Thursday, September 29, 2005

A left-wing call for secession

The word secession usually throws the modern left-wing (big media pundits, academics, so-called civil rights leaders, Hollywood types) into knee-jerk panic. The word conjures up...shudder...the Civil War, slavery, and the KKK. Just mention secession and labels like racist, bigot, right-wing extremist, and fascist will be hurled at you.

Of course, secession has always been on the radical Left Libertarian agenda. So it was refreshing to see the leftist CounterPunch present an article by Kirkpatrick Sale and Thomas Naylor last weekend titled “Secession from the Empire: The Middlebury Declaration.” Wrote Sale and Naylor:

“In answer to a growing swell of interest in realistic responses to the excesses of the present American empire, The Middlebury Institute has been launched by a group of activists and professionals to promote the serious study of separatism, secession, self-determination and similar devolutionary trends and developments, on both national and international scales.

“We believe that, of the options open to those who would dissent from the actions and institutions of a government grown too big and unwieldy and its handmaiden corporate sponsors grown too powerful and corrupt, the only comprehensive and practical one is some form of separatism. Exploiting this option is not a step to be taken lightly, because there are established forces that will hamper and resist, and yet it is a legal and viable enterprise, squarely in the American tradition, and of a piece with the worldwide devolutionary current that has seen the breakup of European empires (including the Soviet) and the expansion of the United Nations from 51 to 193 nations in sixty years.”

It’s remarkable to see an acknowledgement of the “American tradition” of secession come from today’s Left. Likewise, it’s encouraging to hear modern Leftists use terms like self-determination and separatism without a sneer for the first time since the early 1960s — and even more so to hear left-wingers call secession practical and viable.

The Middlebury Institute plans to issue regular papers, sponsor academic seminars, and launch a website. Read the Sale and Naylor article in full, which includes the Institute’s first paper, “The Middlebury Declaration.” Then follow the authors’ advice:

“Spread the word. Join the action. Take the battlements. And keep in touch.”

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Movies: 5 sentimental favorites

My pal B.W. has listed his (current) ten favorite movies of all time on his blog. Every one of them’s a gem. But his list got me thinking. Could I create such a list myself? Probably not. My tastes fluctuate continuously. My moods change every day. I’d be hard-pressed to choose just ten. I’m afraid of forgetting something important. Maybe I could come up with ten in a particular genre. Or choose ten by director. Or actor.

What I noticed about B.W.’s list is that many of his choices are sentimental favorites. His chosen movies have followed him around for years. He’s got life stories to tell about many of his choices. Now there’s a list of great movies I can generate: five of my sentimental favorites. Here’s what I came up with this afternoon.

The Third Man
— I knew Anton Karas’ famous zither score long before I ever saw the movie. In 1964, KFI radio in L.A. broadcast old radio shows on Sunday afternoons. At age 10, I’d curl up in our living room’s overstuffed chair with my tiny transistor radio and listen to The Lives of Harry Lime, a 1951-52 British import. It starred Orson Welles, reprising his role from The Third Man, and it featured that unforgettable Karas music. I didn’t see Carol Reed’s film for another decade, but once I did, I was hooked. I adore this film so much that when Deb and I visited Vienna in 1998, we not only took a walking tour of sites used in the 1949 movie, accompanied by the appropriate zither music, but I spent one afternoon watching it on a “big screen” in a Vienna theater that still shows it several times a week. How cool is that? This is the film that made me a fan of both Welles and Joseph Cotten for life. And, gee, it features Welles’ famous cuckoo clock speech, one of the greatest things ever uttered:

“You know what the fellow said: In
Italy for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love — they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

Mary Poppins — My mom took me to see this Disney classic on the really big screen at Graumann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood during the summer of 1964. I loved the songs. I loved the groundbreaking special effects. I loved listening to Dick Van Dyke do a Cockney accent. And — wooba wooba — I fell head over heels for Julie Andrews. I forgot all about that blond seductress Leslie Jo Smith from the fourth grade. When it comes to nannies, I still accept no substitutes for Julie Andrews.

The Sound of Music — Again, age 10. Again, Julie Andrews. Notice a trend? It was spring of 1965 and my mother took my sister’s Girl Scout troop to a theater to see The Sound of Music. I tagged along. I adored the music and the romance. The Nazis frightened me. And 12-year-old Angela Cartwright stole my heart from Julie. I was following Angela into outer space on TV later that year. Again, during that trip to Austria I mentioned earlier, Deb and I traipsed around Salzburg looking for Sound of Music locations. We found a lot of them. I still get chills thinking about that vacation.

Goldfinger — Still again, age 10. My friends Randy, Rex, and I had spent a Saturday morning driving my mom nuts. She finally stuffed us into the backseat of her station wagon, gave us each a few bucks for tickets and candy, and dumped us in front of the La Reina Theater in Sherman Oaks. “I’ll be back in three hours,” she told us, then sped west down Ventura Boulevard. Until the day she died 35 years later, I don’t think my mother ever realized the impact that event had on our three young lives. By the time Mom returned, we’d been introduced to hot brunettes, fast cars, hot redheads, martinis (shaken, not stirred), hot blondes, crotch-threatening lasers, and a gold-painted, almost totally nekkid girl. The lives of three innocent lads from the San Fernando Valley were forever changed that day. I love you, Mom.

