Sunday, April 30, 2006

I-Bomb "trailer" is online

OK, consider me fully stoked. A little teaser trailer for The Imaginary Bomb podcast is now up and ready for download here and here. Let me know what you think - and keep checking over there for updates. Launch date is now Monday, May 15.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Here 'we' go again

Mainstream statist columnist Ellen Goodman has sound advice for John Kerry today - DON'T RUN FOR PRESIDENT! - and also a succinct summary of what she thinks the Democrat wing of the Big Government Party ought to be shooting for in the 2008 election. Of course, it is also a succinct summary of what the Republican wing of the Big Government Party likely believes it should shoot for.

"What the Democrats need this time out is not a messenger honed to squeak on the margin of undecideds, but a vision of what's gone wrong and how to right it. As Michael Tomasky writes in The American Prospect, they need a liberal message of the common good that trumps the conservative message - a view that we are in this globalized, post-industrial, post-9/11 world together and must ''pull together, make some sacrifices, and, just sometimes, look beyond our own interests to solve our problems and create the future.'"

Because really, folks, can't you just hear Mr. Bush or Mr. Snow standing up and saying, "We need a conservative message of the common good that trumps the liberal message - a view that we are in this globalized, post-industrial, post-9/11 world together and must pull together, make some sacrifices, and, just sometimes, look beyond our own interests to solve our problems and create the future"?

In fact, isn't that just exactly the reasoning that has been used over the years to justify the dissolution of the basic principles the founders laid down for this "more perfect union" of "free and independent states"? Haven't we lowly subjects of the Empire been asked, for the greater good, to look beyond the selfish desire to be left alone to live our lives in privacy free from the entanglements and threats of government violence on our persons and property? Hasn't the ruling class made a cottage industry of defining for us the conditions under which "we" will pull together, "we" will make some sacrifices, "we" will solve our problems and the nature of the future "we" will create?

What I need is for the people who aim to run my life to back off. What I need is an end to the preposterous belief that a central government can serve the "common good" of 50 small republics and 300 million people, and a dethroning of those who presume to define the meaning of such "common good" under the umbrella of what "we" want and/or need.

But, in the end, I understand that for now my view is a minority, and that I live in a country where an unsuspecting majority embrace the idea that government exists to run their lives under the illusion of making them fat, sassy and secure. In the immortal words of Joss Whedon, who put them into the mouth of Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: "I got no need to beat you; I just want to go my way." (And then followed with the eternal words of Big Government: "And you can do that, once you" do as we command.)

I'd march to the polls like a good little statist soldier for a candidate who could deliver on a promise to let us all go our way. No such candidate is anywhere to be seen.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Serenity 2: The Search for Book

Sounds good, doesn't it? I finally made the switch to Firefox, which had the unexpected (though I shoulda figured) benefit of clearing up a hiccup that had infected my Internet Explorer and made downloads of a number of podcasts impossible. Among the podcasts I've been doing without is the very shiny show The Signal, a professional-sounding fan production that began life as an effort to promote the film Serenity and is now devoted to driving the bandwagon for a Serenity sequel.

I didn't realize how much delight the I.E. hiccup had stolen from me until I started listening again to my fellow browncoats obsess about the characters created by Joss Whedon and the nine talented actors who portrayed them in the short-lived series Firefly and the film that should have been the biggest blockbuster of 2005. Now I've got the fever again.

I would love to see a second Firefly film, one where the mystery of Shepherd Book's past must be unraveled as part of the plot. After River, whose mystery was resolved in the first film, Book is the most intriguing member of the Serenity crew, and focusing on him would accomplish two things: First, it would give us some answers to questions that keep Firefly fans buzzing, and second, the inevitable flashbacks would give Whedon a reason to insert actor Ron Glass into the film, Book having gone the way of all flesh in a memorable scene in Serenity.

The film inexplicably made barely enough at the box office to cover the expense of making it, but I have to believe DVD sales and rentals have more than made up for that disappointment - there must be a reason Serenity was chosen as the first Universal Pictures release on HD-DVD. Malcolm Reynolds and his crew are just too pretty to stay up there on the shelf. I'm glad The Signal crew is banging the drum for a sequel - because these characters are screaming for more adventures.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Go cheeseheads Part II

Good news and not-so-good news from the Badger State - I hear tell the Wisconsin state Senate passed the ban on "tagging" human beings 32-1 Tuesday, and even pulled out Rep. Scott Suder's amendment that would allow RFID chips to be placed in sex offenders and children. But in searching for a link to that story, I found that the Senate also voted 28-5 to require lifetime GPS monitoring of some sex offenders. Talk about your mixed messages! No injected computer chips, but we will keep an eye on you with other technology after you've supposedly completed your debt to society.

And there was this other little tidbit about Marlin Schneider, the Wisconsin representative who introduced the anti-chip bill:

"By the time the bill made it through the Assembly, Schneider, who’s known as a privacy advocate, sounded as if he was helping Thompson move some product. Schneider said he supports Suder’s amendment and considers the application a positive use of the technology.

"In a press release after Assembly passage, Schneider praised the use of medical microchip implants, which he said can help monitor blood pressure and blood-sugar levels. They’ve also been used in experiments to allow paralyzed people to send commands to computers by merely thinking of the command, Schneider said.

“'Who knows where the scientists of this brave new world will take us in the computer age and control our thoughts and memories with microchip technologies?' Schneider asked in the press release."

With friends like this ...

Meanwhile: Yesterday's post got the attention of James at ZombieWire, a resource for the latest news on the RFID assault on our lives. After a quick review I've added a link to my resource list over on your right. Thanks, James! Keep up the good fight.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Lunch with Sunni and Jim

Get out of here and go read Sunni Maravillosa's conversation with Jim Bovard. Go on. I'll forgive you.

What? Still here? Fine. Check these out:

Sunni: So, who's been worse so far with the abuse for you? The Clintonistas or the Busheviks?

Jim: I have heard far more from Bush supporters, but that may be partly due to the fact that far more people use email now than in the 1990s. Perhaps it is also a factor of the national mood changing after 9/11 ... perhaps rage is now a sign of conservative virtue, as it was for leftists in the late 1960s and 1970s. According to a Washington Post piece published on tax day, anger is now a hallmark of virtue among liberals who despise Bush. I don't perceive bulging eyes and throbbing forehead veins as signs of wisdom. High blood pressure is not a good proxy for having received a divine revelation.

Sunni: Definitely not. Which president is worse, in your opinion—Clinton or Bushnev?

Jim: Both were dreadful. Clinton might have been as bad as Bush if he had a Congress that was as servile. I have been surprised to see how many conservatives applaud the Bush team's bizarre argument that the president is above the Constitution any time the president says the word war. Many Washington conservatives would probably applaud Bush if he announced that God had crowned him king.

