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October 25, 2006

It's Getting Better All the Time

News8Austin: First Amendment rights limited at the polls

"They think that they can wear whatever they want to wear and that I do not have the authority to tell them what they can wear. And in that case I tell them, 'Yes, I do have the authority. I'm responsible for running this election according to election law,' " early voting clerk Ginny Knapp said.


The law is meant to keep any political influence away from people ready to cast their vote.

Whether you're casting a ballot or just stopping for coffee, the same rule applies across the board.

"It is a free country," Knapp acknowledged, "but they have to abide by election laws."

Copyright �2006TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin

New Drug Policy Alliance/Zogby Poll Finds 45 Percent Support Making Cigarettes Illegal (via Hit & Run)

Austin-American Statesman: Effort to unchain dogs meets resistance

A city ordinance proposed by a group called Chain Free Austin would make it illegal to leave tethered dogs outside unless their owners are with them.


The city already has a law that sets restraint requirements for dogs on private property. (A violation is a Class C misdemeanor, subject to a fine of up to $500.) Among the provisions:

•A person may not restrain a dog in a way that does not allow the dog access to shelter and water and may not use a tether that is likely to become entangled.

•Dogs may not be tethered to a fixed point for more than eight hours unless the restraint is at least 10 feet long, has swivels at each end and is attached to a pulley or cable that is mounted no more than seven feet above ground level.

Chain Free Austin's ordinance would do away with the eight-hour rule, thus making it illegal to restrain or anchor a dog by a tether unless the dog's owner or handler is physically present. (The restrictions would not apply to veterinarians, groomers or obedience or law enforcement trainers.)

Copyright 2001-2006 Cox Texas Newspapers, L.P. All rights reserved.

October 21, 2006

Oh to Be a Headline Writer

Fla. Church Probes Priest Tied to Foley

This mental image must be purged!

October 16, 2006

Kim du Toit Is Willing to Murder Me (and You) for the Greater Good

Kim du Toit: When Called

At its most basic foundation, conscription addresses an unpleasant little fact: most people are cowards. They might be cowards on their own behalf, or because they want to protect their children from dying, but they are cowards nevertheless.

We can dress this up with all the fine rhetoric, slogans and philosophy we choose: conscription is slavery; conscription is discriminatory; conscription is un-Constitutional, whatever.

It's all camouflage to hide the uncomfortable fact that many people consider their own lives to be more valuable than any ideal, or the needs of the community. (I don't have a problem with people feeling that way: I just want people to be honest about it.)

All emphasis is his.

Apparently, Mr. du Toit is one of those mystical types who can read my mind from afar! I had no idea my opposition to the draft was really just my inner coward spewing important-sounding words in stark terror, uttered because I'm unable to commit my life to any ideal or submit to the needs of the community. You've got me, Sir. I am a hollow, greedy individualist who cares nothing about anything beyond my immediate needs and short-term frivolities. All my talk about principle, ideas, concepts, coherency, and consistency is in reality a sham to cover up my terror at Standing Up Together For Freedom Like Good Little Citizens.

JesusfuckingChrist, what a revelation! All the arguments in the world mean nothing when exposed to Mr. du Toit! "Angels-dancing-on-the-heads-of-pins poppycock!" He'll see right through airy philosophy, ignore their pansy theoretical talk, and go straight to the heart of the matter!

Yes, if a cause is just, there should be no shortage of volunteers to defend it. That's a fine theory, but it's not the way the world works. In real life, there will be any number of shirkers, malcontents and cowards for whom nothing is worth the untimate sacrifice. Well, I take exception to that. If the cause is just, I don't see why only the brave should be sacrificed to preserve it.

Quite right! My stand against initiating physical force is paper-thin cover indeed for a thoroughly nihilist outlook that free-rides off the square-jawed efforts of hardy Manly Men. Hell, I bet if Mr. du Toit and I sat down for lunch, he'd show me that not only do I value nothing higher than myself, I also snicker inwardly at the brave souls who choose to bear the burden of defending the community.


OK. Now that I've purged the bile from my system, I can aim a little in a more constructive fashion.

