October 21, 2003
Books I'd recommend to a 17-year-old

A young fellow just wrote in asking what books I would recommend -- specifically, "some good books on current issues that I should know about, like the war on drugs, the reality of corporate america, the environment, etc.. Something a 17 year old can comprehend."

Here's what I suggested:

-- Ain't Nobody's Business if You Do by Peter McWilliams. A great book by a great man -- a martyr of the drug war. That book is about all victimless crimes, and it's awesome. It's long, but super-easy to read, and fun even. (Update: That book and all of Peter's other books are available on his site for free.

-- Why Government Doesn't Work by Harry Browne. The former Libertarian presidential candidate explains very simply and clearly how government is almost always the worst way to solve social problems.

-- Healing Our World: The Other Piece of the Puzzle by Dr. Mary Ruwart. I endorsed and recommended this book on my blog a while ago. As I said there: "Words don't exist to describe how strongly I recommend this book."

-- The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Ben Franklin. This is a good book for any young person to read. It's not about politics very much, and it's not as boring as it might sound. Ben Franklin was a great person, and he explains how he became one, and gives some advice. This one is available online for free in a number of places, and it's probably at almost every used bookstore in America.

-- And of course, Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. This one is long, pretty heavy, and fairly legendary. You can probably find reviews (both positive and negative) and summaries of it on the web. (Update: I see there are 1000 reviews of it posted at Amazon.com, where it gets 4 out of 5 stars.) I wrote about its influence on me here.

You can scope out those books at Amazon.com through the links above, and if you buy any of them through their link, it will help support my campaign. :-)

That's a good starter set for a young person aspiring to make positive change in the world, I think. It's by no means a comprehensive collection, but it's a good first round.

By the way, the young man who wrote to me is also a 311 fan (as I am), and he urged me to do more to connect with 311 and their fanbase. That's definitely a part of the plan -- 311 fans are, by nature of the band they like, energetic, open-minded, and interested in positive change. They are also generally young. There's not a much better set of qualities that I can imagine in a potential constituency. Apparently 311's bass player, who I've corrensponded with a bit, has a tagline on their online bulletin board urging readers to get involved in politics, and he refers to putting a 311 fan in the oval office. I don't know if he's thinking of me with that, but I like the way he's thinking regardless.

Posted by Lance Brown at 11:55 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 MoveOn.org, 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 MoveOn.org 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
July 10, 2003
On the Virtues of Schooling (sort of)

You're not likely to find someone who's more opposed to the modern American system of education than me. Technically, I don't think you could, because I'm completely and utterly opposed to it.

There are two issues that I am more adamant and solid on than any others, I think, and those two would be the drug war (I'm against it) and the modern American education system. I say "modern American education system" instead of "public schooling" or "the American school system", because there are defintely bright spots out there in the school system. But all of those bright spots -- homeschooling, charter schools, vouchers, and Internet education -- are things that go against the grain of the system I'm talking about.

I don't think it's necessarily confined to public schools either. I'm sure there are many private schools that are doing their own thing, but I'm also sure there are many who are doing much the same thing as most public schools -- that being, dragging a bunch of kids into huge buildings with dozens of classrooms and hundreds of students, 20-30 to a classroom, and ringing bells every so often, and herding the kids this way and that, and so on. That is the modern American education system I'm talking about.

I've written at length about how the very structure and culture of schools leads to inevitable, deeply damaging problems, and I've written at some length about how the educational structure of a single-teacher classroom is essentially guaranteed to only tap into a tiny amount of any kid's learning potential, if any at all -- and how there could be a way we could get that amount a lot closer to 100%. So I won't go into those issues too deeply -- you can read either of those articles to see where I'm coming from. I'm really writing to introduce to you an article I just read -- probably the best newspaper article I've ever seen about homeschooling (and unschooling). But I'd be remiss if I didn't wax eloquent with some thoughts on it all, while we're on the subject.

