Monday, February 28, 2005

2 essays added to the sidebar

For those who may be interested, I have added 2 essays to the sidebar section aimed toward people of a leftie statist persuasion.

The first is Anthony Gregory's latest contribution to LRC, called Corporatism and Socialism in America. Gregory's piece is a nice overview of the problem that arises when people respond to problems falsely attributed to the "free market" with statist solutions that often cater to big business interests rather than counter them. As Gregory puts it:
Although leftists often misunderstand the fundamental problem plaguing the economy, they at least recognize its symptoms.

The second addition is "Liberalism and Social Control: The New Class' Will to Power", an essay by Kevin Carson that appears over at This extremely informative work details the rise of the "New Class" professionalism that dominated 20th century institutions and public policy and continues to dominate to this day, thanks to the brand of mainstream statists who are often labeled as being "left-liberals". This phenomenom, which actually serves the interests of the political and economic ruling class, has stifled the ability of workers to organize for themselves and improve their lot within society through the rise of professionalism and statism. Here is a telling excerpt from the essay that discusses this in more detail:
Genuine working class unions, built from the bottom up and controlled by workers themselves, aimed at direct workers' control of the production process. Workers' organizations for self-help and mutual aid included collections for charity, and "friendly societies" organized on a subscription basis to insure members against funerals and sickness [They are described in the later chapters of Kropotkin's Mutual Aid and in E. P. Thompson's chapter on "Community"]. So every function of the "progressive" welfare state so beloved of Arthur Schlesinger Jr. was already being attempted by the workers themselves--but organized from the bottom up, instead of handed down from on high by paternalistic liberals.

The main shortcomings of working class self-organization were those imposed from outside--i.e., lack of resources, and active suppression by the state. Had the working class been free to organize without interference by the state--and more importantly, had they had the full product of their labor to dispose of--their provisions for their own health, education and welfare would have been far superior to anything doled out by the state. But goo-goos like Schlesinger ignore the fact that the welfare state was created precisely in order to prevent the working class from organizing to keep the product of their own labor and control their work. The entire "progressive" agenda in the twentieth century was oriented, not toward ending the framework of state policy that supported corporate rule, but increasing state intervention to make corporate rule more bearable.

The New class saw such self-organization as an atavism, to be eliminated with all the other imperfections of the past when society was reorganized under the benevolent rule of "professionals." Working class institutions were either supplanted or destroyed: working class free schools were rendered "obsolete" by state schools, and in the process the New Class ideology achieved hegemony over the minds of children; organs of self-help were encouraged to wither away by the "helping professions"; syndicalist unions controlled by the rank and file, and the vibrant labor press, were liquidated by good "liberals" during Wilson's Red Scare.

A particular strength of both essays is their focus on the types of historical documentation that one will never find discussed in the media, the established school system, or even the supposedly radical texts of people like Howard Zinn.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

First labeling, now framing

James Leroy Wilson has written another thought-provoking piece this week, this one appearing at Partial Observer. It is called "The Vision Thing", and it deals with the issue of framing certain topics for discussion and debate.

Wilson goes over the various successful attempts of framing by mainstream conservatives and progressives alike, with examples such as "single payer" health care (by progressives) to promote efficiency and shift thought away from socialism and "tax relief" (by conservatives) to make what would be a deficit enlarging tax cut for the rich sound more innocent. He also acknowledges how libertarians have lacked success in this tactic, and provides a few examples of frames that could make libertarian positions look more appealing:
It’s not easy. The purpose of framing the debate is to force opponents to accept your terms and then be forced to defend the opposite position. For example, the medical marijuana issue might be coined the War on the Sick. The War on Drugs could be re-christened the War on Minorities. Concealed carry laws must be framed within the right to self-defense, like being opposed to muggings and rapes.

Not all frames have worked, or done any good. It is absurd for anyone to support Corporate Welfare, but it isn’t going away. Neither is America’s World Police, or its Messianic foreign policy. “I believe the rich ought to support themselves.” “I think other countries ought to govern themselves.”

Those are some good ones, and here are a few that I have thought of:

The minimum wage: Keeping poor people out of the workforce.
Universal health care proposals: Injecting steroids into the worst of our health care woes.
Sin and/or consumption taxes: Promoting black markets and their associated criminality.
Restricting access to natural supplements/medication: Why must we declare war on Mother Nature to promote good health? Isn't this just a favor for pharmaceutical firms who fear competition?

I'd provide more, but these things are harder to come up than it appears. Sunni Maravillosa came up with a good one in an article she wrote awhile back called "Permission Slips". She uses the term "permission slips" to refer to the many examples where government requires one to have a license for something. If you promote licensing, then you are in effect promoting the idea of forcing people to acquire permission slips from the government before engaging in a particular activity. That's not exactly the type of thing that I'd expect adults to have to do while living in a free society.

Speaking Blogolese

Lew Rockwell passed along a link to a glossary of blog terminology on his blog today.

It was interesting to see some of the odd terms to come about in recent years with the explosion of the blogosphere. This glossary informed me that a bout of blogstipation is a good way of explaining why I haven't posted anything in the past few days. I also became aware of the term kittyblogger, which made me decide to become one myself. To make it official, here is a pic of the fellow critter who lives in my abode:

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His name is Luther, and he is also a libertarian critter. His favorite libertarian writer happens to be Cat Farmer, and he encourages you readers to read one of her ravishing essays this weekend.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Futility of Labels

That is the name of James Leroy Wilson's new LRC article. It deals with how labels have come to mean different things over the years, and how one who's views may not change over time often feel compelled to change the labels that they apply to themselves. It is definitely an interesting read.