... Sunni: Geez, don't get me started on Fukuyama! Or libertarians who seem to think that the battle for liberty is exactly that—a battle with a clear winning and losing side that will never need to be engaged again. How can you stand immersing yourself into mainstream politics as much as you need to to write your books? Or are you able to maintain some kind of distance from the awful things you dig up?

Jim: There is an old story about two Greek philosophers ... the first one saw the injustices of daily life and spent all his time crying, and the other saw the absurdities of daily life and laughed. Getting greatly distraught over government abuses is a recipe for early burnout. Energy is finite, and the more I spend teeth-gnashing and swearing, the less I will have for digging and writing.

Sunni: That sounds a lot like the attitude my Sweetie has, Jim; his ability to laugh has helped me gain some perspective, even though I still get more upset than I know is wise.

... Jim: Playwright Henrik Ibsen said, Never wear your best trousers when you go out to fight for freedom and truth. Some libertarians seem to assiduously avoid dirtying their white gloves. I think there is no better issue right now than torture to vivify how the federal government is off the leash. But instead of stooping to notice the torture, some Beltway libertarians seem far more excited about the possibility of eminent domain reform in Rhode Island or the privatization of the fire department in Yazoo, Mississippi. But if the government can consecrate its right to torture—then nothing else matters.

... Sunni: It's been a long time since I read Feeling Your Pain, but I remember being horrified by a lot of what you covered. I know I'm not the first to say it, but Bushnev makes me think back wistfully to the Clinton days. And Bush and his cronies are fundamentally just an extension of Clinton et al ... I mean, how much difference is there really between Ashcroft or Alberto Gonzalez and Janet Reno? And what's really scary to think about is what will come next. I just don't see things getting better before they get much worse ... do you?

Jim: I thought Reno would be the worst attorney general for a long time, but Ashcroft officially trumped her on December 6, 2001, when he proclaimed that Those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty ... only aid terrorists for they erode our national unity and ... give ammunition to America's enemies. Reno's power grabs and horrendous abuses appeared to many people as anomalies. Yet Ashcroft and Gonzales seem determined to carve out the political principles for absolutism.

I don't see things getting better any time sooner, but I don't have the gift of prophecy.

Convinced? Go. Come back, though; I'll miss ya.

Go cheeseheads go

Sweetie finally snapped when she saw a news story my friend and future podcast partner, Warren Bluhm, found in his local newspaper. It seems the state of Wisconsin is in the process of passing a law that would prohibit companies from forcing employees to have microchip implants "that would allow doctors to access medical information." (He couldn't find a public Web link to the story - so see below.)

I set the printout aside and picked up our own paper and was calmly reading about poor Anthony, whose wife, Therese, has clearly been having an affair for a long time, when Sweetie erupted from across the room, "What, are they nuts?!?"

It seems the cheeseheads have discovered VeriChip Corp., "the only company with federal approval to implant such chips in people," and decided to do something about it. "A proposal moving through the state Legislature would prohibit anyone from requiring people to have the tiny chips embedded in them or doing so without their knowledge. Violators would face fines of up to $10,000." The cherry part is that the ban would apply to both "government and private businesses."

Of course, no doubt Wisconsin would roll over and play dead if the federal government mandated such a thing, as it recently did with Real ID. But you have to give them credit for standing up and saying "Excuse me? No," especially since "Former Gov. Tommy Thompson was one of the first high-profile supporters" of this Orwellian scheme.

"Thompson endorsed this application last year as a way to give hospitals easy access to patients' medical records when he joined VeriChip's board of directors and vowed to 'get chipped' himself." Wisely, he has not yet done so.

While the proposed law is great (It still has to get past the state Senate out there), the first chink in the armor has already been delivered: "The proposal would leave the door open for the state to order implants to track sex offenders or for parents to track their children under an amendment ... Such applications are years away because the chips do not yet allow for surveillance tracking." Yet.

First they came for the sex offenders, but I said nothing because I'm not a sex offender ... and anyway, it's for the children. Often I think our children will come to hate us for the things we did "for them."
Bill would prohibit mandatory microchip implants
Associated Press Writer

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Former Gov. Tommy Thompson was one of the first high-profile supporters of tiny microchips implanted in people's arms that would allow doctors to access medical information.

Now the state he used to lead is poised to become the first to ban governments and private businesses from forcing such implants on employees, privacy advocates say.

A proposal moving through the state Legislature would prohibit anyone from requiring people to have the tiny chips embedded in them or doing so without their knowledge. Violators would face fines of up to $10,000.

The plan authored by Rep. Marlin Schneider, D-Wisconsin Rapids, won approval in the Assembly last month. The state Senate on Tuesday is scheduled to consider the measure, which would allow for the implants if the person gives consent.

Gov. Jim Doyle would sign the bill, a spokesman said.

Schneider aides say the legislator wants the law in place before companies and governments could use them to keep track of their employees.

"I don't think most people had thought about this as an issue, but it's scary. It's reality now," said Michael Schoenfield, an aide to Schneider. "Companies can or will be ordering their employees to have chips implanted. We want to stop that before it begins."

VeriChip Corp. of Delray Beach, Fla., is the only company with federal approval to implant such chips in people. The company so far has implanted 2,500 people worldwide with chips the size of a grain of rice under the skin of their upper arms, said spokesman John O. Procter.

Thompson endorsed this application last year as a way to give hospitals easy access to patients' medical records when he joined VeriChip's board of directors and vowed to "get chipped" himself.

Procter said Monday that Thompson has not undergone the procedure, which he likened to getting a shot, but plans to do so once more hospitals adopt the technology. The chips give off a radio frequency signal identifying a patient. The signal is used to access personal information in an Internet database.

VeriChip is also marketing the implants as a way for companies or governments to limit access to high-security areas.

In February, a Cincinnati surveillance equipment company became the first U.S. business to use this application when a handful of employees voluntarily got implants to allow them to enter secure rooms. Some employees in the Mexico attorney general's office have also been implanted with chips, whose signals are recognized by readers in doorways.

Procter said VeriChip supports the spirit of Schneider's bill and would not work with companies forcing employees to get implants. However, he said the implants are superior to employee badges or key chains as a way to limit access.

"It's more secure. It's discreet and it can't be lost or stolen," he said.

Privacy advocates say they are unaware of any companies forcing implants but are worried the technology is taking off with little debate about potential abuses.

Wisconsin would be the first state to ban mandatory implants, said Katherine Albrecht, a New Hampshire privacy advocate and co-author of "Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Move with RFID."

Albrecht said she recently handed Thompson a copy of her book when he was in New Hampshire giving a speech.

"What an interesting irony that the foremost chip promoter in the world comes from Wisconsin and Wisconsin would be the first state to say, 'Hey, at least get our permission first'," Albrecht said. "It's good that lawmakers in Wisconsin are paying attention to the fact that this technology even exists."

