Thursday, January 31, 2008

My 24,000-word masterpiece

The early reviews are trickling in, and — aaaagh! — a friend has spotted a typo that has been hanging out there on the World Wide Web for nearly two years.

In the April 26, 2006, introduction to the Imaginary Bomb podcast, which is revised and reprinted in the new print edition, I wrote about being inspired by a phrase that came to me in a dream:
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 ...
Yesterday I received an e-mail that said the book is delightful, but ... "Now, with (more than) 23,000 pages lying on the editing room floor, there must have been something in all those pages for another book or two."

Whoops. Remind me that in the second edition, the introduction will speak of "a few weeks later I had a 24,000-word novel." Proof-reading sometimes appears to be a lost art. With this and another that my friend caught, I'm now aware of four typos in the darn thing - in one sense, not bad for a 100-page book, in another sense, a tad agonizing. I know when I encounter a typo in a book, it breaks the illusion, taking me out of the story for a moment, so I humbly apologize.

Stiil, I remain pleased over how the first Richardson & Bluhm publication turned out and, of course, urge you to consider passing some FRNs our way to see for yourself. I expect the typos won't bug you as much as they bug me.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

No Jack Kennedy

John Kennedy's inaugural address featured the famous false dichotomy, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." It took me many years to realize those are not the only two choices, but it made for a great applause line, and that's all that politicians are really angling for in these speeches anyway.

Just for grips and grins the other night, I ran a line down the middle of my legal pad and made two columns: "What you can do for your country" and "What your country can do for you." I figured keeping score would help keep me awake during the State of the Union address, which was more or less a work assignment.

Now, I write cynical stuff about the nanny state all the time, but even I was a little shocked after filling a page and a half with notes on one side and nothing - nada, zero, etc. - under "What you can do for your country." I guess that column is more implicit than explicit. What you can do for your country is take it: Stand or sit there quietly while the state extracts a significant portion of your income before you ever see it. Stand or sit there quietly while you're treated as a suspect, with all of your personal information, your property and your body subject to search at any time, not because you committed any crime but, well, just because.

But what the Decider says your country can do for you: Lower your taxes and/or prevent the automatic tax increase that will come if the tax cuts of a few years ago expire on time. Provide tax-free state bonds to help you refinance your mortgage. Make your health care more affordable and accessible. End junk medical lawsuits. Empower you to demand results from your children's schools (Oddly, I thought you already could make such demands, but apparently you need the state's permission or something.) Reduce the number of high school dropouts. Open up new markets for your products overseas. If you've lost your job, your country can teach you new skills and help you find a new job. Give researchers and developers the money to pioneer a new generation of clean energy technology. This is my favorite: Your country can slow, stop and eventually reverse the flow of greenhouse gases. Make donations to faith-based schools and organizations. Help Gulf Coast states rebuild stronger and better than before. Preserve entitlement programs so your children and grandchildren will be able to get government checks, too. Secure our borders and establish a program under which foreign workers can cross the borders legally. Spread the hope of freedom around the world. Deliver justice to our enemies. Expand access to child care and educational benefits for military families.

We don't have to ask what our country will do for us; it'll just give it all to us without our asking. The only thing it will not do is the best thing it could do for us: Leave us alone. Let us live and let live.

"So long as we continue to trust the people, our nation will prosper, our liberty will be secure and the state of our union will remain strong," Mr. Bush said as he concluded. But that's the problem, you see: He and the rest of the ruling class do not trust the people, and so we struggle from paycheck to paycheck, our liberty is under attack from the very people we are told will secure it, and the state of our union can only be considered strong if you define "the union" as our central government, which attempts to keep us under its thumb.

Good thing our lives don't depend on the government. But sssshhhh, don't tell the government that, it hates to hear the truth.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

On our collective wisdom

For the first time in a long time, I watched the president's State of the Union address, and I was struck by a clever semantic trick he pulled early on, even before he launched into the litany of things he proposes to do to make our lives easier and free the world at gunpoint.
"As Americans we believe in the power of individuals to determine their destiny and shape the course of history. We believe the most reliable guide for our country is the collective wisdom of ordinary citizens. And so in all we do, we must trust in the ability of free people to make wise decisions and empower them to improve their lives for their futures."
In one remarkable sweep of the tongue, Mr. Bush shifted gears from celebrating individualism to asserting statism. It was as simple as 1-2-3.

