Saturday, October 31, 2009

NY-23: Scozzafava concedes

Now things get really interesting.

For the next four days, at any rate, the GOP's "conservative"* faction has broken the Republican Party to its leash (and they're whooping it up, too, you betcha).

After that ... well, that kind of depends on what happens Tuesday.

If Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman wins the election, the "conservatives" will likely exercise de facto control of the GOP at least through 2012. That probably means four more years for Barack Obama, but the Republican establishment can't afford to leave an opening for additional "third party" outbreaks unless it wants to become a "third party" itself. Being the minority opposition party in a two-party system beats complete disintegration. Of course, closing off a "conservative" exodus to a third party may well amount to hanging up a "don't let the door hit you in the ass" sign for other types of Republicans (libertarian-leaning ones, for example).

If Democrat Bill Owens wins, on the other hand, the situation will get a lot more fluid. GOP establishment types will have plenty of ammo for a sort of drawn-out Night of the Long Knives versus the ringleaders of the "conservative" defection, and all-out war for control of the Republican Party is a distinct possibility. Which, again, probably means four more years for Barack Obama and definitely enhances the prospect of one or more third parties tearing big, bloody chunks out of the GOP's rotting carcass.

There's just no good outcome in this for the GOP. If you hear music in the background, that's the fat lady and the world's smallest violinist tuning up for the Big Shew. Good stuff, Maynard!

*: I've started putting scare quotes around "conservative" in the context of the NY-23 race because it's not evident that the ... zeitgeist, for lack of a better word ... of the movement driving the Hoffman candidacy is responsive to that term as normally used (i.e. Goldwaterite, Buckleyite, Reaganite, etc.). "Right-wing populism" /= "conservatism."

Friday, October 30, 2009

Vidal on Polanski

From a new interview in The Atlantic:

I really don’t give a fuck. Look, am I going to sit and weep every time a young hooker feels as though she’s been taken advantage of?

Wow. Harsh. And unless you actually read the whole interview yourself, that's the only part of it you'll ever hear about. Which is a shame.

Gore Vidal, outrageous? Do tell. That's only been the key to his fame for what, 50 years now? The likelihood that he'll pop off with something waaaayyy beyond the pale is precisely what keeps him in constant demand to sit for interviews with, e.g., The Atlantic. Without those interviews, we might well forget him ... which would also be a shame.

Read the whole interview. Then read Burr and Lincoln, for starters.

Gratuitous add-on, 10/31:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Name that presidential candidate

CANDIDATE: [T]he interventionism of Wilsonian followers over the last 60 years has brought this country nothing but misery and death. And the time has come to readopt a posture of political neutrality around the world.

INTERVIEWER: In other words, you want us to become a big Switzerland?

CANDIDATE: A giant Switzerland is exactly what this country can and ought to be.

For the answer, see this PDF

Stand by for Dondero meltdown in 3, 2, 1 ...

Right up to about 28 seconds in ...

... this looks like it would make a great anarchist promo video! [hat tip -- Politico, via memeorandum]

American flag, graffiti transform, black flag. Cool.

It's actually a finalist in a Democratic National Committee contest. Hence the idiotic "health care reform will bring our country back to life" ending.

New project: The Libertarian Press Club

Over at Rational Review, we're launching a new project to help build more effective libertarian media: The Libertarian Press Club. If you're a "freedom movement" journalist, blogger, podcaster or other content producer, I hope you'll have a look. No dues or payments, but you do have to request an invitation (there's a link for doing so on the LPC page).

Here's the logic behind the LPC:

Most libertarian media is Internet-based, and much of it is national in scope. The ability of (for example) a California-based blogger to do "shoe-leather reporting" on (for instance) a developing story in Florida is probably limited. And while developing one's own sources is always a good idea, the fact is that a fast-breaking story, or even a slow-breaking one that's not geographically convenient, makes it more difficult to get the information you need straight from the horses' mouths.

The LPC will attempt to bridge the gap between the desire to cover stories and the ability to do so by bringing Group A (the content producers who want to tell their readers, listeners, etc. what's going on) together with Group B (the newsmakers who are only newsmakers to the extent that they can get the word out to the content producers).

Our first "product" will be the "virtual press conference" -- a teleconference at which libertarian content producers get the opportunity to throw questions at libertarian "public figures." That's nothing that hasn't been done ad hoc in the freedom movement for several years now, of course, but we hope to provide "one-stop shopping" for both the content producers and the public figures. If we do it right, a lot more of each group will get face time (so to speak) with each other.

We expect to hold our first "virtual press conference" in mid-November, and to get on a semi-monthly schedule -- with additional events for "breaking stories" -- from there on out.

As time goes on, we may upgrade from teleconference to video conference, etc., and perhaps even run some "meatspace" events. The goal, however, will remain the same -- to make it easier for libertarian content producers to get the straight poop to their audiences.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The most interesting number

It's not the number 71, the percentage of Americans who consider Sarah Palin unqualified for the presidency.

It's 52, the percentage of Republicans who think she is qualified for the presidency.

If only a smidgen more than half of your own party thinks you could hack the job at all -- before other factors (candidates offering superior qualifications, how the contenders match up against the other parties' nominees, etc.) even come into it -- a brutal reconsideration of your aspirations, in the cold light of reality, is probably very much in order.

The spin on this should be interesting -- check it out at memeorandum.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gung Hoh

I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan. I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end. To put simply: I fail to see the value or the worth in continued U.S. casualties or expenditures of resources in support of the Afghan government in what is, truly, a 35-year-old civil war.

The WaPo headline is "US official resigns over Afghan war," but that doesn't capture the real power of the story. Matthew Hoh isn't just some wet-behind-the-ears Foreign Service suit who woke up one morning, noticed he was in Afghanistan, and panicked. He's a veteran who worked as a civilian contractor putting Tikrit back together after the US invasion of Iraq, and then, on recall to active duty from the Reserve, led a Marine company in Anbar Province. Or, as he put it in the story, "I'm not some peacenik, pot-smoking hippie who wants everyone to be in love .... There are plenty of dudes who need to be killed."

I find it interesting that his take on the situation -- an assessment from right there in the middle of it -- has a lot in common with mine, and with Steve Newton's. The overlap isn't complete, mind you ... but the political/social observations, from on the ground and from at a remove, are very similar.

Some of the staunchest supporters of escalation like to play the "ask the troops, ask the veterans, they'll tell you!" card. Unlike those guys, I won't claim that military experience translates to automatic knowledge, especially at the strategic level. But to the extent that military experience is an asset in evaluating such things ... well, between Hoh, Newton and myself it looks like we're talking about 40-50 years of aggregate service in the US Army and Marine Corps and at least three wars. So take that for whatever it might be worth.

Here's Hoh's resignation letter in its entirety [hat tip -- Domani Spero at Diplopundit ]:

Matthew Hoh first US official to resign over Afghan War

Find out what others are saying about this topic via memeorandum

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pawlenty punts

This, I admit, is surprising.Via Red State, hat tip to The Other McCain:

We cannot send more politicians to Washington who wear the Republican jersey on the campaign trail, but then vote like Democrats in Congress on issues like card check and taxes. After reviewing the candidates’ positions, I’m endorsing Doug Hoffman in New York’s special election. Doug understands the federal government needs to quit spending so much, will vote against tax increases, and protect key values like the right to vote in private in union elections.

I didn't think Pawlenty had the stones to risk his modest "moderate/establishment" support base with such an obvious pander to his party's Flying Monkey Caucus, at least this early in the game.

What's his angle here?

Is he trying to stake out some new territory for himself between Romney and Palin -- more willing to buck the establishment than Mitt, but not quite so ... impulsive ... as Sarah? I'm not sure how he thinks that will help him.

Or perhaps he's hoping for a "heads I win, tails they lose" scenario versus Romney and Huckabee, neither of whom have endorsed Hoffman yet. If they do, he beat them to it. If they don't, they're wafflers and fence-sitters while he made the call and took a stand.

Or maybe both. Or maybe he just panicked and took a shot in the dark.

Whether or not he gains anything at all from this remains to be seen. What he's lost on it, though ... shhhhh ... hear that noise? It's the quiet shuffle of GOP establishment mandarins -- the smoke-filled room guys, the heavy fundraising hitters, the "my state for a seat on the Big Court" politicos -- tip-toeing away from Tim and toward Mitt. Or maybe even toward Newt.

So not news ...

"Newt Gingrich Considering Run for President in 2012" --

When in his adult life has Newt Gingrich not been "considering a run for president in [insert election year here]?"