As I was saying, opposition to our "education" system is a big issue for me. I don't have a single good thing to say about it -- to me, it's a fundamentally flawed model, if the aim is to produce educated, intelligent young adults who are best prepared for their adult lives. A lot of education scholars, particularly folks in the "opposition" like me, will tell you that that's not what the modern model was intended to do -- that instead, it was designed to produce a dependable flow of docile, obedient workers who could be easily trained to do simple reptitive tasks; and that it came along in concert (and partnership) with the advent of mass production and the factory boom.

Now, if that was the goal, then our system was perfectly designed, at least as long as it was keeping pace with the workforce needs of the economy. Of course, it fell out of pace, right about during my time in school, as the Information Age sent the Industrial Age packing. But that hardly matters -- because that shouldn't be the goal of our educational system. It still is, though the parameters have shifted a bit. Prepping kids for the workforce is still the plan, even though anyone who tells you they know what the workforce is going to look like when these kids are adults is lying outright.

Aside from that fatal flaw, the system is struggling urgently with the pains of bureaucracy -- it's this big national beast, increasingly micromanaged from the top, with so many layers of power struggle on the way down that it's probably impossible to map. Down at the bottom, teachers and principals, with their metaphorical arms and legs chopped off by the many layers above, try to manage what is essentially a big, crowded educational prison -- often with inadequate or shoddy materials, with little control over curriculum, and with each having anywhere from 60 to 150 kids a semester under their surrogate care.

And the mission of schools has gone far beyond readin', writin', and 'rithmetic, or even science, history, and civics. Because they are essentially acting as part-time parents of these kids, a whole host of non-curricular issues come up -- sexuality, spirituality, character, ethics, hate, rage, violence, pregnancy, and so on. And what is it exactly they're supposed to be doing for the kids? Do you think that any two people would give the same answer to that question? Are we trying to make them better learners, better workers, more likely to get into college, or are we trying to improve their character, or their physical strength and dexterity, or their social skills? Or all of those things? And what sort of workers was it we want them to be again? Tech workers? Medical professionals? Historians? Zoologists? Politicians? Wouldn't each of those professions involve developing different skills and subjects, even before age 18? It did, for hundreds of years before the 20th century.

If I had stayed in high school for 12th grade, I would have been taking pretty much what all the smart 12th graders took -- AP Math, AP Physics, AP English, and some filler stuff, plus Phys Ed. I had already taken almost every English class my school offered -- I took two and a half years of English one year -- and that was the only the only subject I cared for. Those "AP" classes were "Advanced Placement", which is basically a dedicated year of teaching to a test -- the Advanced Placement test. My AP U.S. History teacher drove herself nearly crazy year after year trying to prepare kids for that test, while trying to also teach them something about history.

So basically there was one class that I would actually have enjoyed at all, and that one was corrupted by being geared specifically toward a standardized test. I would have had one or two study halls a day. Utimately I only had some miniscule amount of credits left to earn, and (if I recall correctly) Phys Ed was my only class requirement that wasn't filled. That's what our public education system had to offer me for 12th grade. I had been out of my mind with boredom in school for 11 years, and it seemed like the last one was going to be the worst yet.

Thankfully, two different places with a little more sense took it upon themselves to get in touch with me, and I ended up going to the University of Southern California's early entry program. My high school protested a bit, but not as much as they might have for someone else. Actually, most of the authority figures in my school were probably breathing record-breaking sighs of relief. I was an excellent student with a volatile attitude, and that can be a lot of trouble for teachers and school administrators. And it was.

But I digress, a lot. I wanted to respond to my own statement that I have not one good thing to say about the modern American educational system. Many people respond to that suggestion with something like "You must admit that some good things come from school -- that some kids come out having added some value of some sort." And yes, I'll concede that. While my K-12 education probably amounts to less than 2% of my total education, I did learn a few useful things in school.

The way I see it, it's like a glass of cloudy, muddy water, with a jagged rim. If the government went and gave all the country's kids 8 cups a day of muddy pondwater in glasses with sharp, jagged rims, some good would come from it. After all, water is one of the best substances on earth, and even muddy and gross it has a lot going for it. My dogs drink muddy water just like it's normal, and it doesn't ever seem to hurt them. If any one of us was truly parched and had no other choice, we'd gulp down pond or puddle water like it was the fountain of life -- and in all likelihood, it would be. It would do that good thing water does, and the mud and muck probably wouldn't hurt you much, if at all.

