Jersey.

Ever since the inception of the Dallas Accord, the minarchists have been in control of the party and the anarchists have been their scapegoats for the failure of every doomed, silly attempt to trade the party's agenda away for a mess of nebulous "respectability." Their vision of a "big tent" has always been just big enough to accommodate anyone and everyone ... except the anarchists.

No more Dallas Accord? Okay, fine. It's not like the minarchists ever respected it anyway, so there's no loss in letting it slide into the dustbin of history where it belongs without further ado.


This is a two-way street. The minarchists never kept the accord, and now they're completely free of the obligation to even pretend that their actions are bound by its constraints. The anarchists generally did honor its terms ... but now we're no longer bound to do so, either.

Time for an LP Anarchist Caucus! Apparently I'm not the only one who's been thinking along these lines, because here it is.

From my point of view, the LPAC's primary mission should be to link the Libertarian Party to anarchism as visibly as possible -- to actually do all the things that the minarchists have falsely accused us of doing for more than two decades now. We've done the time; might as well do the crime ... especially since one side effect will almost certainly be an improvement/increase in the practical, real-world results that the minarchists claim to care so much about.

Oscar Mayer had a way with bologna

He's dead at 95.

Of all the random things I caterwaul while wandering around the house, the two Oscar Mayer jingles ("My baloney has a first name ..." and "I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Wiener ...") are my favorites. They really set the kids' teeth on edge in a way that only Chacarron surpasses, and I save that for when I want to startle them awake in a panic in the middle of the night.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Election 2012: Bush, upgraded

Tucker Carlson interviews Jeb Bush, and Bush displays perfect pitch for a 2012 prospect dipping his toe in the 2009 waters.

In response to the "why not run?" bait:

Frankly I don't wake up each day assuming I'm the solution to life's problems. I think there will be emerging people who have a combination of great ideas, a great ability to communicate those ideas in a relevant way to people, and the ambition necessary to run. You need all three. I am content to be part of the larger effort that creates the fertile ground for those candidates to run.

Circumspect, not coquettish. Door's open a crack, but no wink, wink, nudge play.

This is good stuff, and it's candidate stuff:

- He postures the GOP as having a communication problem, not an ideological problem.

- He never lets the audience forget that he has eight years of experience in the executive saddle as governor of a large state.

- He reminds everyone that he's a Republican who can make bank with the growing Hispanic voter demographic.

- He gets some "regular guy" bumps in there, referring to the necessity of providing for his family's financial security and letting Carlson note that he drove himself to the interview. With his last name, that's something he has to work at -- his personal net worth upon leaving the governorship was reportedly "only" $1.3 million, down from a high of $2 million, but he comes from a monied family (Dad's net worth is in the $25 million range).

- When asked about GOP leaders, he name-checks Gingrich and Jindal, but pointedly ignores the three people most likely to be identified as 2012 contenders at the moment: Huckabee, Palin and Romney.

I wouldn't say he's running, but he's definitely not definitely not running. He's being mindful of what to say and what not to say, keeping his options open and building his cred with modest presentation instead of flash. In other words, good early strategy.

Over on the right you'll see my little "contenders" graphic again, this time with my percentage evaluations of each candidate's chance of securing the 2012 GOP nomination. In subsequent iterations, the numbers will shift as my opinion shifts.

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Google is entering the OS market -- code available later this year, appearing on a new netbook near you next year. For obvious reasons, the news puts me in a state somewhat short of orgasm but definitely beyond mere arousal.

I've been keeping one lazy eye on development of the Crunchpad, a piece of on-the-way hardware.

The Crunchpad is a touchscreen machine -- light, thin and inexpensive (it's supposed to sell for less than $300). Its default is a "virtual" onscreen keyboard, but it will supposedly be able to accommodate the real thing via USB. That's a personal hard line for me -- I can live with no mouse if necessary and the virtual keyboard sounds nice for being out and about, but I'm gonna need physical keys for everyday home use. I type a lot.

Forget installing apps to a hard drive; the Crunchpad is designed for people whose computer activity is 100% web-focused. If you want apps, you'll have to find them in the cloud (and for the most part, they're there to find). I believe it has a small built-in flash drive for caching and data storage, a la a netbook. Originally, the idea was that it would boot directly into Firefox (and perhaps include Skype), running over a Linux kernel ... and that would be it.

Now things seem to have shifted: "This is a Linux based operating system and a Webkit based browser." Firefox uses the Gecko layout engine. Chrome uses Webkit. Do I hear wedding bells?

I've been looking to move into a new machine for awhile now, but not out of necessity: I'm able to do everything I really need to do on my "obsolete" machine. Running a very light OS (Puppy Linux) even lets me do it fast. I'm not sure I'll fall for the Crunchpad, but something like it sounds about right and I'm willing to wait for the right combination of low price, portability and an OS that doesn't hog all the machine's resources for no good reason.

Update, 07/08/09: Dvorak thinks that Google is bluffing and that the whole point is to discommode Microsoft. He thinks that Android will be the "real" Google OS. He bases this conjecture mainly on the fact that Google usually doesn't "announce early."

I think he's wrong. This isn't about kicking Windows 7 in the shins to hold some prospective market share for Android. It's about convincing people that the Era of the Everything + Kitchen Sink OS is over, that both Linux and "the cloud" are ready for prime time (hey, Google says so!), and that consumers should kick back for a few months, save their money instead of giving it to Bill Gates, and await Something Shiny Coming Real Soon Now For FREE FREE FREE. Remember, Google is talking about the new OS being available pre-loaded on new machines next year ... they're releasing the code into the wild later this year. "Early adopters" will hopefully be running it (and raving about it) by Christmas.

Update, 07/10/09: Becky C. doesn't trust Google. I'm pretty sure this means she also hates America and likes to spend her evenings kidnapping puppies, stuffing them in sacks and drowning them. Or something like that.

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