Friday, September 29, 2006

All is not quite lost

I have been known to try too hard to put a positive spin on situations. Maybe it's the ghost of Ma Bluhm singing "Happy Talk" in my ear (and if you have no idea what that reference is, may I recommend my podcasting partner and "voice," Warren Bluhm's, new venture, "Uncle Warren's Attic."

Whatever it is, I have two teeny-tiny more-or-less positive things to toss into the vat of recent bad news. One is Hemp hand lotion, a product I have found at two different Wal-Marts in two different states last weekend. The stores also had some Hemp hair products on the shelves as well.

From the back label: "Malibu Hemp Hand Protector is a premium hand skin care lotion with lavish amounts of THC-Free Virgin Hemp Seed Oil to cultivate your hands with essential hydration."

OK, I admit it's a small triumph, but it felt good to walk into Wal-Mart and buy something with a list of ingredients that includes "Hemp seed (cannabis sativa)." All is not quite lost.

My other little triumph, and I admit it's even smaller than the first one, is that to the best of my knowledge there has not yet been a general roundup and arrest of people who have publicly declared that we are fast moving toward, if not actually living in, a fascistic totalitarian state. In other words, freedom of speech is not completely dead yet. I can still call people like George W. Bush and Edward Kennedy, for example, tyrants and traitors to the principles America was founded on, without being carted off to political prison.

Hey, I'm trying to be positive here - howcome you're still looking so glum? Just because they've pretty much finished repealing the Constitution and moved on to repealing the Magna Carta - why the long face? Freedom is still a flicker of light in the darkness, even this overcast night with an eclipse of the moon that we're living in.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Where the power lies

It seemed like a good time to watch V for Vendetta again. Then it seemed that V's little televised speech on the fifth of November has a lot of good in it, and I thought just writing it down would be a useful exercise. But I didn't want to sit and transcribe the good parts. I'm lazy that way.

So I Googled the screenplay and found an early draft of the script. The early version has some good stuff, too ...

"Right now, I imagine there are hundreds of soldiers rushing here to kill me because someone does not want us to talk. They are afraid that I am going to say the things that are not supposed to be said. They are afraid that I am going to say the truth.

"The truth is that there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there? If you look about, you witness cruelty, injustice and despotism. But what do you do about it? What can you do?

"You are but a single individual. How can you possible make any difference? Individuals have no power in this modern world. That is what you've been taught because that is what they need you to believe. But it is not true.

"This is why they are afraid and the reason that I am here; to remind you that it is individuals who always hold the power. The real power. Individuals like me. And individuals like you."

Betrayals on every side

"The Republican senators flinched, and in last week's so-called "compromise" chose Bush over the Constitution. In doing so, they turned their backs on a rule of law that stretches back over nearly eight centuries to an epic moment in 1215 on a meadow by the River Thames in the United Kingdom."
"Such chilling enthusiasm for torture was once confined to an underclass with whom no decent person associated: gangs from the inner cities, mobsters, dictators in banana republics."
"The details of the torture bill vivify how our politicians no longer give a darn about maintaining even a pretense of due process. The agreement will permit the use of coerced confessions in military tribunals — turning the judicial clock back to the 1600s."
It is a dreary day in September, and the clocks are striking thirteen.

More than an absence part 2

For example, at those times in life when I feel most free, it's a fullness. not an absence of something - although the absence of shackles does indeed bring a full feeling, doesn't it?

But the absence of an ideology? Libertarianism has been described as a belief that people should be free to exercise their individual rights without government interference so long as they don't tread on others' individual rights. Isn't that an ideology?

I think I understand where Smith is coming from, I even tend to agree with him. This is likely just a semantic quibble.

It seems to me his main point in that passage is not about libertarianism, but about government: "Government is about stealing ... So if you’re a Republican, a Democrat, a Green, or a 'libertarian' mini-statist, what you’re admitting to the whole world is that you’re a thief. You’re admitting to your neighbors that you want to steal their money, their houses, their weapons, their jewelry, and their children. You’re admitting that, if they won’t cough up in a manner that appears comfortingly voluntary, you’ll send your thugs (because you lack the balls to do it yourself) to beat them up, kidnap, or kill them."

I can definitely sound an "Amen" there.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

More than an absence

The death of a parent seems to bring moments of clarity, as a review of the life now concluded allows for an opportunity to seek meaning. L. Neil Smith's "Death of a Generation" is a such a moment of clarity, and a brilliant one at that. (And thanks to Sunni for making sure we saw it.)