I can see why some libertarians and freedom-minded people might like Mr. du Toit and his writing. He's certainly more sane than most of the social control types populating the GOP. However, after this post I cannot see myself ever reading him again in the same light. This essay of his is a full-throated paean to forced collectivism.

Once again, let me remind everyone of who we're talking about here, when we talk about who would impose conscription: we would. We The People, through our elected Congressional representatives and our elected President, would impose conscription.


Even considering what I'm about to write is merely my reflexive cover for my valueless existence, let me say that this is bullshit and demonstrably so. The act of voting strips the context and weight of your opinion on an issue, reducing it to a mark on one column for a politician to abuse as justification to do whatever he or she wants.

You cannot hold vote on what is moral and what isn't. Something is right or wrong independent of it's popularity. Shit! My apologies. I'm being an Ivy League pinhead here. How about something more concrete?

Voting for someone who wants to reinstate the draft doesn't tell that person anything at all about your preferences and priorities. It doesn't say when you want the draft imposed, in what manner you want it imposed, or under what circumstances you want it imposed. It doesn't describe your ideas regarding who should be subject to conscription, where those conscripted should fight, and when they can be set free. It doesn't disclose how you want these conscripted to be paid, what their military goals are, or how they ought to be equipped. It doesn't say what parts of the politician's platform (as if there is anything solid beneath the feet of an elected official...) you agree with and which parts you think are trash. It doesn't offer guidance as to what should be emphasized and what should be discarded. Voting for a politician who wants to bring back the draft is utterly fucking useless as a way to add your voice to his or her ears, to "speak up" in the "national discussion" as the degenerates who tirelessly attempt to run our lives put it so euphemistically.

Attention, Kim du Toit: making the case for a draft takes an argument, with theories and ideas consistently arranged to not only be persuasive but to conform to reality. But I suppose "conform to reality" might be one of those stupid "principles" that irritate you when someone presents them in front of your eyes. Bah on all that, right?

Can anyone even remotely believe that this nation would re-introduce conscription, except under the direst of circumstances?

You are gawddamn right I can envision scenarios where the public (We The People) is duped into believing the lies of bureaucrats and politicians who say the draft is the only way for Our Glorious Republic to continue to exist! Either Kim is caught up in his own rhetorical momentum and hasn't paused to consider the implications of what he's saying, or he is no fundamentally any different from any other statist in imbuing "representative" government with powers beyond that of moral individuals.
...he topic of the Vietnam War introduces the next line of discussion: selective acquiescence, summed up by the sentiment: "I'd fight for this reason, but not for that reason", or "in this war, not that war".

Sorry, but you don't get to make that choice. The nation, We The People, through our elected government, gets to make that choice, and that’s the beginning and the end of it.

I think I know one reason why Mr. du Toit is so dismissive of intense theoretical discussions of ethics and politics: the complexity that results throws a cog into his nationalist mindset. Here, he simply asserts the right of the majority (or, as is true in most cases, a bare plurality of those eligible to vote) to choose how the minority (or, as is true in most cases, an apathetic majority occasionally marbled with strident minority elements) will live their lives.

Mr. du Toit is only different from most in that he explicitly comes out and says it.

If we're going to talk in principles, though, let's consider this one: With freedom, comes responsibility and obligation. Freedom is not something which just is: it's something which needs constant nurturing, constant vigilance, and constant commitment.

(yeah, commitment and vigilance against people like du Toit)

There is not much objectionable in this. The exercise of freedom is not a costless state of affairs. It takes effort, time, and resources to not only enjoy freedom, but to maintain it. While it is wrong to infringe upon my freedom, the immorality of that infringement doesn't prohibit it from occurring.

If we are to survive as a free nation, it may be necessary for some people to die, so that others may continue to live free.

Again, this is not objectionable in the abstract. Through the process of defending what individuals value, it may happen that those doing the defending are killed. However...
As much as people may cherish individual freedom, it is an inescapable fact that individual freedom requires, in the last resort, a collective protection against its infringement, especially against an organized and powerful enemy.

...this does not follow from the former, at least not in the way he probably means. Defense and security services do not have to be restricted to the realm of the state, and when Mr. du Toit says "collective protection" in this context, I don't think he's talking about neighborhood contracts to alert others of danger. He means government armies: funded, enabled, and protected with the threat and application of physical coercion.

