Friday, May 30, 2008

Now tyranny is getting somewhere

RALEIGH (AP)- A judge has upheld North Carolina's high standard requiring tens of thousands of signatures to be collected before a group is officially recognized as a political party, ruling there's no fundamental right for the party of a voter's choice to be on the ballot.

The Libertarian Party sued the state in 2005, arguing requirements to get on the ballot and stay on it are too onerous, violating party members' rights to freedom of speech and association. The Green Party of North Carolina later joined the lawsuit.

Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood, who heard the case in a non-jury trial earlier this month in Wake County, ruled late Tuesday that the "state has a compelling interest in requiring a preliminary modicum of support before recognizing a political party and placing its candidates on the ballot."

Hobgood wrote that the state has an interest "in avoiding confusion, deception and even frustration of the democratic process in the general election."

Every four years, the ballot swells with races for president, Council of State, the Legislature and the courts in addition to local races. The more parties on the ballot, Hobgood added, "the greater chance there is for ballots that are so long as to be unwieldy."

This year, under the law, groups had to collect nearly 70,000 voter signatures to receive official party status — one of the highest thresholds in the country, according to the party leaders and candidates who sued.

"We're deeply saddened by this ruling," Barbara Howe, chairwoman of the Libertarian Party of North Carolina, said in a release Wednesday. "Not only did the judge support the state's power to take away our right to choose who represents us, he also upheld the state's assertion that North Carolina voters are not smart enough to fill out a so-called long ballot."

Read the whole article here.

Unwieldly and Catch-22 requirements like the 70,000-signature threshold have long been used to restrict third-party and other less visible candidates from gaining traction. You need a "modicum of support" to participate, but the means to gaining a modicum of support are blocked — no invitations to debate, no ballot access. The tyrants are not usually as bald-faced as Judge Hobgood, of course.

So the state moves another step closer to institutionalized one-party rule, with voters' choices restricted to the two branches of the Big Brother Party. In a perfect world North Carolinians would rise up and impeach Hobgood, but in a perfect world candidates would not have to wedge themselves into the straitjacket of a party organization. In a perfect world we would have dozens, perhaps scores of choices.

Oh hell, in a perfect world these charades wouldn't be necessary as perfectly capable individuals run their own lives in concert with an abiding respect for the lives and the rights of others. But too many people believe their neighbors are too stupid to run their own lives, and too much time and energy has been invested in fanning the flames of that belief.

We have become a world of people afraid to live in freedom, who turn over control of our decisions to less capable individuals who don't respect our lives or our unalienable rights. Hobgood's onerous decision is just another step down that road.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Enemy is Always the State

Lew Rockwell has a nice summary of why opposing statism seems to make people wander all over the political spectrum, as "both sides" of our current political debate embrace statism in all its ugly power and glory.

The link led me to the Web home of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, where Tuesday's lead article is "The Government's Statistical Whopper of the Year," as Robert P. Murphy deciphers how — believe it or no — the U.S. government reported that gasoline prices fell 4.6 percent in April. No, really. And I took Rockwell's advice to read "Our Enemy the State" by A.J. Nock and downloaded the short book off the Mises literature site.

This fun little excursion is all courtesy of Ender's Review, Tom Ender's weekly digest of "Web articles of likely interest to individualists found during the preceding week." I almost never get through the whole list because I end up on side excursions like the one described above. There doesn't seem to be enough time to find and post links to all of the good writing about the state and the individual that is written every week, so I'm grateful for Tom's weekly effort. I don't think I've mentioned that enough, so I just did.

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Monday, May 26, 2008


Listening to: "Free Yo'Self," Captain Tractor

"We were born to be wild; we were born to be free — come with me."

The first tenet I posted under my blog's title was "Refuse to be afraid." As I started these semi-regular musings, I began to see a pattern so clear that if I were a conspiracy theorist, I would suspect a conspiracy.

But it's as simple as this: In advertising, marketing, politics, sales and many other aspects of human interaction, an effective strategy is to make your target afraid of something and offer them a solution. When it's a fear of zits or greasy hair, the solution of a medicated cream or shampoo is a happy one. When it's a fear of "terrorists" or "communists" or "those people," the solution often involves removing some of your freedom and/or other people's freedom, and that is not a happy outcome.

So I posted "refuse to be afraid." I decided to use this blog to encourage people not to let your fears stand in the way, not to let politicians or others manipulate you into doing or condoning something by making you afraid. As Tom Petty wrote, "Most things I worry about never happen anyway." Or Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain."

The second tenet I added was "Free yourself." My observation was that the thing fear obstructed most often was freedom, or the taking of steps that could lead a person to greater freedom. So "Refuse to be afraid" and "free yourself" seemed to flow together into one thought.

