Saturday, January 27, 2007

John Stewart Aggrigates Dick Cheney

GOP Heartburn: Oh, what a tangled web we weave...

Ex-Aide Says Cheney Led Rebuttal Effort - washingtonpost.com

Whether swearing at a Democrat on the Senate floor or calling Donald Rumsfeld the best defense secretary in U.S. history, his conduct makes even some Republicans nervous. Presidential contender Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Cheney have butted heads over U.S. torture policy, with McCain, a Vietnam POW for five years, demanding the White House forbid it. McCain told a Capitol Hill newspaper, “The president listens too much to the vice president. Of course, the president bears the ultimate responsibility, but he’s been very badly served by both the vice president and, most of all, the secretary of defense (Rumsfeld).”
When asked about that by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Cheney responded laconically, “So?”
Cheney also told Blitzer that the problem with Iraq is that America may not have “the stomach to fight” in Iraq.
There is much hay to be made about this, but the funniest part was that it was wrapped around an ad for "the purple pill," touting it's ability to deal with the symptoms of persistent, recurring heartburn. Ah, Contextual Advertising, a source of much unintentional - but relevant - irony.

The Daily Show vids are not yet up, but I caught it last night, and Stewart's deconstruction of the entire Blizter interview is both hiliarious and hellishly apt - along with his increasingly accurate-seeming hints that Cheney really IS The Penguin.

I do believe it's time for Mr. Cheney to resign, BEFORE he starts quoting Agnew.

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KSFO Apologist blogicalthought amuses

Teh boring… at Calling All Wingnuts:

Sometimes the comments are better than the posts: One Named blogicalthought alleges.

"5. Just weeks before the Media Reform Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, you begin to organize liberal bloggers, mainly “Eschatonians” or rather known as “Atriots” who blog for Duncan Black and David Brock of Media Matters, financed by George Soros, to “blogswarm” the issue."
Hm, it's ok by you if Cheney And Coors and Free Republic collude to get out the talking points, I presume. It's ok for KSFO to send out "astroturf" emails to their dittoheads before they spend three hours not apologizing. But I guess you feel guilty about that well-known reality, and how all the major players happen to have the same talking points at the same time.

Notice how often the first sin that evildoers accuse others of is the one they are most guilty of? Earlier allegations of corporate shilldom marked "presumably true, pending disproof."

As a matter of record, I do not blog "for" anyone. I can't even honestly and self-righteously say I've turned down offers in the name of intellectual honesty.

The readers of most leftward/anti authoritarian blogs realize that if the Sainted Clinton told us what to say - he'd cease to be sainted and become again tainted.

Not that Clinton, Kerry and others don't try to herd us independants with their astroturf appeals, but it sounds a heck of a lot more like respectful pleading, occasional begging and on particularly important occasions, hints of groveling are not unheard of.

Well, actually, to be fair, it's mostly cheerleading. At least with me, that's the sort of spam I get.. Atrios, on the other hand, may well be entertained with offers that I'd find tempting. But I'm blessed with a lower page-rank. A much, much lower page rank.

But on the liberal side, it's all very much, "Those are my people and I am their leader! Excuse me, I must follow them!"

The reason why all the lefty and centerist blogs are taking this from the same angle is because there is only one angle. Fair comment, good and legal. Disney/ABC, wrong, bad, possibly illegal, certainly stupid. All else - beside the point.

Nobody's arguing with the right for any damn-fool to say any damn-fool thing they care to. We do object to damn-foolishness being presented as fact, but the best response is more and more accurate free speech. Indeed, from a free speech perspective, KSFO is what you would call a "target-rich environment."

What we object to is the outrage and bullying as a response to them being held accountable in a tiny, tiny way for the legal and moral consequences of their exercise in free speech.

Calling it a "boycott" as if that were a bad thing is dumb. Boycotts are perfectly legitimate tactics, one dear to the Right. Various Right-wing groups call for boycotts all the time to punish media they disapprove of. Can we say "Dixie Chicks?" Ooo, I KNEW that we could!

If it HAD been a boycott, I would not object. It just happens that, factually speaking, Spocko made a very significant point of NOT calling for a boycott. Factually, it was a completely different tactic, and one that is obviously both more fair and probably more effective.

All anyone had to do was to read what Spocko actually said, and compare it with what Lee said to know that Lee is, in fact a lazy lyin' bastard who can't be bothered to do his homework and either too stupid or too far wrong to argue against the coming liberal hordes honestly.

Personally, whatever he called it, I didn't give a rat's ass. If corporate America has become too careless to review what they are associating their brands with, ain't no skin off my nose. I'm an unapologetic Libertarian and capitalist, but I'm not a FatCapitalist. The action (and the fun) of real Free Market Capitalism includes watching for such mis-steps - and capitalizing on them.