I do think a platoon or a regiment of trained warriors is very likely to do better in battle than a single person with a pistol or a large family with rifles. Just because someone is an individualist doesn't mean they are against people voluntarily banding together to work towards a common goal. Presumably, Mr. du Toit cannot fathom how a free market in defense would effectively work, the irony being that he has tried to build a "nation of riflemen" who would do precisely that. As he says, "The purpose of the Nation of Riflemen is not to provide the nation with a bunch of hunters, or target shooters, or tin-can plinkers. The purpose is to create a nation of people who are able to protect themselves, their families and their community against enemies foreign or domestic."

Demand creates supply and people want to be secure. Just as people will sometimes choose others to provide a safe, healthy, and tasty dinner for a price, free people will look at reality and decide for themselves (darn their independence!) whether or not to invest in their security beyond a lock on then front door. While the laws of economics might not provide enough of a guarantee for him, the alternative of slavery to the state isn't acceptable. The ends may be taken care of, but what if the means to those ends were morally abhorrent?

And it IS slavery to the state. In every which way (and increasingly the mundane), the various levels of American government have asserted their (We The People; or, We The Downtrodden; or, We The Unhappy; or We The Lazy; or We The Inept; or, We The 5% Who Voted For [whatever]) right to control what we do with our

  • bodies
  • incomes
  • guns
  • cars
  • homes
  • businesses
  • education
  • printing presses
  • TVs
  • computers

in order to make things better. An individual's rejection of that presumption of authority is viewed as being anti-social, a blockade against progress, and a greedy selfish little shit. This attitude is perversely pervasive and is present in nearly every discussion of politics and society you can dredge up. Continuing to reject that declared right to use what I own on their terms results in sending people after me to force compliance.

People, I might add, that have legal protections civilians don't have...in case they "are forced to" use deadly violence to end my noncompliance.

We can debate the worth or otherwise of the principle of conscription till the cows come home. I'm not interested in that.

Magical hand-waving! Nothing to see here! Just allow me to make an argument that says you can't argue with me!
We are not likely to see an American conscript army fight in the likes of Vietnam ever again. Such "foreign adventures" belong, and rightly so, to a foreign policy which depends on a volunteer, not a conscript force. We know that in these United States, conscription is likely to be imposed only in circumstances of the direst extreme, when our nation, and the principles for which it stands, are in the gravest danger.


The road to tyranny is littered with the bodies of people like this, naively believing there are Good People in Government or that there is just Good Government and they/it mostly, kinda, sorta does the really nasty things when "necessary." No words, however, for those situations when people disagree over the necessity of a particular situation. By what standard do we judge their arguments? Does Mr. du Toit think voting solves these problems, granting one side legitimacy one day when it had none previously?

But this is all "academic." Put aside all the above and pay close attention: he's arrived at brass tacks. His rubber is about to meet my road.

When those circumstances come, we won't need to have the need thereof spelled out.

Actually, we will. Because among us are those querulous cowards, appeasers and traitors who will advance all sorts of ivory-tower, high-principled arguments about why they should not have to die so that others should live free.

To those people who feel this way, even now, I have no sympathy, and I will have no truck with them.

We've gone from "I don't have a problem with people feeling that way" to "querulous cowards, appeasers and traitors" gutlessly squirming around mooching off others' hard work.
I'm not going to say that "if you don't like it, leave" or other such inflammatory statements, although I do agree with the sentiment that those who are not prepared to shed blood to fertilize the Tree of Liberty are not entitled to live under its shade.

His Tree of Liberty is fed through income confiscation (theft by any other name) and defended by people told to bear arms or face prison. I think his tree is grossly misidentified.

He's also bought fully into the bogus commie externalities argument, whereby those who benefit from someone's actions ought to "repay," somehow, that person. If that person does not repay voluntarily, he should be forced to do so.

What I will say is this: if a cataclysm occurs, if this nation faces the direst extreme, and We The People decide, after much agonized and bitter debate, that we have to invoke USC 10.13.311; that, in other words, I or my sons will have to serve: then so will you and yours.

Do you think this is an empty threat? Do you think Kim du Toit is merely being colorful here?
And I'll volunteer to serve in the firing squad if you refuse. I'm not too old or feeble for that duty.