The following is an excerpt from the article that I'd like to briefly comment on:
Yet, I wonder if many if not most people at all familiar with the word "libertarian" associate it with the defense of corporations. And, by extension, that we are to use our military to make the world safe for crony capitalism and globalization. In other words, perhaps our longtime affiliation and alliance with Goldwater-Reagan conservatism, has only served to confuse principle with plunder. Many today now think of capitalism as a system that favors Big Business. Republican policy since before Lincoln has always favored Big Business. Libertarians are said to embrace capitalism. Therefore, Libertarians favor Big Business.

That impression, I believe, is misleading. Libertarianism in its economic sense is really about freeing the small entrepreneur from onerous taxes and regulations, about liberating impoverished communities to build markets on their own and for themselves. But that agenda is more important than its name. I hope it can be called libertarian, and I hope I can conscientiously call myself a libertarian until I die. But the definitions of words are fleeting things.

The point he makes in that first paragraph is an important one. Too many people who fall under the label of leftist assume that most libertarians are radicalized Republicans on economic issues, idolators of capitalism. While many libertarians may claim to love capitalism, their definition of capitalism differs starkly from the definition of capitalism used by the left (to learn more about this, I recommend two pieces written by BK Marcus on the issue -- one and two).

The claim that "libertarians embrace capitalism" does not apply to me. I don't want to be associated with a system that is considered by many to be the root of all evils in our world, including the current wars our government is fighting that some on the left refer to as being capitalistic in nature. Besides, the term didn't initially belong to capitalists or free market advocates anyways. Although economist David Ricardo apparently first used the term "capitalist", the term "capitalism" was coined by Marxists.

What I embrace are free markets. Free markets are not inherently capitalistic. One need only to become aware of free market anti-capitalists to realize that. Free markets are all about liberty and voluntary associations and transactions, nothing more. When Wilson refers to "liberating impoverished communities to build markets on their own and for themselves", such communities may be capitalistic (in an economic, not a political sense), or they may consist of worker owned and operated cooperatives and other enterprises, mutual banks, and other systems not associated with capitalism.

While Wilson discusses the many misrepresentations and other pitfalls associated with the label "libertarian", he still seems to embrace the term libertarian, as do I. Labels may be somewhat futile and have shifting meanings as time progresses, but they aren't entirely futile. The substance embodied by such labels are what is really important, and people need some way of distinguising ideas, even if the method used isn't perfect.

Mohandas Gandhi, the libertarian

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There is no doubt that Mohandas Gandhi is one of the greatest people to have ever promoted peace and fought against injustice. Because of this, people of many different political backgrounds have claimed Gandhi as one of their own, especially statists of a leftist persuasion. Is it accurate for such people to make such a claim? In the face of many of the problems that people face today, what would Gandhi do?

I recently discovered a website that happens to be called What Would Gandhi Do?. The position of this website is that Gandhi's answers to many societal dilemnas would be in harmony with libertarian ideals such as individual liberty and a minimal state. While reading some of the quotes on that page, I even noticed Gandhi refer to anarchy in a positive manner. Before even getting to the part of the site devoted to his thoughts on government, I came across this gem of a quote: "No action which is not voluntary can be called moral." This immediately made me think of the many instances of government forcibly robbing people in order to erect things such as Social Security and the welfare state in general. Here is the section devoted to Gandhi's thoughts on government:
Government control gives rise to fraud, suppression of Truth, intensification of the black market and artificial scarcity. Above all, it unmans the people and deprives them of initiative, it undoes the teaching of self-help...I look upon an increase in the power of the State with the greatest fear because, although while apparently doing good by minimizing exploitation, it does the greatest harm to mankind by destroying individuality which lies at the heart of all progress...Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest....We find the general work of mankind is being carried on from day to day be the mass of people acting as if by instinct....If they were instinctively violent the world would end in no time...It is when the mass mind is unnaturally influenced by wicked men that the mass of mankind commit violence. But they forget it as they commit it because they return to their peaceful nature immediately the evil influence of the directing mind has been removed....A government that is evil has no room for good men and women except in its prisons.

Hmm... he sounds like a bonafide libertarian to me.
I also discovered this image recently. Found on this webpage, it shows one of those "World's Smallest Political Quiz" cards that some libertarians like to pass out, filled out by Arun Gandhi, one of Mohandas's grandsons. He claims to follow his grandfather's philosophy, and as you can see from the picture, he happens to fall into the libertarian category.

Most people who claim to be libertarian would consider themselves to be compassionate and peace-loving, in the face of those statists who like to falsely claim otherwise. Given how Gandhi feels about large and intrusive government, maybe those statists should reevaluate their judgments.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Entretien de Pinot Noir et autre vins

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Despite three years of French classes back in high school, I don't really know jack about the French language aside from a few bits and pieces. For those who know as much as I do or less, the title of this post means something close to this: talk of Pinot Noir and other wines. I don't really know jack about wines either, but I know enough to want to write a brief post about them.

I've only become interested in wines rather recently. I used to like the cheap white wine that my parents like to drink while not liking most of the red wine I've encountered in the past, making me think that I'd probably be more of a white wine person. That changed after reading this article by Bill Sardi about Pinot Noir wines awhile back on LRC. Because of the promising health benefits of drinking Pinot Noir wine in particular, I decided to give it a try. I love it! The types I've tried have been smooth and fruity without being real dry or acidic, which are traits that I like.

