Monday, May 30, 2005

Book Tag

A game of book tag has been circulating throughout the blogosphere lately, and it has officially made it's way over here to my blog. I've been busy and have been putting it off, but I guess I'll tackle it now, especially since I've been tagged not once, but twice! (by both Wally Conger and Kirsten)

I must admit that I haven't read as many books as most of y'all, especially since I went through a phase where I read almost nothing but magazines, but I've definitely read enough to be able to contribute here. So here goes...

# of books I own:
I'm too lazy to count, but my guess is that I'm approaching 200 books in my collection. If I was a packrat, I'd easily have at least twice as many magazines, but moving a lot can make one choose to lighten the load so to speak.

Last Book I Bought:
William S. Burrough's The Soft Machine. Haven't read it yet.

Last Book I Read:
Carlos Castaneda's Tales of Power. Very interesting book. I'll probably read some more of his work in the future, but I plan on digging in to some Burroughs first, along with the many other books lying around that I haven't read yet.

5 books that mean a lot to me:
My entry here is gonna seem pretty generic, but whatever. I already admitted that I have more reading to do!

George Orwell's 1984: I read this prior to my senior year of high school and it was a very enjoyable read, except for when I came to realize that it's not exactly the futuristic warning that government school teachers will tell you it is. In other words, I realized how some of Orwell's fears had indeed become reality, and this book was definitely one of the eye openers of my life experience that made me begin to question the standard American narrative that is constantly spoon fed to people by the government, it's schools, and it's lapdog media. Reading this book also made me decide to seek out...

Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and Brave New World Revisited: I enjoyed Huxley's dystopic classic far more than 1984, and the Revisited portion was especially interesting. I ended up writing a series of essays about both dystopic novels for my AP English class even though neither book was assigned reading. I find it interesting, and rather telling, that many people do end up reading 1984 in school, but not Brave New World. Teachers could easily dismiss the concerns of people who have read Orwell's book by declaring it to be a criticism of totalitarian governments such as the former Soviet Union, but Huxley's novel provides a look at a dystopia that is a little bit too close to home. I can see how school boards and other government bureaucrats would rather have students read more Shakespeare or Hemingway or the politically correct author of the month or whatever.

Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson's The Illuminatus Trilogy: This book was a mind-blower, to say the least. I had more fun reading this book than any other, despite the fact that much of it went straight over my young head. I need to read this one again, especially since I'm sure I'd appreciate it far more the second time.

Harry Browne's Why Government Doesn't Work: This was my introduction to libertarianism, in book form. I knew jack shit about economics at the time, which is part of the reason why I ended up being side tracked a year or so later into supporting leftist policies aimed at taming the beast known as big business. Despite my short diversion into statist leftdom, I remained more anti-statist than many generic lefties. Most lefties support the legalization of marijuana, for example, but you'll be hard pressed to find many who support the legalization of all drugs. I also held a more negative view of the welfare state than your typical leftie.

Duane Elgin's Voluntary Simplicity: It may not be the most in-depth treatise in favor of simplifying one's life, but then again you could say that the book takes the form of the type of lifestyle that is promoted within it's pages. Much of my childhood was marred by chronic depression, and rethinking the way I perceived life and chose to live it was something that this book helped me to do. My life may not be where I want it to be yet, but it's a process that I'm constantly working on.

I like the fact that Elgin promotes the idea of voluntary change, although I wish he would have been more consistent with that theme. At one point in the book, he explained how making voluntary choices has profound positive effects on one's psyche while the effects of involuntary change are usually negative. Later on though, he suggests that higher sin taxes against things like alcohol, cigarettes, and gasoline would encourage people to make enlightened voluntary changes in their consumption habits. Hmm... if people do make changes because of higher taxes, how exactly would they be voluntary given the fact that these higher prices are being forcibly imposed on them? It seems like such a scenario would create much resentment amongst those who are affected by it, not to mention the fact that some people may voluntarily choose to seek out black market alternatives. You'd think that Elgin would have thought of all that, but I guess those who promote statist public policy don't always take everything into account.

Despite little things like that, it was still a book that helped to shape who I am today. It's definitely one of those books where if you ignore the occasional objectionable stuff (like promoting higher taxes), it may still end up being a worthwhile read that'll have a positive effect on you.

Like I said earlier, it's a pretty generic list. I do have lots of books lying around that I plan on reading, and I will fortunately have time to read them later on in the summer. On deck are books by William S. Burroughs, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Murray Rothbard, Ursula Le Guin, Peter Kropotkin, David Beito and Robert Heinlein. I also plan on ordering a copy of Kevin Carson's Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, but I need to collect another paycheck first and make sure I don't spend any of it on music. Music is the one consumptive habit that I definitely spend too much money on. If I didn't live in an apartment with such thin walls, I'd spend more time creating my own music. That'll change sooner or later.

I suppose I have to tag 5 more people now to keep this book tag going. I don't know how many, if any, of these people have been tagged yet, but I'm gonna tag them anyway.