1. "We believe in the power of individuals to determine their destiny and shape the course of history." This is indeed what Americans once believed, and some of us still do.

2. "We believe the most reliable guide for our country is the collective wisdom of ordinary citizens." The individuals and their wisdom are now a collective, and those who a moment ago each had the power to shape the course of history are now a mass of "ordinary citizens" whose wisdom is rooted in majority rule.

3. "And so in all we do, we must trust in the ability of free people to make wise decisions and empower them to improve their lives for their futures." In all "we" do - "we" referring now not to the ordinary citizens but to those in the room, "we" who have The Power - we must empower "ordinary" people "to improve their lives for the future." In other words, The State is the source of power, and its benevolent dictators must transfer some of that power so we common folk can improve our lives, something (despite the first sentence) we really can't do on our own.

What follows is a long list of ways in which The State must work to improve the lives of "ordinary citizens" - help home "owners" refinance mortgages, make health care more affordable and accessible, reduce the number of high school dropouts, "stop, slow and eventually reduce the flow of greenhouse gases," give federal tax dollars to faith-based charities, save entitlement programs for our children and grandchildren ... oh yes, and export freedom to the world, especially the Middle East, by force if necessary.

These were not the words of someone who believes in the power of individuals to determine their destiny. Nor does anyone in the room believe that. But they want us to believe that they do, and so lip service was given to individuals and then we were quickly diverted to a celebration of individuals who submit their will to the collective. A clever trick, but a trick none the less.

Here is the text for those who may be interested.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

B.W. At The Movies: 27 Dresses

We had our pick of serious Oscar contenders, full of angst and blood and guts, but in the dead of winter who needs angst? So 27 Dresses was the film we picked for our Saturday night date, prompted by a USA Today article that talks about James Marsden and Patrick Dempsey, who have recently become the male leads in "one of Hollywood's most formulaic genres: the wedding farce."

The fun thing about formulas is their familiarity: You know where it's going, but if the characters are likeable enough, you just go along for the ride and watch for the twists and turns unique to this particular adventure. We've all seen 27 Dresses before, and yet we haven't. I have never, for example, been enamored of the song "Bennie and the Jets" before, and yet now I will always think of it with a smile. Nice trick.

Katherine Heigl plays Jane, always a bridesmaid but never a bride, and in love with her boss, George (Edwards Burns). Just as she works up the courage to proclaim her undying affection, she witnesses George falling head over heels in love at first sight with her sister, Tess (Malin Ackerman), who will ask Jane to help plan her wedding to George - Jane being a terrific planner who loves weddings, don't you know. Into this mix we introduce Kevin (James Marsden), who falls head over heels in love at first sight with Jane, and we have all the makings of a lovely wedding farce cake.

Boys meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl. When the formula works, it's a wonderful diversion. 27 Dresses works.


Friday, January 25, 2008

'Get the hell out of my way'

With much ballyhoo and fanfare, the folks in Washington, D.C., have announced they will stimulate the economy as fast as they can — mailing out checks to each of us in the amount of $600 or $300 or somewhere in between, starting in May but most certainly by July.

This is lightning fast by their standards. Of course, there is a way to move faster: Instead of having our wage-masters seize a portion of our earnings before we ever see it, writing checks and mailing us back the money, the feds could suspend withholding for whatever length of time is necessary for us to accumulate an additional $600 or $300 or whatever.

That plan has the advantage of shocking us into recognizing exactly how much of our cash is held back every week or two. But they probably would prefer we not recognize that.

Monday, January 21, 2008

B.W.'s Book Report: Atlas Shrugged

When she entered the room, she knew immediately that he had finished reading the book. His eyes surveyed the lines of her dress approvingly, as if remembering his glorious exploration of the underlying body and recognizing its perfection, content in the knowledge that he knew and understood every contour. As he looked around the room, she could tell he saw the furniture, the appliances, the ashtray full of crushed stubs with the telltale dollar sign, in a way he could not have seen fully unless and until he had read and absorbed every page into the core of his being.

