Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bradley Manning: What a Just Verdict Would Have Looked Like

These are the components that I've come up with so far, but there may be more. Think of this as a bare minimum. For now. Ultimately, of course, this has to culminate in the dissolution of the US government -- no union with torturers! -- but a nice start would have been:

  • Acquittal on all counts, including dismissal of the counts Manning pled guilty on in a futile effort to give his tormenters an easy way out.
  • An apology from the US government, to include the thanks of a grateful nation for Manning's heroic service and exemplary behavior.
  • Honorable discharge reflecting promotion to the rank Manning would have, all other things being equal, attained by this time, with back pay and full benefits (or cash compensation in lieu of benefits) matching the appropriate promotion dates.
  • Compensation of $1,000 per day for each day of his incarceration, to be paid from the private assets of the members of the chain of command responsible for the malicious prosecution -- all the way to the top.
  • The surrender -- voluntarily or through the disbarment process -- of the law licenses of judge Colonel Denise Lind and all members of the prosecution team, in concert with their courts martial for violation of, among others, Articles 98 and 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
  • Appropriate action on the crimes exposed by Manning's heroic disclosures, including but not limited to courts martial for war crimes and impeachments for crimes by civilian government officials.
Anything less than these bare minimums is an insult not just to Manning, but to America.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Invitation to a Conspiracy

Here's a t-shirt I designed to go with the last few lines of my latest piece at the Center for a Stateless Society:

I'd sell the thing at cost, but apparently Zazzle requires me to take a minimum 5% royalty. Feel free to just make your own or whatever.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Less Well-Known Turning Point

Among those who believe that America still possesses a constitutional system that can be "saved," several alleged turning points (toward the worse) get lots of coverage. The Civil War and the New Deal tend to bookend those turning points, and about midway between come three others: The Federal Reserve system, the 16th Amendment (income tax) and the 17th Amendment (direct popular election of US Senators).

There's a fourth one that I suspect has had at least as much impact, but that we hardly ever hear about: The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921.

That's the law which created a US government budget process in which the executive branch plays a big and mandatory part. Whenever you hear something about "the president's budget request" in the news, well, that's something the president is required to send to Congress under the Act.

Not to say that the executive branch never played a role in federal budgets before the Act, but the Act explicitly knocked over the whole "separation of powers" house of cards by turning the executive branch into part of the legislative branch for budget purposes.

Instead of just executing (or vetoing) the budget and its priorities as passed by Congress, the president is now not just permitted, but required, to tell Congress what he thinks it should spend money on and how much. And naturally Congress tends to use the president's budget request at least as a starting point in its own deliberations.

Bad idea, and the source of all kinds of really silly drama. When you see one of those arguments between the White House and Capitol Hill, presented as "constitutional crisis," over whether spending on electric dog polisher research and development should be increased by 4.37% or 4.49%, it's the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 at work. If only one branch was proposing numbers, there'd be nothing to argue about except on larger issues with far greater disparities of vision.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Well, Isn't That Nice?

US Attorney General Eric Holder has assured the Russian government that if it kidnaps Edward Snowden for them, and returns him to the US to be caged and persecuted for revealing the US government's crimes, they'll refrain from murdering him.

I dunno. Even if it was reasonable to believe a word that comes out of Holder's mouth -- and it isn't -- that just doesn't seem like much of a concession.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

And it's Lindsey Graham, Coming Up the Inside!

I really thought Mark Karlin had "dumbest utterance of the week" nailed down pretty hard, but never, ever, ever discount the prospects of the senior US Senator from South Carolina in a damnfoolishness contest.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Oh, So NOW the White House Wants an "Informed, Open [and] Deliberative Process"

For years, the US government secretly and illegally spied on its own citizens, and claimed in court that nobody could sue it for doing so because such a suit might reveal precisely how it secretly and illegally spied on its own citizens.

Then, Edward Snowden.

And after that, Justin Amash (R-MI) and John Conyers (D-MI).

So now, per White House flack Jay Carney:

This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open or deliberative process .... We urge the House to reject the Amash amendment, and instead move forward with an approach that appropriately takes into account the need for a reasoned review of what tools can best secure the nation.

