Sunday, September 30, 2007

Nothing new: The politics of fear

"We are again being told to be afraid. As it was before the two world wars, so it is now; politicians talk in frightening terms, journalists invent scare-lines, and even next-door neighbors are taking up the cry: The enemy is at the city gates; we must gird for battle. In case you don't know, the enemy this time is ________."

The quote is from Frank Chodorov, November 1954, recalled in Murray Rothbard's The Betrayal of the American Right. (Page 135 - and watch for more about this book in days and weeks to come) I left the blank because it could be anytime, anyone. Chodorov was writing that day about fear of the Soviet Union. I could write it tonight about terrorists, or China, or illegal immigrants, or obesity or Big Tobacco.

We are always being told to be afraid, by politicians, by journalists and even next-door neighbors. These influential people remain more focused on the fear of death than on the joy of living. Politicians want you to be afraid, because it makes you easier to manipulate. Journalists, most of them anyway, are only reporting what they hear, and what they hear much of the time is about what politicians want their readers, listeners and viewers to fear. Next-door neighbors ought to know better, but they just parrot what they hear from politicians and journalists.

As Rothbard, Chodorov and countless others concluded, the fear-mongers were right: The enemy is at the gates, but the enemy is not Russian, Arab, terrorist or even a tobacco farmer. The enemy is the politician who would strip you of your freedom in the name of protecting you against the terror du jour.

Here's the dirty little secret: There is nothing to fear. Chances are close to 100% that the dark-skinned fella behind the counter is not a terrorist. The typical Iraqi is more concerned about feeding his kids than converting you to Islam. That bag of French fries is not going to kill you, and neither is that cigarette, at least not today, not by themselves.

As long as you let them scare you, you are the pawn of the politician. Here's what to say to the fear monger: I'm not afraid. I'm not even afraid of you, who want me to be afraid so I will voluntarily to submit to an unconstitutional search, so I will voluntarily disarm myself, so I will voluntarily stop telling my friends and neighbors not to be afraid of you.

I've said this before, and I don't have a death wish - I simply say this because it's true, and guess what? You're going to die someday anyway, and so am I - In the end, the only power the fear mongers have over a free human being is that they can kill you. They simply can't make you a slave without your permission. But, like the legendary vampire who can't enter a home without an invitation, the fear mongers will try every trick in the book to obtain your permission to enslave you. Bottom line - Charles Dickens' Jacob Marley was right: We forge our own chains.

You were born free. You can live and die free if you choose. First, refuse to be afraid.

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Top 50 Dystopian Movies of All Time

I love lists. I love (?) dystopian movies. So I'm a sucker for this list. And I see a slew of films I have to load up my Netflix queue on. (Yo, Wally, look what's #50!)

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Friday, September 28, 2007

Dead pig falls from sky

The weather babe was saying something about a heavy rain somewhere. From the other room, I heard her say clear as day, "The storm also brought packaged ham."


Sweetie assures me that the woman said, "The storm also brought half-inch hail." Then she suggested I made an appointment to have my hearing checked.

Whatever for?

Monday, September 24, 2007


The best show currently on television returns tonight. I plan to be parked in front of the glowing monster at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.

For unfathomable reasons, this moment has crept up on me and - despite the fact that I was giddy as the proverbial schoolgirl every week Heroes was on last winter and spring - I'm not overly excited about its return.

Perhaps it's merely skepticism that the quality can be maintained over a second season, and once 10 p.m. rolls around, I'll be salivating again. Time, as always, will tell.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

What "the American people" believe

It really irks me to hear politicians lead with "The American people believe" this or that. I think the only thing the American people believe in collectively is freedom - and even then, there are 300 million definitions of exactly what freedom is.

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Cats, sitars and the meaning of life

Listening to: "Arpan" from the Concert for George

I poured the coffee, walked down the stairs to the piles of chaos that I call an office, and rested my hands on the keyboard - stared at them wondering what I would write this morning. As I stared my hands reminded me of the pause before a pianist starts to explore the keyboard.