Callista and I are going to think about this in February 2011. And we are going to reach out to all of our friends around the country. And we'll decide, if there's a requirement as citizens that we run, I suspect we probably will. And if there's not a requirement, if other people have filled the vacuum, I suspect we won't.

Of all factors in politics, the most reliable is the politician's belief, based on nothing more substantial than his desire to believe, that he's needed -- that his country, his party, his faction, Old Man Smithers down the street and the general public are all a-clamor for his prospective candidacy. By popular demand! Vox populi, baby, vox populi.

Not that I begrudge Newt his aspirations, mind you, or at least not any more so than I begrudge the similar aspirations of others (myself included). There's nothing wrong with ambition per se, and I've no doubt whatsoever that Newt Gingrich believes in the ideas he preaches, and in his own ability to turn those ideas into results.

If there's going to be an election (and there's going to be), if the Republican Party is going to put up a candidate (and it will), Gingrich may well be the best of the Republican lot. Not that that's saying much, but hey, knock yourself out, Newt. Just don't blow too much smoke up your own ass, and everyone else's, about why.

Check out memeorandum to see what others are saying about Newt 2012.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Election 2012: GOP Handicapping Update

I'm at least temporarily narrowing the field, which affects the relative odds. It's not that the "also running or maybe running" category isn't interesting, it's just that those in it (Ron Paul, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, Haley Barbour, etc.) aren't showing up on (my, at any rate) radar enough to have an impact.

The big GOP crisis of the moment is in New York's 23rd US House District, where Sarah Palin has endorsed Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman over GOP nominee Dede Scozzafava in a special election. Newt Gingrich is supporting "GOP unity" behind Scozzafava, while Mike Huckabee and Tim Pawlenty are playing their cards close to their chests. I've not seen anything specific to this race from Mitt Romney; as far as I can tell, he's out doing stump duty for GOP candidates in general, not flirting with the third party angle at all.

The Huckabee/Pawlenty hemming and hawing is natural.

As the GOP 2012 front-runner, Huckabee has the most to lose. His base is conservative, but it's not enough to carry the nomination. If he endorses Hoffman, he may cut himself off from possible inroads toward GOP "establishment" support. Endorsing Scozzafava is right out, of course, but if he can continue to straddle the fence without crushing his own nuts, that's what he'll do.

Pawlenty, on the other hand, has very little to lose ... and desperately wants to not lose it. His buzz is "centrist/moderate." If he endorses Hoffman he's still probably not going to pick up many conservative supporters, but he may drive away the supporters he has now.

Gingrich would probably have been better off keeping his yap shut. He's having a hard enough time getting back into the GOP conservative faction's good graces as it is, and coming out for Scozzafava didn't help him on that. My guess is he was paying off some owed favors to the establishment types, and hopes he can make it up with conservative (probably of the Reaganite) red meat later.

What's dangerous about Palin is that she has nothing at all to lose. She's way back in the field, but her base has proven that it ain't going anywhere, no matter what she does. They've convinced themselves that she's (insert whatever they wanted her to be here -- conservative, libertarian, whatever), and that's that. She's got nowhere to go but up. Or maybe she just has nowhere to go, period. Either way, throwing in with Hoffman doesn't hurt her and just might help her. She's continuing to double down on the "maverick" hand, hoping to draw to a straight flush.

Romney remains inscrutable. The feelers keep going out for a 2012 run, but he seems to be playing the waiting game, hoping for a train wreck to take some of the others out, or at least pull them down. Could NY-23 be that train wreck?

We're now less than three years away from the 2012 GOP nomination, but three years is forever in politics. My gut feeling continues to be that when it comes down to two, one of the two will be Huckabee. If Gingrich can figure out a way to stop stomping on his own testicles, he's got a shot at being the other. Otherwise, I'd say: Watch Romney.

Collinsville, Illinois is Decadent and Depraved

This post started with a "Collinsville, Illinois" dateline, and as a basic five-point news update, but in the middle of things I decided to get back to what was going on and write it up later. From a blogging standpoint, there wasn't anything of the "I've got to tell everyone right friggin' now" variety going on, so hanging around the hotel's business center scaring the office supply salesmen didn't seem to be the best use of my time.

Five-point lede: The Libertarian Party of Illinois convened this weekend at the Collinsville Doubletree Inn for its annual business meeting w/surrounding activities.

The weekend's events opened with a Friday night cocktail reception and the business meeting portion of the convention takes place today; I attended the Saturday portion -- the transition period between "social time" and "getting business done." This included breakout sessions of an educational nature for party activists, a forum for the LPI's 2010 candidates for public office, etc. That's the basic story, the summation of which is "and a good time was had by all."

If I'd written this up earlier, either during the festivities or before sleeping off a 30-hour or so "day," it might have had a more gonzo feel to it. Eight hours of sleep makes a big difference, though, so I won't belabor the experience of getting there, other than to mention that due to conflicting family travel plans and tragic misinterpretations of public transit schedules it ended up entailing a ten-mile walk (don't even try to top me on "shoeleather reporting," Stacy -- I covered that ten miles in 2.5 hours in dress shoes and carrying a duffel bag stuffed full of crap including a hardcover edition of Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon) and an ass-over-teakettle, hand-disfiguring encounter with a government-installed barbed wire fence. My survival skills triumphed, with a little help from Jim Beam and Whitecastle.

But enough of the whole fear and loathing angle -- back to the convention: It's always good to hook up with old friends and meet with new ones. My rough count of attendance at the convention was 50 or so, and if I tried to name everyone I'd miss someone, so -- if your name isn't here, it's because I didn't catch it in its entirety (the aforementioned barbed wire incident made jotting down notes, always a problem for me, even more so).

The out-of-staters rate first mention:

Ken Krawchuk was scheduled to give the post-lunch talk, which I missed, but he and his lovely wife Roberta were pressed into additional service when one of the presenters had to cancel. I attended that workshop, which was on Toastmasters as a tool for improving one's public speaking skills. It just so happens that the two of them are long time members of that organization and run a Libertarian Toastmasters group in Pennsyvlania. They improvised, adapted, put on a great presentation (including a "prepared" -- on short notice -- talk by Dave Brady about John Dillinger and constitutional rights), and persuaded at least one attendee (me) to further explore the subject. And, of course, Ken and "Bert" are just great people to have around. They liven up any gathering they're at.

Sharon Harris of Advocates for Self-Government gave a great post-banquet talk about passion in advocacy, centering it around the life of William Wilberforce, who saw his decades-long struggle to abolish slavery in England succeed mere days before his own death. It's always a pleasure to hear Sharon speak -- I hadn't run into her since, I think, 2004 at the Tennessee Libertarians' convention in Chattanooga -- and I was glad to get a minute or two to catch up with her personally as well.

Darla Maloney, the Missouri Libertarian Party's former vice-chair, attended the Saturday banquet. Hadn't seen her in almost a year, which isn't nearly often enough.

It being the Illinois convention, the place was of course absolutely crawling with Illinoisans.

Chris and Yvonne Bennett were accompanied down from Springfield by their children Brandon and Charity. Usually, this means that my own kids hook up with them for mischief, but alas Daniel and Liam were with their mom at a wedding elsewhere in Illinois that day, so I got to do so in their stead.

Ken Prazak, host of Freedom Rings Radio, had a vendor table and also served as auctioneer for the Saturday night fundraiser. I don't plug Ken's show often enough, so I'll do so now. It's almost certainly one of the longest-running libertarian talk shows on "real" radio. He's been broadcasting continuously since 1997. It's also one of the best. Catch it online or on the air from WRMN 1410 AM, Elgin, IL, on Monday morning from 9-10am Central.

The LPI will formally select its 2010 candidates for public office today, and the likely suspects speechified and took questions at a Saturday forum: Lex Green for Governor, Ed Rutledge for Lieutenant Governor, Michael Labno for US Senate, Julie Fox for Comptroller, and -- note deficiency here, but I think Dave Davies is the name of the Secretary of State candidate. It looks like a fine crop -- as chair of the Missouri LP's candidate recruitment committee, I wish we were as ahead of the curve as LPI in getting statewide candidates out on the stump so early.

LPI has a real opportunity to make a dent next year, especially with Julie's campaign for Comptroller. She's eminently qualified (CPA since 1995 and working as a controller for more than a decade), personable, attractive and ready to come out of the gate for this race at a hard run. The Green Party's Rich Whitney polled 10% for Governor of Illinois in 2006, and the stature of the "major parties" has taken further hits since then with the indictment of former Governor Rod Blagojevich, etc.