I wonder about one of Smith's conclusions, though: "An early intuition I once had, that libertarianism is not an ideology, but the absence of one, was correct." Is liberty really best defined by the absence of restrictions?

This morning, I have only the question. More to come, I hope, as time goes by.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Where have we heard this before?

"The first I heard of this is when I read it in the newspaper. I guess I was taken aback ..."

Wow, Nineties flashback, man. Except instead of reading that he'd raped someone or was cheating on his wife again, this time the president was reading that one of his flunkies had warned the president of Pakistan to play ball or be bombed back to the Stone Age.

I didn't believe Billy Jeff then when he claimed to be innocent and ignorant, and I don't believe Georgie today when he claims to be innocent and ignorant.

Never thought I'd say this, but I miss the days when the president was making love in the Oval Office. It beats making war at the drop of a big ol' Texas hat.

'Course, I seem to remember Billy Jeff dropping a few bombs and killing a few folks in his own right. I was screaming "WTF!?!" while half of America was saying it was right. Now I'm screaming "WTF!?!" while the other half of America defends the indefensible. It's enough to drive someone cuckoo.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Star Con

I still am irritated about trying to record my (that is, the ones I paid good money to own - my personal) VHS tapes of the Star Wars trilogy onto a (that is, my personal) DVD-R disk and being told by an officious computer chip that the tapes were "protected" from evil people like me who want to preserve my property in a less obsolete form.

But that didn't prevent me from plunking down $51 (or, to be more precise, going into debt for 51 more federal reserve notes plus future interest) to buy the latest DVD release of George Lucas' intellectual property, which actually goes my VHS tapes one better - it really seems to be the original trilogy as seen by a dazzled young B.W. in the theaters eight times in 1977. None of this "Chapter IV - A New Hope" crap - It's just a movie called Star Wars. The little Flash Gordon synopsis at the beginning begins "It is a period of civil war ..." Not "Episode IV ..." Ah, near-bliss.

It did feel good to see the opening scene exactly the way I remember it again, with the dazzling effects made with models and light. Then I turned off the DVD player and went back to whatever I was doing.

It does feel good to have a DVD copy of the memory. But $51 good? When I grew up able to make as many cassette copies of a vinyl record as I needed to enjoy those songs? for the cost of the record and the blank tape? and John Fogerty didn't go broke because I wanted to listen to "Born On the Bayou" in the car and couldn't afford the professionally made copy?

No. Not that good. I really love Star Wars, the original un-"improved" movie. But, I think, not that much. Next time I'll save my money - errr, won't increase my debt.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Thuggery, tyranny and the war on drugs

In a nightmare totalitarian world, political speech is targeted and the speakers punished for their dissent against what The Masters are doing. [sarcasm]Of course, in the United States of America we have the First Amendment to guarantee that never happens.[/sarcasm]

Or at the very least, the cause and effect are rarely quite as obvious as they were when Willie Nelson and his entourage were arrested for hemp possession two days after Willie spoke out for decriminalization of hemp possession.

I'm not sure the E! Online writer meant to juxtapose the two, but it sure works well that way:

"The bust came just two days after Nelson called for the decriminalization of marijuana while stumping for Texas gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman. According to Willie Williams of the Louisiana Highway Patrol, Nelson and crew were traveling along Highway 10 when they were stopped for a routine commercial inspection."

"Routine commercial inspection," my not-so-muscular buttocks. Someone out there wanted to teach this very visible and admired person a lesson about saying things in the political arena - especially things that undermine the "war on drugs," where the presumption is that only the federal government and pharmaceutical companies have the wisdom and knowledge to dispense medicinal-type substances and regulate their use and/or abuse. First Amendment be damned.

It's an amazing coincidence, the frequency with which people who challenge The Powers That Be find themselves undergoing IRS audits or "routine commercial inspections." It's all aimed to intimidate the populace and keep us in line. I imagine it really irritates them when a non-smoker whose only recreational drugs are caffeine and alcohol, like me, calls them thugs and tyrants. How do they squash someone who only sits on the sidelines of the drug war and comments about the obvious? I admit that question makes me a little nervous, which is why the "routine commercial inspections" are so effective and so tyrannical.

The drugs czars of America hate our freedoms. Damn terrorists.

B.W. sells out

Hey, someday I'd like to be a full-time writer and eat, too - this is one step in the process. Click, browse, buy, have fun and help me reach my life goals.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Everybody say Amen!

This column by renowned statist Garrison Keillor is so great that I had to do a Web search just to confirm it was really written by Keillor. (Well, you've seen the "George Carlin" e-mails, haven't you?)

