Monday, September 30, 2013

Shut Up, I Explain

The US government "shutdown" hasn't even started yet, and I'm already tired of hearing about it. If they're going to conduct a fake shutdown, they should be required to conduct a simultaneous real shut up.

Fake shutdown? Yes, fake. If you read the fine print, in these "shutdowns" the only things that actually shut down are "non-essential services." When the politicians threaten a "shutdown," what they are threatening is to -- temporarily and for only as long as absolutely necessary, with back pay when things crank up again -- stop acting like this ...

... and if you asked John Boehner and Harry Reid to assess that video, they'd almost certainly agree that the foam cowboy hat and pinwheels are, in fact, "essential."

Friday, September 27, 2013

Frozen Treat

Finally got a diagnosis on the shoulder. While I do have a rotator cuff tear, and while that may be related to the problem (or not), the problem is adhesive capsulitis, aka "frozen shoulder."

The orthopedist doesn't think that surgery is in my future. He gave me an injection of corticosteroid and sent me downstairs to physical therapy, which I'll be doing twice a week for six weeks or so.

Charleen, my therapist, took measurements (the ones I remember are that in one area where I should have a movement range of 90 degrees I have more like 10; in one where 180 degrees is normal I'm at just over 90; and running my hand up my back, there's a difference of about two feet in range between right and left), gave me exercises to do between sessions, etc.

So anyway, making progress. And now that I have something of a handle on what all is wrong, I can get back to exercising without fear of making things worse (before I started falling apart, I had brought my weight down from ~250 pounds to ~215; I'm back up to 228; I want to be at less than 180; at about 165, I'm more or less a hardbody).

As someone who really, really, really hates having to consult physicians, get treatments, etc., I have to say that my experience down here in Florida has just been fantastic. Almost without exception, the medical professionals I've run into have been genuinely friendly and seem to know what they're doing without being arrogant about it.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Doubling Down on the Cloud

Yes, I'm still happy with the Chromebox.

So happy, in fact, that when I started thinking about a new backup/travel rig earlier this year, I quickly settled on a Chromebook. Specifically, this one:

For those of you who aren't familiar with how I acquire my computer equipment, it's often a case of "a client wants something new from me and I'll do it for a new machine" and/or "it's been awhile and negotiating a raise is certainly doable, but why not just ask for a hardware one-off instead?" This time around was sort of a combination of those two things.

It arrived today.

It's sweet.

It just so happens it's the 3G model, with 100Mb of free data per month from Verizon. I've never used 3G before, but it seems like the kind of thing to have around if I should travel -- for checking email and so forth, not for streaming all five seasons of Breaking Bad en route.

It weighs something like 2 1/2 pounds and claims to get 6 1/2 hours out of its battery. I suspect it may get more than that -- while putting it through its paces I played half an album on Grooveshark, streamed the pilot episode of the Battlestar Galactica reboot on Netflix (yes, I'm just now getting around to that) and other intensive stuff and the battery level is still at ~70%.

I know some people don't like/trust the cloud, but I'm very happy in it. I turned the thing on the first time, hooked to a network, logged into my Google account, let Chrome update, rebooted and BAM, all my stuff was there. Bookmarks. Apps. Etc.

Security/privacy? OK, not so much. But as the Snowden revelations continue to roll out I expect we're going to find that's largely the case whether you're in the cloud or not. And I've got other machines and other methods where those things are what I'm concerned about.

N.B. For those considering a Chromebook, I can't stress this enough: Go with Samsung, or maybe HP. I've never had an Acer machine that I was happy with, and several friends of mine say the same thing.

Victory Update #2 (Final)

One of the principles upon which I operate this blog is "thou shalt not erase history." As of this morning, I have good reason for violating that policy. I'll explain why below.

The short version of this thing is: We won.

The long version:

The C4SS and S4SS sites are back up.

The DMCA takedown notice has been formally withdrawn.