A Clockwork OrangeA Clockwork Orange, a sentimental favorite? Well, yeah. Here’s the deal. In 1972, I was 17 and dying to see Stanley Kubrick’s newest movie, an adaptation of the bizarre Anthony Burgess novel I’d read in a high school English class. But the movie had excessive violence in it. It had tits in it. Big tits in it. And at the time, before it received umpteen Oscar nominations, it was rated — gasp! — X (later reduced to an R). I was several months too young for admission, even with a parent. But one afternoon, my dad consented to buy us tickets. Nervous as hell, I got in. I loved the movie. My dad thought it was friggin' weird. I’ll never forget that experience. I love you, Dad.
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SERENITY: Kuznicki checks in

Over at History News Network's "Liberty & Power" group blog, Jason Kuznicki offers his early review of Serenity, the sci-fi movie so many of us are dying to see this coming Friday. Kuznicki is a fan of Joss Whedon's Firefly TV series, from which Serenity spins. So his spoiler-free comments should interest most Browncoats. In part, Kuznicki writes:
"Don't let the flashy set pieces distract you; beneath the surface, Serenity has one of the most tightly constructed themes of any film, ever. Everything within it, every major action of every character, centers on how the individual should live in a world that is neither as virtuous nor as free as it ought to be. ...

"This brings me to one other aspect of the film that pleasantly astonished me: it is, without any question in my mind, the most pro-individualist, pro-liberty film since The Shawshank Redemption. Forget Batman Begins; for the classical liberal, this will be the film to see. All the same people who hated The Shawshank Redemption are going to hate Serenity -- and those who loved Shawshank are going to have the ride of their lives."

Browncoats -- 3 days to lift-off!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Advice for the peace movement

“I have been thinking for a while now that the Democrats really should sit down and consider changing their mascot from a donkey to a marmot,” writes Joshua Frank, author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush. “A rodent really is more emblematic of their provincial habits than a donkey could ever be. Think about it. Just this past weekend antiwar rallies were held across the country and the Democratic leadership was nowhere in sight. They had high-tailed it out there. They hid in their holes and were afraid to be seen.”

At today, Frank asks why anti-war activists are so loyal to a Democratic Party that supported Bush’s war and still refuses to oppose it. Frank blames much of this undeserved loyalty on Howard Dean, who’s “been able to corral anti-war Democrats into the fold, making sure they don’t flee en masse over the war issue even though they should.” Frank says that “Dean’s early criticism of the Iraq war earned him significant street-cred with party advocates.

“It was un-deserved. Dean, like the rest of the Democratic leadership, is pro-war and pro-occupation, and it couldn’t be more damaging for the peace movement to continue putting faith into this futile party.”

The "cunning" Cindy Sheehan

Here’s Matt Drudge’s headline for today’s arrest of Cindy Sheehan:


Sheehan’s “cunning stunt” was to join several dozen other anti-war protesters in a “sit-down” on the Pennsylvania Avenue sidewalk. Cops warned them three times to “move along,” then began making arrests. Sheehan and the others cooperated fully with police while being handcuffed and led to a police vehicle. According to a U.S. Park Police spokesman, the protesters were charged with “demonstrating without a permit,” a misdemeanor.

How crafty of Sheehan and her cohorts! How wily! How “cunning” of them to peacefully resist! How, well, American!

Movie review: LORD OF WAR

The last movie by writer-director Andrew Niccol that I really admired was his very first, the 1997 sci-fi stunner Gattaca. Now he’s finally produced another mind-blower — Lord of War, a devastating (yet sometimes oddly comedic) portrait of modern war from the perspective of an arms dealer. Nicholas Cage is especially fine in this movie, playing Yuri Orlov, born in Russia and raised in Brooklyn, where he first gets into the weapons trade selling guns to Russian gangs in his neighborhood. Business grows from there, and he’s eventually marketing AK-47s, tanks, missiles, and military helicopters worldwide. We follow the life of Yuri for about 20 years, and it’s a nightmarish trek.

Lord of War isn’t a simpleminded indictment of guns or gun-ownership, as some conservative film reviewers have charged. It’s not even particularly an attack on arms dealers like Yuri, whom Niccol says is a composite of five different real-life people. But it is a vitriolic portrayal of governments that loudly applaud international arms embargo laws while they secretly use unethical merchants like Yuri Orlov to satisfy their own ends. Niccol claims that every event in the movie is based on fact, and it does ring with authenticity. So much so that, even though compelling, it’s often hard to watch.

Lord of War is a smidge too long, I think. And it may stand as one of this fall's most depressing films. But it's a very important movie. Make a point to see it.
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Sunday, September 25, 2005

The protest that never was

“When over 100,000 people gather in protest, and are ‘allowed’ by federal officials to march past the White House for the first time in a decade,” writes Silver this morning at Claire Wolfe's blog, “you might think it was news. When tens of thousands more gather for the same reason in cities across the country and the world, you might expect to read about it.”

As Silver reports, yesterday’s enormous anti-war protest in Washington, D.C. and the smaller gatherings throughout the nation seem to have been largely dumped down the Memory Hole. Plenty of people argue that the U.S. press has a “liberal bias.” More truthfully, it has an Establishment bias, so Saturday’s demonstrations were given little attention by the lapdog news media.

