Wednesday, March 29, 2006


In the spirit of Thomas Knapp's occasional posts designed to point out cool happenings on other blogs, I'd like to acknowledge a couple of relatively new blogs that may not have recieved much attention yet.

I mentioned Lady Aster Francesca in my last post, and I encourage y'all to check out her blog. She has written a number of stimulating posts regarding libertarianism in an attempt to plead for a more socially-conscious current within the movement. Some of her posts have taken people such as Hans-Hermann Hoppe to task for holding some rather unenlightened social conservative views, while others have made the point that racism, for example, is something that libertarians should spend more time openly rejecting since the State is not the sole monopoly holder on oppression. Other posts shed light on issues such as pornography and sex work, an occupation that is subject to much demonization by social conservatives and should be entirely legalized.

Next up is David Reynolds's blog titled "the view from below". David's blog appears to be one of the growing number of blogs promoting libertarianism from a more left-oriented point of view. A fine example of this is his recent post about Mexican maquilas that are built on stolen land, faux trade (as opposed to genuine free trade), political corruption, and state terrorism.

asserting libertarianism as being a people's movement

There have been a number of discussions about the French CPE issue in recent days on various libertarian blogs. In response to those who signed the MLL letter of solidarity, many libertarians have been baffled at the sight of libertarians showing sympathy for the young French workers affected by the new law, while attempting to show how logic should compel libertarians to support the new law as a legitimate "free market reform".

To this day, none of those who have objected to the libertarian solidarity have influenced me to change my mind on the subject. Some of them may have some valid points to make, but it seems as if this issue is helping to reveal a more broad difference of opinion amongst libertarians that may help to shed additional light on why some have embraced the left-libertarian moniker.

Many like to criticize the American media and it's coverage of foreign policy and other international issues (and for good reason), and it seems as if the CPE issue is no exception here. I bring this up upon reading Sheldon Richman's latest blog post on the subject. He quotes a BBC article that explains what the new law is all about, and then offers his two cents:
Thus the controversy is about a government-written labor contract that is to be imposed on all employers and under-26 workers. The government is not repealing a restriction; it is merely tweaking the restrictions it imposes on all. Freedom of contract be damned! The new uniform contract may have some benefits for young people who cannot find jobs and for upstart firms that had a tougher time than large incumbent firms coping with the earlier, less-flexible contract. But nevertheless, this is no retrenchment of French fascism. (And that's what the French system is.) It is a continuation of corporativist social engineering. I can see nothing for a libertarian to do but to condemn the blasted system root and branch.

Even before those of us who are ill-informed due to the shoddy American press became aware of the specifics, many of us libertarians already rejected the new law as a faux market reform aiming at expanding state capitalist privledge. As Sheldon Richman points out upon reading the BBC piece, there isn't even any reduction of statism going on here, which should further show that there is nothing wrong with libertarian opposition to it.

To further elaborate on my mentioning of a difference of opinion amongs libertarians, I'd like to quote a passionate comment left by Lady Aster Francesca at Liberty & Power's CPE post:
Mark: "'Cutting welfare from the top down, and taxes from the bottom up.'" I guess that's as valid as 'cutting welfare from the bottom up, and taxes from the top down' but an implicit interpersonal valuation is present either way.... I suggest it involves some interpersonal valuations different from those that are inherent in mainstream libertarian doctrine."

Um... I think the 'interpersonal valuation' involved is that shifting the tax burden to the poor while favouring the rich will end up with the poor trapped in misery, squalour, and poverty, while a tiny elite benefits. Simply put, one way of reducing net societal technical coercion ends up with a much more awful situation in human terms. Cutting corporate welfare in a semi-statist society isn't going to destroy anyone's life; cutting welfare for the otherwise destitute, in a society where state favouritism still directly and indirectly walls off their choices and opportunities, it might.

If detesting this involves valuations at odds with mainstream libertarian doctrine, so much the worse for mainstream libertarian doctrine. Libertarianism may not logically require simple human compassion but 'tis my hope it would not make it controversial. Why exactly is cutting the the budget on the backs of privileges built up by the state, rather than those who've been ruined by it, a potential problem?

I could also point out that if libertarianism were to try to dismantle the state while selectively attacking social benefits for the poor while ignoring the structural advantages of the rich, the result would be that the working class would make one great rush for the local state socialist party's recruiting office while classical liberalism remained the party of a few intellectuals and middle-class eccentrics out of touch with social reality. I rather submit that this is what has been happening for the last 150 years or so.

