WolfesBlogArchives: December 2003
Wednesday, December 31, 2003
WEIRD WORLD I: With a whole city lying in earthquake ruins and thousands of people trapped under rubble, Iran wouldn't allow the nearest (and arguably best) rescuers in the world to come in and help. And do we hear any of the "religious toleration" crowd getting upset at this particularly deadly example of intolerance? Naw. To their great credit, some Israeli groups are quietly giving aid, despite Iran's rejection.
Weird World II: The fedgov banned putting downer cattle into cattle feed years ago. (Eeew, wasn't cows eating cows a disgusting notion in the first place?) But only just this week did the Ag Dept. and the FDA decide sick cattle shouldn't go into the human food supply. Is it gross, or what, to learn that our protectors have been putting their stamp of approval on us eating diseased animals all these years?
As always with the fedgov, even now that they've "got it" they haven't got it; a downer cow with a broken leg doesn't belong in the same category as a downer with a mystery illness. But that's how the feds have lumped them.
(Aaron Zelman was quick to point out that kosher beef has never come from diseased, or even "blemished," cattle. If I ate beef, I sure think I'd look for a kosher butcher shop.)
Posted by Claire @ 01:32 PM CST [Link]
EFF OFF!!! Whew, after much pondering I've almost decided on my big New Year's Resolution. I'm close. Only thing is, is it going to be:
I resolve to tell all idiots to eff off in 2004.
Or is it going to be:
I resolve to become more diplomatic and in pursuit of higher goals to resist the temptation to tell all idiots to eff off in 2004.
You tell me.
I'm in the midst of dealing with the infamous Queen of Passive Aggression in our dog-rescue group. I've ranted about her before and commented briefly on her personality (disguising her as a male in some fit of useless Netly tact) in a broader post on leadership. She just spent a week setting up a sneaky-sneaky-sneaky sneak attack on other group members, while presenting herself to some important outsiders as a misunderstood hero-victim. Ask what we did to upset her, though, and we get the usual, "Oh, why, nothing, I'm not upset. Everything's just fine! How could you even think anything's wrong?" Gnrrrrrr! Ya can't solve the problem -- because there's no problem!
I admit, I admit I'm very bad at suffering fools. If it were just me, I'd cut her tits off (verbally, just verbally) in a minute. It would be a New Year's treat. And 2004 would be more serene without her. But nobility says put up with her For the Sake of the Doggies. But then ... another voice says maybe we'd get more done for the doggies if all the group's leaders weren't so busy constantly attempting (impossibly) to placate this certifiable loony. OTOH ... the loony is a hard and talented worker, when she's not withdrawing into an alcoholic or manic-depressive haze.
Do I listen to my good angel or the little devil on the other shoulder? And BTW, how do I tell which is which?
Ah, thank Blog. At least it helps to be able to vent.
Posted by Claire @ 10:27 AM CST [Link]
OKAY, IT'S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN, when we make all those futile promises to ourselves. "In 2004, I resolve to write the great American novel ... tar and feather a politician ... become a hermit woodcarver ... make a million dollars ... find True Love ... and be a Perfectly Happy and Fulfilled Person."
But -- cool! -- there's help for transforming our annual fit of promises into reality. Check out MyGoals.com. Silly as it may sound to us "free-form" types, MyGoals actually has nice little step-by-step plans to help you achieve any realistic personal aim. Pick your goal and they'll help you draw up a plan to achieve it. But what if you're aimless? They'll even provide you with an aim! MyGoals has dozens of pre-written aims and plans to help you do anything from prepare for a hurricane to study Buddhism. Need a plan for keeping better financial records, spending more time with your kids, paying off debt, learning Chinese, traveling to Africa, making your own wine, being a better boyfriend (or girlfriend), remembering birthdays, or improving your sales technique? It's all there, complete with pertinent details.
No advice on how to achieve that tar and feathering thing, though. Pity.
Posted by Claire @ 08:52 AM CST [Link]
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
LOW HUMOR PRESENTED JUST AS IT ARRIVED FROM A HIGHER PLANE:
"One more reason for me to skip my housecleaning chores --Dec 30, 9:27 AM (ET) -- SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) - Security officials shut down part of San Antonio International Airport after traces of a cleaning solution on a piece of luggage were mistaken for the explosive TNT. ...
The bag was removed for further testing and its owner was taken into airport custody ...
"TSA can't distinguish between TNT and Mr. Clean. In other words, they don't know Shit from Shinola."
Posted by Claire @ 01:46 PM CST [Link]
I HATE IT WHEN COMPANIES THINK BUYERS ARE DUMB. (A small rant.)
I've been working with a very patient eye doctor to find the perfect contact lens prescription. After five visits, he and I have narrowed lens choices down to two, each with roughly equal vision advantages and drawbacks. So I decided to make my final selection based on relative safety of the lenses -- one of which is a new hyper oxygen-transmissible lens (HOTL), and one of which is ... well ... I didn't know the "Dk" (oxygen-transmissibility) of the other lens brand.
I spent several hours last Saturday Googling everything I could find on lens specifications, clinical trials, potential complications with different lenses and wear patterns, etc. The Net, bless it, turned out as always to be a tremendous boon to People Who Really Want to Know Things. I read thick studies in opthalmological journals and plowed though multi-page charts of specs for dozens of brands and varieties of lenses. No way can I claim to have understood everything, but the research gave me a good overview and useful specifics, and ... by damn, it was all there for anyone who wanted to know.
Except the tech specs on that second type of lens.
I went to the lens maker's (Coopervision's) own Web site. Hm. Nothing but two paragraphs of "sell" copy on that brand and a couple of happy-wearer pictures.
But aha! There's a link to a .pdf for a "patient data sheet." That'll be just what the doctor ordered. Click! [more]
Posted by Claire @ 08:46 AM CST [Link]
THE SOURCE FOR THIS STORY IS THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. No kidding. NOT The Onion.
FBI Warns Police: Be On the Lookout for People Carrying Almanacs.
Oh. And while you're at it, beware of terrorist fish.
Posted by Claire @ 07:02 AM CST [Link]
Monday, December 29, 2003
IS THIS REALLY TRUE? Is there really going to be (or is there already) a TV series about the Department of Homeland Security??? Not being a TV watcher, I haven't seen any promos for it. And there are only blippettes of info about it on the Web.
Tell me it's some fevered fantasy! Next, they'll be looking for the Bruce Willis of the future to star in "TSA: The Screener." It'll be about a tough (but loveable) rogue who kicks 80-year-old grannies in the balls because he's the only one who recognizes that they're really 30-year-old male agents of secret multi-ethnic terrorist groups, planning to hijack airline drinks carts.
(P.S. in the p.m.: enemyofthestate writes to confirm that yes, it's a real series -- but that it apparently hasn't been picked up by anyone yet. This .pdf prospectus has the info about it on the bottom of page 10.)
Posted by Claire @ 10:01 AM CST [Link]
A BIG SMOOCH TO SCARMIG FOR INTEGRITY AND GRIT:This is the story of how I successfully refused to accept a Social Security Number for my child.
I simply said “no.”
Really. That’s how easy it was. I just said no, again, and again.
And thanks to Strike-the-Root for printing Scarmig's entire account of his free and numberless baby.
If you're having a baby in 2004, maybe one of your New Year's resolutions should be to keep the government's hands off your newborn -- refusing an SSN and refusing to allow the state to put your baby's DNA into a database -- as some states are doing now without your consent.
Posted by Claire @ 09:50 AM CST [Link]
Friday, December 26, 2003
I'M SURE IT'S COMPLETELY, ABSOLUTELY, AROUND-THE-BEND PARANOID to suspect that it's no coincidence that the U.S. gets its first case of mad cow disease (and an urgent need to trace the entire life history of an individual animal) just days after the USDA announces plans for a Draconian, federally run nationwide tracking system for all livestock (which just happens to be a natural trial run for a future people-tracking system). It's completely flip-oid to imagine that that anybody would engineer a huge scare to sell the virtues of a system that folks might otherwise be suspicious about.
Yeah, completely whack-job, padded-cell paranoid. Don't go there.
Posted by Claire @ 03:13 PM CST [Link]
BRAZIL BANS PRIVATE OWNERSHIP OF FIREARMS"It is a demarcation line in every society," [Brazil's president] said following the signing. "It is important to call peace by it true name: social justice."
The law prohibits regular citizens from owning guns, limiting their ownership to police, security guards and other law enforcement officials ...
Funny how the people never learn (until it's too late) exactly how much "social justice" is achieved when governments possess the only legal arms. Not so funny at all, how well governments do understand the advantages of arms, in their own hands.
Posted by Claire @ 10:13 AM CST [Link]
KAREN DE COSTER GOT BUSY OVER CHRISTMAS and posted three blog entries on money matters. One is a brief note on the new bill that puts "anti-terrorist" clamps on precious metal dealers. Another delves into the extreme dangers of ballooning consumer debt (including both credit card use and the housing bubble). The third castigates Money magazine for its latest list of "best places to live."
