Saturday, November 28, 2009

Went to a garden tea party ...

I dropped in on the St. Louis Tea Party event today at Kiener Plaza in St. Louis. Typical sub-par cell phone photo with special glare augmentation A crowd photo by Julie Stone:

My guesstimate -- and I'm not great at these things, so I could be way off -- is 1,000-1,500 people attending the event. Far fewer than the Tax Day Tea Party in April, but still a helluva turnout for a political event, especially on a holiday weekend.

I was joined by Libertarian congressional candidates (both announced for 1st District, so we'll be having a contested primary!) Robb Cunningham and Julie Stone. We passed out a stack of Missouri Libertarian Party newspapers. Here's a photo of Julie handing one of the papers to a guy:

The bad news:

In St. Louis, at least, the organizational end of the Tea Party movement (founded by Illinois Libertarian Party activists) has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Republican Party. Local Tea Party coordinator Bill Hennessy has stated his case for "taking over the GOP" instead of going third party, and his suggested tactics for getting the rogue Tea Partiers back into Republican lockstep.

Several of the speakers regurgitated the same talking point (quoted from memory): "It's not about Republican or Democrat, it's about conservative or liberal." Of course, by "conservative" they meant "Republicans and a few pet Democrats who can be counted on to vote for the most expensive and damaging big-government program, foreign military adventurism."

All of the introduced/touted candidates were Republicans, all of the targeted public officials were Democrats. The issues talking points were 100% conservative/Republican red meat (ObamaCare, Cap-and-Trade, the evil unions). Obviously those issues get some overlap with the sentiments of libertarians, constitutionalists and other pro-freedom folks, but absent was anything that didn't pass the Rush Limbaugh "dittohead" orgasm test.

Even though the St. Louis County Libertarians contributed $100 for the event (to help with the rental of "port-a-potties" -- and we took the liberty of posting a sponsorship flier on one), we received zero mention from the stage during the two hours that I was there. Nor did any other third party or independent candidate.

In format and agenda, it was 100% a Republican Party event.

The "leadership" and the "membership" are two different things, of course. We got a reasonably warm greeting for our literature, and several people made it a point to photograph, or come up to discuss (always positively), my sign: "Voting Republican for smaller government is like f--king for virginity."

I suspect that the Tea Party movement is done as a force for liberty. That's certainly the case to the extent that its "leaders" succeed in duping supporters of smaller government into voting Republican next year. My impression, though, is that most of the Tea Partiers fall into one of two groups: Those who were already Republicans and who just might have caught on a bit through their exposure to the LP, Campaign For Liberty, etc., and those who were already third party and don't plan to allow themselves to be co-opted.

So, a lot of sadly blown potential, but probably not too much damage done, and perhaps even a little bit of good accomplished. Requiescat in pace for something that might have been an amazing breakthrough if the damn Republicans hadn't tied it down, slit its throat and sucked the blood out of it.

More photos at Facebook, courtesy of Julie Stone.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Holiday gift recommendations -- book and film

... because I get a sales commission, of course!


The Wilson and Stephenson offerings are relatively new (this year). The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, of course, is a classic that anyone who doesn't own, should.


None of these are new, but all of them are essential.

Others is a fantastic multi-volume history of third party politics in America. All the detail, and all the narrative zest, of Shelby Foote's The Civil War.

Radicals for Capitalism is the most extensive and readable current book-length history of the libertarian movement. It's also the only one, but it would be good even if there were others.

An Enemy of the State is a great read, even for non-Rothbardians. Don't miss it.

Burnham's The Managerial Revolution will make it easier to understand what I'm always carrying on about.


Get your Philip K. Dick on.

More later.

Meet me in St. Louis!

For the Thanksgiving weekend Tea Party. Saturday, November 28th, noon-3 at Kiener Plaza.

I'll be meeting with other Libertarians on the steps of the Old Courthouse, just east of the plaza, some time between 11 and 11:30am. Or just look for my sign:

My Tea Party sign on Twitpic

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Headline hall of shame note

Failed Rescue Leads To Death Of Spelunker Trapped In Utah Cave

Well, no ... it wasn't the "failed rescue" that led to his death. It was the fact that he went into the cave in the first place.

Accidents happen.

When accidents happen, they can be fatal.

Accidents are lot more likely to happen to -- and to kill -- inexperienced spelunkers traversing tight non-horizontal spaces far underground.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to blame the victim here. I don't think that there's any need to blame anyone. ACCIDENTS HAPPEN and they don't have to be someone's "fault."


If we're going to blame someone, let's not blame the rescuers who spent 27 hours -- quite likely at significant risk to themselves in that same environment -- trying to get the guy out of a situation he got himself into, okay?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wow ...

I'd heard a little bit of buzzing about last weekend's opening Saturday Night Live sketch, but hadn't seen it. Now I have, courtesy of Physics Geek.

Two things:

First, all the GOP pissing and moaning notwithstanding, I don't think SNL has ever been as rough on Sarah Palin as they get on Barack Obama here.

Secondly, after 30-odd years on network television, SNL can reasonably be considered part of the "mainstream media." So, let it be said that even the MSM is now openly mocking the idea that the US "national debt" can be paid.

Boston uncommon

A friend of mine used to tell a long, complicated joke about a pony who wanted to be a racehorse. The damn story went on for about 20 minutes and always seemed to be headed toward resolution. Then it suddenly terminated with a puppy advising the pony on how to become a racehorse and the pony doing a double-take and exclaiming "oh my -- a talking dog!"