The modern libertarian movement believes its politics are in the interest of everybody yet converts no one (except intellectuals). I suspect this has something to do with the fact that the poor don't see any reason to think libertarians take their perspective or interests seriously, while the comfortable are often regimented sheeple who don't object very much to having the state economically and culturally prop up their institutions. Do you desire libertarianism to succeed? I think there's no way to do that without a libertarian theory that resonates with the actual lives and struggles of human beings.

Too many people view libertarians as being cold-hearted, intellectually aloof and out of touch with social reality, and thus don't take their ideas seriously. What is serious about this is that many libertarians are not only unaware of this, but don't seem to mind all that much.

While reading Lady Aster's comments, I was reminded of this Uncapitalist post by Kevin Carson where he quotes Karl Hess referring to libertarianism as being a "people's movement". It seems long overdue for libertarians who wish to make their ideas more persuasive to become more assertive and promote a "people's libertarianism", if you will, to counter the various libertarian sects that have helped to shape the public's perception of libetarians as "cold-hearted" or "pot-smoking Republicans" or whatever.

The MLL has taken the initial step, and without resorting to statist apology, contrary to those who misunderstood the MLL solidarity letter to the French students. Rather than supporting further state intervention or whatever else the French may likely support, along with the needless and unfortunate destruction of property that has occured during the riots, the signatories of the letter merely wish to reach out and show support the plight of French workers who have to live in such an appallingly statist system, while showing them an alternative libertarian-based approach toward achieving a better life for all. Failure to do so or even supporting the CPE will only result in furthering the negative portrayal of libertarians while also, as Lady Aster correctly put it, resulting in masses of people embracing even more state socialism to counter the reforms carried out on behalf of the ruling class.

I'd also like to use this post to refer readers to this post by Adem Kupi. Adem links to three different Los Angeles Indymedia articles about the mobilization of people who are opposed to HR 4437. Immigration is another issue where libertarians differ in opinion, and one where I find myself agreeing with the sentiments expressed by those who are opposed to the legislation. I support the supposedly hundreds of thousands of people who have taken to the streets and even interfered with various government offices in protest of the latest statist BS.

Monday, March 27, 2006

"harass the brass" with SDS/MDS

Kyle Taylor of SDS Michigan has written a proposal for a campaign to be carried out later this year called "Harass the Brass", which you can read over at this SDS Organizer post.

It sounds like a good idea, and Brad Spangler and other MLL members seem to agree. Brad is thus collecting endorsements and asking people to consider joining either SDS or MDS (Movement for a Democratic Society). Libertarians may not agree with all actions promoted by SDS/MDS, but that shouldn't hold anyone back from joining. To add your endorsement, click here.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

left-libertarian solidarity with French workers

Young French workers are outraged over the recent new French law titled Contrat première embauche (CPE). The CPE allows French employers the right to fire workers under the age of 26 without any justification during the first two years of their employment. Despite it being technically an example of market liberalization on the surface, it represents an example of the type of market reform that benefits the political class at the expense of workers while preserving the overall corporate statist framework.

Here's what Brad Spangler had to say about the CPE:
On the face of it, that initially might not sound so unreasonable to us as Americans and market-oriented libertarians. The French are fighting mad about it, though, and with good reason. The overall economic environment in France is so thoroughly statist that they quite reasonably expect no tangible benefit from this one small so-called market reform — and quite probably a fair amount of pain.

Young people in France currently often have to live at home for several *years* while job hunting. The consolation that sustains them is that once they’re in, at least they have job security. We ought to be able to express sympathy for their plight and point towards a better way — a revolutionary way.

The CPE is technically market liberalization — but representative of perhaps the worst possible choice of priorities, I would counter. Such is the nature of political reformism — to subvert the market toward the interests of the political class and bring it into unjustified disrepute. It’s up to agorists to put forward the alternative — counter-economic revolution. (emphasis mine)

As a representative of the Movement of the Libertarian Left, Brad has taken it upon himself to write a letter of solidarity to the French workers, explaining the reasons for solidarity along with an invitation to explore the agorist alternative to statist reformism. I have already signed the letter myself, and I ask any of my readers to do as well if they support the messages contained within the letter. To do so, simply visit Brad's post on the subject and leave a comment expressing your interest to be included as a signatory to the letter.

Here is the letter:
Students and Workers of France,

Professor Roderick Long once wrote:

“When Marx called the French government ‘a joint-stock company for the exploitation of France’s national wealth’ on behalf of the bourgeois elite and at the expense of production and commerce (’Class Struggles in France’), he was only echoing what libertarians had been saying for decades.”