Kim du Toit will volunteer to shoot me if I refuse to join the draft. He is willing to shoot me in the event I reject the government's call for "warm bodies."

After performing no crime against him and his, after violating none of his rights, after neither trespass nor assault, Kim du Toit is willing to shoot a stranger in cold blood for not saying yes to an entity that won't take no for an answer. He'll become a murderer for the government to help enforce a process that presents two choices: join the armed forces or lose your freedom.

The Gulag Du Toit, indeed. Check out the applause in the comments section as well as the clarification by both him and his wife "Tech Support." They mean it. It may mean nothing to them, but it means a lot to me.

It's my ass they would like to see shot.

Via Billy Beck. Hopefully he's given up on reasoning with these people.

October 13, 2006

The Short List of What's Wrong with America

-- War on Drugs
-- Taxes
-- welfare state
-- border control as labor protectionism
-- seat belt laws
-- smoking bans
-- Democrats
-- Republicans
-- gun control
-- government schools
-- airport security
-- EPA
-- Americans with Disabilities Act
-- endangered species act
-- anti-trust laws
-- corporate welfare
-- surveillance cameras
-- red-light cameras
-- political correctness
-- 10 commandments in courtrooms
-- Westboro Baptist
-- race pimps
-- anti-discrimination laws
-- civil lawsuits as institutionalized extortion
-- university education as collectivist propoganda
-- Cindy Sheehan
-- George Soros
-- tolerance of Muslim extremists
-- labor unions
-- eminent domain
-- no-knock SWAT raids
-- decency laws
-- anti-gambling laws
-- mainstream media
-- anti-prostitution laws
-- drivers licenses
-- two-party system
-- IRS
-- McCain-Feingold act
-- John McCain
-- gun-free school zones
-- The UN
-- subsidies to foreign countries
-- undermining the 1st amendment
-- abandonment of the 2nd amendment
-- abandonment of the 4th amendment
-- abandonmnet of the 9th amendment
-- abandonment of the 10th amendment and the doctrine of nondelegation
-- undermining of the 5th amendment
-- the 16th amendment
-- Weeks v United States (the exclusionary rule)
-- activist judges
-- the National Parks system
-- trade tariffs
-- the Federal Reserve system
-- National Firearms Act / US v Miller
-- the Communications Decency Act
-- the Digital Millenium Copyright Act
-- Paris Hilton
-- Michael Moore
-- speed bumps
-- zoning laws
-- the US Department of Education
-- the US Department of Labor
-- the US Department of Interior
-- the Clintons
-- sin taxes / blue laws
-- Social Security
-- FDA
-- FCC
-- seoverign immunity
-- George Washington's putting down the Whiskey Rebellion
-- roadside checkpoints
-- estate taxes
-- the Duke rape case
-- immigration quotas
-- the US Deaprtment of Health and Human Services
-- the US Department of Energy
-- the US Department of Homeland Security
-- anti big-box store ordinances
-- requirements for businesses to provide employee health insurance
-- anti Wal-Mart movement
-- alcohol regulation
-- militarization of police
-- Waco
-- Ruby Ridge
-- abandonment of jury nullification
-- regulations on things like toilets
-- legislative pork
-- the Clean Water Act
-- DEA
-- PETA and the ELF
-- Kelo v New London
-- the Bureau of Land Management
-- free speech zones
-- the fate of Carl Drega
-- school shootings
-- gangs
-- paparazzi
-- celebrity worship
-- CAFE regulations
-- the defacto ban on new building refinery capacity and nuclear plants
-- homeowners associations

and, for those advocating "love it or leave it", google for "american jobs creation act + expatriation or irs + expatriation

-Kyle Bennett, commenting at Uncommon Sense

It's a good start.

October 12, 2006

The State of Texas Screws With the Biodiesel Industry

Austin-American Statesman: Senators give biodiesel industry a push (ain't that the truth!)

Biodiesel manufacturers by the end of the year must convince the state's environmental agency that their product has tailpipe emissions in line with low emissions standards or possibly be forced to stop selling the renewable fuel in Texas.