And that leads us to today. It occurred to me that when you wrestle your fears into a manageable shape, you take the first step toward freeing yourself, and one of the biggest results of that process is that your dreams begin to seem possible, and your dreams even begin to come true. A person who been twisted under by fears and slavery for long enough may have forgotten the importance of dreams — so I thought I'd remind folks that they're part of a single process where one step leads to the next: Refuse to be afraid. Free yourself. Dream.

What would you be doing today if you could control your fears and you were free to do it? That's your dream talking.

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Back from there

Found on a White Castle hamburger box:

"Clones are people two."

Sometimes I am very easily amused.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Rediscovering Indy and Marion on the way back from there

Not a lot of time to bang something out while waiting my turn in the hotel shower, so heck - what Wally said. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a humdinger and well worth the wait.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

A treasure found between here and there

Clyde's Drive-In in St. Ignace, Mich., has a hand-painted sign on its outer walls that say "Quality since 1949," and the place looks like it may have in the Fifties. Big windows on three sides, a big awning where people can park and be served in their cars (the waitresses don't roller-skate, though, sorry), and a counter where a dozen or so people can sit and watch their hamburgers sizzle on the grill.

Where I'm going can be reached in a number of ways. One way is to drive through the Chicago area; another is to go through Michigan, crossing the Mackinac Bridge along the way. The Michigan route is a little longer, but it is preferable in every other way, topped by stress level. Battle a madcap bunch of maniacs who drive their $40,000 BMWs like they're bumper cars, or cruise through the woods, only occasionally seeing another vehicle, and breathe air free of diesel fumes and steel-mill exhaust?

(Oh yes, or you can submit to a humiliating and unconstitutional search of your person and property, get on a plane, and miss hundreds and thousands of nifty experiences between here and there. Believe me, you'd rather drive.)

Clyde's is one of those treasures along the way. Its quarter-pound hamburger seems to have three times the beef of any other "quarter-pound" hamburger, it's shaped and grilled from scratch, and "the works" is the works. It's a trip back in time and a wonderfully filling meal.

That part of the world is already worth seeing for the mighty Mackinac Bridge, a five-mile-long architectural and engineering marvel. But you know, you can't eat a bridge. Clyde's hamburgers are much more delicious and nourishing. Don't go near St. Ignace without stopping at Clyde's.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Watchmen 3/6/09

No doubt I'm the last geek on Earth to find out the Watchmen movie has a release date and a Web site and all that, but just in case here's a link to the movie site.


Only one logical choice in November

Browncoats forever!



Monday, May 12, 2008

Refuse to be Afraid: The book

This will be the first Richardson & Bluhm book from the 21st century. The Imaginary Bomb and The Adventures of Myke Phoenix are things we found in the attic and said, "Why didn't these get into print in the 1990s when they were written?" But Refuse to be Afraid is where I've been going since I first started these little scribblings 33 months ago, and I hope to have it in your hands on or about the third (!) anniversary of my first, tentative post.

How do you like the cover? Too stark? Too bland? Right colors? Horrendous colors? Your constructive criticism is more than welcome.

It took only a few weeks after I launched Montag for the predominant theme to develop, and I'm building longer pieces around the "unfinished essays and spontaneous eruptions" of this little corner of the Web. (And thanks for the phrase, Wally!) A couple of excerpts from the opening chapter:
As this book heads to press, the United States is waste-deep in a presidential campaign. As in all other political campaigns, it seems, the issues are our fears. One candidate plays on our fear of being unable to make ends meet, of living from paycheck to paycheck, and the terror of what might happen if the paychecks stop coming, of what might happen to our loved ones if anything were to happen to us. Another candidate plays on our fear of those terrorists, of the people with difference faces than ours who want to destroy our way of life. Both candidates promise that if we will turn ourselves over to them, we will be safe and secure.

There’s really only one place where you’re totally secure: A jail cell. Surrounded by four walls with barred doors and windows, you can’t be hurt. (We’ll set aside your fear of earthquakes for the moment.) Government leaders who promise you safety from outside influences can only deliver by caging you – by stripping your liberty away, either one freedom at a time or all at once.

Benjamin Franklin was right, presuming he really said these words attributed to him: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety” ...

The book is called Refuse to be Afraid, but you’re not human if you’re not afraid from time to time. What I hope to encourage you to do is to keep your fear at bay. Don’t let it control your thoughts and actions. I’ve been writing about Big Fears, the fears that lead to airport checkpoints and surveillance cameras and sometimes even to wars, but little fears make us miserable, too. We don’t speak out for something we believe in, because we’re afraid of the repercussions. We don’t ask that attractive person for a date, because we’re afraid of being turned down. We don’t start writing the Great American Novel or quit our jobs and start that business we really want to start – because we’re afraid it won’t work out. Worse, we’re afraid of the changes success will bring in our lives.