France and all other nation-states remain so today. You and we live in a world where freedom and economic
opportunity exist only at the sufferance of a political class that allows us only some small amount of them for sake of their own convenience and take the rest from us by force and coercion for sake of their own parasitism.

Under such circumstances, state-sponsored market liberalization is a cruel joke. The legislation you protest and rebel against seeks only to increase the latitude given your overseers, while maintaining the overall restrictions on your own liberty that, if abolished, would empower you to seek your own prosperity. We believe you and we would be very good at that, mixing both cooperation and peaceful competition, if we were not slaves.

For those reasons, the signers of this letter offer their solidarity to you and present themselves as a sample of a small tendency known as the Movement of the Libertarian Left (MLL), advocates of revolutionary market anarchism or “agorism”.

It is not the place of others to tell you how to wage your own revolution against tyranny. We have some suggestions, though — a version of dual power strategy called “counter-economics”. We humbly recommend MLL founder Samuel Edward Konkin III’s small book on agorism, counter-economics, and revolution “The New Libertarian Manifesto” in hopes you may find it useful or inspirational. It is available free online at:

The Movement of the Libertarian Left
Agora! Anarchy! Action!

UPDATE: The MLL letter has been published by Next Left Notes, the unofficial publication of the new SDS. Click here to view it along with the SDS letter. (the latter letter is also translated in French and German)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

in defense of libertarian communism & markets

Thanks to Brad Spangler, I recently discovered that author and artist Victor Koman has an extensive amount of old libertarian periodicals for sale through his KoPubCo Publishing site. I purchased a few things and will likely follow that up with another order sometime in the future. I'll likely be writing an occasional post about some of the stuff I've read in these periodicals, with this post being the first one.

One of those periodicals is the Strategy of the New Libertarian Alliance. I have a copy of issue number two, which is full of interesting and important material. For starters, it includes the introduction and first chapter of Samuel Edward Konkin III's unfinished book Agorism Contra Marxism, the book which influenced Wally Conger and led to his wonderful synopsis called "Agorist Class Theory". I highly recommend reading that essay if the idea of a libertarian-based class theory seems out of whack to you.

Another essay from that periodical that I found interesting was Kerry Thornley's "In Defense of Libertarian Communism". The essay is clearly written for a market anarchist audience, although many of the ideas he wrote about could also be used as a defense of markets amongst a libertarian communist audience. What follows are some choice excerpts from the essay:
But the charges that libertarian communism ignores the laws of the free market do not simply result from ignorance of its doctrines, but comprise instad an intellectually formidable position. In the first place, Berkman failed miserably to comprehend the significance of monetary mutualist ideas about central banking - blaming the warlike nature of capitalism upon the overproduction of goods and the consequent necessity to find new markets, unaware that in a free society stored overproduced goods could become a basis for mediums of exchange. Moreover, he failed to see that the prospect of war is needed by multinational banking corporations and failed to realize that credit monopolies such as central banks virtually thrive upon the misery and destruction that create debt.

Beyond that mistake, however, his thesis does not express an ignorance of free market principles, but instead depends upon a view of human nature that differs from that of most Conservatives and laissez-faire capitalists. Conservatives accept Original Sin and libertarian rightists assume that the laws which result from present economic values will always prevail, although those values result in turn from centuries of authoritarian conditioning.

As Hagbard Celine points out in the Illuminatus! Trilogy, left anarchists disagree with right anarchists only in their predictions as to how people will behave in a free market - the leftists believing that cooperation will take the place of competition, the rightists assuming that people will remain as competitve as ever. In other words, while authoritarian economics are proscriptive, libertarian economics are predictive - a realization which facilitates left-right unity among anarchists and libertarians.

But if, by libertarian methods, authoritarian values and the ignorance that they require are at a future point in history eradicated, what then? Will communist anarchism remain an anti-market philosophy or will the so-called laws of the market, being nothing mroe than descriptions of observed human behavior, change in accord with a proliferation of economic choices that result from psychologically liberated and informed values?

Like most higher mammals, human beings are herd animals, or tribalists. But the theological conceit that they are not mammals at all, but creatures "a little lower than angels,"causes them to behave in a way that alienates them not only from their own bodies, but also from their own emotional and social needs.

Imagine, as one example, belonging to a voluntary extended family of twenty-five individuals, children included, that lived in the same village neighborhood, labored in the same workplace, and enjoyed the same recreations together. Assume that these individuals had located one another through a computer matching service and taht therefore their lifestyle values were very much alike. Such a group might be further bonded in multilateral marriages, or it might be monoagamous and bonded vicariously in collective autoerotic sharing, or it might be sexually monogamous but held together by strong religious convictions or nonmystical values. Would such a group necessarily function in a manner that was anti-market? Even if it was organized internally for the equal sharing of what it produced?

