Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Photo Opportunity

Does anyone in Fort Worth know the location of one of these billboards?

A mortuary transport service owner named Donald Short was ordered by the courts to pay for them as part of a corpse abuse plea bargain deal.
I have a deep, genuine need to climb onto one of these billboards and have my picture taken while holding a bucket of white paint and a brush. If anyone has an old hearse that I could rent for the day, I'd like to park it underneath. It would draw a crowd, don't you think?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

On The Inconvenience Of Prosperity

Here's John Stossel on [the President-elect's] plans to remake the economy because of the recession.
He begins with a couple of quotes:
"Painful crisis also provides us with an opportunity to transform our economy to improve the lives of ordinary people," - Barack Obama
"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste" - Rahm Emmanuel

So they will "transform our economy." [the President-elect's] nearly trillion-dollar plan will not merely repair bridges, fill potholes and fix up schools; it will also impose a utopian vision based on the belief that an economy is a thing to be planned from above. But this is an arrogant conceit. No one can possibly know enough to redesign something as complex as "an economy," which really is people engaging in exchanges to achieve their goals. Planning it means planning them.
[the President-elect] and Emanuel want us to believe that their blueprint for reform will bring recovery from the recession. Yet we have recovered from past recessions without undertaking a radical social and economic transformation.
In fact, reform would impede recovery.
This is not the first time a president chose reform over recovery. Franklin Roosevelt did it with his New Deal, and the result was long years of depression and deprivation.

Later on, he digs up the scariest quote of all. This is from FDR's 2nd Inaugural address:

"To hold to progress today, however, is more difficult. Dulled conscience, irresponsibility and ruthless self-interest already reappear. Such symptoms of prosperity may become portents of disaster! Prosperity already tests the persistence of our progressive purpose."

We're already seeing grousing that the current stretch of cold weather is going to interfere with funding for initiatives to fight Global Warming. Is there anything that would be more disheartening to the current batch of "Progressives", whose economic and governmental ideals shouldn't have survived the age of feudalism, than a nice, quick economic turnaround?

The Dallas Cowboys and the instruments of God's wrath - The Philadelphia Eagles

As predicted, there was a problem with #9 on Sunday. Hit this link and come back to me.

I feel like the Prophet Isaiah. Or at least a Vegas odds-maker. Tony Romo, #9 for The Dallas Cowboys, had the worst game I can remember from a Dallas quarterback since the Ryan Leaf experiment. The Cowboys, at one point early in the season, were favored to go to the freakin' Super Bowl. Now they won't even be in the playoffs. They got spanked by the Philadelphia Eagles, 44-6.

Every year, I have a wager with a co-worker that the Cowboys won't win a playoff game. They never, ever do. I always eat well in January, because of all that extra money.

Why won't they win a playoff game? (Do you know what the difference is between God and Jerry Jones? God doesn't think that he's Jerry Jones.)
God doesn't like Cowboys owner/General Manager Jerry Jones.
There's no other way to explain it. How else do you explain the Romo Butterfingers on the field goal two years ago, the total meltdowns every December, or the masterpiece that Philly's Donovan McNabb put together last Sunday?

Jerry Jones and the City of Arlington have seized/stolen/taken houses and business via Eminent Domain. They've used the bulldozed space to start construction of a temple in honor of a team that is now 0-12 in the last dozen years' worth of playoff games.

As long as Jones is owner and General Manager, they're not going to win a playoff game. More than anything else, Jones wants to be known as a football X's and O's guy.
But he's not.
Jerry Jones is a brilliant businessman but a crappy evaluator of football talent and team chemistry. He needs to turn the G.M. responsibilities over to someone who doesn't labor under an Old Testament curse. (I work in the shipping, logistics, and freight industry, and that qualifies me to comment on these things.)
Those early Super Bowl wins were because of a team put together by coach Jimmy Johnson. Deal with it.
(Full disclosure: I loved the Johnson era Cowboys, and thought that Jimmy's "Turning The Thing Around" was the best sports-as-metaphor-for-life book I'd ever read.)

Jones fired Johnson because of nothing but ego.

Is there any other franchise in baseball, football, basketball or hockey whose G.M. has gone 12 years without a playoff victory? (Maybe Al Davis, the owner/G.M. of the Oakland Raiders?) Somebody help us out on this....

Next year, the citizens of Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington Texas will be able to watch an even crappier team, but with the luxury of nicer toilets.

Hardly an even trade-off.

Jerry Jones, you have taken what was not yours. You will atone. God is not mocked.

Thanks To All Of The Designated Hitters

I can't thank everyone enough for filling in for me during my vacation.

Here are a few comments about the posts and the comments that they generated.

Stephen Smith's Prediction of Stormy Weather for Free Markets was the first post to go up, and it was dead on accurate. Not only does Stephen stand up for his principles, he stands up for them while running for office. Easier said than done. And yes, Stephen had rather be right than popular.
Let me try a medical analogy..... There was a time when the popular medical decision was to "bleed" patients, or apply leeches to infections. The "right" decision was to refrain from doing so. Sometimes the best action is no action, even if that means being accused of having no solutions.

"First, do no harm". I think Hippocrates said it.
Especially when the leeches cost $700 billion dollars.

On Tuesday, The Browncoat Libertarian's post on cigar smoking generated a ton o' controversy, thanks to the Doctor Formerly Known As Trotsky, Now Recognizable As Ralph Barr.

My response to The Good Doctor's Nanny State ideal would run as follows:
1) Libertarianism is based on the idea that you are the owner of your "self".
2) No one else should have responsibility for you, and vice-versa except in voluntary situations (such as charity, family, friendship, or other non-coercive relationships).
3) Red Adair made a small fortune risking his life to put out oil well fires. Tony Romo is making a large fortune by entrusting his physical well-being to the Dallas Cowboys' offensive line (heh heh). Carpenters make less money by risking their fingers, but that's the skill they swap for cash. Millions of data entry clerks risk Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in the course of their daily duties. Michaelangelo went near-blind from painting the inside of the Pope's roof. Entrepreneurs risk heart attacks, ulcers, bankruptcy, and nervous breakdowns.
4) Do we really need government arbitrarily deciding that this occupation or environment is too risky, when Jeff Gordon is allowed to drive more than 100-MPH for our entertainment?
5) I propose that all restaurant and bar owners be given a choice of providing a smoking and non-smoking areas or not doing so. Customers could take it or leave it. Ditto for employees.
6) Cigarette and Cigar smoke can't possibly be harmful, especially in their 2nd-hand manifestations. Why? Because our government supports tobacco farmers with huge price supports, subsidies, and outright payments of your dollars. And our government wouldn't do anything like that if tobacco was really harmful.
7) For further discussion of this topic, see "Scared To Death" by Christopher Booker and Richard North. Chapter 12, Smoke and Mirrors - How They Turned "Passive Smoking" Into A Killer, 1950-2007.
8) BTW, I think The Aggie bought me some Cubans as a belated Christmas gift. If that's the case, I plan to put them aside to smoke when Castro dies.

VampE's likening of this dispute to Freud's explanation of the true nature of cigars summed up everything nicely.

On Wednesday, my friend Gar wrote a great post about the idea of a Higher Power conflicting with the idea of Liberty. What it boils down to is that if you believe that God is in his heaven making the decisions for you, you have no responsibility for your own freedom. The implication is that any belief in a God who intervenes is incompatible with Liberty. This was also the post where my arch-nemesis (and doppelganger) Fembuttx decided to regale us with his/her tales of bedroom hardware. (Thank you, B, for deleting these when necessary.)

So on Christmas Eve, I was blessed with an anti-religion post with an additional discussion of sexual perversions. (Stay with me, I'm going somewhere with this.....)
Then, out of the blue, a huge right-wing conservative outfit called The Conservative Grapevine decided to make me their Site Of The Day. Check out December 24th on the link above. You might have to hit "Archives" to get there.

At last count, at least 588 God fearing, Limbaugh listening, Republican voting, Salt Of The Earth conservatives were innocently sent to this site to experience Gar slamming religion and Fembuttx describing penile prosthetics. Unbelieveable. Nowhere but here.
In the words of Barack Obama, "In no other country on earth is my story even possible".