There is a recent movie called "Sideways" that features a lot of wine talk, and the main character is apparently a big Pinot Noir fan. I haven't seen the flick, but I did read this article from Yahoo News today about the movie's effect on Pinot Noir sales. It is apparently a more obscure variety of wine that is now gaining in popularity thanks to this movie.

I also happened to hear through the grapevine today about some of the wines available at the Trader Joe's grocery chain. There is apparently a glut of grapes out in California right now due to overplanting in the '90s., which is one of the reasons for wine prices coming down in recent years. The Charles Shaw winery out in California turned a lot of these grapes into wine that is being exclusively sold at Trader Joe's. Depending on location, bottles of their wine are between $1.99 and $3.39, and they're supposed to be a lot better than their incredibly low prices suggest.

Although I immediately came across a piece by some wine snob trashing the wine upon doing a Google search for Charles Shaw wine, the person I heard this from has worked in fine restaraunts and seems to know quite a bit about wine. The wine has also apparently recieved rave reviews from many others out there, so I'm going to give some a try the next time I go to Trader Joe's. Charles Shaw doesn't make a Pinot Noir, so I'll try whatever they have in stock. For that price, you can't go wrong! Here is a link to Trader Joe's page about these wines.

Recommended Reads

I've got two super hot links here that I recommend, one is for an article and the other is for a brand spankin' new site.

Over at LRC today, you'll find a new Paul Craig Roberts article: "Bush Outfoxed By Bin Laden". Roberts has written a number of good articles lately that are critical of Bush, his neoconservative cabal, and the mainstream media. This newest entry touches up on the recent statements from CIA director Porter Goss about the dangers surrounding the current course of action in Iraq, and how the Busheviks are actually aiding Bin Laden's cause.

The new site that I want to let everyone know about is Sunni's Salon. A collaborative effort between freedom lovers Sunni Maravillosa and Tom Ender, Sunni's Salon will feature columns on cultural topics like books and music with an emphasis on individualism and freedom. While the first column isn't slated for release until March, there are a number of links of interest to check out. In the meantime, Sunni's blog is always a good read, as are the many articles published on Endervidualism (Tom's site).

Sunday, February 20, 2005


The term "congresscritters" is one that I've come across on a few occasions, and I am somewhat puzzled by it. Where did it come from? What is the intended meaning behind it, if any?

It may be incredibly trivial, but it's something that has piqued my curiosity. One needs only to look at the name of this blog to become aware of part of the reason why I'm curious about the term.

We are all critters. While the term is usually used in reference to animals, human beings are critters too. I happen to be fond of all critters, and one of the reasons why I refer to myself as one is to show respect for all the non-human critters out there. I may not fully recognize the notion of "animal rights", but I don't like the idea of viewing animals negatively, or looking down upon them, aside from the fact that they aren't moral agents. Non-human critters may not be moral agents, but they do have souls and they most certainly are precious!

Going back to the term "congresscritter", it seems that the term has a negative connotation to it since those who use it are generally being critical of the members of Congress that they're referring to. Additionally, I don't think I've ever encountered members of the fire department being referred to as "firecritters" or business professionals being called "businesscritters". Why? Is it because these people are generally percieved to be positive contributors to society? If that is the case, then it supports my idea that the term "congresscritter" is intended to connote negativity, especially since many people like to criticize legislators.

If the goal is to criticize them and make them look bad, I can think of many possibilities that could be employed to achieve this. While word choice is strictly up to each and every individual, I'd rather choose to avoid using terms that show disrespect toward those who don't necessarily deserve it. To me, "congresscritter" falls into this category if the term is intended to connote negativity of any kind.

Similarly, I choose not to call police officers "pigs". Why? Because it's disrespectful to actual pigs, that's why! There are plenty of good alternatives to use here, like "thugs" for example. I'm not too concerned with showing disrespect toward thugs.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Orwell vs. Huxley: The wisdom of both

There is no doubt that George Orwell's contribution to modern political consiousness was profound, especially in terms of language. When you examine the nature of US foreign policy these days, and all the newspeak and doublespeak used to whitewash and promote it, it appears that Orwell's classic 1984 is an especially important work of fiction. As much as I hear or read of people referring to "Orwellian this" and "Big Brother that", I encounter very little commentary about political and societal realities that evoke Aldous Huxley's classic novelBrave New World, or the follow-up work called Brave New World Revisited. While I'm glad that some people have been encouraged to read 1984 within the past few years, I wish that those people would also consider reading Brave New World, especially since I feel that the latter work may have more to offer in terms of providing a perspective that may alter the way one looks at the status quo.

Here's an excerpt from Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death that provides an interesting comparison between the insights of Orwell and Huxley: (from Undernews, by way of Strike the Root)
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions". In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Birdbrained Accusations

I just finished reading the ridiculous column by Douglas Kern that Tech Central Station deemed fit to print. It's called "The Problem of Chickendoves", and the central idea of the piece is that anti-war people, or doves, are contemptible chickens if they have not served in the military themselves, much like those who are branded with the "chickenhawk" label. Not only is Kern's accusation and the reasoning behind it absurd, but his apparent ignorance of the recent history of US interventionism abroad makes him look all the more foolish for making such an accusation.