Kevin Carson
James Leroy Wilson
Jay Jardine
Brad Spangler

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Government Magic

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Here's some good news for any readers of this blog who happen to be fans of Afrobeat music. Antibalas has just released a new EP called Government Magic (available only at their website and their live performances). All of the songs on this EP reaffirm my love for these guys along with the fact that they just keep getting better and better as a unit. In case you're wondering, the types of magic that they're attributing to government in the title track are anything but benevolent, as the following excerpts should make fairly clear:
Take a coin from your hand, make it disappear.
How it done?
He make magic.

... Keep you in his magic trance
Make you jump and shake with fear...

If you're not familiar with Antibalas or Afrobeat, here are a couple of links to check out. Click here to see the Wikipedia entry about Afrobeat music, and click here to read a short little article about Antibalas written by yours truly.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Droppin' a bomb on the liberventionists

I recently joined the LeftLibertarian Yahoo group and look forward to reading and contributing to the group in the future. While browsing some of the recent posts, I noticed one from Thomas Knapp concerning the phrase "new libertarian" and how it's been hijacked by certain members of the neofascist apologist crowd. He had an idea on how to promote the true legacy of the phrase, and I've decided to use my blog to help out. The last grouping of links in the sidebar is devoted to various links that set the record straight as to what the term "new libertarian" is supposed to represent.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Cool Cats

Image Hosted by Since I'll be out of town for the next few days, there will be nothing new 'round here to peruse. I'll be in Columbus, OH, and I have provided a pretty picture here that the cool cats of Buckeyeland will be sure to enjoy.

Image Hosted by Speaking of cool cats, the SaltyPig has written a piece in defense of the cool (and tough) folks who appreciate a critter as fine as a cat.

Image Hosted by I'll finish this post up now with a shout out to two more cool cats: Cat Farmer and Luther (the cat in the picture who I'll be missing while I'm gone).

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Scourge of Nationalism

For those readers of this blog who don't check out leftie sites very often, here's a link to a great article by Howard Zinn about nationalism. Here's a brief synopsis of how he views the phenomenon:
Is not nationalism--that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so fierce it engenders mass murder--one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred? These ways of thinking--cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on--have been useful to those in power, and deadly for those out of power.

He goes on to make note of the atrocities carried out with the help of the mental poison known as nationalism and is critical of both Republicans and Democrats. I also like the fact that he acknowledges the opinions of both Henry David Thoreau and Kurt Vonnegut on the subject:
Henry David Thoreau, provoked by the war in Mexico and the nationalist fervor it produced, wrote: "Nations! What are nations? . . . Like insects, they swarm. The historian strives in vain to make them memorable." In our time, Kurt Vonnegut (Cat's Cradle) places nations among those unnatural abstractions he calls granfalloons, which he defines as "a proud and meaningless association of human beings."

Neocons embrace the dark side

Yes, another Star Wars-related post. Cool, huh?

First off, mp3s of Scott Horton's Star Wars themed radio show are now available here. Scott talks about Star Wars for a full hour before getting into his interview with Mark Thornton, the Mises scholar responsible for this great column about the dark side.

Speaking of the dark side, guess who embrace it? Necons do! This came to my attention thanks to this Liberty and Power post, which links to and discusses an article by a neocon who actually apologizes for the Empire while referring to the Jedi rebels as being "anarchic royals" who dare to challenge the glorious Empire. Jonathan V. Last, the war hawk who wrote the column, even referred to Pinochet as being "benign" when trying to figure out what type of delightul real life dictator most closely resembles Emperor Palpatine. Never mind the gross militarism, the murders and tortures, and everything else that took place under Pinochet's rule, according to the necons who yearn to make Darth Vader and company proud. I suppose Pincohet may be viewed as being beign compared to someone like Stalin, but then again, the same could be said for Saddam Hussein.

Image Hosted by In the comments section, Anthony Gregory made this comment which really makes sense when you think about all 6 chapters of the Star Wars saga:
They don't understand that, from the beginning, this was a story of how a republic degraded into an empire, all because the bad guys were playing people against each other and manipulating public fear to militarize society.
Then again, the neocons seek nothing wrong with such a scenario, do they?

At least some of the neocons are being more and more honest about their lust for empire and their infatuation with fascism (and fascists like Pinochet). Heck, even Condi Rice feels right at home with the dark side. It complements her fashion sense quite nicely.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Powerful, the Force is

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I looking forward to the release of the new Star Wars flick, titled Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Not only have the other movies in the series been entertaining, but they have also provided much to ponder if you're the thinking sort. Episode III should be no different.

Subjects including religion and philosophy are well represented in the Star Wars series, and provide one of many reasons why these movies are not just action flicks for kids. I remember my mom telling me years ago that the movies were chock full of Buddhist ideas, and that is certainly true. The universal compassion, mindful meditation, and other ideas and practices associated with the Jedis no doubt come from Buddhist philosophy. Additionally, you may recall damaged and worn statues of Buddha appearing on the planet of Naboo in Episode I. George Lucas was also influenced by Eastern spirituality and mythology, as is apparent with his naming of characters such as Queen Padmé Amidala and Qui-Gon Jinn. Moving from east to west, there's also this recent Detroit News article about a Bible study class that focuses on the Christianity inherent in the Star Wars movies.