And about that jagged edge on the glass. Well, first of all, not all the glasses would be totally jagged, per se -- some would just have a chip or a little crack, or a sharp area or two that would be easy to avoid. And plus, kids would learn to be cautious and controlled -- and cuts and scrapes are part of growing up anyway. And you can't really expect a national kidwater system to be perfect, particularly when you're using glasses as the delivery method.

Besides, kids need water -- they'll die without it. And the impurities in pondwater seldom cause any serious harm to internal organs. And parents can't be expected to take time off work to follow their kids around all day and make sure they get water. Plus, making these kids stay at the water depot all day teaches them discipline and how to behave themselves, and standing in long lines teaches them patience.

See, there's tons of good to a system like that!

In a certain twisted way, it's all true. Not just some, but a lot of good would come from giving our nation's kids 8 jagged glasses of muddy pondwater a day. Millions of kids would be internally cleansed and refreshed, and their young bodies would soak up that water like it was the fountain of life, which it is (to a body). It's probably more water then they drink now, and it's a good amount of water to drink. But it should be crystal clear that that would be a horrible plan -- nothing that anyone in their right mind would choose. There's so much negative and wrong about it that it's not even worth considering.

Jagged glasses of muddy water could bring inestimable amounts of good, but no human on earth would choose one over a nice smooth cup of clear spring water.

The metaphor breaks down like this: Learning, or education, is water; the jagged glass is our educational system, after a century of wear and tear; the mud is the bureaucracy and anti-learning dogma that has seeped into almost every pore of the system; the government is the government; and the kids with bleeding lips and gastric problems are kids like the Columbine killers, and the teens who don't know the three branches of our government, and the victims of "zero tolerance" policies, and the kid in every other sad school story that rides the headlines (or doesn't).

So I'll correct my statement. There are good things I could say about the educational system, but it would make no more sense to say them than it would to defend the benefits of mandatory universal pondwater for children.

If you somehow made it all the way through this, then you should enjoy a shocking contrast by reading the article below. It tells stories of learning and child development that you will seldom see coming out of the vast majority of youth learning institutions in this country. Actually, that's not technically true, since there are now millions of home schools, each a unique learning institution in its own right.

If you are already into homeschooling (or unschooling), read this article and glow with recognition and pride. If you're considering it, read this article and tip the scales. If you're a skeptic, read it and have your skepticism challenged. If you intend to form an opinion about homeschooling at any point in the future, you should read this article.

Homeschooling: Teaching Thy Children Well

Posted by Lance Brown at 01:41 AM
June 30, 2003
The Essential Hurdle for Libertarians

I come from Massachusetts, the heart of the Democratic Party in many ways. Home of the Kennedys -- and hardly a day goes by there when some reminder of that fact doesn't come up. My mother is a Democrat -- a Massachusetts Kennedy Democrat. That's a special breed of Democrat -- one who holds onto the romantic vision of JFK and RFK, and the whole Kennedy feeling, and wraps that around their view of the Democratic Party, then tops it off with pride in being from the veritable bastion of Kennedy Democraticism, Massachusetts.

That's what I was raised under. I supported Jimmy Carter in the 1980 election, when practically no one supported Jimmy Carter. I didn't really know why -- I was just a kid -- but I supported him by default. I remember getting laughed at in school when I expressed hope that he would win.

But there was more to it than being raised to identify with the party -- in fact, that was the smaller half of it. What's more important is that I was raised to identify with the party's values, as perceived by my mother. They were: helping people, especially the poor; representing the 'working man' and the 'little guy', and women's rights; fighting the Republicans, who served the rich; and taking care of those who couldn't take care of themselves. That's what my mom thought was important, and still does, and that's why she supported the Democratic Party, and still does.

I absorbed a lot of that. I grew up living within most of those interest groups -- we were generally poor, my mom was a working single mother of three, and I lived with three women (two sisters and my mom). And with as little money as we had, my mother "adopted" a really poor family in Mississippi, sending them a little money and care packages each month. She worked anywhere from 1 to 3 jobs at a time throughout my upbringing, and we knew well that every week was a struggle to make ends meet. In many ways, we were deep in the heart of the target market of the Democratic Party.