Yep, had I stumbled across such clips, they would have gone straight to undervalued competitors in the KSFO market. "What's in YOUR wallet?"

But Spocko is more charitable than I. He informed advertisers of what sort of programs were being associated with their brand. And guess what information comes out in the wash? Disney/ABC was MISREPRESENTING the content as being "family friendly." Maybe if it were the Manson Family...

They were lying to their client base, as a matter of corporate policy at some level, and the SLAPP suit against Spocko argues that it was at a higher, rather than at a lower one. Now, I dunno about what the news division at KSFO thinks (or ABC news for that matter,) but to ME, that's news, at least three bells worth. Because we call that "Theft by false pretenses."

While the winger blogs talk about "all but one" account returning to KSFO, that's based on a naked allegation BY KSFO talkers who are, as we have established, famous liars. I'm sure that statistic does not include those who have simply chosen to NOT renew ads, as opposed to pulling them. I'm sure it doesn't include those who said "sorry, but the results we got didn't meet our expectations."

MasterCard's decision - as well as all the others - probably has less to do with the content of the speech and far more with the demographics represented by the speakers. MasterCard (and other advertisors) want "family freindly" programming because families have good credit and are willing to use it. People who live in their parent's basements and call into Lee and Rush are not so likely to have good jobs and good credit. "How gullible do you have to be..." leads to other questions that eventually wander around to issues of unrecoverable debt. LIBERAL talkers and information providers? MUCH more attractive demographics.

I'd say it's likely that advertisers have shifted or are beginning to shift their buys toward Air America, because if the Democracy Now survey results are indicative of the same general demographic, then educated, White, Urban, upper-middle class professionals are much better credit risks than... well the sort that considers Lee Rodgers persuasive.

Miracle fat-burning pills and "get rich by spending in just 30 days" on the other hand, might just perform BETTER in Lee's demographic. You see, it's not about what's said, it's what sorta people listen.

Oh, and as for your non-sequiteur about Mike's "vulgarity" in holding up that infamous sign...

Vulgar, yes. And funny. Very, very funny; the very essence of a GraphicTruth. I've listened to Hannedy and he does indeed suck - and I'm comparing him to O'Rielly, Glenn Beck and other conservatives. Given how long that camera LINGERED, it's pretty clear that the rank and file working stiffs who have to suffer through his excruciating idiocy in order to cash a paycheck pretty much agree that Hannedy Sucks Ass.

And as the joke goes - not particularly well, either.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

We cannot win a war of attrition in the Middle East. - Hagel

Why are we fighting a war of attrition in the Middle East? Perhaps because the bastards want to grind us down.

Chuck Hagel is getting a lot of press right now for speaking the obvious to the oblivious; in this case Condi Rice who's academic credentials are more than adequate for her to have come to the same conclusion. There are many, MANY reasons why we cannot get to what she would like to what she and the rest of the Bushites would like to call "victory," but this is the most fundamental. To quote Andrew Jackson - also a Commander in Chief in his day - battles (and hence, wars) are won by "who gets thar fustest with the mostest."

We succeeded spectacularly in the first phase of the war because we did that. We proceeded to lose from that point on because we no longer had control of the field of battle - which was NOT, repeat, NOT primarily one that could be controlled with force. In the battle of hearts and minds, we got our asses kicked by violating the primary dictum of both war and peace - KNOW your enemy and why they are fighting. The problem - as Dr. Rice could easily explain, if she were speaking of ANY other situation than one she helped create - is that recognizing the reality and addressing it effectively would have required two things that were politically impossible - an admission of the real strategic goals and rationale for the war, AND reassessing the foundational geo-political principles it was intended to forward - as outlined in "Project for a New American Century's" "Rebuilding America's Defenses"

One of the key assumptions was that it would be easy to topple regimes in areas of critical American interest and that that would liberate an expression of massive popular support for our benevolent oversight into an "American style" democratic nation aligned with us and sharing strong social, diplomatic and economic ties.

It is relatively easy, given our military and economic clout, to topple a regime or cripple a nation. When it's served our interest, we have done both, though I would argue that such examples as Chile and Iran have created long term problems larger than any short-term advantage we may have gained. Our attempts to intervene in domestic affairs of other nations do not always work so well in the short term. Our tendency to pick the interests of the big guy over the little guy has started to backfire more and more, and is increasingly turned against us by leaders such as Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

Propaganda is far more powerful when it's foundation is set firmly in the concrete of personal experience and easily verified truths. It may be possible to "spin" gold from straw - and Tony Snow seems to be able to spin fairy-gold from air - but if you already have some gold and a great deal of straw - one can clothe one's chosen political metaphors quite regally.