The proposal would leave the door open for the state to order implants to track sex offenders or for parents to track their children under an amendment offered by Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford. Such applications are years away because the chips do not yet allow for surveillance tracking.

"The bill may be a little ahead of its time but I think it prevents some very onerous activity," Suder said. "It is groundbreaking."

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The ancient science of mathematics

Bush warns of 'tough summer' with higher petrol prices

From the story:

At the same time, US retail pump prices were topping an average three dollars a gallon (3.8 liters) in many places in the country, up 60 cents -- 33 percent -- from a year ago.

If the average price of gas was 60 cents lower a year ago, and now the average price is $3.00, it was $2.40 a gallon. Thirty-three percent of $2.40 is 80 cents.


To boldly go where someone has gone before

There's talk of revisiting the original characters in the Star Trek universe. Problem: The aging process.

No one can play Dr. McCoy like DeForest Kelley did. No one can play Montgomery Scott like James Doohan. Problem: Kelley and Doohan are dead.No one can play James T. Kirk like William Shatner. No one can play Spock like Leonard Nimoy. Problem: Shatner and Nimoy are 75 years old.

Look at it a different way. No one can play Bruce Wayne and Batman like Adam West. No one can play Bruce Wayne and Batman like Michael Keaton. No one can play Bruce Wayne and Batman like Christian Bale. Odd - Each of those Batmen was better than his predecessor.

Granted, for each Keaton there's a Val Kilmer. For each Bale there's a George Clooney. Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman are fine actors, but Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg are the quintessential Steed and Mrs. Peel.

But we are talking about fictional characters. Sherlock Holmes will live forever; A. Conan Doyle and Basil Rathbone did not. James T. Kirk, Spock, Bones McCoy and Scotty will live forever. If more stories about them are written for actors to portray, other actors will be needed.

It's a sad fact of life. The creation of film made it someone less sad - now Lawrence Olivier's Hamlet can live forever, and so can the Shatner-Nimoy-Kelley chemistry in Star Trek. If Kirk and friends live on, the new actors will be compared to the originals; we cannot compare Olivier's performance to the hundreds and thousands of actors who portrayed the Dane for 300 years prior.

It's not a question of whether new actors can or should be found to play the Trek characters; if new stories are to be told, or if the old stories are to be retold, new actors must be found.

The more interesting question is whether these characters should be revived. They are a military crew on an ostensibly peaceful mission who nonetheless constantly use force to spread their philosophy through the galaxy; their prime directive supposedly is not to interfere with other cultures but they frequently impose their own values on those cultures anyway; some sort of sum-sufficient spending on credit has replaced money; the belief in a higher power is sneered at as a quaint tribal custom of primitive, inferior and/or oppressive cultures.

As the series progressed to the next generation, crew members were required to wear radio badges that enabled computers to track their locations at any given moment. Going somewhere without the electronic ID badge was portrayed as insubordinate and usually was a downright dangerous risk to take.

Come to think of it, the Trek universe might be a perfect fit for contemporary America.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Catch ya later

Sorry, too busy to write anything today, I'm off checking out the new Sunni's Salon ...

Fool me once ...

I'm feeling much less alarmed at last week's Associated Press-Ipsos poll that found a majority of Americans think the U.S. tax system isn't fair because it doesn't soak the rich enough.

That's because of this week's AP-Ipsos poll, which is headlined "Americans' confidence shaky in government's ability to deal with bird flu." Sorry, I can't find a Web link to the AP story, but it says:

"In the survey out Friday, 52 percent said they were not confident the government would handle an outbreak among humans properly; 48 percent were confident. One-third worried someone in their family would get the bird flu."

Here is why I'm feeling less disillusioned:

The new survey found strong majorities in favor of all options presented to them to contain any outbreak among humans.

These were: quarantining those who have been exposed to the bird flu, closing the borders to visitors from countries that have experienced the flu, closing schools, offering experimental vaccines or drugs, and encouraging people to work from home.

Why does this make me feel less disillusioned? After all, the survey results show I'm surrounded by people who want the police state to crack down to protect us from that nasty person-to-person strain of bird flu that, as of now, doesn't exist.

Here's the thing about polls: Ask the right question, and you can prove that people think the way you want them to think. This is the second consecutive AP-Ipsos poll that shows people really want a powerful centralized government to crack down on us.

Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on you. AP-Ipsos clearly doesn't trust freedom-loving people and wants to prove that most of us want a central nanny to run our lives. I am putting a red flag in my mind to signal me whenever I read an AP-Ipsos poll in the future.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Another must-see film

My friend John Newman has directed me to the site for the movie Sophie Scholl: die letzen Tage (Sophie Scholl: The Last Days), which was a contender for the foreign-language Oscar and looks downright great.

Looking into the background gave me my first exposure to The White Rose, comprised of Hans Scholl, his sister Sophie and Christoph Probst, who were executed by Nazi Germany for advocating nonviolent resistance to the oppressive government. Interesting how advocates of nonviolence so frequently meet violent deaths.

It's not scheduled for release on DVD in the USA anytime soon ... but it's definitely on my watch-for-this-one list.

Spring was never waiting for us, girl

My oldie-moldie reflections last week started a small conversation about the worst song lyrics of all time, and Wally Conger submitted for our consideration "Someone left the cake out in the rain/I don't think that I can take it/Cause it took so long to bake it/And I'll never have that recipe again."

That got me thinking, because taken alone, with just those lyrics, it's easy to dismiss "MacArthur Park," the bombastic rock-classical hybrid in which Richard Harris immortalized Jimmy Webb's bakery imagery. But there's more to that recording than melting in the dark.

Imagine a world where popular songs enter, make their point and close or fade away within 2-4 minutes. It's the spring of 1968, and every so often a song on the radio may go on a little past four minutes. You had your "album versions" of songs, like the legendary six-minute version of "Light My Fire," but those were basically the song you heard on the radio with longer solos. And anyway, everybody knew you couldn't fit much more than four minutes of music on one side of a 45.

Into this world comes a seven-minute opus. The thing really seems to be three songs melded into one, or three movements of a mini-symphony - the main "cake breakup" song, a reflective middle part ("And after all the loves of my life ...") a funky-for-its-time orchestral prance, and a return to the cake for an operatic big finish. I was blown away.

I was thrilled to get seven minutes of music for my 79 cents, and also gained one of my first insights about The World - They lied when they said only two or three minutes of content can fit on a seven-inch record! More was possible than they had let on. Limits were made to be stretched and even shattered.

"MacArthur Park" was a groundbreaker, not just a ditty about melting cake. An argument could be made that the structure of Webb's little opus set the example, for better or worse, for such exercises as Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven," Crosby Stills & Nash's "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," Bruce Springsteen's "Jungleland" and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody."

