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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Uh Oh.

Uh Oh. The layout is f****d. I'll fix it soon. Cross my heart.

I just found this tasty bit in my inbox in the latest Reason Express. It's their Quote of the Week.

"We are not the speech police. The FEC does not tell private citizens what they can or cannot say, on the Internet, or elsewhere" - Federal Election Commissioner and amateur comedian Ellen Weintraub on new FEC regulations.



Monday, March 28, 2005

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Stated as articulately as it is true.

You show me a polluter and I’ll show you a subsidy. I’ll show you a fat cat using political clout to escape the discipline of the free market and load his production costs onto the backs of the public.

The fact is, free-market capitalism is the best thing that could happen to our environment, our economy, our country. Simply put, true free-market capitalism, in which businesses pay all the costs of bringing their products to market, is the most efficient and democratic way of distributing the goods of the land – and the surest way to eliminate pollution. Free markets, when allowed to function, properly value raw materials and encourage producers to eliminate waste – pollution – by reducing, reusing, and recycling.

In a real-market economy, when you make yourself rich, you enrich your community.

The truth is, I don’t even think of myself as an environmentalist anymore. I consider myself a free-marketeer.

Corporate capitalists don’t want free markets, they want dependable profits, and their surest route is to crush the competition by controlling the government.

Let’s not forget that we taxpayers give away $65 billion every year in subsidies to big oil, and more than $35 billion a year in subsidies to western welfare cowboys. Those subsidies helped create the billionaires who financed the right-wing revolution on Capitol Hill and put George W. Bush in the White House.

--Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Props: The Mutualist Blog, Libertarian Critter

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

No Posts

I'm sorry there haven't been posts here in a while. I'm going through something big right now, and I'm not quite myself lately.

Tim West's new blog is up, I'm going to take Tim's advice, get rid of the snooty tooty name for this blog and rename it simply Spenwah!, as soon as I'm back on my feet.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Fever Dream

Some days her shape in the doorway
Will speak to me
A bird's wing on the window

Sometimes I'll hear when she's sleeping
Her fever dream
A language on her face

I want your flowers
Like babies want God's love
Or maybe as sure as tomorrow will come

Some days like rain on the doorstep
She'll cover me
In grace in all she offers

Sometimes I'd like just to ask her
What honest words
She can't afford to say

Like I want your flowers
Like babies want God's love
Or maybe as sure as tomorrow will come

--Samuel Beam

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Read the Bills!

DownsizeDC is on another great, historic campaign, this time to pass legislation that will force politicians to read the bills they vote on. It's common sense.

If you read that a little fast, you might have missed it: Bureaucrats do not read the laws they pass! Most bills are literally thousands(!) of pages long, packed to the hilt with pork and special interest favors. The legislation will require the politicians to listen to a reading of every single word of a bill before being able to vote on it. Additionally, it will establish a mandatory waiting period of seven or more days between the reading of the bill and the time it is voted on so that the public will have the opportunity to make their opinions known in Washington. Congress and lobbyists will hate this plan, but the general public will love it.

This comes from the direct mailing I received today:

Congress passed the Patriot Act without reading it. They made it the law of the land before a single copy of the bill was printed.

The recently passed National Intelligence Reform Act was 3,364 pages long. Two copies of the bill were made available two hours before the vote.

The Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2004 was 3,200 pages long. Congress didn't read that one either. Page 1,112 of that bill empowered appropriations committee chairmen or their "agents" to examine individual tax returns, including potentially yours.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist told "Face the Nation" he had no earthly idea how the provision got there. He blamed Representative James Istook for it, but Istook denied responsibility, saying, "I didn't write it, I didin't approve it, I wasn't even consulted..."

This is par for the course. Pork, favors, and special powers are dropped into bills at the last moment, In secret and behind closed doors. They become the law of the land without debate, because Congress doesn't read the laws it passes!

Ignorance of the law is no excuse for you and me, but it's standard operating procedure for Congress.

We propose to draft, promote, and pass a simple law dictating that:
House and Senate members must physically sit to hear a complete reading of every word of every bill before they can vote on it, and any member not in attendance to hear every word of a particular bill will be ineligible to vote on that measure.