Anyway, I guess you had to be there, but lately that line -- or a vision of the devil ice-skating or a herd of pigs flying overhead on approach to Lambert Field -- comes to mind whenever I notice one of today's self-styled "conservatives" actually making a lick of sense. They've come so unhinged in the Age of Obama that it's an increasingly rare and noteworthy occurrence.

And that which is noteworthy should be, um, noted, right? Here's the Boston Globe's token conservative, Jeff Jacoby, making at least a little sense on immigration [hat tip -- Steve Trinward]:

You're a sensible, principled conservative. You want America to be a land of boundless opportunity and freedom, where people are treated as individuals and judged on their merits. You reject the divisive identity politics of the left -- what matters most about any of us, you would insist, is not race or class or ethnic origins: it is personal character and achievement. There are few things about contemporary politics you deplore more than the demonizing or scapegoating of entire groups ("white males," "the rich," "the Christian right," "gun owners"), as though every member of the group is interchangeable and indistinguishable, wholly defined by a single disparaging label.

But let someone mention "illegal immigrants," and your principles fly out the window.

Here's the whole thing.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Letter of appreciation

Apropos of this:

Dear Representative Calloway,

On behalf of the Libertarian voters of Normandy Township, we offer our thanks and appreciation for your outspoken defense of, and active support for, the residents and taxpayers of the Northeast Fire Protection District.

If the "leaders" of Northeast have distinguished themselves in any way, it is as de facto poster children for abuse, corruption and arrogance in the name of public service. Although we are empowered to speak only for Normandy Township's Libertarians, we believe that the vast majority of your constituents will rightly consider themselves well-served by your efforts to restore accountability and integrity to a governmental entity clearly in urgent need of both.

Best regards,
Thomas L. Knapp -- Committeman
Tamara A. Millay -- Committeewoman
Normandy Township Libertarian Party

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Showed Me

Just got back from spending the day at the Show-Me Institute's Missouri Blogosphere Event.

Dana Loesch Naked? on TwitpicNo, I didn't actually see Dana Loesch Naked there, but that seems like some pretty good SEO territory to stake out. So I am.

A very well-done event with lots of highly competent panelists covering various blogging-related issues, both philosophical and technical. I'm embarrassed to admit that this is the first time I've made it out to a Show-Me presentation, despite persistent invitations from Eric Dixon. It won't be the last. I learned quite a bit and plan to put that new knowledge to good use in the near future.

Motorhome Diaries peeps are in the house! Jason Talley & Pete Eyre on TwitpicHigh point (and the deciding factor in whether or not I'd make it out for this thing): A visit from the Motorhome Diaries crew. I know Jason Talley (on the left) from the old Free-Market.Net/Henry Hazlitt Foundation days, when I was managing editor of FMN and he was launching Bureaucrash under the HHF's auspices, but hadn't met him before. He ended up roping me into sitting for a video interview a la MHD when he should have been working his way through a bucket of beer instead. Don't know how it came out (I'm sure we'll see), but hey, it was a chance to show off the new trademark tie.

Adam Mueller of Motorhome Diaries at the #showme blogosphere ... on TwitpicI hadn't met Pete Eyre (on the right in the photo above) or Adam Mueller (solo in photo to the right), either, but naturally wanted to after following the MHD saga. Also, I wanted to get Pete alone, kill him and stuff his body in a dumpster out behind the Sheraton, thus removing an important obstruction on the path to Allison Gibbs' affections. Apparently he'd been tipped off. He stuck to well-lit areas and hinted several times that anyone who screwed with him could expect a visit from his close friends at the Jones County, Mississippi sheriff's department.

Observation: If Jake Wagman decides to change career tracks from journalism to acting, he's a sure thing when they cast for the role of Harry Dean Stanton in a biopic.

Yes, the cell phone photos suck. Sorry about that. I'm going to have to invest in better equipment.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

War Party tries to draw to an inside straight

Now that my desktop machine is a Mac, I've discovered the joys of online poker. Those of you who play will recognize the phenomenon I'm about to describe.

Every time I sit down for a "no limit" game, there's at least one nimrod at the table who goes "all in" (i.e. bets every dime he has) on every hand of cards, until he's eliminated. It's easy and tempting to do this at the site I play on (PokerStars.Net), because the money is "play money" and the player can draw up to $1000 of it up to three times in any one-hour period. Sometimes one of these idiots will run up a pretty good take before another player draws a really good hand and takes him down hard.

This is about as closely analogous as it's possible to get to the War Party's policy methodology. Their approach is to take a really bad position, back it to the hilt, occasionally get their way because their bluff isn't called, and then whine for more political capital when their prescription turns out -- as it always does -- to be horribly, destructively stupid.

The latest War Party cause celebre is opposition to trying Khalid Sheik Mohammad, alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, in a regular court of law.

Yes, doing so is problematic, mostly because prior neoconservative genius moves have polluted the case against KSM. Instead of either treating him as a prisoner of war and according him the protections due him under the Geneva Convention on that topic, or charging him and trying him for his crimes and according him the protections due him under the US Constitution and the UN Convention Against Torture, the War Party -- acting through the Bush administration -- worked at every turn to make it impossible to bring him to justice under any reasonable standard of any type of law. Their idea of "rule of law" is something along the lines of Sharia combined with Russian Roulette.

They went all-in in defense of conducting multiple wars without getting the constitutionally required declarations of war.

They went all-in in defense of unconstitutionally suppressing habeas corpus and promoting "indefinite detention" without charge or trial.

They went all-in in defense of the use of extra-legal "military tribunals" instead of real courts.

They went all-in in defense of using torture, in secret "black" foreign prisons, to extract information from abductees.