That is all the motivation needed to come up with lots more people to shoot at us than we can ever kill. That situation in Baghdad is what Sen. Hagel means when he speaks of "attritional warfare." While an American trooper is easily worth ten Iraqis on any battlefield of our choosing, we have chosen instead to fight on their home turf; in an urban environment. Generously, that cuts our advantage in manpower in half, while at least doubling theirs. And even if it did not, they have not just ten, but ten more, and ten more after that. We do not.

Worse than that, we've created conditions where most would prefer to die fighting than be captured. We are operating in a situation even more hostile than the Warsaw Ghetto, against a variety of well-armed militias, former military and paramilitaries with apparently copious and secure lines of supply. It's a situation that even a French general would never consider entering in the first place, but the President still seems to think we can "win."

We have given our enemies EVERY advantage against us in the war of hearts and minds, we have allowed them to maintain their lines of communication and supply and allowed them to choose the battleground. Meanwhile, we have bombed civilians, killed civilians wholesale at checkpoints, tortured civilians and in the process of a doing all this, completely wrecked the civilian infrastructure - giving lots more people the time and motivation to explore Humvee hunting as a recreational activity. The fact that it's easier to find explosives than a job or an intact classroom with a working toilet has got to be a factor in this.

In the process, we have lost all diplomatic, military and moral credibility, and that is why we have lost this war, and will lose in further adventures in third world babysitting we might have had in mind, because our greatest enemy is, well, us.

And by "us," I do not mean Chuck Hegel, who's simply speaking the truth to someone who hates hearing it as much as George W. Bush. I mean we have handed victory to anyone we choose to oppose militarily or diplomatically on a platter, and this situation will continue until we remember that "we", the American people, are morally and ethically accountable for what is done in our names.

Winning the war on terror begins at home. Stop being terrified, and start prosecuting those who have been jerking our chains for six years. START listening to people - like Hegel, and Gore, and Murtha, who really know what they are talking about. It may feel nicer and more secure to have smoke blown up your ass, but in order to enjoy that warm and friendly sensation, you have to drop your pants - and that makes it real easy to pick your pocket and screw you over.

This "war on terror" has been prosecuted in such a way as to ensure failure from the first. What if that is the goal?

If you pick any single administrative decision point from 9/11 on, you will find the wrong thing being done from any expert perspective, starting with the decision to go in with light forces who were unequipped for an urban battlefield. Even then, had we the sense to withdraw from the urban areas and establish secure nodes, we could have effectively secured and controlled the countryside - and interdicted terrorist and insurgent lines of supply - while allowing Iraqis to secure the urban environment, offering air support and intelligence. Baghdad is vital to Iraq and Iraqis - but it was no part of OUR command and control. Any competent military commander would advise against engaging in urban warfare given ANY viable alternative - and the above is a bog-standard, off the shelf "viable alternative."

I'm wondering aloud here if the administration's strategy is to maximize casualties and termination of service within the civilian forces, particularly among the front line Guards and Reserve officer corps. Because that's the effect.

That's simply one example. Another disastrous example is composed of the unholy policies represented by Gitmo, Abu Gahrab and the spirited defense of torture from the very highest levels of our administration. This broad policy was established from the Oval Office against extensive advice from real world experts that it was counterproductive, that it would not produce usable intelligence and that it would provide enormous motivation to opposition forces, once the truth got out - as it inevitably would.

Or, let us look at the rational responses to 9/11. KNOWING that Osama Bin Ladin was almost certainly involved, would you as a rational individual, not want to ask a few questions of the Bin Ladin family members who happened to be in the United States at the time? I sure would. The FBI sure did. Instead, they were whisked out of US jurisdiction with clearance from the highest levels. That makes me intensely interested in what they might have had to say, particularly the close, even intimate contacts and entanglements the President has with the Bin Ladin family in particular and the Saudi Royals in general.

It's standard operating procedure when examining a crime to preserve the critical evidence, at least until it's examined. Instead - hundreds of tons (representing millions of dollars in salvage value) were dumped at sea without any in-depth structural analysis.

There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of such decisions that make absolutely no sense at all from the perspective of an administration acting to protect our national interests and personal security. They are not consistent with mere incompetence, nor does stupidity does not account for being so consistently wrong and so consistent in the frustration of any effort to do the correct thing in a presumed climate of enhanced terrorist activity. One only has to point to the Administration effort to turn over our ports to a Dubai firm to show a disconnect between the supposed situation and the administration's policy.