Peaking at No. 2, the song not only smashed the four-minute barrier on the radio, it took the barrier by the throat, thrashed it to pieces and trampled the body into dust. A few weeks later "Hey Jude" would take it all a step further, but for once The Beatles didn't set the radio trend. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, "Strawberry Fields" took us to 4:24, but "MacArthur Park" at 7:20 sneered at your steenking 4:24.)

Therefore, I come this morning to sing praises of "MacArthur Park." It ran one step ahead of the rest of pop music, as we followed in the dance, between the parted pages, and were pressed in love's hot fevered iron like a striped pair of pants. Hmmm ... well, I suppose it does leave a little something to be desired lyrically.

P.S. The site where I found the free clip art asked me to post a link.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

April 19, 1993

One of the recurring themes in my writing is you don't need to wait for someone to give you permission to be free - you are free to do what you want or need to do as long as it doesn't infringe on your neighbor, so just go do it. Our forebears set up a country where the government essentially has to ask permission to infringe on your freedom - you don't have to ask it for your liberties.

Of course, that is not exactly how things have played out over the years. Yesterday I emphasized how liberty was exercised on April 19 231 years ago. I was deliberately trying to avoid thinking about how liberty was trampled 13 years ago, live on TV.

Another theme I try to emphasize is be optimistic and, in the sense that most days the police aren't going to break down your door and seize your person and property, it doesn't hurt to be optimistic and unafraid. But somewhere today, police are breaking down someone's door and seizing persons and property, often to enforce bad laws. And outside Waco that day, the lawbreakers were the law enforcers. So while it doesn't hurt to be optimistic and unafraid and to expect the best, it also doesn't hurt to anticipate the worst, so that while most of the time you'll be pleasantly surprised, you also will be prepared should the worst happen.

I try to remind you and myself that freedom is a state of mind - "You can't take the sky from me" - and "they" can't. But I can't help but notice when a week goes by and the majority of my thoughts have been about stolen freedoms and lost liberties, as the last week has. Lots of ranting around here lately, about everything from the smoking gestapo to the ATF massacre.

And fixing the problem will take a more profound shift than replacing Republicans with Democrats or vice versa, as Anthony Gregory notes in a must-read article at, "Waco and the Bipartisan Police State." Some excerpts that jumped out at me:

"The continuity between the Clinton and Bush presidencies on issues of civil liberties demonstrates something that many people don’t want to wrap their minds around. America’s police state is utterly bipartisan. It is designed to persist and indeed extend its reach with each administration, no matter the party in charge. In fact, the political party illusion serves to distract people from the real issues, the state’s trampling of our liberties, and instead devote their hopeful attention and energy to getting one dictatorial gang elected rather than the other." ...

"America’s had this bipartisan police state for a long time. It was Republican Abraham Lincoln who waged war on half the country and suspended the Bill of Rights in the other half. It was Democrat Woodrow Wilson who really honed the art of imprisoning dissenters. It was the Republicans in the 1920s who adamantly enforced alcohol prohibition. Democrat Franklin Roosevelt tossed the Japanese Americans in concentration camps. When Republicans turned the heat on leftists during the Cold War, they were only emulating their Democrat predecessors' surveillance and harassment of Old-Right and far-left dissenters in the 30s and 40s. The war on drugs has been advanced, expanded and internationalized by members of both parties. Both Republicans and Democrats are fervently pro-gun control. Neither party has ever done anything significant to rein in the IRS. And just as Clinton’s men helped to whitewash the massacre at Ruby Ridge, which occurred on the first Bush's watch, Republican fixers were eager to cover up the Clinton administration’s wrongdoing at Waco." ...

"If ever Americans are to have their rightful liberty, a political realignment must emerge that shatters the dishonest and distracting constructs of left and right, Democrat and Republican, and focuses instead on liberty versus the state."

This is an article about issues that need to be addressed. At this point I don't know where we find political leaders who will focus on liberty rather than the state. I think so many are so willing to defend the state's alleged right to tread on us, we need years and even decades of re-educating and writing and speaking about the basic truths about freedom and liberty before a majority begin to understand. But that might be overly pessimistic. So I'll spend the rest of my days doing my bit to remind people the default position in life is freedom, so refuse to be afraid and free yourself. My grandpas lived into their 80s, and my 80-something dad is still kicking, so that's potentially 30-plus years of agitating to go - maybe we'll see something in my lifetime yet.

P.S. What a difference an apostrophe makes - states' rights is an essential foundation of this republic; but the ruling class has been exercising the state's rights to oppress us. Theoretically and constitutionally the state has no such rights; when will folks understand?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Freedom to Fascism

Serenity and V for Vendetta are terrific movies that entertain and send messages about liberty, but it sounds like America: From Freedom to Fascism, is the one to get behind. Aaron Russo's documentary aims to spell out all that is happening to this country.

Better folks than I have said most of what needs to be said, so let me just direct you here and there and here. You can find a radio interview with Russo on this page.

April 19, 1775

Now these people were fighting for freedom, and to defend their homeland. I am not one to advocate for violence, but these people were under violent occupation and violent attack. And here is why the right to bear arms is so vital to liberty.

The British Major John Pitcairn rode forward and ordered the rebels to disperse. Realizing the futility of their position, the patriots began to do so, but refused to surrender their arms. Suddenly one shot rang out, who fired it will never be known. A British officer ordered his troops to fire. Their volley flew over the minutemen's heads. Pitcairn shouted an order to cease fire, but his overexcited troops let loose another volley and charged the fleeing minutemen. With great difficulty the British officers regained control over their troops. Eight dead patriots lay on Lexington Green; ten wounded escaped ...

The smoke is beginning to clear and the scene is frightful. There are bodies lying on the ground. Can they be dead? They don't move. Maybe they're feigning death, until the Regulars move on. Loud HUZZAHs from the ranks of the Regulars break the spell. Spectators run to the fallen. The injuries appear to be serious. That looks like Isaac Muzzy. And there. Can that be Jonathan Harrington? What has happened? How can this have happened?

For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

Longfellow wrote his poem April 19, 1860. Events immediately thereafter, and since, make one question just how "the people" would react to "darkness and peril and need," but a moment to recall the freedom fighters of April 19, 1775, and to reflect on what they accomplished, is certainly appropriate. A search for "April 19, 1775" yields some interesting reading.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Agorist Class Theory - 2nd edition

Having said my mea culpas about avoiding philosophy, especially economic philosophy, I now do my penance by noting that Wally Conger's put out a new improved version of his ebook Agorist Class Theory, a handy-dandy little guide that also has the advantage (for scholar-phobics like me) of being short - everything you really need to know about agorism in 36 pages.

Knowledge is a good thing; you might even say it's power.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Rothbard's "Left and Right," 40 years and a couple of weeks later

After a stellar career as a student, I have become an anti-scholar over the years. I'm big on ideas but short on where they came from - remember I confessed I didn't know who George Mason was a couple of weeks ago. You can get me to read an occasional scholarly article, but don't ask me to engage in in-depth research or spend too much time splitting philosophical hairs.