"The way to stop terrorists on planes is to encourage passengers to bring loaded firearms aboard: guys in orange vests sitting in exit rows with deer rifles on their laps, ladies with Mr. Colt in their purses, kids with peashooters. Somebody wake up the NRA. Does the Second Amendment say 'The right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed except on commercial airliners'? Where is the right wing when you really need them? ...

"The jihadists we're afraid of are, so far as we know, young Muslim men from the Middle East, not old grandmas named Evelyn and Gladys married to soybean farmers, and not even old white guys like me, but nonetheless they pat us down for plastic explosives under our Sansabelts and have us raise our stockinged feet to be wanded for possible toe bombs. It's all to make us feel we're in a movie and it will have a happy ending. God forbid, somebody shows up at an airport somewhere in the world with an explosive tucked up in his lower colon ...

"It's all fine with me. I'm a liberal and we love ridiculous government programs that intrude on personal freedom. But where are the conservatives who used to object to this sort of thing?"

I'm still reeling that this came from Keillor. But as Lou Gossett's Drac says in a memorable scene in Enemy Mine: "Truth is truth."

Monday, September 18, 2006

Great commercial

Guy unloads a Ford Mustang at a shipping dock in Germany. A native asks, "You couldn't find a sports car you like in Germany?"

Cut to the guy screaming along the Autobahn in his Mustang. Back to the dock, where the guy replies:

"No. I couldn't find a speed limit I liked in America."

Bam! I love it.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Happy Constitution Week

Sunday is Constitution Day, and the emperor has declared this Constitution Week. Jim Bovard has a great idea: Ways to celebrate Constitution Day in the Bushevik era. Read the comments for some fun additional ideas.

And then don't forget to review my exciting 10-part series "The Constitution in plain English." Here are Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, the key turning point "I hate when this happens," and Part 6, in which I got tired of repeating myself and brought the series to a premature climax.

Last but not least, remember what Mr. Bush really thinks of the Constitution.

Friday, September 15, 2006

A foot in the door

Having given up on the two major parties, it's still encouraging to hear a call for slapping down the party in power, from members of that party. A pile of seven Republicans who realize the GOP has dropped all pretense of being the limited-government alternative have written essays on the theme "Time for us to go" for Washington Monthly.

These are names that resonate in memory, like Richard Viguerie, who says, "If Big Government Republicans behave so irresponsibly and betray the people who elected them, while we blindly, slavishly continue backing them, we establish that there is no price to pay for violating conservative principles."

And Joe Scarborough, who remembers, "... right-wing, knuckle-dragging Republicans like myself took over Congress in 1994 promising to balance the budget and limit Washington’s power," and notes, "The fact that both parties hated each another was healthy for our republic’s bottom line. A Democratic president who hates a Republican appropriations chairman is less likely to sign off on funding for the Midland Maggot Festival being held in the chairman’s home district. Soon, budget negotiations become nasty, brutish, and short and devolve into the legislative equivalent of Detroit, where only the strong survive. But in Bush’s Washington, the capital is a much clubbier place where everyone in the White House knows someone on the Hill who worked with the Old Man, summered in Maine, or pledged DKE at Yale. The result? Chummy relationships, no vetoes, and record-breaking debts."

We're not going to see a reversal of the deterioration of our liberty anytime soon, so in any election the best we can hope for is a slowdown of the decline. It's insane that these two Big Government parties think they're polar opposites, but as long as they're crazy, it makes sense to make them equals. A Democratic Congress and Republican president could keep themselves in gridlock long enough for us to eke out a little freedom on the side, a foot in the door that might let the original American spirit back in the house.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Losing the war on terror

I took five minutes over breakfast this morning to watch and listen to C-SPAN's coverage of the House of Representatives. Five minutes was about all I could stand.

The business of the day had not yet begun (at 10:00 in the morning - not a bad gig for $165K a year), so a gaggle of Democrats was standing up and giving one-minute speeches about what bad guys the Republicans are and how they, especially Emperor Bush, have botched the war on terror.

One gentlelady from California caught my ear by saying Bush and the (majority) Republicans have failed to pass many of the recommendations of the 9/11 commission. She didn't think Congress should stop, for example, until every cargo container entering the United States in every port is being screened. Probable cause for such unreasonable searches be damned, of course; we're fighting a war on terror, don't you know, and the rules have changed - especially the rules set down in the Bill of Rights.

I turned off the TV and mused that the war against terror is being lost bigtime, for here's a roomful of politicians who are terrified, terrified enough to demand that every American be put in a bubble where we can be protected from every terrifying thing that man and nature can throw at us.

