September 26, 2003
Please Standby. Meanwhile...

I'm working on a couple of fairly substantial entries -- one about the FTC's Do Not Call Registry, and another about the unique position of being neither a liberal nor a conservative (while sort of being both) -- but in the meantime I haven't had a good chance to pop out anything else here. However, you can dabble in the fruits of my labor (mixed with the labor of others) over at the Nevada County Libertarian Party website.

The most recent entry there has some more pictures from the booth at the county fair that I taked about a while ago.

The entry before that has a bunch of links to info about the "Good Law, Bad Law, and Scary Law" from the NCLP newsletter (that's a regular column we have in our newsletters). FYI, the Good Law is the House defunding parts of the USA-PATRIOT Act, the Bad Law is CAPPS II, and the Scary Law is the "VICTORY Act". (Though, some extra reflection has led me to determine that we should have switched the Bad and Scary laws around. Sometimes we have a hard time distinguishing the two categories.)

And the entry before that one features the newsletter itself -- our first attempt at a 4-page version. (You can skip going to that entry and just go to the newsletter itself if you want.)

Posted by Lance Brown at 12:00 AM
September 19, 2003
Video Segment: Lance on the USA-PATRIOT Act

I was co-host of the Nevada County News Hour this week on the local community access TV station. The other co-host was one of the top local Green Party leaders, Beth Moore-Haines -- who is also the spokesperson for the state Green Party. I've gotten along well with Beth since I first met her, and I've worked with her in a number of instances in the past, on the News Hour and otherwise. One of things we've worked together on is the Nevada County Bill of Rights Defense Committee, which is a local outgrowth of the national movement against the USA-PATRIOT Act and the war on civil liberties.

So it was not very surprising that our news hour included over 20 minutes of discussion about that topic. We talked about the Act, about John Ashcroft's tour promoting it, and about a standing-room-only presentation that took place this past weekend here.

You can view the 23-minute segment below using the Real Player media player.

<A HREF="ncnh9-17-03-patriotactclip.rm">Play the clip using the stand-alone player</A>
Press Play (>) above

Lance Brown and Beth Moore-Haines


Can't view the clip? Download the RealPlayer plug-in from RealNetworks


Click here to save the file (13.4 MB) to your hard drive or open it in a stand-alone player.

Posted by Lance Brown at 11:59 PM
September 12, 2003
10 Reasons Why MoveOn's "10 Reasons Why the Recall is Wrong" is Wrong

I get a fair amount of e-mail from, a group that is probably the hottest thing to hit the political left wing since the 60's. I have a lot of mixed feelings about MoveOn, as I do for most successful projects from the well-intentioned-but-misguided Left. I'm not here today to muse about that group generally, but they sent out a "talking points" e-mail about opposing the California recall, and I wanted to take a moment to clear up what they are trying to muddle.

So, here are MoveOn's "10 Reasons Why the Recall is Wrong", with my responses.

1. A single congressman brought us the recall with $1.7 million of his own money -- while simultaneously putting himself forward as the man to replace the governor.

The recall was triggered by over 1.3 million Californian voters who enthusiastically signed petitions asking for it. The real truth is that California firmly embraced this recall effort. It was not just supported by the state Republican Party, but also by the Libertarian Party. From all the reports I heard, many in the state Green Party were supportive of it too, with most of them witholding official endorsements for fear of helping a "right-wing power grab", as it's popularly being called now. I heard that Gray Davis' favorability rating is the lowest of any California Governor since they've been checking -- it has been at or below 25% for months.

And the single congressman, Darrell Issa, simply put forward the money to pay petitioners once it was clear it was popular and supported. It was almost certainly an opportunistic move (though it didn't pan out, since he dropped out early), but in effect it was just a guy putting up the money for something a lot of people wanted anyway. Over 1.6 million signatures collected; over 1.3 million verified voters. Darrell Issa's signature was just one of them.

2. The recall threatens to give California a governor elected by a tiny percentage of the electorate -- and gives wealthy individuals an unprecedented opportunity to attempt to buy the governorship.

16.5% of the electorate voted for Gray Davis in 2002. That bears repeating: 16.5% of the electorate voted for Gray Davis in 2002.Talk about tiny percentages.