I say that by way of saying I've been an idiot. Maybe if I paid attention to this stuff, I wouldn't have wasted so much of my life believing Republicans were any better than Democrats and dismissing one form of statism over another.

By "this stuff," I mean stuff like Roderick Long's brilliant lecture, "Rothbard's 'Right and Left': Forty Years Later," which is as solid an hour of listening as I've had in a long time. You can hear it or read it depending on your preference; my commute to the wage-slave job is about an hour so I had an enthralling ride home this evening.

I don't spend much time trying to split hairs between left and right, because I think the real divide is between statist and individualist, but Long does a nice job of deconstructing all the ways that the left is the right is not the left is not the right and how they got all jumbled and confused.

My epiphany in listening was when Long led me to conclude that it makes little sense for individualists to attempt to use the power of the state as a means to an end. I mean, what can you do besides repeal everything - how do you pass laws requiring people to take responsibility for their own lives? and once you require anything of people, haven't you just become a good little statist?

But then Long moved me in this direction ...

"To wield political power, admittedly, is to run the risk of being corrupted; but is such corruption inevitable? It seems like a sizeable bloc of Ron Paul clones in Congress could be pretty effective in scaling back the state without sacrificing any libertarian principle ...

"Perhaps more importantly, however, the assumption that the only alternatives to traditional politics are violent revolution on the one hand and resignation on the other is valid only for non-libertarian political programs. If the realization of your agenda requires the command of state power, then the only alternatives to working within the system are seizing control of government in a coup d'état, and giving up on your political goals entirely. But for a libertarian, political success is less of matter of directing the state toward certain favored ends and more a matter of blocking it from wreaking more evil. Hence while withdrawal from engagement with the state would count as defeatism for statist ideologies, it need not be so for libertarians. Hence Rothbard's enthusiasm for the sorts of strategy he saw himself as sharing with the New Left: education, building alternative institutions, and 'mass civil disobedience.'

"The point is not to scribble libertarian amendments into the Constitution but to make un-libertarian laws unenforceable, to make civil society ungovernable."

If freedom is best defined as an absence of government or authoritarian control, then this approach makes sense: Don't work to pass new laws, just convince folks not to cooperate with bad laws. If you're trying to bring down Wal-Mart, don't agitate to make Wal-Mart illegal, just convince folks not to shop there. Simple, elegant, non-violent and non-statist. I love it.

Now, if I was a scholar, I'd spend weeks working on making the above stream of consciousness flow into coherent patterns. But I'm just going to toss it all out there for now and hope it makes some small semblance of sense. Oh yeah, and if you haven't exposed yourself to Long's lecture, go do that now.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Revenge of the clueless

The Star-Ledger samples reaction to Day One of the smoking ban in "The Jittery vs. the Jubilant." Once again the anti-smokers are thrilled that they don't have to live with icky smoke in their lives, while the smokers wonder which of our freedoms makes us criminals next.

And the writers, bless their unsuspecting souls, are on the anti-smokers' side: "And patrons at diners from Colesville to Cape May breathed deeply and smiled, thrilled by french fries and pancakes that were no longer seasoned with Winstons and Marlboros." And this editorial asnide at a pool hall: "'This is an art,' said Nguyen. 'You need smoking and coffee to concentrate.' Tough break."

An American Legionnaire from Dover sums up the case for those who see public-sector micromanagement of private business as the problem:

"When did this county become Communist?" Bob Galante, 54, who served in the Army and prefers Marlboros, said yesterday. "All these people telling us we can't smoke, let them go fight for our rights."

And Irene Giegrich sums it up for the totalitarians:

"It used to annoy me to no end that I'm eating this nice steak, and that smoke is destroying it," she said.

Bottom line: Until the smoking ban went into effect Saturday morning, nonsmoking New Jerseyites could find places where they could eat steak. As of now, New Jerseyites who like a smoke after dinner are banned from steakhouses: "Go sit in the back of the bus, nicotine freak. Better yet, get off the frickin' bus." And the shrinking majority of us who tolerate other people's smoke, unfortunately, are mostly shrugging our shoulders and saying, "Hey, I don't smoke. This doesn't affect me."

Not true. Any assault on our liberty affects us all.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Poll: Most Americans say tax system unjust

Don't get too excited. It's not what you think.

Almost as certain as death and taxes is the public's feeling that the U.S. income tax system is not fair. An Ipsos Poll released this week found almost six of 10 people, 58 percent, say the system is unjust, a number that is virtually unchanged from two decades ago.

So far, so good. Of course it's unjust to confiscate people's income and redistribute it to fuel a central, intrusive government monster. Maybe there's hope after all. Oh - wait, the bubble bursts in the second paragraph.

People think the middle class, the self-employed and small businesses pay too much in taxes, the poll found. And they think those with high incomes and big businesses don't pay enough.

Lordy, Lordy, we're living in a workers' paradise. I think I'll go off and work my land today, while I'm still under the illusion that it's my land. (Of course, mathematically speaking, the bank owns more than 80 percent of it, but I feel like having illusions today, thank you.)

Refuse to be afraid. Free yourself.

Anybody notice I added two words to my banner recently? It happened after Sunni Maravillosa wrote "Fade to ... Dark Green" and I followed her links to this and that.

Ever read something that was there all along just when you needed to read it?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Massachusetts enshrines the right to have someone else pay your doctor bills

Sunni Maravillosa points out the seemingly obvious truth that "Buying health insurance is not the same as buying health care," and yet the ruling class continues to obfuscate the obvious. Meanwhile, Happy Curmudgeon finds a survey that shows most people like what Massachusetts has done ... and throws in a little Heinlein to explain why liberty is crumbling around us.

"The law, described by its supporters as a national model, requires all residents of the state to have health insurance," says the ABC News story that proclaims "Fifty-five percent of Americans say they'd support similar legislation in their own states."

Our rulers confiscate a third to half of our earnings before we even touch it, and they spend the rest of their time forcing us into spending the rest as they decree, with Ponzi schemes like Social Security and propping up the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

I wrote a couple of months ago about how good it feels to buy my medicine without following my insurance company's rules, even though it means foregoing its reimbursement and spending more of my hard-earned cash. At some point I hope I'll feel comfortable enough for complete freedom from that insurance company - a decision that would now make me an outlaw in Massachusetts. That's the other thing the ruling class does well: Create new criminals.

What'd I tell ya?

The only reprieve for the business owner is the last-minute 25-foot rule will be phased in "later." Read it and weep.

A last-ditch effort to halt the start of the controversial indoor smoking ban was doused yesterday when a federal judge ruled the law can go into effect as scheduled.

The decision means it will be illegal for anyone to light up in a public place after midnight tonight.

But state health officials disavowed any intention to immediately prohibit smoking within 25 feet of buildings where it is banned. They said the 25-foot buffer zone, announced Wednesday, is still just a proposal.