They kept bluffing, and they kept laying down garbage whenever their bluffs were called -- at which point they'd demand that the house provide them another stake, hoping that if they could just sit in for a few more hands they'd draw four of a kind or at least a straight flush.

Now, when it comes to the subject of justice versus KSM, they're whining that their stake should be replenished so that they can go all in again.

They're the ones who declined to go to Congress for a legal basis -- a declaration of war -- for treating KSM as an enemy combatant, legal or illegal.

They're the ones who stuck KSM in a secret prison and waterboarded him nearly 200 times, making criminals of themselves and making any confessional evidence so obtained inadmissible in the courts of any civilized nation.

They're the ones who dicked around for six years trying to find a way to get around the law -- effectively sticking their fingers in their ears and screaming "DON'T WANNA DON'T HAFTA LA LA LA LA LA SCREW THE CONSTITUTION!" at the tops of their lungs -- instead of delivering him for a speedy public trial.

They're the ones whose approach reduced the US government's legal options with respect to KSM to precisely two:

- Try him in US District Court and attempt to get a conviction even though most of the evidence will likely not be legally admissible and much of the admissible evidence will likely be stuff that the prosecution won't want to introduce because it's "classified information," i.e. incriminating of KSM's abductors rather than of KSM himself; or

- Let him go.

My suggestion is that those who favor real justice and the American way accommodate the War Party's demand for a re-stake and then go all-in ourselves. Their hand, as usual, is garbage. They're sitting on 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 off-suit. Give them some chips, then take those chips away on the showdown.

Hopefully, KSM can be convicted of his crimes and sentenced to life in ADX Florence. That would be at least Queens full of sevens.

No, no death penalty -- that's what he wants. That would just make him a martyr and encourage other Islamists to follow his example. Stick him in a cell and occasionally release camera stills of him sitting on his steel toilet. Make his fate as dull and unglamorous as possible. Executing him would at best be two pair.

And if he's acquitted? Unlikely in the extreme, but even that's a split pot, as if we drew the same hand as the War Party's. Yes, he goes free and that's a bad thing (although I won't be surprised if he runs into a drone or a car bomb or something shortly after), but it's the nimrod neocons who stacked the deck for that hand, and they're the ones who'll rightfully get the blame.

Re-raise, all-in, call ... and this time when they lose, kick them out of their seat and give it to someone familiar with concepts like "check" and "fold."

Sunday, November 08, 2009

What do we know about Nidal Malik Hasan?

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we do not know we don’t know. -- Donald Rumsfeld

Q: Is he a jihadist or just a nutcase?
A: Why can't it be both?

To those who want to treat the two as mutually exclusive ... no can do.

The guy is a devout Muslim who screamed "Allahu Akbar" as he gunned people down. Unless you think he drew the phrase out of a hat, it's reasonable to conclude that, whatever other or additional reasons he might have had for doing what he did, one of those reasons was that he considered it (or, if he wasn't flying completely solo, was told to announce it as) an act of jihad.

That doesn't mean that he couldn't also be batshit insane, or in some other way a "broken person," though.

For one thing, the whole martyrdom thing tends to attract the mentally unstable from the get-go.

For another, jihadist groups in the Middle East and Central Asia have been known to press "developmentally disabled" -- to grab a politically correct term -- individuals into service as suicide bombers.

They've also been known to grab poor kids and promise to provide for their impoverished families if the kids are willing to make the big sacrifice. With 72 virgins on tap on the back side of things for the kid as well, of course.

If I had to bet, I'd bet it's gone the other way, too ("nice family you got there ... be a shame if anything happened to them. Hey, let's get your measurements -- I'm going to have a very special vest tailor made for you").

Q: Did he act alone, or was he part of a conspiracy?
A: We don't know.

He was certainly part of a "bigger picture." He obviously didn't originate the idea of jihad or suicide attack himself.

He may have had co-conspirators. If so, we don't know whether they wussed out on this attack, or whether there's a plan in motion which includes followup attacks.

He may have had a handler or handlers telling him what to do and when, where and how to do it.

In a way, conspiracy and/or subjection to a chain of command would actually be comforting. They imply the necessity of interactions which put an enterprise like Hasan's at risk of exposure by informants, communications intercepts, etc. The lone actor who makes his own plan, works on his own timetable and consults / takes orders from no one is -- if he's smart, anyway -- less likely to be discovered in advance of his attack.

What's exceedingly unlikely is that he was some kind of long-term "sleeper agent." Bloviations from the crazy corner ("He is a devout Muslim who joined the army with a purpose. ... Al Qaeda directed Muslims to infiltrate the military for these very attacks") aside, the guy served 8 years as an enlisted man, then went to med school and got a commission ... and until recently was not only stationed in the DC area but attending events with political and "Homeland Security" VIPs. Yeah, I'm sure he was told "wait ... wait ... we've kept you in place for 15-20 years because we want something more low-profile, like gunning down some enlisted types at a base in Texas."

Q: Is he dead or alive?
A: We don't know.

He was initially reported as killed -- shot four times by base police Sgt. Kimberley Munley -- at the scene of the Fort Hood attack. That report quickly changed to "he's alive." Now he's allegedly in ICU at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

Why would the authoritahs say he's alive if he's dead? Why would they say where he is if he's alive?

Simple: If he had any co-conspirators, they're probably more likely to out themselves -- make a run for the border or the airport, or even try to get to him and either rescue him or finish him off, for example -- if they think he's alive. If he's dead, he can't talk; they can lay low and hope they aren't discovered, or proceed with whatever nefarious plans they have in the reasonable hope that those plans remain unknown. If he's alive, maybe he can talk ... maybe he will talk ... maybe he's already talked ... and nervous people panic and do stupid things.