In other news, New Jersey's Arlend Hyseni will appeal his conviction on two counts of armed robbery, arguing against the justice system's blunt approach and suggesting the we should all instead move forward with an approach that appropriately takes into account his desire for lots and lots of cash.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"The Dumbest Thing You Will Read Today"

According to Jesse Walker, in an email to a discussion group. Personally, I think it's way ahead of the pack for dumbest thing you'll read this week. Don't say I didn't warn you, and be sure not to have any liquids in your mouth that would hurt if you expelled them through your nose. Here ya go.

"Playing False With History"

Here's the best take I've found on the whole Jack Hunter / "neo-Confederate" controversy. OK, so it's not intentionally about that. It's actually a 15 -year-old quote from the preface to Henry Mayer's All On Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery -- a fine book that I'm working my way through right now and highly recommend:

The sentimental strain in our culture has turned our thinking about the Civil War into a pageant of heroism and a threnody of grief that separates the sacrifice from the cause. It allows us to regard the conflict as a tragedy of flag without acknowledging that it was equally a tragedy of race in which Northerners died to preserve a political system that had failed to solve the gravest moral issue in our history and Southerners shed their blood in a desperate counterrevolution to ensure that it never would. Even today there are people who believe they can fly the Confederate flag as a tribute to gallantry untainted by the white supremacy for which it stood. They are deceiving themselves and playing false with history.

Personally, I can actually buy the "youthful indiscretion" claim, for the simple reason that most of us who were born and/or raised in the south got plenty of regional, historical and ancestral pride shoved our way. And that kind of thing is more likely to be held onto, even if only loosely, than discarded.

But at some point you're likely to be confronted with the facts. And the fact is that even if Lincoln was the worst president in US history -- and I do think he's in the running for that title -- the Confederacy was still a wicked project, based on the claim that millions of people could and should by "right" be held captive and treated as property.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Not Exactly a Review

The Power of Habeas Corpus in America: From the King's Prerogative to the War on Terror
by Anthony Gregory

Independent Institute / Cambridge University Press, 2013

I first encountered Anthony Gregory's work back at the beginning of the decade, on -- if I recall correctly -- LewRockwell.Com. At the time I considered him the most promising young libertarian writer around, and I've seen nothing in the intervening years to change that evaluation. He writes well, he keeps it interesting and his arguments are morally compelling and thorough in their logic. That's true of his short pieces to this very day, and it's true of his first book.

The main reason this is not really a review is that I'm not an expert on the topic of habeas corpus. Or at least I wasn't before I read the book. I can't tell you that he got everything right, although the heavy footnoting leads me to believe he was thorough in his research.

All I can say with any authority is that I found The Power of Habeas Corpus in America fascinating, that I enjoyed reading it, and that I believe I know a lot more about the topic -- the history, importance and accelerating erosion of authority of the Great Writ -- now than I did before I cracked it open.

And for more than a decade of the fine work I've enjoyed, I owe it to Anthony to say that much, anyway. Do read the book. It's an important topic and Gregory makes reading about it worth your time.

Update: The Chicken Chronicles

Well, we had nine chickens -- five hens just hitting laying age, four chicks that are about to hit three months old. Now we have seven -- four hens, three chicks.

My daily routine is to go out and scatter feed for them each morning right after I pour my first cup of coffee (which I drink outside under our gazebo/canopy). On Sunday morning, I knew as soon as I stepped out the door that something was wrong. There were feathers scattered all over the enclosure.

The feathers were from one of the hens that was still there, our Buff Orpington. She had a gash on her breast as well, and for a couple of days she was shy and skittish, but now she's pretty much back to her old self.

Our Brown Leghorn and one of the chicks were missing (and still are, presumed dead).

This was not totally unexpected. Our neighbors two doors down have lost most of their chickens in the seven months they've lived here. I had hoped that the enclosure I built, which has smaller openings in the fencing, etc. would prevent it, but it didn't. Presumably the (as yet unidentified, but we suspect a fox) predator managed to lift up a portion of the PVC frame and get in under it.

Response: The enclosure was about 30 feet from the house. Now it's right next to the house, with the PVC anchored in more places, landscaping timbers placed around the exposed portions of the base and some scary Halloween statuary I got for a couple of bucks at a yard sale (a gargoyle and a flashing-LED-eye bust of some kind of devil or Greek sex fiend god or something -- horns and leer, you know the kind) at the corners, and with a back porch light left on nearby overnights. No more incidents. Yet.