Strom ThurmondIt's a simple idea, but the effect would be revolutionary. Can you imagine, the entire house and senate listening to thousands of pages of mind-numbing legalese, aging Senators asking for "potty-breaks" so as not to miss a single word?

It's fun to visualize, but it would never happen. Instead, Congress would have to change its behavior to preserve its own sanity. Legislation would become much shorter so the readings could be accomplished in one or two sittings. New laws would become easier to understand, and shorter bills would probably mean each new law would be restricted to one subject, instead of the grab-bag bills we have today.

These changes would have further profound outcomes. Government growth would slow because the legislative process would take longer. Secret provisions could no longer be inserted at the last minute. Congress would be less able to pass bad proposals by combining them with popular measures.

All of this is very powerful. But we want to propse one thing more. We want to rob Congressional leaders of one of their most powerful tools for avoiding public scrutiny.

Congressional leaders rarely give much advance notice of when they plan to hold votes on controversial measures. They like to schedule surprise votes before public opposition can organize.

So we are also proposing a requirement for a waiting period, and a public notification period, to give groups like DownsizeDC time to respond. Once Congress has heard a bill read it must wait 7-days before it can vote, and must also give the public 7-days advance notice of exactly when the vote will be held.

This one simple law, with its few simple provisions, would change American government overnight. It would slow government growth, stymie special interests who exploit the current system to gain preferential treatment, and give the small government movement a fighting chance.

Nearly every person in America will support this bill. The politicians will have no choice but to vote for it. If the possibilities of enacting such a law excite you as much as they do me, please contact your representatives and let them know or donate to the DownsizeDC campaign.

Make Congress read the law they pass!

Friday, March 11, 2005

Robert Locke Gets a Fisking!

The article "The Marxism of the Right" by Robert Locke, to be published in the upcoming March issue of The American Conservative, has been getting a great beating lately from the libertarian blogosphere, and for good reason. It's chock-full of misstatements and logical fallacies.

Perry de Havilland's post at Samizdata, "Marxism of the Right?," has already generated over 170 comments in just three days. In particular, I like these snippets:

...He asks libertarians many questions:

What if a free society needed to draft its citizens in order to remain free?

Then is it in fact a "free society" to start with? Or is it just "less un-free" than some alternative? More correctly however "society" does not draft its "citizens" (and I prefer the more honest term "subjects"), only states do that... and the two are not the same thing at all.

What if it needed to deprive citizens of the freedom to import cheap foreign labor in order to keep out poor foreigners who would vote for socialistic wealth redistribution?

PWN3DBut surely here the problem is not the origin of voters but rather unconstrained democracy. This is not an argument for controlling immigration but rather for sensible constitutional constraints which set the acceptable limits of politics.

..Locke rightly points out that libertarians come in many flavours but contrary to what he says, it seems to me that most libertarians I know have nothing against collective action (most rather like the idea of voluntary collectives like companies and associations) or altruism (most rather like charities and organizations like the RNLI or volunteer militaries etc.)... moreover they want roads maintained, diseases combated, children educated, garbage collected and fires put out as much as socialists and conservatives do. Where they depart from both the left and right statists is that they think all these things are more likely to get done effectively and more morally when they are not done at gunpoint (i.e. compelled by law)...

Also morally speaking, the "altruism" that the Robert Locke article says is needed for societies to function is not really altruism at all because surely it is impossible to compel altruistic actions. If my money is taken by force and given to another, that is not altruistic of me (I have no choice), it is not altruistic of the tax man (it is not his money) nor the person receiving the money (who is just the receiver of the benefits). This is hardly a surprise as the sort of conservatism one sees in places such as The American Conservative is really just utilitarianism and thus rarely has much to meaningfully say about moral theories.


My favorite post of all, and one of the funniest pieces I have read in a while, comes from Scott Scheule at Catallarchy, "Libertarians Do It Laissez-Faire." Here are a few of my favorite bits for the people who won't read the whole thing (but, really, reading it is in your best interests):
Flitting about as the first line, no less, the reader can catch a glimpse of this magnificent creature, the enchanting Blue-Beaked Ad Hominem:

Free spirits, the ambitious, ex-socialists, drug users, and sexual eccentrics often find an attractive political philosophy in libertarianism...