The following excerpt is his initial description of the problem:
The problem is stateside armchair philosophers who oppose military action and military policy, even though they never served in the military. The problem is anti-war punditry from intellectuals who think that an IED is a contraceptive and couldn't tell the difference between bounding overwatch and watching Baywatch. The problem is intellectuals who think their education and politically-correct ideology lets them know what the military needs -- better than the military knows it.

When your firm opposition to war is based on a number of things, including an awareness of the real motivations of both the enemy and the military and political agents in Washington, along with the inherent dangers that aggressive and imperialistic wars pose to liberty, then having knowledge of things such as "IEDs" and "bounding overwatch" become irrelevant. I also can't think of the last time an anti-war commentator made suggestions as to what "the military needs", other than for the need to return home ASAP. Kern's appeal to authority here is as irrelevant as it is fallacious.

He later quips that:
Heck, what do soldiers know? They're only battle-hardened professionals with unusually high educational achievements and hands-on experience with the occupation of Iraq. That the chickenhawks are on the same side as the real hawks is just a curious accident, one that will not prevent the chickendoves from "defending" the soldiers whose opinions they casually dismiss.

Unusually high educational achievements? While I don't aim to question the validity of that, I find it puzzling that Kern appeals to the educational achievements of the soldiers while completely dismissing the educational achievements of the anti-war crowd earlier in the column. Is Kern contradicting his earlier position, or is he just implying that only certain people's educational achievements are worth noting?

And what about the hands-on experience with Iraqi occupation that these soldiers have? How does this experience possibly influence one's position on the legitimacy of the war, and how does having such experience make one's opinions more valid? These soldiers by and large only know what their military superiors tell them, which isn't much aside from what these superiors feel they need to know. There is also the fact that most of what the soldiers are doing over there have nothing to do with "protecting freedom", "liberating Iraqis", or whatever the Orwellian newspeak line of the day happens to be.

The column then takes a turn for the worse, displaying the types of absurdities and ignorance that I mentioned at the beginning:
"But shouldn't the burden of proof rest upon those who call for war, instead of peace? Don't the inherent dangers of war compel us to demand that its advocates walk the talk?" In brief: no and no. War is extraordinarily bad. But a bad peace can be worse. The graveyards of the world are filled with the bodies of those who died from a hateful "peace." Given the hideous acts of oppression and injustice that spring from the lack of war, why shouldn't we hold peaceniks to the higher standard of sincerity?

When peace goes awry, soldiers are often the first ones to pay the price. When America appeared irresolute in the early eighties, who suffered: the pampered professors in their cozy collegiate nooks? Or the Marines in their barracks in Lebanon? When Islamic extremists tested America's resolve, did they explode a bomb at Harvard -- or the USS Cole? When peacemongers guess wrong, soldiers die -- not peacemongers. So when will the anti-warriors put their own necks on the line for their beliefs?

His talk of "bad" and "hateful" peace rings hollow to me, since he seems to be blissfuly unaware of our government's role in disturbing peace in years past. The fact that the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked on 9/11 does not serve as an indictment of some sort of peace agenda, but rather as an indictment of our government's role in preventing peace by means of interventionism throughout most of the 20th century.

His subsequent description of the bloody horrors resulting from lack of war are absolutely repugnant. To imply that the US military is attempting to prevent such bloody horrors is not only an example of specious speculation, but also outlandish when you consider the bloody horror that has occured as a result of military intervention. His reasoning implies that the 9/11 attacks resulted from some sort of vacuum, and that the only reaction worth taking is an aggressive one. He thus supports the types of actions that helped to foster anti-Americanism abroad in the first place.

His ignorance of US interventionism abroad is especially evident in his remarks concerning Lebanon and the USS Cole. If it were up to the "peacemongers", then American troops would have never been over there in the first place and would never have been the targets of extremist aggression that they ended up being. Rather than promoting peace, the troops were promoting instability and violence. William Blum, in his pertinent 2003 essay "Myth and Denial in the War on Terrorism", quotes a 1997 Department of Defense study that made the following conclusion concerning terrorism:
"Historical data show a strong correlation between US involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States."

He then quotes Jimmy Carter who stated in an interview that:
"We sent Marines into Lebanon and you only have to go to Lebanon, to Syria or to Jordan to witness first-hand the intense hatred among many people for the United States because we bombed and shelled and unmercifully killed totally innocent villagers -- women and children and farmers and housewives -- in those villages around Beirut. ... As a result of that ... we became kind of a Satan in the minds of those who are deeply resentful. That is what precipitated the taking of our hostages and that is what has precipitated some of the terrorist attacks."

The next person to be quoted is Colin Powell, who noted in his 1995 memoir that:
The USS New Jersey started hurling 16-inch shells into the mountains above Beirut, in World War II style, as if we were softening up the beaches on some Pacific atoll prior to an invasion. What we tend to overlook in such situations is that other people will react much as we would.

The subesquent attacks upon American soldiers can not honestly be labeled as a result of promoting peace, but rather can accurately be labeled as a result of aggression rooted in the types of imperial interests that have driven US foreign policy in the Middle East for decades. What Blum doesn't mention is that when Arab terrorists hijacked a TWA jet to Beirut in 1985, they kept chanting "New Jersey! New Jersey!". I happen to doubt that said hijackers were chanting "New Jersey" because they were fans of the New Jersey Devils. More plausible is that they were invoking the name of the battleship that wrecked havoc on the Lebanese back in '83, and the people who they viewed as being devils serving the agenda of Satan. So it wasn't the faulty guesses of "peacemongers" that led to such bloodshed, it was clearly the work of warmongers who were obstructing peace.