Nobody paid the people to sign the recall petitions, and nobody is paying people to come out and vote. It looks likely that this will be a very popular election, as special elections go. People are excited and interested in participating in the recall election; people were gagging as they entered the voting booth back in 2002. Draw your own conclusions.

And the recall provision has been in the California Constitution -- not just a law here, a constitutional provision -- for almost 100 years. It hasn't made the ballot any of the 31 times it was attempted in the past -- but it did this time. (And there were rich people back then too.) Draw your own conclusions.

Speaking of opportunities to buy the governorship -- here's an article about doing that, Gray Davis-style.

3. It threatens to invalidate a fair election just months after it took place.

Right -- a fair election in which Gray Davis intentionally spent money to ensure the moderate Republican (Riordan) was defeated in the primaries, so he would face the more extreme conservative one (Simon) in the general election. A fair election where the Libertarian Party was denied the ability to have the candidate who was chosen at their state convention on the ballot. A fair election where eight people were on the ballot, but most only heard about two - and only two were in the big debate(s), as far as I recall. A fair election where 16.5% of eligible voters, and 23.2% of registered voters, elected Gray Davis.

Oh man -- that was such a great election! It was the freakin' pinnacle of democracy. Let's bathe in the nostalgia of these LA Times exit poll results from 2002:

Voters had overwhelmingly unfavorable impressions of both Davis and Simon, with roughly six in 10 expressing negative views about the two major party candidates. A like number, about 60%, disapproved of Davis' job performance over the past four years while just about half of voters said the state was heading down the wrong track.

Asked to compare the two on issues, at least a quarter of those interviewed picked neither candidate when asked who would do a better job on energy, homeland security, crime and the economy. Asked which candidate had more honesty and integrity, fully a third of voters said neither.

Maybe California voters are so enthusiastic about this election because it feels more real than the last one.

4. It sets a dangerous precedent -- if it succeeds why wouldn't opponents attempt to recall every future governor?

Because if the governor was popular, and the recall unpopular, it would fail, and be a political boondoggle that the proponents would be resented for. Has everyone forgotten that this has been tried 31 other times, and not even made it to the ballot once? This one looks more like the exception than the rule.

5. It's expensive: The recall election itself will cost over $60 million.

60 million dollars for a state with a 98.9 billion dollar budget is not particularly expensive. 60 million is .06 billion. 98.9 billion - .06 billion = 98.84 billion. Notice how that doesn't seem like a very big cut.

6. It prevents our elected leaders from working to solve the state budget crisis and other important issues by forcing them to campaign to defend the results of a fair election.

This one answers itself -- if "our elected leaders" (none of whom got my vote, by the way) hadn't led the state into crisis, the recall wouldn't be popular. A governor who the people thought was doing a good job wouldn't need to campaign against this recall.

7. The cost to the economy is too great: a successful recall would cause enormous economic instability and loss of confidence.

Did you ever feel before that your very survival was dependent on who was governor of your state? Me neither. I think it's fairly indisputable that if fiscal conservative Tom McClintock was elected in this recall, confidence in California's economy would go up, significantly. I suspect the same is the case with Arnold. On the other hand, check out how much confidence there is in California currently, in the Gray Era.

A successful recall would certainly cause a loss of confidence among Gray Davis supporters. Maybe that's what they mean.

8. This won't stop in California: 18 states have recall provisions. Unless the California recall is decisively rejected, sore losers in others states will continue to use this tactic.

Great! I agree with all of that, except change "sore losers" to "voters". Because it's voters that signed for it, and voters who will decide it. Recalls represent a great way for voters to keep their elected officials in check, and frankly it's remarkable to hear supposedly progressive organizations calling them a threat to democracy, and saying recalls are a way for people to buy elections. California voters, and voters in general, should resent the implications behind such assertions.

9. The recall threatens California’s environment. Governor Davis has made important improvements to environmental law. Polluters see the recall as a chance for roll-back.

Finally, at number 9, they try to give some reasons why Gray Davis actually deserves to stay in office. Neither top Republican candidate is talking about rolling back environmental laws -- Arnold sure isn't. I don't think they think Bustamante is going to roll back environmental laws. Without specifics, this sounds like a red herring.