Funny thing, though: I don't see much fear among the everyday folks I meet every day. Life goes on even in the face of the one-in-a-million chance that we'll be killed when the next terrorist attack occurs one of these days or years. Why are these politicians so terrified? Why do they want us to be terrified?

Isn't the point of terrorism to make the victims so terrified they alter their lifestyles, cower and change their ways? If so, how long will it take these terrified politicians to figure out they're playing into the hands of the terrorists they imagine on every street corner? After all, they pass laws that alter our lifestyles (i.e., restrict our freedom) and encourage cowering.

The key question, of course, is why do the politicians want us to be terrified? The answer is obvious: Frightened people are more easily controlled. Career politicians live to gain control. If we are not terrified, the politicians fear they may lose control of us, and that thought terrifies them. The scariest thought, to them, is the outright fact that they can never control all of us all of the time, no matter how many controlling recommendations they pass into law.

So they skulk about Washington and skulk about their districts in constant concern that "we" are losing the war on terror. And they're right, because the vast majority of us aren't particularly afraid, not of terrorists and not of them. And that fact absolutely terrifies them.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Bring her home

I think there's some cosmic rule at play here. The Fox network canceled Wonderfalls after four episodes, so of course it's the fifth episode ("Crime Dog") that brings it all together for me and makes me not just a bemused viewer but an outright fan.

In case you're new to Wonderfalls, this 2004 series executive-produced by Tim Minear (Firefly, Angel, Buffy, etc.) stars Caroline Dhavernas as Jaye Tyler, a Gen-Y slacker whose life is turned upside down when inanimate objects - usually toys like that bear in the picture - start talking to her and urging her to do good deeds. A terrific ensemble cast surrounds Dhavernas as Jaye's family, co-workers and friends.

The show is funny, intelligent and heartwarming in a non-cloying way, so naturally it stood no chance of surviving in the TV wasteland. Minear had the good sense to complete 13 episodes anyway with an eye on the DVD market. I understand from hearing a podcast interview that Minear suspected these 13 shows would be his only shot with these wonderfully quirky characters, so he created a fairly self-contained story arc. At this point I don't know where it goes from the fifth episode, but I'm hooked.

I'm sure I will wish there were more than these 13 episodes, but on the other hand it's nice to know I'll be able to take in the whole story in a matter of days or a couple of weeks. I'm finding it a bit daunting to seek out the entire Buffy and Angel saga, which is making me ever more reluctant to tackle the other very worthy shows I missed the first time around, like Babylon 5 and Stargate SG-1. Life is more than cool TV shows, after all. Still, I'm extremely pleased I didn't miss Wonderfalls.

Gotta read these

I can't add anything, just have to say "Amen" to Sheldon Richman's "Ten Lessons from 9/11" and Roderick Long's "Five Years After," two succinct summaries of the mess we're in.

As Long says: "By the logic of the situation, government restrictions will always increase. When restriction A makes one tactic more difficult, the terrorists switch to a different tactic, so the government imposes restriction B – but, of course, doesn’t remove restriction A. Given the massive variety of tactics for terrorists to switch among, this process has no natural endpoint short of total government control over every aspect of life."

Thanks to that proudly vulgar libertarian Wally C for sending me to these links.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Revisiting what I'm going to do when I grow up

All this talk of anniversaries, and I let the one-year anniversary slide of my entry "What I'm going to do when I grow up." You may recall it, or you may read it again for the first time here.

What I'm going to do when I grow up: I'm going to have some adventures. Tonight, when I return home from my comfortable corporate job, I'm going to stop "just thinking" about these adventures and commit them to paper. If I have time tonight after I write them down, I will get started on one or more of them. Otherwise I'll get started first thing in the morning. The corporate job will keep me from going as fast as I can, but it will pay the bills in the meantime.

Why am I writing this here? So that if months continue to slip by and there's no sign of change, my friends and readers with memories will ask, "Hey, B.W. or whatever your name is, how's it coming with those adventures?" The fear of having to say, "Oh, I haven't done much about my dreams" will be a motivation for me.

So, have I had any adventures? Some; not enough. I'm still working up the courage to declare independence day. Same time next year, perhaps? Gawd, I hope it's sooner than then.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Life reduced to its essentials

Peggy Noonan writes of the phone calls people made Sept. 11, 2001, on the way to their deaths.

Something terrible had happened. Life was reduced to its essentials. Time was short. People said what counted, what mattered. It has been noted that there is no record of anyone calling to say, "I never liked you," or, "You hurt my feelings." No one negotiated past grievances or said, "Vote for Smith." Amazingly - or not - there is no record of anyone damning the terrorists or saying "I hate them."