The LPI also has a difficult ballot access hurdle to get over between March and June of next year, and given the national LP's precarious financial situation, they can't expect as much assistance from LPHQ as they otherwise might. So the slack has to be taken up from elsewhere. Being right across the river and all, I'm going to try to get together some volunteers to go help petition in the "Metro East" area. If you're able to spend some time in Illinois working for liberty, please do so. If not, a check with several zeroes (and at least one other number) on it wouldn't hurt.

Jan Stover of The Mothers Institute and Mothers for Liberty is, as always, hard at work. Mothers for Liberty magazine is currently in transition to a new title and format as Libertarian Woman.

I also finally got to meet Mike Theodore, a young Libertarian who's about to graduate from high school and whom I expect to make a big impression on the wider world soon after. He's currently working to establish an active Outright Libertarians presence in Illinois. He has a deep love of (and an encyclopedic knowledge of) history, and we had several interesting conversations about Andrew Jackson, etc. during the day.

Perhaps my most interesting conversation of the day took place after the formal events were wound up, sometime around midnight as I waited outside the hotel for the rest of the family to swoop by on their way home from the wedding and pick me up. The hotel doesn't sell cigarettes, the nearest store that does is far enough away that nobody with much booze in them would want to walk it, and there were several wedding parties taking place at the venue. You do the math -- it was only a matter of time before a gang of inebriated groomsmen would saunter over to bum a smoke.

I didn't catch their names, but as soon as they asked what I was doing and the word "libertarian" came out of my mouth, the yells of "Ron Paul!" started. They were big fans (enough so that they brought up Rand Paul, and the Fed, not just Ron Paul's name), and oddly enough they didn't think of him as a Republican at all, or particularly think that he should be running as one (music to the ears of someone like me who has been pessimistically thinking of Paul's GOP affiliation as defining). When I told them the LPI events would be continuing today, they said they'd be checking it out. At least a couple of them were from the Missouri side of the Father of Waters, so LPMO might even get a new activist or two out of that conversation.

So anyway -- good time, good convention, sorry to those whose names got left out of the recounting but shouldn't have. Thanks to LPI for putting on a great event.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sanford on Rand

Governor Mark Sanford (R-SC), that is, in Newsweek:

I think at a fundamental level many people recognize Rand's essential truth -- government doesn't know best. Those in power in Washington -- or indeed in Columbia, S.C. -- often lead themselves to believe that our prosperity depends on their wisdom. It doesn't.

I don't think he gets everything right, either with respect to the value of Rand's work or to how she intended that work to be understood, but it's an interesting take from a prominent public figure nonetheless.

For the edification of Libertarian Party "pragmatists"

A political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency, or simply to swell its numbers.

That's Ronald Reagan, circa 1975 [hat tip -- OMG, it's Michelle Malkin!]

Of course, to give the "pragmatists" their due, if the fundamental beliefs in question -- and the party pitching them-- can't be sold to a plurality of voters in a given electoral contest, those beliefs and $3.49 plus tax will get you an iced latte at McDonald's, politically speaking

I also agree with some of the more thoughtful "pragmatists" that the set of fundamental beliefs suitable for a political party's electoral use isn't necessarily the same set of fundamental beliefs suitable to a party faction -- or, in other words, the set of fundamental beliefs held by the most ... well ... fundamentalist ... members/activists of that party. And by way of disclosure for those who didn't know and haven't guessed, I resemble that remark.

But there have to be fundamental (to the group) beliefs, or there's no reason for the group to be a group. Beliefs are what get translated into goals, and without goals a group is at best a directionless social circle and and usually just a purposeless mob. There are lines and limits to be drawn if the Libertarian Party's "purists" and "pragmatists" are going to work together to any effect, i.e. if they're going to be a group, i.e. if they're going to be a political party.

So, the question becomes: What are those lines and limits? What set of fundamental beliefs is common to the Libertarian Party's fundamentalists and to those whom the LP hopes to lure into a "bigger tent" in terms of membership and activism, and, translated into policy proposals, to a plurality (or at least to a start toward a plurality) of the electorate?

Or, to put it a different way, how much of the fundamentalist belief set can be sold (as such or in terms of policy proposals) to a bigger party's prospective members and to the voters, and how little of that fundamentalist belief set can be retained as party dogma before the fundamentalists decide it's too little and that it's time to either fight to have it put back in, or take a walk?

Brian Holtz has proposed a "St. Louis Accord" (because he'd like to see it adopted as a resolution by, or at least by some ecumenical group at, the Libertarian Party's 2010 national convention in that city) which implicitly addresses that question. It's a proposal I can endorse as is, but I'm going to tinker with it a bit; it's possible that he might find some of my suggested changes useful. His full text is at the link. Here's that text as edited by me. Plain text is his -- if it's stricken out, that's me editing it out. Bold, red text is stuff I've added.

The Party's purpose role is to implement and give voice to the its Statement of Principles by uniting voters who want more personal and economic liberty behind the electoral choices and policy proposals that will most which move public policy in a libertarian direction. The Party's ultimate goal is to banish force initiation and fraud from human relationships. The Party does not claim to know how close our society can come to this ideal, but we are united in our conviction that governments must never add to the amount of aggression in the world. Principled libertarians can disagree about how best to reduce aggression or even about what can count as aggression, but we are united in defending the full rights of each person to his body, labor, peaceful production, and voluntary exchanges. Principled libertarians can disagree about whether every function of government can be performed by the free market, but we are united in opposing government's growth beyond the protection of the rights of every individual to her life, liberty and property and in supporting reduction of the size, scope and power of government to bring it within those boundaries. Principled libertarians can disagree about how best we may each serve the cause of freedom, but we are determined to build a Party that welcomes and unites all those who want more personal and economic liberty. We defenders of freedom are too few, and the enemies of freedom are too many, for us to indulge in seeking heretics in our midst, rather than awakening allies across this freedom-loving land.

Herewith, a brief primer ...

[Note on title: Unspeakably wretched, indeed!]

I've been meaning to write about Sibel Edmonds for some time, but I've never gotten around to sitting down and spending several hours pulling all the threads together for a solid piece. Now I see that Don Emmerich has done exactly that, so why duplicate his work when I can just link to it? Sibel Edmonds 101 is stuff you need to know, folks.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Next questions

Question #1

Is Sarah Palin:

a) About to break the Republican Party to its conservative faction's leash; or

b) About about to just break the Republican party, period?

[Hat Tip -- The Other McCain]

Either outcome represents bad news for the GOP, but possibly good news for libertarians.

So hey, she turned out to still be useful for something after all.

Question #2

Why doesn't the Libertarian Party's web site mention Joe Kennedy, Libertarian for US Senate from Massachusetts?

He's running under the label "Liberty" rather than "Libertarian" on the ballot, but there's a good reason for that -- actually, 45,000 good reasons. Massachusetts has perverse ballot access laws that make it much more expensive ($60k versus $15k) for an "established party" candidate to get on the ballot. Kennedy is a dues-paying member of the national LP, and is a board member of, and endorsed by, the Libertarian Association of Massachusetts.

It's not like there's a crowded nationwide field of US Senate candidates that LP News has to winnow down for lack of time and space to cover. This is a special election to replace the late Ted Kennedy ... and Massachusetts is a state where Libertarian Senate candidates have done well in the past. Michael Cloud polled 16.7% in 2002 versus John Kerry. I'm pretty sure that's the standing LP record for best performance in a US Senate race.

Is LNC/LPHQ punishing Massachusetts for the refusal of favorite son George Phillies to sit, roll over and play dead on command from the Watergate? Inquiring minds want to know.

Not rocket science

Per BBC:

Rock bands including Pearl Jam and REM have joined a coalition of musicians to support the US president's efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay prison.

Um ... what "efforts?"

A "presidential effort to close the Guantanamo Bay prison" would look something like this:

1) President picks up phone, tells operator to get the Secretary of Defense on the horn.

2) Ring, ring.

3) SecDef: "Hello, Mr. President."

4) President: "Close Gitmo. You have 30 days."

5) SecDef: "Yes, sir."

5) Click.

6) 30 days later: Camera pans across former Guantanamo Bay facility. No visible movement. Crickets chirp.

7) Finis.

Gitmo isn't still open because the president's "efforts to close it" have failed. It's still open because he's decided, for whatever reason, that he'd rather keep it open than close it.

If REM and Pearl Jam want the place shut down, then the proper tool for getting that job done isn't "support" for non-existent "efforts," it's pressure.

Here's an idea for those guys:

- Form a coalition of artists and bands who agree in principle that this issue is a deal-breaker when it comes to their support for the president or any other Democratic politician.

- Get in touch with whatever "arts and culture advisor" or other bureaucrat might have the president's ear for 90 seconds every other Thursday.