We've proven (to ourselves especially!) that we can fight and win a battle of this sort using just "the power of the pen" (we made no resort to the state or its laws).

We've taken steps to make it less likely that we'll have to fight such battles in the future, and to make it more likely that we'll win them quickly and convincingly if we do.

And the man who was initially our tormentor? He appears to not only have surrendered, but to have realized the error of several of his ways (certainly the un-wisdom of trying to suppress speech and maybe a little bit about the attitudes that set the whole incident in motion in the first place as well) and to have reversed himself in a monumental manner.

To wit, he has made a substantial (and that is an understatement) financial donation to C4SS. To the best of my knowledge that donation was not solicited, and it certainly wasn't demanded or made a condition of any kind with reference to C4SS's conduct. It seems to be entirely a gesture of good will on his part. At one point earlier in the situation, he referenced "nearly unlimited funds" for legal action against us. Apparently he wasn't bluffing on that.

Even before I found out about the donation, I had been toying with the idea of working to reduce the negative consequences for him if he did indeed withdraw the DMCA takedown notice, etc. My understanding is that he's a young guy, a student, etc. I was young and impulsive/impetuous myself once. He made some mistakes, but if he's willing to correct them, I'm not hell-bent on making him pay for them for the rest of his life.

And of course I am always grateful to those who support the Center.

So, I'm going to be removing his name from my previous KN@PPSTER posts on this subject. It's a small thing, but will presumably mitigate at least some of the "Streisand Effect" in terms of his name being associated with this incident in search engine results and so forth.

I'm looking forward to getting back to normal operations at C4SS. Thanks to everyone who supported the Center -- morally, financially or otherwise -- through this incident!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Victory Update #1

As I write this, the Center for a Stateless Society's web content has yet to be restored -- we've redirected the domain to a page with an account of the recent DMCA takedown nonsense. Lest this bring about the appearance of stalemate, or even defeat, I'll be issuing "victory updates" via KN@PPSTER as called for ... and this is the first one.

The first thing you need to know is: We are back in control of our data and are moving with deliberation rather than with speed to

  1. Transfer the site to a new host with a reputation for supporting its customers, in a country where the acronym "DMCA" doesn't panic web hosts into squatting, peeing on the floor and doing whatever they're told; and
  2. Set up mirroring, etc. so that we are never, ever, not even for a minute, not in control of our data again.
And now, an update on events and our opposition:

We initially found ourselves arrayed against three opponents: A Belgian Islamaphobe, whom I will no longer name for reasons I'll explain in a moment; an Illinois attorney by the name of JD Obenberger; and Bluehost, the web hosting provider where, until Monday, the C4SS site resided.

The first of those opponents now privately assures us that he unconditionally surrenders, which is why I won't be naming him any more (unless the surrender proves to be a ruse). He initiated the series of events resulting in the takedown of the C4SS site because he feared the consequences of his political statements appearing in a public venue. Our response to the takedown was to ensure that those political statements received an exponentially increasing amount of the attention he didn't want them to get. He got schooled, in other words, on the Streisand Effect. And now he is cutting his losses, and says he'll be instructing his attorney to withdraw the frivolous, meritless, malicious and abusive DMCA takedown notice that resulted in our site outage. Can't say I blame him.

The attorney, in my opinion, is another case entirely. To put it as bluntly as I know how to put it, Mr. Obenberger is a penny-ante barrater who hides behind an alleged commitment to free speech while abusing copyright law to take down a political web site on grounds that he knew damn well were false. This isn't a departure from form for him -- he brags about his methods. He knew that he could send Bluehost a frivolous, meritless, malicious and abusive DMCA takedown notice and get the results he wanted, and that's what he did. To quote Obenberger himself:

If you write the request for a takedown on a leaf of stale cabbage in magic marker, without stating any reason or offering any proof or affidavit pursuant to the DMCA, and transmit it by a casual, friendly courier, who works a garbage truck route running past their office and offers to drop it off for you, most of them will take it down fairly immediately, within hours, because they are more afraid of you and your attorneys than they are of the posters.