Aside from the religious and spiritual, many general philosophic questions are dealt with by Lucas in the series. I recently became aware of a new book out called Star Wars and Philosophy that explores the philosophical issues contained within the series. I plan on sticking this book upon the growing list of summer reading books that I hope to tackle at some point.

Image Hosted by Of course, there are many who also note various parallels of both historical and political significance. For an example of historical parallels, David Dieteman compares aspects of Episode II to a particular period of American history in a piece titled Episode II: Art Imitates Life. I unfortunately missed some additional commentary on historical parallels within the Star Wars series that occured earlier today on The Weekend Interview Show with Scott Horton. His guest for today was Mark Thornton, who wrote a very interesting article about the dark side of the force and it's relation to politics. I found out about this on the blog, where it says:
What do Ancient Rome, Revolutionary France, The British Empire, The War Between the States, Nazi Germany, Vietnam, the "election" of Viktor Yushchenko and the war on terrorism have to do with Star Wars?

All will be explained on the Weekend Interview Show, Sat. 4-6 est.

The first hour will be me talking and playing clips, and in the second hour, I'll be talking with Ludwig von Mises Institute Scholar, Mark Thornton all about it.
Thankfully, past episodes are always archived and made available in mp3 format.

Image Hosted by Going back to the Thornton article for a moment, he examines the mystery of why Anakin wound up embracing the dark side, and here is an interesting excerpt from it:
Slavery plays the central role because it was a causal factor with Anakin's not growing up with a father, his abandonment of his mother, and his mother's death. (Fatherhood, or the lack thereof, combined with the role of mentoring is the key dynamic feature that runs throughout the six-part Star Wars series.) In the galactic Republic, slavery was only practiced in the port city of Mos Espa on the planet of Tatooine. This city was controlled by mobsters and was based on businesses and trade that the government sought to suppress, such as gambling and pod racing. This would suggest that in the absence of the black market that slavery might not have existed in the Republic. Therefore we can trace Anakin's problems back to government intervention in the economy.

As I have shown in previous essays on episodes one and two, Lucas constructs his Star Wars movies with images and details from our history. These connections are a key to his success because it provides a rational basis for his science fiction. In recent episodes he showed how an evil empire emerges from a constitutional republic via expanding mercantilist polices, bureaucracy, and political manipulation using images from Roman and British empires as well as Nazi Germany.
An additional article about political themes comes from Warren Bluhm of The Green Bay News-Chronicle, which deals with the issue of democracies ultimately morphing into dictatorships and how the neocons in Washington represent that role.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usOf course, leave it up to various Busheviks to feel threatened by such ideas being present in this latest Star Wars installment. There is, for example, this heap of trash from Tech Central Station about how unfortunate it is for the new flick to be full of so many anti-Bush and anti-Iraq War messages. Writer Craig Winniker is obviously upset over certain lines in the movie, such as "So this is how liberty dies -- to thunderous applause." Leave it to Tech Central Station to advance the cause of attempting to blur the lines between "libertarianism" and neo-fascist apology. True Jedi rebels see through the trickery of the dark side, which should make Winniker and his fellow Bush'ists tremble with fear.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Minor template alteration

In case you may have noticed (which is probably not very likely), the color has changed slightly for the text signifying the date of my posts, along with a few other things. I changed the color from a more standard green to a shade of sea green. Why? Click here to learn why.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Up-wingers Unite! (or not)

I was planning on blogging about Butler Shaffer's most recent column but haven't gotten around to it the past couple of days. Wally Conger didn't slack though and has written a nice entry about it. Shaffer's essay, No Room On the Spectrum: Why the ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ Are Only Two Wings of the Same Bird of Prey, deals with the obsolete nature of the conventional left/right political spectrum and offers an alternative to it.

Despite the obsolete and confusing nature of the old spectrum, it is still being taught in schools as the way to divide various political camps and understand the overall political landscape. I remember sitting in a Sociology class a few years ago when the teacher drew a line on the chalkboard and then proceeded to declare that everyone falls on the line somewhere. I raised my hand and asked him about people with various libertarian views (and I wasn't even a libertarian at the time), and his answer was "well... I guess there views may not fit in well with the spectrum, but who cares about them?", and then he just went on with his lame lecture. I wasn't surprised when he later showed far less enthusiasm for my class project than all the others, considering that mine was about C. Wright Mills instead of some Marxist toolbag. During that same lecture, by the way, he proclaimed himself to be a centrist and was extremely proud of it. If I had one of those blog/forum smilies with the eyes rolling, I'd be using it right now.

Anyways, here is the up/down spectrum that Shaffer devised for this essay:
Libertarianism (classical "liberalism")
Modern liberalism
Limited state-socialism
Expansive state-socialism
Overall, I'd say it looks pretty good to me as a general spectrum, although I think you could flip-flop "conservatism" and "modern liberalism" depending on who is in the White House at any given time. Give any group some political power and they're bound to use it, and that's never good if you're interested in liberty.