Tim Lebsack's post the Friday after Christmas didn't generate a lot of commentary (I guess everyone was busy with post-holiday stuff), but it got a lot of hits.
I was disturbed when Dr. Ralph Barr couldn't find anything disagreeable in Tim's content.

Therefore, Tim, there must be something wrong with you. Turn in your Libertarian Party Badge and Secret Decoder Ring on your way out the door.

On Saturday, I applied The Fairness Doctrine, and ran a post of Dr. Ralph's that I had already responded to on his site.
The only thing I can add at this point is that I spend a substantial part of my online blog-browsing asking people what the recent Community Re-investment Act disaster has to do with 1) Free Markets, and 2) De-regulation.

Tarrant County Liberty Guy's post on Sunday about the recent improvement in the TCLP didn't generate a lot of commentary, but then it was more about statistics than doctrine. While I was on vacation I happened to read the issue of Liberty magazine that he recommends, and it was excellent. (Yes, I'm a geek.)

Andrew Ian Dodge sent me a post about mandatory payments going to the BBC, which apparently everyone on that side of the English-speaking pond has to pay IF they own a television. That didn't generate much controversy or commentary since 1) we have no idea what Channel 4 is, and 2) if anyone in the U.S. were automatically charged for anything regarding television viewing, we would rise up from our Barcaloungers and revolt. I can't get people worked up over farm subsidies, import quotas, or The Fed printing monopoly money, but charging money to watch TV? That would cause a revolt.

One more interesting thing about Andrew's post..... someone named Yunshui logged on to comment. Yunshui runs a freethought/skepticism site called Right To Think. DO NOT READ THIS POST OF YUNSHUI'S IF YOU EVER WANT TO ENJOY THE MOVIE "IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE" AGAIN. DO NOT READ IT. IF YOU LIKE JIMMY STEWART AND "IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE", DON'T GO THERE. (but he says some really funny things about angels.)

NickM of Counting Cats provided Today's post, the one immediately below this one. He begs everyone in the U.S. not to screw up the good thing that we've got going on. I bet we find a way.

Thanks again to everyone who sent in this great stuff.

The Free Market and Service

Unless my boat was torpedoed by Castro (the agenda calls for us to go to Cozumel, The Caymans, Jamaica, and then circle around the north of Cuba) I should be back from vacation by now.
(Sorry. I can't help myself. I just thought of this. Wouldn't it be great if Castro were to die, and we could bring the cruise ship close enough to see the island celebrations brought on by the passing of that murderous bastard? Wouldn't that just be freakin' great? But I digress....)

I can't thank everyone enough for Guest Blogging in my absence. One of the joys of doing this has been corresponding with people all over the U.S., England, Australia, Israel, New Zealand, and elsewhere about the shared goals we have for our planet.

The last guest blogger is my Brother from Another Mother, NickM of the Counting Cats blog. I asked my overseas guests to write on the difference between libertarianism over there and over here, as they understand it.
Nick's got some things to say about the U.S. as compared to England on the subject of "service", and the idea that all honest work is honorable.

Liberty in the UK and the USA? Compare and contrast! I know the USA quite well. Of course I know the UK very well being a Brit and all.

Well... I think the USA is much freerer. But fundamentally I think it is becoming much more like Europe which is of course the desiderata of the US Left (yes, Mr Obama that means you).

When I first pitched-up in the USA in 1996 I fell in love with the country. The last time I was there (2006) the TSA X-rayed my shoes and shouted at me - what a start to a honeymoon!

It improved. Off Key West I felt the hydrodynamical fluence of a 2.5m Nurse Shark... Now that's cool. And I was there for "Fantasy Fest" and the streets were full of people wearing nothing but bodypaint and flip-flops. And that was in Florida! In the South! People don't get it over here. They think of The South as being filled with viper-eyed, Bible-banging nutjobs... The idea (on this side of the pond) that not all Americans are religious or especially that even the religous ones aren't raving mad "young earthers" does not compute.

And therein lies the disconnect. I have spent many weeks in Georgia and Florida and a great many folks over here just assume I was made to "squeel like a pig" when in fact I was made extremely welcome and received excellent customer service. People over here just don't believe it because they just know whsat Ameria is like despite never having been there.

That is a problem. And it is one which spreads beyond those two Great States I mention because, at base, it is a disbelief in the idea that a free market can ever create anything beyond facile, "Have a Nice Day" pseudo-service. The freerer the market the more service matters. My wife was once a waitress in a City bar and I've worked similar jobs. It is only the left that regards serving people (doesn't everyone with a job serve people in some sense?) as demeaning? when my wife served cocktails to bankers she took pride in her work (and it paid for her MA) and when I worked telesales (which kept body and soul together) it paid for the first PC I built from scratch...

There is nothing demeaning about service. And therein lies the difference. The USA is much less snobby than we are. I hope to hell you stay that way because in that direction freedom lies because whatever depredations government carries out either having a few quid or being able to make a few quid is the safest way to rise above governmental pillage.

I love the USA (I keep on going) and America don't screw it up as we did in Europe, Please.

Nick, thanks for contributing. We'll try hard not to screw it up, but we've got some serious opposition.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Imagine getting a bill from Big Bird

If you're in the U.S., you might occasional contribute to Public Radio and Public Television pledge drives.

How would you feel if you got a bill in the mail, whether you wanted to contribute or not?

That's currently the largest burr under the saddle of the U.K.'s Andrew Ian Dodge, of Dodgeblogium and Pajamas Media. (To read more about Andrew's diverse media outlets, click here. We've also been corresponding about music and a few other topics, all of which will be published when I get back from vacation.)

Read this about
a BBC and Channel 4 merger. Get back to us.....

Here's Andrew:

“John Whittingdale MP, the Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport select committee, criticized the plan for its knock-on effect on the BBC's funding.
"This is essentially a plan aimed at taking public money surreptitiously, because it takes profits away from the BBC, and forces the license fee to go up.
"Channel 4 is keen on it because it thinks that it would be difficult for it to justify taking public money directly."”

This quote will probably shock many people in the UK who care about their television service and the drreaded TV license fee. If someone were to poll British taxpayers a vast majority would have no idea that Channel 4 was not a private concern.

There is much discussion about the licence fee these days in the UK. There is even a strong movement to avoid paying it to either have it reformed or to end it all together. Their inflation beating rises in the tax on televisions and the Stasi-like behaviour of those tasked with collecting it annoy many Britons in the age of 500 channels most of which are not the BBC.

The most recent iteration of fiddling the taxpayers money for television is to combine Channel 4 and BBC Worldwide, the part of the BBC that actually makes money. BBCW is the one that flogs their programs worldwide whether it means selling aged sit-coms to Public Television in the US, doing joint ventures with A&E or running the successful BBC America.

Needless to say the BBC is rather against this idea and will fight it tooth and nail. To counter this proposal this BBC is proposing a variety of arrangements with other parts of the public service broadcasting arena. They are clearly worried by all of this, no doubt partly stunkg by the variety of scandals of late whether it be the sacking/suspension of Jonathan Ross/Russell Brand for their behaviour or kicking rubbish but lovable John Sargeant off their “entertainment” program “Dancing with the Stars”.

The public mood is quite poor towards the BBC and the hyenas are circling in various guises. Many believe that the BBC will not retain its current form for much longer. The BBC is merely making its best efforts to keep the damage to a minimum.

And you thought the annual “donation drive” from public television was annoying. Imagine if you had no choice but to pony up every year.

Written by Andrew Ian Dodge with the help of Steve Bettison of the Adam Smith Institute.

Wow. The Adam Smith Institute. Thanks for contributing, guys ! Hope you enjoy contributing to government sponsored programming !

Sunday, December 28, 2008

And now, a word from Big Daddy

John Spivey is the Big Daddy of the Tarrant County Libertarian Party and the Tarrant County Libertarian Meetup Group. I don't know anyone who has been working harder to advance the Freedom-Lover agenda. He's a frequent commenter on these pages, under the name "Tarrant Liberty Guy".