As a typical math-challenged "girl," I'm always glad Karen (a CPA) is out there intelligently covering the money beat. Fortunately, even I understand the message of these three posts: The feds want to control (outlaw?) gold and silver; the economy is being Band-Aided together by consumer spending (which the Federal Reserve helps make monumentally profitable for banks); and Money magazine is talkin' to people who don't live like thee and me. (Or maybe like thee, but sure not like me. Or Karen.)
Karen points out how expensive many of Money's "best" communities are. I look at Money's list, which contains a few places I'm woefully familiar with, and I think traffic jams! smog! pretentious yuppies! crowds! malls! noise! no privacy! no space!.
I think YUCK.
Back when I worked in the corporate world, I actually lived in a couple of places that made the Money list while I was living in them. I still remember those two particular small cities fondly. (Neither is on the current list.) But even in those days I scanned the criteria the magazine uses to decide the "best" places & felt a little crosseyed. To Money, "best" means, among other things, having a lot of museums, parks, medical facilities, colleges, and "infrastructure."
Well, yeah, if it's a choice between those things and slums and rendering plants, those things are better, for sure. No doubt about it. But "best" -- no way. The little town I live near today has only a couple of useless, pocket-sized parks. But it has hundreds of square miles of open hills and woods on its doorstep, free for roaming, hunting, plinking, or just being left the heck alone. Its museums can be "done" in five minutes by any tourist making a potty stop. But they don't attract crowds and traffic. Its one school crams in everybody from kindergarten to 12th grade and then turns them loose to go to college someplace else. But it doesn't turn out any huge quotient of spoiled brats, gangsters, or dopers. AND it has a large, vibrant, supportive (and invisible to Money editors) homeschooling community. Its streets often don't have sidewalks and often do have potholes. But you can drive down those streets for years and never once get stuck in a traffic jam. When snow falls, it stays until it melts because there's no equipment to remove it. But the vistas are fabulous. It has higher-than average unemployment. But then, it also has a low enough cost of living to make that less catastrophic, and hundreds of people who routinely pitch in and do things for their neighbors and their community. It doesn't have any sophisticated high-tech centers nearby to provide rich jobs. But it doesn't have two-hour commutes. It also doesn't have a high-tech surveillance mentality or police-state cops, either. No red-light cameras, no metal-detectors, no street-corner surveillance cameras. Around here, mostly, if you haven't done anyone any harm, they leave you alone. And this great town has an additional blessing. It isn't anywhere near any center of state or federal government -- which so many of the cities on Money's list are.
I do sometimes miss ethnic restaurants, movie theaters that play something other than Disney, art museums, theater-theaters, elegant little specialty shops (that I couldn't afford, anyway), and being able to get my truck serviced at an actual dealer without making an all-day expedition of the matter. But when it comes to that overall, elusive "quality of life," life here as as unfettered, calm, secure, gorgeous, and free as you can find anywhere in the U.S. And it's just like this in hundreds of hidden places Money would look down its high-toned nose at.
Match that, Danville, California, or Alexandria, Virginia.
Posted by Claire @ 09:40 AM CST [Link]
Thursday, December 25, 2003
The cabin is filled this morning with the cinnamon-nutmeg aroma of baking cookies, with just a touch of last night's pine-scented candle still lingering. After two months of dodging every jingly-jangly rendition of "Jingle Bells," I've cranked up my favorite holiday music, the four-CD set, "The Revels Collection."* Later it'll be time for a "traditional" dinner of homemade ravioli, courtesy of Italian friends.
Over by the door, my gentle golden retriever (a gift from Debra and Torry Ricketts) lays with her head on a small, black, and so-far nameless cat, who seems as content as the retriever is with the arrangement. The other dogs snooze on their beds as the weather flirts with both snow and sun.
A day or two back I was discouraged about the lack of progress on the new book. After posting my whine, I got the warmest messages from friends Jim and Ceridwen, reminding me that I'm blessed to have people in my life who are as wise as they are caring. (And yes, the whine and the messages helped; the book is finally lurching ahead.) Yesterday I had a long, conspiratorial chat with Debra, definitely one of my favorite human beings, and later got a call from another faraway friend whose chaotic life reminds me to appreciate the woodsy silence I live in.
Christmas can be depressing, but today everything is conspiring to bring peace and joy. Even NPR -- usually a source of aggravation -- cooperated with a hopeful and very American story. The tale: When Mirro (the aluminum cookware company) closed a plant, laid-off 900 workers in Wisconsin, and moved the operation to Mexico, it could have been a typical sad story. But the ex-employees didn't just fall into depression or demand protective legislation. With cooperation from Mirro's parent company and dozens of small investors, they bought the factory and re-opened it. They've been working without pay for two months now. But they're working, and better yet, working for themselves. (Click and scroll down to listen to the feature.) What does it have to do with Christmas? Nothing. Or maybe everything, since this is the time we celebrate light breaking through darkness. And if Americans are still like that, then there is still light even in these dark, dark days.
I hope your holiday is as peaceful, musical, and fresh-scented as mine, and that wherever you are, you're doing what you love with people you love. I hope none of your friends or family members are away at war, and if they are, may they come home soon.
I haven't met most of you, yet I know I can also count many of you among my friends. Even on less peaceful days (or especially then), I'm grateful you're out there.
*If you might go postal -- or rather, go Wal-Mart -- after hearing "Frosty the Snowman" one more time, and if you like unusual music, check out these CDs. This collection is from the Christmas Revels, a threatrical solstice celebration produced every December around the U.S. It's about half traditional (but not necessarily familiar) Christian music and half general winter-celebration songs. Even its "Christmas standards" aren't standard -- with songs as varied as the "Sussex Mummer's Carol," "Go Tell it on the Mountain," and "Il Est Ne le Divin Enfant" (beloved by anybody who ever had a high school French class). When the revelers sing the imposing Latin processional, "Personent Hodie," you can almost see the candles glowing in some Medieval cathedral. And how can you not love "L'Homme Arme," a fiery, dramatic, not-exactly-Christmas carol of mysterious origins whose message is "beware the armed man"? (You can hear a sample of that one on the Revels Web site.)
"Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" it ain't.
Posted by Claire @ 01:21 PM CST [Link]
Wednesday, December 24, 2003
SHOULD SANTA BE TERM LIMITED? Paul Jacob answers a letter from Virginia Grinch
Posted by Claire @ 04:31 PM CST [Link]
LOOKING FOR HOPEFUL MESSAGES IN THIS SEASON OF LIGHT ... I lit up when HJ pointed out this Free State Project ad. The ad is running in South Carolina, where the pictured event was so notoriously perpetrated. Low budget -- big potential impact.
Nice job, FSP! Nice job, Amy Finstad, and Jim Maynard!
Posted by Claire @ 01:50 PM CST [Link]
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
LOTS OF THINGS MIGHT STRIKE YOU IN THIS ACCOUNT OF AN AUSTRALIAN JOURNALIST'S "DETENTION" IN THE U.S. Its creepy coldness. Its irrationality. Its mindless bureaucratic procedures in defiance of all reality. The bizarre paranoia of airport functionaries when confronted with a woman who works for "a cross between Good Housekeeping and People" -- and whose subversive mission in the U.S. was to interview Olivia Newton-John. About breast cancer.
But what struck me was a sign: "Your silence is appreciated." It reminds me of something.
Atek3 sent this -- with a note that his Russian emigre co-worker says yes indeed it looks a lot like the KGB is alive and thriving in America.
Posted by Claire @ 12:09 PM CST [Link]
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY! Ninety years ago today, the fedgov created the Federal Reserve system, thus hijacking the U.S. banking system & turning it into a hog trough for big government. Hm. Maybe that's not such a happy anniversary, after all.
But there's some good news. The Foundation for Economic Education, from which that linked article came, has a new leader, Richard Ebeling. And FEE has gone back to the original great name for their publication, The Freeman. (They changed it to the whimpy, but politically correct, Ideas on Liberty a few years ago, after a few fools mistook their Freeman for those Freemen, in Montana.) Let's hope the new pres and revived name signal new energy from one of liberty's revered institutions.
Posted by Claire @ 09:41 AM CST [Link]
I JUST SPOKE WITH A WRITER YESTERDAY who said working on his latest book had been fun. I damn near called the little men in the white coats on him.
Fun??? Everybody knows that writing (especially book writing) is sheer, bloody misery. We know that because generations of writers have told us so, in grim and harrowing detail -- usually right before they drown themselves or die from the effects of some form of habitual self-destructiveness, be it whiskey, cigarettes, reckless driving, risky sex, or heroin.
Okay, you gotta consider the source. Most writers, for all that they whine about their travails, would probably not trade their trade for the opportunity to work 60 hours a week on the graveyard shift in a dog-food factory. There's a certain amount of self-indulgence in all their hand-wringing & ya gotta take it with a grain of salt (preferably not followed by a writerly shot of tequila). And writers, sitting at their desks all day communicating, have more opportunity to tell us about their miseries than, say, a coal-miner does.