Wally Conger seems to embrace the vertical nature of Shaffer's model, as do I. It reminded him of his friend F.M. Esfandiary's 1973 novel titled Up-Wingers: A Futurist Manifesto. He provides this writing excerpt from Esfandiary:
“I stress the point because this liberalism and Left radicalism masquerading in the name of progress are putting up the strongest resistances to the newest breakthroughs.” These breakthroughs “are outside the range of all the traditional philosophical social economic political frameworks. These new dimensions are nowhere on the Right or on the Left. These new dimensions are Up.”

I kinda like the idea of a vertical outlook with liberty being above the varying degrees of control that keep people unnaturally bound. It reminds me of something I wrote at the end of a post back in November where I said:
I generally reject the left/right dichotomy and engage in equal opportunity bashing of both sides due to the rampant blindness of both sides. Liberty, like our feathered or winged critter friends, require two wings to take off and fly.
Up is where birds go to experience the joys of freedom. Of course, leave it to Shaffer to also use bird imagery, but in another way with his birds of prey reference. It's a good one too, since birds of prey need both wings to be free to fly around and devour other living beings, just like government devouring the life out of human beings.

Scum of the Earth screw us again

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe congresscretins who reside in the Senate had a chance yesterday to show America that they weren't 100% complete degenerate scum by rejecting the Real ID Act, which was attached to a military spending bill. Instead, they decided to once again do what they do best: bend Lady Liberty over and viciously violate her (vulgar times sometimes call for condemnation of evil parties that contain vulgarity; if you don't like it, don't read this post)

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usHarold E. Smith III is the author of today's piece over at LRC about this abomination. I knew this skulduggery was up for vote and I had a basic idea of what it would entail, but reading Smith's piece brought to my attention for the first time the following haunting possibility:
The Department of Homeland Security has a strong inclination for RFID technology (which is also being used in future passports). Yes, tracking technology. This is the same technology Wal-Mart uses to track its billions of dollars in inventory as it moves through distribution centers and stores. Why on earth would the Department of Homeland Security want to use tracking technology in licenses? The question answers itself, why wouldn’t they. Mandating citizens to carry a card on their person that has a tracking chip isn’t as Orwellian and draconian as having an implant to keep tabs on citizens.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe passing of this truly appalling piece of anal excretion illustrates how congresscretins clearly deserve the title of "Scum of the Earth", an apt decription for such cretins, all of whom affably lapped up the anal excretion in a discraceful attempt to appear "patriotic". I'll tell ya, if I was thrust into a position where I could either save the life of a dirty harlot strung out on crack or a typical congresscretin, I'd most definitely choose the former. Dirty, strung out harlots only screw themselves, their loved ones, and the random strangers who exchange money to be used for crack for a supply of STDs. Congresscretins screw hundreds of millions on a regular basis. They claim to be all about protection, but they're the dirtiest bunch around. Scum of the Earth, they are.

Smith's piece did offer a sliver of hope at the very end. He noted that:
Our only hope is for the governors to refuse to honor this law, which National Governors Association is planning to oppose. Write your governor; tell him to fight this to the bloody end. Fight the blackmail; fight the erosion of your constitutional rights to be free within your country. There is still hope, do everything you can and get everyone you can to contact your elected officials.
I find it surprising that the National Governors Association is planning to oppose this, and excuse me if I don't have much optimism over this. I hope my skepticism here is for naught. In the meantime, I'll keep condemning the congresscretins who have contempt for liberty by referring to them by their proper title: Scum of the Earth.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Additional Tyranny

Bad news for liberty lovers in Austin,TX: the proposed smoking ban passed. Drizzten has written a passionate response to the passing that all should read. Here is an excerpt:
I have a message for those 34,197 people and the dirtbags who made up and supported Onward Austin:

Fuck you.
You stood up and said, "The collective is more important the the individual and I want violence to be visited upon those individuals when they violate what the collective wants."

You may scoff and claim justification on the democratic nature of this process, but it doesn't even meet the basic dimensions of that standard. Austin's population as of 2000 was more than 650,000 people. It has certainly grown to more than 675,000 since then.

5% of the humans in Austin voted for this law.

That 5% imposed it's will on the entire Austin population.

But ignore the bankrupt democratic justification. What arrogance you have. Every one of you have demonstrated to yourselves and to the citizens affected by this (hint: it is not just limited to the bar scene) that you are willing to say yes to the coercion of peaceful individuals; that you support the application of violence against them for exercising their rightful choice to allow smoking on their "public" property.

Read the rest of it by clicking here.

Splenda and fascist food

Karen De Coster wrote a blog entry earlier today about Splenda, one of the many sugar substitutes currently on the market. She likes the stuff and is skeptical of the anti-Splenda folks' claims. The purpose of my writing on this topic here is not to neccesarily refute her position, but rather to make it known that there are libertarians out there who sometimes share the views of people who are skeptical of certain foodstuffs and provide a different perspective on the topic. Besides, I agree with much of what she wrote in her post.