"I want you to stand there quietly for a few minutes," he said, without greeting, getting straight to the point, his eyes still meeting hers with an honesty that said, we are equals among equals and human in a way mere humans cannot bear to know. "Because what I have to say must be said completely, and you must hear all of it, because I have earned this and, well, I know I shall never be able to say it again after tonight."

She nodded, granting him the right to make an interminable speech even though she knew what he was going to say, by the way he held his chin, by the panther-like tension in his shoulders, and by the way every mannerism declared he knew who he was and his purpose in being.

"I don't need to tell you I have finished the book, because so much has passed between us that I know you know I know you know I have completed the journey," he began evenly, the smoke from his last cigarette hanging in the air, mingling with the confident assurance of his smile. "It has been an exhilarating trip at that. While walking vicariously in the shoes of Dagny Taggart, Hank Reardan, Francisco Domingo Carlos Andres Sebastián d'Anconia and John Galt, I revisited all those pivotal days of my life when I chose between the excellent and the good-enough, between the very best my mind could offer and the quotidian. I knew with certainty the days when my path diverged from the best my life could be, and I resolved never again to shrink from that path. I resolved that my life would be a celebration of exultation and exaltation, that I would exult in the act of exalting and comprehend the difference between the words.

"However," he said next, and her heart jumped because she knew in the way he hesitated before saying the word that this would be the last time they would speak together. Then, as if to extract the dagger and plunge it once again into her heart, not out of spite but because it represented his highest purpose and, she knew, he knew she knew, he repeated the word before he continued.

"However, I am troubled by the author's conclusions and the dénouement of her fable. Can it truly be that the unclouded mind, seeing reality as fully and clearly as reality truly is, would willingly stand by while those of lesser mind and the practitioners of non-thought lead the world to its inevitable destruction, then triumphantly return to rebuild from the ashes? As these superhuman thinkers and doers walk freely among the lesser lights again after withdrawing their services, do they truly expect that the survivors crawling up from the destruction will welcome them back with open arms, eager to go to work for them and help them build their superior products and exchange value for value and live happily and triumphantly ever after? Perhaps that is why she ends the story before they actually go back.

"It has been said that no matter how successful a workers strike has been, the workers will never gain back the wages and the quality of life they could have been earning while they were gone. In an especially bitter strike, the lingering animosity and loss of trust is never fully overcome, and while the two sides may finally settle and begin to work together again, they are cautious and more wary of each other from that point forward, never quite trusting each other to the extent they did before the strike. How much more wary and untrusting, then, will be the survivors of a strike that was the catalyst of the complete collapse of civilization as they knew it?

"As brilliant as the story was — and I do not deny its brilliance; I have spent every available moment of my leisure time for these three weeks engrossed in the story — in the end I found myself as puzzled as I was by the conclusion of the author's previous novel. In writing that previous book, did she really believe that the power of her philosophy was such that, having heard that philosophy proclaimed, a jury would find a man innocent of a violent act that left a woman injured within an inch of her life? In writing this novel, did she really believe a dying nation was best left to die, and many thousands and millions dying with it, and that those who stood by and permitted that death were best equipped to lead the subsequent rebirth and renewal? Did she really believe that, having heard a dry and scholarly dissertation on the reasons why the best and brightest should stand by and allow civilization's collapse, that the survivors would comprehend and welcome the return of the best and brightest as the opening fanfare of a new and better utopia?

"I find her stories inspiring and thought-provoking, but her end scenarios — if I may use the word — illogical. But I see I may not use that word here."

The gun fit in her hand so naturally that she almost was surprised to find it there, even though she had known she would draw the weapon from the moment she entered the room. Now, she met his gaze and exulted to see the look of peace and comprehension on his face. "Is that all that you wished to tell me?"

"Not quite," he said with an understanding smile. "I found the author a bit too willing to rationalize the initiation of force when her heroes committed violence."

"Her heroes never initiated the use of force," she said quietly. "They only killed in response to the force initiated by others."

"No," he said with calm assurance. "That's not true, especially in the novel's closing pages. For so much of the author's fable, A is A. But her heroes did not wait to use violence until it was their only remaining resort, and therefore it appears to me that A is not A."

"Check your premises."

"I did, and in this case I believe the author checked her own premises at the door and neglected to cash them back in. I believe that after all of that struggle and all of that angst, Dagny Taggart, John Galt and their friends jumped the shark. And that is why I am finished here."