John doesn't have a website, but when I asked him to Guest Post (while I'm on vacation) about what libertarians need to do differently, he sent in this gem, prefaced with a shot across the bow of the ideologically creaky vessel manned by yesterday's guest blogger, Dr. Ralph:

Being asked to guest type for The Whited Sepulchre is somewhat intimidating as I typically enjoy reading his original witty takes on current events and then making outlandishly long and snarky commentary not unlike the closeted communist, Dr. Ralph. But I digress... I believe I was asked to give my $.02 on the future of the Libertarian Party or libertarianism in general. So here's my take:

As Chair of a County Libertarian Party, I've seen tremendous gains in our local libertarian scene. We've gone from 6 members meeting every two years to affirm a handful of pre-nominated and non-contested candidates to a group whose grassroots ranks are numbering in the triple digits, alliances with philosophically aligned 'major' political party campaigns and supporting candidates who, doggone it, looks like they have a very legitimate chance to win an election to a high office in the county's largest city (population 700,000-ish)! Libertarian straight ticket voters increased by a greater margin than the overall increase in total voters in this Obama-fueled electionapalooza. Straight ticket Democrats increased, but not as much as the overall total. Even with the total turnout increasing by over 60% in our county, straigh ticket GOP voters, DECREASED by about 4%. Seems like the GOP's message of warfare state, daddy-state smack downs of civil liberties and personal freedoms, exclusivity and intolerance is wearing thin. Even in this formerly deeply red county.

However, truth be told, in saying that, it's like saying that our regular savage beatings by two large giants are slightly less savage and by slightly smaller giants. Until we do a few things, we're still going to get smacked, but, as you may have read, David gets his eventually. First, since the LP caters to no special interest group, we're not going to get much in the way of mega-corporate/union 'sponsorship'. No biggie, since Ron Paul showed that you can raise $35 million, one person at a time. The trick is getting those donors over to our side. Tough to do when the LP Presidential candidate, Bob Barr, basically bitch slapped the good Doctor during election time. However, I believe with time, that wound will heal and those Republicans will leave the GOP and find their proper home with us. They bring money, volunteerism and best of all - infectious and rabid enthusiasm!

Also, we're going to have to work to improve our image. Taking the "Apple vs. PC" advertisement as an example, we're definitely the 'PC' guy. We HAVE to get 'cool'. Generally speaking, that means getting celebrities to flog our message. Penn and Teller are OK, John Stossel is better, but what we really need is a Leo DiCaprio or two to bang our drum like they do for Rev. Al Gore. Cultural relevancy.

It will take time. Hopefully not as much time as Cato Insitute studies report that New Deal programs prolonged The Great Depression (eight extra years). But eventually, our message of sound monetary policy, sane fiscal policies, peace and personal freedom will find its place in the mainstream of American politics. It may take some failures of nationalized industries first. Ayn Rand may have not been too far off the mark. I hope we can get going before Atlas goes into full shrug.

I'm becoming more and more convinced that we must take a bottom up approach. We're just going to have to win some local races first folks. That means locally, you'll need to support our candidates with your time and money - and of course, votes! My toast for the new year and for libertarian victory nationally? Bottom(s) up!

John, thanks for contributing, and for all you do. Bottom(s) up, right back atcha.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different

Dr. Ralph has been the editorial conscience, B.S. detector, and token Democrat on these pages from sometime around day one.
We're both members of Broadway Baptist Church.

When I was asking various people to fill in for my during my vacation this week, one of the topics I sent out was about the challenges faced by libertarians in this dark age of Buddy Bailouts, Crony Capitalism, and Troubled Asset Relief Programs.

I immediately thought of this post that Dr. Ralph did shortly after the election, entitled "To My Libertarian Friends". I've copied it in its entirety, along with a follow up. You can see my (rushed and hurried) reply in the comment field at his blog. I hope this one generates some discussion. Here's Dr. Ralph, winner of the Trotsky Lookalike Contest:

To My Libertarian Friends,

This is probably going to be my last political screed for a while, which affects only the 2 or 3 people who actually read this drivel. But before I drift into discussing things like technology and the folly of everyday life, I wanted to offer up a few final thoughts on the 2008 election.

Amongst my friends and associates of various political persuasions are several Libertarians: all extremely bright, intellectually curious people who are passionately interested in politics. I have a lot of respect for them. I don't necessarily agree with them.

Here's why.

There is a broad range of political beliefs that fall under the designation of "Libertarianism," all of which (to perhaps over-simplify) focus on the elevation of individual liberties and negate the power of the state. To restate: they believe in social freedom and economic freedom without interference and regulation from the government.

Sounds good, no?

The problem is, this ignores the reason all that regulation and interference is there in the first place. Not to put too fine a point on it, but people are jerks. Maybe not individually, but certainly collectively. And there are certainly outstanding examples of individual jerkiness to be found in the wild.

To what extent are we talking about removing "interference," anyway? And by whose definition?

Reforming drug laws and not interfering with people's personal medical and reproductive decisions (read: abortion rights)? I'm good with that. Permitting anyone, regardless of gender, to get married? I'm cool with that, too. The right to own as many assault weapons as I can scrape the money together for? ...You're starting to loose me. And there are a world of people out there for whom the latter example is fine but have major discomfort for the former.

And let's get a little more mundane -- what about something like zoning? Care to have your neighbor set up a rat breeding factory? Don't laugh -- this battle is going on right now in Fort Worth. What about civil rights laws? One could certainly argue they are interfering with someone's property rights.

This may be a reductio ad absurdum argument, but at what point does the absurdum kick in? It's one thing to be for less regulation. The devil is in the details.

Removing "barriers" to free trade is the other major talking point I hear much about: economic deregulation. Much is made of the "Invisible Hand" that is supposed to insure that free and unregulated markets benefit society as a whole.

Excuse me?

This make about as much sense to me as Intelligent Design.

Again, this may sound good in the abstract, but I have little faith in real world application, especially in light of recent events in the financial world. Allen Greenspan, patron saint of deregulation, admitted after after the general market collapse earlier this year that maybe he was wrong in opposing all regulation and stated, "Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholder's equity -- myself especially -- are in a state of shocked disbelief."

The Invisible Hand bitch-slapped us.

And the idea that an unregulated John D. Rockefeller type monopoly serves the public interest seems naive at best. People forget that things get regulated for a reason, and the chief reason is to correct past abusive behavior.

After the November election the Libertarians would seem well-positioned to swell their ranks with thinking conservatives disgusted by the mean-spirited, intolerant, xenophobic anti-intellectualism that seemed to have taken over the GOP. So why don't I think the Libertarians will ever move beyond fringe status?

I'm not sure they want to.

As Otto von Bismarck once said, "Politics is the art of the possible." Compromise has come to be a word delivered in a sneer, but in a land as diverse as ours, the ability to work out deals with competing interests is key to being able to govern.

Can the Libertarians compromise their guiding principles? Should they?

It may be they best serve the nation like yeast leavening the loaf, as a source of ideas to be co-opted and co-joined by the majority parties.

Parting shot: here's Stephen Colbert discussing a topic near and dear to my Libertarian friends.


Click here for the video. This particular format makes my site go nuts when I direcly embed it.
Here's a follow up that he wrote just a few days ago:

To My Libertarian Friends, (part 2)

This is a follow up to my previous post, To my Libertarian friends, in which I laid out some of my thoughts and criticisms of the Libertarian Party, which includes amongst its numbers several friends and associates.
To sum up (so you don't have to be bored twice) I have a lot of respect for Libertarians (they tend to be extremely bright, intellectually curious people) but I don't necessarily agree with all of their positions. On economic issues, their faith in the Invisible Hand of the Free Market strikes me as a bit like believing in Intelligent Design. Their take on civil rights, workplace regulations, and some other areas strike me as naive at best.

Where they have my full agreement is in the area of personal freedoms. God bless 'em.To pull a few quotes from the 2008 National Libertarian Party platform:
*We favor the repeal of all laws creating "crimes" without victims, such as the use of drugs for medicinal or recreational purposes.
*Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.
*Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships. Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships.