- Let that advisor know that the coalition will be coming together, a la "We Are The World," to record a cover version of The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again," and that proceeds from sales of the tune will be donated to support a designated third party or independent presidential candidate.

- Follow through. If Gitmo's still open on the day of the recording session, do it. If you pick up the New York Times and see a "Gitmo Closed!" headline, record a sappy paean to the president's penile prowess or something like that instead.

memeorandum threads on this topic: Here and here

Some notes on the denture odyssey

Yeah, this is off the beaten path for KN@PPSTER, but hey, I digress into odd topics on a fairly regular basis. The way I see it, the transition from real teeth to dentures is a topic of likely interest to a lot of people ... people who visit search engines and click on the results to get answers. That means traffic and traffic means, to some greater or lesser degree, money. Money = yay!

First thing: The pain

It hurts to have several teeth extracted and shove a denture on top of the outraged gums? Ya think? Yeah, it's going to hurt. That's the bad news. The good news is it may not hurt as much as you expect, especially by comparison to the pain of frequent toothaches.

I've heard some horror stories, but my experience over the course of this first week has been low-grade pain (on the order of first degree burn intensity), mitigated by painkillers. My doctor prescribed hydrocodone, which I'm already weaning myself off of in favor of non-prescription "non-steroidal anti-inflammatory" drugs -- I've tried ibuprofen and naproxen sodium, both of which seem to work just fine.

The after-care materials my oral surgeon gave me told me to expect swelling, for the swelling to peak at three or four days, and for it to recede after that. That's exactly what happened. Ice helps, but you're going to be puffy for a few days. I'm into day six now and the swelling is almost entirely gone.

If you're putting off doing something about your teeth because the pain scares you, reconsider. Think about your last king-hell toothache, then understand that this pain won't be that bad, that it will be temporary, and that it will put an end to the more severe pain.

Second thing: The non-pain discomfort

Look: You're sticking a large foreign object in your mouth. You're going to notice that it's there. It's going to bug you.

You're probably going to drool in your sleep for a few days because your body assumes that that new thing in your mouth is food. At day six, I'm noticing a drastic reduction in that phenomenon.

You may gag on pills or food at first. You'll get over that pretty quickly.

Yesterday, at some point, I noticed that I hadn't noticed my denture for awhile. A month from now, I expect it will be like wearing glasses was after the first few weeks. You know, but don't notice, that it's there.

Be prepared for surprises. My oral surgeon's instructions were to wear the denture for a full day before taking it out to clean it the first time. Instead, about four hours later, the thing popped loose in my mouth of its own accord. I cleaned it, put new adhesive on it (the surgeon gave me some with benzocaine in it to help with the pain), popped it back in. This happened twice more during the first day. When I called the office, they told me it was nothing to worry about.

The "doctor-provided" adhesive isn't as sticky as the regular commercial stuff. I tried the commercial stuff on day three and it made a noticeable difference. I went back to the other stuff, though, because I have stitches in my gums and I'm afraid the stronger stuff might pull them out. Here in a few days, I'll be out of the benzocaine-laced light adhesive and transition permanently to Fixodent®.

So anyway, it may be difficult to keep the thing in place at first, but try. On days two, three and four, I took the thing out twice each day to clean, mostly because it bugged me. Day four to day five, I kept it in for a full day between cleaning. I'm heading toward a second full day now and plan to try to keep it at that frequency from here on out.

Third thing: Eating

Cold soft food the first day, no problem.

Hot soft food from the second day on, no problem.

If you need to lose weight, well, you're probably going to. I'm kind of digging that part.

The second day, I thought I'd get proactive and try a hot dog. Hey, they're pretty soft. No dice. See the section on "pain" above -- it felt like I was chewing on gravel.

By day four, I was doing pancakes (with plenty of butter and syrup to soften them) and scrambled eggs with only minor difficulties and one or two small flashes of pain.

Yesterday, day five, my son offered me his extra McDonald's cheeseburger and I ate it. It hurt a little, but not badly enough to stop me. It was definitely a weird feeling, but I ground that thing up with the new teeth and I by golly got it down. I wouldn't call the experience pleasant, and I wouldn't want to have watched me doing it, but it was a step in the right direction. That's a success in my book.

It's definitely too soon for a lot of "regular food" -- I figure I'm in for another week of mostly yogurt, soup and mashed potatoes before really trying to dig into "normal" food at all. I'm planning to manage a steak on my birthday, just under three weeks from now, though.

My view: Don't rush it, but don't just lie back and resign yourself to soft food for life or anything like that. At least once a day after the first two or three days, try something that requires at least a little chewing. That way you get used to the process of chewing with false teeth, and you get a feel for how far along you've come and how much closer you are to being able to do justice to a nice fat ribeye.

Fourth thing: My experience versus yours

Everyone's experience will be different. I had eleven teeth extracted at once and replaced with a top denture. You may have more or fewer teeth pulled, and they may be on the top or the bottom. You may be more or less sensitive to pain than I am. So, don't take everything in this article as gospel. BUT! Don't dread the experience too much if you're considering it. Even less than a week into it, I already consider it a major improvement in quality of life. I look better, I feel better, and the challenges ahead seem minimal compared to the prospect of another toothache.

I may update this post as new experiences/observations dictate.

Update, 10/22/09: First "real meal" and not even at seven days yet! Granted, it was just a small order of penne pasta in marinara and some breadsticks at Fazzoli's, but I didn't expect to be able to go to a restaurant, sit down and eat a full course of anything for some time yet. Minor discomfort, but no big problems.

Update, 10/23/09): I thought the denture was fairly comfortable, but today my dentist conducted his post-procedure exam and made some small adjustments. It's 1000% better. The bite had felt slightly off (the teeth came together just a little sooner on the right that on the left); now it's even. There was a slight "catch," and some irritation, at the right rear, which I assumed meant I had just a wee bit more swelling there. Now it's gone. I feel like I could have a go at a steak ... but I know better than to try just yet.

Also -- stand by for gross-out or stop reading now! -- yes, it's perfectly normal for what looks like little pieces of your gums (and that's pretty much what they are -- dying/dead tissue around the extraction sites and stitches) to come out when you rinse. I was a little bit disconcerted by that, and scared that it might not be a good sign, so I asked.

Speaking of which: I don't know if all oral surgeons do it this way, but mine used the "self-dissolving" thread for the stitches. It's supposed to just go away over time. Thing is, if you're using adhesive to hold the denture, it may pull on those stitches when you take the denture out ... so be very gentle unless you want to rip your gums open.

Update, 10/26/09): A fortuitous discovery, which should have been obvious long before I thought of it: At that point where you feel ready to start moving away from traditional "soft foods" (gelatin, pudding, yogurt, soup, etc.), but where your gums may still be a bit sensitive and chewing still a new re-learning experience, head for White Castle (in the midwest and a few other areas) or Krystal (in the south).

If you're familiar with these restaurants, you know why. If you're not, well, their burgers are tiny (making them easier to manipulate at the food-mouth contact point), and they're soft. They're also an acquired taste for many, but I suspect that they're an easily acquired taste for someone who's spent the last 7-10 days on a diet of very limited variety. I already liked them myself, so I'm surprised it took so long for the light bulb to come on in my head.

The possible up side to NY-23

In a previous post, I explained why there's no especially good reason for libertarians (or, especially, partisan Libertarians) to jump on Doug Hoffman's Conservative Party bandwagon in New York's 23rd US House District.

Just because Hoffman's not noticeably more libertarian than his GOP opponent, Dede Scozzafava (and in some ways noticeably less libertarian), though, that doesn't mean we wouldn't benefit from a Hoffman victory, or even a "spoiler" showing. We very well might -- and those benefits might be minor or major.

The "minor benefits" package looks something like this:

To the extent that the race represents a confrontation between the Republican Party's establishment on one hand and its conservative faction on the other, there will be fallout.

If the GOP folds -- plays the "we learned our lesson" card and starts catering to its conservative faction to an even greater degree than it has for the last 30 years (if that's even possible) -- the Libertarian Party stands to pick up some new supporters for whom this is the last straw. The GOP's libertarian faction isn't large, but it's probably larger than the existing LP. Despite its best efforts, the LP hasn't done well at recruiting from that faction ... but a GOP capitulation might change that as "libertarian Republicans" come to the realization that they're once again being ordered to remain quietly seated at the Kids' Table, while the New York temper tantrum has earned the conservatives yet another chair at the Big People's Table. An additional benefit might be that the LP gains third party cred/vote share versus the Constitution Party as CP members decide the GOP really has learned its lesson and return to the Republican fold.