In case you hadn’t heard, D.C. police and U.S. Park Police estimated that about 150,000 anti-war protesters participated in yesterday’s march around the White House, along Pennsylvania Avenue, and to the Washington Monument grounds, where a concert and rally were held. Coincidentally (for those not believing in government conspiracies), 13 Amtrak trains running between New York and Washington just happened to be delayed for up to three hours on Saturday morning for repair of overhead electrical lines, which held up thousands who were on their way to the march. Metro delays were also reported in northern Virginia on the Blue and Yellow lines.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

At the barricades with Phil Donahue

It took me a few days, but I finally got a look at Bill O'Reilly's exchange with Phil Donahue last Wednesday night on FOX News. This is real Must-See TV, friends. Donahue clobbers "Billy," pins him to the mat, then rips him a new one over the Iraq debacle. If you haven't already seen the video and cheered for Donahue's performance, you must do so right away. O'Reilly's head almost explodes a la Cronenberg's old Scanners movie. You can get to both the transcript and the video at

Meanwhile, today's anti-war marches proceed in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles. And the polls look promising to us anti-war radicals:
  • 67% believe Bush is mishandling the war in Iraq
  • 65% believe the U.S. is spending too much on Iraq
  • 63% believe the U.S. should "withdraw some" or "withdraw all" troops
  • 59% believe the war was a mistake
Check out the polling numbers right here.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Rothbard made easy

There are a lot of good ideas floating around out there. But occasionally, someone like my friend B.K. Marcus comes up with a really outstanding idea -- like Economics 101, a single MP3 CD containing nine complete Murray Rothbard lectures on economics from the ground up. B.K. does a lot of work for the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and he writes, "This one's my baby. My brain child. I conceived it. I nurtured it from a pup. I can't take responsibility for Chad's beautiful visual design, or for the genius of Rothbard's teaching, but it's mine anyway. I couldn't be more proud."

I've been reading Rothbard since I was 16. But I also had the good fortune to hear him lecture and even speak with him several times over 24 years. The first time was at USC in 1970, at the "Left-Right Festival of Liberation" sponsored by Rampart College and the California Libertarian Alliance; I believe that was billed as Murray's "first West Coast appearance." The last time was in late 1994, just a couple of months before his death, at a meeting of the John Randolph Club in Arlington, Virginia. As great a writer as Murray was, there was nothing quite like listening to him. He was a great teacher, and he was funny as hell. And his laugh was unforgettable.

Economics 101 is described at the site as "free-wheeling, generously peppered with anecdotes, packed with humor." But the site adds, "After listening to these ten hours of audio, you will know more real economics than most econ majors."

This CD is the kind of concussion device we need to place in the hands of family and friends who still don't "get it" when we shake our heads at the latest government tamperings with the market. Thanks, Murray. And thanks, B.K., for dreaming up this wonderful educational tool.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A novel podcast of a podcast novel

I spend many beautiful, sunny afternoons here on California’s central coast sitting in my backyard with a good cigar and my MP3 player. Most often, I’m re-educating myself with lectures downloaded from But for the past week, I’ve been listening to Scott Sigler’s compelling podcast novel EarthCore, which Tom Novak recommended. From March through August, Sigler read/performed his book’s 50-plus chapters in weekly 45-minute installments. More than 5,000 people subscribed to EarthCore for free during that time, receiving automatic audio downloads each week. But now you can download Sigler's entire performance like I did, all 24 installments, and it’s still absolutely free. I’m halfway through the novel, and it’s a terrific ride.

EarthCore is akin to Edgar Rice Burroughs channeled through Clive Cussler. It tells the story of Connell Kirkland and his mining crew, pushing three miles beneath a desolate mountain in Utah to unearth the world’s largest platinum deposit. But something evil has been waiting under that mountain for thousands of years. The story is filled with so many sudden twists, ancient conspiracies, and truly vile bad guys and badder girls that I regret having to remove my headphones each day (usually after at least two hours of listening).

The book has an interesting history. It was first published in 2001 by AOL/TimeWarner’s iPublish imprint as an eBook and was scheduled for a nationwide paperback release in June 2002. Then the post-9/11 recession hit and AOL/TimeWarner killed the paperback. Eventually, Sigler regained the rights and launched his podcast presentation. The podcast was so successful that the novel has now finally been published in print form.

But don’t miss the remarkable free podcast performance of EarthCore by Scott Sigler. As Tom Novak says, “If you miss old time radio or just yearn for quality, adult-themed storytelling of a caliber you’d expect from Orson Welles or Rod Serling, then EarthCore is what you’ve been waiting for.” Hear, hear!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

"Govermentium" discovered

A major research institution (MRI) has recently announced the discovery of the heaviest chemical element yet known to science. The new element has been tentatively named "Govermentium."

Govermentium has 1 neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75 deputy neutrons, and 225 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 313. These 313 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.

Since Govermentium has no electrons, it is inert. However, it can be detected as it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A minute amount of Govermentium causes one action to take over 4 days to complete when it would normally take less than a second.

Govermentium has a normal half-life of 2 years; it does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places. In fact, Govermentium's mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause some morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes. This characteristic of moron-promotion leads some scientists to speculate that Govermentium is formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as "Critical Morass."

[Thanks to Gene Callahan for passing this on. It originally appeared at]

Monday, September 19, 2005

Agorism Contra Marxism, part 5

[This continues a multi-part summary of known existing portions of Samuel Edward Konkin III’s unfinished book Agorism Contra Marxism, which began, and ended, its serialization in Strategy of the New Libertarian Alliance #2, 1982-83. To catch up, check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.]

The Agorist Critique of Marxist Class Theory

Marx’s Class Theory failed to see that those workers classically considered proletariat would become growingly obsolescent. In North America, unionized skilled workers are in decline, being absorbed by new entrepreneurship (franchising, independent contracting and consulting), the service industry, scientific research and development, increased managerial function without human labor underneath for exploitation, and bureaucracy.