That said, however, writing is a frickin' miserable occupation. And at this allegedly jolly holiday time, I'm in agonies of awareness of that fact.
I'm three months behind on a book that just won't come together. The book's due any day, and aside from some concept work, I haven't got a useful word on paper. To be honest, even the best of the concept work isn't my own, but came from Clairefiles forum participants and from webmistress Debra and her husband Torry.
Some books are like this. The pain is like the world's longest labor. It's necessary. It's your unconscious's way of telling you the book you're trying to write isn't the best book you could write & you've got to change your approach. So your "under-mind" fights you -- and it doesn't fight fair. Instead of coming out cleanly and saying, "Look, that idea doesn't work; try something different," your brain inflicts you with bouts of overwhelming drowsiness, with urgent needs to get up right now and put that spoon in the dishwasher, [more]
Posted by Claire @ 09:18 AM CST [Link]
Monday, December 22, 2003
EMERSON ON HEROISM.
"The characteristic of heroism is its persistency. All men have wandering impulses, fits and starts of generosity. But when you have chosen your part, abide by it, and do not weakly try to reconcile yourself with the world. The heroic cannot be the common, nor the common heroic. Yet we have the weakness to expect the sympathy of people in those actions whose excellence is that they outrun sympathy and appeal to a tardy justice. If you would serve your brother because it is fit for you to serve him, do not take back your words when you find that prudent people do not commend you." --Ralph Waldo Emerson
Posted by Claire @ 12:37 PM CST [Link]
Sunday, December 21, 2003
THE TRIAL RUN FOR NATIONWIDE PEOPLE-TRACKING. Here it is, folks. The trial run for tracking you from coast to coast and birth to grave (or birth to slaughter, as the linked article so charmingly puts it). And how appropriate -- it begins with cattle and other (undefined) livestock.
I wish I could post this one in neon letters 100 feet high. Because if people don't get it now, they'll never get it, ever. Ever. Not until they, too, are in the cattle cars. This system is, of course, complete overkill for the stated purpose (disease prevention). And did anybody outside of government or the factory-farming industry every even hear a whisper of the planning for a nationwide livestock tracking system until it burst full-blown upon us?
It's sheer perfection as a model for a future electronic "internal passport" system for docile, moo-ing, baa-ing human beings.USDA creating national livestock ID system
By Teresa Bjork, Iowa Farm Bureau
...The National Food Animal Identification Task Force recommends that
the USDA implement the plan in three phases:
* Phase I - All premises involved in livestock production,
including farms, auction barns and processing facilities, will
receive an ID number that is unique throughout the United
States. The task force proposes that phase I begin in July 2004.
* Phase II - All livestock will receive unique individual ID
numbers, beginning July 2005. In the case of pork and poultry,
groups or lots will receive unique ID numbers. Animals will
receive visible eartags featuring the ID numbers. Starting in
July 2005, the system will use radio frequency identification
devices (RFID) to electronically identify animals.
* Phase III - All animal movements will be tracked electronically.
The reporting of interstate animal movements will begin in July
2005, while intrastate movement tracing will begin in July 2006.
APHIS will maintain a centralized database to collect all ID information
under the proposed system. U.S. animal health officials will use the
information only for animal disease control.
Katherine Albrecht, as usual, was the first to spot and grab this item. Katherine, I don't know how you can watch the future that's coming at you and still have hope.
Posted by Claire @ 08:01 PM CST [Link]
JUST READ TOM RIDGE'S COMPLETE STATEMENT on raising the U.S. terror status from yellow to orange. What stands out, aside from the standard, maddening vagueness, is the total exclusion of ordinary citizens from all "homeland defense." What are we supposed to do, since the fedgov believes our lives, our country, our cities, our families, our futures are threatend?
Why, nothing, of course.
No, not quite nothing. We're supposed to comply more snappily with airport security. Take those computers out of their cases before the TSA screeners ask. Empty our pockets before we're told to.
That's it, folks. We can't be trusted to defend what's ours. Or even to be clued in about what might threaten everything we hold dear. Our only job in the defense of America (unless we hire on as government employees) is ... to shut up and comply with the secret plans of our betters.
Posted by Claire @ 03:23 PM CST [Link]
Saturday, December 20, 2003
HELP AGAINST DESPAIR. On a CASPIAN e-list, activists were talking about despair and how they cope with it. I know hopelessness is a huge problem for freedom lovers -- and especially for anti-surveillance activists. It's horrifying to watch 1984 rush in at lightspeed while most of the world says "ho hum" and most of the media says "gee whiz, ain't that nifty!"
CASPIAN founder, Katherine Albrecht, posted her own observations & gave me permission to print them in full here. They're some of the wisest I've read on the subject.
Even for us skeptics who can't share Katherine's religious convictions, the best part of her essay is the part you'll find under the subhead "Faith, faith, faith." Click "more" and gain a little consolation. [more]
Posted by Claire @ 10:37 AM CST [Link]
PETA IS REALLY EVIL. The other day, I wrote about the unethical, bullying tactics of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Now JB sends a far worse example: PETA activists turning up at holiday performances of The Nutcracker, traumatizing children and trying to destroy families by giving kids flyers saying their fur-wearing mothers are killers.
The flyers even warn kids to keep the family kitties and puppies away from mom, since she might slaughter them.
What's the point of this? To help animals? I don't think so.
The most generous thing you could say is that this is an example of insensitive, uncaring spoiled-brattism. PETA is throwing one big whiny-baby tantrum and not caring how many innocent children get hit and hurt by its self-indulgent flailing. And to think that hundreds of thousands of genuine animal lovers are duped by PETA's clever PR face into supporting this sort of pure destructiveness ... shudder!
(FWIW, I believe we should stop killing animals solely for the sake of human vanity. Killing for pride or status is quite a different thing than killing to eat. Casual killing diminishes us. But this sure as hell isn't the way to reach that goal.)
Posted by Claire @ 09:30 AM CST [Link]
Friday, December 19, 2003
WHAT IS IT WITH THE GIVE ME LIBERTY CONFERENCE, ANYWAY? Two months ago, Bob Schultz's We the People anti-income-tax group published a speakers lineup for the January 2004 GML conference that included every luminary but God. Walter Williams would be there. Charley Reese. Nat Hentoff. James Bovard. Ron Paul. Rep. Henry Hyde. Attorney Mark Lane. Constitutional scholar and Yale professor Akhil Reed Amar. Judge Roy Moore (of 10 Commandments fame). Alan Keyes. Journalist Bernard Goldberg. Joseph Farah. And -- get this! -- Mel Gibson.
The little teeny caveat that these were merely "invited speakers" and "subject to change" was easy to miss. And it was rather beside the point to begin with. You might list one speaker with such a caveat if that speaker had said, "I'm really interested but not sure I can make it." No one with sense or honor would list a whole slate of invitees that way.
If you're a well-known person invited to speak at a public event, and an organizer begins publicizing your presence without even checking to see whether you're vaguely interested -- you would be pissed, seriously. You're being very cynically used for your PR value. And if you're a person thinking of paying money to attend the conference, you'd have even more right to be outraged. The applicable term is bait-and-switch.
I notice they've gradually been removing "speakers" over time. Bovard is gone (at his request). But Mel Gibson and all those others are still listed. A month before the conference, there's still absolutely no way of telling how many of the famous individuals being offered as bait will be there. I'll bet most of them don't know they're being advertised as speakers.
Now, for five days, We the People has had an article at the top of their Web site proclaiming " 2nd Amendment Battle Leaders Come To The GML 2004 National Conference." They claim their Second Amendment panel will be moderated by columnist Joseph Sobran and will include Larry Pratt of GOA, Angel Shamaya of KeepandBearArms.com, And JPFO's Aaron Zelman, among others. And there are no "invited speaker/subject to change" asterisks after their names.Well, I haven't asked the rest of those folks, but I know for sure that Aaron Zelman never committed to attend the conference -- and has told We the People twice to remove his name.
I believe in tax resistance. I believe the income tax is both theft and slavery. I believe all taxation is morally wrong and the income tax is one of the worst of the lot. I believe the beast of tyranny won't die until we starve it to death by withdrawing what it feeds on -- tax money.
But I've mostly stayed away from the organized "tax protest" movement because 1) the arcane legal theories on which it relies completely miss the essentials of the matter, 2) the arcane legal theories on which it relies are mostly wrong, 3) the arcane legal theories on which it relies will get you in unnecessary trouble even if they're absolutely, 100 percent correct, and 4) the movement is full of scam artists and it's sometimes impossible to distinguish the sincere, correct crusader from the sleazeball.
Bob Schultz has always looked to me like one of the sincere ones. His hunger strikes and bold attempts to gain public hearings from the fedgov have seemed real, even if -- pardon the pun -- fruitless. But listing speakers who've never even given an interested sniff to your invitation is sleazy. And continuing to list them after they've said no is deceptive, dishonest, manipulative, and fraudulent.
(FOLLOW-UP POST 1/1/04: "I'm guilty of malicious misrepresentation!"