U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Chesler rejected arguments by a coalition of bar, restaurant and bowling alley owners that the law violates their constitutional rights by banning smoking in their establishments while permitting it on casino gambling floors.

Ruling from the bench in Trenton after hearing arguments for 30 minutes, Chesler said the Hospitality Coalition for Fairness could not prove lawmakers lacked "a rational basis" for exempting gaming areas of Atlantic City's 13 casinos from the smoking ban.

I'm ready to sign on as one of L. Neil Smith's "political smokers." It's a relief that crime has been eliminated in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area, so that we can set the police and media on those evil smokers and put them to work rescuing cats. I feel so much safer already.

Maybe it's time to move to Thunder Bay - although then I'd have to deal with the socialized health care system.

P.S. And if the federal judge had unconstitutionally invalidated a state law he theoretically has no jurisdiction over, I wouldn't have been thrilled with that, either. I think I'm turning into one of those happy curmudgeon types in my old age.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Ya gotta love that wacky Big Brother

Never underestimate the power or the ability of a bureaucrat to make a bad law even worse.

Saturday is the day the People's Republic of New Jersey has decreed that smokers may not exercise their habit in "public" places - "public" pretty much defined as anywhere outside the smoker's home. And now the micromanagers responsible for writing the rules that enforce the law have made a tyrannical law even worse.

"With just days remaining until New Jersey becomes the 11th state to ban smoking in all indoor public places and workplaces, restaurant and bar owners who oppose the action find they are facing an unexpected restriction - no smoking within 25 feet of a building," reports the Newark Star-Ledger.

Armando Frallicciardi Jr., co-owner of Lorenzo’s Cafe in Trenton and a strong opponent of the ban, called the unexpected regulation absurd. He said a number of restaurant and bar owners, including himself, have been considering building a deck or a patio for outdoor smoking.

“This means if we build a 30-foot deck...we would have five feet where people can smoke. That is totally absurd," he said.

They're taking the issue to court this afternoon, but when have the courts been any protection against bad law lately?

The statement is made that there's nothing people can do about the law. Well, there is something (and I confess as a nonsmoker this will come across as "Let's you do something") - just light up and let someone arrest you. At some point, when enough smokers have clogged the jails, the nannies will come to their senses.

What's that, you say? Decades of clogging the jails with "drug fiends" hasn't knocked any sense into the lawbringers? Oh, this will be different, because ... because ...

Hell. May as well face it, they're addicted to power. The totalitarians who believe 1984 has a happy ending won't stop until they've Stepfordized America and we're all good little citizens lined up in a row. It's enough to make me learn how to hold tobacco in my lungs, just so I can go to Trenton and blow smoke in the face of alleged government servants who live to snuff out the beacon of liberty.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Imaginary Bomb - Author's note

"The ship was rushing through space at twice the speed of imagination."

It's funny how the creative process works. Those dozen words formed themselves into a sentence, a surge of adrenaline raced through my veins, and a few weeks later I had a 24,000-page novel - well, maybe that's a novella - or maybe even a long short story - called The Imaginary Bomb.

I'm a terrible procrastinator. Once I had the idea, I needed a way to keep the juices flowing, so that I wouldn't set the thing down for 18 years and never come back to it.

So I made a pact to myself that every time I got together with my girlfriend, let's call her Samantha, I would have another chapter finished and would read it to her. Sam started looking forward to snuggling on the couch with the next stage in the adventures of Bob Whelan, Pete Wong and the mighty Baxter Hetznecker. She was a kid at heart and really enjoyed having a bedtime story, as it were - that's one of the things I loved about her (and the fact that I didn't tell her the many things I loved about her is among the reasons why she's a figment of my past - but in memory of those times, I frequently tell Sweetie what I love about her, so I guess I've learned that lesson - but I digress).

I sent the finished product out to two or three publishers, and each time it came back with a "thanks anyway" note. I meant to send it out again, but instead I set the thing down for 18 years and never came back to it.

Enter Warren Bluhm. We got to talking to each other late in 2005; we're both free-radical libertarian near-anarchists who like to write essays about liberty and freedom and were born in New Jersey, so it was perhaps inevitable that we'd get to know each other. Sometimes we think so much alike we may as well be the same person. Like me, he is an ex-radio guy, but in his case he still likes the sound of his own voice. Me, I'd rather hide away in my hermitage and write. He's been itching to get into podcasting but couldn't settle on an idea for one, and I've been itching to haul The Imaginary Bomb back out and get it to the world. I also remember how entertained Sam seemed to be as she heard the story told out loud. The various interests seemed to fit together like peas in a podcast.

We conceived this idea. I would revise the novel to clean up the clunky spots, and we'd put out a podcast with Warren reading the story. Maybe we'll take donations to fund the self-publication of the book, or maybe some publisher who's into podcast novels will say, "Whoa baby! This is the project my company has been waiting for!" or even better, some movie producer will buy up the rights and I can retire and give up this life of crime (a little Serenity reference there for you).

So I've been revising away, and Warren's been clearing his throat and reading Podcasting for Dummies, and we're just about ready to launch - aiming for around May 1. The 27 chapters of The Imaginary Bomb are kind of short, so we're thinking we'll split the story into nine three-chapter sections, but we won't know for sure until we see how long it takes him to read a chapter. We're thinking 20-minute segments, so however many chapters (up to three) he can spit out in about 20 minutes, that's what we'll do.

We're at least a couple of weeks away from having our ducks in a row. So why are we telling you this now? That's easy - if we don't, we'll just end up setting the idea aside for 18 years, and then what?!?

Cross-posted to The Imaginary Bomb and the Green Bay Free Radical

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Why I still read comic books

My comic book reading began with The Amazing Spider-Man #4 - I'll always remember that four-panel sequence of Spidey approaching and getting handled by the Sandman. It jumped out of the bin and bit me when I was searching for vacation reading material in a long-gone IGA in Milton, Vermont, and I've been haunted by visions of radioactive spiders ever since.

Every so often I drop back in on Peter Parker and that other family I met that vacation, the Fantastic Four. (A couple of days after Spidey #4, we found Fantastic Four Annual #1 in Saint Albans - talk about an introduction!) As always the first thing I did was dream wistfully of 12-cent purchases, then I handed over $2.99 each for Amazing Spider-Man #530, Fantastic Four #535, and something called Four #28.

The concepts and storylines I found inside are interesting and fairly encouraging in terms of what the next generation of comic book readers is absorbing.

In FF #535, the latest Hulk vs. Thing slugfest is interrupted ever-so-briefly by a TV announcement that Reed and Sue Richards have decided to stop fighting the government's efforts to take custody of their children on grounds their superhero lifestyle provides too dangerous an environment for kids.