Before I could start to type - or perhaps a little afterward, because I did type the first sentence up to the word "and" - a cat demanded my attention by leaping into my lap. I spent the next five minutes or so giving him a little kitty massage, which he acknowledged with loud purring, thrashing about on my lap in delight, and finally by settling in with his front paws kneading my stomach and his back resting against the edge of the keyboard drawer. Instead of a musical instrument, my hands were playing the cat, and he responded with his contented purr - perhaps a cat is a musical instrument.

Music is on my mind because during my daily visit to Sunni and the Conspirators, I saw something on the sidebar I hadn't seen before - a box with two links, one to Shaun Sander's short story inspired by Cat Farmer's essay about "The Seven C's," the other to an article by Sunni Maravillosa that I hadn't encountered yet called "My First Drug." Funny that I never read it before, although it was written about five months before I entered the blogosphere.

I was introduced to this drug the same way Sunni was: through my parents. As time goes on, I've come to believe my parents' stuff was very, very good. In the hotel room the other day, we blundered across an obscure Red Skelton-Lucille Ball-Gene Kelly movie called "Du Barry Was A Lady" just before the Tommy Dorsey orchestra jumped into an equally obscure tune called "Katie Went to Haiti." I had to stop everything to watch the band, which included Ziggy Elman and Buddy Rich, do its magic.

I pity folks who "can't stand" a particular genre of music, because I've had mesmerizing moments listening to - and watching the musicians play - rock, folk, big band, bluegrass, classical, Indian ... I've never made it through an entire opera, but that is because I've never tried. And yes, I've even had an "oh!" moment listening to a rap composition or two, although I admit I can't listen to rap for an extended period of time.

When I found this post veering toward this topic, I pulled out my "Concert for George" disk and started listening to "Arpan," a one-of-a-kind 23-minute Ravi Shankar composition, conducted by his daughter Anoushka Shankar, that blends Indian musicians and singers with a European-style concert orchestra and an Eric Clapton guitar solo. It's one of the most breathtaking musical moments I've ever experienced - it gave (and still does give) me the rush Sunni describes in her essay and helped me finish reading with a contented, "Oh, yeah."

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Just blow, kid

Back home in the woods, and just in the nick of time. It's a scary world out there.

We picked up a paper or two along the way, and was startled to see that in Carmel, Ind., kids can't enter a football game without undergoing a Breathalyzer test. They tried it out at a football game Sept. 14, and no students had been drinking, so they decided to try it again at Homecoming Sept. 28, and it looks like it'll be a permanent addition.

Scarier: This has nothing to do with a problem.

Principal John Williams ... emphasized that the school isn't expanding its alcohol testing to football games because of an increase in underage drinking.

"The thing that has driven this decision is technology," Williams said. "It's not driven by anything we've noticed, including drinking. This isn't because these kids are doing more than other kids did. Alcohol has been in our society for a long time.

"What's different is technology -- hand-held Breathalyzers. We have a responsibility to use the technology we have to help kids make good decisions."

Scarier still: It's nothing new.

Students have been tested before proms and homecoming dances for the past three years ... said Superintendent Barbara Underwood.

Scariest of all: Nobody seems to mind. The reporter found the obligatory American Civil Liberties Union spokesman to mention the Fourth Amendment, but even he thinks the school district probably didn't conduct an unreasonable search because school officials run the Breathalyzer, not the police. And none of the parents or students interviewed for the story had a major problem with the whole thing.

Our kids are being raised to understand it's normal for innocent people to be treated as if they're criminals. Probable cause for a search? The authorities don't need no steenking probable cause. Just blow, kid, or you can't dance or watch the game. Make a fuss and we'll call the cops.

And another thing: I was asked to show a photo ID when I stopped to buy some beer for the hotel room in Tennessee. The clerk (who no doubt figured from my accent that I wasn't a local) apologetically said it's state law now -- everybody who wants to buy alcohol in Tennessee has to prove they're 21 or older, even if (like myself) they look closer to retirement than to graduation day.

I wish I could say I refused. But I really felt like a beer. And hearing about the law made me feel like having several. The cause of liberty is pretty much doomed at this pace.