Posted by Claire @ 10:44 AM CST [Link]
WERE YOU A NERD IN JR. HIGH OR HIGH SCHOOL? Or were you a freak or a geek or a stoner ... or any other sort of miserable (but smart) soul who just didn't fit in? I'll bet if you're a regular reader of this blog, you were. You were one of those "different drummer" sorts who was not only an outsider, but who was cruelly ostracized for it by your alleged peers.
This morning, LewRockwell.com linked to a February 2003 essay by Paul Graham, "Why Nerds Are Unpopular." It's very long -- far longer than you might imagine it would require to answer that question. I mean, "Nerds are dorks. They don't know how to dress, what to talk about, or how to play the game." There's your answer. End of discussion.
But if the terrible ache of being a 14-year-old social outsider has never quite left you ... or if you've got a child or a young friend in that position ... or if you care about systemic problems that damage countless good individuals (and damage society, itself) bookmark this thing and settle in for a weekend read. I don't know who Paul Graham is. Never heard of him. He seems to be a computer super-geek with specialties in Lisp and spam-prevention. His bio says he's the inventer of the Arc language. All of his other articles, including one titled "Being Popular," are tech-related. But the longer his "nerd" article goes on, the more profound, large-scale, social & societal problems he analyzes from his grown-up-geek perspective. This article is as cogent as any sociological study, yet it all arises from the very personal experience of having been an outsider.
As a former "art weirdo" (think Winona Ryder in "Beetlejuice," only a lot taller and not so gorgeous), I identified. But better, I also understood. Kudos Paul Graham, whoever you may be. May you help millions of smart, sensitive kids get through it and help millions of grownups change that unreal system that crushes so many spirits.
Posted by Claire @ 10:03 AM CST [Link]
Thursday, December 18, 2003
APPEALS COURT SAYS BUSH CAN'T HOLD U.S. CITIZEN:NEW YORK (Reuters) - The president of the United States does not have the power to detain an American citizen seized on U.S. soil as an enemy combatant, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday, in a serious setback to the Bush administration's war on terror.
What a concept! If the government believes Jose Padilla is guilty of a crime, they'll actually have to transfer him into the justice system, give him a hearing, charge him, let him talk to a lawyer, and show their evidence to a jury.
That's the good news. The bad news is the court seems to think Congress does have the power to authorize arresting American citizens and holding them indefinitely without charges, trial, or access to counsel. Where the court got that idea, who knows? They sure didn't get it by reading the Bill of Rights.
But at least this is very good news until and unless Congress comes up with an unconstitutional law the courts would approve of. (Oh yeah, they can also still hold him as a material witness ... another practice that's seen some sad abuse lately.)
Posted by Claire @ 02:20 PM CST [Link]
LONG LIVE THE KING! I drove to the Big City yesterday to catch "Return of the King." Well, not exactly the Big City, but at least a town with a two-plex that shows first-run movies (rather than the local one-plex, which has finally quit showing "Anastasia" and moved on to a perpetual run of "Finding Nemo").
The short form of my review is: All the essential elements are fully, brilliantly intact. And none of Jackson's departures from Tolkein do harm. In fact, unlike the egregious Hollywoody changes in "The Two Towers," a few of the departures in ROTK actually enhance the story.
Currently, there are 141 reviews of ROTK online at RottenTomatoes.com. That 138 are "fresh" and only three "rotten" says it all. The trilogy has risen powerfully to its feet after the stumbles of TTT. It has ended in one grand, glorious cinematic victory.
Quibble with this detail or that (as we no doubt will, for decades), but nobody can deny that Jackson has done monumentally right by one of the most challenging stories any filmmaker could ever take on. In fact, I can't imagine any director who could have done better.
With 141 reviews already out there and more to come, I'm not going to write a formal review of my own. But throughout this morning I'll be jotting down some random impressions. Since they contain some spoilers, I'll put them behind the "more" link. [more]
Posted by Claire @ 06:27 AM CST [Link]
WITH BURT RUTAN'S BRAINS AND PAUL ALLEN'S MONEY SpaceShipOne goes supersonic in its first test. Hooray!
Posted by Claire @ 05:44 AM CST [Link]
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
PETA IS EVIL INCARNATE. Sometimes you know these things in an abstract way, but you don't grok how bad some rotten thing is until it oozes over you or your friends. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is one of those oozing rottennesses.
It's fairly obvious to anybody paying attention that PETA uses a "cute puppy and kitty" approach to lure unwitting animal lovers into supporting a hidden, radical agenda that includes support for violence, the end to all meat and dairy farming (even the most humane sorts), the abolition of all hunting and fishing, and total vegetarianism imposed on the unwilling. This human-hating agenda has been well exposed and countered by the Center for Consumer Freedom. (Scroll down that page to see their PETA-pillorying ads.)
Two days ago, Backwoods Home magazine published my latest Hardyville column -- about how PETA tried to stop a tiny rural group from raising funds via a pig raffle. Now, those events didn't really happen in Hardyville. But they did happen in a poverty-stricken small town somewhere outside of Hardyville. I've fictionalized them only a bit.
I don't agree with the pig raffle, myself. And the irony of a pig being raffled off to build an animal shelter is ... well, very thick. But I'm glad that neither the Hardyvillians nor the real-life folks PETA went after gave an inch.
I knew some things about PETA before, but what I learned from my friends' experience is that PETA is, at bottom, nothing but a schoolyard bully. And you don't give in to a bully, no matter what. Like bullies everywhere, PETA deliberately picks small targets -- like a church serving turkey at a holiday dinner or like an underfunded rural charitable group desperate to raise money -- and pursues them relentlessly, using personal harassment, media pressure, street theater, and whatever threats they can concoct. Their aim is to intimidate these "easy marks." And if they fail at intimidation ... then to destroy.
With all the serious animal abuse in the world -- all the ghastly factory farms, all the puppy mills in which dogs live and die in filth and misery, all the people who torment animals -- big, well-funded, national PETA instead chooses to focus its most intense efforts on the nobodies.
When PETA's complaints first hit the media, my friends got a call from a woman who offered to "buy out" the entire raffle and save the pig. The woman wasn't pro-PETA. On the contrary. She was a victim of PETA herself, who wanted to save my friends from what she warned would be a ceaseless, relentless campaign of harassment. Her "crime"? She had once been interviewed for a publication. During that interview, she was wearing a fake fur coat -- "faux fur," as it's sometimes called. Somewhere between interview and publication, "faux" got changed to "fox." And PETA came after her. No matter how many times she explained that she'd never worn a fur coat, they refused to believe her and kept up a campaign of harassment, designed to destroy her personal and professional reputation.
My friends thanked her for her offer but said no. The woman was right, though. PETA sent its mindless minions after them, relentlessly. So many PETA members called to harass one of the local veterinarians working with the group that the vet had to get a phone trap to record their numbers and threaten to prosecute those responsible. Someone called pretending to want to volunteer at the vet's clinic (then left a return phone number for a location thousands of miles away). That night, after hours, a clinic employee who'd been out walking dogs nearly jumped out of her skin when she came into the clinic exam room to find two complete strangers, who refused to say why they were there, but tried to pump her for information. At every stage of contact, PETA reps, both local and national, lied about their intentions, their identities, and everything else they could possibly lie about. The vet finally had to threaten prosecution to keep PETA protesters off clinic property. Next, the state gaming commission called to investigate the possibly "illegal" raffle. (How did the state government even hear about this tiny charity raffle in the middle of nowhere? Take a guess.) And on it went.
In the meantime, factory farms went on causing misery to thousands, even millions, of animals. And commercial slaughterhouses went about their business unmolested (as, IMHO, they should). And puppy mills still reeked with suffering, dying, sick, excrement-caked, bred-to-death dogs. And PETA didn't stop pursuing my friends.
Want some more irony? My friends are trying to build a no-kill animal shelter. No-kill is a policy many animal rescue groups now practice or strive toward. But not PETA. In 1999, PETA's own shelters took in about 2,100 dogs and cats and slaughtered more than 1,300 of them! If you read the PETA profile linked above, you'll also discover that less than one percent of PETA's multi-million-dollar resources go toward helping animals. PETA's alleged charitable arm, the PETA Foundation, is one of the few in the nation rated "zero" by Charity Navigator, a watchdog group.
You've gotta ask, what's PETA's priority? It obviously has nothing to do with saving animals.
Posted by Claire @ 01:36 PM CST [Link]
FASCINATING ARTICLE ON THE NEW $20 BILLS AND THE UNDERGROUND ECONOMY linked from LewRockwell.com today. Are the bills being introduced (among other reasons) to give an artificial boost to the economy and generate revenues for the state by prompting cash-hoarders to dump their old bills?
Posted by Claire @ 12:46 PM CST [Link]
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
AMERICAN CITIZEN STILL HELD WITHOUT COUNSEL. (But somehow, that's okay.)WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen being held incommunicado as an enemy combatant, can meet with a lawyer once the government decides it would not hamper his interrogation, Justice Department officials said on Tuesday.