Q:Could Hasan's attack have been prevented or mitigated?
A: Oh, yeah.

How's this for the height of insanity?

Lt. Gen. Cone added that soldiers are not armed on the base: "As a matter of practice, we do not carry weapons — this is our home.”

Last time I checked, the body count was at 13, with dozens of non-fatal (yet) casualties. The guy apparently fired more than 100 rounds from two handguns, at TROOPS in the middle of a MILITARY BASE ... and nobody had the tools to fight back until the police arrived. Pardon my French, but that's just fucking stupid.

And it wasn't like Hasan hadn't skylined himself long before the attack. Preaching fundamentalist Islam instead of talking medicine during grand rounds at Walter Reed, for example. Retaining a lawyer to get him out of the military for another. And, apparently (no verification yet that this is actually him), favorably comparing suicide bombers with people who throw themselves on grenades to save others, etc. ("If one suicide bomber can kill 100 enemy soldiers because they were caught off guard that would be considered a strategic victory").

Even if the guy hadn't been trying to get out of the military, he should have been shown the door quite some time ago.

Q: So all the Bushevik yahoos who love to crow about "no terrorist attacks on American soil since 9/11" -- forgetting the anthrax attacks, the LAX attack, etc., etc., etc. -- are either going to shut up or blame it all on Obama now, right?
A: Presumably so (and about a 99.9% chance that it will be the latter). But they were idiots then and they're idiots now, because ...

This was not a terrorist attack.

Terrorism subsists in violence against civilians for the purpose of influencing political opinion through terror.

This was an attack on US military personnel at a US military base.

In point of fact, it was arguably at least as legitimate as, and probably less "terroristic" than, any given US drone attack undertaken in Pakistan or Afghanistan without due diligence as to whether or not there are civilians in the targeted area.

That doesn't make it any less horrific, of course ... but let's not just go making shit up in order to turn it into something other than what it is.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Someone else remembers ...

... that Michelle Malkin was, once upon a time, the up-and-coming American libertarian editorialist. Back in the late 90s -- right up until 9/11, as a matter of fact -- I awaited her columns eagerly and routinely popped them into Free-Market.Net's database for linking in Freedom News Daily.

Over and over again, I find myself coming back to the question of what brought about her transformation (at damn near light speed) into the bedwetting collectivist termagant demagogue she is today. Did 9/11 trigger a full-on mental collapse? Or did she just cynically (and correctly) calculate that there was more money to be made whoring out as a Bushevik propagandist than telling the truth?

Crying shame either way, and I guess it's six of one and half a dozen of the other, but I'd really like to know.


It's impossible to be unhappy while playing the banjo or listening to Weezer. "Raditude" is out! Unfortunately, I didn't think about posting this until the sale was over. Yesterday, it went for $3.99 as an MP3 download (with no funky DRM BS) at Amazon. Now it's back up to $8.99 ... and well worth it (click here or on the cover pic to send a commission my way).

Other options, available via the band's official site, include an iTunes edition with buttloads of extra stuff or CD editions with bonus Snuggies.

Yes, Snuggies. Here's Weezer performing "I'm Your Daddy" on Letterman, wearing the things. If this vid gets yanked, I'll find something to replace it with.

Addenda: You may notice that Weezer, usually a four-piece, seems to have sprouted a new member. That's Josh Freese, late of Devo, Nine Inch Nails and Guns'n'Roses, on drums. Regular Weezer stickman Pat Wilson has moved up front to guitar, at least on tour, the logic being that this will give Rivers Cuomo more body freedom on stage.

Also, one of the stage extras in the video is wearing a "Ted Williams" label. Hadn't thought about Ted Williams in a long time. When he retired, he ranked 3rd, behind Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx, in career home runs ... despite taking two mid-career leaves from baseball to serve as a Navy fighter pilot in World War II and Korea. To this day, he holds the highest career batting average in the "live-ball" era. They don't make'em like they used to.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A study in contrast


October 9th, 2009:

Sarah Palin stands ready to stump for the Republican gubernatorial candidates running in the two most closely watched campaigns in the country this fall, but neither seems to want her help. ... "The governor offered her assistance with both races," said Palin adviser Meg Stapleton. "The ball is in their court." Neither GOP campaign wanted to discuss why they didn’t want Palin in the state ...

November 4th, 2009:

Republicans swept governors' races in New Jersey and Virginia on Tuesday, giving the GOP bragging rights by winning two key states that Barack Obama carried a year ago. ... The easy victory by Bob McDonnell in swing-state Virginia and the closer win by Chris Christie in Democratic-leaning New Jersey were a tonic for Republicans after stinging setbacks in 2008 and 2006.


October 22nd, 2009:

Former Alaska GOP Gov. Sarah Palin on Thursday endorsed Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman over Dede Scozzafava, the Republican Party's choice, in the special election for New York’s 23rd congressional district.

November 4th, 2009:

Democrat ends 150-year Republican reign with victory over Conservative: The second special election in the Tri-Lakes area in less than a year has produced the first Democrat to represent a vast swath of northern New York since before the Civil War.

And that furious scribbling sound you hear in the background? That's just Democrats writing checks ... to SarahPAC.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The terrorists have won

Per the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners ...

(Vote for ) 1
YES . . . . . . . . . . . . 89,405 65.39
NO. . . . . . . . . . . . . 47,313 34.61

Over to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ...

The vote means that smoke-free legislation approved by St. Louis aldermen — which was contingent on a similar proposal passing in the county — will also become law.