While the Democrats have cautiously embraced the pro-choice issue, they act like someone who farts in the elevator on the issue of gay marriage rights: they conspicuously avoid acknowledging the obvious and hope people forget the whole unpleasant business by the time they arrive at their floor.
Shame on them.
I'd venture to say the Libertarians will continue to see considerable growth in the decade ahead as gay conservatives see them as an alternative to the rabidly fundamentalist anti-intellectual nuthouse the Republican party is becoming.
And I hope they drag the Democrats along, kicking and screaming, for the ride.

Because it's about bloody time.

That's they joy of knowing Dr. Ralph, who posts at his blog, The Journal of Post-Ralphaelite Thought.

Friday, December 26, 2008

From Fort Worth's largest suburb

I'm on vacation this week, cruising around the Caribbean.

I've asked several of my favorite Libertarians to fill in for me while I'm away. One of them is a guy named Tim Lebsack.
Tim used to work for me in Dallas. This would've been about 15 years ago.

It was a troubled retail situation, to say the least. Employee theft was through the roof, a major competitor had moved in a mile up the street, and the store manager before me had been discovered underneath a back room receiving table, curled up in a fetal position trying to get away from it all.

Tim stayed with me for about two months, and then moved on to greener pastures, or at least pastures that didn't have a constant Soap Opera going 24/7/365.

We ran into each other again at my first Tarrant County Libertarian Meetup. Among the other things he does for the Dallas County Libertarian Party, Tim runs the Dallas County Libertarian Blog.

Here's a link to a sample post, called Why Do You Believe My Lies? It could also be called Always Question Authority.

Here's what Tim sent in. He does more link collecting than editorial ranting, and I have absolutely no idea how he finds all this stuff.

He spread out the following submissions over the course of a week. Enjoy. If you haven't met Tim yet, go to a Dallas meetup. He's worth the ride.

Do not for a moment think I don't know what you're up to, Whited.

This ruse about a trip to the Caribbean will never fly. Tell us what you're really up to. Diamond smuggling? CIA training? Working off your debts to the combined DNC/RNC? Survivor Gabon?Your secret's safe with me. I'll see to it that no one in LP Tarrant County or the occasional "lost in the internet web rookie" searching for info on decorating Grandpa's urn doesn't find out about your so-called "Sunny, Warm Christmas in the Islands".

Just to create a diversion while you're away, here are some recent web pages popular with the freedom philosophy and another website less popular but chock full of useful info.


Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. is president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, editor of, and author of Speaking of Liberty.

You want a Toyota and paid for it with your money but your government is now saying that you should have bought a Pontiac, so it is tapping into your bank account to make it happen — and then not even giving you a car for your money! (Pop's '73 Catalina was a runnin' machine for less than 3G's.)

No nonsense, non-compromising Lew Rockwell has more items available than a cruise ship buffet.

Trinity Hall is the best Irish Pub in Dallas. You'll have to ask the 'tender if they sell that Jamaican beer you've come to love so much.

No, that's not the ship rocking.


Louis E. Carabini will give you the e-book in hopes that you'll buy a paper copy.

Relax by the cruise ship's cement pond. If you don't have a paper copy you can read the e-book on your lap-top from

This guys seems to have a chip on his shoulder. Must be straining to your thought process being forced to search the internet for anti-freedom writing.

Have fun on the love boat, Cap'n Stubing.

From a few days later....

Okay Whited, here's more stolen intellectual property. I borrowed it from Michelle Shinghal. Be sure to put it back when your done.

This is excellent to spread around your Church and also to share with your proselytizing libertarian friends.

(This is a very well written post, and is applicable to any form of evangelizing. Political or theological. At the Libertarian Party Election Results Watching Party in November, some of my fellow liberty-loving purists scared the crap out of a couple of bartenders when trying to convince them to go back on the gold standard.)

From a few days later.....After sending me another plug for Trinity Hall, he provides a picture of [the President-elect] bending an elbow. Perfect for the caption contest.

So that's Tim Lebsack, ladies and gents. Always busy, working hard, and keeping the Dallas County LP going for about twenty years.

Thanks for your help, sir !

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Leaning On The Everlasting Arms - of Big Brother

Unless you've heard news of a cruise ship sinking in the Carribean, I'm still alive and well but on vacation. Our guest blogger today is Gar from Gar's Random Ramblings. For a good example of Gar's handiwork, check out his post on The Big 3 Bailout, which asks the question "Just why aren't we getting shares in these companies?"

Anyway, when I asked some of my favorite writers to contribute posts this week, the topic I threw out there for them was the difficulties of the Libertarian Party (or the difficulties of libertarianism in general) in this age of Disaster Socialism, Buddy Bailouts, and the like.

The Random Rambler took it all the way back to root causes. Here's what Gar sent me:

Libertarianism, in it's current incarnation will never be a party of choice. In a democracy the majority elects the officials. The majority of people expect government to take care of them. Poor people believe that personal freedom is more important than financial freedom. They will vote for Democrat. Rich people believe that financial freedom is more important than personal freedom. They will vote Republican. That leaves Libertarians with the votes from the intelligent folks that want both financial and personal freedom. Do you remember when you took your SAT's how you ranked on the national scale? Perhaps you were in the top 5%? Perhaps only in the top 10%. That still leaves a large portion of the population not intelligent enough to play this "freedom" game. Perhaps these people need the government to help them out either financially or personally.

The idea of Libertarianism is too scary for most people. If government doesn't have power then who will control the big corporations from jacking up gas prices and price fixing? The CEO's of these companies already have their lifestyles mapped out. They don't care if a loaf of bread costs $10. It's a drop in the bucket. If you open up the doors of financial freedoms where does it stop? How does the "majority" of people who don't have millions maintain the power to keep the billionaires from running the country without government controlling some of their finances? It's a scary proposition for the majority of people.

But, it's also engrained in the majority to not accept Libertarianism. From an earlier post: "Libertarianism holds that agents are, at least initially, full self-owners. Agents are (moral) full self-owners in that they morally own themselves in just the same way that they can morally fully own inanimate objects." Christianity does not believe this. Life is a test to see whether or not you live forever in happiness or live forever in a burning pit of hell. No one asked you if you wanted to take the test. That fundamental flaw in our upbringing prevents people from accepting the idea of Libertarianism. From before you were born a higher power has been making the decisions for you.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Harnessing Hysteria

I'm on vacation this week, so I've asked some of my favorite people/bloggers/typists to fill in for me while I'm away. Today you get to hear from my friend John, who blogs at the The Browncoat Libertarian. John and I are going to be working together on the Texas State Libertarian Executive Committee in 2009. He can be found most Thursday nights at Pop's Safari bar in Fort Worth. Here's John:

I believe I've found a key driving force to the future success of the Libertarian Party. But first, a word from our sponsor.

I love cigars. Not in that destructive Sigmund Freud twenty-a-day way...I enjoy maybe 2-7 cigars per week, depending on how many trips to Pop's Safari Room I make in a week. So despite the fact that I "technically" smoke, I do not consider myself a "Smoker". I'm a "small-s" smoker. Why? I do not require smoking breaks at work. I do not feel the need to fire up a cigar after every meal. I never have cigar or tobacco "cravings". And those are just three of the well known "Seven Habits of Highly Effective Smokers(tm)", none of which, I possess.

Why am I polluting Whited Sepulchre Blogspace with my disgusting, nicotine stained words? Because you should know that the "Second-Hand Smoke Hysteria" mentioned in the following guest blog comes not from a nicotine-crazed addict, but from a liberty-crazed freedom-addict who respects the rights and liberties of nicotine-crazed addicts everywhere.

And now, back to our regularly schedule rant.

Yes, devoted readers of The Whited Sepulchre, I know exactly what the Libertarian Party needs in order to thrive in this here century: Harness the power of hysteria! Hysteria is working miracles for the self-righteous Knights of Second-Hand Smoke. Soon, every molecule of airborne nicotine shall be vanquished from the DFW Metroplex, and quite possibly the state of Texas.