All that I absorbed then is still with me -- all of it except the Democratic Party. I still believe that the poor and the disadvantaged and the helpless and women and minorities and workers and anyone else holding onto the short end of whatever stick they've got should be represented, defended, helped, respected, and supported. I know what it's like to be poor (I know it all too well), and I know what it's like to work for too little money at a lame job, and to be unemployed, and to live below an acceptable level. And I know the struggle is hard -- I know all about it. I've spent most of my life in one or another of the many groups that Democrats and "progressives" continually insist we all must help.

All this adds up to make me an unusual Libertarian, because I don't scorn liberals. I identify with them. I care about almost everything they care about. I could be (and have been) called a "bleeding heart". Right now, I'm advertising to greens via Google AdWords, because I believe that my vision of the future is very similar to theirs.

Libertarians who are reading this might be pretty worried by now, but I can explain. First, let me distinguish between liberals and statist/socialists, in my usage. To me, liberals are people who care about the things and people I've been talking about. I left out the environment (because my mom wasn't huge on that issue), but that should be added too. They want those things and people protected, supported, etc. Statists are folks who believe that government should be the main means of accomplishing most anything, and socialists are people who envision a commune-like setup (enforced benevolently by government), where everyone gets an essentially equal ration of what everyone (altogether) has.

Statists and socialists are problematic -- the former moreso than the latter. But I'm fine with liberals. People on "the left" can be one, two, or all three of those things, but they aren't all necessarily intertwined.

For most people, it's about the end, not the means. To most people the means is, well, just a means to an end. They just want the end -- as quickly and cheaply as possible, please.

And there's the rub. There lies the meeting place between me (and other Libertarians) and liberals -- not to mention moderates, and many others in this country (because I think most people care about the people and things I've been talking about here).

Libertarianism -- the view of an America full of free individuals -- is the means that will deliver the end that most people envision. My vision includes help for the poor and disadvantaged. My vision is a world where people are not discriminated based on race, or sex, or anything else but their humanity and their character. My vision is one where the environment, and wildlife, are nurtured and protected. It's a vision where workers get paid a living wage, and where opportunity is ripe for the picking, and jobs are prevalent. On top of that, it's a vision of a world that's virtually crime and terrorism-free, and where the "peace for all time" that John F. Kennedy spoke of can begin to take root.

Libertarianism is the cheapest and quickest means to achieve that end, and that fact doesn't get discussed nearly enough. This is at least in part due to the fact that the Libertarian Party and the libertarian movement grew out of the conservative movement, and the majority of libertarians are probably reformed conservatives. So they've grown up despising liberals, and you can read many a libertarian screed attacking that group.

I don't attack liberals, though. I'll go after Democrats, or statists, or socialists, and those in the Greens who align with those three groups, but I consider liberals to be my political kin in many ways. I want most of the same ultimate results that they want. I just know that we're never going to get there as long as we continue to rely on government to bring us there.

It astonishes me that my liberal friends fail to see that, since almost all the liberals I know are wildly disgusted with our political system and our government, but that remains as the major difference between me and so many Greens and Democrats I talk to. They and I both see a similar goal, a similar desired result. They want to mandate it, or make it "free", or achieve the goal through regulation. In other words, they want government to do the job.

To me, it's so glaringly obvious that government is the wrong means to almost every end we desire -- there are 1000 news stories a day with evidence of that fact -- that I wouldn't think of entrusting any job I consider important to its care. Most of my friends seem to recognize that as well, in large part -- but they just can't believe in or envision a world where this or that problem would be solved without government's help.

Painting that picture -- clearly, vividly, and credibly -- is absolutely essential for Libertarians, if we want to achieve victory in America. It is far and away our biggest hurdle, and our most pressing challenge. Our proposed means are correct, I'm convinced of that -- and if you ask around, the most positive thing people say about libertarians is "I respect their principled stands", or something like that. Most of our infrastructure is in place, and we have roots and foundations across the country. Our ideas are good, our public awareness efforts are good, and more and more we are included in the political family of America. But our efforts at expressing a clear, thorough, positive, convincing vision of America -- our efforts at painting a picture of the peaceful near-paradise that most of us actually do envision -- have not been sufficient to the task.