There are plenty of other Davis-installed anti-business regulations to get rid of, without resorting to environmental ones.

10. Gray Davis has made important gains in education, health care, the environment and public safety. The recall is an attempt to reverse those advances.

The recall is an attempt to reverse the budget crisis and the mismanagement of the state's business. In 6 months of following it, this is the first I've heard about attempts to reverse any advances in California.

A successful recall will require over 50% of the voters voting to remove Gray Davis from office, indicating that voters believe that whatever supposed gains Gray has made are not sufficient in the grand scheme of things. Anyone who wants to get people to reject the recall should focus on explaining, clearly, why 51% of the people should choose to keep Gray Davis as governor. After all the hype, that's what it comes down to. Should he stay -- why or why not? Everything else is fluff, or left v. right bitterness.

Nobody's quite saying that the folks who made the recall happen are breaking the rules -- because they're not. This recall is a legitimate electoral function in California, and it's pretty aggravating to hear "progressive" organizations bemoan it as some sort of assault on democracy. Keep in mind that the recall provision was a direct byproduct of the first "progressive" political wave back in the early 1900's.

I'm becoming more and more convinced that the real problem in American politics is neither the Left nor the Right -- the real problem is the battle between those two over who gets to drive. It's their constant struggle for power that confounds their ability to do any lasting good with that power. In the direction that is currently heading, their future holds decade after decade of struggling to stop or reverse or challenge such and such thing that the right wing is trying to do. And there are certainly plenty on the other side who are digging in for the perpetual battle as well.

The good news is that we can take the power away from both sides, and give it back to its owners. That struggle can be taken out of politics, and put where it should be -- in the realm of voluntary association and cooperation. That's where things are going to have to head, sooner or later. Count me in as a vote for sooner.

Posted by Lance Brown at 11:41 PM
September 09, 2003
One Habit of an At-Least-Moderately Effective Person

Sorry about the lull here folks. I'm hoping that was the big climactic lull, capping off the series of lulls in August.

I didn't plan to have a big gap in my posts here. It's not that I've been inactive over the past 10 days, it's more that I've had a strange sort of writer's block. I've been filled to bursting with stuff to say, but just haven't been finding the right times and opportunities to get it out effectively. I'm hoping this is my big comeback, and that I'll be back on track now, blogwise. Actually, I hope to pick up the pace a bit. I've got a lot I want to say right about now.

I haven't been slacking on all fronts, though. I've posted probably 40 or 50 entries at the Little Brown Reader over the past several days, and a few actions at E-Actions for Freedom. And I've done lots of other ordinary stuff -- working, cleaning, that sort of thing. I've also been running -- all but two days of the last seventeen, I've jogged between 3 and 4 miles. And no ordinary miles -- dirt-and-gravel road and cross-country trail miles, with bumps and hills and so forth. If I sound proud of myself about that feat, it's because I am proud. That's the most consistent and hardcore physical fitness accomplishment I've had in a long time, if ever. The only competitor would be my short time on the cross country running team in high school.

I started running/jogging again with some regularity about two years ago, but I hadn't been able to get and stay locked into it yet. I think I've pushed myself past the hump this time. I went 11 days in a row of 3 miles or more before taking a break, and it was kind of out of nowhere, really. On that day off, I went on a hardcore hike instead, which was at least as exhausting as my normal run, if not moreso. (I hope to put together a little pictorial from that hike, actually, because it sprang from a fairly intense thing -- a forest fire -- that happened near my house recently. Crews had worked through the night to put it out, and I went adventuring the next day to see what had gone down there.) After that day, I went back to the daily jogs, and have been back on that routine until yesterday, when the monthly NCLP meeting ate the portion of the day that I usually run. I could have done an evening run, but I decided to treat myself to the break. This regimen is putting my body through all sorts of strains, and I don't want to push it too far.