Yes, rumor has it that our dedicated Protectors From All Things Harmful, i.e. The Fort Worth City Council, and the Texas State Legislature are up to their smoking ban shenanigans once again. And they will likely succeed. It appears they will eventually succeed in protecting helpless non-smokers from unwittingly inhaling the foul second-hand smoke emitted from cigar bars and tobacco stores. What would these poor souls do without the Nanny-State to protect them? Personal liberty falls again as hysteria prevails.

Apparently, hysteria sells. Look what the power of hysteria is doing for Wall St., Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, AIG, and soon, you can bet your stick-shift, The Detroit Big Three. One TRILLION plus! Economic liberty slips further away as hysteria prevails.

If only the Libertarian Party could find a way to harness the power of hysteria and get people hysterical about liberty...or more specifically, the erosion of liberty.

Harnessing Hysteria: we should look into it...or else.

John, thanks for filling in. Thought provoking as usual. By the time this is posted, I'll be in Cozumel, buying multiple fistloads of Havanas to smuggle back into the U.S. If you get a chance, write something about the insanity of continuing the trade embargo with Cuba. If Cubans had access to American products, someone woulda shot Castro by now.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Forecast for the Free-Market: Stormy

My first guest blogger this week (while I'm on vacation) is Stephen Smith, caretaker of the Beginner's Guide To Freedom blog. (One of his earlier posts, which Stephen wrote shortly after his run as a Libertarian for the Texas State Senate, is the best thing I've ever read on the relationship between money, The Mommy and Daddy Party, and elections.)

In the following essay about the possible end of the Free Market that has done so much for us during the lastt two centuries, Stephen makes an unlikely analogy between The Chairman and I'm not Frank, Dean-0, Sammy, or even the Joey Bishop of the local libertarians. I'm merely the Shawn Levy, doing his best to write down what is happening.
Here's Stephen:

This writing under a deadline stuff is hard. Unlike the author of The Whited Sepulchre, I’m not accustomed to writing on a daily basis. Usually I just wait for some item in the news to strike me in the right way, and I knock out a page or two whenever the mood is right. But, hey - when Frank Sinatra calls up Peter Lawford to open for him in Vegas, Peter doesn’t complain that he’s not “feeling it” that day. Peter just shows up and tries not to disappoint Frankie. So I’m happy to play Peter Lawford to The Whited Sepulchre’s Frank Sinatra today.

The topic this week is, “Whiter Libertarianism?” or something to that effect. I’ve been searching diligently for an optimistic angle here, but sadly I have found none. As I scan the economic landscape, all I see are dark clouds. As I write these words, the federal government is in full panic mode, desperate to print more money and nationalize ever-larger sectors of the American economy.

One of the big stories in the news this week involves Bernard Madoff, a Wall Street financier accused of defrauding investors of $50 billion. The Securities and Exchange Commission is describing Mr. Madoff’s activities as “the biggest Ponzi scheme in history.” Apparently the SEC has never heard of Social Security or Medicare. The SEC has also admitted to ignoring Mr. Madoff’s malfeasance for over a decade. In true Washington fashion, the SEC’s admitted incompetence is being used to justify increasing its budget and power. Maybe I should try that at my office. “Sorry, boss, but I just haven’t felt like doing much work these last few months. Guess that means I’m due for a promotion and a raise, huh?” It must sound better when pitched to a Congressional committee.

I don’t mean to make light of the Madoff story. If he is indeed guilty of fraud, then he should be prosecuted accordingly. But I find it fascinating that the press makes so much of a $50 billion private scandal while it enthusiastically cheers the $8 trillion public scandal being perpetrated by the federal government in the form of bailouts and outright takeovers of private sector enterprises. I’m no journalist, of course, but it seems to me that some basic questions simply aren’t being asked. Like, “Hey, Bernanke! Where are you getting the $8 trillion, exactly?” Or perhaps that question has already been answered now that the Fed has cut the federal funds rate to zero.

These issues do not bode well for us free-market types. As French President Nicolas Sarkozy said, “Laissez-faire is finished.” No doubt he is correct in his summation, but laissez-faire capitalism has been dead for nigh on a century. The idea that the current Keynesian nightmare threatening to plunge the planet into an even Greater Depression is somehow the result of free-market capitalism is patently ridiculous. The seeds of the crisis date back to at least the New Deal, and what we’re witnessing today is a perfect storm of decades of government intervention in the marketplace. The fact that President Bush has “abandoned free market principles to save the free market system” (just as he abandoned Constitutional principles of individual liberty to protect freedom) is simply one more nail in capitalism’s coffin. Since Barack Obama never had any free market principles to abandon, I suspect things will get even worse in the years to come.

As I have often said, libertarianism is for those of us who would rather be right than popular. The recent economic headlines have only confirmed that viewpoint. So it looks like we’re going to be even less popular over the next few years than we have been up to this point (if you can imagine such a thing). Nevertheless, we will continue to be right. We may have to work harder to make ourselves heard, but individual liberty and the free market go hand in hand - one cannot survive without the other. It will be up to us to defend both. No one else will.

That's what you get when you read "A Beginner's Guide To Freedom". Great, great stuff. Thank you, Stephen Smith !

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Guest bloggers this week

In a few hours I'll be getting on a cruise ship and playing blackjack for a week.

(I think the boat is stopping in Cozumel, The Cayman Islands, and Jamaica. It supposedly has great food, live shows, multiple swimming pools, live music in all the bars, an ice skating rink, plus easy access to Cuban cigars. I hope everyone else enjoys them. I'm going to play blackjack for a solid week or until the money runs out.)

In the meantime, I've asked a few of my favorite libertarians (and the token House Democrat) to guest blog for me through the 28th of this month. It should be enlightening.

I've set the control panel on this site to automatically post everything that's been sent in at the rate of one entry per day. I'm really looking forward to seeing how well this works.
Guest blogger logo from here.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A proposal for political celibacy

If the people at The Politico are to be believed, the President's daughter and the governor's son are both lobbying to be appointed to the New York senate seat of the President's wife, but no one knows who the New York Secretary of State's son will appoint to the position, since the Secretary of The Interior's son is pushing hard for the candidacy of the judge's son.

Got that? No? Hit the link above and get back to me.

We've seen this before. When the Church was one of the dominant political powers in Europe, Pope Innocent II, in the year 1139, declared all priestly marriages to be null and void. Getting the kids out of the family business was the only way to ensure that all Church property would remain Church property. They were getting looted.

I propose that New York state do the same. Until the Kennedys, Cuomos, Clintons, Pattersons (ahem...), Ickes, and other prominent political families stop having political babies, those families are going to continue their deathgrip on the Democrat party.

Otherwise, they could wind up like the Republicans in the last election cycle, where the admiral's son defeated the Michigan governor's son to win the nomination to replace President #41's son, only to be defeated by the Kenyan Government Economist's son.

Priestly Celibacy got the job done for the Church.

Can a requirement of Political Celibacy be very far off?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Imitation Is The Sincerest Form Of Flattery

During the last couple of months, people have been asking me what happened to my Serial Commenter and arch-nemesis, Fembuttx.

Her sudden disappearance was widely discussed during the last two Libertarian meetups that I attended. I got emails asking if she had died, or if I'd shot her. A group in a black van from "CSI Eastside" showed up in my back yard and prodded every square foot of it with a methane probe. They confiscated my shovel. Two of my guns were taken away for ballistics analysis.

For readers who are new to this site, here's the story. Whenever I wrote about politics, regulations, free speech, 2nd amendment issues, or global warming/cooling/dimming, Fembuttx would turn the comment field into a discussion of her bedroom acrobatics. (I say "her", although no one really knows the true identity of the Fembutt.)
It lasted for about 6 months. And then she disappeared.

"Fembuttx is dead. Long live Fembuttx !" we all said. (Well, not all of us. But you get the picture.)

Thanks to my friend Ray, I've now learned that Fembuttx lives. Not just in our memories, but online.