This, only a few months after Austin was voted #1 in the country in terms of biodiesel (B20) retail availability.
Seeking to stave off a regulatory crisis in Texas' emerging biodiesel market, state senators on Wednesday urged industry representatives and the state's environmental commission to meet and forge a compromise.

Once - just once - I'd like to see an industry rep stand up and say, "Fuck you and your compromise. From today onwards, we will produce as we see fit. We will do this because it is our right and our judgment. We will do this because our responsibility is to produce what our customers seek, not what politicians and bureaucrats compel. We will do this because we want to show the whole world what is really going on here: the government threatening and ultimately using aggression against individuals who have not."

I'd buy a video iPod just to watch that news clip and the attending shouts of disgust and horror from the audience, "experts," and commissars.

One option, to force manufacturers to mix in an additive to reduce emissions, probably would raise prices.

Gawddammit, they're already high enough as it is! Last time I checked, it was hovering around three bucks a gallon. That's just expensive enough to keep me from using it, though I have in the past when regular diesel was upwards of $2.90 a gallon during last year's hurricane saga.

And yes, I am aware that "[g]overnment support is involved in making the price [of biodiesel] bearable." I'd rather have an entirely unsubsidized biodiesel market with high prices than a subsidized one with lower prices. Attendant to that is a biodiesel market that is also not subject to the whims of the state, which would help greatly to reduce prices.

At stake may be the future of biodiesel sales in Texas, which recently passed Iowa with the nation's highest production capacity, about 100 million gallons of biodiesel. Another 87 million gallons of capacity could come online next year.

"We're the nation's leader on this, and I hope there's going to be no problem going forward," said Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, at a hearing Wednesday of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources.

There wouldn't be any problem if these assholes would just get out of the way of those trying to get their work done.
The crisis has had the peculiar effect of casting advocates of biodiesel, often touted as an environmentally friendly alternative to standard diesel, in opposition to the state's environmental commission.

It's only peculiar if you assume environmentalism as a primary and that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality justifiably exists.

I prefer biodiesel over dino-diesel because it is better for my engine. All other benefits are secondary, though I do like that compared to regular diesel it burns cleaner.

But the environmental issue in Texas hinges on an empirical question about a particular kind of emission called nitrogen oxide: namely, how much nitrogen oxide biodiesel, which is typically a blend of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent standard diesel, emits compared with the state's diesel emissions standards.

Last November, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality decided that biodiesel emissions exceeded the limits for smog-producing nitrogen oxide under the state's low-emission diesel program.

Copyright 2001-2006 Cox Texas Newspapers, L.P. All rights reserved.

Leave it to the state to screw things up. It's been demanding the market respond to environmental concerns and then when it does, it starts throwing up roadblocks to progress.

Un-limited Austin Government

News8Austin: Fortune cookies proselytize for bond package

Supporters of an Austin bond proposal are trying to reach voters through Asian restaurants.

A message on the paper inside the fortune cookies encourages support for a $31.5 million bond package to build an Asian cultural center.

Copyright ©2006TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin


2006 Bond Election:

Proposition 4

Ballot Language:

"The issuance of $31,500,000 in tax supported General Obligation Bonds and Notes for constructing, renovating, improving, and equipping community and cultural facilities including, without limitation, the Zachary Scott Theater, an African American Cultural and Heritage Facility, an Asian American Resource Center, the Austin Film Studios, the Mexican American Cultural Center, a Mexic-Arte Art Museum, and acquiring land and interests in land and property necessary to do so; and the levy of a tax sufficient to pay for the bonds and notes."

I just want to scream when I hear about this stuff.

It's particularly frustrating when you hear about some people spending their own money to advocate their pet projects, but can't bear to do the same thing to actually fucking fund the damn things in their entirety. Instead, they spend a small amount to impose a tax burden on everyone else.

It absolutely does not matter a whit if "[f]or the owner of the median-priced home, $167,200 (the 2006 Austin certified tax roll median) the result of these phased-in tax increases would be an additional $50 of property taxes per year." It doesn't matter if most people can "afford to pay" that extra amount. What matters here is the principle at stake: who rightly controls what is yours. A fraction (people voting for) of a fraction (people actually voting) of a fraction (eligible voters) of Austin residents voting on how much money to take away from you under threat of police violence is what bond issues represent. The bullshit of "the people of Austin voted for" is laid entirely transparent once you understand this. I once estimated that 5% of the humans in Austin voted for the recent smoking ban, which was then imposed on a city of more than 650,000. When the final numbers come out, I have little doubt 3-8% of Austin residents will have imposed their will on the rest of us.