And back to the Election Board ...

(Vote for ) 1
YES . . . . . . . . . . . . 4,628 65.24
NO. . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,466 34.76

Just this one time, I find myself moved to quote George W. Bush: "We'll smoke'em out."

[Note: This post has been edited -- something I don't usually do except for fixing spelling errors, issuing clearly marked updateds, etc. one. It originally appeared with photos of 9/11 carnage next to each bullet point. The sentiment is correct (like al Qaeda, the supporters of smoking bans are backward superstitionists who impose their medieval moral preferences on others through terror and violence), but ... just too over the top - KN@PPSTER]

Scozzafava explains

In the Syracuse Post-Standard ...

The biggest sting, [Republican congressional candidate Dierdre Scozzafava] said, came Thursday when former Gov. George Pataki showed up in the district to campaign for [Conservative Party nominee Doug] Hoffman. Pataki had not told Scozzafava, who had organized rallies for his re-election campaigns, that he switched.

“I thought he was a Republican,” she said.

Some people (ahem) -- including, weirdly, Larry friggin' Kudlow -- don't seem to be able to get it through their thick skulls that Doug Hoffman is not the Republican candidate for Congress in New York's 23rd district. Dierdre Scozzafava is.

Or, rather, was. She dropped out. Contra Hoffman's supporters, he didn't magically become the Republican candidate when she did so, and that won't change no matter how loudly Hoffman's NERIN (Not Even Republicans In Name) supporters stomp their feet and yell "RINO" (Republican In Name Only) in Scozzafava's direction.

Jebus ... why do I have to explain simple stuff like this?

In which I burst a bubble

I've been meaning to take up Kent McManigal's challenge ("convince me I am wrong") for some time, but something always seems to come up. Until now. So here we are.

First, Kent's proposition:

I believe we each carry with us a "me-shaped bubble" of our own personal property. That personal property bubble remains intact no matter where we are. It consists of your body, your clothing, and the space between the two. No one can claim ownership of me and eliminate my property by posting a sign. Property rights don't overlap, and no one, under any circumstance, can trump your right to your own body, and that includes what is inside your clothing, as long as it doesn't make an appearance or "leak" out (like radiation or viruses).

I am not going to, nor should I, ask every property owner if I am allowed to enter his property "whole" when the property is open to the public or if I get an invitation. Do I also need to ask if my private thoughts are acceptable? My underwear? My brand of deodorant? Not one of those things is any less dangerous to someone who is not attacking the innocent than is my gun. It is a dangerous precedent to single out guns as the only thing that we need to declare to everyone, everywhere we go, every time we step out our front door.

Second, Kent's proposition, stripped of its straw content:

I believe we each carry with us a "me-shaped bubble" of our own personal property. That personal property bubble remains intact no matter where we are. It consists of your body, your clothing, and the space between the two. No one can claim ownership of me and eliminate my property by posting a sign. Property rights don't overlap, and no one, under any circumstance, can trump your right to your own body, and that includes what is inside your clothing, as long as it doesn't make an appearance or "leak" out (like radiation or viruses).

I am not going to, nor should I, ask every property owner if I am allowed to enter his property "whole" when the property is open to the public or if I get an invitation. Do I also need to ask if my private thoughts are acceptable? My underwear? My brand of deodorant? Not one of those things is any less dangerous to someone who is not attacking the innocent than is my gun. It is a dangerous precedent to single out guns as the only thing that we need to declare to everyone, everywhere we go, every time we step out our front door.

All of the straw material is right, or at least interesting in its implications ... it's just not applicable. I've never heard anyone make the arguments that Kent's trying to refute. Since I'm not making them, I see no need to refute his refutations.

Here's the simple argument versus "the bubble." Yes, for what it's worth, you possess that "ownership bubble" -- and if you want to bring it onto my property, there are precisely two ways to do so: Under conditions acceptable to me, or as a trespasser.

Or, as I put it to Ken Holder many moons ago, and as dramatized in the final panel on page 33 of the graphic novel edition of L. Neil Smith's The Probability Broach:

If I own a store, and I inform you that you may only enter the store naked and riding a pogo stick, then you're free to either strip down and mount up, or to not enter the store. Entering the store clothed and on foot is a violation of my property rights. By definition, if you are clothed and on foot, you are someone to whom I have denied permission to enter my store.

It's my property you're wanting to bring your bubble onto, remember? I set the conditions for use of my property -- if I can't, then it's hardly honest to pretend that it's my property, is it?

If you don't like the conditions I've set, you're free to not meet them ... and to not come onto my property. There's no violation of rights involved -- coming onto my property isn't something you're entitled to do by right, nor is it something I'm forcing you to do.

In general, it's reasonable to assume that a condition must be clearly stated in order to be a condition. If I don't say "no guns on my property," or post a sign to that effect at the property line, there's no question of you being forced to "declare to [me]" in advance that you're armed, any more than you have to tell me that you took communion at St. Agnes last week because it just might be that I only want Roman Catholics on my property, even though I haven't mentioned it or put up a "no dogs or Baptists" sign at the front gate.

Now, all of this is entirely separate from some other important questions, such as the question of trust. In my opinion, if you don't trust me to be on your property armed, you don't, or at least shouldn't, trust me to be on your property at all. Nor, I think, would I trust you very much if you imposed such a condition. On that much, I suspect that Kent and I are very much in agreement. But this distrust violates no one's rights -- nobody's being force or required to do anything, and the issue of trust is one everyone can and should take into account when making their decisions as to what to do.