Ah yes, the old saw about pot and sodomy, so relevant to the validity of a political ideology (and Heaven forbid our philosophy should attract "the ambitious"). Well, if we're going to be judged by gross generalizations of the company we keep, perhaps it's only fair to return the ruling. Religious fundamentalists, ex-Klan members, creationist country bumpkins, homophobes, and lousy American Conservative columnists often find an attractive political philosophy in conservatism.

Ah, the father Ad Hom, joining its roost!

And libertarianism degenerates into outright idiocy when confronted with the problem of children, whom it treats like adults...

Almost as egregious a sin as treating adults like children, which has been the conservative philosophy to date. But speaking of outright idiocy...

What's this, fallacy-watchers? Binoculars up! It's a flock of Southern Black-Winged False Premises, returning from their northern migration. Let’s watch.

Libertarianism offers its believers a clear conscience to do things society presently restrains, like make more money, have more sex, or take more drugs.

I imagine someone as aged as Locke could believe there's no difference between allowing people the freedom to choose something and approving of that choice—but I don't think it's likely.

Incidentally, is there some kind of legal limit currently in force on the amount of sex I can have? If so, I better slow down.

...[L]ike Marxism, it has its historical myths and a genius for making its followers feel like an elect unbound by the moral rules of their society.

Which is why Micha and I go out every weekend looking for hoboes to shoot.

Libertarians try to get around this fact that freedom is not the only good thing by trying to reduce all other goods to it through the concept of choice, claiming that everything that is good is so because we choose to partake of it.

An interesting argument, considering most libertarians believe politicians choose to screw us over, and yet seldom find any goodness in the act.

Furthermore, the reduction of all goods to individual choices presupposes that all goods are individual.

OWNEDOnly if you believe that no individual will choose to act for the collective good—but if that’s true, how does one propose to make them vote that way?

Ah, zee majestic and rare Red-Tailed Strawman Argument. Let us watch its elegant approach:

The most fundamental problem with libertarianism is very simply: freedom, though a good thing, is simply not the only good thing in life.

Gosh, you wouldn't know it from Bush's preaching about the Middle East. Collateral damage be damned: freedom by executive fiat!

To be fair, all libertarians do believe freedom is the only important thing. Most of us will often skip meals and instead eat big warm servings of freedom. This is why so many of us are so skinny. And dead.

No sooner have the Strawmen taken their fill, but a pair of rambunctious young Post Hocs come bounding out of the nearby bushes:

A major reason for this is that libertarianism has a naive view of economics that seems to have stopped paying attention to the actual history of capitalism around 1880. There is not the space here to refute simplistic laissez faire, but note for now that the second-richest nation in the world, Japan, has one of the most regulated economies, while nations in which government has essentially lost control over economic life, like Russia, are hardly economic paradises. Legitimate criticism of over-regulation does not entail going to the opposite extreme.

Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, for instance, are two libertarian economists who refused to read anything published after 1863. (Milton thought old paper smelled better, and Hayek—well, "Nutty Hayek" they used to call him).

Moreover, what a ridiculously bad post hoc ergo propter hoc. Japan is regulated, therefore regulation is good. Nazis urinated, therefore all who urinate are Nazis.

A squawk in the sky, and then a timid Australian Fine Feathered Fallacy appears in the sky, chasing its own tail and making a lazy circle:

While it is obviously fair to let people enjoy the benefits of their wise choices and suffer the costs of their stupid ones, decent societies set limits on both these outcomes.

It is decent to limit freedom. How do we know? Because decent societies limit freedom.

And what outing would be complete without spotting a herd of the Long Toothed Outright Weird?

The libertopian alternative would be perhaps a more glittering society, but also a crueler one.

As opposed to the warm and welcoming bosom of conservatopia, where if you puff a joint or snort some coke, we'll lock you in a little hole, or, barring that, elect you President.