Of course, the solution really isn't massing voter opposition on election day. That affirms the premise it is proper to hold a plebiscite to determine what we can and can't do with our property. The solution is to change the way people think about these things so we won't have to hold votes in the first place. But given the incredible resistance against that way of thought and the almost willful blindness on the part of the supermajority who merely shrug their shoulders and go "meh," paying little to no attention to the monsters working out in the open, I don't expect such a radical and *gasp* extreme movement to get anywhere.

October 11, 2006

No, no, NO!

There are times when I wonder if the immediate payoff of attempting to learn things about reality, humans, and their interaction is revulsion rather than celebration.

The latest example: a story about a kid who did the right thing. Wonderful instance of someone recognizing the situation, formulating a reaction, and following through on it. The result is a safe family and a dead criminal.

And what do I read just a few comments downward?

One Shot... One Kill.
by David Quin

One Shot... One Kill. Military in his future?

That or law enforcement
by mikefisk

Either way, pretty good crackshot.

Yes. That's right. Let's take a situation where the subject is the innocent protecting himself and that which he values against an invader...and completely reverse it! Rather, let's take that innocent and turn him into the invader so that other innocents can deal with him, as a criminal.

Whether or not a specific police officer stops or prevents a legitimate crime, I have no doubt that the vast majority of his or her time is spent harassing and assaulting people whom have done nothing that rated that harassment and assault.

And as for military service, well, we all know their salaries don't just de-evaporate from nothingness, right?


Related thoughs: Manufacturing Ethical Cripples, by Billy Beck.

Attack of the Mutant Alien Radical Leftist Agenda!

What crosses your mind when you read something like this?

Aaron Sorkin, the Hollywood liberal behind the West Wing and the new Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip continues his streak of using attacks on Christianity to begin his shows. Townhall.com writer Brent Bozell has the story saying, "maybe cursing out Christians is his show-opening good luck charm." In addition to his attacks on Christianity, Aaron Sorkin is funding the liberals attempt to take over Congress and impose their radical agenda on America. Sorkin is contributing to dozens of Democrat candidates including Ted Kennedy and his online left-wing minions. Only you and conservatives like Ann Coulter, Hugh Hewitt, Thomas Sowell and the rest of Townhall.com's over 100 conservative leaders stand in their way. Stop their liberal plans by joining the millions of Townhall.com conservatives now!

Personally, I see schlocky ad copy that could be lifted from the back cover of any random sci-fi or horror b-movie, garnished with a twist of a breathless children's action cartoon summary. Seriously, this is a short distance away from All Your Base Are Belong To Us.

What kind of a person writes/approves/sponsors this shit?

October 06, 2006

Vulture Alert

Shorter Fran Visco:

You either hate or don't give a damn about women with breast cancer (indeed, just women in general) if you don't support additional the tax-thievery necessary to expand the government's R&D into the disease. I will now whine about how I followed the playbook and discovered that the playbook doesn't automatically net me a win.

Shorter Eve Ensler:
The Vapid Monologues: The Politics of My Plate of Mental Spaghetti.

Sam Sparks Changes the Austin Smoking Ban

But in a matter of degree, when the matter deserved nothing less than a contemptuous sneer and complete dismissal in kind as a gross violation of private property.

Austin-American Statesman: Smoking ban battle reignites

A federal judge on Wednesday struck down part of Austin's smoking ban and found that some of its enforcement provisions were "unconstitutionally vague."

The decision by U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks did not overturn the smoking ban, enacted by voters in May 2005. But Sparks did clarify what steps a business owner must take to be in compliance with the ordinance. Sparks was presiding over a lawsuit filed last year by a group of bar owners.

Sparks said the businesses must post "no smoking" signs and remove ashtrays and other smoking accoutrements. However, the owner can no longer be held liable for not taking additional steps if patrons continue to smoke, Sparks ruled.