An argument in favor of voting

In St. Louis County, Missouri today, voters will give the yea or nay to "Proposition N" --

Shall the Revised Ordinances of St. Louis County be amended by enacting and adding thereto a prohibition of smoking in enclosed public places in St. Louis County, all as set forth in Exhibit A of Ordinance No. 24,105 on file with the St. Louis County Administrative Director and the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners?

The whole six pages of the abomination are available in PDF format here. Bottom line: Proposition N would ban smoking in bars, restaurants, etc., with an exclusion for casinos. If it passes in the county, that trips an automatic, similar ban in the city (the Independent City of St. Louis is actually its own county in terms of political administrivia).

I schlepped down to the polling place and voted against it this morning.

Some of my fellow anarchists, voluntaryists, etc. inveigh against voting at all, and offer various arguments against doing so. To each their own, but here's my view:

- The vote is taking place whether I want it to take place or not.

- The bill, if passed, will be enforced at gunpoint whether I like it or not.

- Casting a vote against the bill is no more "sanctioning the legitimacy of the process" than shooting a burglar is "sanctioning the legitimacy of burglary." I can let the burglar take my stuff, or I can try to do something about it. Yes, I can also go out with the intent to educate the world on the evils of burglary, but that activity is not, for the most part, mutually exclusive with defending my home.

- I say "for the most part," because it's true that I cannot simultaneously be at a podium 50 miles from my home lecturing on burglary and sitting in my recliner with the 12-gauge at hand. Similarly, I cannot simultaneously be in the voting booth casting a "no" ballot on Proposition N and at a rally across town urging people to spit on their hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.


If I'm sitting in the chair with the 12-gauge at hand, it's probably 4 in the morning. If I'm in the voting booth casting a "no" ballot on Proposition N, it's probably 8am at the latest (I usually get to the polling place about the time it opens; today I ran a little later). Not a lot of lectures to give at 4am. Not a lot of rallies to attend before 8am. That 15 minutes I spent (including travel time) on voting didn't interfere with my proselytization activities ... and even if it did, the interference was minimal. If I spend an average 15 minutes a year voting "no" on bad bills for the next 50 years, it will come to a grand total of 12.5 hours. I spend more time than that on extraneous activities in any given week.

- Sure, it's true that my single vote is exceedingly unlikely to be the one that decides the outcome of the election. It's also exceedingly unlikely that the 15 minutes I spend casting it will be the 15 minutes during which I would otherwise have recruited/persuaded "the final anarchist," the living straw whose recruitment breaks the state's back.

So no, I don't feel guilty for voting this morning. If Proposition N goes down, I will have played a small part in taking it down. If it passes, I'll be able to honestly tell myself that I did my bit to fight it. In neither case will I consider myself guilty of any kind of deviationism from my anarchist principles.

Three reasons to think well of Radley Balko

I've had a case of red-ass with Radley Balko for awhile, due to his shameful smear (a word I seldom use and often mock the use of, but the only word that's applicable here) of Mary Ruwart.

But hey, I can move on.

Reason One: Got some link love from Radley today. The way to a blogger's heart is through his SiteMeter stats.

Reason Two: I won't try to position Balko in support of Nevada Libertarian Jim Duensing, who was shot by police a few days ago. I'm sure if he has anything to say on the matter, he'll say it himself. Whatever his analysis of this situation, though, he deserves big credit for his exposès on the militarization of American law enforcement and the various fuckups, lies and outright abuses stemming from that phenomenon (at Cato, at Reason, etc.).

I suspect that a lot of people who've gone from "believe the police, always" to "I'm not sure I should trust what these guys are saying -- cops are known to mess up, or just plain do wrong, and then lie about it" have Balko to thank for the epiphany, whether directly or indirectly (his scholarship seems to be seeping into the "mainstream discourse").

Reason Three: He's got a grip on the LP's Wayne Allyn Root problem.

I do wish the dude would get right on Ruwart, though.


The TwitterPeek is a dedicated "tweeting" device. That's all it does -- Twitter, nothing else. It's available in two versions, one that comes with lifetime service for $199.95, the other for $100 less with six months of service, after which you pay $7.95 a month.

I don't like it enough to shell out that kind of money myself, mind you, but I do like it enough to put both versions on my Amazon Wish List and hope someone really, really loves me, or at least wants to see more tweets from me.

This device will probably really only catch on with two kinds of people: Those who "live on" Twitter as a matter of personal lifestyle preference, and those who would like to tweet more from out and about (at, say, political events) for micro-blogging or other journalistic purposes, but who want it to be easy.

I'm in the latter category. I have a cheap (prepaid) cell phone w/camera. 90% of the time if I use it, I'm using it to tweet ... and I'd probably do that a lot more if I had something with a real alpha-numeric keyboard on it instead of having to thumb through three- and four-letter combos on a phone pad. Just sayin' ...

Monday, November 02, 2009

Book Review: The Conscience of a Libertarian

A few months ago, I stated that I wouldn't be reviewing Wayne Allyn Root's The Conscience of a Libertarian: Empowering the Citizen Revolution with God, Guns, Gambling & Tax Cuts unless someone wanted to purchase a copy for me. That, I thought, should settle that ... who'd buy a book just to have me review it? But Jeremy Young decided he wanted to see the review, and shortly a fresh, new copy of the thing arrived in the mail.

I could say that I've been taking my time reading it, but that would be a lie -- I finished my first read within a couple of days, then spent a week or so going back over it in pieces. The simple fact of the matter is that I've been putting off reviewing it, because there's little I like less than slagging a book. My agreements with authors whom I've asked for review copies have generally been along the lines of "if I don't have something nice to say about it, I'll say nothing at all."