That communist anarchists are by and large ignorant of free market principles is simply not true. For while their choices of words are different from those of the libertarian right and they therefore seldom use the term "free market,", it can be seen from a close reading of either Peter Kropotkin or Alexander Berkman that they recognize, as one example among many, that economic values are subjective, although they did not know this would become known among Austrian capitalists as the "law of marginal utility." In keeping with their contrasting view of human nature, the anarchists use marginal utility concepts to justify equal rations, since subjective value also implies that it is impossible to ascribe an objective value to anyone's labor.

Evidence that the communist libertarian view of human nature tend to be the more correct one is contained in A.S. Neill's Summerhill, where it is observed that in an environment of complete freedom children tend to be self-regulating and to master their subjects in the absense of any immediate rewards for so doing. That the resentment generated by compulsory measures is also absent in such a milieu seems to go a long way to explain why bribery, or reward, also becomes unnecessary. Further evidence is to be found in abundance in the study of anthropology, the Hopi Indians being only one very conspicuous, very extreme example of how far cooperation can develop in the direction of eliminating competition without crippling productive activity.

A logical political compromise between communist anarchism and libertarian capitalism would seem to be individualist anarchism of the kind espoused by Josiah Warren and Benjamin Tucker - for it makes the least number of assumptions in either direction about human nature and developed from experience with both utopian communist communities and the laissez-faire capitalism of teh last century.

Instead of making metaphysical assumptions about the nature of human beings in a free society, it asks: With people as they are how can we arrange social institutions to allow for the optimum in both individual choice and useful cooperation?

Once we construct our alternative institutions with that question in mind, generations of human beings will begin to grow up in genuine freedom - and no past or present communist anarchist or laissez-faire capitalist can predict with certainty what will happen after that, but it seems to me they should be able to agree that this is where to begin.

For libertarian capitalists that means becoming aware of communist anarchist doctrines, and realizing that they are based not so much on ignorance of economics as on unlimited optimism for the potential rationality of genuinely free people.

That is indeed some interesting stuff to ponder. With that last sentence from Thornley in mind, it would likewise behoove libertarian communists to become aware of market doctrines, especially realizing that markets are far more encompassing than merely the cash nexus. Here is a link to one of many posts written by Kevin Carson on the subject of markets and how broadly they are viewed amongst non-vulgar market advocates. As I stated in my previous post, anarchy is as simple as giving someone a hug, trading an apple for an orange, or purchasing a muffin at a bake sale, and none of those actions are anti-market.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

v is for verb?

Image Hosted by One of the hot topics of conversation right now is the new movie V for Vendetta, with anarchists and other libertarians displaying an especially high amount of interest in the film. I haven't seen it yet, and I don't know when I'll have a chance to do so. (next week maybe?) Until then, I'll have to rely on other peoples' comments to get an idea of what to expect when I finally do get around to seeing it.

One of the better V-related blog posts out there is Wally Conger's "Exhorting the right of revolution", where he relates the film to the subject of revolution and ponders the relevance of revolution not just at some far off point in the future, but right now. There have been a number of comments generated by the post, with one that caught my attention being the one by Butler Shaffer. At one point in his comment, Shaffer wrote the following:
James criticizes this film for its failure “to demonstrate what an anarchic society would look like”; of failing to provide “even a hint of blueprint for a non-Statist society” or a “plan.” Here, he makes the same mistake as so many other libertarians: treating “anarchy” as a noun (i.e., a place, a specific system) rather than a verb (i.e., ways in which people deal with one another without force). The idea of a “planned” anarchistic society is simply too much of a challenge to my sense of humor. Suffice it to say that I have no idea how 300 million -– or, for that matter, 6 billion –- people will choose to deal with one another once they free themselves from state violence to adopt whatever systems and practices suit their individualized needs and preferences.
This is a very good point. Most people view the concept of anarchy as being either a noun (i.e., a state of anarchy) or an adjective (i.e., an anarchistic society). Indeed, many anarchists themselves view it that way. Viewing it as a verb, however, is an interesting way of presenting such a complex subject that may cause some people to think about it in a different light. As Shaffer puts it, viewing anarchy as "ways in which people deal with one another without force" removes one from not only having to come up with some sort of concrete blueprint - a tough task considering various individual preferences that would be put into action minus state coercion - but also allows for a conception of anarchy that may avoid the typical "anarchy = lawlessness or chaos" conception that is not only false, but hurts the credibility of anyone claiming to reject statism. It may seem weird for some to view anarchy as a verb, but it makes sense.