The name of her site? The Whited Sepulchres. (Note the plural)

Check out the "About Me' part of her Blogspot Profile. (Before you go there, make sure you aren't drinking anything. Otherwise you'll snort liquid all over your screen.)
I would NEVER encourage this, but wouldn't it be funny if lots of libertarians went over there and left irrelevant comments about The Federal Reserve, Systemic Inflation, Regulatory Over-reach, The 2nd Amendment, and Ron Paul?

Warning: this site is for immature audiences only !

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Card Check vs. Secret Ballots

A monopoly is a monopoly is a monopoly.
It doesn't matter if the monopoly is in sugar, corn, or computer operating systems. Monopolies are harmful. They harm consumers by preventing lower-priced goods from entering the market. (Do a bit o' Googling on the words "Sugar" and "Fanjul".)
It doesn't even matter if monopolies are related to labor. Labor unions are monopolies. The only way they can be effective? Keep out everyone who is willing to do the job for less. (Do a bit o' Googling on the words "Hoffa" and "Teamsters".)

Back during the campaign season, [the President-elect] vowed that he would pass something called Card Check:

EFCA (The hilariously named Employee Free Choice Act, AKA Card Check) requires employers to recognize a union— without an election—once organizers collect cards from a majority of employees. Indeed, the act states that once the union submits signatures from over 50 percent of the employees to the NLRB, it must certify the union without an election. Under EFCA, holding a secret ballot election once unions collect cards from a majority of workers would become illegal.
Additionally, a card-check–only recognition pro­cess strips workers of their privacy. Polls show that most Americans strongly oppose denying workers the privacy of the voting booth when deciding whether to join a union. In response to such criti­cism, unions now argue that EFCA does not end secret ballot elections. Instead, proponents argue that EFCA gives workers the choice between orga­nizing using public card-check or private elections.

Unions make this claim because union organiz­ers can call for an organizing election after cards have been signed by at least 30 percent of employ­ees. Since card-check recognition under EFCA occurs after organizers submit cards signed by a majority of workers, secret ballot elections could— in theory—occur under EFCA if organizers submit­ted cards signed by 30 to 50 percent of workers.
In practice this scenario will not happen. Noth­ing in the legislation gives workers any control over what organizing method unions use. That decision is left to union organizers. Organized labor's well-documented preference for card-check recognition makes it clear that EFCA effectively eliminates secret ballot elections.

In other words, union organizers have a choice between going the Secret Ballot Route, or the Card Check Route. Here's why:

Those are almost the EXACT words I heard from a Teamster driver when we were discussing this issue last week. The absence of secret ballot allows fear, intimidation, and peer pressure to enter the picture, a fact that is conspicuously absent from most of the mainstream media coverage of Card Check.

Organizers can simply go from employee to employee with either a petition or cards. They can get the employee drunk. They can tell the employee that he's signing a football betting pool. They can do whatever is necessary to get a signature on that document. Once they hit the magic 51 %, it's over. No secret ballot. No right to privacy.

If one political party or the other were to advocate eliminating secret ballots in general political elections? You would've heard a lot more about the right to privacy. Whether it's fair or not, unions gave more than 80 million dollars in support of the [President-elect] so they could get this card check thing put into play, and they're going to want something for their money.

But enough about Card Check.

There are two ways to move large quantities of large freight. Truckload (TL) and Less-Than-Truckload (LTL). Truckload carriers usually carry large amounts of freight directly from point A to point B. The freight usually isn't unloaded or transferred from trailer to trailer. The driver who picks the stuff up is often the one who delivers it to the final destination. Truckload carriers are more difficult for unions to organize, simply because One Driver in One Truck doesn't require much of a supporting cast and doesn't spend much time socializing with the breakroom lawyers at the freight dock.
LTL freight is picked up in smaller quantitites. One driver will often drive around the same area every day, gathering as much freight as possible from multiple shipping locations. He then delivers it to a central terminal, where it is sorted by state/zip code, and put onto other trucks going in that same general direction. All of that freight moves to the next "break bulk" terminal, where it is sorted one more time by destination. One pallet of merchandise might be on 6 different trucks if it had to go from Key West to Seattle. Large numbers of LTL employees work in the same location every day. They clock in and clock out, unlike their TL counterparts. Therefore, they've been much easier for the unions to take over.

As I understand it, almost all LTL carriers were once organized by The Teamsters Union. Therefore, most of them are now out of business.

But their former employees are still entitled to payments from The Teamsters' Pension Fund. (For an insane amount of info on this, read The Teamsters, by Stephen Brill.)

The U.S. is left with four LTL carriers burdened with the blessings of Teamster drivers: Yellow, Roadway, USF, and ABF.
Yellow Freight purchased Roadway in 2003. Then they bought USF. (Or maybe they did it earlier. I've always had difficulty getting USF to show up on time, and don't use them if I can help it.) The new Yellow/Roadway/USF conglomerate is called YRC Worldwide, and they're having issues. They're having to re-negotiate their Teamsters contract.

Here's Bill Zollars, president of YRC Worldwide: "This modification would address our operating cost structure, which is higher than a number of companies in our industry, due primarily to pension plan funding obligations. Funding pensions for our own Teamsters employees is affordable; however, paying for all the retirees and former employees of failed companies as required under our current plans makes us less competitive."
While working on a longer-term solution to this issue, YRC Worldwide is seeking immediate cost savings through proposed changes for the remainder of the contract including:

-- 10 percent reduction in all wages paid, inclusive of scheduled
-- Suspension of Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA)

In exchange, Teamsters employees would receive a 15 percent ownership stake in YRC Worldwide allowing them to share in future company performance through stock price appreciation. The details of this plan are still being finalized. Contributions to the health, welfare and pension plans would continue as previously negotiated.

Why are The Teamsters being so accomodating to YRC Worldwide? Because if YRC goes belly up, that leaves ABF as the only LTL carrier paying money into the pension fund. The Teamsters pension fund is just like Social Security, the Bernie Madoff ripoffs, or any other Ponzi scheme. The continued health of the fund relies on finding new suckers to contribute money to the fund.

So, according to my Teamster buddy, they'll soon be voting on whether or not to take this pay cut in exchange for a 15% share of YRC Worldwide. Here's the Teamsters For A Democratic Union website:

The final decision will be made by YRC Teamsters, because Article 12, Section 2 of the IBT Constitution requires a secret-ballot vote to amend the national contract.

What ???

The final decision will be made by YRC Teamsters, because Article 12, Section 2 of the IBT Constitution requires a secret-ballot vote to amend the national contract.

Did that say "secret ballot vote"? What ??? Surely that's a typo. Nope. Here's a blog called The Union Label, regarding a recent Teamster publication:

On the inside back-cover, in a special “Election Supervisor’s Report to IBT Members,” Richard W. Mark explains that “Every member has the right to vote their own ballot in secret” in the upcoming election of union leaders. Yet on Page 28, the headline boasts: “Winning With Card-Check.”

So.... James Hoffa Jr., the son of the still-absent Jimmy Hoffa Sr., is presently in charge of The Teamsters. Why would a Hoffa supporter or opponent insist on the anonymity of a secret ballot?

Sounds like they could use some Card Check.

Cartoon from RedPlanetCartoons.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Merry Christmas (a little early)

I'm going on a Christmas vacation in a few days, and wanted to get this one out early. This picture seems to fit the year.

I hope everyone has a great Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Winter Solstice, etc.

One more crack in the glass ceiling

John F. Kennedy's daughter might be appointed to fill the Senate seat vacated by Bill Clinton's wife.

(There might be a better way to phrase that. But seriously, are there any New Yorkers who want to be represented by someone who brings more to the table than name recognition? Someone who has been elected to something just once? To the East Greenbush, NY school board? Or the Genesee Falls City Council?)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Buying Locally Grown - No matter how far you have to drive

I don't go out looking for this stuff. emails it to me every morning.....

How I Seduced My Neighbors Into Going Green - By James Glave
I didn't want to be an eco-jerk. So I consulted a "global warming negotiator." That's when the fun began.

James Glave is a good writer. Lives in British Colombia. He's a good photographer (here's his Flickr photostream). But he apparently developed an obsession with the CO2 emissions required to power his neighbor's yard lighting.