He wrote the DMCA takedown notice knowing (hell, admitting in the text of the notice itself) that it was frivolous, meritless, malicious and abusive -- because he knew it would work, and because he got paid to do it. And merely getting the takedown reversed will neither deprive him of the financial gain he enjoyed from filing it nor discourage him from engaging in similar abuses in the future.

I am strongly of the opinion that Obenberger needs to be handled much as Rome dealt with Carthage in the Third Punic War. The Internet community -- not just anarchists, but anyone concerned with free speech and freedom of information -- needs to come together to strip him of his current client base and deprive him of his undeserved credibility in the eyes of prospective future clients. If he's still practicing law a year from now, he should be reduced to begging for cases of the classified-ad-style quickie bankruptcy, divorce or DUI defense variety.

Think it can't be done? It can be done. Remember Righthaven?

I'm of two minds about Bluehost. The farthest I'm willing to go against them right now is a strong negative recommendation.

They shut down a customer of several years' standing in the face of a clearly illegitimate takedown notice.

I understand why they did it ... it's easier to just mass-comply with this stuff than to research each notice.

Well, just because it's easier, that doesn't make it right. While C4SS was reasonably sure that we were on firm fair use ground in the piece at issue, it took about five minutes to research that and confirm it beyond reasonable doubt once we were forced to. It would have taken Bluehost the same five minutes. If several years of hosting payments aren't worth five minutes of research before shutting the customer down, they don't value their customers very much.

Since we're going to be moving anyway, as mentioned above we are going to move in a way that makes us more secure against attacks of the type we just weathered.

That will take some time. Not a long time, but some time.

It will also take some money. Not a lot of money, but some money, apropos of which:

Bitcoin: 129pipr12a5UUZ447bLYjx1paRnCXqG5vi

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Copyright Nazis. Literally.

Note: I have deleted the name of a significant actor from this post. For my reasons why, see here.

As I write this, the Center for a Stateless Society's web site is down, as is the web site of its partner group, Students for a Stateless Society (S4SS), active on numerous campuses around the world. That a web site might go down is not especially interesting ... but WHY these particular sites are down is interesting indeed. We've been shut down by copyright Nazis. Literally.

It all started with some anti-Muslim slurs on the S4SS U Gent's public Facebook page. For whatever reason, some Belgian neo-Nazis, including one [deleted] (who opined that "the Muslims" are the real power behind the European Left and are over-breeding "parasites" -- the same stuff his spiritual forebears would have said 80 years ago about "the Jews") apparently chose to operate under a false anarchist flag, disguising themselves as a legitimate S4SS branch.

Other S4SS branches and the more general S4SS organization, upon seeing these slurs, quickly moved to dissociate themselves from S4SS U Ghent, as did S4SS's parent organization, the Center for a Stateless Society, publishing a brief excerpt of the remarks in their dissociation statements by way of explanation.

If the story had ended there, well, the story would likely REALLY have ended there. Few people -- movement insiders all -- would have noticed the dissociation announcement. Most of those who did notice it would have forgotten it, at least in detail, within a month or so.

But it didn't end there.

A few days later, C4SS and S4SS received a demand from [deleted]: We were to remove his name, and the content of his statements, from our web sites or, he wrote, "I will sue" (emphasis his). This, he claimed, was required because he feared violent retribution from the Muslims he had publicly reviled.

He received a reply that, in retrospect, was probably as rude as the demand.

If he'd been nice about it, we might have considered ways to accommodate his fears.

If he'd been truthful about it -- his REAL fear was almost certainly not Muslim retribution but that Belgian authorities would notice he'd violated that country's "hate speech" laws, which anarchists like C4SS and S4SS have no truck with and would not intentionally subject anyone to the penalties of -- we'd probably have gone out of our way to insulate him from those repercussions.