Libertarianism itself is based on the conviction that it is the one true political philosophy and all others are false. It entails imposing a certain kind of society, with all its attendant pluses and minuses, which the inhabitants thereof will not be free to opt out of except by leaving.

This is different from any other political philosophy how? Is it not true that believing one political philosophy is true entails believing the alternatives false? Or is Mr. Locke willing to admit that both conservatism and libertarianism are true? In which case, wherefore this dribble?

And how exactly are we to be free to opt out of the conservative imposition of society, "with all its attendant pluses and minuses," short of leaving?

Begged Questions flock to the brook:

Libertarians need to be asked some hard questions. What if a free society needed to draft its citizens in order to remain free? What if it needed to limit oil imports to protect the economic freedom of its citizens from unfriendly foreigners? What if it needed to force its citizens to become sufficiently educated to sustain a free society? What if it needed to deprive landowners of the freedom to refuse to sell their property as a precondition for giving everyone freedom of movement on highways? What if it needed to deprive citizens of the freedom to import cheap foreign labor in order to keep out poor foreigners who would vote for socialistic wealth redistribution?

Yes, and what if an asteroid smashes into conservatopia, eradicating not only bacteria, but even Sean Hannity? What if the conservative forces of government don't properly mix altruism and selfishness? What if they curtail domestic liberties and implement an authoritarian state? What if Bill Frist crowns himself Emperor of the Tri-State Area?

And a lonely Striped Non Sequitur rustles through the nearby grass:

Empirically, most people don't actually want absolute freedom, which is why democracies don't elect libertarian governments.

OWNEDOf course. And, empirically mind you, most people want agricultural subsidies, tariffs, and massive amounts of pork barrel spending (they also want Presidents fellated in the Oval Office).

please read more


Thursday, March 10, 2005

The McCain-Feingold Insurrection

This blog is a sacred expression of my First Amendment-protected, natural right to free political speech. I will continue posting whatever the hell I want to, regardless of or in spite of the immoral and illegal laws imposed upon an unassenting public by Senators Herr John McCain and Herr Russ Feingold. Morality, therefore, dictates that I openly declare my public rebellion and sedition in the face of these unjust laws. The owner and publisher of this blog, who considers himself a modern-day pamphleteer, is aligned with The McCain-Feingold Insurrection.

n. The act or an instance of open revolt against civil authority or a constituted government.

Spencer, fix this picture link.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Get Pissed Off

Get pissed off! This is important.

The McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 (or the Incumbent Politicians' Protection Act), which until now has been used to destroy our First Amendment right to free speech only in television, radio and print, will soon also apply to the blogosphere and message boards. Posters who "improperly link" to a candidate's web site or press release will be nailed with steep fines from the federal government.

Where are we, North Korea? The Founders are rolling in their graves!


The Coming Crackdown on Blogging
By Declan McCullagh

Bradley Smith says that the freewheeling days of political blogging and online punditry are over.

pissedIn just a few months, he warns, bloggers and news organizations could risk the wrath of the federal government if they improperly link to a campaign's Web site. Even forwarding a political candidate's press release to a mailing list, depending on the details, could be punished by fines.

Smith should know. He's one of the six commissioners at the Federal Election Commission, which is beginning the perilous process of extending a controversial 2002 campaign finance law to the Internet.

In 2002, the FEC exempted the Internet by a 4-2 vote, but U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly last fall overturned that decision. "The commission's exclusion of Internet communications from the coordinated communications regulation severely undermines" the campaign finance law's purposes, Kollar-Kotelly wrote.

Smith and the other two Republican commissioners wanted to appeal the Internet-related sections. But because they couldn't get the three Democrats to go along with them, what Smith describes as a "bizarre" regulatory process now is under way.

CNET spoke with Smith about the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, better known as the McCain-Feingold law, and its forthcoming extrusion onto the Internet.

...What happens next?
It's going to be a battle, and if nobody in Congress is willing to stand up and say, "Keep your hands off of this, and we'll change the statute to make it clear," then I think grassroots Internet activity is in danger. The impact would affect e-mail lists, especially if there's any sense that they're done in coordination with the campaign. If I forward something from the campaign to my personal list of several hundred people, which is a great grassroots activity, that's what we're talking about having to look at.