Furthermore, whatever you or I might wish to believe, with the possible exception of the titualar head of government, the Whige House is NOT staffed by the ignorant or the unintelligent. Notably, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Condi Rice, Paul Wolfowitz et al, these are the very sharpest crayons picked from a box of sharp crayons. In other words, almost nobody there is stupid enough to have allowed these things to come to pass by accident, and when things came to pass due to incompetence, it was because very smart people put incompetant but obediant people in positions of power. Let us do them the courtesy of assuming they knew PRECISELY what they were doing, and that the outcome was fairly much within the range of their expectations, such as the depopulation and diaspora of the former black citizens of New Orleans and the Gulf coast. New Orleans is essentially depopulated and available for development. "Heckuva job, Brownie."

There is a military dictum that should be quoted here: "Once is happenstance, twice coincidence; three times is enemy action."

We have far more than three examples of administration decisions that go completely counter to any reasonable, constitutional action in support of our national interest and national security, from even the most rabidly conservative perspective. I might add that I'm using only well-known, very questionable examples.

The net effect of six years of misrule has been a widespread attack on the middle class, a degradation of individual civil liberties, innumerable subversions and attempts to subvert the constitution, the erosion of the military - and particularly the military capabilities of the individual States. Furthermore, the President has tried to assert personal authority over the various state Guards units, historically the prerogative of the various Governors.

Little of this makes any great sense if aimed at an external threat. It makes a great deal of sense if it's aimed at you and me.

We should start investigating the possibility that a person or persons within the White House are acting as agents of a foreign power or, a concentration of powers who have deep interests in control, power, oil, and lack of oversight by a well-informed, well-armed and vigilant citizenry.

Actually, I suggest we need not wait to wonder too deeply about why, or indeed precisely who. When you are clearly being shot at, you don't argue about the caliber of the weapon or the motives of the shooter. First you duck, then you return fire. Those are the essentials; the rest is for the after-action report, and after-action reports are written by the survivors.

I suggest to all US citizens to re-familiarize themselves with the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. If you feel that your interests and your honor lie with defending it, I hope that you will do as I have done today, and reaffirm my wholehearted commitment to "Uphold and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic."

[Update - if you haven't read Glenn Greenwald yet, do so right now] He's closely paralleling many of my points - and we failed completely to collude this month.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Jacking a thread at Calling all Wingnuts

Teh boring… at Calling All Wingnuts:

Sometimes the comments are better than the posts: One Named blogicalthought alleges.

"5. Just weeks before the Media Reform Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, you begin to organize liberal bloggers, mainly “Eschatonians” or rather known as “Atriots” who blog for Duncan Black and David Brock of Media Matters, financed by George Soros, to “blogswarm” the issue."
Hm, it's ok by you if Cheney And Coors and Free Republic collude to get out the talking points, I presume. But I guess you feel guilty about that well-known reality, and how all the major players happen to have the same talking points at the same time.

Notice how often the first sin that evildoers accuse others of is the one they are most guilty of? Earlier allegations of corporate shilldom marked "presumably true, pending disproof."

The readers of most leftward/antiauthoritarian blogs realize that if the Sainted Clinton told us what to say - he'd cease to be sainted and become again tainted.

Not that Clinton, Kerry and others don't try to herd us independ, but it sounds a heck of a lot more like respectful pleading, occasional begging and on particularly important occasions, hints of groveling are not unheard of.

Well, actually, to be fair, it's mostly cheerleading. At least with me, that's the sort of spam I get.. Atrios, on the other hand, may well be entertained with quite intriguing offers.

But on the liberal side, it's all very much, "Those are my people and I am their leader! Excuse me, I must follow them!"

The reason why all the lefty blogs are taking this from the same angle is because there is only one angle. Fair comment, good and legal. Disney/ABC, wrong, bad, possibly illegal, certainly stupid. All else - beside the point.

Nobody's arguing with the right for any damn-fool to say any damn-fool thing they care to. We do object to damn-foolishness being presented as fact, but the best response is more and more accurate free speech. Indeed, from a free speech perspective, KSFO is what you would call a "target-rich environment."

Calling it a "boycott" as if that were a bad thing is dumb. Boycotts are perfectly legitimate tactics, one dear to the Right suggests using all the time to punish media they disapprove of. Can we say "Dixie Chicks?" Ooo, I KNEW that we could!

If it HAD been a boycott, I would not object. It just happens that, factually speaking, Spocko made a very significant point of NOT calling for a boycott. Factually, it was a completely different tactic, and one that is obviously both more fair and probably more effective.

All anyone had to do was to read what Spocko actually said, and compare it with what Lee said to know that Lee is, in fact a lazy lyin' bastard who can't be bothered to do his homework and either too stupid or too far wrong to argue against the coming liberal hordes honestly.