Just wondering, then: Seeing as we all will die one day, why don't people spend more of the time that's left on what counts, what matters, and why do we waste so much time on the unimportant, the petty, and the hate?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Inadvertent truth

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- An obesity pandemic threatens to overwhelm health systems around the globe with illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, experts at an international conference warned Sunday.

"This insidious, creeping pandemic of obesity is now engulfing the entire world," Paul Zimmet, chairman of the meeting of more than 2,500 experts and health officials, said in a speech opening the weeklong International Congress on Obesity. "It's as big a threat as global warming and bird flu."


Wow, I pretty much put obesity, global warming and avian flu together, too - as manufactured crises that the controllers want people to fear so that we gratefully climb into the cage they're building to "protect" us. I'm just not used to seeing someone acknowledge the scam.

Monday, September 04, 2006

We interrupt this program ...

There are two things you can do when you see a train wreck about to happen. In real life, you just kind of watch in fascination and wish there was something you could do to stop it, knowing you're helpless.

But when you're an author and the train wreck is going to happen to your beloved characters, you can turn into Superman, throw yourself in front of the train and stop the durn-fangled wreck from happening.

Here's what happened: Warren Bluhm and I promised Chapter 1 of The Imaginary Lover, the second story of The Imaginary Age, would appear in a podcast Sept. 1. We did it. No sweat, really. I was cheerfully rolling along writing subsequent episodes when I spotted the oncoming train.

This is a very nifty story about the three unlikely heroes of the I-Bomb and how they help their friend Snooky when her bar becomes the acquisition target of some unsavory characters. But just as I reached the place where I hit writer's block when I first started writing The Imaginary Lover 15 years or so ago, I realized why I hit that roadblock: There's a better story that could be told starting with the same premise.

Options: 1. Tell Warren to keep on telling the story as I first wrote it, and switch gears at an appropriate spot in the action. Or
2. Put the podcast on hiatus and start revising the story from scratch.

As you know, at first we picked Option 1, and the plan was that I was going to keep writing on the fly. It actually sounded like fun, trying to finish the novel while the early chapters were being released a day at a time. The reason this quickly started looking like an oncoming train wreck is that as I fleshed out the new scenarios, I saw ways that I should be setting the stage way back in those early chapters. Warren thought we could get around that by simply explaining that the podcast will be kind of a "first draft," but on second thought I think you, the reader/listener, deserve the polished draft, not a half-baked early stab at it.

So, quicker than some maniac Fox executive, we're canceling the show, pulling the plug, so that I can have the luxury of working this little tale out the way it deserves to be worked out. I owe no less to my good friends Bob, Pete, Baxter, Snooky and Eddie.

Wait a frickin' minute, you ask - who's Eddie?

Hee hee hee. I'll let you know in a few weeks. Or maybe a little longer.

Never fear - this is not the Inner Critic that Sunni M. wrote so eloquently about a few days ago, slamming the door on the Imaginary adventures I've finally worked up the courage to share with the world. No, this is the creative beast I unleashed with the I-Bomb saying, "Whoa! Do I have a better idea for you!" and careening into the future on the heels of that nifty Hugh Macleod article that Sunni found after jomama found it.

It's still going to be an interesting autumn. Stay tuned.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The American Century of Bullying

Maybe there's something about the opening years of a new century that lends itself to maniacal behavior by whoever's in the White House. No, that doesn't explain the maniacal behavior the US of A committed under Wilson, FDR, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton and assorted others ....

But Thomas DiLorenzo has an intriguing take on an apparently intriguing new book by Jim Powell called Bully Boy: The Truth About Theodore Roosevelt's Legacy. The review is called "Bully Boy: The Neocons' Favorite President." Both the article and the book revisit the legacy of the president Mark Twain called "clearly insane."

Teddy Roosevelt became president by first serving as William McKinley’s vice president and succeeding him after he was assassinated. One of his first proclamations was that the Filipinos "must be made to realize ... that we are the masters."

That blunt language of Americans as the master race reflected the thinking behind Teddy's status as, DiLorenzo writes, the president who "first declared that the U.S. should act as the world’s policeman, a dramatic contrast to George Washington’s and Thomas Jefferson’s policy of commercial relations with all nations and entangling alliances with none." The result, of course, has been a century of miscellaneous misadventures abroad that have little to do with protecting our borders. "Here you have the principal reason why the neocons are just wild about Teddy."

On another front, James Leroy Wilson has a can't-miss fable about how governments become tyrants over at The Partial Observer.