If the GOP decides instead to spank the conservatives and send them to their room without dinner, on the other hand, the "libertarian Republican" faction stands to make some moderate gains within the party. "Libertarian Republican" candidates may get support from the RNC and other party committees in next year's congressional primaries, with petulant conservatives denied that support.

The "major benefits" package is a lot less likely, but while we're dreaming, let's dream:

There's some chance, however, small, that if the GOP stands up to its conservative faction -- spanks it and sends it to its room without dinner, as I put it -- the little bastards will crawl out the window and run away in large numbers. To the Conservative Party in New York, probably; to other conservative third parties (the Constitution Party, Alan Keyes's startup, etc.) elsewhere, or perhaps the Conservative Party itself will go national.

If that happens, the fallout won't all be good. As a matter of fact, it may well be cataclysmic. A substantial split in the GOP -- say, 20% of its support going off to one or more other parties -- means that the US will go, overnight, from de facto one-party state to something an awful lot like a de jure one-party state. Neither a rump GOP nor its defectors, even if unified, are going to be able to pull pluralities or majorities in very many congressional or state legislative districts, and that's assuming (it's never safe to assume) that some "mainstream" Republican pols won't respond to their party's disintegration by crossing the aisle to become Democrats.

If this thing goes all the way, head to head, mainstream GOP versus conservatives, we're looking at the Democrats very likely pulling up into the area of 70-75 seats in the US Senate and 300-350 seats in the US House of Representatives in 2010-2012. That's bad. In the short term, even the occasional gridlock that the two wings of the Uniparty sometimes get into would be much better.


There's an up side, too: If the GOP splits in any substantial way, it becomes a "third party." Still a bigger "third party" than the Libertarian Party, but suddenly the playing field gets a lot more level for Libertarians in our attempts to become "the second party." The whole "Republicans are better than Libertarians because we can win" schtick goes flatter than day-old beer.

Winning that battle would be a long shot; and it's an even longer shot that we'll get the chance to fight it at all. If Hoffman wins next month, the GOP will almost certainly grovel and buy its conservative faction off with flattery and power; if he "spoils," which is the most likely outcome, it's 50/50 whether the GOP grovels or gets out the bullwhip, and either way the case against a split will be more persuasive to conservatives.

But hey, we can dream. The conservatives are pulling out all stops to bring this fight to a head of some kind -- The Other McCain reports that Dick Armey is now stumping for Hoffman. With Newt Gingrich on record in support of Scozzafava, at the very least this thing will probably have an impact on the 2012 GOP presidential field. If Hoffman wins and the GOP holds together, Mike Huckabee benefits; if Hoffman "spoils," Gingrich gets an "I told you so" opportunity. Romney and Palin seem to be staying away from the whole thing and I don't blame them.

Update: Eric Sundwall, former chair of the Libertarian Party of New York, has been good enough to weigh in with occasional comments, especially on New York related stuff. Be sure to check out his blog for more good stuff.

Related Memeorandum topics:

Newt Gingrich on "practical choices"

David Frum on "Republican fratricide"

In the "credit where credit is due" department ...

As regular readers of this blog have long since figured out (and could have predicted), I don't have a lot of nice things to say about President Barack Obama. So, when I do have something nice to say, I'll say it (just like I did with Dubyah). Which brings me to:

The Obama administration on Monday issued new less intrusive guidelines on the use of marijuana for medical purposes in a sharp shift from the policies of George W. Bush’s administration.

The Department of Justice told federal prosecutors in the 14 states that allow marijuana to be used for medical purposes that they should concentrate only on instances where drug dealers were abusing the laws.

Hey, it's a start. Kudos.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A modest proposal for a move to the left

The "Laffer Curve" first came to public prominence back in the heyday of Reaganomics and "supply side" ideas. The concept is simple and, once you think about it, obvious (I say "once you think about it," because even though it's been around since the 14th century, it took Arthur Laffer to get people thinking about it).

What the Laffer Curve tells us is that the "optimal" tax rate t -- the rate which will produce the most revenue for government -- is less than 100%. There's a tipping point in tax rates beyond which people work less and produce less, creating less wealth to tax, than they otherwise would have. This is because they're not keeping as much of what they earn, making the earning of it less attractive. If the tax rate is x%, you get out of bed and go to work even if you have the flu; if the tax rate is x%+1, you take a sick day if you wake up with the sniffles, or maybe you pad your week of paid vacation out with a couple of unpaid days off on either side. The Laffer Curve treats that in the aggregate -- everyone's "tipping point" can be different, but there's still an overall tipping point at which increasing taxes would decrease, rather than increase, government revenues and vice versa.

One problem with the Laffer Curve as illustrated: 100% taxation would probably not produce zero government revenue. Even in the most complete state socialist system -- a system where every dime you earn goes to the government, which doles part of it back out to you in "benefits" -- some people would continue working right up to the minute the system was overthrown.

Anyway, here's the thing: Reaganites and other "conservative" politicians love the Laffer Curve because it allows them to promise tax cuts and maintenance of the welfare state. That's been the mantra since the 1980s: "We can cut taxes and still grow the federal budget -- our revenues will go up, not down, because we're on the right side of the Laffer Curve!" This is a great way to sell tax cuts (and the politicians who promise them) to those who are directly employed by government or who depend on a government check, a government contract, etc. for their livings.


Reducing the size, scope and power of government is a worthwhile end aside from the issue of how heavy the tax burden is. Increased government revenues are a bad thing, because most of what government gets up to is mischief of one sort or another.

More government revenue means more drug warriors prowling the streets and locking people up for possession of unapproved plants.

More government revenue means more education bureaucrats sending more money to more "public" schools to teach our sons and daughters how to not read, not do math, not learn science and not know history.

More government revenue means more "national greatness" idiots sending more troops to far-off places to prove how big America's penis is.

More government revenue means more money coming out of your pockets and flowing into the bank accounts of the various privileged elites who lobby Congress for subsidies, protections and other favors.

More government revenue means more government.

So, when someone tells me that a tax cut will enhance government revenues, my reaction is "the tax cut you're proposing isn't big enough." There may even be a point at which a tax cut which keeps the rate to the right of the Laffer Curve's t is a bad idea because the evils the enhanced government revenue will pay for outweigh the evil of the marginally higher taxes themselves. I don't see that point as calculable, so it's not worth belaboring, but it seems theoretically likely.

Setting aside the possibility of abolishing taxation entirely (a worthy goal!), the least we can do is work to get taxation over to the left side of the Laffer Curve -- to the point where politicians who want to grow government have to try to sell the public on a tax increase to pay for that growth, instead of being able to have it both ways.

How do we know that we're to the left of t? Once again, there's that calculation problem -- this isn't a zero sum game, since tax cuts feed money back into the economy and strengthen it. The best we can do (as long as we insist on keeping government around, anyway) is cut taxes and then cut taxes, and then cut taxes some more, while keeping an eye on government revenues to see when they start going down (and then keeping an eye on them after that, too -- t will probably move downward as lower taxes improve the economy, making more people more prosperous and thus more able to say "screw it, I'm taking the day off -- government would just take x% of what I earned anyway").

My income tax cut proposal (in lieu of repeal of the tax until we can get that) is for a regular, annual increases to the personal exemption. Tying that into a project to get us onto the left side of the Laffer Curve would entail reviewing the results of the increased exemption each year. Did government revenues go up, or did they go down? If they went up, then the exemption needs to be increased even more. If they went down, hey, we're on the left side of t! We're actually cutting government, not just taxes! At that point, some will argue that it's time to stop cutting taxes. But (I say, with a cryptic politician's smile) let's cross that bridge when we come to it.

"Laffer Curve" image from Wikimedia Commons, published by Vanessaezekowitz under the terms of the Gnu Free Documentation License.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mini-review: Acky's XP Breakout

When I reviewed Machines at War, I mentioned that there were incentives involved. Isotope 244, the maker of MAW, was running a contest -- write a review, maybe win a free game. I came, I saw, I reviewed ... I won! Might as well review the free game too, right?

The prize I selected was Acky's XP Breakout, which is exactly what it sounds like: A brick-and-paddle game of the type which has remained popular since the days of the Atari 2600. I love Breakout. Hell, I taught myself to program games in BASIC by writing a version of it for the Commodore VIC 20 back in high school, and even sold a few copies of that game on cassette tape at a local hobby shop.