Senior department officials said "dirty bomb" suspect Padilla, a U.S. citizen held without access to a lawyer for more than 18 months, may eventually meet with an attorney. Lawyers for Padilla have been arguing for access to him and the case is pending before a U.S. appeals court in New York.
"Once the intelligence collection efforts are judged not to be hampered or jeopardized by access to counsel, then there's no objection to access to counsel," one of the officials said. ...
The official said the Defense Department would make the determination that could eventually lead to Padilla's getting access to a lawyer. ...
One official said the U.S. government was not trying to prevent enemy combatants from having access to lawyers.
"Denial of access to counsel has never been an objective for anybody," he said.
Denial of access to counsel has never been an objective????? I'm sure that's a great comfort to Mr. Padilla and to every American citizen who wants the Bill of Rights to remain intact to protect freedom and ensure justice.
"First they came for the 'enemy combatants,' but I wasn't an 'enemy combatant,' so ..."
Posted by Claire @ 06:42 PM CST [Link]
TODAY'S THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE BOSTON TEA PARTY! My veterinarian, of all people, just called to remind me. In the name of Samuel Adams, do something a little rebellious today.
Posted by Claire @ 12:12 PM CST [Link]
Monday, December 15, 2003
AND JUST IN TIME FOR BILL OF RIGHTS DAY comes the latest James Bovard article -- this one on so-called Free-Speech Zones where demonstrators (usually only anti-Bush demonstrators) are shunted out of sight of the president and the media. Those who insist on exercising free speech outside the fenced, barricaded, isolated zones are charged with trespassing and other crimes and may be reported to the FBI as possible terrorists.
As usual, Jim finds the story behind the story. As in this sample:The feds have offered some bizarre rationales for hog-tying protesters. Secret Service agent Brian Marr explained to National Public Radio, "These individuals may be so involved with trying to shout their support or non-support that inadvertently they may walk out into the motorcade route and be injured. And that is really the reason why we set these places up, so we can make sure that they have the right of free speech, but, two, we want to be sure that they are able to go home at the end of the evening and not be injured in any way." Except for having their constitutional rights shredded.
Marr's comments are a mockery of this country's rich heritage of vigorous protests. Somehow, all of a sudden, after George W. Bush became president people became so stupid that federal agents had to cage them to prevent them from walking out in front of speeding vehicles.
And just think. We imagined it was bad when Bill Clinton had people investigated for barking "You suck!" At least, back in those sweetly nostalgic days, presidents could still hear Americans who had opinions other than their own.
Posted by Claire @ 04:31 PM CST [Link]
HAPPY BILL OF RIGHTS DAY! It's too late to alert the media this year, but today is your perfect opportunity to start planning next year's celebration (and media consciousness-raising) for the BoR and the freedoms it endorses. Get your Bill of Rights Day materials at JPFO.
Posted by Claire @ 12:06 PM CST [Link]
THE NEWEST HARDYVILLE COLUMN IS UP AT BACKWOODS HOME. Webmaster Oliver del Signore did a great job with it, as usual.
BTW, BHM also lists 101 Things as still being available in their book store. Since it's sold out here and at the publisher, if you want a copy you might check that out. (Ceridwen also writes to say that Laissez Faire Books is still offering both 101 Things andDon't Shoot. It's possible that some vendors have stocks they ordered before 101 ran out. Other vendors, I know, are still listing 101 as a special-order item, not realizing they can't obtain it.)
Posted by Claire @ 06:20 AM CST [Link]
WITH ALL THE HOOPLA ABOUT THE CAPTURE OF SADDAM, I tried all day yesterday to think of something pertinent to say. The only thing that kept coming to me was one tyrant down ... 200 more to go. Where does it end? Of course I'm glad they got the bastard, at last. The other shoe has dropped.
Posted by Claire @ 06:15 AM CST [Link]
Sunday, December 14, 2003
CHARITY FOR THE HOLIDAYS. The other day I wrote about Military Mascots, the program that helps U.S. soldiers feed and give medical care to dogs they adopt while stationed overseas. That got me thinking about other little-known good causes.
In the spirit of the season, I hope every visitor to this site will stop right now and make a donation to some charitable group that accepts NO government funding. Thank them both for what they do AND for not doing it with stolen money.
I've composed a small list of charities for starters. Some are "official" 501(c)(3) (tax deductable) organizations. Some have refused even that minimal connection to government. Most are local, not national. Some are religious, some secular. Given my biases, a lot of them help animals, as well as people. (Some do both at once.) But all are doing something useful. And with the exceptions noted, they don't take your money against your will in the name of doing good.
Step 13 -- A "tough-love" program in Denver to get street winos and junkies (they don't call them "the homeless") to accept responsibility for their lives, get jobs, and become independent. Started by a former bum who's under no illusions about the games addicts play to feed their habits.
Disabled Businesspersons Association -- A San Diego group helping disabled people to be entrepreneurs. Among other things, they sponsor ChallengedAmerica, a serious ocean sailing program for handicapped people. (The DBA works with government in some cases to help its clients, but its own funding is private.)
Harbor Association of Volunteers for Animals -- Caring for homeless and abused animals in an economically struggling corner of Washington state.
St Anthony's Dining Room (no web site) 45 Jones Street, San Francisco, CA, Phone: (415) 241-2600 -- Famous for its holiday meals for the poor.
Foundation for an Independent Tomorrow (no web site) 2069 East Sahara Avenue, Las Vegas, NV 89104, Phone: (702) 362-8544 -- Helps people (primarily women) get off welfare and into decent jobs.
Pets Alive Animal Sanctuary -- A large New York sanctuary that often takes in animals (both pets and farm animals) rejected by other shelters. Founded by Sara Whalen, a former non-animal-lover whose story, "Just an Old Golden Retriever" is as moving a real-life tale as you'd ever want to read.
National Relief Charities -- Helping American Indians in the northern plains and southwest build self-sufficient communities. (A factoid from their Web site: Did you know that 80 percent of the budget of the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs goest to maintain ... the Bureau of Indian Affairs?)
Guide Dogs of America -- One of several charities that match blind people with dogs to help increase their mobility and self-reliance. And here's a whole list of programs in which prisoners are training service dogs for the disabled. Despite their locations, most of the programs are developed without state funds. Everybody wins -- the animals who are rescued from shelters, the prisoners who learn something about humanity, and the disabled people whose lives are made better through the presence of a well-trained and loving companion.
Do you know a free-enterprise charity in your area?
Posted by Claire @ 04:14 PM CST [Link]
Saturday, December 13, 2003
"THE WAL-MART YOU DON'T KNOW." Katherine Albrecht of CASPIAN sends this grimly fascinating business-mag article about what it's like for suppliers to deal with Wal-Mart.
She hopes it'll break my (and a lot of other people's) "Wal-Mart addiction." I pretty much gave up Wal-Mart over its attempts to impose RFID on the world ... mostly. Well, almost entirely. (Yeah, like an alcoholic who takes "just a little drink now and then.") Sigh. I miss it -- and when you live in the middle of nowhere, you know that the Wal-Mart in the next big town is all there is.
The article shows both good and bad aspects to Wal-Mart's astonishing clout. But even Wal-Mart's "good" side -- forcing its suppliers to be more efficient and competitive -- casts a dark shadow.
Posted by Claire @ 10:12 AM CST [Link]
Friday, December 12, 2003
ARMY ORDERS SOLDIERS IN IRAQ TO KILL THEIR PUPPY. What more can you say? It's "the rules." No wonder Apache loved her 130 soldiers but distrusted all their officers. But then ... in the end she should have distrusted the soldiers, too.
This program, Military Mascots, could have helped. If you love dogs and want to uplift the morale of soldiers, you might want to make a holiday donation to the cause.
Posted by Claire @ 10:23 AM CST [Link]
Thursday, December 11, 2003
FREE-MARKET.NET HAS PUBLISHED A SPOTLIGHT ON INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. It's called "Rights in Conflict?" by Sunni Maravillosa. Sunni was a participant in the online IP discussion that got me so steamed last week. She and I don't necessarily agree on copyright issues, but where I got mad, she got thoughful.
If you don't know where you come down on IP, "Rights in Conflict?" is a good place to begin an exploration. Sunni gives an overview of this complex issue, with ample links to more info. Excellent job, Sunni.
Posted by Claire @ 04:04 PM CST [Link]
CHRISMUKAH. Happy Unified Holiday. (But why do these clever little things always circulate on the Net with no author's name attached? Somebody deserves an attaboy for this one.)
Posted by Claire @ 01:21 PM CST [Link]
JIM BOVARD SPOKE AT A CATO FORUM yesterday, which you can view or listen to here. Jim's latest book, Terrorism and Tyranny is a must-read. Statistics from the book turned up in Jim's speech -- stats on murder by "private" terrorism vs murder by government during the same recent period. Guess which is worse, by orders of magnitude? Hm. Kinda makes you wonder why we're not all conducting a War on Government, rather than all these other wars.