On a brighter note, I have to tell you about the Smoky Mountains. Sadly, I'll also have to tell you about leaving the Smokies. Stay tuned.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A stop along the way

Somewhere between here and there, the unwinding begins and the mind begins to clear. You start to consider what's really important in your journey from this place to that place, and one thing that's important is simply stopping for a while. To rest, doncha know.

The 1,000-mile journey doesn't have to be a metaphor for anything. It can simply be a trip to see what's out there. We have friends and family to see out here - we've already say hello and goodbye to many of them - but the main purpose is to drain the crap out of the mind and start filling it up with nourishing goodness.

With any luck, the draining is now complete and that's why this ramble makes only marginal sense. Today we're going out to fill our minds and souls back up with big blue skies, mountain roads and trees as far as the eye can see. More friends tomorrow, more sky Thursday, more friends Friday and then a leisurely drive back to what we left behind.

Will we be the same crazed drones who embarked on this journey? Lord, I hope not. But it's too soon along the way to know who we will be.


Friday, September 14, 2007

On the Road

Milady and I are prepping for a 1,000-mile trip that begins Saturday morning. Of course, I don't consent to unreasonable searches of my innocent person and property, so we'll be driving - that, and we have friends to see between here and there, not to mention the friends on the other side of the 1,000 miles. I/we expect it to be a valuable time; it's probably 5-6 years since we took an extended road trip that didn't include my parents' house at some juncture - numerous 3-4 day weekends and overnight trips in the meantime, of course.

We'll be packing her laptop and, thanks to Wally's timely heads-up, a printout of Murray Rothbard's "Betrayal of the American Right," and the Mead composition notebook that contains the beginnings of my master plan for escaping wage slavery. I hope to make many notes during Milady's shifts behind the wheel. Thanks to the joy of laptops and Wi-Fi, I hope to post while out yonder, but I make no promises just in case.

I can already feel the weight of the day job starting to lift off my shoulders, but I have to be careful about shirking the yoke too soon - much to be done before they free me for a week. Oh my, nine days in all not on the clock ... a guy could get used to this ...

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Blowing people up without the residual fuss

Isn't this nice, a bomb with the ability to do nuclear-style damage without all that nasty radioactive fallout stuff. That's sort of what I was shooting for, in a grander way, in my little novel The Imaginary Bomb.

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia has tested the world's most powerful vacuum bomb, which unleashes a destructive shockwave with the power of a nuclear blast, the military said on Tuesday, dubbing it the "father of all bombs." ...

Such devices generally detonate in two stages. First a small blast disperses a main load of explosive material into a cloud, which then either spontaneously ignites in air or is set off by a second charge.

This explosion generates a pressure wave that reaches much further than that from a conventional explosive. The consumption of gases in the blast also generates a partial vacuum that can compound damage and injuries caused by the explosion itself.

Oh, no. How can "they" have developed a weapon more powerful than what "we" have? Ah, but what's this down near the end?

U.S. forces have used a "thermobaric" bomb, which works on similar principles, in their campaign against al-Qaida and Taliban forces in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan.

I'm sure it's comforting to someone that governments continue to seek bigger and better ways to reduce people and buildings to dust. It is, on the other hand, a reminder that this is the only thing that governments are really good at.

I don't spend a lot of time checking TV news channels and such, but I haven't heard much about this on the puppet theater. I guess no one wants to give "the masses" something to shake them out of their lethargy and get them worried about what the maniacs in charge are up to. It's the new TV season, after all, doncha know. (Not that there's anything wrong with that - I confess to be looking forward to Sept. 24 and the season 2 premiere of Heroes.)

Just a reminder: They can kill us, but short of that we are still free. If a large number of individuals ever wrapped their minds around that fact, governments would become crippled. That's why they need, well, weapons of mass destruction.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fish update

It has been a while since I mentioned my little fish buddy, who looked last winter very much like he wasn't going to be around come spring. You can read all about it here. Well, he may have just dodged another bullet.

All summer he's been the most active of the fish scurrying about the pond, which also has had a couple of froggy friends bunking for the season. Last week, the pump that keeps the water cleanish failed, and while waiting for a part to arrive via UPS, "the" fish has been the one who seemed to miss the filter most. He was back to hanging around in a corner, leaning on his side and not being a very happy camper.