Five of them (floodlights) were mounted across the front of his house. I had not inspected them up close but each likely contained a 65-watt incandescent bulb. As far as I could discern, they illuminated his front yard for no particular reason..... But those five beacons across the way were still doing atmospheric damage. I had already done the math on what we might delicately call my neighbor's nocturnal emissions, and as best as I could calculate, the lamps were kicking up something in the range of 95 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.

In the grand scheme of things, that's atmospheric chump change. It is the equivalent of about three return trips to Grandma's house in my father-in-law's hand-me-down Lexus SUV, and I easily find ways to justify those excursions. Hell, I probably endanger more polar bears just by vacuuming the house and doing my laundry, which amasses around my house in great fuzzy piles like Tribbles on the Starship Enterprise.

It was unfair of me to pick on my neighbor, whom I shall call David. But there was something about his all-night Light Show for Nobody that I couldn't quite keep my mouth shut about. In my head, his lamps had come to symbolize all the little things we all could be doing to save ourselves from extinction if we only knew better. If each of us took all the baby steps to overcome unconscious bad habits we didn't even know we had, we could dial back the planetary thermostat. We could unleash staggeringly good changes.

James, to his eternal credit, doesn't want to be an eco-jerk. He admits that he can't bring too much righteous indignation to bear on the outrage in his neighbor's yard, since JAMES IS RUNNING AROUND TOWN IN A LEXUS SUV. (I'm betting that the neighbor has a bigger house, bigger yard, and makes the most money. The people of my acquaintance who want "Change" generally want The Change to apply mostly to those who are one or two notches up the food chain.... I could be wrong.)

But how does one bring neighbors into a state of SUV-driving, yet floodlight extinguishing grace without being offensive and causing them to rebel against The One True Faith?

You bring in a consultant. Yes, a consultant, from Futerra Sustainability Communications. You can read that middle part yourself. The idea of bringing in a damn consultant to get yer damn neighbor to turn off his damn floodlights is too much for me to damn copy. Sorry. Anyway, the consultant, after charging him God Knows What for her services, suggests that James have a neighborhood "green" party. Plus, she says, "Food Helps".

"Food helps," said (the consultant). "Having food and alcohol at a meeting really helps. If you offer a really nice evening, maybe trying a whole load of local foods, and they have eaten your food and drunk your wine, then -- and only then -- do you introduce the idea of changing habits as a group. You could approach it as a challenge to the next town over. But however you approach it, wait until they have eaten your food and drunk your wine. Then they'll feel beholden to you."

If you've read this far, I hate to tell you this, but this is just the introduction. All of that was merely my preliminary throat-clearing, for which I apologize. Now I can get to the point. James lives in British Colombia, and is determined to serve nothing but food produced in British Colombia.


I wanted to serve a local dinner. Of course, winter is about the worst time to try such a stunt. But Townsend had told me to make my neighbors comfortable, show them a good time. So I trucked down to my local Whole Foods and asked the butcher for some organic beef that was as regional as possible, within reason.
"All of our beef comes from an open-range ranch in British Columbia," she said, offering me a pamphlet with a picture of what looked like an honest-to-God cowboy on the front. The steer pictured inside looked happy enough; a few dozen of them browsed in a grassy field.
"I'd like to do a roast for about eight people. What are my options?"
"The prime rib is our best cut, lots of marble in the meat," she replied. "That would be very tender, really nice."
"How much?"
"Eight people?" She did the math. "You're looking at about $85."
I like my neighbors, but not that much. "What are my other options?"
"Chuck roast is a leaner cut," she explained. "But it'll be very nice if you cook it for a long time at a low heat."
Sounds easy enough. And at $26, I could afford to buy it, with enough left over for hundred-mile-compliant carrots.

(For the uninitiated, for something to be 100 mile compliant, it has to be grown within 100 miles of the store.)
"Keep a lid on it, keep it moist," she instructed, as she handed it (the roast) over. "You'll do well with that."
Everything in the Whole Foods vegetable section was from California, so I dialed Capers, a natural-foods market a couple miles down the street that I knew specialized in local produce. "We've got Jerusalem artichokes and celery root," the produce manager offered. "Not too much else from around here at this time of year. Everything is sort of finished."
I had no idea what to do with either. "I'll be right over," I said.
Saturday rolled around. I couldn't quite remember, but I think the butcher instructed me to cook the beef for four or five hours at 275 degrees. Dinner was at 7 p.m. I carefully installed my precious planet-friendly roast on the oven's middle rack early in the afternoon. I placed it under a tent of foil with some water in the pan. A couple of hours later, as delicious aromas filled the kitchen, it was time to check on the meat's progress toward perfection. I extracted the evening's piece de resistance, pulled back the foil, and stuck my friend chuck with a meat thermometer.
Hope turned to dread as the red needle instantly zoomed past "beef-rare," "beef-medium," and "beef-well." Like a runaway boxcar, the thermometer's pointer only picked up speed from there. It moved onto other animals, rocketing right through "lamb" and barely pausing at "poultry." Finally, the gauge ran out of livestock options altogether and, after pulling a double-jointed full rotation, came to rest off the scale, in an unmarked zone that should properly be labeled tanned goods.
In panic, I reached for my mobile and dialed Beef 911. My wife, Elle, answered, and after listening to me describe the symptoms, pronounced the roast dead over the phone. "It's lunch meat," she said, clearly disgusted with me. "Go get something else and start over."
I hopped in the SUV and drove to my island's gourmet butcher shop. There I shelled out $60 for a prime rib roast from Alberta, for eight people, proving once again that when it comes to sustainable consumption, you can always do it almost right the second time -- for more than what it would've cost you from the beginning.

The meal was a success. Everyone had a great time. The neighbor voluntarily turned off his prison-yard floodlights.

But at what cost? In parts of this essay, James is poking fun at his own inefficiency. In other parts, I think he's unknowningly "showing" more than he's "telling".

For instance, what are the environmental implications of cooking a roast for a long, long, long time over low heat, as compared to yard floodlights? Especially when you could've served something pre-cooked, like Spam?

Second, James was at the O So Politically Correct Whole Foods Market, but their produce was from shipped in from Politically Incorrect California. The fact that the California produce was grown, harvested, shipped, and unloaded in one of the most efficient processes devised by humans doesn't matter. It's not "local". So James admits in an essay read by millions of people on, he admits, without a gun pointed at his head, he declares that he hopped in an SUV that weighs somewhere between 2,000 and 8,00 pounds and uses that thing to drive his righteous butt A COUPLE OF MILES DOWN THE STREET, and I assume A COUPLE OF MILES BACK so he can do the right thing and buy local produce. The freight costs on shipping an identical amount of produce in bulk shipping containers from Taiwan to British Columbia would be lower than that.

Jesus Christ Almighty.

Then you get into the multiple trips for the meat, which are merely funny.

So here's my question: I don't know how much of this is James poking fun at his environmentalist pretensions, and how much of this is cluelessness. I honestly don't.

Because every conversation that I have with a locavore makes me think that they don't have any idea how to look at true freight and shipping costs.

There's little or no difference between the James Glave comedy of errors and the locavore behavior that I see every day. They insist on locally grown food, and don't care how far they have to drive to get it.



On a slightly related note, here's something from "Environmental Science And Technology"

The researchers looked at the total life cycle of greenhouse gases emitted to produce the food consumed by an average American household. It turns out that transportation as a whole is not the main offender. It accounts for about 11 percent of those food-related emissions, with only 4 percent in the final delivery stage from producer to retailer. Agricultural and production practices are responsible for almost all the rest.

Here's a chart of how "all the rest" breaks out:

Enjoy the guilt. Or eat whatever you want to eat at the lowest price possible. You're probably wasting less resources that way.

The Preacher's Story

This is The Preacher's Story, from

It's one of the most brutally honest Loss Of Faith stories I've ever read. I hope you'll read it, and then get back to me.

This guy recently spoke at my own Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, TX.

If you've ever felt the same way as the guy in The Preacher's Story link, come see us.