“The entrepreneurial problem is unsolvable for Marxism,” wrote SEK3, “because Marx failed to recognize the economic category. The best Marxists can do is lump them with new, perhaps mutated, capitalist forms. But if they are to fit the old class system, they are petit bourgeois, the very group that is to either collapse into proletarians or rise into the monopoly capitalist category. Small business should not increase in the ‘advanced, decadent stages of capitalism.’ ”

Marxism also does not deal with the persistent Counter-Economy (i.e., a peaceful black market or underground economy). There is a spectrum of the Counter-Economy “tainting” workers, entrepreneurs, and even capitalists. Wrote Konkin:

“Scientists, managers, even civil servants do not merely accept bribes and favors but actively seek second, unreported employment in the ‘black market.’ And the more ‘socialist’ the State, the bigger the nalevo, ‘black work’ or ‘underground’ component of the economy. ... [T]his turns Marx ‘on his head’ ...: ‘advanced capitalism’ is generating runaway free-enterprise (the Old-Fashioned kind) in reaction; the more decadent (statist) the capitalism, the more virulent the reaction and the larger the Counter-Economy.

“But even worse is the class of Counter-Economists. That is, by Marxist class structure, the black marketeers cannot be a class: workers, capitalists and entrepreneurs in active collusion against a common enemy, the State. True, many do not perceive themselves as in a common class and some even try to deny their ‘black’ activities even to themselves, thanks to religious and social guilt induction. And yet, when the agents of the State appear to enforce the ‘laws’ of the Power Elite, the Counter-Economists from tax-dodging businessman to drug-dealing hippie to illegal alien to feminist midwife are willing to signal each other with the universal: ‘Watch it, the fuzz/pigs/flics/federales/etc.!’ ...

“Even in extreme cases, the commonality of the Counter-Economist has generated an economic determinism as strong as any Marx considered to weld ‘class unity.’ But this is still not the worst.

“This class unity is not that of a workers’ class (though workers are heavily involved) nor of a capitalist class (though capitalists are involved) nor even of a ruling class — this class is based on the commonality of risk, arising from a common source (the State). And risk is not proletarian (or particularly capitalist); it is purely entrepreneurial.

“Again, to make it clear, if the ‘entrepreneuriat’ are tossed into the capitalist class, then the Marxist must face the contradiction of ‘capitalists’ at war with the capitalist-controlled State.

“At this point, Marx’s class analysis is in shreds. Clearly, oppression exists, but another model is needed to explain how it works.”

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TV's newest celebrations of despotism

I’ve spent almost a decade adamantly refusing to watch TV’s State-worshipping ratings hit The West Wing. My friend Dave adores the show. He never misses it. “It’s written extraordinarily well,” he insists. I don’t care. I can’t get past the fact that its producer once told the L.A. Times he’d created the series to “help rebuild Americans’ confidence in their leaders.” Fortunately, the show’s copycats quickly disappeared, so we’ve been left only with Martin Sheen and his “noble” struggles. But another television season is now launching, and I note at least two new series that, like The West Wing, I’ll be avoiding like liver and onions.

Commander in Chief (on ABC) — To get us prepared for Hillary’s run for the White House in 2008, here comes Geena Davis as Vice President Mackenzie Allen, thrust into the Oval Office when the President dies suddenly. She’s a Nobel-winning university chancellor, mother, former Congresscritter, and, to make things seem really evenhanded, she’s an Independent! Oh, and she’s cute as a button. What a country!

E-Ring (on NBC) — Remember when Dennis Hopper was a Hollywood bad boy and rode a badass bike across the nation’s landscape with Peter Fonda, selling dope and raising hell? Those days are over, kids. Now Hopper’s a colonel, working at the Pentagon’s “E-Ring,” where all the really big decisions are made. And he's mixing it up with a maverick former Green Beret and Army major played by Benjamin Bratt. Shit, I feel another war coming on.

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Saturday, September 17, 2005

Gearing up for "Serenity"

We're just two weeks away from the September 30 theatrical release of Joss Whedon's Serenity, the spin-off from his tragically short-lived 2002 Firefly TV series on Fox. And most of us Browncoats are confident that the movie will rock. But will it be a hit with general audiences?

Well, the Powers That Be in Movieland are hedging their bets. According to SciFi Wire, the Serenity cast has signed on for two more films if this one's a hit. [SPOILER WARNING: The names of two cast members are missing from the SciFi Wire story, confirming the rumor from preview audiences that two characters from the TV show will be killed in the Serenity movie. It only takes a smidge of detective work to figure out who'll be "offed," so if you don't want to know before you see the film, skip the article.]

J.F. Crosby talks about the Firefly phenomenon at this morning.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Cthulhu lives!

Attention, all fans of Dagon, Chaugnar Faugn, Yog-Sothoth, and other entities that go bump in the night (well, they do much more than go bump in the night, but it's too hideous to mention here)! One of the coolest things I've seen in months is the online trailer for a short film adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's horror story "The Call of Cthulhu." After more than a year in production by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, the movie is "in the can" and will be ready for purchase on DVD sometime early next month.

The Call of Cthulhu, says the Society, is "a faithful period adaptation of the story, done in the style of a 1920s silent movie, the way it might have been done if it had been done when [Lovecraft] wrote it." The cast includes more than 50 actors. And if the actual film is half as good as its spiffy, retro trailer, it should be a "keeper" for all Lovecraftians. The DVD will include some extras, as well.