But he was rude, we were rude back, and that brings it down to the simple fact that no, we have no obligation to protect Mr. [deleted] from the consequences of his actions, or to refrain from explaining ourselves to the rest of our movement because he might find that explanation embarrassing or even frightening.

So, [deleted] escalated: He retained an American lawyer -- one JD Obenberger, whose web site brags that he's "an active member of The First Amendment Lawyer's Association and the Free Speech Coalition" -- to file a frivolous, meritless, malicious and clearly abusive "takedown notice," per the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, with C4SS/S4SS's web host.

Ironically, [deleted] appears to be a PhD candidate working on a project about "cyber-bullying." He seems to have taught himself how to "cyber-bully" pretty well.

But maybe not at a PhD level. It's already backfiring on him, big-time. More people have now taken notice of his Islamophobic statements than ever would have if he'd chalked the whole thing up to "lessons learned," gone about his business, and left us to go about ours. Within the next 24 hours, that number is likely to grow exponentially.

As I write this, our web sites remain down. They won't be down for long, though. In fact, when they go back up they will probably reside on offshore servers run by hosts who don't immediately go into panic mode and cut off their clients when lawyers send them nastygrams.

And when they go back up, Mr. [deleted]'s name and actions will probably figure much more prominently than they did before he pursued "the nuclear option" against us. As storied Confederate cavalry general J.E.B. Stuart once said of an opponent's mis-step, [deleted] "shall regret [what he did] but once, and that continuously."

Until those sites ARE back up, I guess I'll just have to content myself with using email to inform more than 2,500 publications worldwide about what Mr. [deleted] did and said.

We anarchists aren't partial to firebombs the way we used to be. But we still know how to fight fire with fire.

Read this piece in Dutch translation courtesy of Christiaan Elderhorst

Brief Addendum

Yes, the Center for a Stateless Society always appreciates your donations, but at this particular time they are especially helpful, given that we plan on migration to a different web host, setting up some mirrors, etc. to make sure that this can never happen again. And since our usual donation pages are, like the rest of the site, unavailable at the moment, here are some donation options:

Bitcoin: 129pipr12a5UUZ447bLYjx1paRnCXqG5vi

Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, September 23, 2013

You May Have Noticed ...

... that the Center for a Stateless Society's web site is down.

That's due to a frivolous, meritless and malicious DMCA claim by one Oliver Janssens, an Islamophobe who is upset at having his own statements publicly attributed to him.

Hopefully it will be resolved soon.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Look, Ma, I'm Starting Another Newsletter!

The Underpants Gnomes theory of blogging:

  1. Blog
  2. ???
  3. Profit!

Part of the ??? is attracting traffic. And part of attracting traffic is pinging the people who love you by email. Not every day, but occasionally. With maybe a little something in there that they won't find (or at least won't find yet) at the blog. And so, ladies and gentlemen, I give you The KN@PP STiR (yes, this post looks kind of crummy -- it's a second try after I somehow nuked about half of it, and I still don't have the form below looking the way I'd like it to look ... so I'll get it up and update later):

Subscribe to the KN@PP STiR

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Enough with the "Gutting" Demagoguery Already!

Precisely 38 minutes after the first news alert -- "House approves GOP plan to slash food stamp funding" -- hit my inbox, the inevitable follow-up arrived, from Paul Hogarth of Daily Kos (yeah, I'm on a lot of email lists): "Republicans just gutted food stamps."

Well, no, they didn't.

First of all, this was a vote in the Republican-controlled US House of Representatives. Unless the Senate also passes the bill (unlikely) and the president also signs it (almost no chance at all), it will either be changed or there will be one of those little "government shutdown" melodramas in which the government does not, unfortunately, shut down.

Secondly, even if the measure DOES make it through the mill, it's a 5% cut, set to phase in over the course of a decade.

Granted, that's a larger cut than the defense "cuts" the Republicans call "draconian" -- those "cuts" are just tiny reductions in projected future spending increases -- but even a real 5% cut isn't anything close to "gutting."