The ignorance of history shows up again near the end of Kern's column with these following claims:
Military service is also an excellent sincerity check for peaceniks who have belatedly discovered the joys of protecting innocent Muslims. Many of us suspicious-minded pro-war types can't help but notice that many war protestors didn't lose much sleep over the lives of Iraqis and Iranians when Saddam Hussein was slaughtering both. And back when the kum-ba-yah set admitted to resenting our action in Afghanistan, they fretted over the fate of Afghanis whom they were more than happy to entrust to the tender ministrations of the Taliban before 9/11. And what about our defense of Muslims during our Bosnian action? If, chickendove, you've developed a strange new concern for the fate of Muslims worldwide, take notice: the one military in the entire world that has taken up arms in the last fifty years to defend Muslim life is the American military. Feel like enlisting yet? Or is your Ph.D. proof enough of how gosh darn much you care?

Well, I didn't speak out against Saddam's atrocities against Iranians and Iraqis during the 1980s since I was just a little tyke back then. What I do know though is that there are people who have always been critical of Saddam, and those people happen to be the same people who are within the anti-war camp. The US government played a large role in the slaughtering that Kern brings up, and people like Donald Rumsfeld were right in the thick of it. Most of the people who support Bush's foreign policy also happened to support Reagan's foreign policy, which means that Kern better think twice before conjuring up memories of bloodshed committed during the '80s.

He also makes the false accusation that war critics were pro-Taliban, and mentions "our defense of Muslims during our Bosnian action" without specifying who the "our" he twice mentioned is. Please don't use words like "our" to describe the US military and it's actions. I'm not part of the US government, let alone military, and don't wish to be linked with such institutions. To assume that I and the other anti-war people approved of Clinton's "peacekeeping" is simply fallacious.

What's even more fallacious is his claim that "...the one military in the entire world that has taken up arms in the last fifty years to defend Muslim life is the American military." It is so clearly apparent that Kern's entire grasp of history has come from government-sanctioned sources, sources that have whitewashed history to remove the numerous interventions that have disrupted and devastated Muslim life in the last fifty years, going back to the days of the CIA sponsored coup of Iran's democratically elected leader in the early '50s, leading to the Shah's placement into power. When people are so uninformed on the history of US interventionism abroad, it becomes clear why such people were shocked that our country was attacked on 9/11, as well as why they support the continuation of the very cycle of intervention that makes peace a pipe dream.

Kern then proceeds to offer his advice to the anti-war crowd:
Military service would give peace-lovers a chance to prove their pacifistic mettle. You want to stop the fighting in Iraq? Want to prevent American soldiers from executing their imperialistic policies of building schools and sewers and hospitals? Stow the goofy signs, soulpatch. Forget that petition. Don't send that whiny e-mail to Fox News. I have a better way: snip off your ponytail, drop thirty pounds, and enlist.

Before I go into the utter absurdity of his advice and general position here, I just want to note that his description of "imperialistic policies" again shows not only his ignorance (willful perhaps?) concerning this issue, but also his apparent reliance on his audience's similar ignorance on the issue in order to make his statements seem credible.

Speaking of ignorance, why in the world would either a pacifist or a critic of war and/or militarism ever choose to enlist in the military? How could enlisting possibly serve the goals of those who oppose war? Not only is serving in the military not a prerequisite for valid criticism of militarism and war, but it is an option that is at fundamental odds with the principles of many in the anti-war crowd. If I am opposed to the gang warfare that plagues our nation's inner cities, do I have to be a member of one of those gangs in order to have a valid criticism of gang warfare? According to Kern's logic, I suppose I do. He then states that:
When the moment is right, and the bullets start to fly, you can order your men to stand down and Give Peace a Chance. For that brief, shining moment, you will have brought peace to the Middle East and halted the genocidal policies of George W. McHitler. Admittedly, your platoon sergeant will buttstroke you to the head at the first opportunity. After a quick court-martial, you'll spend the remainder of your adult life making big rocks into little rocks in beautiful, scenic Leavenworth, Kansas. But so what? You gotta walk the talk. If you're willing to send chickenhawks off to die in order to earn the right to support war, surely you're willing to send yourself off to incarceration and dishonor in order to earn the right to support peace.

Hmmm... the thing is, I'm not willing to send chickenhawks off to die abroad. While I am critical of those who send others off to die abroad while intentionally avoiding military service in their past, I'm not willing to send anyone abroad to die for an unjust mission. Kern must assume that all war critics are the same (they are not), and it seems that his reasoning certainly doesn't apply to very many people.

It also seems as if his understanding of the term "chickenhawk" is not exactly accurate, or at least not the same as mine. Wikipedia defines the term as "Someone who refuses to fight in war not because of conscious, like the conscientious and selective objectors but out of cowardice who have no objection to sending other people to die even though they themselves refuse to serve militarily. Chickenhawks are hypocritical cowards." The term was initially used to criticize politicians who had an active role in promoting military action, not necessarily anyone who supports such action. These politicians would fall into the "chickenhawk" category if they happened to be draft dodgers during the Vietnam war, or went AWOL, or whatever. I never considered the term to mean that war supporters had to have military experience for their opinions to be valid, which is what Kern seems to think the term is all about. No wonder he tries to flip that logic around and apply it to war critics.