Speaking of what to do with changing faith....Starting January 4th, we're going to be reading Bishop John Shelby Spong's "Why Christianity Must Change Or Die" at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth. Every Sunday mornings in January at 9:30 a.m., room 306, at 305 West Broadway, Fort Worth TX.

Check out the Spong link too. Look at the customer reviews. 99 of the reviewers give the book 5 stars, and 63 people give it only one star. Read a few of each variety (you can click on the star chart to read only the Raves or only the Rotten Tomatoes). Ask yourself what kind of people you'd want to hang out with for an hour on Sunday morning, and then come see us.

The Ultimate Property Right

Let's put on our hip boots and wade into The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Here's an excerpt from their article on Libertarianism:

Libertarianism holds that agents are, at least initially, full self-owners. Agents are (moral) full self-owners in that they morally own themselves in just the same way that they can morally fully own inanimate objects.

Wrap your head around that sentence, and you'll understand why hard core Libertarians are fanatical about abolishing the draft, drug law reform, gay rights, and so forth. If I belong to myself, then what happens to me is no one's business but my own.

Andrew Ian Dodge has reminded me of another self-ownership issue that doesn't get as much publicity as it did back in the days of Dr. Kevorkian.....
(I corresponded with Andrew back when he merely ran a site called Dodgeblogium. That's the site for "bloggers who combine a taste for heavy metal music with a taste for heavy metal politics". Now he has his own Pajamas Media page, where he posts alongside bow-tie wearing conservatives. You've GOT to click both of those links. I love the internet.)

Ok, back to the topic..... Andrew raises the issue of Physician-Assisted Suicide. And whether there is any possible reason to broadcast it on television.

....This time around, controversy has been raging for weeks after Sky Television decided to air the actual death of a man from Harrowgate, North Yorkshire, as he prepared to die at a suicide clinic called Dignitas in Switzerland. Dignitas has seen several British citizens use its services to end painful and debilitating lives, but this was the first time one of their procedures was actually broadcast on British television.
Sky (Rupert Murdoch’s news outlet in Britain) produced a rather moving piece where tehe sufferer himself, Craig Ewert,
makes the case for his ability to take his own life to save himself suffering. He even, between gasps of oxygen, manages to pose some interesting questions to the Christian opponents of the procedure.

Suicide has been decriminalized in Britain, simply because

.....Prosecuting a dead person seems to be seen as rather unreasonable, not to mention rather difficult, although such trials have occurred in the country’s past. The problem boils down to the law which threatens those who help facilitate the act with punishment of up to 14 years in prison.

Imagine intolerable pain, going on for hours, days, and months. But no, you must suffer. Mustn't set a bad example for everyone else. Check out the comments on Andrew's Pajama's Media post. This one in particular:

This is horrible!!!! Suicide is murder of one’s self. Common sense and at least minimal background in Christianity’s 10 Commandments gives us the answer: THOU SHALT NOT KILL! Suicide is killing of one’s self. Furthermore, to be televised while committing such a crime, is to be an exhabitionalist, while one cruel enough to watch is mentally sick! If someone is stupid enough to kill him/herself, don’t drag others into your selfishness and self-pity.
Dec 14, 2008 - 11:22 am

The point of the broadcast was for Craig Ewert to raise questions about his own right to die, and for others to see what a Physician-Assisted Suicide is like.

Are there are other things we do as a society that should be broadcast for the same reasons? Would some of us be so gung-ho about executions if we had to watch it happen, just once?
How about a late-term abortion? Does anyone think that watching one of those might change polling data?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Light To See By

Here's Jon Stewart of The Daily Show, going head to head with Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee on the subject of Gay Marriage.

H.T. to Dr. Ralph....

Huckabee argues that marriage has always meant one man and one woman, he argues that marriage is defined "anatomically" as between a man and a woman because of the need to create the next generation. He claims that through 5,000 years of recorded history, that's what it has always meant.

Stewart takes the easiest shot first. Marriage used to mean polygamy. (Think King Solomon, Abraham, etc.)

Stewart then asks if it would be ok to say that Hispanics can't get married.....

Huckabee responds that "there's a big difference in a person being black, and a person practicing a lifestyle and engaging in a marital relationship".

Throughout all of this, the studio audience is cheering Stewart. My question is, where the hell were all these people when California's Proposition 8 was being voted into law????? Huckabee claims that 68% of voters are opposed to gay marriage, but you wouldn't know it from listening to the people in this video. (My best guess is that there's a lot of difference between people in a herd, and individuals in a voting booth.)

Stewart winds things up by asking Governor Huckabee when he chose to not be gay.

The only point I would've added? Here's the Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 7, verse 1: "Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry."

Paul goes on to write about how marriage is no better than a necessary evil, and how he has chosen to remain celibate. In verse 6, he says "I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that."

Let's assume that Mike Huckabee is correct, and that Paul was divinely inspired when he wrote those words. It gives some perspective to the self-proclaimed superiority of the "Focus On The Family" people, doesn't it?

(Full Disclosure: I think that most of what Paul wrote was about as divinely inspired as The Daily Kos, or The Huffington Post. Half the time, the man was just blogging. If he'd had any idea that 2,000 years later, people in places he couldn't even imagine would be reading his stuff every Sunday and arguing about the true intent, he would've tightened up his prose a bit.)

Next point.....

Leslie Jordan is an actor, comedian and writer. He is as gay as a Barbra Streisand Film Festival, and has a new book out called "Down The Pink Carpet", which is about growing up not just gay, and not just effeminate (I know, I know, they're not the same thing), but growing up gay, effeminate, and almost freakishly flamboyant in a small town in the deep south. In the Southern Baptist Church. Surrounded by people who thought he'd outgrow it.

It didn't happen. It ain't gonna happen. But Leslie Jordan, in Mike Huckabee's worldview, is merely a confused heterosexual.

What a crock.

At one point in the book, Jordan talks about going to a helpful therapist/counselor to deal with some family issues and resentments, and this therapist explained that Jordan's father "was doing the best he could with the light he had to see by". Jordan Sr's inability to understand his obviously gay son was like the racism (by our standards) found in the words and writing of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln didn't have as much light to see by.

Which gets us back to Mike Huckabee. On the issue of gays and lesbians having a "choice" in their sexual orientation, we now have plenty of "light to see by". It's high noon with a clear sky. We're standing in the middle of the football field with the floodlights on. We're holding flashlights.

Anyone with eyes to see, and an ounce of compassion buried in their creeds, superstitions, and dogmas - anyone can tell that gays and lesbians aren't confused heterosexuals. They didn't choose to be the way they are. Many of them have gone through stages where they would give anything in the world to be just like everyone else.

There came a time when theologians had to give up the idea of a flat earth, the sun rotating around the earth, infant damnation, and the existence of witches. (If you just finished reading that sentence, and thought to yourself that the scriptures in question aren't "wrong", but were just misinterpreted? Get some professional help. Leslie Jordan can recommend a good therapist.)

We now have plenty of light to see by.

And In The Red Corner....

Back in January, I wrote something about an editorial by Joel Stein in which Mr. Stein was making a total mockery of the "Locally Grown" food movement.

It caught the eye of one of my Blogging heroes, Perry DeHavilland of Samizdata, who linked to it and got me somewhere around 30% of my current readership.

In the meantime, wonder of wonders, I started commenting back and forth with a guy called The Red Son. The Red Son is a Marxist revolutionary type with a serious weapons fetish and a hankerin' for revolutionary posters.

Somehow, Red Son found that old post and used it to start a discussion/argument with Perry, and the argument over the virtues of locally grown food has been going on for about two days now. Perry's site, Samizdata, is what inspired me to start typing every day. The Red Son is the only true collectivist I've ever encountered who appeared to have sense enough to feed himself. I'm more than a little proud of providing the battleground for these two.

Both of these guys know a lot about logic, rhetoric, argument, and history. In my opinion, The Red Son is in the difficult position of having to argue from totally false premises.

Go here to read it. I've tried to chime in, but I'm now staying out of their way. You can safely ignore most of the January comments, and skip straight to the December conversation. Interesting stuff.