Acky's is a very nice implementation of the game (at least in its Mac version -- I note that the Windoze version is compatible all the way back to WIN95, which is nice for those with old boxes sitting around). The graphics and audio are both quite well-done, with particle disintegration effects and such to make play a pleasant visual and auditory experience. The game has its standard Breakout physics down pat, i.e. the only bounce surprises will be when you grab the "random ball direction" powerup -- and speaking of powerups, there are 26 kinds (and 80 brick types!).

If you like Breakout-type games -- and I suspect they're right up there with Tetris-type games as an enduringly popular form -- you'll like this one. It's got extra bells and whistles that work, and it's got the fundamentals that make this type of game addictive.

Acky's comes with 150 levels. Free add-on level packs can be downloaded (they come pre-installed in the Mac version). It also includes a built-in level editor so you can make your own. Your Breakout addiction satisfaction possibilities are effectively unlimited.

Recommended! And no, I didn't mention that it was a freebie because the FTC said I had to -- it's just the right thing to do. I'm not a big game buyer, but if I was looking for a Breakout game and had to buy one instead of being so damn cool that people throw games at me, Acky's would definitely be on the short list.

Another advance heads-up

I'll be in Collinsville next weekend, attending the Illinois LP's state convention.

The convention looks like an exciting event, with Pennsylvania's Ken Krawchuk and Sharon Harris of the Advocates for Self-Government among the speakers.

I'm not scheduled to speak at the event, but I'll participate (if that fits the LPIL's format and schedule) in the candidate forum, as I'm seeking the Libertarian Party's 2012 presidential nomination. And I'm always happy to be able to spend time just hanging out and socializing with my fellow Libertarians.

Sorry for the short notice. I've been planning, intending and hoping all year to attend this event, but only bought my convention package a little while ago, because I couldn't be sure that the dental situation wouldn't intervene. Now that that's out of the way, I'm loaded for bear and ready to go!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Advance heads-up

I've been invited to speak at the Free State Project's 2010 Liberty Forum, March 18-21 in Nashua, New Hampshire. I've tentatively accepted/confirmed, and the "tentative" part is entirely a matter of "let me work out the travel logistics," which I'm sure will be manageable.

I'm looking forward to visiting New Hampshire for the first time -- after all, I'm planning to move there someday pursuant to the FSP's plan to libertarianize the place -- and hanging with friends from there and around the country (I hope to also make it down to Keene, which seems to be Ground Zero for freedom, on this trip -- I fancy settling there when I move). Hope you can make it, too! Here's the Liberty Forum page, still featuring 2009 but soon to be updated for the 2010 event. As you can see from the 2009 speaker list, I've got some big shoes to fill.

Libertarianism, conservatism and the number 23

The setup:

New York's 23rd US House District has a special election coming up next month, due to the appointment of US Representative John McHugh as Secretary of the Army.

The Republican nominee for the seat is state legislator Dierdre "Dede" Scozzafava (campaign site here). The Democrats have nominated Plattsburgh attorney Bill Owens (campaign site here).

The 23rd being a Republican-leaning district, that would seem to be that -- Scozzofava in a walk. But it's not quite that simple.

In New York, even in Republican-leaning areas, a Republican running for public office usually needs the nomination or endorsement of a third party -- the Conservative Party -- to assure victory. And the Conservative Party declined to get behind Scozzafava, instead nominating Doug Hoffman, a Lake Placid accountant (campaign site here).

The situation:

Hoffman is polling well, and seems to enjoy substantial support from the "conservative" wing of the Republican Party versus "GOP Establishment" nominee Scozzafava. Whether or not he has the juice to win is debatable, but he almost certainly has the ability to cost Scozzafava the race and turn the seat Democrat.

So ... why should any of this be of interest to a libertarian, especially a partisan Libertarian? Two reasons:

- First, it sets up an interesting argument about whether or not conservatives and libertarians are allies, even within the confines of the GOP.

Conservatives are backing Conservative Party candidate Hoffman versus Republican Party candidate Scozzafava, but as Eric Dondero at Libertarian Republican points out, they weren't willing to back Libertarian Party candidate Bob Smithers versus Republican write-in candidate Shelley Sekula-Gibbs in Texas back in 2006.

To put as fine a point as possible on it, conservatives have proven over and over that they'll pout and turn a seat over to the Democrats rather than back a partisan Libertarian; and that they'll pout, bolt to a third party, and turn a seat over to the Democrats rather than back a partisan Republican who leans libertarian.

Is that how allies treat each other?

- Second, it highlights the tendency of conservatives to piss down libertarians' backs and try to tell us it's raining. At least some conservatives are trying to sell Hoffman as the more libertarian choice versus Scozzafava. One of them, Robert Stacy McCain, even plays the "all together against the deluge" card:

Right now there is a battle being waged in upstate New York that may, to some important extent, determine the future of this nation. ... There is too much important work to be done now for anyone who is a genuine friend of liberty to be engaged in intramural score-settling.

By which he means "support Hoffman."

But who's engaging in "intramural score-settling" here? Conservatives are revolting against the GOP Establishment, but if the race in New York's 23rd district is any indication, that revolt is not liberty-centered.

I wouldn't call Scozzafava a "libertarian Republican," but then again I'm hard put to think of anyone I'd so designate. All indications, however are that she's more libertarian, in significant respects, than Hoffman.

Hoffman's trump card -- played on the entrance page to his campaign site and appearing at the top of his list of issues links -- is that he supports the maintenance of marriage apartheid while Scozzafava voted twice for marriage freedom.

On spending issues, Scozzafava has a legislative record of actually voting against bloated state budgets. Hoffman's weak rejoinder (he has no legislative record to consult) is that he'll go after pork/earmarks ... which constitute an infinitesimal portion of the federal budget.

On taxes, Scozzafava openly favors making the Bush tax cuts permanent, getting rid of the death tax once and for all, and fixing the Alternative Minimum Tax to permanently stop its downward climb on the income ladder. Hoffman has signed a pledge not to increase taxes, but his actual proposals are bromides about flat taxes, etc. ... and he even hedges his no-increase pledge: "Before we even consider raising taxes we must first bring spending under control."

They've both got strong 2nd Amendment statements on their campaign web sites. They differ on abortion (Hoffman pro-life, Scozzafava pro-choice), but so do libertarians, based on our individual assessments of questions of fact (e.g. when personhood inheres, and therefore rights become operant, in an unborn child).

I'm not trying to put Hoffman down here -- he does have redeeming, pro-freedom qualities, including apparently not being a Know-Nothing on immigration ("There is no question that our immigration policies are flawed. The answer, though, is not to put up a wall and stop all immigration. The answer is to create an easier path for immigrants to enter the United States -- and to work here -- while at the same time getting tough on illegal immigrants who commit crimes.") -- but I'm just not seeing how anyone could sell him as The Great White Libertarian Hope to Scozzafava's Evil Socialist RINO, which is what some conservatives are apparently trying to do.

"Small-l libertarians" don't really seem to have an obvious horse in this race. Based on campaign web site statements, I'd rate Scozzafava as slightly preferable to Hoffman, though.

Conservatives want libertarians as allies in their revolts against the GOP Establishment, but they decline to ally themselves with libertarians against that same Establishment when there's a real L/libertarian in the race. The "coalition" they propose runs one way: Libertarians are to support besieged conservatives, but conservatives must never be called upon to reciprocate.

Meh ... I don't friggin' think so. The burden of proof, at this point, is very much on the conservatives to prove they're serious about a "coalition." Being the enemy of my enemy isn't enough, especially when you've proven over and over again that you'll switch sides most ricky-tick when it's my ox, rather than yours, that's being gored.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The new Technorati

I've always found Technorati interesting and useful ... and for as long as I've been using it, I've known people who didn't think it was either. Now here's the Totally New Technorati, and most of the feedback I'm seeing on it is negative.

Personally, I'm taking a cautiously optimistic wait-and-see attitude on the new format. I've generally used Technorati for three things:

- To see "what everyone's talking about." That's Technorati's bread and butter. I'm not sure what they've changed in the way of relevance algorithms and whatnot, but they still seem to have that kind of content well in hand.

- To promote my own content. The "ping" feature for notifying Technorati that I have new material up seems to be missing at the moment, but that doesn't mean it will stay missing. Rolling out a complete site remodel takes awhile.

- To see who's linking to / discussing KN@PPSTER, and how it "ranks" versus other blogs of its type. Their revised "authority" system seems to have at least temporarily advantaged KN@PPSTER -- my "authority" tracks more closely with some more popular blogs I monitor than it did before the change -- but I suspect that there will be a shakedown period over which that changes. The one concern I have is that, for the moment at least, I'm not seeing specific "reaction" data, i.e. a list of blogs linking/responding to KN@PPSTER. I really hope that comes back.