Let's face it, anarchy is in dire need of a reinvention from a P.R. standpoint, and anything that shakes it up in a positive and thoughtful way is a good thing. It also seems to be compatible with the whole "anarchism without adjectives" perspective since any sort of voluntary action, whether it's gift-giving, trading, or a monetary transaction, falls within the realm of anarchy. Anarchy is as simple as giving someone a hug, trading an apple for an orange, or purchasing a muffin at a bake sale. The ultimate goal is, of course, to be able to maximize the amount of anarchy one can engage in without being thwarted by coercive forces.

Getting back to the subject of V for Vendetta, you can read more of what Butler Shaffer has to say about the movie here. For a negative review of the flick from an anarchist perspective, click here for William Gillis's review.

Monday, March 20, 2006

iraq progress report

Reason recently published an Iraq progress report consisting of a Q&A session with "a wide range of libertarian, conservative, and freedom-minded journalists and academics". There are a number of liberventionists that were included, and even Christopher Hitchens, meaning that the whole "freedom-minded" thing wasn't really that accurate.

Not only have I been against the invasion of Iraq since it was first conceived, but I've been a critic of American foreign policy in general for years. The concept that some refer to as blowback is something that was on my mind on 9/11 upon hearing of the terrorist attacks, and I knew right then that the likely response by the government would make things worse. My skepticism of and opposition to the war machine hasn't wavered one bit since then.

With my opinion out of the way, I thought I'd quote the two best Q&As from the Reason piece. A number of good statements were made, but the best responses, in my opinion, came from Wendy McElroy and Robert Anton Wilson:
Wendy McElroy

1. Did you support the invasion of Iraq?

I opposed the invasion on both principled and practical grounds

2. Have you changed your position?

My opposition has deepened as the war has exceeded my worst fears in duration, blatant economic motives, political incompetence and military brutality.

3. What should the U.S. do in Iraq now?

Get out right now. Declare victory, declare defeat, remember a pressing engagement back home... it doesn't matter what reason is given. Get out immediately.

Robert Anton Wilson

1. Did you support the invasion of Iraq?

No. I loathe invasions and occupations and all violence against non-invasive individuals.

2. Have you changed your position?

Yes. I oppose the invasion even more vehemently, since Bush has used it as an excuse to destroy the last few tattered remnants of the Bill of Rights.

3. What should the U.S. do in Iraq now?

Stop killing people, bring the troops home, and rebuild Katrina damage. (But they never listen to me.)

Friday, March 17, 2006

music: st. patty's day edition

Image Hosted by I may not be Catholic, but I am a part-Irish critter who loves beer. With that in mind - Happy St. Patty's Day! I'm not in a Guiness mood this year, so I went out and purchased a 6 pack of O'Hara's Irish Red, brewed in Carlow, Ireland. Good stuff.

Speaking of good stuff, I have some music to share. I am extremely lacking when it comes to Irish music, but I have just enough to make a musical St. Patty's Day post worthwhile.

Image Hosted by For starters, I have an album by the worldly and prolific producer and bassist Bill Laswell titled Emerald Aether: Shape Shifting/Reconstructions Of Irish Music. The album is nothing special, but it does represent Laswell's attempt to work with Irish music and come up with something unique. The following two tracks sound especially Irish and give a good taste of what the album is about. The first one is his mix of a song by Karen Casey called "The Labouring Man's Daughter" and the second number is a re-working of a Jerry O'Sullivan tune called "Wendel's Wedding".

ALBUM: Emerald Aether: Shape Shifting/Reconstructions Of Irish Music (Shanachie/The Orchard, 2000)
MP3: The Labouring Man's Daughter
MP3: Wendel's Wedding

There is an instrument that is a part of my Irish and Scottish heritage that has a love/hate relationship with many people. Personally, I love the bagpipes! The rest of the tunes I'm sharing today feature this simply marvelous instrument in both traditional songs and something, well, off-kilter.

First, the traditional. The following two songs come from an album titled Irish Uillean Pipes, Northumbrian Small-Pipes, Scottish Highland Pipes.