Personally, whatever he called it, I didn't give a rat's ass. If corporate America has become too careless to review what they are associating their brands with, ain't no skin off my nose. I'm an unapologetic Libertarian and capitalist, but I'm not a FatCapitalist. The action (and the fun) of real Free Market Capitalism includes watching for such mis-steps - and capitalizing on them.

Yep, had I stumbled across such clips, they would have gone straight to undervalued competitors in the KSFO market. "What's in YOUR wallet?"

But Spocko is more charitable than I. He informed advertisers of what sort of programs were being associated with their brand. And guess what information comes out in the wash? Disney/ABC was MISREPRESENTING the content as being "family friendly." Maybe if it were the Manson Family.

They were lying to their client base, as a matter of corporate policy at some level, and the SLAPP suit against Spocko argues that it was at a higher, rather than at a lower one. Now, I dunno about what the news division at KSFO thinks (or ABC news for that matter,) but to ME, that's news, at least three bells worth. Because we call that "Theft by false pretenses."

While the winger blogs talk about "all but one" account returning to KSFO, that's based on a naked allegation BY KSFO talkers who are, as we have established, famous liars. I'm sure that statistic does not include those who have simply chosen to NOT renew ads, as opposed to pulling them. I'm sure it doesn't include those who said "sorry, but the results we got didn't meet our expectations."

MasterCard's decision - as well as all the others - probably has less to do with the content of the speech and far more with the demographics represented by the speakers. MasterCard (and other advertisors) want "family freindly" programming because families have good credit and are willing to use it. People who live in their parent's basements and call into Lee and Rush - not so likely to have good jobs and good credit. "How gullible do you have to be..." leads to other questions that eventually wander around to issues of unrecoverable debt. LIBERAL talkers and information providers? MUCH more attractive demographics.

I'd say it's likely that advertisers have shifted or are beginning to shift their buys toward Air America, because if the Democracy Now are indicative of the same general demographic, then educated, White. Urban, upper-middle class professionals are much better credit risks than... well the sort that considers Lee Rodgers persuasive.

Miracle fat-burning pills and "become rich by spending in just 30 days" on the other hand, might just perform BETTER in Lee's demographic. You see, it's not about what's said, it's what sorta people listen.

Oh, and as for your non-sequiteur about Mike's "vulgarity" in holding up that infamous sign...

Vulgar, yes. And funny. Very, very funny; the very essence of a GraphicTruth. I've listened to Hannedy and he does indeed suck - and I'm comparing him to O'Rielly, Glenn Beck and other conservatives. Given how long that camera LINGERED, it's pretty clear that the rank and file working stiffs who have to suffer through his excruciating idiocy in order to cash a paycheck pretty much agree that Hannedy Sucks Ass.

And as the joke goes - not particularly well, either.

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How do we save the earth, our freedom and our culture? With the stroke of a pen...

Note: I've revised and bumped this post rather than write a new post covering much of the same ground less well. I'd also like to put it into the context of "Framing the Unspoken Debate: Metaphor, Morality and Politics," which I wrote subsequently to this essay. Specifically, all the ills I address below can be accurately seen as Moral Pathologies of both Right and Left.

First - read this account of a very bad black man's life. Consider that his story is one of opportunities and context.

Second - The promise of a plant that is condemned, not because it is a drug, but because it's related to a drug. And why is it condemned? Because methanol would have competed with oil and chemical processes derived from oil and therefore it had to be demonized.

I can also point you to reasons why marijuana as a drug was outlawed, at least in part. It had little to do with it's actual effects, for good or ill and far more to do with attacks on cultures and subcultures that depended on it - in preference to ethanol brewed from wheat, oats, barley and corn, ironically enough.

Drug Crazy: How we got into this mess and how we can get out is a good starting point, illustrating the original agendas and the lies that hid them. But reason alone is a fair starting point. Consider this one statistic; that half of all prison beds are filled with non-violent drug offenders?

Consider that imprisonment itself has many of the same disruptive effects upon family and community as does drug-use itself, even when the drug use is undetected and untreated. We have little or no idea what the impact would be if we simply replaced punishment with treatment for those who needed it - but we do know that even if we replaced half of all jail beds with community-based treatment, we would be saving money, and employing a better class of people doing it.

Of course, there is a shadow-good in the current system; it keeps people inclined to be prison guards away from those who are not. However, I think treatment is a better option there - or perhaps, just perhaps, a mind-altering experience.