Check out the trailer and a diary of the 13-month movie production right here.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Hardyville Freedom Film Festival

Freedom writer Claire Wolfe (RebelFire 1.0, The Freedom Outlaw’s Handbook, and so much more) today kicked off the 2005 edition of the Hardyville Freedom Film Festival, when her “little mid-nowhere town of Hardyville becomes bigger than Cannes, Venice, or Telluride. This is the stellar event, the only one of its kind, that annually showcases great freedom films of every era and any part of the globe.”

This year, I’m honored that Claire invited me to join her and Backwoods Home Magazine webmaster Oliver Del Signore on the film nominating committee. After much discussion, the three of us chose 35 finalists in seven categories: Contemporary Dramas, Contemporary Comedies, Science Fiction (any era), Action-Adventure (any era), Animated Features/Family Films, Classics (more than 30 years old), and Foreign Language Films. In November, Claire will announce both a Judges Award and a Readers’ Choice Award.

Lemme tell you, friends — Claire, Oliver, and I may share a love for liberty, but we also have disparate (if occasionally overlapping) cinematic tastes. So there was some dispute on a few of the nominees...and there were one or two films dropped from the final list that I would have loved to see in the contest (as well as a few included that I just don’t care all that much for). But we three remain good comrades. And overall, I’m very happy with this bunch of finalists, especially the inclusion of one movie that stars...well, it stars puppets, fer crissakes. Also, we all agreed to nominate one film that hasn’t even been released to theaters yet and which none of us has seen!

All of this makes for an extremely exciting 2005 Hardyville Freedom Film Festival. So check out the list, hunker down with your popcorn to watch those movies with which you’re unfamiliar, grab a ballot, and vote before the October 20 deadline. This is gonna be fun!

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Monday, September 12, 2005

Wise words from Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut isn’t a deep thinker — no more than, say, Sean Penn or Hillary Clinton. He believes in utopian “good government,” national health care, and the potential greatness of public education. But he’s a great frackin’ writer and the author of one of the best anti-war novels ever written. And I spent 73 pleasant minutes yesterday morning reading his latest teeny collection of essays over a cup of coffee. The book’s called A Man without a Country, and if you enjoy Vonnegut at all, you’ll enjoy this, slight as it is and depressing as it often is. KV’s 82 years old now, and this may very well be his last book.

Anyway, near the end of the volume, pessimistic, curmudgeonly Vonnegut offers a bit of advice for dealing with these horrible times we live in. He writes briefly about his Uncle Alex, whose “principal complaint about other human beings was that they so seldom noticed it when they were happy.

“So when we were drinking lemonade under an apple tree in the summer, say, and talking lazily about this and that, almost buzzing like honeybees, Uncle Alex would suddenly interrupt the agreeable blather to exclaim, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’

“So I do the same now, and so do my kids and grandkids. And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’ ”

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Building strategic alliances -- now!

[James Leroy Wilson says that last week in New Orleans — forced evacuation of people from their property, confiscation of guns — was his “last straw.” He writes: “I think we are...short on time. Liberty’s enemies in America must be confronted and defeated soon — now. Even though liberty’s friends appear to be few in number.” New, serious attempts to build coalitions of opposition to the State are obviously needed. To help get us started, I present here a February 2001 post to the LeftLibertarian e-list from the late Samuel Edward Konkin III. It discusses past and (then) current Movement of the Libertarian Left (MLL) efforts to build strategic alliances.]

“Let’s run through what we’re looking for in alliances. ...

“Start with [Murray] Rothbard: he used the Leninist concepts of ‘principled’ and ‘unprincipled’ coalitions. The Principled Coalitions (I’ll abbreviate them PrinCo) are similar to an election coalition. The participants agree on several issues and, above all, don’t want the other alternatives to win more than they don’t want their coalition partners to get whatever they will get as their respective pay-offs. (I know, it doesn’t sound all that principled, either, but, hey, that’s politics.)

“Unprincipled Coalitions are usually based on a single issue. An example would be Group A and Group B allied against C and D to stop a war, but then A & C join forces against B & D to stop a tax. ...

“Having actually participated in ‘real’ parliamentary coalitions (model parliament in my University back in Canada) and in actual elections (too young to vote but not to nominate or campaign for candidates for the real parliament in Ottawa), I discussed such concepts with Rothbard almost from my first meeting with him. It’s a subject on which he considered me experienced enough to be an equal, not just an adoring student. I got into some of the complexities with him, pointing out how (back in 1969) he was losing some of the RLA (Radical Libertarian Alliance) to Collectivist Anarchists by the coalition he had forged with the SDS. Within months (not because of our discussion, I assure you) he had veered ‘Right’ and the RLA was ‘reorganized’ as the Citizens for a Restructured Republic (CRR) to form parliamentary alliances to support an anti-war candidate (Oregon’s Senator Mark Hatfield was the Republican favorite; Wisconsin’s William Proxmire was the Democrat choice).

“I objected to both. By the 1972 election, Rothbard was urging votes for...Richard M. Nixon! Four years earlier, he was nominated in a coalition of RLA and a Maoist group for the Peace and Freedom Senatorial candidacy (he fortunately lost).

“This sounds pretty bizarre, I’ll admit. From Rothbard’s Unprincipled Coalition stature it made sense. It was a constant shift of tactics aimed at the same ‘Stop the War’ by the most effective means. But there was another element to his alliances: he wanted to build an independent Libertarian Movement as well. In that, he largely succeeded, but he did so by splitting from the Right in the first place, back around 1960, but with a vengeance in 1964 when he (wrongly, in my opinion) attacked most Libertarians’ support of Barry Goldwater and preferring Lyndon Johnson as the Peace Candidate (need I say more?) and then urging Libertarians to quit YAF and join the SDS in 1965.