ALBUM: Bagpipes of Britain & Ireland: Irish Uillean Pipes, Northumbrian Small-Pipes, Scottish Highland Pipes (Saydisc - Qualiton/The Orchard, 2001)
MP3: Rowsome's Slip Jig
MP3: Wild Hills O' Wannies

This last song does not come from an Irish artist. In fact, the only relation to Ireland whatsoever is that it features the lovely sounds of bagpipes. Free jazz legend Albert Ayler recorded the album Music is the Healing Force of the Universe in 1969, and one of the tunes is noticeably different from the others. "Masonic Inborn, Part 1" is a long and chaotic number that showcases Ayler's ability to take the bagpipes and blast off into another dimension. I doubt that many people will care for it, but I love it! Even though this album in general was rather disappointing, I'm glad I bought it just because of this song.

ALBUM: Music is the Healing Force of the Universe (Impulse!, 1969)
MP3: Masonic Inborn, Part 1

Image Hosted by I'd like to end this post on a serious note. This Liberty and Power blog post by Mark Brady brought my attention to a website called Black From the site's main page:
Welcome to the Black Shamrock dot org, the website of the Black Shamrock Campaign, where people are invited to post photographs of the Black Shamrock at various locations in Ireland and throughout the world.

The Black Shamrock symbolises our mourning for all those who died as a result of Irish collaboration in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, for which the airports at Shannon, Aldergrove and Baldonnel have become pit-stops. It also symbolises our mourning for the loss of Irish Neutrality.

Equally the economies both north and south are daily becoming more integrally linked to the fortunes of the US led ‘military industrial complex’. What price is being paid for ‘peace’ in the north and ‘prosperity’ in the south with the arrival of Raytheon (the world’s largest Missile manufacturer) in Derry, and companies like Timoney, Data Devices Corporation, Zillings and Moog Ltd (all of whom make components for the international arms industry) in the south?

Among other conflicts this collaboration is fuelling, is the one caused by the ongoing Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territories.

The Black Shamrock is also, of course, a symbol of resistance. In wearing it, all of those who do declare their opposition to any Irish involvement, be it economic, strategic or logistical, in the unjust and illegal wars.

The Black Shamrock campaign is a grassroots non-party political, non-partisan campaign to highlight the views of the majority of people in Ireland and in the rest of the world; that we want no part in these dirty occupations and instruct our leaders to follow Irish and International law and immediately withdraw support for the occupations. The campaign welcomes the support of members of all political parties and none.

Wear a Black Shamrock! Get your friends to wear Black Shamrocks! Download posters, pictures and graphics here, or make your own Black Shamrocks for display in your window, your car, your workplace, or elsewhere. Get pictures of your Black Shamrocks and upload them here for all to see!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

quote of the day

From Vache Folle:
I reckon the state is as much the instrument of God as smallpox or lava flows, and there is nothing in the teachings of Jesus that obliges us to die of smallpox or stand in the path of a lava flow.

To know why he came up with such a great line, I suggest reading the whole post. He includes a clutch Hitler reference as well.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

mmmm... forbidden fruit

Image Hosted by A great article from today's Toronto Star provides plenty of reasons to reject the prohibition of drugs or any other item that people may want to consume. Author Taras Grescoe rips prohibition pretty hard right from the beginning of the piece:
When you can't have it, you want it.

It's simple human psychology, but generation in, generation out, governments fail to understand this and try to restrict access to certain goods on the grounds they're harmful, addictive, immoral or demotivating. Then they react with shock when their citizens act like naughty children, breaking the law to get at what they've been deemed too immature to handle. The situation is as absurd as it is wasteful: Punishing and incarcerating people for their appetites and excesses costs governments billions of dollars a year.

Another great excerpt:
Everywhere I went, I saw confirmation of a lesson that humanity should have learned in 17th-century Constantinople (where the sultans tried, and failed, to ban coffee); Enlightenment London (where Parliament, overstocked with brewers, strove to ban imported gin); and jazz-age Chicago (where forbidding alcohol corrupted city hall and empowered Al Capone).

The lesson is this: Ban something and it only becomes stronger, costlier and more coveted than ever before. I've returned from the experience, my liver weakened but my eyes opened, with a renewed disdain for the simple-minded idea we call prohibition.

He goes to provide the examples of Norwegian moonshine, Époisses cheese, animal testicles, Cuban cigars and "smoke-easies" in smoke-free California, Swiss absinthe, and coca leaves to illustrate this crucial point about the futility and danger associated with prohibition. This research was carried out for a book he wrote on the subject titled The Devil's Picnic : Around the World in Pursuit of Forbidden Fruit. I was especially interested in the first two examples he provides:
Norwegian moonshine

Outside the Islamic world, no country has a more restrictive alcohol-control regime than Norway. Wine and spirits can be purchased only in state-monopoly liquor stores, most of which are open till 6 p.m. on weekdays, 3 p.m. on Saturdays, and not at all on Sundays. A litre bottle of Smirnoff vodka costs $63 (Canadian), 86 per cent of which is tax. The 1.14L bottle of the same stuff costs $33 at the LCBO.