But there is more to the war on drugs than power, even more to it than social control, even more to it than the "opiate of the masses" attempting to eliminate shortcuts to and supposed replacements for approved forms of spiritual expression and experience. Indeed, the only traditionally sacred herb that remains legal for ordinary folks is tobacco - but only in it's most addictive and least psychoactive forms. The more sacredly effective forms of the herb are kept very expensive, or legally unobtainable within the United States. Dominican and Cuban tobaccos are some of the best remaining strains of the herb that originally swept Europe with it's manifold effects, both sacred and profane.

Note that in effect, the enjoyment of this "vice" is restricted by price and access to the elites that can "handle it" - ordinary tobacco addicts are kept pacified with denatured and adulterated nicotine delivery devices.

All of these concentrations of power, of wealth, of doctrinal property are expressions of a deep-seated terror that obsesses those who are called to power and control; a fear of what would happen if "The wrong people" were to be allowed to act as they pleased. It's not that they fear what they would do or not do, so much, as they fear the inability to be sure what any given individual should do. And sadly, if you look at the lives of those most obsessed with the behavior of other people, you will find little forgiveness for their own human failings, foibles or even harmless whims. They fear their own Liberty as much or more as that of any other - for they know all to well what they are capable of, if only they did not discipline themselves against it.

So really, they forbid all things that tempt them, and make mandatory all that comforts them in the rather childish assumption that these things are universal dangers and comforts, while allowing that other restrictions that really don't seem to apply to their own nature are nonetheless best conformed to in public, for the benefit of those who might otherwise be led into temptation and folly.

So by this, and many other small but telling examples that you may glean from examining the social standards for the "ruling classes" across time to themselves and the stricter standards applied to "ordinary people," we must conclude that there is some degree of apprehension as to what might happen if the common people were permitted to simply do as they pleased, to whatever reward or lack thereof that they might find.

The parallel argument is to examine the ethics of choosing on behalf of others what sort of expressions and behaviors they will be permitted or forbidden, and what they must or must not do in order to deserve such permissions in comparison it to the supposed evils and harms that may arise if these behaviors are not restricted.

There is no case where a rational, defensible examination of any restriction of truly personal liberty can be clearly demonstrated to have a greater benefit than the harm caused. Indeed, it's fairly easy to substantiate that exercises such as the Drug War create widespread, systemic, crippling harm on a level all out of proportion to any positive social gains. The same arguments apply to attacks on birth control - and the reasons why they are problematic were well-put in Grizwold(Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965))



Ignore the nonsense about "penumbras," thought they are true enough - go directly to the Great Unmentioned Amendment. It's existence renders absurd any argument that there is no "constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy." Of course not. The Constitution recognizes rights, and recognizes some that the founders thought required explicit protections.

Nonetheless, the Due Process Clause itself is foundation enough, as Justice Marshall famously noted in a widely cited dissent:

In Poe, Justice John Marshall Harlan II filed one of the most cited dissenting opinions in Supreme Court history. He argued, foremost, that the Supreme Court should have heard the case rather than dismissing it. Thereafter he indicated his support for a broad interpretation of the due process clause. He famously wrote, "the full scope of the liberty guaranteed by the Due Process Clause cannot be found in or limited by the precise terms of the specific guarantees elsewhere provided in the Constitution. This 'liberty' is not a series of isolated points pricked out in terms of the taking of property; the freedom of speech, press, and religion; the right to keep and bear arms; the freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures; and so on. It is a rational continuum which, broadly speaking, includes a freedom from all substantial arbitrary impositions and purposeless restraints." On the basis of this interpretation of the due process clause, Harlan concluded that the Connecticut statute violated the Constitution.

Shortly after the Poe decision was handed down, Estelle Griswold (Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut) and Dr. C. Lee Buxton (a physician and professor at the Yale School of Medicine) opened a birth control clinic in New Haven, Connecticut, in order to test the contraception law once again. Shortly after the clinic was opened, Griswold and Buxton were arrested, tried, found guilty, and fined $100 each. The conviction was upheld by the Appellate Division of the Circuit Court, and by the Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors. Griswold then appealed her conviction to the Supreme Court of the United States.


There are situations where the overall social benefits of a minor restriction on personal liberty are persuasive to a person of conscience. But by making the conscientious choice, the arguably moral and considerate choice - indeed, the sane choice compulsory, we replace conscience with compliance and pretend they are the same thing.

I would use a properly-designed safety belt whether or not it were mandatory. I do it mindfully, every single time, even though the car I drive has a full set of airbags. It's part of the ritual that puts me in a responsible mindset for driving. And frankly, I do not care to include the "freedom" to exit my vehicle via the windshield as part of my personal portfolio of liberties!