In Four #28, Sue deals with an employee's abusive husband while Reed spends the night with a friend who's dying of cancer. I haven't seen this comic before, but if it always concentrates on their lives in between super battles, I'm coming back to this one. But the point for now is that Sue takes handling the husband into her own hands because the husband is a prosecutor who knows all the ways he can manipulate the law to get away with treating his wife like a slave and a punching bag.

And Spidey #430 has the banner "The Road to Civil War" emblazoned over the logo. Inside, Peter has gone to work for Tony Stark, the billionaire inventor, who has begun to introduce some of his Iron Man technology into Spider-Man's uniform. More importantly, the two of them travel to Washington, where Stark testifies against the coming Superhuman Registration Act - it's a kind of gun control or Real I.D. for superheroes. Well, not just superheroes, but you know supervillains aren't going to line up for their ID cards.

Yes, I know it's long past time that comic books were just for kids anymore. But the faces I see at comic book shops are still mostly a lot younger than I, and I'm pleased to see them exposed to the idea that politicians and government agents are not their friends. This is not likely a concept they'll encounter in their government classrooms, and so I'm tickled to see they will find it in their extracurricular reading material. I hope it helps them grow into adults with a healthy skepticism about men and women who want to micromanage their lives - and I hope when they become adults, it's not too late for them to do anything about it.

It looks like Marvel Comics is about to stage a civil war where superheroes are forced to fight for their freedom. Let's hope this is one allegory that doesn't have to come true.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Starting the Hugo game

Durn fraggle son of frim scraffle brin bran squigging plutz!

(Hey, you know what? It's fun swearing like the dad in A Christmas Story rather than picking the more-familiar, overused classic words to fume with!)

A fun little exercise has encountered a snag almost as soon as the books were out of the box. Not an insurmountable snag, mind you, just a snag.

I was tickled last month when Crash, the only nominated film I'd actually seen, won the Best Picture award at the Oscars. Then I was tickled to see Serenity, my favorite movie since I first blundered into It's A Wonderful Life in 1984, nominated for the science-fiction equivalent, the Hugo awards, which will be distributed this summer.

I know awards are silly. How can you objectively say that one brilliant work of art is better than another? You can't, in point of fact. The award really goes to the one that tickles a majority of the voters or judges - and you know how foolish majorities can be. But it's still entertaining to compare one's own preferences to those of the majority. And that's where I came up with the exercise.

When I saw the five novels that have been nominated for the Hugo, I realized that I could easily read all five of them by August and thus have an informed opinion when the winner is announced. Thusly I sent off an order to the Science Fiction Book Club for:

Learning the World - Ken Macleod
A Feast for Crows - George R.R. Martin
Old Man's War - John Scalzi
Accelerando - Charles Stross
Spin - Robert Charles Wilson

(Interesting that, in a genre dominated for so long by the Asimovs, Bears, Bovas, Bradburys, Brins and Clarkes, the Ellisons, the Heinleins and Herberts, none of the nominees has a name near the top of the alphabet.)

The box arrived a few days ago, and now I've taken step one and opened it. Minutes later, I'm swearing like Ralphie's Old Man.

There, on the inside flap of the dust jacket of Martin's book, are the fateful words: "Now, in A Feast for Crows, Martin delivers the long-awaited fourth book of his landmark series ..."

What's up with this? Do I have to read three other 750-page novels before I have a clue to what's going on in this book, which is already almost twice as long as its next-thickest competitor? I don't think so!

Martin just has to go into the exercise with points against him. I'm not going to take the bait and learn everything that's come before. The durn-bobbled thing has to stand on its own, and it has to give me a story that's worth sprawling over 750 pages, before I'm going to say, "This puppy deserves the B.W. Hugo!" And if it's incomprehensible out of context, or if I pass out from boredom because it needs a more judicious editor, I'm gonna say so.

(Then there's the fantasy versus science fiction thing. The very first word of Martin's book is "Dragons." Does that mean I'm dealing with another Tolkien wannabe rather than a "pure" science fiction story? Oh, man, does this entry have a pile of B.W. prejudices to overcome ...)

Whatever. It's going to be a fun summer, I think. The early leader, based solely on first impressions, i.e., based solely on the title: Accelerando. I have no idea what it means, but it's a cool-sounding word. It makes me want to dive in. Least-tempting title: Spin. Zzzzz, what is it, a "best-of" collection of rock-star interviews from the magazine?

Now, decisions, decisions. Do I start with the least-tempting title, the 750-page fantasy epic, or the most-tempting title?

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Oldie moldie reflections

Thoughts from a wandering mind as the oldies station droned on ...

How many times have I had to listen to "Brandy You're A Fine Girl" in the last 34 years? It's a lovely song, but gimme a break.

Modern listeners must wonder if the 1960s were really that great a time in musical history, seeing as the same 150 songs keep playing over and over again. Where's all this variety the geezers keep telling us about?

"What's that you say, Mrs. Robinson, Joltin' Joe has left and gone away." What's the difference between leaving and going away?

I looked it up - "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore" by the Walker Brothers peaked at No. 13 in 1966. It's a nice song, but howcome I hear that song more often than just about any song that hit No. 1 that year?

Worst song lyric in the history of music: "'I am,' I said to no one there, and no one heard at all - not even the chair."

Friday, April 07, 2006

Junk food vs. fine steak

Vache Folle's been on a roll lately IMHO. Ever since he stepped outside the box and related some major sticky issues to dead babies, it's been an interesting ride, from exploring the metaphor of Jesus as king to global warming to the business of outer space and the perception vs. reality of child molesters.

Your humble servant, meanwhile, has been sputtering along. I think I had something to say about how liberty can't be squashed the other day, and I hope I've piqued your curiosity about my new little project, but my brain sure hasn't been humming with intriguing ideas like Vache's has.

And now I know why.

In his thoughts about "We soar despite the chains" the other day, Vache let slip:

I am still on my mainstream media fast, so I avoid that toxic drivel. Soon, I will give up TV altogether and spend my idle hours outside until almost bedtime. I can almost forget about the damned government from time to time.

Well, no wonder, says I. I can tell you what I think about President Logan turning out to be the bad guy, and Florida winning the NCAA, and Mandisa getting eliminated before that talentless Bucky guy, and Wilson moving in with House. Oh yes, and I'm two-thirds of the way through Season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer thanks to DVDs and Netflix. But the words about important things have been slow in emerging from my muddled brain. Even though I've recognized this problem before, I continue to ease myself into that comfortable chair to dull my mind.

There's a crossroads of sorts in my house near the kitchen: I can open the door to the basement and walk down the stairs to my writing space, or I can walk into the living room and grab the remote. I need to muster the resolve to head onward and downward.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

We soar despite the chains

As what's left of wilderness springs back to life around us -

Wait a minute, that's an interesting thought, B.W. - I began the above the sentence "As what's left of nature springs back ..." and backed up to replace the word nature with wilderness. That's part of the problem, isn't it, our first instinct is to deny that humans are part of nature - that beaver dams and bee hives and skyscrapers aren't all part of how we various species make tools and shelter out of what we find in the wilderness?