The results are entirely predictable: There is extensive cross-border smuggling from Sweden, people make their own booze at home and every drinking occasion turns into a binge. Most disturbingly, the enlightened inhabitants of the world's richest welfare state are reduced to drinking the Scandinavian equivalent of bathtub gin. I bought some hjemmebrent (literally "home-burnt") in a back alley from a massive neo-rockabilly moonshiner; it was noxious stuff, at least 95 per cent alcohol, more useful for lighting fires than drinking. It turns out that I was lucky to escape with only a hangover: Shortly before my arrival, 20 Norwegians died after drinking cheap, methanol-laced spirits smuggled from Portugal.

Époisses cheese

This so-called "killer cheese" is a product that is seen by many as further proof that the filthy French are as sloppy about food safety as they are about driving... except that this is complete nonsense. I visited the Burgundian village of Époisses and discovered that the cheese said to have provoked an outbreak of listeriosis that killed a young woman was in fact made from pasteurized milk.

The simple fact is so-called unpasteurized cheese (which people have been eating for millennia) is perfectly safe if it's well inspected, as it currently is, with almost ludicrous efficiency, in new EU-approved French factories. The danger actually comes from pasteurization, which produces a false sense of security — as in the case of the 224,000 Americans who were severely sickened by pasteurized ice cream in 1994. Every year, 500 people in the U.S. alone die due to listeriosis, most commonly from hot dogs or luncheon meat. But no illness outbreaks have been reported from hard, aged unpasteurized cheeses.

And yet, when I try to bring cheese-lovers in New York some nice Époisses, FDA inspectors systematically chuck it into a garbage bin.

There are, however, two minor portions of the article that detract from the otherwise greatness of it. While discussing animal testicles, Grecoe says the following:
Spain, like Japan, may actually be in need of the curbing of some of its appetites: Its vast, deep-sea fishing fleets are sucking the oceans of the world dry. Sitting over a plate of angulas, or baby eels, which cost 51 euros a serving, I found myself admitting — much to my surprise — that in certain cases, some kind of oversight and control over human appetite is not only justified but essential.

He thinks that some oversight and control is needed? Hmm... and how exactly are the rare instances of such tyrannical interventions that he actually approves of going to be exempt from the inherent flaws and counterproductiveness he reveals throughout the rest of the article? I suppose it'll actually be done right when he wants it to be, eh?

My other quibble with the article comes at the end when he seeks to distance himself from libertarianism by taking a jab at market proponents. He claims to want clean and safe beef and coca and whatnot and feels that government intervention is necessary for such things. Of course, I feel that a free market would provide safer food and drugs, especially since present dangers usually result from either naive faith in corrupt government bureaucracies (such as the ones that scoff at unpasteurized cheese) or practices engaged in by State-backed corporations that would likely be far less prevalent in a free market. This is all a subject for another day though, so I'll leave it at that.

Minor quibbles aside, Grescoe's article is well worth reading, and I'll bet that his book on the subject is good as well.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

scumbags: bill o'reilly & the DEA

This post is all about scumbags. Perusing the blogosphere today has led me to read about two particular incidents that warrant further exposure for the sake of revealing some of the scumbaggery prevalent in the world today. Maybe this will be the first of a series of occasional posts pointing such lowlifes out, or maybe not.

Teevee Scumbag: Bill O'Reilly
Image Hosted by I don't watch much teevee, but I have been subjected to bits of his show here and there. It didn't take long for me to view the man as being a pompous, small-minded bully who likely hasn't changed since the days of his youth where he probably engaged in activities such as stealing lunch money from kid A in order to pay off kid B in an attempt to get kid B to go and beat up kid C for saying something funny (and likely true) that hurt poor wittle O'Reilly and his Montana-sized ego.

I've heard about his on-air bullying. I've heard about his supposed sexual harassment. Now, I read a Hammer of Truth blog post titled "Bill O'Reilly: Worst Person in the World" about his recent engagement in scumbaggery. Starting a petition to get Keith Olbermann fired for criticizing him and threatening a caller who dared to mention Olbermann's name. What a fucking scumbag!