"Yes, you are," she said, holding her voice steady and emotionless as she struggled for control of her emotions. "I love you and all that you have been to me."

Calmly and impersonally, she, who would have hesitated to fire at an animal, pulled the trigger and fired straight at the heart of a man who had wanted to exist without the responsibility of consciousness.

Oddly, she did not live happily ever after.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

And here, dear friends, is the plan

The Imaginary Bomb, a novel by B.W. Richardson, edited and published by Warren Bluhm, should be available at by Feb. 1 at the latest. You've heard Bluhm's breathless reading, and now you'll be able to hold my breathless prose in your very hands. I will post the appropriate links everywhere I can think of when the time comes.

Wildflower Man: A Collection of Short Stories (working title), written and published by Warren Bluhm, edited by B.W. Richardson, has a target release date of April 15. The I-Bomb is running about two weeks late, but I think we can make this date. Again, you may have heard Bluhm's breathless reading of the title tale.

Refuse To Be Afraid, a book by B.W. Richardson with Warren Bluhm, has a target release date of July 15. These are essays and musings springing from Montag and Warren's late, lamented Green Bay Free Radical blog - what you've read before and then some.

And finally, a fourth book has a target release date of Oct. 15. Lord willing and the creek don't rise, this is the freedom novel I spoke of beginning a month ago. In honor of Sunni and the mysterious CK, I have given it the working title of F!#* the Quotidian until it takes a more coherent form. Based on my (lack of) progress to date, this may be the hardest deadline to strike, but I suspect that holding The Imaginary Bomb in my hands, 20 years after first conception, will be a motivating force.

You may have noticed I've set a goal of releasing a new book every three months. Ambitious goals are the only ones worth setting. I can't believe it took me almost 55 years to figure that out.

I wrote a little more about this first book at Sunni's place Wednesday night. Her idea for a Jan. 16 celebration was/is beautiful, and it's heartbreaking that connection problems kept her from participating herself. I have no doubt she'll more than make up for her (physical) absence - I used the parenthetical adjective because she was definitely there in spirit.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

One Little Victory

By the end of the month, it'll be a big victory.

More tonight at Sunni's party - I just couldn't resist sharing a little this morning.

Yep, folks, it is what it looks like it is.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Science fiction?

Has anybody else noticed that there's a copper shortage?
... it appeared someone tried to saw through a live wire to steal the copper inside at an Arizona Public Service Co. power substation in the 8000 block of North El Mirage Road. It occurred at 11:30 p.m. Saturday. According to reports, the wire generated 7,200 volts of electricity.

... metal theft is a widespread problem throughout the Valley, given the area's shortage of copper. In the past, criminals have stolen power units and water meters from businesses to trade them in for money at second-hand recyclers, he said.
If copper becomes scarce, how will electric current be delivered? If electricity becomes scarce, what will support the World Wide Web? TV? radio?

Maybe it's not such a great idea to aim for a future without print newspapers. Or maybe I'm reading too much into it because I'm reading too much ...

Or! Maybe someone is trying to scare us.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

The Meme - and My Answer

Sunni asked me when she interviewed me for her Salon - lewlew tagged me with the meme - and Wally tagged me for good measure. The question is:
What motivated you to start looking into anarchist/libertarian thought?
You know what? In my case, that's two questions. When Sunni asked me "what and who led you to the freedom philosophy," I said:
Well, growing up and living in Jersey is an essential building block, I think. Living there just makes you scream, I have to be free of this! [laughs] I was your typical geeky awkward teenager, reading comics and science fiction and hanging around with the smart kids. I think reading Orwell as a teen was huge for my eventual transformation—1984 and Animal Farm scared the bejeebers out of me, and as I slooooowwwly started figuring out that they were coming true before my eyes, I started coming around to a vision of something better. Gotta admit I got sold on Ronald Reagan—Reagan the talker who said government is the problem, not Reagan the president who compounded the problem. Not that I grokked it fully at the time—I actually was a loyal little Republican for longer than I care to admit. I think I started becoming vaguely aware of libertarianism and Libertarians in the late '80s.