If you want to argue that food stamps shouldn't be cut, argue that food stamps shouldn't be cut. Opening up with a blatant lie like this "gutting" stuff isn't a good start.

In Celebration ...

... of International Talk Like A Pirate Day 2013. Arrr!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Pull Quote of the Week ...

... comes from Arthur Silber:

In both the personal and the political realms, the pursuit of control means the pursuit of power -- and the pursuit of power means the pursuit of power over other human beings. Those who wish to rule, wish to rule people. You may regard this as a painfully obvious point. Nonetheless, it is astonishing how few people appreciate the awful implications of this simple fact. One of the myths fostered by the State is that human beings -- the same human beings who are all too frequently guided in their personal lives by greed, revenge, jealousy, spite, and a host of other singularly unpleasant and destructive motives -- suddenly become selfless saints when they work on behalf of the State itself, and on behalf of "the people." This myth is critically necessary to the establishment, continuation and expansion of the State. But if you reflect on the matter even briefly, you will see that it cannot possibly be true.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Saddest Part of This Story ...

... is that I have trouble imagining two Americans warming up to an argument about philosophy in the average liquor store checkout line. Per the Associated Press:

A police spokeswoman in Rostov-on Don, Viktoria Safarova, said two men in their 20s were discussing Kant as they stood in line to buy beer at a small store on Sunday. The discussion deteriorated into a fistfight and one participant pulled out a small nonlethal pistol and fired repeatedly. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

I'm not a big fan of Terry Jones, the Quran-burning preacher formerly of Gainesville, Florida. Matter of fact I think he's dumber than a sack of hammers and/or crazy as the mid-summer days are long, and I'm glad that he and his personal promotion circus disguised as a "church" left Gainesville not long after I moved here.

That said, his arrest yesterday, en route to a planned public Quran burning, was transparently political. Matter of fact, let me double down on that: It was totally Stalinist. Its entire and only purpose was to suppress the religious and political speech rights of Terry Jones and his associates.

Everyone in any level of government who was in any way involved in the affair -- including but not limited to the Polk County sheriff's deputies who actually carried out the arrest -- needs to be fired immediately, prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for violations of United States Code, Title 18, Sections 241 ("Conspiracy against rights") and 242 ("Deprivation of rights under color of law"), and sued by Jones et. al. for full recovery of every dime associated with the suppressed political event, plus significant punitive damages (to be paid from their personal finances, not by the taxpayers).

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Three Speech to Text Apps for Chrome

Responding to my concerns about possible upcoming rotator cuff surgery (typing is a big part of how I make my living -- one arm in a sling for three months is a big deal!), several readers suggested that I look into "speech to text" software as a way of making it easier to work without the use of my left arm.

I'm not sure how viable the idea really is, and I won't know until and unless I actually have to go that route, but it did seem worthwhile to find out whether or not good speech to text apps exist for my rig (a Samsung Chromebox), so I hopped on over to the Chrome store and downloaded the top three:

Surprisingly -- to me, anyway, it's been years since I've bothered messing with speech to text -- all of these apps work fairly well at the recognition level (in American English, anyway). I spoke a few old ditties and they transcribed legibly. Yes, unless I was careful, "was sure to go" came out "with shirt to go" or "Wilshire to go," but I suspect that a couple of days of rigorous use would train me to pronounce more carefully.

I didn't find significant differences on the recognition end between the three apps, so I'll have to discriminate on other grounds.

DictaNote is framed as a "note-taking" app, and only allows one "note" to be saved unless the user "goes pro," i.e. pays for the app. That's not expensive -- $9.99 a year -- but all other things being equal, I prefer free. And all other things are not equal.

VoiceNote is also set up for "note-taking" ... and doesn't seem to save at all. You speak, it converts to text, then you cut and paste into whatever other app you're using. The down side here is that it launches as a separate window, rather than as a new tab next to the others you're using (which is how the other two apps launch), making it harder to do that.