Two of the hens are laying -- the White Leghorn pretty reliably an egg each day for a couple of weeks now, the Blue Andalusian not quite as often and only the last few days. We've had some omelets. They're great. I've been saving eggs for several days, and tonight or this weekend, I'm going to try my hand at a bacon and spinach quiche. Once the other two hens' ovaries come online, we should be looking at at least a dozen-and-a-half eggs per week.

Liam has more eggs in the incubator, but I think we're going to give the hatchlings to our aforementioned neighbors.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Good Times

Even before we got to Florida, libertarian and musician Chris Maden invited me out for some Irish music and a beer. Unfortunately, things kept coming up, and it wasn't until last night that Tamara and I were able to take him up on the invite -- the last opportunity, as it turns out, since he's moving to Illinois later this week.

The venue was Satchel's Pizza, and I can already tell that it's going to be one of our favorite eating spots. I only had a single slice but was favorably impressed with their style of pie (it reminds me of Shakespeare's in Columbia, Missouri or McSalty's in Springfield, Missouri). Nice selection of beers as well. Tamara had a Kaliber, the Guiness Brewery's non-alcoholic offering. I went with (and enjoyed) the IPA they had on draft, an apparently quite popular Florida beer called Jai Alai.

So anyway, Wednesday nights at Satchel's there's a sort of "open Irish music jam." A bunch of the musicians who usually play were out of town for some kind of festival, but Chris was there playing concertina with three other talented musicians -- a fiddler, a flautist and a mandolin player who also had a guitar and drum on hand. Sorry to not be able to relay their names -- I'm bad with that kind of stuff. The mandolin player had to leave pretty early. But the music was wonderful.

OK, so it was wonderful right up to the minute they let me come up and ... vocalize ... my way through "Foggy Dew." I may have cleared the room there. Here's what it was supposed to sound like:

The Foggy Dew by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem on Grooveshark

Anyway, good times and I wish I'd been able to hook up with Chris earlier. Best of luck to him and his wife in Urbana!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

State of Florida vs. George Zimmerman

Not Guilty.

As with the OJ Simpson trial 18 years ago -- and a number of other cases come to mind as well -- the legal process "worked" as advertised. That is, a jury unanimously agreed that the state had failed to prove its case and that the defense had raised reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the accused.

As an anarchist, I'm not a fan of the state or its legal system, but six semi-randomly-selected people unanimously agreeing on anything of substance or importance, especially contra the political establishment's claims (as delivered by the prosecution), is a pretty strict test.

At this point, I think the important thing is to not let the "identity politics" con artists (of any persuasion; you'll recognize them by their crowing or their wailing and gnashing of teeth) make bank of any kind on this thing.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Some Updated Op-Ed Musings

It's been more than ten years since I self-published Writing the Libertarian Op-Ed, and I'd like to think I've learned a few things since then -- especially in the three years I've worked as media coordinator at the Center for a Stateless Society, which is coming up on 800 published op-eds. We had a fairly miserable June on the media front (not enough content and only five media "pickups"), so I looked at how we've been doing things, worked up a memo on what I think we need to do differently, and figure that since we're not the only libertarian op-ed authors, the insights might be valuable to others as well. So, three things:

  1. The "sweet spot" for op-ed length seems to be around 400-500 words. Some papers, but not very many, will publish pieces up to 800 or even 1,000 words. My scientific wild-ass guess is that for every 100 words over 400, you lose maybe 10% of possible publication venues. If you're at less than 400 words, you're probably in "letter to the editor" rather than "op-ed" territory. If you are writing for a specific venue, rather than for mass submission, then naturally you should look at that venue's guidelines. Heck, go the extra mile and read some of their recently published pieces to find the un-mentioned guidelines.
  2. The news hook for an op-ed should be an issue or event the mainstream media has covered in the last seven days -- or, if you can confidently predict such things, something the mainstream media will cover in the next seven days. And yes, your op-ed does need a news hook. There's a reason they are called newspapers.
  3. I've been told that the average newspaper reader reads at 6th grade level. I don't know that that's necessarily true. It may be that the average op-ed page reader is somewhat more literate. But let's not get crazy here. You have to write stuff that can be read and understood. 12th-grade reading level, tops. Here's the tool I use to measure that variable.
Hope this helps.