So, in order to create this absurd "chickendove" claim, we've learned that Kern has had to rely upon a slew of inaccuracies and a version of history that resembles Swiss cheese. A critic of war joining the war effort? That's even more ridiculous than the notion that Tech Central Station, the seemingly neocon corporatist site that published this Kern column, promotes free markets!

Sunday, February 13, 2005

She's a MAN, baby!

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Honest Abe's B-day

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On this date in 1809, Abraham Lincoln entered the world. To pay tribute to a man that so many admire, let us rekindle some of his thoughts on various important matters of his time:

His unbridled love of individual liberty:
"I reiterate that the majority should rule."

His dedication to free market principles:
"I... would continue (trade) where it is necessary, and discontinue it, where it is not. As instance: I would continue commerce so far as it is employed in bringing us coffee, and I would discontinue it so far as it is employed in bringing us cotton goods."

His response to the notion of opposing corporate welfare:
"If I do that, what would become of my revenue? I might as well shut up housekeeping at once!"

His enlightened love and respect for blacks:
"I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and black races.... I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position."

"I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races - that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything. "

His solid dedication toward abolishing slavery:
" nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you... I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that 'I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.' "

"If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union."

His consistent defense of states' rights:
In 1848:
"Any people, anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right, a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people, that can, may revolutionize, and make their own of so much of the territory as they inhabit. More than this, a majority of any portion of such people may revolutionize, putting down a minority, intermingled with, or near about them, who may oppose their movements."

In 1856:
"The Union, in any event, won't be dissolved. We don't want to dissolve it, and if you attempt it, we won't let you. With the purse and sword, the army and navy and treasury in our hands and at our command, you couldn't do it.... We do not want to dissolve the Union; you shall not."

His stalwart defense of free speech, free press, and the writ of habeas corpus:
"You will take possession by military force, of the printing establishments of the New York World and Journal of Commerce... and prohibit any further publication thereof... you are therefore commanded forthwith to arrest and imprison in any fort or military prison in your command, the editors, proprietors and publishers of the aforesaid newspapers... and you will hold the persons so arrested in close custody until they can be brought to trial before a military commission."

Hey, wait a minute... why in the world do so many people admire this thug? It must be a side effect of taking the blue pill.

Some of the people who may object to my b-day tribute to Abe may happen to reside on the left side of the political spectrum. If that's the case, here's some food for thought: the following picture represents, to me, the Abe Lincoln of the 21st century.

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To learn why I make such a claim, I suggest reading the following essays about Lincoln:

Abraham Dubya Bush
Why The Republican Party Elected Lincoln

Before I sign off for now, Wally Conger's own birthday tribute to Abe has brought to my attention a fine birthday message for Lincoln by Karen De Coster. It is called Beheading the "Great Messiah", and I recommend checking that out as well. It's the least you can do, since it is Abe's b-day, ya know.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Communist Chic Marches On

First there were the Che t-shirts, then all sorts of other Che regalia. As I was doing some holiday shopping in Ann Arbor back in December, I came across t-shirts displaying images of not only Che, but also Mao and Lenin! Aside from items displaying communist heroes, there are also items that boldly display the hammer and sickle.

If you thought that what I've just listed runs the gamut of communist chic apparel, think again. To make the commie fashion statement complete, one must acquire... a Castro Cap!

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It's disappointing to note that less than week after I placed a link to their website in the new music and culture section of the sidebar, Ropeadope has let me down by adding a new accessory to the communist chic wardrobe. Here's a word of advice to the Ropeadope people: please stick to releasing good music, and nothing more! I sincerely hope to never see any more additions to the collection, such as Stalin Sneakers or Pol Pot Pajamas!

For those who are actually unaware of this fashion rage, here is a link to a link to a Toronto Star article on the subject from a couple of weeks ago. I'm not linking to the actual article since the Toronto Star has the worse website of any major newspaper on the planet. Included in the article are some comments made by Radley Balko, a libertarian who doesn't hide his objections to such fashion items.

Speaking of Balko and consumer culture, here is a link to Kevin Carson's most recent blog post, where he happens to take to task Balko's position toward corporate America's youth marketing and consumer culture. The gist of Carson's analysis is that state intervention has more to do with the phenomenon in question than "free markets".

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Quote & Music of the day -- 2/10/05

"In contrast to all other thinkers, left, right, or in-between, the libertarian refuses to give the State the moral sanction to commit actions that almost everyone agrees would be immoral, illegal, and criminal if committed by any person or group in society." -- Murray Rothbard

Jimmy Smith - Root Down

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This is a great live album by the man who turned the Hammond B3 organ into a downright sexy instrument within the world of jazz. It is saddening for me to note that Jimmy Smith died yesterday at the age of 79. From Yahoo News:
Born in Norristown, Pennsylvania, on Dec. 8, 1925, Smith ruled the Hammond B-3 in the 1950s and 1960s and blended jazz, blues, R&B, bebop and even gospel into an exciting stew that came to known as "soul jazz" -- an idiom that produced imitators, followers and fans.

"Anyone who plays the organ is a direct descendant of Jimmy Smith. It's like Adam and Eve -- you always remind someone of Jimmy Smith," jazz organist Joey DeFrancesco said in an interview with Reuters last year.

For the many Beastie Boys fans out there who don't know who Jimmy Smith is: you should! The Beastie Boys tune "Root Down" was not only inspired by Jimmy Smith, but the song features heavy sampling of Smith's original number that is the namesake of this live album. Check this album out to become more familiar with the Beasties' roots, not to mention the roots of much great contemporary music that is filled with soul.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

mmmmmmm... paczkis!