The last year, and communing with folks like Wally Conger and you, has really helped me crystallize not just that Big Government is the problem, but that I'm not the only one who thinks reasonable people can do without government just fine. It's been a chance to put together disjointed and seemingly unconnected thoughts and try to make them a coherent whole—Reagan the talker not the president, Marrou, Orwell, Bradbury, Heinlein, Gandhi.
Oddly, I forgot to mention my father, who taught me about taking responsibility for my life and was not afraid to tell us kids about the follies of the government in general and Democrats in particular. He maintains some faith in the Republican Party well into his 80s, but even he seems skeptical of late. I would not relish liberty as dearly had he not instilled it in me.

I didn't explicitly tell Sunni that my path was set the night I heard Andre Marrou speak, during his 1992 run for president as the Libertarian Party candidate. "Both major parties want to be your parent," he said. "The Republicans want to be your daddy, and the Democrats want to be your mommy." The tumblers clicked into place in my mind that night.

Not long afterward I stumbled across Liberty magazine, which for many years was my lifeline to the movement. Bill Bradford's journalism and coverage of Libertarian Party conventions led me to the unpleasant realization that the LP was like any other political party, which was a good thing, which led me to the second half of the question - how did I start thinking about life without government altogether?

It began with the chance re-connection in 2005 with my childhood pen pal, Wally Conger, the California teenager who had corresponded with my New Jersey teenager self. Most folks who visit here know who Wally is, so they know how I started reading people like Murray Rothbard and Frank Chodorov and, finally recently, Ayn Rand. Funny, because I'm told it usually starts with Rand, but my awakening seems to be concluding with her. More on that in a few days. (I'm almost at the 60-page speech, guys! But I must admit I'm getting a little weary of speeches. I GET it, Ayn, I GET it, now get on with it!)

Tag someone else? Nah, I'm going to do what Roderick Long did - I tag everybody! On second thought, if kyfho and John Newman want to add their answers in my comment section, I would be most intrigued by what they have to say.

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Politics is not the answer

As if to confirm my second thoughts comes the essay "Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss" by Sheldon Richman. Samples:
Politics is more like show-biz -- specifically, melodrama and soap opera -- than anything else. And people behave differently in the political realm than they do in the marketplace. (When was the last time you chose a car dealership because the salesman choked back tears on the thought he was losing your business?) ...

The "free-enterprise approach" to medicine, to judge by this campaign, is to tinker with the existing state-riddled system in order to create "incentives" for private insurance companies to do what the politicians want them to do. That's the supposed alternative to proposals for taking the profit out of medical insurance. It's a bad joke. No one points out that the politicians have imposed so many regulations and mandates and taken over so much of the financing, that there is barely a medical marketplace left ...

For six decades the guiding lights at FEE [Foundation for Economic Education] have understood that at best politics is the trailing, not the leading, edge of social change. Until a critical mass of people understand that liberty is moral and practical, and demand that the state back off, the politicians will continue to give them shoddy theater instead of respect.

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On second thought ...

... you have to wonder what's the point of voting if The Powers That Be don't plan to count your vote.

The general consensus among reporters, editors and political insiders that Paul will not win and therefore deserves little or no coverage - combined with incidents such as the disappearance of 31 votes for Paul in Sutton, N.H. (would that error have been found and corrected if the total hadn't originally been reported as zero?) tends to dampen what little enthusiasm I had worked up for one last trip to the local polling place.

A fascinating new site called raises some chilling questions about what's going on out there. It turns out that when votes were filled out by the voter's hand in New Hampshire, Barack Obama outpolled Hillary Clinton by 38-35 percent - but when voters used machines (with no legitimate paper trail), Clinton had a 40-36 percent advantage. The result was a 39-37 percent Clinton victory that went against every pre-election poll. You have to wonder who programmed the voting machines, and how.

Here is the Democratic breakdown, and here is the Republican breakdown, where Ron Paul again nudged past Giuliani among the paper votes.

Joseph Stalin famously said, "He who votes decides nothing; he who counts the votes decides everything." In increasingly Stalinist America, Obama and Paul voters may just be S.O.L.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Why I will vote in the Republican primary

I have sworn off voting. At best it's a symbolic exercise, at worst a condoning of the use of force and the throttling of freedom. But I now feel compelled to participate in this symbolic act one last time, and here are two minutes that summarize why.