“Now here was the one case where Rothbard argued for a PrinCo. If you read his defense of the SDS in Left and Right, he argues that they are more decentralist, more individualist, certainly more isolationist than the ‘New Right’ and maybe even worthy heirs of the Old Right (William Appleman Williams surely was) — not just that they were good on anti-war issues.

“Finally, Rothbard’s argument for his Coalition with the Paleoconservatives (Thomas Fleming, Rockford Institute, Chronicles) finds several points of agreement between them and his Paleolibertarians; again, it’s a PrinCo. It broke up almost immediately after Murray’s death in 1995.

“And his PrinCo with the SDS broke up when Karl Hess led the ‘Left’ Libertarians and Anagoric Anarchists on a march to Fort Dix and came back soaked with teargas and paranoid in flight (Hotel Diplomat, Columbus Day, 1969, and I was a witness and participant).

“What is the ‘we’ that are few? What is the ‘they’ that are many? Hardcore anarcho-communist/anarchosyndicalist theoreticians are certainly outnumbered by hardcore agorist intellectuals. And, among the general population, there are far more people who are sympathetic to some version of the free-market libertarian position than that of the ‘other’ anarchists. Even among ‘the kids’ our agorist position is as popular or more so than that of the anagoric anarchists, particularly on the web and related Internet/Linux/hacker/privacy issues.

“There is only one class in which anarchocommies (if I may be so familiar) outnumber us: street fighters. (Well, you can throw in Union Organizers, but that’s about as relevant as pointing out there are far more agorist business entrepreneurs than anarchocommunist ones, although there are a few of each.)

“Having hung out with the Black Bloc in Los Angeles, I don’t find them threatening to their fellow anarchists. They are willing to take what they perceive as reasonable risks to thwart the State’s armed forces, much like the ’60s street radicals vs. the National Guard. What would happen if they get a ‘whiff of grapeshot’ like Kent State? We don’t know...yet.

“And we don’t know what [Noam] Chomsky would do in a revolutionary situation. He did support the Spanish Anarchists during the Civil War against his relatives and most of his fellow students who followed the Stalinist line, so that’s a good sign, though he was quite young then. He does speak proudly of doing so when interviewed for his film biography.

“What we need to do is analyze various groups out there and see if any have enough points in common for a PrinCo; independently, analyze and discover any issues we care about enough to form Unprincipled Coalitions that might actually win, and then slug it through the hard way alone on the rest.

“There are some activities where we need to ‘go it alone’ regardless: education, recruitment, agitprop, building cadre, publications (now including online) and internal communication. That’s a short list.

“And MLL’s classic position, still valid, is the only issue that’s worth the risk of agorists surfacing from the Counter-Economy is opposition to The Health of the State, War.

“If there are Anarchists who are not in MLL, NLA or the Revolutionary Agorist Cadre who nonetheless can be trusted to oppose the State consistently and continually, they would be able to work with us both aboveground and belowground. I cannot think of anyone else with whom we could work on several issues at once. Hence, if they exist as just defined, these anagoric Anarchists are the only possible candidates for a Principled Coalition with MLL.”

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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Re-evaluating John Stossel

Freeman (aka libertarian critter) takes exception to my appraisal of TV reporter John Stossel as “one of the best messengers we free-marketeers have got.” There are problems with Stossel, freeman says. And I agree. I probably should have written that Stossel is the only messenger we free-marketeers have got in mainstream television media. Or maybe I should have described him as Sherlock Holmes once described Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard — “the best of a bad lot.”

Anyway, this reminds me of a system Samuel Edward Konkin III used in his newsletters to rate the value of books, lectures, etc. to hardcore Libertarian Leftists. His Agorist Ratings went like this: -1 = statist; 0 = non-libertarian; 1 = mixed at best; 2 = mostly partyarch (political) but redeeming features; 3 = mostly libertarian; 4 = counter-economic and/or hardcore libertarian; 5 = pure agorist.

Using this system, SEK3 rated (depending on his mood, for his ratings shifted somewhat from newsletter to newsletter) Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson a 4.5, Ludwig von Mises’ Human Action a 4.9, Rose Wilder Lane’s The Discovery of Freedom a 4.5, David Friedman’s The Machinery of Freedom a 2.9, most books by Harry Browne a 4, and most everything by Thomas Sowell somewhere between 1 and 2. (I’d personally rate Friedman higher, by the way. Keeping in mind his preference for utilitarianism over natural rights, I’d still give him at least a 3.4, agorically speaking.)

So, on Sam’s old Agorist Ratings scale, I’d place John Stossel’s Give Me a Break at 2.6. I liked it. I had a good time reading it. And if I were trying to convince my wishy-washy Starbucks barista of the benefits of markets over the State, I’d hand him lightweight Stossel rather than the heavier Mises or Rothbard, just to get him started. But that’s me.

If I remember to do so, I may begin using SEK3’s Agorist Ratings on this blog, when appropriate.

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Saturday, September 10, 2005

Book Review: GIVE ME A BREAK

Off hand, I can name only one mainstream TV news reporter without gagging — John Stossel. Stossel’s spent the past decade or so reporting “against the grain,” and TV specials like “Are We Scaring Ourselves to Death?” and “John Stossel Goes to Washington” are classics (as well as Nielsen ratings blockbusters). His book Give Me a Break is both a good primer on markets vs. government and an entertaining account of his battles with Big Media powers to reach audiences with the truth about free markets.