Should we try and legislate responsible behavior? That is the liberal excuse for fiddling with people's freedom to make personal choices. In very rare cases, your more enlightened liberals see the idea of providing access to "better" choices to be acceptable; more often they try to enact laws they know will not be respected in private and certainly cannot be detected or prosecuted without some intrusion into constitutionally-protected rights.
In a trial balloon that could remove all metaphor from the phrase "nanny state," the assemblywoman announced plans last week to introduce legislation that would make it illegal for parents to spank their own children under the age of 4. Convicted fanny-slappers would face up to one year in jail or a $1,000 fine.

Conservatives prefer to artificially increase the consequences of choices they disapprove of, then point to the artificial consequences as justification for advising against "irresponsible behavior." I do not care to concede any duty to be "responsible" to even the most benificant tyranny; at most, I will comply when it's not convenient or personally profitable to evade the tyrant's rule.

But neither approach to coercion of "good behavior" is any more reasonable; both take responsibility OUT of the hands of the individual and place it into the hands of some form of self-perpetrating elite, who, by virtue of recognizing one another as being worthy by virtue of some intangible and largely irrelevant commonality, such as Yale or the Episcopal faith, are of course better qualified to assume the burden of being responsible for the "little people."

Neither better motives nor more competence than those I cynically allege change my objection to any degree. Indeed, I disqualify myself explicitly as being of sound enough judgment to be either right OR left "enough" to decide what other people "should" be doing when they are minding their own business and enforcing my will in that regard. (I am, of course, always willing to consult with responsible individuals on matters within my competent purview.)

Distorting the consequences of irresponsibility, either by overly padding the corners of life or by breeding werewolves to prowl outside the "designated safe areas," Liberty Herself is raped. There can be no effective liberty with out the ability to make a broad range of choices, be responsible for the consequences of those choices and have those choices and consequences bear some understandable relationship.

The rewards and the costs of living as you choose, based on your own understanding of your personal needs and individual desires should be in balance with the choices you make. That is true Liberty and actual Justice.

Until that very simple concept of fairness is re-established, honored and insisted upon by every free person in this society, we will not live in the free and open society we have been told exists in "the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave."

That may be effected by the stroke of a pen. All we need do is choose - as a block of freedom loving people - to recognize that the Unenumerated Rights ARE the right to choose for one's own individual sake, according to one's own perception of individual benefit, and most importantly, the most important of all enumerated rights - the right to be wrong. Yes, we do have the right to bear responsibility for being wrong, to accept and pay the due and just consequences that always flow from a bad choice, whether or not there's any recognition of it in law - and learn from it.

A free people - a people who are raised to tend to their own and govern themselves - have no need for coercive government, or indeed, any shred of external government they do not actively subscribe to.

If government - as a social institution - were restricted to doing only those things that enough people wanted done and were willing to make an individual choice to support, it would still have more to do in theory than it could achieve in practice.

This comes to be from a simple precept. People who are willing and able to govern themselves in all respects that they are interested in acting need no external government. To the extent they wish to act outside of their competence or experience, they may wish to abate their risks, for the price of screwing up at the expense of other people is a considerable consequence. And ultimately, unavoidably and necessarily those who demonstrate the unwillingness or inability to govern themselves will have to accept some form of restricted covenant upon their liberty that will assure those affected by their poor choices that both justice and prudence are satisfied.

Nonetheless, the fact that some cannot or will not be responsible for the consequences of their actions is no argument against the majority of those who are responsible and do choose to cope with the consequences of their choices.

Many on the Right like to use the term "personal responsibility" in ways that have no relationship whatsoever to the concept above. They mean it in the sense that you are personally responsible for visibly conforming to some external standard of behavior and must accept what arbitrary consequences that may be imposed upon you for being caught acting in private against those precepts.

The general lack of predictable and just outcomes in our system of justice is due to a simple fact; our system of justice is not about you, either as victim nor perpetrator; it's about a form of social justice and social regulation. Any individual justice is at best an accidental side-effect to a process that is brutally indifferent to the harm it causes in the process of "sending the right message."

The alternative, we are told, would be Chaos. And most fear chaos, flux and uncertainty to the point where we are willing to tolerate nearly any restriction upon our rights to avoid that fear.

But fear of unalloyed chaos is universal that we can be assured that no great amount will ever exist; all we need do is re-examine our constitution, which is our primary social compact in the United States, a document that sprang in it's from the best and most influential minds of America and Europe. It's very much more than our own private compact; it illustrates principles that are rooted in the bones of history and every act of regulatory futility and governmental abuse that predates it. It is a document of vast hope and even greater cynicism.