Dictation looks to me like the top contender for my purposes. It launches as a tab, and it not only allows export of the content you create as a file, but is specifically able to sync with Dropbox and/or Google Drive ... perfect for cloud-oriented me! It can even be embedded in web pages, to I could create a frameset of, say, KN@PPSTER's post form on the left, Dictation on the right, and go to town in a single tab.

I still hope to avoid surgery. I still anticipate work being a real pain in the ass if I can't avoid surgery. But I'm a little more optimistic that I could at least get something done with one arm in a sling now. And hey, the whole thing was a good excuse to write on of those naturally SEO-friendly "X Things for Y" posts. Yay.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Learn a New Medical Term Every Day ...

"High-grade partial tear."

Per some Googling:

The "high-grade" part means that my left rotator cuff is torn across more than 50% of its width.

The "partial" part means that it isn't torn all the way through its depth.

So the "high-grade" part is the bad news, the "partial" part is the not quite as bad news.

Next stop, orthopedist. Hopefully the next stop after that isn't surgery (which at least one article leads me to believe would entail three months with my arm in a sling and six months to maximum recovery -- that would make typing, etc. a real chore -- and which the testimony of relatives leads me to believe is unlikely to be full recovery).

Feeling Thinner

Among modifiers to the descriptor "libertarian," the distinction between "thin" and "thick" libertarians seems to have made itself a permanent part of the vocabulary.

I consider myself a "thin" libertarian (and hey, my weight dipped below 230 pounds recently, so it could happen!), and lately I've ended up in several protracted discussions on the meaning and import of the thin/thick dichotomy with some of the "thick" libertarians I work with at the Center for a Stateless Society. After those discussions, it feels like a worthwhile task to publicly set down my own views on the subject.

Advance disclaimer: These are my own views, and they're actually not meant to be argumentative per se. I understand that words mean things. I also understand that sometimes a word will mean different things to different people and that that's okay. The "marketplace of ideas" tends to result in some definitions becoming more or less popular and having more or less staying power. So this post is really descriptive of what I think and why I think it, and not intended to say that what someone else thinks is wrong.

I'm not going to write a long essay on thickness itself. Charles Johnson (the real Charles Johnson, aka Rad Geek, not that chartreuse sports object guy) has already done so. Instead, what I'm going to do is describe my version of libertarianism, which is very thin, and then explain how I think "thickness" relates to it.

So, plain and simple, I define libertarianism solely in terms of the non-aggression principle. I've seen that principle stated in various forms and formats, but the version enunciated by protagonist John Galt in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged will do for purposes of this conversation:

Whatever may be open to disagreement, there is one act of evil that may not, the act that no man may commit against others and no man may sanction or forgive. So long as men desire to live together, no man may initiate -- do you hear me? no man may start -- the use of physical force against others.

There are a lot of ways to get to the non-aggression principle (the Wikipedia article above lists six).

There are also reasonable arguments as to how it applies to this or that situation (and the existence of argument and counter-argument on any given application tends to refer to different understandings either of the facts or of underlying definitions/holdings that precede the principle itself).

But when I refer to a "libertarian," I mean someone who either uses the non-aggression principle as the starting point and non-negotiable criterion for analyzing and resolving political (and interpersonal -- see below about that) conflicts and claims (a "pure" or "strict" or "conscientious" libertarian), or someone whose approach to analyzing and resolving such claims tends -- probably asymptotically -- toward non-aggression (someone who, probably viscerally, "leans libertarian" but who for whatever reason is "working the problem backwards").

To me, that's the beginning and end of libertarianism.

But keep in mind, I do not expect libertarianism to answer every question.

The non-aggression principle doesn't tell me whether to prefer vanilla ice cream or pistachio. It doesn't tell me whether homosexuality is just part of the normal range of human behavior or an aberration. It doesn't tell me whether I should take a cosmopolitan attitude toward personal interactions or avoid cocktail parties where I might meet people of other races, religions, etc.