I plan to do my part to change that, and I hope that others will follow my example, and the example of other people in the movement who see the same problem I do and are working to solve it. I think the transformation is underway, and it should be encouraged and fostered. We don't need to sacrifice our principles in order to create a persuasive vision. (If we do, then we have a much bigger problem on our hands).

The good news is that projecting that vision is the only essential problem left for us to solve. The bad news is that it is essential that we solve it. I don't expect that I, or any other Libertarian, will be elected president until we do.

Posted by Lance Brown at 01:41 AM
June 19, 2003
You've Got to Fight for Your Right to Third Parties

E-ThePeople has been highlighting a discussion at their site about third parties in their weekly e-mail update, entitled IS THE TIME RIGHT FOR A THIRD PARTY TO EMERGE IN AMERICAN POLITICS TO THREATEN THE REPUBLICAN AND DEMOCRATIC STRONGHOLD?

The opening premise is this:

As neither major party is fulfilling its obligation to the American public, is the time right for a new party to emerge victorious over Republican and Democrat reign?

As more Americans become disenchanted over the lack of leadership and inadequate priorities set forth by the current political oligarchies on either side, I believe people eventually look for an alternative.

Perhaps such an alternative may NOT appear prior to the 2004 elections, but I would not rule out a new party with increased public support by the 2008 elections.

A revolution started this great country and a revolution may be required to maintain its greatness.

Obviously the topic was attractive to me, and I was originally planning on replying to one of the commentors who brought out that hopeful classic, "with the right charismatic candidate...". I started trying to think up a good way to say "Look at me!" without having it sound like that. ;-)

Then I came upon another commentator, who brought out an old canard that is much more classic, and much less hopeful: "Third parties always fail." Well that got my dander up, as they say, and so that's what I replied to. As it turned out, I think it turned into a good way to say "Look at me!", without really saying that at all. Though it was posted pretty late in the discussion, so it's not really getting seen too much.

Here's cynical Glenn's post, with his unfair verdict against third parties. And here's my reply:

Third Parties do *not* always fail

Glenn, your comment...

"A third party movements,whether the Peoples Party, the Socialist Party, Perot`s Reform Party, the Green Party have always failed in this society."

...is not true. First, third parties in the past have been successful. The various "progressive" parties in the late 19th-early 20th centuries managed to set the platform for most of the 20th Century. Virtually all of their platform planks became law in the decades after their attempt to gain electoral control had "failed".

While Perot's party has essentially collapsed, it can hardly be said to have failed either. It inspired a re-awakening in the "outsider" political movement, and a number of new parties and efforts have spawned from its ashes. At the very least, it gave millions in this country reason to believe that something different could be possible in our supposedly "fixed" system. As long as people still remember Ross Perot's '92 run for president, people know that it is possible to break through the two-party stranglehold. And knowing that is half the battle.

Then there are the Greens and Libertarians, neither of which has failed by any measure. Both are growing in influence and organization with each passing election. Libertarians were credited with "spoiling" the election of two Republican senators in 2002, and the Greens are widely blamed for throwing the 2000 election to Bush. That's not a sign of failing parties -- that's a sign of parties which are rising to challenge the political status quo. Just ask those two Republican Senators, and Al Gore, if they think the Greens and Libs have "failed".

The Libertarian Party is going to be the country's next "major party" -- it's just a matter of time. The two parties it's competing with are over a century old...of course the change isn't going to happen overnight. In just over 30 years, the LP has gone from a handful of folks sitting in a living room, to the only party in U.S. history that has had a presidential candidate on all 50 ballots for three elections in a row. That's not failure -- that's success. It has gone from 0 elected officials, to over 300 elected officials. It runs thousands of candidates, every election, often providing incumbents with the only competition on the ballot.