It is certainly true that, as Karen noted, many of the critics of Splenda and other people who are sometimes referred to as health zealots or nannys do have a sort of anti-progress mindset and also tend to advocate government intervention in regards to food and, well, many other areas of life. To the extent that this is true (which would be a pretty large extent), it is unfortunate. People like Dr. Mercola for example have plenty of interesting and important things to contribute to the wealth of knowledge out there concerning health and nutrition, and it's a shame that so many of these people find government meddling neccesary to promote healthy lifestyles and/or attack unhealthy products and choices.

With that said, I certainly wouldn't hold an additional amount of skepticism towards the opinions of such people just because of their putrid politics. Going back to the discussion that ensued in the comments section following my post on organic foods, politics is something that is often unavoidable when it comes to reports and commentary on such issues. While those who praise natural or organic foods and criticize artificial or genetically engineered foods often have pro-statist and anti-market views, many of their concerns may be valid and bits of truth and wisdom can be found in their writings. The same can be said for those who defend genetically engineered foods and other foodstuffs that are criticized by health nannys. There is plenty of corporate-sponsored PR out there meant to improve the image of such foods and detract criticism of them. While bits and pieces of truth can be found on their side, there is also the issue of covering up for the fact that some of these foods may not have been thoroughly tested and that businesses may be concerned that such foods may not be profitable without attempting to mold opinion in their favor.

Politics also plays a role in genetically engineered food when it comes to subsidies and other forms of state granted privledge. As Kevin Carson noted in his Vulgar Libertarian Smackdown:
The corporate deadlock on world food production is almost entirely the result of state intervention in the market.

For example, the new plant varieties (including genetically engineered varieties) identified with the "Green Revolution" are heavily dependent on state funding of research and development, and on the state's enforcement of so-called "intellectual property rights" (really a state grant of monopoly privilege). One of the uses of so-called "intellectual property" is to prohibit the saving and distribution of seeds between producers, and thus to drastically increase the cost of seed inputs. In general, patents have huge concentrating and cartelizing effects on the market structure: and this is particularly true of genetically modified foods.

The market share of GM foods in the West reflects the imposition of regulatory controls on the free flow of information in the market. In the U.S., especially, the FDA acts on behalf of agribusiness to prohibit processers or grocers from labelling GMO content; food libel laws are also used to suppress the free flow of information. The market share of GM foods depends on forcibly preventing consumers from learning of GMO content.
And later on:
The handful of giant, vertically integrated transnational agribusiness corporations that control most of the food supply chain, from the development of genetically engineered seeds through the distribution of processed food, are enemies of free markets. Consider this quote from Dwayne Andreas, the former CEO of one of them (Acher Daniels Midland):

There isn't one grain of anything in the world that is sold in a free market. Not one! The only place you see a free market is in the speeches of politicians.

Or this one by ADM President James Randall:

We have a saying in our company: "Our competitors are our friends.Our customers are the enemy."

It would be hard to find any nominally private industry that's more of a state dependency than corporate agribusiness. Indeed, the distinction between "public" and "private" becomes meaningless at the commanding heights of the state capitalist economy. The giant corporations occupy the same position in relation to the state as did the great landlords under feudalism: they don't just control the state; they are the state.

So, whether we're talking about organic and other forms of health food or artifical, processed, and/or genetically engineered food, there are statist and anti-market forces present. Regarding genetically engineered foods in particular, you could theoretically refer to them as being fascist foods since they're seemingly dependant on state intervention and our tax dollars for support and may not even exist if there were a genuine free market.

Going back to Splenda, it may be true that the product may provide a nice alternative to sugar that comes without negative health concerns. Genetically engineered foods may also be relatively safe. Being a free market advocate, I of course oppose all efforts to regulate or prohibit such foods and I wish to see the market allow for people to choose to stuff their bellies with whatever they want. I personally prefer to choose, as much as possible, food that has been tried and tested over the course of hundreds or even thousands of years. I don't like the idea of being a guinea pig for foodstuffs that have not been tested over long periods of time and thus leave lingering questions concerning safety. The possibility of the Splenda patent coming to an end soon is also a good thing in the mind of free market advocates since it'll open the door to competition, something which the government should never thwart.

Speaking of foodstuffs that has stood the test of time, there is a sugar substitute that is all-natural that deserves more attention: stevia. The two drawbacks to stevia that I've heard is that it is expensive and that some people notice an aftertaste left behind that they don't care for. Aside from that, it's all natural and doesn't carry with it many of the negative health effects associated with sugar. Of course, with such a safe and natural alternative to sugar like stevia in existance, producers of both sugar and artificial sugar substitutes feel threatened enough to turn to the FDA to protect them from such competition. Click here to read about the FDA's anti-market actions in an attempt to prevent consumers from choosing stevia as a sugar substitute. The article begins with a telling quote from Jack Anderson:
"The incestuous relationship between government and big business thrives in the dark."

Oh, and one of the many things in which I am in agreement with Karen is that moderation and control is the key to promoting good health. No excessive nannying is necessary, or desired for that matter, and neither is hard core fanaticism. The most important thing is for people to free to make whatever dietary and other consumptive choices they desire.

*UPDATE: Karen De Coster has also posted the same blog entry over at the Mises Blog. It has generated some interesting responses that you may be interested in checking out.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

USA Inc.