It sets up a mechanism whereby people in manageable chunks may regulate themselves as they see fit in concordance, while permitting dissent within and, should that prove futile, explicitly permitting people to "vote with their feet," to find a State that offers a social compact more suited to them and their needs.

The Federal Government was created as a check on those states putting too many restrictions on individuals, and as a means of organizing matters that were in the common interest of all states - such as a common defense, or the critical issues of interstate commerce, which are not things you might think of - what can and cannot be transported due to it's effect upon the morals of the innocent, but practical matters such as the maximum draft of a barge, a common standard of time, of wagon-gauges (so that wagons and carriages will create standard ruts and therefore avoid perfectly predictable problems.)

In other words, when there must be a standard chosen in order for a market to exist at all, you need an authority on the standards to make an acceptable choice from a wide array of possible alternates in cases where competition between standards would be foolish - like railroads and electrical plugs.

These are all cases where my "liberty" to chose between a dozen competing standards may interfere with my effective ability to buy and use an appliance I need in the place where I live. Increasingly, the choice of a reasonable standard is outside the competence of specialists.

This is the sort of thing that the best sort of government does best has been proven to work rather well even in the effective absence of anything we'd think of as government.

alt.config is pretty much all the government that Usenet Alt.* hierarchy has, is comprised of anyone and everyone worldwide that has an interest in the Usenet Alt.* hierarchy and it operates largely by consensus and common sense. That is also true of Usenet in a larger sense; the only penalty that can be assessed against those who violate a Big 8 newsgroup charter is to lose one's ability to connect to the Internet, and that penalty is assessed on a case-by-case, peer-by-peer basis.

Those persons and ISP/Hosts/servers who are locked off part or all of the "backbone" have every right - and a fair amount of practical ability - to route around the backbone. Furthermore, if too many people are restricted from "the" backbone, they can and will build "the other" backbone.

This is a model for rational self-government that depends on actual, predicable human behavior based in individual self-interest balanced against other, competing self-interests. It works, and it works rather well. Not only that, it is not possible to sabotage and subvert it by speaking one way and acting in another; the system depends on the actual behavior of participants to regulate itself, and to determine where and when boundaries must be drawn.

On the Internet, there are no crimes of thought or of motive. The Internet cares only about traffic, and whether you are placing more of a load on the system than you are contributing. Nor does the fact that the calculation is sloppy, dynamic and designedly imprecise of any great bother to most. So long as the signal-to-noise ratio is acceptable, it works as well as it needs to.

It is a new world view and an intuitively obvious demonstration of what is possible. There is one great truth that history paints with relentless precision; when a general perception of a better and more useful way of seeing the world and interacting with each other becomes widespread, it will come to pass.

[Jan 24, 2007: Substantially revised and updated to correct errors and include reference to the California Anti-Spanking initiative.]

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Monday, January 22, 2007

A Little Rhiel Word Interaction

I figured I'd best have a look around to see what's being said on the other side of the barbed wire about KSFO. I frankly find it astonishing that there ARE people who can't parse the distinction between the right to free speech and "saying anything about anyone with impunity in order to make a buck." I posted this as a comment over at Rhiel World - and then realized it made some points that people on THIS side of trenches should think on.

I feel a little caught in the middle here; as a Prog-Lib I've got feet in both camps. But I personally do draw a bright line at hate speech.

Indeed, making someone lose their brains and resort to the sorts of drooling lunacy served up as a regular diet on KSFO is to me a great big blue ribbon that says "I win." I mean, if you seriously suggest that "killing liberals" is a good idea, it pretty much means that their ideas are too dangerous to the the ideas you wished were true... but aren't.

I should add that I've seen this before. Vietnam era. Other side. Remember "baby killers" being screamed at returning draftees?

Same-same. This is the point where I stop listening, because if there's any truth buried in the crap - well, I hope I find it somewhere else, because life is too short to spend it having bile spat at me in anybody's cause.

Anyway, nobody is attacking their "free speech rights." They are attacking their right to be paid to speak, with the assumption of impunity.

Now, I know better.

And I also know there's not a single point made by KSFO that could not be made better by someone who wasn't using hate speech.

The moment you start attacking the person, instead of the idea, you have lost the argument. Everyone who doesn't already agree tunes out. Eventually, even those who agree become embarrassed to be associated with the viewpoint. And that political viewpoint, whatever it's validity, starts circling the drain.

And I see this as a serious problem. I don't LIKE the idea that there's nobody out there who can validly check my arguments. An honest argument on the merits of the case; that's a service to the American people. It's also good clean fun. But it's kinda like hockey. If you won't let the other team on the ice, it's just masturbation on skates - and after you've established that it can be done in the first place, I think most people lose interest rapidly.

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