Today happens to be Fat Tuesday, otherwise known as Paczki Day. I completely forgot about making a trip to a bakery to pick some up, but I was lucky to be able to show up to work and get my hands on the last one from a box that a coworker brought in. It was a raspberry paczki and it was damn good!

Furious, who lives in South Carolina, was lucky enough to be here in Michigan at the right time so that she could enjoy some of these delicious jelly or cream filled pastries. You can read her posts of the day on the subject, including a history of paczkis and Paczki Day here in Michigan, by clicking here and here.

Quote & Music of the day -- 2/8/05

"All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships." -- George Bernard Shaw

Ear Candy:
Bulgarian Wedding Music

Let me start off by stating what Bulgarian Wedding Music is not:

It is not just a collection of sappy songs you'd hear at a wedding.
It is not a traditional art form that has remained unchanged for generations.
It is not your grandparents' wedding music.

Bulgarian Wedding Music is a genre that is relatively new, despite the fact that it is influenced by traditional Balkan music. It is the result of some creative and daring musicians who yearned to modernize the music of their culture by incorporating elements of different musical categories in order to create a lively and liberating concoction that would attract younger ears.

Since this music was developed in the late '70s and the '80s, it was the subject of political oppression, as the communists in charge were only interested in preserving traditional musical forms and sought to harass and arrest musicians engaging in dissident art. Jazz and rock music were also prohibited, making this new Bulgarian style even more objectionable to the authorities since jazz and rock elements existed in the music of people like Ivo Papasov and Yuri Yunakov. To learn more about what these musicians faced, here is an interview with Yuri Yunakov.

I first came across this form of music a few months ago when I downloaded some live recordings that were broadcast on European radio stations back in the early '90s. The music was of Ivo Papasov's Bulgarian Wedding Band, and the description that accompanied the download intriqued me, since it mentioned the fusion of traditional Balkan and gypsy music with elements of jazz, funk and rock, along with a little bit of Arabic music (unfortunately, the download is no longer available). Another genre that comes to mind is klezmer, although it has a far more diversified sound, and also contains some wild and unique time signatures that you won't find in klezmer, or practically any other type of music. The odd time signatures really stand out, making Bulgarian wedding music extremely upbeat and racy, sort of like gypsy jazz fusion on speed. It's not surprising to me that another legendary creative mind, Frank Zappa (who's work was often bootlegged and smuggled into Communist countries, much to the delight of dissident musical buffs), had this to say about the music of Ivo Papasov:
"Ivo's album of wedding music played first thing in the morning, provides thorough and long lasting attitude adjustment for the busy executive."

In case any of you daring souls out there wish to sample some of this music, here is a link to a page on for an album titled "Thracian Rhapsody; The New Wedding Music Of Bulgaria Vol. 1". If you do Amazon searches for Ivo Papasov and Yuri Yunakov, you can also hear samples of the albums they have available.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Quote & Music of the day -- 2/6/05

When I decided to write these type of posts, I planned on writing them on an almost daily basis. Well, since this is only the third such post this year, I guess I fell short on that one. There are plenty of notable quotations out there to share on a daily basis, but my music listening habits don't always allow for daily diversity since I'll often listen to something in particular for days at a time. I've been listening to a lot of Bulgarian wedding music lately, but I'll hold off from blogging about that 'til tomorrow. I took a break from the likes of Ivo Papasov today and listened to a great album that popped into my head when I realized that this was Stupor Bowl Sunday. Before I get into that, here's today's quote:

"I favor liberty and free markets, and their child prosperity. I oppose capitalism and socialism, and their bizarre hybrid, fascism." -- Grant Gould


The self-titled debut from this LA-based group is definitely my favorite album of theirs. Perhaps the most mainstream pop-oriented group I listen to these days, Ozomatli successfully blends salsa and Afro-Cuban elements with rock, pop, and hip hop. Their songs vary between largely Latin based numbers with Spanish lyrics and eclectic hip hop numbers with raps, in English, by the supremely talented Chali 2na of Jurassic 5. DJ Cut Chemist, also of Jurassic 5, provides his world-class turntabling skills to a group already immersed with talent.

My two favorite songs on the album are "Super Bowl Sundae" and "Coming War". "Super Bowl Sundae" shows off the eclectic nature of this group quite well, beginning with some exotic Indian instumentation before getting into a funky hip hop groove. Chali 2na's smooth and intelligent rapping flows well throughout, providing much to savor in this song and also "Coming War". The lyrics for "Coming War" should be of interest to freedom advocates, with the exception of the line that promotes the idea of free health care.

War of the Worlds

There was a commercial that aired a moment ago during the Stupor Bowl about a new movie called War of the Worlds. The movie seems to be about life from another world attacking Earth. I sure hope that this flick doesn't resort to the typical statolatry that arises when thinking of natural disasters or apocalyptic scenarios. If I can't trust the government to deliver the mail on time, why in the world would I rely on it to save the world?!?

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Questioning neoliberalism and it's "free market" advocacy

Kevin Carson has provided a couple of informative and thought-provoking posts over at his Mutualist Blog today. He first discusses how the neoliberal agenda actually leads to government expansion rather than reduction, including the nature of reorganizing and shifting the activities of the regulatory state to serve corporate interests. Despite spending cuts on social services and various instinces of "deregulation", the size and scope of government sure isn't shrinking. Carson concludes by stating that:
On the whole, the neoliberal version of the "free market" is like one of those old-fashioned chess-playing machines they used to have at a county fair. It's apparently "automatic" operation, on closer inspection, was achieved by a midget on the inside busily pulling the levers. In the case of the neoliberal "free market," it is the state that pulls the levers.