Jim also sent a nice note:Your blog is superb. ...
I vigorously second your views on intellectual property. Most of the people who oppose intellectual property rights are the kind of writers who don't need to worry about a copyright to protect their own work -- there is no risk of them ever being plagiarized. (Or they are part of the think tank crowd that relies on salaries from foundations, not from hacking out a living by finding individuals who would actually pay for their work).
Jim promises a healthy rant about think-tankers in general at some later date. Oh, goodie. :-)
Despite any author's defense of IP, it's pretty damn horrifying (yet somehow not surprising) to learn that the director of the ATF, Bradley Buckles, is about to take a job as the RIAA's copyright-enforcement honcho. The Recording Industry Association of America already represents everything that's wrong with copyright law and IP enforcement. Adding ATF ninja tactics isn't going to help the cause.
What corporations and governments have been doing with copyright law is outrageous. I don't support them for one minute. My position is that, if we value the work of the human mind, we ensure disaster if we throw the precious baby (intellectual property rights) out with the dirty bathwater (the egregious Digital Millennium Copyright Act, twisted concepts of digital-rights management, and copyrights extended into damn-near perpetuity).
But the corporations and industry associations playing IP games? They're dirty water, indeed -- and with the hiring of Buckles, it looks as if they're about to get worse.
Posted by Claire @ 09:41 AM CST [Link]
RESEARCHERS FIND INAPPROPRIATE DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT given to Jack, Jill, Humpty, et al. -- not to mention possible child abuse in the case of the baby in the treetop. ;-)
Posted by Claire @ 09:14 AM CST [Link]
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
TWO KILLED IN "CIGARETTE WAR" Oh my. It had to happen. Thanks to stupidly high taxes that encourage interstate smuggling, the illegal cigarette biz is now getting violent. So reports the Cato Institute.
No doubt federal "cigarette warriors" will soon step in to make the free-market cigarette trade even more violent. And who'll be the eventual "cigarette czar," do you suppose?
Posted by Claire @ 02:37 PM CST [Link]
THE OTHER SHOE HAS DROPPED. With the help of Judicial Watch Elian Gonzales' family is finally suing the fedgov.
While looking for a copy of the famous photo -- you know, the one that so touchingly shows the fedgov's gentle concern for a terrified six-year-old boy -- I Googled upon this Web site, the SHAFT Rogues Gallery of Supervillains, Terrorist Organizations, Petty Thugs, and Evil Plots. And ya know, while I don't usually give much credance to conspiracy theories, I think this just might explain everything. Not just everything, but Everything.
Posted by Claire @ 10:19 AM CST [Link]
Tuesday, December 9, 2003
THINKING ABOUT PRINCIPLES. The recent debate about intellectual property has got me thinking about something related -- applying principles to real-world situations. Libertarians (me included, of course!) love principles. And certainly if you had to choose between living in a world run by principles and one run on pure pragmatism, the principled world would be both the nobler, and safer, choice.
Or would it?
Leaving aside the fact that some principles can be downright evil ("From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" comes to mind), principled idealists -- left, right, libertarian, religious, atheistic, or otherwise -- often get into a bad habit of thinking that the principle must supercede human reality. Where human needs conflict with the principle -- by golly, the real, living human beings should ram and jam themselves into the abstract principle. (IMHO, this is what's going on with folks who say that, because they can't think of a principled way to enforce creators' rights, then there ARE no creators rights, and ALL rights are invested in physical possession of objects like books and CDs. That said, I don't want to make this another rant about IP.)
As a principled idealist myself, I hate admitting it. But it's no great secret that the world's most destructive monsters have been idealists. The problem wasn't just that their ideals were warped (Hitler with his Aryan dreams, Pol Pot with his agrarian paradise). A big part of the problem is that they considered the ideal to be so perfect, so sacrosanct, so unassailable that anybody who got in the way of its implementation could be destroyed without the idealist feeling a flicker of conscience.
If a problem arises, well, it must simply be one of adjustment. Keep applying the principle, don't worry about having to break a lot of eggs, and eventually you'll have a delicious omlette. Except somehow, you just have to keep breaking and breaking and breaking ...
Do I believe libertarians would ever become mass murderers in the name of individual freedom? Nope. But I do believe many of us would ruthlessly roll over a lot of people rather than question the workability of our own ideals. Too many of us hold an icy determination that an ideal is correct even when others point out many ways in which rigid application of the ideal would harm innocent people.
In everyday reality, all kinds of decisions are -- and should be -- made more by compromise than by principle. My neighbor and I both have property rights. A principle. So we live side-by-side in agreement about where the boundary is between his land and mine. Fine, so far. But if my dogs bark or the noise from his party wafts up the hill, no absolute principle dictates how we deal with the situation. We may decide that I should keep the dogs in after 10:00 p.m. or that he have parties only once a month, but that those parties can be as loud as he likes. Compromises. If we can't agree, then some third party comes in (be that police or free-market arbitrators) and enforces some other compromise. My dogs must be silent from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. because county ordinance XYZ says so. His parties must end at midnight because that's what the arbitrator gets us both to agree to. More compromises.
If this seems perfectly obvious, bear with me. We libertarians, in trying to work out how things ought to be in our ideal, anarcho-capitalist world, want to discover a principle to govern every circumstance, every decision that must be made. When we can't find a principle, we beat our heads against the wall. Or we invent a principle, declare it valid in all circumstances, and defend it with every bit of passion and logic we can concoct.
But even in some ultimate free-market system all kinds of compromises and purely pragmatic decisions will govern all kinds of activities, not only between individuals but on a very large scale. A cartel of private road operators will agree on common standards so that drivers won't have to memorize the rules of 100 different free-market freeways. Publishers may get together with distributors to shut out other publishers that don't respect ethical copyright standards. After a while, merely to keep the machinery of society cranking smoothly, all manner of rules will develop that look almost governmental -- and, to anybody seeking a capital-P Principle, appear quite arbitrary.
In the real world, principles certainly should underly systems, but they simply don't, and can't, rule every circumstance between human beings. Without compromise and pragmatism, we'd all be a bunch of robots -- and we'd all be crashing mindlessly into each other all the time because we'd never be able to agree on all the little everyday decisions that make it possible to live around and with each other.
Posted by Claire @ 04:11 PM CST [Link]
DID YOU HEAR THE ONE ABOUT THE PRIEST WHO DESCRIBED CHILD MOLESTATION AS AN OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD? Unfortunately, it's not a joke. He was defending a fellow priest who enticed a boy into his car on false premises, had sex with the kid, then defended himself in court by saying, "If you did away with celibacy, all this would go away." The guilty priest also called the boy "a lovely slice of cake" he just couldn't resist.
I'm sure there's lots to be said pro and con for celibacy. I'm sure there are folks reading this who think there's not much wrong with middle-aged men having sex with 15-year-olds of either sex. (Though I hope even those folks would be offended at the luring lie and the pressure put upon the kid.) But with attitudes like these coming from supposed spiritual shepherds, it's no wonder that at least one person has decided to take the law into his own hands.
Posted by Claire @ 02:49 PM CST [Link]
Monday, December 8, 2003
JANKLOW GUILTY ON ALL COUNTS. After just five hours of deliberation, a jury found former Gov./Rep. Bill Janklow guilty on all four counts -- speeding, running a stop sign, reckless driving, and second-degree manslaughter.
For decades, Janklow has epitomized the abusive, untouchable politician -- and his driving has notoriously epitomized his disregard for the rights of others. It's a terrible thing that a man had to die before Janklow was finally found out, but wonderful to see a politician finally being held to account for his actions like any other human being.
Now, if he just doesn't get a slap-on-the-wrist sentence ...
Posted by Claire @ 06:31 PM CST [Link]
GALILEO AND CAPPS II. What the hell is Galileo? you might wonder. And what does it have to do with me? If you ever fly, rent a vehicle, or make a hotel reservation, you'd better check out that link.
Galileo is a subsidiary of something called Cendant. If you were to boycott Cendant -- which wouldn't be a bad idea -- you'd have to boycott about half the travel industry (Avis, Budget, cheaptickets.com., Howard Johnson, Travelodge, Super 8, etc., etc.) and a good bit of the real estate and financial industries (Coldwell Banker, Century 21, and a host of lesser-knowns).
This is another heads-up from Rick in Germany, who sent such a bundle of weirdness today I couldn't begin to blog it all. On the lighter side of the police state, take a look at this U.S. news item from freedom's friend in Deutschland. Do these cops and their bosses have no shame?
Posted by Claire @ 08:46 AM CST [Link]
EVERYTHING THERE IS TO SAY ABOUT INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. Here's a young writer, David Freddoso, who has said it all, when it comes to intellectual property.
Indeed, IP can be and is being abused by powerful industry influences and their buddies in Congress. And indeed copyright and patents should not be extended interminably (which destroys, rather than enhances creativity). But a society that believes that the work of artists, writers, and inventers can be seized at will and reproduced by anybody from the moment of its creation is a society that's in the process of destroying itself.