Jomama is the latest libertarian blogger to remind folks of the Orwellian doublespeak surrounding the issue of free trade, and provides a link to a good article about it from The New American. Some choice excerpts from Thomas Eddlem's piece:
If the trade agreements do not promote free trade, why would individuals who claim the banner of free trade lobby to pass the agreements? The business answer to that question comes down to money and influence. The most fervent lobbyists favoring phony "free trade" treaties in recent years have not been purist armchair libertarian philosophers, but huge Wall Street-linked behemoths — such as Boeing, Archer Daniels Midland, and Monsanto — and establishment organizations such as the Business Roundtable, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Trilateral Commission.

Consider the case of one "free trade" advocate, the Boeing Company. Boeing heavily lobbies Congress for free trade arrangements, but it does not do so in the interest of true free trade. It lobbies to increase its own sales abroad — often at the expense of both free trade principles and the interests of the U.S. taxpayer.

While the corporate executives at companies like Boeing hype the monetary benefits of free trade to get so-called free trade agreements passed — so that they can dig inside the federal trough of government subsidies — other groups, masked as business organizations, push "free trade" under the guise of acting in the public interest. One group that supposedly acts in the "public interest" is the Business Roundtable (BRT). The BRT is an exclusive organization of 150 CEOs from some of the largest corporations in the United States, and its motivations are far from establishing pure laissez-faire.

The BRT has utilized free trade rhetoric to promote numerous pieces of phony free trade legislation under the banner of lifting government regulations and restrictions on trade. On behalf of the Business Roundtable, TRW Inc. Chairman Joseph Gorman gave congressional testimony in support of Fast Track legislation. Passage of this legislation gave strength to "free trade" initiatives because it gave the president the ability to negotiate trade agreements (all but bypassing the "advice" of Congress, as is constitutionally mandated) and provided that the agreements submitted by the president had to be voted up or down without any amendments. On March 17, 1997, Gorman stated: "There are always advocates of imposing trade barriers to 'protect' jobs. Unless we are willing to reconsider the failed theories of isolated and planned economies, we know that jobs are created by the reality of the marketplace.... Protectionism is not the way to help our workers, our citizens, nor our economy."

The BRT's rhetoric about free trade is just that — rhetoric. When it suits the bottom line of the international financiers who make up its membership, the BRT issues free trade rhetoric. But when government intervention suits their bottom line, the BRT lobbies heavily for government intervention.

Many of our politicians believe laissez-faire doesn't work, even though they disingenuously and repeatedly cite the imperative of free trade. Unwilling to allow the market to correct itself, they refuse to permit any of our trading partners to suffer an economic setback, and they use U.S. taxpayer dollars to bail them out — draining the American economy.

More criticism of the proposed CAFTA comes from Kevin Carson, who wrote the following comment in response to this Democratic Freedom post about CAFTA:
I disagree that it's a step in the right direction. So-called "free trade agreements" have about as much to do with actual free trade, as the Ministry of Truth had to do with actual truth. They actually increase statism in some ways, giving more government-enforced privilege to neo-mercantilist corporations. For example, CAFTA's pro-"privatization" (translated from Neoliberal to English, that's "looting") provisions to hand over taxpayer-built assets to big business at giveaway prices; or so-called "intellectual property" provisions that enforce the TNCs' monopoly on modern production technology.

Another point--genuine free trade would not mean "increased trade," but reduced trade. You engage in more of an activity when the costs of doing so are artificially cheap. Present levels of international trade are the result of government subsidies to the costs and risks of international trade; if all those costs were internalized by those doing business (what used to be called a free market), foreign trade would be a lot less profitable. We'd all (West and TW both) be buying stuff made a lot closer to home. And that's not such a bad thing. More trade doesn't mean more prosperity, if it's carried out on the basis of unequal exchange and exploitation. If you lose by a transaction, the more transactions you engage in the more you lose.

What we need is the real free trade of Cobden, not Hamiltonianism falsely called "free trade."

And I'll guarantee you one thing--any Third World leader who attempts a Georgist land reform as part of a genuine free trade policy will be classed as a "terrorist" so fast his eyeballs swim, and targeted for overthrow just like Chavez. CAFTA is "free trade" as defined by the pigs who put Suharto and Pinochet in power.

Not too long ago, I came across a typical leftie who had no doubt that what Corporate America had mind was indeed free trade. In his mind, their trading agenda is free because it gives transnational corporations free reign to pursue profit at the expense of people both here and abroad. Even if you cut the guy some slack for noticing how such trade agreements do favor the interests of politically connected corporations by giving them plenty of privledges, closer examination of such agreements show that they fail miserably in terms of promoting completely voluntary trade that is free from government intervention of any kind. That is the kind of trade that can be referred to as the real deal when it comes to free trade, not the phony baloney mercantilist garbage that is referred to as "free trade" in true Orwellian fashion. Being an advocate of genuine free trade involves principled adherence to getting government out of the marketplace and allowing for voluntary transactions to flourish without hindrance, and there isn't a single politician or CEO on Earth that is interested in following principles.