Read more by clicking here.

He then posted about the issue of engaging with the left on the issue of free markets. I've commented here before on how the left's perception of free markets is flawed, and I'm glad to see more discussion on this subject. After acknowledging a discussion of this topic over at the Liberty & Power blog, he chimes in with his own commentary on the matter. To check out this insightful post, click... here.

Brownshirt Watch -- vol. 1

I'm sure that most Americans who criticize the imperialism and the militarism of our government have encountered various folks who don't agree with them. Some of these imperial apologizers stand out from the others with the way they handle themselves, the amount of idolatry they display toward their glorious leader, and the complete and utter hatred of anyone who dares speak out against their leader's agenda in any way whatsoever. Paul Craig Roberts wrote a column on these people awhile back called "The Brownshirting of America".

As much as I would like to avoid this particular breed of state worshipper, there are times when such people happen to appear close enough on my radar to warrant some sort of reaction. One of these people recently left a comment on my "Brown Equals Terrorist?" post. While his actual comment isn't nearly enough for me to conclude that he's wearing a brown shirt or to consider writing a new post specifically about him, I did discover things that do warrant such things, and I will address them later. First, I'll respond to his comment.

He starts off by saying:
Brown may not equal terrorist but this kind of thinking DOES equal suicide.So you think it makes sense to hike up grannies dress while ignoring Muhammad atta?

Where exactly did I state that it makes sense to "hike up grannies dress", yet alone anyone's dress? I don't approve of the state hiking up anyone's dress or otherwise infringing on their freedom by subjecting them to intrusive profiling.

Next comment:
I hope you never have kids, 'cause your going to be doing some serious "profiling" of your daughters dates if you want her to be safe.

While I may choose to engage in some sort of "profiling" in this situation, there is a line that should not be crossed, and violating one's freedom clearly falls into this category. It is far different to be exposed to questions by a parent than it is to be harassed by state thugs who have the ability to use the force of the state to interfere with or strip one's livelihood and freedom from them.

Moving on:
Grow up boy, there IS a certain kind of individual that is most likely to be seen butchering children & other NON-combatants for the sake of THEIR ideals and he isn't wearing a pair of "Depends" and a moo moo.

You're right, I don't think that the non-state sponsored Muslim terrorists, nor the state sponsored terrorists based in Washington are wearing "Depends" and moo moos. But please, leave the ageist intimidation rhetoric out of this. Age is not necessarily an accurate gauge for one's wisdom or intelligence, and I'm sure that, unless you're pushing the century mark, there are people out there much older than you who would love to tell you to "grow up", although they may be wise enough to see the folly of such comments.

After reading this comment, I checked out the blogger profile for this "2spotlefty" character, and ended up reading one of his three blogs. Here are a couple of exerpts from his rants:
Regarding Ward Churchill and other anti-war critics:
What are we doing folks ? If we can't go beyond whining about this sort of treason and take action against those who aide and abet our blood enemies for the sake of so-called "free speech" (I thought that it was unlawful to holler "kill Americans" in a crowded representative republic) then where is the limit ?

Later on in this rant:
No folks, action must be taken. Yes, it was a different time when the "Proclamation Suspending the Writ of Habeas Corpus" was undertaken, but that was "only" for the sake of the Union. What is now at hand is the future of the lives of freedom loving people EVERYWHERE. The streets of progress could go dead for a thousand years if these animals have there way and word has it that they have access to the mechanisms that could make that nightmare come true. An example must be made and it must be made with conviction and righteousness. A senator would be preferable, but a racist, self hating ANTI-AMERICAN will suffice. Put the son-of-a-bitch in leg irons and show the American people... SHOW THE WORLD, that you don't mess with the U.S., you don't mess with New York and yes, YOU DON'T MESS WITH TEXAS and get away with it !!!

In a post about suspending Habeas Corpus:
I know George Bush, a man of honor, would never do this lest he appear to be whiny-as though A.C.L.U. appologists for the assassins of freedom fighters/innocents are not whining- but, is it dishonorable or whiny to smack down the American cowards who openly encourage our enemy, which results directly in the deaths of MORE of OUR soldiers and countless targeted innocents ?
I can just see the perp walk now...Oh how sweet it'd be.

If this guy was actually familiar with the PATRIOT Act, then he'd know that his glorious leader has indeed attacked habeas corpus, although he has done so without having to appear "whiny".

Does this sound like the words of a man who understands what freedom is, let alone cares about it? If we were to actually believe the bogus state propaganda claim that the terroists "hate our freedoms" and wish to destroy them, then wouldn't the rantings of 2spotlefty serve to promote the terrorist cause?

Now, I'm not going to make the accusation that he's attempting to aid the foreign enemies, but it is certainly clear that he holds freedom in contempt and wishes for people he disagrees with to be punished somehow, even by the state. Do y'all now know why I began this post by referring to the notion of brownshirts?

The legitimacy of war notwithstanding, there is no legitimate reason to ever support the state's infringement of peoples' liberty. To do so reveals a contempt of liberty that deserves nothing but shame. No indefinite detentions, no legal harassments, no "leg irons", just shame.