The current vogue among libertarians is to say that government invented copyright and patent and that they are mere "grants of monopoly" to undeserving creators. Therefore copyright and patent are evil in and of themselves. Therefore all property rights are simply vested in the paper, ink, or digits in which the work of the mind physically resides -- and he who holds the paper or the CD owns the work, lock, stock, and right to profit from whatever creative greatness that physical object contains. This trendy (and very self-serving, since it's promoted largely by IP pirates) view says the artist has no more right to profit from his own creations that some moronic, beer-gutted slob who bought a CD or a book at a garage sale.
This shockingly primitive view of property gives a convenient excuse to justify stealing the far more important creativity that lies behind those "mere" words, sounds, or images.
I, too, would rather see market protection, rather than governmental protection, for creative or inventive works. But if government hadn't "invented" copyright and patent, someone would have had to. Copyright and patent do nothing but what must be done -- acknowledge that a creator's years of effort, his unique contribution to the world, should not be ripped off the moment he puts them on the market. Copyright and patent confirm what already is and what must be so -- that the creator is not merely a slave to be exploited, but a real contributor to civilization.
You think artists (especially musicians) are being exploited by ruthless corporate interests now? Wait until the anti-IP crowd gets its way and those ruthless corporate interests can take any work they want -- without paying a dime for it. No doubt a handful of market-savvy, tech savvy, and very lucky artists will still survive. But thousands -- ultimately millions -- will give up in defeat, refuse to surrender their minds to thieves, take uncreative, perhaps menial jobs, and in many cases even commit suicide. No doubt some of the most icy-minded anti-IP advocates would call this survival of the fittest.
It wasn't until recently that I realized that IP pirates weren't merely aiming their piracy at big corporations (in the excuse of "liberating" exploited artists or striking back against abusive uses of copyrights), but that they were building an intellectual edifice to justfy ripping off every artist or inventor, including the most vulnerable, hardworking, innocent individuals. This was -- belatedly -- a wake-up call. Until then, I had accepted several pirated works and even loaned some DVD's to an acquaintance, knowing he intended to copy and distribute them P2P. It now turns my stomach to realize I wasn't merely playing a part in some anti-corporate monkeywrenching, but that I was aiding people whose goal was to strike at everything I hold most dear -- and everything that human civilization should value most highly. Never again.
You can't end corporate abuses of intellectual property by abusing all intellectual property. I'm sorry it had to hit so close to home before I finally understood what's really afoot.
It's no coincidence that the greatest burst of inventiveness in all human history started just as creators' rights began to be acknowledged, and continues to this day because those rights are acknowledged. Build a world in which creators must stand by helplessly while their works are stolen by anyone with the gall, the technology, and the needed reproduction tools, and first the artists, then the rest of the beautiful, sane, and civilized world will begin to disappear.
What you will have is survival of the unfittest -- those who value brute force over creativity, those who consider mere objects more valuable than human brainpower.
Posted by Claire @ 08:00 AM CST [Link]
IT'S THE 23RD ANNIVERSARY OF JOHN LENNON'S MURDER. Say what you want about his lifestyle, strange politics, or stranger choice of soulmate, he brought magic into the world. And magic drained out of the world with his blood.
Although I was never a big Beatles fan, I cried in my lover's arms that night, inconsolable and not really understanding why. A couple of my relatives died around the same time, and even though one of them died unexpectedly, I never even came close to shedding a tear for her. But for John Lennon ... I can still weep if I think too hard about that night in front of the Dakota.
I can still weep over Vincent van Gogh, too, for committing suicide at a mere 37, with so much insane beauty still inside him. I'm not usually sentimental about suicides. It's a choice; it was his life; he wanted out. But what the world lost when he left!
Van Gogh said:I have a terrible lucidity at moments when nature is so beautiful. I am not conscious of myself anymore, and the picture come to me as if in a dream. It is no more easy to make a good picture than it is to find a diamond or a pearl. It means trouble, and you risk your life for it. I cannot help it that my paintings do not sell. The time will come when people will see that they are worth more than the price of the paint.
If you've only seen Van Gogh's paintings in books, on TV, or on the Web, you haven't really seen. You can't imagine. Long ago, I had the lucky fortune to go to an extensive exhibition of his works. The exhibition was arranged in chronological order, beginning with the dark, somber, monochromatic works of his Dutch period, moving into the delicate pastels of his Japanese period, then exploding -- there's no other word for it -- as he found his real self in his work, the paintings glowing ever brighter and almost bursting out of their canvases with color and vibrancy that no mere photograph could ever display. By comparison, the show catalog I carried as I walked around the galleries looked as if someone had left it to fade in the sun for a month; that's how its photographs paled beside the real paintings.
By the time I stood before "Crows in a Wheat Field" (one of his last, completed just days before his suicide) I was staggering, hardly able to stand before the aesthetic and emotional assault of this man's work. I stumbled out of the gallery and almost collapsed on a bench outside, crying and crying for the intense beauty and all the sorrow that drove it.
I still remember the light of Van Gogh, glowing like the sun.
I felt nothing when my father died, except relief that a not-very-nice man couldn't hurt anybody any more. But I can still cry for River Phoenix, gone so damn stupidly at 23, and James Dean, with his head nearly ripped off his shoulders at 24. To see them at work was to see something beyond beyond, something nobody else had. Nothing and nobody could replace their art. And Jim Morrison. Oh, don't even talk about Jim Morrison. I'm sure he was a double-dyed creep, but oh my was there ever another voice like that, a presence as powerfully, darkly present as his?
And the poet Shelley, also stupidly dead at 29 for egomaniacally taking an unstable, souped-up racing boat out in a storm. Now, you can know he was a double-dyed creep, along with his pal Lord Byron, dead at 36 in pursuit of heroic visions. But they, along with their pal John Keats, who barely made it to 25, brought something into the world that no unmourned mundane relative could have dreamed. I wouldn't want to live among such folk. Way too emotionally draining. But then, I didn't want to live among my relatives, either. Way too boring, between moments of violent panic.
But the artists lit the world in a way that goes far beyond anything anyone can say about the worth of their paints or their tapes, their reputations, or the resale value of their product. They make it possible for other sensitive souls to endure the world that they sometimes could not. Without artists of all sorts, life would be nothing but a Hobbesian nightmare -- solitary, brutish, and nasty, even if science managed to make it long, instead of short. Without the power of their insight, without their vision, without their words and tones and gestures to enlighten life, the world would be too bleak for some of us to bear.
Posted by Claire @ 06:04 AM CST [Link]
Sunday, December 7, 2003
NOW THIS, YOU GOTTA LOVE. Seems there's a new version of the old convention nametag. You know, the one that says, "Hello. My name is BLAH BLAH." The New Scientist reports that 500 technology consultants attending the Pop!Tech conference this fall were given "smart" badges containing RFID chips. The badges also contained profiles of each participant -- hobbies, professional interests, work history, etc. Badges communicated with each other via infrared beams and communicated with a central server via RFID.
When you'd get near somebody who shared your interests, the badge, called an nTag, would ... I dunno, it would bleep or bloop or maybe it would give a secret electronic handshake. For all I know, it would even say, "Hello. My name is BLAH BLAH." But anyhow, the idea was that the badges would "introduce" themselves to each other, thus saving the actual human beings all that awkward necessity of actually ... talking in order to meet each other. If your badge bleeped, you'd know the guy near you was someone you had something in common with.
Whitfield Diffie -- co-inventor of public key encryption -- was at the conference and was so annoyed by the damned intrusive things that he hacked into his to put it into sleep mode. AND he programmed it to put every other tag it encountered to sleep as well.
Mr. Diffie! Tell us your secrets. You're an inspiration to us all.
This item was tracked down by J.D. Abolins, who ain't so bad himself when it comes to electronic freedom.
Posted by Claire @ 07:21 PM CST [Link]
ANGER IS A DAMN FUNNY THING. If I get pissed at John Ashcroft or the RFID enslavers, it just spurs me to blog and, I hope, blog with wit and spirit. The last few days I've been angry at myself and some of my friends, and that's a whole 'nother story. That sort of anger freezes me and puts my creativity in suspension.
Not going to go into details. But I've been angry at myself after catching myself in an act of base hypocrisy. I can't abide hypocrites; bad thing to discover that I are one. Well, my hypocrisy was small and un-do-able and is in the process of being undone. But I've also discovered that some people I thought better of will twist their own personal hypocrisy into a moral principle. Not so easily undone, that. Not so easy to reverse direction when you convince yourself not only that wrong is right but that wrong is noble and superior. Not so easy to tear down an edifice of falsehood when that edifice is a fancy intellectual castle you've lovingly built to shelter your own hypocrisy.
Kill a commie for Christ and never mind thou shalt not kill. Destroy the village to save it. Steal in the name of property rights. Gamble and screw while preaching morals. Pop pills while preaching jail for all who do exactly as you do. "It's voluntary; do it OR ELSE." Preach resistance -- for others! -- but give in at every turn in the name of self-preservation. Destroy freedom to save freedom. Preach honesty -- and lie. I thought that stuff was all for folks on the other side of the political fence. But it ain't.