As what's left of wilderness springs back to life around us, I'm sensing a shift in some of my familiar haunts on our little Web. Those who aren't increasingly agitated about what's going on in the world are increasingly withdrawn, almost as if they're wondering if the hiding places from the world are shrinking; still others like me are both. Some days I'm withdrawn, some days I'm agitated. (Pardon me for a second, I have to shift my chair - Big Brother wants to be able to see what I'm writing from over my shoulder.)

Maybe it's always like this and I haven't noticed. Maybe we're reacting to the increasing signs that people are happy with coercive and intrusive rulers, fitting themselves with designer chains and fleeing in horror from the concepts enshrined in our documents of freedom: The press can say anything it wants about Our Leader? Ewwwww, how gross. I have the right to own weapons - why would anyone want to? If someone's arrested he's presumed innocent and the prosecutor has to prove he's not - what's the point?

Last summer I learned a little ditty that I can hum to myself when the world starts closing in, and a little reflection about the song tend to restore my calm. Most of you will recognize the song immediately, as those who find what I have to say interesting are often fans of Firefly.

"Take my love, take my land, take me where I cannot stand - I don't care, I'm still free, You can't take the sky from me." It doesn't matter what external forces come to bear against someone who is free - even isolation, seizure of property and imprisonment cannot change the internal ticking of liberty.

"Take me out to the black, tell 'em I ain't coming back - Burn the land and boil the sea, You can't take the sky from me." Whatever violence you perpetrate against free people, when their hearts stop they will be the corpses of free people. No state can take liberty away from people - bury them in rules and regulations and laws, slap them down or jail them when they dare object, but inside their skins, they retain their freedom. The guardians of the state may herd us physically into line, but our souls are as free as the air. Powerful as the state may seem, it can't take the sky away.

"There's no place I can be since I found serenity - You can't take the sky from me." This line is about the freedom to fly a spaceship named Serenity - yeah, right. It's about the serenity that flows through your heart and supercharges your mind when the truth of that seven-word refrain sinks in: No one can take the sky from you. Embrace your freedom and you'll be free until your last breath, whether it comes later today or 80 years from now.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Here's another clue for you all ...

... the walrus was Paul. That, and my brief absence last week was the latest phase in a process that I first wrote about last September.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

I have a new hero

Discussion of the surprising George Mason University basketball team on James Leroy Wilson's site included his passing comment of deep admiration for Mason the man and a link to a handy historical site that tells the tale of the man in bite-sized bits.

I'm embarrassed sometimes by my lack of knowledge - I embrace the themes and visions without knowing where they came from. I had no idea that George Mason wrote the document from which flowed the Bill of Rights. Five minutes after clicking, I was a huge fan of George Mason the man, and if the basketball team's success introduces many more people to this guy, yippee!

The first paragraph of the introduction to Mason was all I needed:

The Bill of Rights received a lot of attention during its recent 200th anniversary, but little recognition was given to George Mason, who was the driving force behind the document. Mason (1725-1792) was the author of the 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights, which the Marquis de Condorcet called "the first Bill of Rights to merit the name." Mason fought against ratification of the United States Constitution because it contained no bill of rights. As a leader of the AntiFederalists, his objections led to the first 10 amendments, which were ratified in 1791.

I dare any lover of freedom to read that 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights and not have your heart go pitty-pat with excitement. Ratified June 12, 1776, this is the stuff that liberty is made of - 16 bulwarks of freedom and none of the vagaries that have led to the myriad corruptions of the Bill of Rights.

1. That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

2. That all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people; that magistrates are their trustees and servants, and at all times amenable to them ...

12. That the freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.

13. That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that, in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and be governed by, the civil power ...

Heady stuff! I can't wait to get past the first paragraph ... And if this is how Virginians thought, I want to be a Virginian when I grow up ...

Keep It Simple, Silly

(I saw this expression the other day and realized that was another thing I hated about Clinton and his toadie Mr. Carville: By corrupting it into "Keep It Simple, Stupid," you change a teasing reminder into an "I'm better than you are" putdown - You're so dumb I have to remind you to keep it simple. I embrace silliness; I try to avoid stupidity, especially in myself - so routinely calling me Stupid is a frustrating insult. But then, unreformed statists do seem to think they know better than the rest of us, and it's important to them that we stay in our place.)

A friend of mine points the way to a four-year-old Bob Wallace essay called "Love Your Neighbor As Yourself." He begins by suggesting that the study of economics makes people's eyes glaze over because it is not presented playfully enough, or simply enough.

One of the few things I remember from jr. high about Jesse Stuart's book about his teaching days - The Thread That Runs So True - is when he finally hit on the only way he was able to motivate his students. He made the learning play. The only time he saw his students motivated and interested is when they were playing games in the yard. So he made school play, and he had almost no problems thereafter getting his students to learn.

Bob's goal was to find a way to explain economics in a truly free society that is as simple to understand as Marxism: "I think one of the reasons Marxism, no matter how destructive, was able to make such inroads into societies is that it's easy to understand. 'I'm good; you're bad. I'm right; you're wrong. You're guilty; I'm innocent. Capitalists bad, workers good.' So simple, and so completely wrong. It takes an hour to teach it and a hundred years to get rid of it."

As he searches for a fun and simple explanation, Bob finds himself turning to Richard Marbury, who "distilled all laws down to to two basic ones: 'Do all that you have agreed to do' and 'Do not encroach on other persons or their property.'"

Noticing that those two principles are extrapolations of the Ten Commandments, Bob takes the religion angle a bit further and notes that almost all religions at some point boil down to a variation of "Love your neighbor as yourself" or "Do to others as you would do to them." This, he argues, is the essential point of libertarian law and economics:

"You can just 'love your neighbor.' The Neighbor Wins, you Lose. You can just 'love yourself.' You Win, your neighbor Loses. But if you love your neighbor as yourself, both you and your neighbor Win."

This is an overly simplistic summary; Bob says it better than I can. (It's such a solid piece that I was reminded I've been meaning to add a section of essential articles to the sidebar, which I did this morning with five charter members of "Other Folks' Greatest Hits.")

But what great ways to kick off an explanation of how the free market works, or an explanation of the bottom line of liberty: It's all about loving your neighbor as yourself. The price of securing your own individual freedom is you must embrace your neighbor's freedom - and if you treat each other in a way you would like to be treated yourself, you have a free and open society based on trust.

The state thrives when it can drive a wedge into that trust and make us afraid of each other. If it is effective enough at the fear-mongering game, eventually we become afraid of freedom itself. I am a broken record on this point: The bottom line to protect your freedom is to REFUSE TO BE AFRAID.