All it tells me is that I don't get to initiate force: I don't get to force you to eat pistachio ice cream, or to buy ice cream for me. I don't get to throw you in jail for being romantically/sexually attracted to the "wrong" sex. I don't get to tell the person throwing the cocktail party that he can't have a mixed guest list of black and white, Protestant or Catholic, etc.

Now, to "thickness."

The first thing I'm going to do is write off "entailment thickness" as not being "thickness" at all. "Entailment thickness" involves opposing the initiation of force even if the entity initiating force is not the state. In my view, "entailment thickness" is just, well, libertarianism. Yes, most libertarians publicly express their support for libertarianism in the realm of politics, but they would also hold that the non-aggression principle prohibits beating your spouse, mugging passersby, etc. As Johnson puts it in the article linked above, "in the end, it is dubious how far thickness in entailment really counts as a form of 'thickness' at all, since at bottom it amounts only to the claim that libertarians really ought to be committed to libertarianism all the time."

The other forms of thickness Johnson describes -- conjunction, application, grounds, strategic and and consequential thickness -- I do not consider to be essential to, or part of the definition of, libertarianism, because they neither follow necessarily from, nor are required by, the non-aggression principle.

Rather I consider such "thicknesses" to be accessories or add-ons to libertarianism. And just like if you are a person, you are a person whether you are wearing a tie-dye, shorts and a beret or a double-breasted suit and homburg, if you are a libertarian you are a libertarian whether or not you adopt any particular "thick" prescriptions at all.

Now, as it happens, I adopt a number of "thick" prescriptions, and those prescriptions happen to mostly match the "thickness" of most of my comrades at C4SS. The difference between us is that they consider their thicknesses to be part of their libertarianism, while I consider my thicknesses to be a collections of things that are compatible with, but do not constitute part of,  my libertarianism.

One reason for that is that "thickness" can go in various directions.

As an example -- which kicked off the latest email round-robin on "thickness" -- check out this essay, copied from Italy's Canada's Ludwig von Mises Institute site (NOT affiliated with the LvMI most Americans are familiar with!) to the author's personal blog.

The essay, whether you agree with its general point or not, is libertarian. That is, it eschews the initiation of force, instead calling for shunning and public disapproval of a behavior. It is a "thick" paleo essay. The author has added his preference for a specific standard of public behavior to his libertarianism. That preference is "conjunction thickness." Johnson again:

[W]e might consider the extent to which there are social or cultural commitments that libertarians ought to adopt because they are worth adopting for their own sakes, independent of libertarian considerations. For example, it may be worthwhile for libertarians to all be kind to their children, because (among other things) being kind to your children is a worthwhile thing to do in its own right. You might call this "thickness in conjunction," since the only relationship it asserts between libertarianism and some other social commitment (here, kindness to children), is that you ought to accept the one (for whatever reason), and also, as it happens, you ought to accept the other (for reasons that are independent of libertarianism).

The author of the piece would prefer, for principled but not specifically libertarian reasons, to live in a society where Miley Cyrus doesn't "twerk" Robin Thicke in public. He thinks that the whole incident was sick and wrong. But since the "twerking" wasn't an initiation of force, he doesn't seek to e.g. put Cyrus in stocks and have a letter branded on her forehead; that would be anti-libertarian. Instead, he recommends that she be "slut-shamed" and "shunned."

There are "thick libertarians" of other stripes who, for principled but not specifically libertarian reasons, oppose "slut-shaming," and probably some who actively approve of Cyrus's performance. Those "thick libertarians" are libertarians because they oppose initiating force against Cyrus, not because they oppose shaming or shunning her, or because they think "twerking" is cool.

I have my own thoughts on Miley Cyrus and "twerking," but don't feel the need to share them. My purpose in bringing up the incident and the blog post is to illustrate that different kinds of "thicknesses" produce radically different opinions ... but that the people expressing such "thicknesses" can all be libertarians.