Stossel started out as a “consumer reporter,” bashing corporate crooks and even smalltime rip-off artists. “For years,” he writes, “I bought the stereotypes that serve as conventional wisdom in the news business: Corporations are evil; all risk is intolerable; consumers need more government to protect us.” But eventually, Stossel had what he calls an epiphany: “...voluntary is better than forced. Free is better than coerced. It’s why, whenever possible, we are better off if the private sector is bigger and government smaller. Government can never hope to attend to people’s needs and wants as well as the market, simply because it’s not as fast or efficient. The government makes big adjustments every two or four or six years; the market, driven by countless trades like your ice-cream purchase can adjust thousands of times a second.”

Because of this personal revelation, Stossel’s been attacked by the Bogus Left. Sidney Wolfe of the Ralph Nader-founded group Public Citizen said he’s “a menace...doing a massive amount of damage.” But Stossel is not the “friend of industry” that interest groups have accused him of being.

“Why am I a ‘friend of industry’ because I like free markets?” he asks. “Many in industry despise free markets, and try to use cronyism and government connections to rig the system to avoid free market competition. I’m a friend of entrepreneurship, but is there something wrong with that? Entrepreneurship brings us many of the best things we have.”

Despite his attacks on big government, Stossel admits, “I’m no anarchist.” But he shuns most other labels as well. He writes:

“...the mainstream media are tilted so far to the left that they call me conservative.

“I guess they call me that because I believe the free market is a good thing — but what’s conservative about the market? It’s unplanned, unpredictable, scary, noisy. ‘Libertarian’ is a better term for my beliefs. But it’s a lousy word. People think it means ‘libertine,’ and the Libertarian Party has had flaky people like Howard Stern run for office. Maybe ‘classical liberal’ is a better term for what I am. Liberals were originally the ones who advocated freedom and tolerance.

“Not lately.”

Give Me a Break is fun to read. And refreshingly, Stossel doesn’t come off as a faultless crusader. He admits his mistakes and foibles. And he’s one of the best messengers we free-marketeers have got.

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Scott Bieser strikes again!

Mac users: don't look to FEMA for help

It seems that those citizens trying to file claims online for assistance from FEMA had better be running Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 or later with JavaScript enabled. Otherwise, they're outta luck.

TechWeb News tested FEMA's Individual Assistance Center, where you can apply for "disaster relief" from the feds. This message popped up: "In order to use this site, you must have JavaScript Enabled and Internet Explorer version 6. Download it from Microsoft or call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) to register." In other words, if you're running Linux or the Mac operating systems, or if you're a Windows user running alternate browsers like Opera or Firefox, you're shut out.

Recently, the U.S. Copyright Office announced that its upcoming newly-improved website will allow only Internet Explorer and a version of Netscape Navigator to access their copyright preregistration system.

I don't know much about designing websites, but aren't most sites today accessible by every browser in the land? How hard can building an all-browser-friendly site be? Is it too tough for these bureaucratic government lunkheads...or do they just want everyone to fall in line behind their preferred computer system (One OS To Rule Them All)?

A little of both, I imagine.
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Friday, September 09, 2005

New Orleans "rescue" update

OK, one of these photos is not from New Orleans this week. But it might as well be.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

What's going down in the Big Easy?

Aside from promoting Tom DiLorenzo’s recent post on FEMA and adding Scott Bieser’s “U.S. Out of New Orleans!” bumper-sticker to the sidebar, I’ve been pretty quiet about Katrina and the Big Easy. New Orleans has long been one of my favorite spots, and the news and photos have been heartrending. So I’ve kept kinda quiet. But I can’t resist pointing you toward James Leroy Wilson’s recent speculations about what’s really going on there. Even if you normally pooh-pooh conspiracy theories, James’ are worth thinking about.

First, he suspects that reports of violence and chaos in New Orleans were exaggerated by government officials as part of “a plan to make poor blacks seem as savage and inhuman as possible.” Then, he questions the forced evacuation of the city. In a September 6 post, he wrote:

“Something very ugly is afoot. The Feds want civilians to get out, to not watch whatever it is the feds have planned for the place. I suspect they deliberately facilitated a hellish situation so that those who did leave would never want to go back and rebuild. It makes me want to go down and live there myself.”

Yesterday, James added this:

“There are unconfirmed reports that many people near the levee break heard an explosion right before the flood. There is speculation that the break was a form of ‘damage control’; it was going to break anyway, so make sure the richest parts of town didn’t get the brunt of it.

“Last June’s Supreme Court decision Kelo vs. New London officially validated the on-going practice of governments taking from private property owners and giving it to richer people in the name of commercial development and greater tax revenue.

“Expect in New Orleans this to take place. Evacuated homeowners who want to come back and rebuild on their own land will be prevented from doing so. The city (or the state, or even the feds) will take the land from them and give it to developers. The poor and modest homeowners, even after receiving decent-sized insurance checks and government checks, will be priced out of the city. A category-5-proof levee will be built making the city an attractive destination, but land values and rents will be too high for most people. Yet the French Quarter will return in all its glory, and the Saints will be given the most plush stadium in America. Americans will be proud of how the city ‘came back.’ And now it won’t have all those poor and fearsome black people!”