I'm glad that jomama used the term "USA Inc." in reference to our government, since it reminded me of an interesting essay I read about a year ago. It had a web page of it's own at the time, but it appears to be down now, so I'll instead provide a link to where it appears on the Bureaucrash website. It's called Can You Name The Largest Corporation, and it's not about Wally-Mart or Killer Coke.

Capitol Air

While perusing the Mises Institute Blog, I noticed that a reader replied to a post with a poem by Allen Ginsberg. I'll admit to not being familiar with much of anything that he wrote, but I liked this poem enough to want to post it here. Here goes...

Capitol Air

I don't like the government where I live
I don't like dictatorship of the Rich
I don't like bureaucrats telling me what to eat
I don't like Police dogs sniffing round my feet

I don't like Communist censorship of my books
I don't like Marxists complaining about my looks
I don't like Castro insulting members of my sex
Leftists insisting we got the mystic Fix

I don't like capitalists selling me gasoline Coke
Multinationals burning Amazon Trees to smoke
Big Corporation takeover media mind
I don't like the Top-bananas that're robbing Guatemala banks blind

I don't like K.G.B. Gulag concentration camps
I don't like the Maiosts' Cambodian Death Dance
15 Million were killed by Stalin Secretary of Terror
He has killed our old Red Revolution for ever

I don't like Anarchists screaming Love Is Free
I don't like the C.I.A. they killed John Kennedy
Paranoiac tanks sit in Prague and Hungary
But I don't like counterrevolution paid for by the C.I.A.

Tyranny in Turkey or Korea Nineteen Eighty
I don't like Right Wing Death Squad Democracy
Police State Iran Nicaragua yesterday
Laissez-faire please Government keep your secret police offa me

I don't like Nationalist Supremacy White or Black
I don't like Narcs & Mafia marketing Smack
The Generals bulling Congress in his tweed vest
The President building up his Arimies in the East & West

I don't like Argentine police Jail torture Truths
Government terrorist takeover Salvador news
I don't like Zionists acting Nazi Storm Troop
Palestine Liberation cooking Israel into Moslem soup

I don't like the Crown's Official Secrets Act
You can get away with murder in the Government that's a fact
Security cops teargassing radical kids
In Switzerland or Czechoslovakia God Forbids

In America it's Attica in Russia it's Lubianka Wall
In China if you disappear you wouldn't know yourself at all
Arise Arise you citizens of the world use your lungs
Talk back to the Tyrants all they're afraid of is your tongues

Two hundred Billion dollars inflates World War
In United States every year hey're asking for more
Russia's got as much in tanks and laser planes
Give or take Fifty Billion we can blow out everbody's brains

School's broken down 'cause History changes every night
Half the Free World nations are Dicatorships of the Right
The only place socialism worked was in Gdansk, Bud
The Communist world's stuck together with prisoners' blood

The Generals say they know something worth fighting for
They never say what till they start an unjust war
Iranian hostage Media Hysteria sucked
The Shah ran away with 9 Billion Iranian bucks

Dermit Roosevelt and his U.S. dollars overthrew Mossadegh
They wanted his oil then they got Ayatollah's dreck
They put in the Shah and they trained his police the Savak
All Iran was our hostage quarter-century That's right Jack

Bishop Romero wrote President Carter to stop
Sending guns to El Salvador's junta so he got shot
Ambassador White blew the whistle on the White House lies
Reagan called him home cause he looked in the dead nuns' eyes

Half the voters didn't vote they know it was too late
Newspaper headlines called it a big Mandate
Some people voted for Reagan eyes open wide
3 out of 4 didn't vote for him That's a landslide

Truth may be hard to find but Falsehood's easy
Read between the lines our Imperialism is sleazy

But if you think the People's State is your Heart's Desire
Jump right back in the frying pan from the fire

The System the System in Russia & China the same
Criticize the System in Budapest lose your name
Coca Cola Pepsi Cola in Russia & China come true
Khrushchev yelled in Hollywood "We will bury You"

America and Russia want to bomb themselves Okay
Everybody dead on both sides Everybody pray
All except the Generals in caves where they can hide
and fuck each other in the ass waiting for the next free ride

No hope Communism no hope Capitalism Yeah
Everybody's lying on both sides Nyeah nyeah nyeah
The bloody iron curtain of American military Power
Is a mirror image of Russia's red Babel-Tower

Jesus Christ was spotless but was Crucified by the Mob
Law & Order Herod's hired soldiers did the job
Flowerpower's fine but innocence has got no Protection
The man who shot John Lennon had a Hero-worshipper's connection

The moral of this song is that the world is in a horrible place
Scientific Industry devours the human race
Police in every country armed with tear Gas & TV
Secret Masters everywhere bureaucratize for you and me

Terrorists and police together build a lowerclass Rage
Propaganda murder manipulates the upperclass Stage
Can't tell the difference 'tween a turkey & a provacateur
If you're feeling confused the Government's in there for sure

Aware Aware wherever you are. No Fear
Trust your heart Don't ride your Paranoia dear
Breathe together with an ordinary mind
Armed with Humor Feed & Help Enlighten Woe Mankind

Frankfurt-New York, December 15, 1980 By Allen Ginsberg

Friday, May 06, 2005

Warner goes to Whoreville... er, Washington

(link and other info via Ropeadope)

The Warner Music Group recently fired 1,100 employees and has shut down key label operations. Tough shit, I say. (to Warner, not the people suddenly out of a job)

Part of the reason why I'm so hostile to Warner, in addition to being hostile toward the RIAA in general, involves what they have decided to do in addition to what's mentioned above. They have decided to open a lobbying office in DC. They are apparently foaming at the mouth at the prospect of influencing public policy to suit their agenda at the expense of music lovers here in the USSA.