When I say, “Refuse to be afraid,” I’m not telling you to deny that anxious little feeling or that paralyzing terror. The fear is real. I’m just suggesting that the thing that terrifies you can’t possibly be as awful as the paralysis. And yielding control of your life, i.e., your freedom, is likely to produce scarier results than an environment where everyone is free.
For now, tidbits like these are only available by browsing this blog. A good place to start is down there on the right, with the list I've immodestly labeled "B.W.'s Greatest Hits." Come summer, you can sit in the hammock or at the picnic table and enjoy this stuff out in the sun. R&B doesn't yet have the capability for advance orders, but once we figure out how to get that done, you know we will.

While you're waiting, nothing is stopping you from enjoying the little bits of light reading we've produced for you thus far. Click here and you're on your way.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

'Who is Number One?' 'You are Number Six.'

From Michael Scherer's blog entry "More Views From HillaryLand" at ...
5. Asked if Hillary needs to destroy the village to save the village, a Vietnam reference applied to the Democratic Party, an unnamed speaker, who I believe was Garin said, "I just reject that analogy out of hand. This is somebody who has spent her whole life in the village." I thought that was funny.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

B.W. At The Movies: Iron Man

Nope, no way, I didn't see this coming. I'll even make the girly-man confession that if Sweetie preferred we catch Baby Mama or Forgetting Sarah Marshall rather than an action flick this weekend, I'd have been happy to wait until the second or third week of release to catch Iron Man. This is not like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which has me counting down the days until May 22. 'Nuff said.

Iron Man aka Tony Stark has always been a second-tier Marvel hero. OK, he was in the first wave back in the 1960s, starting with Tales of Suspense #39 with that goofy gray suit that quickly got painted gold and then converted to the funkier red-and-gold suit in #48. But he didn't even get a whole book to himself until 1968, sharing Suspense with filler stories and then (starting at #59) with Captain America all the way up to issue #99.

So sure, he's an integral part of the Marvel Universe, but Iron Man never stepped to the front of the line. Not until now.

About 15-20 minutes into the film, Sweetie leaned over and said, "Isn't this a superhero movie?" We'd met Stark, the gazillionaire playboy genius weapons maker, and watched him do his gazillionaire playboy genius weapons maker stuff while flashing back from an opening scene where he is captured by insurgents while doing his gazillionaire playboy genius weapons maker stuff in Afghanistan, and they keep him in a cave and order him to make them some of his genius weapons. But to her eyes, there wasn't any sign of a superhero story of the Superman or Spider-Man variety. Of course, she asked a couple of minutes before it became clear that instead of building genius weapons for the bad guys, Stark was assembling a makeshift suit of armor packed with miniaturized genius weapons (see "goofy gray suit" above) with which he would bust out of that cave and start making history.

A compelling story, some surprisingly hilarious bits and, OK, a fairly gratuitous rock 'em, sock 'em comic-book-style fight finale later, and I was saying to Sweetie that I was shocked to find myself comparing Iron Man favorably to the best superhero movies ever made, and the superhero movie genre has really come alive here in the early 21st century. The greater shock is that Sweetie, who is of the see-it-once breed of movie goer, said this is one flick she wouldn't mind seeing again.

It doesn't hurt to have a career-reviving performance by Robert Downey Jr. as Stark, or the lovely Gwyneth Paltrow making perky Pepper Potts cooler than she ever was in the comics. This is simply a boffo movie.

And what a pile of bones tossed to us aging '60s comic book geeks, starting with the goofy gray suit. My favorites are the "Secure Homeland whatever" agency with the ridiculous name that is run past us too fast to figure out exactly what it is if you're not paying attention (and I wasn't) and the scene at the end of the credits — you did stay until the end of the credits, didn't you?

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Savor your friends while you have them

We never met. Well, yes we did, but we never met. He was a thoughtful, provocative, small-L libertarian, patient with those willing to learn and even with those who weren't. And private. It was a long time before I learned his "real" name, and then it was by accident; he sent me a note signed with his initials and I knew of only one thoughtful, provocative, small-L libertarian with those initials.

Before then, in response to one of my "who are you" guessing games, I asked if we'd ever met. He said yes, we had, but offered no details. Even after I learned his identity, I couldn't recall that meeting, although I did recognize his face when I finally saw his picture.

Strange to be using the past tense. He died Wednesday morning.

I learned of his illness last September, exchanged a few e-mails, and had many opportunities to pick up the phone and say, "Hey, can I come see you and chat about life and philosophy and what you're going through?" The phone remained in its cradle, even last weekend when he came home from a few days in the hospital and his children posted grim-sounding updates.

Last night, a few hours after I learned of his passing, I met with some old colleagues, some whom I hadn't seen in years even though all of us still live and work in this area. I savored the time with friends, and my parting "let's do this more often than every few years" was more sincere than usual.

He was the man who used the name kyfho in this edition of this blog. I never met him, but I consider him a friend and fellow traveler, and I will miss him.