Is Wilson just another conspiracy nut? Hmm. He’s always seemed extremely rational to me. And if you’d told me years ago that FDR had prior knowledge of Pearl Harbor and had done nothing to stop it, I’d have thought you were loony. Today’s conspiracy theories are often tomorrow’s accepted historical truths. We’ll have to wait and see about New Orleans. But keep Wilson’s ideas in mind as the evacuation and rebuilding of the city unfold. If the pieces seem to fall into place...

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Book Review: GLADIATOR

For forty years, I heard that Superman, the template for all modern superheroes, was inspired by Philip Wylie’s 1930 pulp sci-fi classic Gladiator. I’ve been a comic book fan since age six and grew up watching the old George Reeves Adventures of Superman TV episodes over and over, so you’d think I’d have read Wylie’s novel long ago. Well, I finally read it last week.

The comparisons to Superman are striking. Gladiator’s Hugo Danner, like Clark Kent, grows up in a rural town. He has great strength, can leap tall buildings in a single bound, and appears invulnerable to bullets, missiles, and the like. He believes, like Superman, in truth, justice, and the American Way. However, unlike Superman, Hugo isn’t from another planet but is the product of his scientist-father’s eugenics experiments (recalling another pulp hero, Doc Savage).

Where Gladiator differs most from the Superman saga is in its grimness. Hugo keeps his powers a secret, like Clark Kent, because he wants to “fit in” and lead a “normal” life. But there the similarity ends. Whereas Clark quickly discovers his purpose in life — to fight injustice, criminality, and cosmic cataclysms — Hugo never does. As a college football star, Hugo unintentionally kills a fellow player with his abnormal strength. He hides in Europe from friends and family, eventually serving in the French army, where his powers can be used more indiscriminately during World War I. But he despairs over mankind’s violent nature and his inability to affect the world positively. Throughout the novel, Hugo is plagued by discrimination and fear, and his story ends tragically.

Gladiator is, I think, more “realistic” than the Superman saga. As a kid, I used to dream of having super powers and using them to save lives and impress my friends. I imagined that everyone would admire me and desire my friendship, because I was, well, super. Now, forty years later, the tragic life of Hugo Danner seems more probable than the exciting life of Clark Kent. After all, in the real world, those who aspire to live outside the box and accomplish great things are most often resented, shunned, or forced to “fit in.”

I enjoyed Philip Wylie’s novel, and I admire it as an early sci-fi landmark. But I won’t embrace the book’s message of heartbreak and personal destruction, no matter how realistic it seems. Give me, instead, the improbable optimism of the Superman mythos, where heroes pursue their destinies largely undeterred.

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Monday, September 05, 2005

Meet the Wobblies

There's no better time than Labor Day to take an educational field trip to the website of the Industrial Workers of the World. Here's what our late friend Samuel Edward Konkin III said about the Wobblies five years ago:

"[F]ree-market and pro-entrepreneur as we are, MLL [Movement of the Libertarian Left] supports genuine anarchosyndicalist unions which consistently refuse to collaborate with the State. (In North America, that's the IWW and nothing else I know of.) ... you'll note the abhorrence of the IWW to politics and party; they split with the nascent U.S. Socialist Party on the same grounds that MLL split with the formative USLP --- rejecting parliamentarianism for direct action.

"If you have to have workers, they ought to be all IWW."
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Sunday, September 04, 2005

"More government, please"

Here's an example of the mushy, pampered, whiny, so-called "progressive" Left of which we Libertarian Leftists are definitely not a part:
Dear America,

You put in power a conservative movement whose attitude toward government was expressed as: "To get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."

You voted for President Bush, who approvingly quoted Reagan's phrase, "The most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.' "

Well, they weakened the government, and the government is not there to help.

So get your jaw off the floor.

You cashed your tax rebate check, didn't you? You got what you voted for.

And what's happening in New Orleans is exactly what you voted for.

Brian Flemming
The government...weakened? Sheesh. Mr. Flemming has not activated a comments feature on his blog, for obvious reasons. Check out the rest of this nitwit's blog for more big yucks.

Thanks, Kevin Carson, for tipping me off to Flemming's post.
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Saturday, September 03, 2005

Let's abolish FEMA

Thomas DiLorenzo asks:
"How many hurricane disasters will it take to demonstrate to the American sheeple that 'FEMA' ALWAYS gets in the way of local communities and makes things worse? Anyone who pays any attention at all to the antics of these goose-stepping, beer-bellied morons would have to come to this conclusion."
Read his entire post here.

Bieser joins the blogosphere

Scott Bieser, self-described "cartoonist, illustrator and libertarian pain-in-the-ass," has just launched his new blog. And so far, it's a doozy. Scott's the guy who illustrated covers for several libertarian books (including Vin Suprynowicz's The Black Arrow and L. Neil Smith's Lever Action). Most important, though, he's the fellow who illustrated the graphic novel adaptation of Smith's classic The Probability Broach.

Anyway, Scott's already tackled the touchy libertarian topics of immigration and looting on his blog. And just this morning, he spent some time explaining to socialist anarchists why lovers of a free market can qualify as anarchists, too: "Since we market anarchists want to do away with government, I'm not sure what else we should call ourselves. 'Anarchy' simply means 'no rulers,' it doesn't have to specify one economic arrangement or another."

This weekend, take a moment to stop by Scott Bieser's The Time Sink.

Friday, September 02, 2005

The State: 100 years of coping with disaster

A notice from the mayor of San Francisco to the city's residents following the 1906 earthquake and fire. (Thanks to Tom Novak for bringing this to my attention.)

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