Before this decision, the city's rules required the bar owner to take several "necessary steps" to enforce the ordinance, including posting signs; removing ashtrays; asking the patron to stop smoking or to leave if he or she refuses; and denying service to a person who is smoking.

Under those rules, Sparks found that bar owners could still be held liable, even if they followed the city's guidelines.

"The city persists in dodging the question and failing to give definitive guidance to business owners and operators about how they might avoid liability under the ordinance," the judge wrote in his ruling.

The thumbscrews have been loosened slightly and it is hard on me to see some folks cheer this on.

The comment section on that story is fucking alive with jungle noises. Holy shit there are some repungant people out there, just scratching at their eyes to dictate what others do with their property.

Everything I've previously written on the Austin smoking ban, in reverse order:

  1. Austin Smoking Ban Hits the Courts
  2. Deadline for the Austin Smoking Ordinance
  3. Yeah, We'll Just All Talk It Over
  4. The Additional Tyranny - The New Austin Smoking Ban Passes
  5. Austin Smoking Ban Hits the News
  6. "This is beginning to feel like persecution."
  7. Fight the Austin Smoking Ban
  8. Austin Smoking Ban in Effect Today
  9. The People vs. The Tobacco Industry
  10. Austin's Smoking Ban, Revisited
  11. Austin Smoking Ban Update
  12. Why Society Must Change First III
  13. Individual Rights & Collective Rights: Smoking
  14. Austin Smoking Ban Passes
  15. Austin Smoking Ban Considered Today
  16. Austin Smoking Ban Finale
  17. Austin Smoking Ban Passes, Kinda
  18. Chirac to Smoking Frogs: No More!
  19. Austin Considers a Smoking Ban

October 03, 2006

I Save My Instant Messages

While cruising through the Web reading about the Mark Foley scandal, I've seen several people say something to the effect of, "who saves IMs anyway?"

I've saved every IM and virtual chat room discussion I've been in since 2000. Why? Sometimes I've wanted to go back and revisit things that were said, particularly when they were funny or intelligent. I don't see anything particularly odd about this.

Assuming the boy with whom Mr. Foley was chatting valued the conversation, it doesn't strike me as odd if he saved it. The question then becomes, was the value in saving it for personal remembrance or for public revelation?

October 02, 2006

Contradiction as Innovative Political Strategy

[Updates below.]

It was my fealty to the notion of personal liberty that made me a Republican when I came of age in the 1980s. It is my continued fealty to personal liberty that makes me a Democrat today.

-Markos Moulitsas, leading off a Cato Unbound discussion

This ought to be enough evidence that Kos doesn't know a damn thing about the subject of personal liberty. However, should you desire more...
That blog post on libertarian Democrats, imperfect as it was, struck a chord. But it wasn't written in a vacuum. It stemmed not from theory or philosophy (I'm neither a theorist, political scientist, nor a philosopher), but from personal experience and from my excitement at the growing ranks of Western Democrats who aren't just transforming the politics of the Mountain states, but will hopefully lead to the reformation of the Democratic Party and a new embrace of the politics of personal liberty.
The "libertarian democrat" rhetoric must be seen for what it is: an incoherent attempt to gather votes for Democrats so they will win control of a system that not only has never been seriously libertarian, but will also barely budge the truly frightening statist inertia it has gathered over the last hundred years. There is no reflection on the core principles of nonaggression, private property, and freedom of contract. He repeats, without any new ideas, the Established Necessities that clearly require a state for civilization to function®: roads, education, research grants, the Internet, business accountability, safety rules, advertising regulations (this, just after talking about flag burning amendments as threats to free speech!).

He thinks individual freedom without the opportunity to exercise it is pointless, completely ignoring the concerted challenges to his unstated premise: individuals cannot be trusted to create their own opportunities for themselves and therefore we must have a state to herd us along. No note of the decades of scholarly effort that, at the very least, cast doubt on this most sacred of political assumptions. He assumes you and I and everyone else simply would not be able to intelligently make our own decisions without the state compelling companies to disclose information on their products.

He wraps it all up thusly:

So a "free" market needs rules ("regulation") in order to function. And such rules should be welcome so long as they are designed to enhance and protect our personal liberties.