But, a deal is a deal. Jeremy sent the book, and I owe him a review.

The Conscience of a Libertarian is a particular kind of book -- a "campaign book." I'm not going to slag it for not being a philosophical or ideological treatise. It's not supposed to be one. Its purpose is to promote its author as a presidential candidate, not to prove that some particular number of Ayn Rands can dance on the head of a pin. It's a given that the ideas in the book will be presented in the most simple, accessible language possible, and that's fine.

So, I'm going to critique it as a campaign book, not as anything else, and I'll give you the short version up-front: It's bad. Really bad.

As for the long version, there are three main problems with the book.

First, to put it as bluntly as possible, there's just no way to turn Wayne Allyn Root into a credible candidate for public office. Not in 370 pages, not in 3,700 pages. The usual arc of a politician's career is that he starts off as an idealistic type with strong values and laudable goals; over time he becomes cynical and manipulative and corrupt. Root's career is running in the opposite direction ... maybe. He started off as a cynical manipulator, making his money by suckering gullible sports bettors with an infomercial/boiler-room telemarketing operation selling "picks," and is now seemingly in a state of metamorphosis that's frankly just not very believable.

When he launched his first campaign (for the Libertarian Party's 2008 presidential nomination), Root sold himself as Mr. "Millionaire Republican," a business mogul, a tycoon. That claim quickly lost credibility as his company circled the drain, in default on debt far in excess of its market cap and with its own auditor reporting to the SEC that it was unlikely that the firm could continue to operate.

So, he shed the "mogul" rhetoric and started calling himself a "small businessman" ... without belaboring precisely what his "small business" was. Summary of his business strategy, given to the New York Times magazine: "I want high rollers who can afford to lose. ... I think zero about why things are. I just accept what they are and find a way to take advantage of them." The Libertarian Party appears to be his latest "high roller" mark.

In The Conscience of a Libertarian, you'll look in vain for anything resembling a detailed description of what Wayne Allyn Root actually does for a living these days (he appears to be flogging a couple of multi-level marketing schemes while continuing the sports handicapping hustle).

He continues to represent himself as a "small businessman" on nearly every page ... but that self-characterization just doesn't come off as honest or believable, and if he ever gains any traction as a presidential candidate, it won't hold up under scrutiny. When most people think of "small businessmen," they think of the guy who owns an auto repair shop or runs a lawn service or operates a family farm, not the guy hectoring them to join Amway® or put $20 down on the table for a hand of Three-Card Monte. And when he claims to be "the only small businessman on a modern presidential ticket," it just gets silly. Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer. Barry Goldwater was a department store owner. Harry Truman was a haberdasher.

Secondly, Root seems fixated on a weird concept: The "citizen politician." He never really defines the term, but it seems to be self-defined primarily by contrast with its opposite: Those who make long-term careers of politics aren't "citizen politicians." Wayne Root, however, is one.

Strange claim coming from a guy who's been running for office since 2007 and has already announced plans to continue doing so through 2020, after which he presumably expects to spend eight years in office.

This "citizen politician's" idols?

Barry Goldwater, who served five terms -- 30 years -- in the US Senate, taking four years off after his first two terms to run for president.

Ronald Reagan, who served two terms as Governor of California, then spent five years and two campaigns seeking the presidency, in which he served for eight years.

Ron Paul, now serving his 10th (non-consecutive) term in the US House of Representatives, who's also run for US Senate once and President twice.

"Citizen politician" seems to be a convenient label for a non-existent phenomenon. Root attempts to position the "Founding Fathers" in support of the concept, but most of them started in politics long before the Revolution, and practiced it at least intermittently until their life-end retirements after. George Washington spent 17 years in Virginia's House of Burgesses prior to the Revolution. Thomas Jefferson was only 26 when he secured election to that same body, from which he ascended through the Continental Congress to the state legislature to the governorship of Virginia to the US Congress to the ambassadorship to France, to the positions of Secretary of State, Vice-President and President over the course of 30 years. Sure, they had business interests outside of politics ... does Root think that Barney Frank doesn't?

Both of these first two problems are failures of Root to sell himself, which any candidate of course must do. He's just not believable as "small businessman" or as "citizen politician" (whatever that may be). Not in the book, and especially not when he goes into Ronco®-infomercial-like seizures on television.

The third problem is with the ideas.

Like I said, I didn't expect a philosophical treatise or some weighty intellectual argument for a Randian or Rothbardian approach to politics. That's not what a campaign book is for.

But the ideas need to hold up under scrutiny, and many of Root's don't.

He advocates a "flat tax" ... with two rates.

He promises to bring back the practice of "impoundment" on page 162 (apparently he hasn't noticed that he can't, under the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974); then on page 209 he admits that "corrupt big-government big-spending politicians" probably won't let that happen.

As an alternative to "impoundment," he proposes a "simple" alternative plan ... so "simple" that it requires 14 separate planks that take up 17 pages, most of which would require the cooperation of the same politicians he already admits won't stand for impoundment, and at least one of which appears to have crept in from an alternate universe in which the word "earmark" means something completely different from what it means in this one.

On the "idea" level, most of the stuff in The Conscience of a Libertarian that isn't reality-challenged or just plain weird is 15-year-old cheesecake -- well past its "sell by" date -- with its "Contract With America" label covered over by a "WAR 2012" sticker. Its obvious target is conservative Republicans who are open to the possibility of defecting to the Libertarian Party for the right candidate. That's not a majority, or even a plurality, of the voters ... and pandering to that tiny sliver of the electorate with such zeal is not only unlikely to be successful, it's likely to alienate the vast bulk of other types of voters who will necessarily constitute any future Libertarian plurality. And, of course, Root isn't that right candidate in any case.