I thought the "old" Technorati was great. Give the "new" Technorati a month to work the kinks out and I expect it will be even better.

Hey, he doesn't look like he's from England any more!


Before on Twitpic

Cue Spongebob Squarepants style fake French narrator's voice: "Eleffen extrakshuns laterrrrr ..."


After on Twitpic

The oral surgeon went right at it. Apart from the wait for the local anesthetic to do its thing, the procedure took maybe 20 minutes. The bleeding's already pretty much tapered off three hours later, but this denture thing will take some getting used to. I'm hopeful that the sensation of having lighter fluid poured in my mouth and set on fire while my gums are being repeatedly stabbed with a fork (even with two VicodinTM in my system and the ongoing application of ice) will not be part of the permanent picture.

Photos taken with my phone by an extremely patient and solicitous spouse.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

There are three ways to get traffic

The first way is to blog about what everyone else is blogging about and hope you can game your way up the search engine results, pick up some link love from everyone else who's blogging about the same thing, or come up with some irresistibly unique spin.

The second way is to blog about something nobody's blogging about and hope that you're tapping an unserved audience (or that everyone else says "hey, I should blog about that too," and links to you in doing so).

The third way is to publish a photo featuring a woman's boobs.

One of these methods is reliable, and in this case it's hard to use that one without using one of the other two. Pretty much everyone is blogging about Meghan McCain's twitpic (and grabbing it wherever they can find it, since it's technically not a twitpic any more, and posting it all over hell's half acre).

Unique spin?

Well, personally I think they're pretty nice, as is the face above them. Not saying I spend a lot of time thinking about Meghan McCain, but I spend more time thinking about Megan McCain now that I've seen that pic. I've even started following her on Twitter, checking her blog, and reading her Daily Beast column.

I suppose I should be clear that I'm not "following" her in any kind of John Hinckley/Jodie Foster way. It's just that she suddenly got a lot more interesting, not because of her boobs per se (well, yeah, I guess her boobs have something to do with it) but because I figure if the only thing her critics have on her is that she has boobs, that she's not Twiggy, and that she doesn't particularly want to be Twiggy, maybe there's some there there that her critics are ignoring and hoping everyone else ignores, too. I'm just sayin' ...

On another spin note, it's worth observing that, unlike at least one of her critics, she doesn't have to invest in and strategically arrange six-packs of Wal-Mart crew socks to fill out her photos.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Olbermann, you ignorant slut

I don't usually watch "Countdown," because I don't usually watch TV much at all. However, every now and again I'll plop down on the bed and waste a few minutes on one of the cable "news" channels, and last night was one of those nights.

Keith Olbermann at his best is a funny guy with a good eye for the right's weak spots.

At his worst ... well ...

OK, so I have to admit that the Beck and RNC bits were pretty okay. But the Malkin thing -- and I say this as an on-the-record critic of her lunatic/paranoid schtick -- man, that's just wrong:

[T]he total mindless, morally bankrupt, knee-jerk, fascistic hatred, without which Michelle Malkin would just be a big mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick on it.

I consider the question of whether Malkin is mindless and knee-jerk (i.e. craaaaazy enough to actually believe 90% of the stuff she says) or morally bankrupt (i.e. making bank by cynically catering to the craaaaaziness) to remain unanswered of this writing, but I think it's probably not both. Either she's craaaaazy or she's a con artist (fascistic hatred can go with either, although it's probably real on one hand and just artifice on the other).

BUT! And there's no getting around this! She's hot.

Not just hot "for a conservative." Let's face it, conservatives think Ann Coulter is hot, too and may even continue to think so once they figure out that she's a stick-figure MAN in a dress, baby.

No, Malkin's just plain hot (and she knows it).

Resolved: If you wouldn't hit that (at least in theory, e.g. you're single and you run into her at the bar one night), you're not a heterosexual male (NTTAWWT).

Apart from that, what Olbermann was down on her about -- what garnered her the "Second Worst Person in the World" award last night -- was that she actually made an attempt to get the real facts about a story from an apparent principal in that story before dishing on the lady. From which we may not unreasonably surmise that Keith Olbermann ranks basic journalistic practices among the Worst Things in the World.

For those who consider this more interesting (as story) than, say, who won the Nobel Peace Prize this year, memeorandum has the roundup.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The obligatory weekly (at minimum) link to The Other McCain ...

... is always more fun when it comes with a bonus opportunity to slam Michelle Malkin.

Why the obligatory link? Rule 2, baby, Rule 2. When I link to him, he links to me. And since he's coming up on three million visitors in his second year of blogging and carries a Google Page Rank of 6, that's a damn good deal. But, as time goes on, I find myself more inclined to pick nits than to either weigh in with "me tooz" or try to start detailed ideological arguments (Stacy's got bigger game to hunt than me; he occasionally offers a substantive reply, which is nice, but I'd rather not wear out that tendency on his part).

What's my beef with Malkin? Well, it irks me that someone with so much potential -- in the 90s, I'd have picked her in a heartbeat as "young libertarian columnist most likely to become a big-name libertarian columnist" -- blew it so badly. The jury's still out on whether she went completely batshit insane after 9/11 or whether she just decided that it was easier to cash in on paranoia and hitch her wagon to the War Party than eke out an honest living in the real world, but that's a distinction of little importance. The only redeeming characteristic of her post-9/11 output is that she mercifully serves up her rotten, wormy political stew as "conservatism" instead of damaging the "libertarian" brand with it.

Anyway, from the obligatory weekly OTM link:

Go read what terrible things were said about Michelle Malkin when she published In Defense of Internment. Malkin took on a very difficult topic, exploring the reality of the U.S. security situation circa 1941-42, explaining circumstances so as to cast a new light on that troubling episode in American history. For her skill in performing a difficult task -- a task she surely knew out that the outset would expose her to angry attacks -- Malkin was denounced as if she were actually endorsing the internship [sic] of Japanese during WWII, or advocating some similar policy today.

There's no "as if" about it. Malkin clearly did endorse the internment of the Issei and Nisei populations. From the introduction of In Defense of Internment:

The central thesis of this book is that the national security measures taken during World War II were justifiable, given what was known and not known at the time.

Is Malkin's endorsement of internment justified? Is her defense of internment successful? My answer to both questions is "no," but those are separate issues and ones which I urge you to reach your own conclusions on, preferably after reading the book, or at least the excerpts available on Google Books (see link above -- I won't stoop to selling this one for an Amazon commission). The relevant question is whether or not she did, in fact, endorse internment. There's no doubt whatsoever that she did.

Nit picked.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Afghanistan: Eight is Enough

Eric Dondero decries the "surrender" of Kamdesh to the Taliban and accuses libertarians of cheering on said "surrender" (and, implicitly, the deaths of eight US troops in a firefight at an exposed outpost there).

Steve Newton responds with some sound military analysis of the situation.

My thoughts:

In terms of both legitimacy and plain common sense, the US attack on Afghanistan in 2001 should have had a very limited objective -- to decapitate al Qaeda by eliminating its leadership and command/control assets in that country. Adding a "nation-building" objective queered the plan from the very start (I've been saying this for oh, about eight years, btw).

The six weeks that the US forces spend mucking around in the lowlands -- defeating the Taliban and installing a puppet regime as a precursor to the "nation-building" exercise -- before addressing Tora Bora gave Osama bin Laden and Co. ample time to pack their trash and depart for Pakistan in an orderly manner, leaving the al Qaeda threat largely intact. While it would be a stretch to blame every subsequent al Qaeda attack (London, Madrid, Turkey, Indonesia) on the US failure to focus on mission, that failure no doubt contributed to al Qaeda's ability to plan and carry out those attacks.

To put a finer point on it, the US failed in its legitimate/common sense objective in Afghanistan right off the bat. This was not due to any deficiency in its armed forces, which achieved their assigned tactical objectives in good order, but rather to a refusal on the part of the National Command Authority, i.e. the president and his advisors, to live in the real world.

The US has now occupied Afghanistan for 8 years, and fully 7 1/2 of those years have been spent dribbling American blood into the ground and throwing American treasure at a failed pursuit of neoconservative fantasy objectives (and a very, very successful pursuit of "transfer money from American taxpayer pockets to 'defense' contractor bank accounts" objectives).

The problem with Afghanistan, from a US military perspective, is that it is not Japan or Germany circa the mid-20th century. It is not a state by any reasonable definition of the word.

Germany and Japan both became modern nation-states by the late 19th century, and by the 20th century the people living in those countries had been broken to the habit of looking to a central capital (Berlin or Tokyo) and to a central government (Reichstag, Diet), to a chief executive (emperor, fuhrer, whatever) as the source of political authority. Capture the capital, take over the government, receive the surrender of the leader, and the people would bow to whatever new regime was imposed.