Disillusion. With friends like these, who needs enemies?
Get over it, Claire.
I will, I will. And get over kicking myself in the butt for my own part in it all. But in the meantime it's hard to stay focused enough to write.
Well, regardless ... I'm finally starting to write the next book -- the replacement for 101 Things and Don't Shoot the Bastards that isn't exactly a replacement in any literal sense. Some devilishly creative folks on the Claire Files message boards contributed to both the content and spirit of the book. Without them, the book would still be formless and would probably end up nowhere near as good. And webmistress Debra and her husband, Torry, added an extra dash of brilliance. With friends like these, there's hope.
Posted by Claire @ 07:06 PM CST [Link]
Friday, December 5, 2003
NOW HERE'S SOME FINE WEEKEND READING. Jon Roland's Constitution.org has just added this challenging and thoughtful law-journal article that asks a question few people want to consider: "Are Cops Constitutional?"ABSTRACT
Police work is often lionized by jurists and scholars who claim to employ "textualist" and "originalist" methods of constitutional interpretation. Yet professional police were unknown to the United States in 1789, and first appeared in America almost a half-century after the Constitution's ratification. The Framers contemplated law enforcement as the duty of mostly private citizens, along with a few constables and sheriffs who could be called upon when necessary. This article marshals extensive historical and legal evidence to show that modern policing is in many ways inconsistent with the original intent of America's founding documents. The author argues that the growth of modern policing has substantially empowered the state in a way the Framers would regard as abhorrent to their foremost principles.
Posted by Claire @ 12:42 PM CST [Link]
Thursday, December 4, 2003
FOLLOWING UP ON YESTERDAY'S "SMART GUN" POST, The Rocket Scientist writes:In my opinion, the razzle dazzle with 'Smart Guns' is all about RF [radio frequency] control. Most of the current schemes (electronic) for ensuring that only the legit owner of the 'smart gun' can fire it can very easily be shut down via RF.....
Me, I want my guns dumb.....simple mechanically....no or very little electronics.
Aside from all the many glitches that could suddenly make a "smart gun" too dumb to fire (malfunctioning electronics, a change in your grip, a guest in your house needing to use your gun to defend against a criminal), he's got a point. Nothing would please many police more than to be able to selectively (or even not-so-selectively) shut down your firearms.
A big amen to The Rocket Scientist's latter point, too.
Now check out this report from former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr if you have any doubt about how far government is willing to go in its electronic intrusions. Nothing to do with guns. Everything to do with privacy -- that other mainstay of freedom.
Posted by Claire @ 12:19 PM CST [Link]
A SOLDIER WRITES FROM IRAQ to say that his copy of 101 Things to Do 'Til the Revolution has been declared contraband. He (I'm guessing it's a he) can neither ship the book back to the U.S. nor carry it back with his belongings because it's "subversive literature." According the the soldier, who goes by the nic of BlackVelvetJesus, the military inspectors have put the book in the same class as "unexploded ordnance, foreign dirt, and porno."
Maybe this is just a harebrained, haywire interpretation of U.S. military policy. Maybe it's just one individual who looked at the title or the cover and made a wrongheaded decree. But it's pretty whacky that a U.S. soldier, fighting for "freedom," wouldn't be allowed to bring a book back into the U.S. that's openly & legally published in the U.S.
When 101 first came out, a lawyer in Arizona snatched up 10 copies, saying it would soon be banned. Not quite. The closest thing was when the warden of the federal penitentiary at Florence, Colorado, refused to allow Timothy McVeigh to receive a gift copy from an acquaintance. The warden, who evidently couldn't read English, said the book advocated violence. (It doesn't.) Guess he thought I'd be a bad influence on Tim McVeigh's behavior.
I don't know whether to be pleased or outraged that the Pentagon under our freedom-lovin' leader, George W. Bush, might consider 101 too dangerous to be read by Americans in America. Are we one giant prison into which "dangerous literature" is not to be allowed?
Posted by Claire @ 12:06 PM CST [Link]
VERY THOUGHTFUL COMMENTARY ON TERRY SCHINDLER (SCHIAVO) by a physician, Sydney Smith. None of the rhetoric from either side, but an observation on what scientists do -- and don't -- know about human consciousness.
Tks to SM for another excellent find.
Posted by Claire @ 11:47 AM CST [Link]
Wednesday, December 3, 2003
HOW MANY GUN MAKERS DO WE HAVE TO BOYCOTT, ANYWAY?Taurus has just joined the so-called "smart gun" effort -- that very politically correct and unsafe form of "safety" the victim disarmers are so fond of.
Posted by Claire @ 09:56 PM CST [Link]
Tuesday, December 2, 2003
AARON RUSSO IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT. And that old media master (producer of "The Rose," "Trading Places," and the popular video "Mad as Hell") has a Web site that makes some mainstream candidates' sites look like amateur hour. Russo's running as an independent. Very independent. Medical marijuana, choose your own medical treatments, get out of Iraq, repeal the Patriot Act, abolish the income tax, etc. Lots to like there. (But Aaron, don't replace the income tax with a sales tax! Replace it with nothin'!) Anyhow, Mr. Russo is definitely worth a look.
Posted by Claire @ 10:49 PM CST [Link]
AFTER "INNOCENTS BETRAYED" CAME OUT, I GOT A REAL HOLLYWOOD-TYPE MOVIE SCRIPT TO WORK ON. Like all scripts, this one's a long-shot gamble. The chances of any script getting to production stage are only slightly better than the chances of an honest man getting elected to Congress. For every movie, there are hundreds and hundreds of hopeful, eventually abandoned scripts -- some of which might even be good. Can't get too excited yet.
Nevertheless, it's a stone thrill to work on this.
My job isn't to write from scratch. It's to take a script someone else drafted -- a script that already has "good bones" -- and give it the creative equivalent of a tummy tuck, a nose job, a boob job, a chin lift, and a little surgical touchup to remove those bags from its eyes. Come to think of it, a heart transplant is also in order, and I'm to toss that in as well.
The existing script has an excellent premise and many strengths. Characters are good. Visualization is often powerful; you can truly see, and almost experience, the protagonist's interior struggles. But because it's a libertarian tale, it is (don't be too surprised here, okay?) talky as a parrot on amphetamines. It has plenty of scenes of people lecturing each other about laws, philosophy, and technique, but few scenes of people actually doing anything. It also lacks warmth. Characters observe each other, intersect with each other, joke with each other, but never deeply, emotionally connect with each other. This, too, seems to be a trait of libertarian storytelling. (What is it with that, anyway? Is it prejudiced to guess that that emotional coolness is related, once again, to the fact that about 90 percent of all libertarians are male and of NT temperament type and therefore more comfortable describing a gold-plated gun sight than ... [gasp!] a feeling? Ah well, but that's another subject.)
To my sorrow, I've never felt I had any talent for fiction. If I were to sit down at a word processor and draft a script from scratch, it would be just as verbose and stiff as the one I'm doctoring.
But it's a creative joy to watch this one improve under my fingers (and with wise input from the man who originated the story). I couldn't create anything like this from scratch. But looking at what already exists, I can see that bringing this character to the forefront adds poignancy, that deleting that bit of exposition gives a burst of speed to the plot, that that image can eloquently replace two pages of dialog.
Should this movie ever get before cameras, it could be good. And after years of waiting for somebody else more talented than I to write The Great Libertarian Novel, it's more than satisfying to be helping craft what might, at least, be an important little libertarian fiction on film.
Posted by Claire @ 12:28 PM CST [Link]
ANOTHER THOUGHT ON THE SUPREMES' REJECTING SILVEIRA V. LOCKYER. As a pragmatic issue, of course it matters what the Supreme Court says about the Second Amendment. And the rejection of Silveira was a terrible blow to all the people who put their hearts, time, money, and brains into the case.
But when you sit down and think about it, it's incredibly silly, almost superstitious, to imagine that nine old farts (or even nine geniuses, for that matter) have the ability or the authority to decide whether other human beings have the right to self-defense.
Of course they don't. And of course you do. No matter what anybody says.
Posted by Claire @ 12:11 PM CST [Link]
Monday, December 1, 2003
SILVEIRA DENIED CERT. Oh damn.
Posted by Claire @ 03:52 PM CST [Link]
SAM SMITH APOLOGIZES TO YOUNGER AMERICANS. Yeah, he's a leftist and you won't agree with a lot of what he says. But I wish we had more leftists like him and more left-wing publications like his Progressive Review. The enemy of our enemy may not be our friend. But he's not our enemy.
Posted by Claire @ 09:39 AM CST [Link]
SANTA HAS MOVED TO HARDYVILLE, as you may know. The relocation has certainly influenced the sort of gifts coming out of his workshop!
(Actually, the clever minds on the Claire Files message boards were the ones influencing Santa. But don't tell anybody.)
Posted by Claire @ 08:59 AM CST [Link]
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