His lethargy did give me a chance to capture him with the camera, so you can see who I've been writing about all this time. Anyway, the part arrived last night, the filter pump is working fine again, and my little guy (gal?) is flitting around the clearing water like nobody's business.

Just thought you'd like to know.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

In time for Christmas

Bluhm (my podcast voice and buddy of sorts) and I have been viewing how friends have negotiated the system with some success, and I'm ready to say you'll be able to hold in your hands and read The Imaginary Bomb at long last by the end of this year. Not sure if my deathless prose will go over as well in black and white without the colorful narration, but this project is way overdue. Feel free to talk among yourselves about this Earth-shattering announcement.

A little less certain is whether my Badger friend will complete his own little project, which has the somewhat unimaginative working title of Wildflower Man and Other Short Stories. Of course, the titular short story seems to have a bit of a cult following after it appeared in podcast form during the hiatus between the end of the I-Bomb series and the launch of Uncle Warren's Attic.

UW and I go back a long way, longer than we've admitted in the past. Someday I hope to explain the whole thing, but the nature of my day job requires a bit of discretion. Funny that a guy who subtitles his blog "Refuse to be afraid. Free yourself" would feel restrained in any way. Ah, the ironies of life.

Anyway, I thought you might want to consider tucking away 10 bucks or so per book in case you think owning these little gems would be worthwhile. I'll keep you updated as we work on an actual release date.

Hmmm ... reviewing the above, I may want to polish my marketing skills a tad ...

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

'They mean to be masters'

"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." - Daniel Webster

Not quite right

The story is "65-year-old gets carded in a supermarket"

FARMINGTON, Maine - A 65-year-old woman who went into a Farmington supermarket to buy wine was turned away because she didn't have an ID with her. But Barbara Skapa of Mount Vernon says that won't happen again.

Right on, Barb! What a moronic policy. If they can't figure out you're grown up enough to buy wine, they don't deserve your business. Good going, I hope you gave them what-for. Errr -- what's that you just said?

"I'll be bringing my driver's license with me from now on," Skapa said.

No, no, no!

We have a supermarket nearby that switched to this insanity a couple of years ago. When the cashier said she needed to see my license before she could take my money for the six-pack, I complied, but I said sadly, "I'm so sorry that's your policy now, because it means I will never set foot in this store again."

In my shoulda-woulda-coulda mind, I wish I had just left the beer behind, but I did make my point politely - the poor girl didn't invent that idiotic policy - and I have, indeed, never returned to that store.

A spokeswoman for the supermarket chain, Rebecca Howes, said Hannaford's new policy is to check IDs of anyone who looks under 45 and wants to buy alcohol. The previous policy was to check for proof of age of those who look younger than 30.

The policy is not unlike those of many other Maine businesses and chains who want to stop minors from illegally buying alcoholic beverages and cigarettes.

Yeah, well, here's the thing: Carding middle-aged and elderly customers will do ABSOLUTELY NO FRICKING THING to stop minors from illegally buying alcoholic beverages and cigarettes. All it does is contribute to the notion that it's OK to require citizens to produce ID papers at the drop of a hat.

I certainly would not ever patronize a store that subscribes to such tyranny. And if it reaches the point where they all do it, I would rather do without beer and wine than submit.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

If forced to vote, I would vote against him

Read all about this would-be benevolent dictator here.

Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards said Sunday that his universal health care proposal would require that Americans go to the doctor for preventive care.

"It requires that everybody be covered. It requires that everybody get preventive care," he told a crowd sitting in lawn chairs in front of the Cedar County Courthouse. "If you are going to be in the system, you can't choose not to go to the doctor for 20 years. You have to go in and be checked and make sure that you are OK." ...

Edwards said his mandatory health care plan would cover preventive, chronic and long-term health care. ... "The whole idea is a continuum of care, basically from birth to death," he said.

The former North Carolina senator said all presidential candidates talking about health care "ought to be asked one question: Does your plan cover every single American? Because if it doesn't they should be made to explain what child, what woman, what man in America is not worthy of health care," he said.