I'm not talking about my running to brag -- it's intended to inspire, if anything. It feels awesome to be getting such a tremendous amount of exercise. I've always been a pretty fit person -- or at least, I've always been generally slim and physically energetic -- but I haven't been what I would consider athletic, or really fit in the true sense of the word -- probably not since yon high school cross country team days. And in the time between then and now, I haven't been the kindest to my body, or wisest in terms of doing right by my health and fitness. Obviously, I'm working to turn that around. Jogging is just one part of it, but in a way, it represents sort of an axis. Put simply, it's damn hard to be running 3 miles every day and not be otherwise conducting oneself healthily. The fact that I've been able to do it shows me that I'm doing OK in the rest of my health as well. And that's sort of the challenge that the whole effort presents to me -- not so much the triumph of being able to run that far, but the triumph of being healthy and fit enough to run that far, day after day. I'm not aceing the test just yet, but I'm passing it with a respectable margin I think, and that's good to know, as I ease into my thirties. (I suspect others who are easing toward or into their thirties know why I'm saying that -- the late 20s/early 30s period seems to be the body's first round of trying to "get old".)

If you don't eat right, or if you aren't getting enough fluids, or enough sleep, or if you do something that exacts major punishment on your system (like smoking or hard drugs), or whatever, you won't be able to keep up a fitness regime of that level, at least not for long. The flipside of that is that if you commit yourself to getting hardcore about exercise, in whatever way suits you (it might not be running), you are going to have to shape up in the other arenas, if you haven't. Being overweight, or smoking, or not eating enough -- whatever it is, if you're doing something you shouldn't be doing, healthwise, and you commit yourself to getting hardcore about exercise, the bad habit is going to have to take a hike.

I'm not saying that to demotivate you (you, the theoretical person out there who wants to ramp up your healthiness) -- I don't mean to present a warning, but instead an opportunity. The opportunity is that if you have an unhealthy habit that you've had a hard time getting away from, you could come at it from a different angle. It can be hard to stop doing something that you're used to, and habits by nature are activities which provide some sort of satisfaction or enjoyment, on some level -- or else why would we do them so often as to become habits? So trying to quit the habit by the head-on method might not work -- it obviously doesn't for the millions of folks who actively and knowingly have bad health habits, myself included. However, picking up a new, good habit is considerably easier -- whether it's going swimming once a week, or taking a long walk every evening, or whatever.

Chances are you can find an exercise-based activity that gives you ancilliary enjoyment. Swimming is fun, running is calming, biking can lead to cool journeys, etc. If you can't find an exercise activity you enjoy, you probably aren't looking hard enough. So then you can find something you like, or a mix of things, and decide to do it once a week, or every other day, or however often, for whatever amount of time or distance -- and commit to increasing your effort as time goes on. I started my new running career by taking walks with my dog to the end of my road and back. At first I would run down the first big downhill part, and then walk the rest. Then I would run a little farther, and walk the rest. And so on. After a while it got to where I could get to this one point (about a mile down the road), but there was a big hill after that, and I would switch to walking, knowing I couldn't make it up that hill in the shape I was in. I stuck with that for a while, where I would just make a token few steps up the hill and then cop out to walking. This was a long time ago now, when I was just starting to get fit, and I couldn't imagine continuing running up that hill. Then one time I just decided not to stop jogging -- that I would keep putting one foot in front of the other as long as it was physically possible for me to do so. And just like that, I plugged my way up that hill, and kept going once I got to the top, another half-mile until the end of my road. And each time after that, the running portion went the whole 1.5 miles to the end of the road. Then I started doing the same thing with the return trip, and eventually I was running a 3 mile round trip.

It was that first threshold though -- that hill after one mile -- that was the big one. That was where I got over the idea that the limit was reliant principally on my physical capacity -- that I "couldn't" keep going up that hill, as tired as I already was. Basically, it was the moment where I had to choose whether I was serious about my effort to get into the new habit, or not. It took a whole lot longer for me to get to the point where I could keep running up that one hill than it did for me to get from that threshold to running 6 miles at one time (only one time, so far ;-)). Now I know that if I wanted to, I could train for and run in a marathon -- and I probably will, in due time. For now, I'm going to keep at the lap around my "block" that I do now until it's easy, day after day. Then I'll probably double it, or I'll speed it up. I'm going to add pull-ups and sit-ups into the mix soon too... but I'm getting ahead of myself. I should sign off for now, or I might never get this entry posted.

(Apologies to Stephen Covey for butchering his concept in my cheesy entry title.)

Posted by Lance Brown at 11:57 PM