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About those newsletters

I suppose this is a positive sign; the Ron Paul phenomenon has gained enough momentum and attention that someone has bothered to dig up some dirt on him. At the heart of the controversy are newsletters that went out under Paul's name, especially in the early 1990s, with some seriously racist and homophobic kinds of stuff in them. Stuff like:
Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began.
I miss the closet. Homosexuals, not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities.
Paul says this crap was vomited out by a "ghostwriter" and folks like Wendy McElroy seem to have a clear idea who that ghostwriter is, urging him to come forward and accept responsibility for these words. Problem is, what if he's still a close associate of the congressman? Then we're not talking about the early 1990s, we're talking about now.

Does the ghostwriter still believe such horrid stuff, and does Paul still condone it? If so, they have failed a more basic litmus test for libertarianism than Walter Block's.

There's no place whatsoever in libertarian thought for clumping people into groups by skin color, religion, creed or any other criterion. Either you recognize the worth of every individual or you don't. As Paul himself said in his interview with Wolf Blitzer, racism is a collectivist notion because racists see people in groups.

He does a nice job in the interview with Blitzer of reassuring supporters that he repudiates those statements - Blitzer himself admits that after numerous interviews and other contacts with Paul, the old newsletters caught him by surprise. I don't believe Paul believes that garbage now, if he ever did.

However, Paul's response to questions about the origins of those writings has been pretty typical of a member of the political class, and that sure doesn't bode well. "I was busy," "I never read that stuff," "I don't know who wrote it, but the editor might"? If a newsletter was going out with my name and face blazoned across the top of the front page, I'd make damn sure the contents reflected what I believe.

The lesson in all of this is that if you place your faith in one person, especially one politician, to change your world, you will inevitably be disappointed. Ron Paul is still the only person among the current crop of presidential candidates worth giving a damn about, but he's not a savior - far from it.

Liberty is not something imposed by presidents or any other government officials. Their purpose is to determine the extent to which our liberty will be curtailed - Paul represents the light touch of the slave master's whip, and in that sense he is a far better alternative than any of the other candidates. If you yearn for freedom, you'll find it by the efforts of your hands, your mind and your heart, not by turning the reins of your life over to another person.

P.S. to lewlew - Yep, I noticed. Thanks, and I'm honored to be asked! I'll tackle that matter next.

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Friday, January 11, 2008


I'm still reading. Part 3, Chapter 2 is next. Sorry to be a stranger, but I can't walk and chew gum at the same time.

Pretty heady stuff ...


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

B.W.'s Book Report: preview

If you recognize the quotes I've been tossing out of late, you know what I got for Christmas and what I've been reading since a few days after Christmas. I'm just shy of the halfway point.

The last three months or so have sent me through Murray Rothbard's The Betrayal of the American Right, Frank Chodorov's Out of Step, Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, and now this. It has been educational.

It would not be accurate to say that these books have shaken me to the very core. That phrase implies a rattling of my beliefs, an upsetting of the apple cart. Rather, this gives me the sensation of having been previously upset, being a bit lost, perhaps treading water for a very long time, and finally finding land under my feet, a foundation, a grounding, a confirmation of my beliefs.

These books did not shake me to the core, but they have touched my core. More importantly, I am not drinking Kool-Aid here. I do not blindly embrace every concept these three writers have tossed in my direction, but they have put words to thoughts that hovered in my consciousness waiting for the words.

More than three years ago now, something happened in my business life that did shake me to the very core. In many ways I have been drifting in an extended state of shock ever since. These authors have taken me by the shoulders and steadied me. A year after the initial shock, I started this blog. It has kept me sane. Here and there I caught glimpses of what needed to be done; unleashing The Imaginary Bomb in podcast form was the first of a handful of steps in that direction, but I was still shaking. My friends here — you know who you are — patiently helped prepare me to settle down. Rothbard, Chodorov and Rand have settled me down.

And now what? That's a very good question. I have some ideas. I hope to be ready to share such as I can on Jan. 16.