To give credit where credit is due, Root does make what seems like a sincere plea to his conservative audience for "tolerance" of same-sex marriage, gambling, marijuana, etc., on the reasonable suggestion that in order to get the freedom they want, they have to respect the freedom of others ... but then, just as it looks like he's speaking truth to social conservative power, he turns right around and punts social issues to "states rights" doctrine instead of coming out full-bore for freedom.

Note: I somehow inadvertently omitted the following two paragraphs from the initial posting of this review. I apologize for the omission, and have restored them. Thanks to Thane Eichenauer for the catch!

He's also evolved in a big way on foreign policy issues since 2007, from supporting the US war on Iraq, to proclaiming it "the wrong war" and war on Iran "the right war," to, in The Conscience of a Libertarian, a fairly solid non-interventionist position. He denounces "nation-building" in the form of military interventions in the affairs of other countries, and calls for folding up the US "defense umbrella" now covering (at the expense of American taxpayers, naturally) western Europe and the Pacific Rim and letting them figure out how to keep themselves dry. He also zeroes in on fact that "defense" spending is all too often just an excuse for moving money from taxpayer pockets into the bank accounts of politically connected contractors.

Unfortunately, Root's evolution on foreign policy is more or less balanced out by his attempts to straddle the fence on immigration. He dances gracelessly back and forth between appeasing the conservative movement's Know-Nothing faction on the one hand -- he calls for using those troops we bring home from overseas to "secure the borders," and misdiagnoses the economic impact of "illegal immigration" (for example, he claims Social Security is being "overwhelmed" by illegal immigrants, when in fact they subsidize it with the payroll taxes they pay under fake names while never collecting the benefits) -- and trying to come off as mildly "pro-immigration" on the other hand by suggesting either "allowing" people to settle in the US if they buy $250k homes or lifting immigration quotas for industries and occupations that can "prove" labor "shortages." It's a hot mess.

The best that can be said for The Conscience of a Libertarian is that, like most campaign books, it will hopefully be long forgotten three years after its initial publication. It's a god-awful waste of paper -- there's really no other way to put it -- and I'd hate to see any Libertarian presidential candidate, even the one who wrote it, stuck having to defend it in the fall of 2012.

Election predictions

I try to go on record with this stuff whenever possible -- not because I have a stellar record or anything (although, as I never tire of pointing out, I predicted McCain as the GOP's 2008 nominee in June of 2007, when everyone else was publicly wondering when he'd shut his campaign down), but because I hate having to argue about what I predicted. I'd rather be wrong, and have it there in black and white, than be right and have trouble proving it. So:

Virginia: This is the easy one. McDonnell rolls right over Deeds for governor.

New Jersey: A little harder, but I think incumbent Democrat Corzine will pull it out versus Republican Christie and independent Daggett for governor. The polls I'm seeing have Corzine and Christie within the margin of error, and Democratic Party's New Jersey vote fraud machine presumably remains as well-oiled as the GOP's Ohio knock-off.

New York's 23rd US House District: Well, this one's the $64,000 question, isn't it? I predict victory for Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman, but I won't be terribly surprised if I'm wrong.

Local, near and dear to heart issue: Voters in St. Louis County, Missouri, vote on a countywide smoking ban in bars and restaurants tomorrow. Apparently if it passes in the county, that triggers an equivalent ban in the city of St. Louis (which for political districting purposes is actually also a county). I predict that it will fail.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

NY-23: Buy the ticket, take the ride

Brief synopsis:

President Barack Obama appoints US Representative John McHugh (R-NY) to serve as Secretary of the Army, bringing on a special election in New York's 23rd district.

State legislator Dierdre Scozzafava and accountant Doug Hoffman seek the Republican Party's nomination. Scozzafava wins; Hoffman pouts, runs on the Conservative Party line. The GOP's "conservative" faction pouts, and defects, with him.

Hoffman's campaign quickly picks up enough steam to "spoil" a Republican victory, and looks set to just possibly actually win the seat for him. Scozzafava drops out of the race ... and endorses Democratic candidate Bill Owens.

And why not? Owens certainly isn't a Republican ... but he's not pretending to be one. Which makes him about 1000% more honest than Doug Hoffman, who called himself a Republican for exactly as long as it was convenient to his ambitions to do so, then jumped the GOP ship as soon as his ambitions and the Republican Party's ambitions dipped below 100% correlation.

In the alternative universe inhabited by Robert Stacy McCain, serving as a Republican state legislator and receiving the Republican Party's nomination for Congress makes one a "Republican in Name Only," while putting a torpedo into the GOP's chances of retaining a US House seat makes one a "real Republican."

This hallucination interpretation of reality makes sense to McCain because he conflates the Republican Party (a party of big government from its very beginning, the party which originated "progressivism" -- the party, in other words, of Dede Scozzafava) with a populist splinter school of "conservatism" that's been effectively homeless since it left the party of its upbringing (the Democratic Party) in the last half of the 20th century.

To everyone living in the real world, on the other hand, it only makes sense that the establishment Republican candidate would, having been forced out of the race, endorse the other establishment party's candidate, not the candidate who destroyed her candidacy and broke her party's hold on the district.

As always, the good news remains that there is no good news for the Republican Party in all this. If Hoffman wins, the GOP is on the Peckerwood Populist leash for the next few years and loses, loses, loses. If Owens wins, the GOP loses a seat and goes to war with itself and loses, loses, loses. Either way, third parties in general gain. Gotta love it.