Senators McCain and Feingold have argued that we have to regulate the Internet, that we have to regulate e-mail. They sued us in court over this and they won.

If Congress doesn't change the law, what kind of activities will the FEC have to target?
We're talking about any decision by an individual to put a link (to a political candidate) on their home page, set up a blog, send out mass e-mails, any kind of activity that can be done on the Internet...

So if you're using text that the campaign sends you, and you're reproducing it on your blog or forwarding it to a mailing list, you could be in trouble?
Yes. In fact, the regulations are very specific that reproducing a campaign's material is a reproduction for purpose of triggering the law. That'll count as an expenditure that counts against campaign finance law.

This is an incredible thicket. If someone else doesn't take action, for instance in Congress, we're running a real possibility of serious Internet regulation. It's going to be bizarre.
Bizarre in a sad, depressing, fascist kind of way, maybe.

Radley Balko:
If there's one thing the blogosphere can agree on -- right, left, and everything in between -- it ought to be this. The idea that my linking to a statement on the Bush or Kerry site counts as a "contribution" is patently ridiculous. And it Smith's right, we could fast reach the point where the only people allowed to express their opinions about politics in print without FEC scrutiny are hard-copy newspapers and magazines.

Congress needs to act. Now. As Smith notes, now is the best time for this to happen. If one side or the other begins to scratch out an advantage, this will quickly become a highly partisan issue. The idea that bloggers and web writers -- who in many ways are modern pampleteers -- should be shut out of the political debate for expressing their opinions online is anathematic to even the most restrictive interpretations of the First Amendment.

It'll be interesting to see how newspaper editorial boards react to this. It'll be a nice test of their real allegiance to free expression.

This is what campaign finance regulation has come to. This is the absurdity of curbing poltical speech in a free soceity when drawn to its logical, foreseabble conclusion.

Get pissed off. This is important.

Try it, and there'll be at least one more criminal they'll have to deal with.

Props: The Agitator, Catallarchy, Flash of Freedom, A Stitch in Haste

Friday, March 04, 2005

Thoughts for the Day

Some thoughts for today, via the latest update.

From the homepage:

Thanks to republicans & democrats, who are the only two parties truly in charge, the United States currently ranks 49th in world literacy and 28th out of 40 in math literacy; remember this, before the Department of Education was started in the early 1950's, we were ranked at the top.

From an excellent article at The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by Dennis Roddy, Grounded: Millionaire John Gilmore stays close to home while making a point about privacy:
I used to laugh at countries that had internal passports. And it's happened here and people don't even seem to know about it.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Haliburton, Railroads, and Marxist Capitalism

This is another one from a discussion forum, in response to a comment that "'capitalism' is not getting the job done right in Iraq."

Haliburton does not represent capitalism! Haliburton could not exist under capitalism! There are no market forces affecting Haliburton and how it manages its operations. Supply, demand, competition mean nothing to them. There is no consumer demand for their services; the only reason they can exist is because we have a central government that is free and able to sell political favors.

The Pyramid of the Capitalist SystemThis is, however, 100% capitalism in the Marxist sense, in the sense of business and government coalescing to rob and rape the common people. Another perfect example of capitalism that is not capitalism is the 19th century railroad tycoons. They did not have to rely on market forces to obtain the vast amounts of land and capital required to construct continental railroads. They had buddies in government who could steal money, rob people of their land claims, and keep any legitimate competing rail lines from posing any threat.

Capitalism is a term invented by Marx to describe these processes. Its original definition, which many sociology students also use, has nothing to do with free markets. Lately, I've been describing myself more and more often as an "advocate of free markets" rather than as a capitalist, whereas not very long ago I (literally) wore that term on a shirt. The entire of logic and reason is built on definitions, and the real definition of capitalism (the one represented by Haliburton and co.) is actually the system I have been actively fighting against for the past year or so.

In conclusion:
Haliburton, dead railroad tycoons, FCAT, Florida bars that allow customers to smoke, New York taxi cab companies, etc. = Marxist capitalism.
Free markets = Classical liberal capitalism.