A law that in practice forcibly removes a concrete representation of our personal liberty and in theory sets the stage for an infinite number of other such invasions is...designed to enhance and protect our personal liberty.

Everything I said in The Myth of the Libertarian Democrat applies as it did back in June. Kos may be espousing a position marginally nicer to some existing and future victims of state aggression, but I'm getting real sick of him selling him and his compatriots as friends of individual freedom. They are not and I could spend all day highlighting examples to disprove his claim and demonstrate the opposite.

The only grains of truth in his essay are those condemning Republicans as hypocrites and shills for corporate welfare. He closes with this:

For too long, Republicans promised smaller government and less intrusion in people’s lives. Yet with a government dominated top to bottom by Republicans, we've seen the exact opposite. No one will ever mistake a Democrat of just about any stripe for a doctrinaire libertarian. But we’ve seen that one party is now committed to subverting individual freedoms, while the other is growing increasingly comfortable with moving in a new direction, one in which restrained government, fiscal responsibility and - most important of all - individual freedoms are paramount.

His emphasis. Here's my question to people who value their freedom:

What do you think about a political party that is more "comfortable" than it was in the past with letting people run their affairs as they see fit, a comfort based not on any unyielding principle but on political expediency?

UPDATED 10/6/2006 1:15pm
Kyle Bennett sent in the following comment:

Kos and his ilk have a very different notion of "personal liberties" than libertarians do. It's not just a political difference about what constitutes a personal freedom, but a fundamentally different epistemological and metaphysical view of what freedom is. They look at freedom as something like Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms". Things like freedom from want, freedom from fear, etc. The root of it is that they see *any* obstacle as an impingement on their freedom, where libertarians see coercion as the only obstacle that qualifies. Poverty, tragedy, discomfort, lack of opportunity, and even the need to pursue your own happiness, etc., to them, these are all examples of freedom being limited . Their "state of nature", against which the legitimacy of government is measured, is not the libertarian one in which everyone gets a spot on the starting line, but one in which everyone has a comfortable spot on the finish line, complete with a bed of laurels, and so never has to actually run the race. It's the *universe* that is his nemesis, not (some) other men - except for those other men who take the universe's side against his, i.e., those who hold reality and reason as primary.

And where libertarians see the only obligation of society as that of not *causing* the limited class of obstacles (coercion) that limit their freedom, from their view of nature flows the Kos Kind's vision of society as having a positive obligation to remove or prevent the things they see as limiting freedom.

In that sense, he's not engaging in any contradiction, (at least not until you delve deeper into the derivation of his notion of "personal liberties" - there's contradictions a plenty to be found there). It may not even be a cynical and insincere attempt at some kind of rapproachment, he probably actually believes it.

--Kyle Bennett

Mr. Bennett is referring to the two conceptions of positive and negative liberty.

If Kos is sincere about seeking a sensible partnership, this again highlights how little he studies the fundamental issues. Libertarians generally adhere to a "negative liberty" mental framework while the more statist political ideologies advocate a "positive liberty" mindset. There are exceptions to this. For example, I remember (but can't find at the moment) Kos making some negative-liberty-style arguments against the drug war, government banning gay marriage, and government spying. Of course, the smart money is on him ultimately favoring "positive liberty" arguments leading to government intervention in any given situation.

I shudder to think about the intellectual acrobatics it would take to reconcile two 1,000-word Kos-authored essays elucidating his position on random personal liberty issue (such as bike helmet laws or consensual sex) and random broad economic issue (such as minimum wage laws or tariffs). The irony being that at their core, every issue becomes a concretely, painfully personal issue at some point. Libertarians generally understand this because, in yet another significant departure from Democrats, they see and analyze the individual as the fundamental unit of society. Not the class, race, sex, orientation, religious belief, and so on.

It is good to see Democrats opposing various Republican Party schemes and elevating their civil liberties rhetoric. However, I am absolutely convinced that much of this is the result of their dislike of Bush, today's GOP, and everything done that can be linked to them. I'm not at all surprised to see Nancy Pelosi put forward a muddled government-expanding mix of solutions as a hint at what she'd do to redirect the House of Representatives' agenda.