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

The burglar and the public good

"Who is the public? What does it hold as its good? There was a time when men believed that 'the good' was a concept to be defined by a code of moral values and that no man had the right to seek his good through the violation of the rights of another. If it is now believed that my fellow men may sacrifice me in any manner they please for the sake of whatever they deem to be their own good, if they believe that they may seize my property simply because they need it — well, so does any burglar. There is only this difference: The burglar does not ask me to sanction his act."
Hank Rearden

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Friday, January 04, 2008

I can splain that

Listening to: Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite, The Beatles

According to this article:
Total album sales plunged 15 percent in 2007, and retailers waited until October for the year's top release, California tenor Josh Groban's holiday-themed "Noel," according to sales data issued on Thursday by industry tracker Nielsen SoundScan.

Sales of physical and digital albums tumbled to 500.5 million units, as the music industry was pillaged by piracy and competition from other forms of entertainment like videogames, industry experts said.

It marked the lowest tally and the steepest decline since Nielsen began publishing estimates based on point-of-sales data in 1993, a spokeswoman said. The peak year in that time was 2000, when sales reached 785 million units.

Album sales on the Web rose 2.4 percent to 30.1 million units, but that was down from a 19 percent jump in 2006.

Overall sales — including albums, singles, and digital tracks — rose 14 percent to 1.4 billion units, also down from a 19 percent rise in 2006. The main driver of growth was a 45 percent jump in digital track sales to 844.2 million units. But even then, the pace slackened from 65 percent in 2006.

This is not that hard to figure out: Not only is downloading cheaper and less expensive, almost nobody is making good new music, so consumers are looking for the best deal. That's downloading, not CDs. And actually the vinyl is still cheaper than CDs, when you can get 'em.


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Remember voting as an individual decision?

Bottom line: There are compelling reasons to vote for Ron Paul in the Republican primary. He's the only viable candidate in years talking about limited government and fiscal responsibility. I'm not going to criticize any libertarian or even an anarcho-capitalist who goes back on a pledge never to vote again.

Bottom line: There are compelling reasons not to vote for Ron Paul or anyone else ever again. The lesser of two evils is still evil. The use of government force by a comparative libertarian is still the use of government force. I'm not going to criticize any libertarian or anarcho-capitalist who takes a pass on Ron Paul.

While Paulistas are wasting time chastising and therefore alienating the small community of libertarians who have not been won over to the cause, they're missing opportunities to work on the vastly larger community of Republicans.

UPDATE: I switched the post time from AM to PM to sneak it to the top and highlight the comments.

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B.W. At The Movies: Record of a Living Being

The description of Akira Kurosawa's Record of a Living Being, also known as I Live in Fear, piqued my interest. In addition to another performance by Takashi Shimura, who blew me away in Ikiru, Seven Samarai and Gojira, the plot is about an elderly man overcome by his fear of bombs and radioactivity - in a movie made in Japan just less than 10 years after Hiroshima.

Netflix dutifully delivered the DVD from "Mei Ah Laser Disc Co. Ltd." after a very long wait. My first warning was that the default subtitles were in Chinese, and I had to go back to the menu to select English.

My second warning was there was no attempt to translate the opening credits, which appeared before an interesting montage of street scenes, with many shots of streetcars and crowds. Then, finally, we zoom into a dentist's office and a dentist - Shimura - who prepares his drill for a young patient but is interrupted by a secretary who says, "Dad, your phone call."

As he walks out to take the phone, he says, "Just wait a moment. Who's calling?"

Secretary: The court.

Dentist: Forgotten.

Patient (in an adjoining chair, talking to a second, younger dentist): Calling from the court?

Younger dentist: The Medical Association promotes dad to be the committee member. To solve the family problems. Such as divorces, heritages, arguments, etc.

Patient: This is not an easy job.

Younger dentist: Dad loves to be a negotiator. I'm forced to listen to him.

Dentist (re-entering from the outer office): The court starts at 1:00 today. To spend the whole afternoon. I get troubles for myself.

I fully believe I Live in Fear is a great film, based on most of the things I've read about it. Unfortunately, this DVD is completely unwatchable for a person like me who does not understand Japanese and must depend on the English subtitles, which were written by someone who does not understand English well enough to translate coherently. I shut off the player about three minutes into the movie.

It's a bitter disappointment for me, because I've been enjoying Kurosawa's work so far. Apparently there's another DVD out there with something resembling a real translation. I hope to find it someday soon - I just wish Netflix had found it first.

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