I'll let Frank Zappa's t-shirt provide the closing remark for this post:
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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Not just any ol' Cinco de Mayo

In case you haven't noticed, today is Cinco de Mayo (May 5th). What's significant about this particular edition of Cinco de Mayo can be seen by looking at the full numerical date for today: 05/05/05.

Talk about funky! Is it just a random funkiness associated with the Gregorian calendar that we use, or is it the work of the "law of fives"? Brad Spangler humorously seems to suggest that it's the latter.

In celebration of this event, I think I'll have me a few of these tonight...
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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

CAFTA = Can't Allow Free Trade Agreement

Over at the Liberty and Power blog, Sheldon Richman had this to say about a War Street Journal piece on CAFTA:
According to today’s Wall Street Journal, the proposed Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) would not open up the U.S. sugar market, which has long been laden with protectionist quotas, forcing U.S. residents to pay more than the rest of the world. The Journal also reports that Central American clothing makers would have to use American, not the cheaper Asian, textiles if they wish to sell here freely. That’s what passes for free trade today.

As with NAFTA, FTAA, and other agreements, CAFTA has nothing to do with genuine free trade and is in fact perpetuating a fraud. This post gives me a chance to post a link to Sean Gabb's recent comments about this fraud and the ugly alternative known as fair trade. Gabb finished his speech by saying that "Fair trade can never be fair. But free trade can be free." I would add to that the thought that free trade can also be fair, or at least provide an environment that'll be most likely to produce fairness in exchange.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Government is not a friend of organic consumers

Consumption of organic products has been steadily increasing at a rather large rate for a number of years now. For years, there were a number of private organizations, such as Oregon Tilth, responsible for setting standards and otherwise making sure that consumers who wanted organic products were indeed getting the real deal and were satisfied.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usUnfortunately, we have here yet another area of life where things have become complicated and perverted by the arrival of government to the scene to politicize things. The USDA initiated a National Organics Program a few years ago and has their own set of standards. Products that meet such standards have a "USDA Organic" label on them. Almost from the beginning there have been organic activists criticizing the USDA standards for not being strict enough. There have been concerns that industry lobbyists will be able to gain enough influence to have standards lowered further. None of this comes at a surprise to me.

The latest controversy involves body care products, where the USDA has been allowing certain body care products that contain ordinary tap water to be labeled as organic (read about it here). The USDA has now stepped up with a new policy stating that, as of October 21, 2005, companies cannot label certified organic body care products with the USDA Seal or represent that certified organic products comply with the National Organic Program. The problem as some see it is that companies that produce certifiably organic products will now be "punished" by not being able to associate themselves with the USDA program while those companies who mislabel their products will be protected.

This is the type of crap that can ensue from the politicization of a given issue. Why did the government have to even enter the realm of organic standards in the first place? Private organizations that have a real interest in maintaining the integrity of the organic market have been marginalized in favor of a political body that is inherently open to corruption by special interests, including those who wish to water down organic standards or otherwise taint the growing industry. The whole national organic program reeks of a corporate takeover stench that signals trouble for small time producers and those who care about organic integrity.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usIn addition to the USDA standards and labeling is The Organic Food Production Act, which makes it a federal offense to sell food as organic without first meeting federal standards. Getting their food inspected and approved by government approved agencies can be a costly endeavor that has likely persuaded some farmers to not go organic. Additionally, the government requires all sorts of paperwork and detailed records keeping that some farmers don't consider to be worth dealing with in order to get government certification. Localized alternatives have popped up, such as Mendocino Renegade, but I wonder if the government will one day attempt to thwart such efforts and fully cartelize the organic market in favor of politically favored agencies and corporate producers.

Despite the fact that the USDA involvement has apparently led to greater recognition and consumption of organic products, I see their involvement as being detrimental to the organic industry the longer it happens to continue. Nothing good ever comes from such nationalized standards, especially since it creates a potential for abuse that'll benefit some at the expense of others. Continued increases in organic sales will increasingly mean less if small scale producers are forced out of the market and corporatization brings with it watered down standards.

As someone who purchases some organic products, although not much due to their cost, I'm concerned about the growing politicization of the organic market and I don't like where things are seemingly headed. As someone who loathes government intervention and is aware of the damage that always seems to ensue, I want to see such shenanigans come to an end so that the organic market can grow organically with the help of people who truly care about organic integrity as opposed to politicians and bureaucrats.