One analogy I used in the email discussion was to cattle. Libertarians displaying different kinds of "thickness" are not, in my opinion, analogous to different breeds of cattle -- Hereford, Angus, etc. Rather they are analogous to a cow wearing a tricorn hat, a cow wearing a tutu, and so forth. That is, their thicknesses are optional  and variable characteristics which have no bearing at all on the cows' identities as cattle.

Among my interlocutors/debate counterparts on this whole thing are Professor Roderick Long, head of the Molinari Institute/C4SS. I have not reproduced his arguments in this piece for two reasons: First, the post is getting too long, and second, I am not sure I grasp his arguments well enough to reproduce them in a way that doesn't distort them. I hope he'll show up to make those arguments in comments.

So anyway, there you have it -- my post on thin vs. thick libertarianism.

Whose Credibility?

Quoth the resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue:

The international community's credibility is on the line. And America's and Congress'[s] credibility is on the line because we give lip service to the notion that these international norms are important ...

Um, no.

Barack Obama put his own credibility, and no one else's (except perhaps that of his subordinates in the administration who are expected to parrot him) on the line when he started flapping his gums about "red lines" and so forth.

He knew, or should have known, damn well (being a former "constitutional law professor") that the power to declare war is vested in Congress, not the president.

He forged the check. Now he's trying to embarrass the real account holders into not stopping payment on it.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

I'm Shocked -- Shocked!

That GOP House leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor are supporting US president Barack Obama's proposal for US military intervention in Syria.

It's easy to figure out why the usual suspects -- John McCain and Lindsay Graham in the Senate being the two most obvious examples -- are all for it. They've never met a Military-Industrial Complex Welfare Act they didn't like.

But in this matter you can count on even those politicians usually most predisposed to fight against anything Obama wants to assume the position and take one for the team.

The team being Congress, of course.

We're coming up on the 40th anniversary of final passage of the War Powers Resolution, over Richard Nixon's veto.

The executive branch's position on the Resolution is that it's an unconstitutional curb on the president's power.

Congress's position should have been that the president doesn't get to go to war without a congressional declaration of war, as clearly called for in the US Constitution. But Congress doesn't like the Constitution much, either, and wants to be able to go to war without calling it war ... but only if they, not the president, say so. Thus the resolution.

For 40 years now, presidents and congresses have played a recurring game of chicken in which Congress always swerves:

A president wants to go to war. He either asks Congress, knowing they will give him what he wants ... or he just goes ahead and does it, knowing they will retroactively approve (or at least grudgingly fund) his adventure rather than take the political risk of trying to impeach him and remove him from office.

This time, the president is trying to fake Congress out -- pledging to ask permission (because he wouldn't want the Brits to out-democracy the US), while simultaneously having the White House push the line that he really doesn't have to ask permission. Which leaves open the possibility that if they say "no," he'll just do it anyway.

So, the GOP's "leaders" are cutting the VW Microbus's wheel hard toward the shoulder and yelling at the back-benchers to shut up and quit shifting their weight toward the center line. Because if Congress says no and Obama goes all Eric Cartman on them, we've got ourselves a "constitutional crisis."

My prediction -- made elsewhere around the blogosphere and repeated here -- is that if the vote looks like it might not go Obama's way, another "incident" will be drummed up which requires "immediate (before Congress can vote) military response," which will create pressure on fence-sitters to "back the president ... the debate must stop at the water's edge ... after all, we're at war here!"

In fact, I'm more than half way convinced that an attempt to create such an incident occurred this morning when Israel "test-fired" a missile in the eastern Mediterranean. Whatever it was, it wasn't a "test" of a missile. It was either a test of Syria's incoming missile detection capabilities (Syria's Russian allies detected the launch; so far as I can tell the Assad regime itself has been silent on whether or not its own forces did), or it was an attempt to goad Assad into a response that could be used a la  the Gulf of Tonkin non-incident.