Gang of Scumbags: The DEA
I'm inclined to think of anyone involved in waging the drug war as being a scumbag by default. Matthew Bryan recently wrote about some particular scumbags working for the DEA who are particularly deserving of the scumbag moniker. Read Matthew's post to learn why, and don't forget to click on the G-bomb links he provides to teach those thuggish scumbags of the State a lesson.

For daily reminders of why the drug war is waged by scumbags, check out the great site maintained by Pete Guither called Drug War Rant and pay a visit to the Vigil for Lost Promise.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

bushit stinks up India

Yup, he's in India right now. Folks there aren't too happy about it. Arundhati Roy is definitely not happy about it, as one can tell by reading her thoughts about it.

I also recommend checking out the info. provided by Eugene Plawiuk in this Le Revue Gauche post on the subject. Bush is apparently being met by a black flag protest over there, especially in reaction to his visit to the memorial of the "Gentle Anarchist" Mohandas Gandhi.

In addition to Eugene's post, I'd like to point out a website that I like to mention from time to time called "What Would Gandhi Do?". After reading some of the quotes on that site, you'll have a greater understanding of just how Caesar's visit to the memorial is truly an act of sacrilege.

arrivederci to monaghan

I guess some of his ave marias are being answered, or something.

Tom Monaghan, founder of Dominos Pizza and former Detroit Tigers owner, is creating a new town in Florida named Ave Maria. Accoring to that Times article:
Abortions, pornography and contraceptives will be banned in the new Florida town of Ave Maria, which has begun to take shape on former vegetable farms 90 miles northwest of Miami.

Tom Monaghan, the founder of the Domino’s Pizza chain, has stirred protests from civil rights activists by declaring that Ave Maria’s pharmacies will not be allowed to sell condoms or birth control pills. The town’s cable television network will carry no X-rated channels.

Sounds like it'll be an absolute appalling place to live, but he has the right to embark on such an endeavor. Likewise, the town's future inhabitants will voluntarily choose to live in such a Puritanical, hellacious environ. Different strokes for different folks, eh?

I applaud the effort to engage in building a new community with a particular vision in mind, even if that vision makes me ill. It reminds me of efforts made in the 19th century in America by anarchists to build communities that would be havens for freedom, except that Ave Maria's holy vision would be hell for practically any anarchist.

Image Hosted by Part of his Florida plans also involve building the first new Catholic university in America in 40 years, also named Ave Maria. Prior to my recent move, I lived about a block away from his Ave Maria College in Ypsilanti. Heh... my only experience with using psilocybin took place in an apartment building (see picture) that is now owned by the college. I won't even mention how many times I've wizzed on their property while walking home from a party or bar. I will say that I didn't wizz alongside one of the two gorgeous 19th century houses that are also on their property.

Image Hosted by

I'm glad to see him leave Michigan. I remember hearing a few years ago about his plan to build the world's tallest crucifix near Ann Arbor. His right to build such a thing on his own property should not have been thwarted, but that thing would have been an eyesore of Biblical proportions that would have brought all sorts of undesirable tourism to the area.

To celebrate Monaghan's departure, I think I'll have me some Dominos good pizza.

p.s.: I'm hellbound, right?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

i've been tagged

Another one of those chain blog meme thingies is circulating, and I just got tagged by MDM. My life thus far has not been as exciting and, uh, long as many of the others who has participated thus far, so this whole "4..." theme doesn't work with me very well, as you'll notice below.

4 Jobs I've Had:
working at a cabinet shop
working at a university library
caretaking for my mother (my current unpaid gig)

4 Movies I Can Watch Over And Over:
The Big Lebowski
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
any of the Star Wars flicks
Where The Buffalo Roam

4 Places I've Lived:
Utica, MI
Ann Arbor, MI
Ypsilanti, MI

4 Teevee Shows I Love:
The Simpsons
Hockey Night in Canada
Kung Fu (the '70s series)

4 Highly Regarded And Recommended Shows I Haven't Seen (much of):
Six Feet Under
The Colbert Report

4 Places I've Vacationed:
Beckley, WV
Winston-Salem, NC
Mackinac Island, MI
Washington D.C.

4 Favorite Dishes:
pad thai
chicken marsala
chicken shwarma
BBQd meat (type of meat doesn't matter)

4 Sites I Visit Daily:
Mutualist Blog
Strike The Root

4 Places I'd Rather Be Right Now:
Ann Arbor, MI
Amsterdam or some other cosmopolitan European city
Vancouver, BC (I've always wanted to check it out)
someplace warm

4 New Bloggers I'm Tagging:
Kevin Carson
Wally Conger
Sunni Maravillosa
Matt @ Los Amigos De Durutti