Afghanistan is not like that. It's not a state. Hell, it's a stretch to call it a country. It's central Asia's political insane asylum, a crazy quilt of tribal and religious alliances and a patchwork of tiny warlord fiefdoms that no neighbor in its right mind would attempt to annex and that no single domestic government can reasonably aspire to rule. At the height of its power, the Taliban had working arrangements with enough of the warlords to pass itself off as a "national government" ... as long as it only acted like one in form and never attempted to do so in substance.*

Prior to the US invasion, the Taliban controlled the government district in Kabul and a few scattered military bases, and the warlords ran the rest. Eight years after the US invasion, the US and the Karzai government control the government district in Kabul and a few scattered military bases, and the warlords run the rest. The only substantial difference is that while the Taliban faced only minor competition for the allegiance of the warlords (the Northern Alliance), the Taliban are serious competitors for those allegiances versus the Karzai regime and the occupation forces.

This is not a problem for which a military solution exists. There's no flag to capture. There's no capital to take. There's no conventional army to defeat. There's no leader who can break his sword over his knee, hand it to General Stanley McChrystal, and bring hostilities to an end. And the addition of four thousand, forty thousand, or four hundred thousand US troops to the mix won't change that. Pissing harder upwind is still pissing upwind. Time to stick it back in our pants and zip up, guys.

Afghanistan today looks pretty much like it did before the US forces arrived -- and that's pretty much the same way it's going to look after the US forces leave. The only relevant question, then, is how many more American lives are going to be lost, and how many more American dollars spent, before we face that reality?

A couple of irrelevant questions from the War Party whine corner:

Q: Shouldn't we fight the Islamo-fascists (sic) over there instead of over here?

A: That's a false dilemma. The Islamo-fascists (sic) who attacked the US on 9/11 were mostly Saudis, not Afghans. Al Qaeda kept its command/control assets in Afghanistan because it could. Now it doesn't, because it can't. After the US leaves, the local warlords, or even a resurgent Taliban, will probably be less likely to willingly host al Qaeda because they won't want the US to come back -- and if al Qaeda moves back in, with or without local cooperation, that can be easily handled with discrete strikes by special operations forces, just like it should have been in 2001.

Q: But won't pulling out of Afghanistan send "the wrong message" to the Islamo-fascists (sic) -- the message that the US is weak and can be militarily defeated?

A: Maybe, maybe not. Actually, I rather doubt it. As best I can tell, al Qaeda considers every additional day that the US spends bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan another day of victory for Islamo-fascism (sic). The US occupiers are their premier recruiters and fundraisers. Every dead kid's brother and every dead mother's son is a potential new recruit. Every warlord who wants the US off his opium-growing operation's ass is a potential donor.

But if withdrawing from Afghanistan does "embolden" al Qaeda, that's not for me to explain and make excuses for -- it's all on you. I'm not the one who cheered on the idea of hanging America's bare posterior over the Afghan cliff for eight years, you are. What? You didn't know that acting on the basis of fairy tale fantasies instead of hard facts of reality might have consequences? Sorry -- too late to undo what's been done. It's not too late, however, for you to extract your cranium from your rectum and start using it. The sooner the better.

* It occurs to me that this description of Afghanistan might inspire comparisons to Somalia and a critique of anarchism. Sounds like a good discussion -- bring it on!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Oh ... that's just stupid

Maybe not quite as stupid as giving it to Yasser Arafat or Henry Kissinger, but pretty friggin' stupid any way you cut it. The guy ran for the presidency on a platform of perpetual war, for the love of God ... and so far that's the only campaign promise he's delivered on.

Hey, I have an idea! Let's posthumously honor Hunter S. Thompson with the Carrie Nation Temperance Prize! I'm sure Pablo Escobar's surviving family would treasure a DARE Lifetime Achievement Award, too.

If Barack Obama possesses so much as a shred of honesty, humility or honor he'll refuse the prize and ask the Nobel committee to give it to someone who deserves it. Cindy Sheehan, perhaps. Or Muntadhar al-Zeidi. Or how about some randomly selected citizen of Switzerland?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The true meaning of homophobia

[Hat tip -- Eric Dondero]

Via Breitbart:

The Paris Foot Gay team says Tuesday it received an e-mail from the Creteil Bebel club canceling a match scheduled for last Sunday.

"Because of the principles of our team, which is a team of devout Muslims, we can't play against you," the e-mail said, according to Paris Foot Gay. The e-mail received Saturday said, "Our convictions are much more important than a simple football match."

Translation: "We don't want to have to face our friends after getting our asses kicked by a squad of queers."

Up Paris Foot Gay!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The revolution will not be tweeted ...

For some reason, I almost never remember to flog my C4SS columns here until a day or two after they're published. Here's my latest. Excerpt:

The Pittsburgh Two weren’t arrested for committing, or facilitating any real "crime." They were arrested because agents of the state fear and loathe any gathering or event they do not control, and any use — or even possession — of tools or technology which might conceivably reduce or frustrate their ability to do ... well, whatever the hell they feel like doing.

That fear and loathing is entirely justified. Every major new technological development threatens the status quo, and the increasing pace of such development over the last few decades makes for a grumpy, embattled state.

The trend has only gained momentum with the introduction of things like networks which don’t depend on single central servers, or which operate easily across the imaginary lines politicians draw on the ground to mark their turf ("borders"), or which are impossible to snuff out by taking down a single node or even a set of nodes.

These newer technologies terrify agents of the state for two reasons.

GMTA: While I was writing that article, Mike Gogulski was recording a C4SS audio commentary that takes a similar tack.

Everything in moderation

I spend a lot of time reading blogs, and comment at quite a few of them. Even when the blogs I'm reading sport "moderation" policies -- comments not appearing until approved, etc. -- I seldom find my comments 86ed. Not even when I get a little frisky, as I did at According to Nikki awhile back (and this post serves as a nice opportunity to flog a link to the young lady's site; huzzah!).

I must be doing something right lately ... I've had two comments zapped in the last week, and at very ideologically dissimilar sites to boot.

The Huffington Post memory-holed a comment on a Roman Polanski rant (comment reproduced and expanded here). I'm mildly surprised by that, but not gobsmacked. "Serious" center-left sites often hew to priggish policies. Under such policies, you're only allowed to dissent if you either first extensively genuflect, or else come off as so rabidly insane that publication of the dissent has the effect of affirming the original columnist's "seriousness" by contrast.

The other comment disappearance, non-appearance, or whatever it should be called, occurred over at The Other McCain's place. That one's a bit unsettling, as Stacy and Smitty usually not only brook reasoned, or at least reasonable, dissent but handle it with aplomb. I didn't think the comment especially controversial. I simply disagreed with Smitty's claim that "Jesus was entirely a-political," and explained why.

The way I see it, there are three possibilities:

First, it's possible that there was an oversight, and accidental "delete comment" click, etc. Hey, it happens.

OrdinationSecondly, since the post dealt with religion and Jesus, and since my views on both are ... decidedly unorthodox ... there's the possibility that my comment was taken as blasphemous. I discount that possiblity. It's not like I called Jesus a rat-bastard sonofabitch or something. I just pointed out that he was very political -- a putative priest-king of the Davidic line, required as a Messiah to kick Roman ass, dethrone the Hasmodeans and (re)-establish the Kingdom of God, punished in the manner reserved for rebels against Rome, etc. Maybe referring to his marriage was the straw that broke the comment camel's back. Lots of people really get hung up on that one. I wonder if it would have made a difference had I signed the comment as a man of the cloth?

The third and most ominous possibility is that I've become persona non grata at the site, possibly for declining to either pretend that Stacy has answered questions he hasn't answered, or else "move on" in response to his Clintonesque "depends on what the meaning of 'is' is" kabuki routine.

That strikes me as the least likely possibility, but I'm bringing it up (instead of just, say, posting another comment and waiting to see what happens) for the same reason that I think so -- see Rule 4.

Unlike, say, Charles Johnson, The Other McCain loves a good argument and, within the limits of propriety, relishes being attacked. It brings in the hits (for him and -- via Rule 2 -- his interlocutor/opponent). Unless I called his mother dirty names or something, I have to think he'd choose to tolerate me rather than make me a blog unperson. There's probably more traffic in it, and I even occasionally hit his tip jar. Hannah Giles bikini photos Google bombs are, after all, ephemeral. A good set-to over possible raaaaacism, on the other hand, is a durable good.