And it's not going to stop. It's going to keep growing, in spite of whatever challenges and roadblocks are thrown in front of it. It's not dependent on a celebrity champion, it's not fragile and easy to take over, and it's not going to give up.

Not to mention that the libertarian movement has, much like the "progressive" movement 100 years ago, had considerable influence on the direction of public policy in the time since it was formed.

I think declaring past third party movements to be "failures" is inaccurate, and to stamp that label on current third party efforts is not just inaccurate, but short-sighted and destructively pessimistic.

This whole idea of "It's got to happen NOW, everywhere!" is part of the training that the two parties have given us -- that solutions and changes in the U.S. can just take place through the waving of some sort of national magic wand. It doesn't work that way in public policy, and it doesn't work that way in electoral politics.

If you want third parties to succeed, then pick one and support it. (I recommend the Libertarian Party -- it's your best bet, by far.) If enough people support them, then they will succeed.

If you want them to fail, then simply support the other two parties.

All this "will they, won't they" talk is largely just a distraction from those real-world options.

Be well, Be free,
Lance Brown

The Free View -- Weblog of a presidential candidate


That discussion and a number of Democrat-v-Republican presidential polls and newspaper articles that I've seen recently have acted like an alarm clock for me, reminding me that it's time to get serious about policing the media and the debates for third-party inclusion in Election 2004. I'm going to build up a storehouse of insta-letters for third-party supporters to deluge the media and debate sponsors with. The alternative party movement should be strong enough so that we can target violators one-by-one and "persuade" them through sheer force of numbers -- phone calls, faxes, visits to the front desk, protests, etc.

The numbers thing hasn't generally worked in the past, but it hasn't been done with much force or consistency, and it hasn't generally been very creative. I think the debate hosts -- generally universities -- are extremely susceptible to persuasion through public opinion. In my experience, universities hate embarassment, and will choose the least embarassing option when given a choice. For them to insist upon third party inclusion is honorable and shows integrity. For them to kowtow to the Bipartisans, suppress democracy and open debate, and help further tilt the playing field to the advantage of the dominant parties is reprehensible, shameful, and embarrassing. Or at least it should be...and I'm going to try and help make it so.

In case you're thinking, "Oh God, he's launching another spontaneous plan," don't worry. This one's not spontaneous...it's been brewing in me for the past two election cycles. If we play our cards right, and figure out some hardball ways to make the media and establishment change their ways, we could see an Election 2008 where all eligible candidates are covered relatively equally, and Bipartisan-only TV debates are a thing of the past.

Hey -- stranger things have happened. ;-)

So to kick off the season, I wrote in to Care2.com, about their Bipartisan-biased presidential poll.

Here's what I wrote:

I was very disappointed to see that your recent presidential campaign poll did not include third party candidates and alternative options -- or even a "none of the above" on the main poll.

The Libertarian Party has at least two declared candidates for president so far -- one of them, Gary Nolan, was a nationally-known radio talk show host, and is actively campaigning as we speak. Not including them in your poll helps reinforce the two party stranglehold on our political system, and it is damaging to our democratic process. The two parties have enough of an advantage in American politics...they don't need to have you helping them tip the scales further.

I ask that you make an effort in the future to provide voters with all of the available electoral options when conducting political polls.

You can write to them too, right here.

Within the next few weeks, I'll be launching a new site centered around the mission of achieving equitable third-party candidate inclusion in media coverage and candidate debates and forums. I'm thinking ThirdPartyAction.org (and ThirdPartyActionNetwork.org), and calling it the Third Party Action Network. What do you think? Got a better domain or organization name idea? Let me know soon if you do, because I'll be settling on these things in the next week or two.

Posted by Lance Brown at 12:33 AM
June 05, 2003
Inside Bush's "Brain", and the Battle Between Hope and Dread

This interview with James Moore, author of Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential, contains a lot of interesting tidbits and insights into the mind behind the amazing Bush Team. It pains me a little to call the team "amazing", because I feel that most of what they've done has not been good for our country, and much of it is downright harmful, but they are amazing, in the truest sense of the word. They are awesome, in the real meaning of that word. The author Moore puts it best, I think, when he responds to the idea that he actually admires Karl Rove. He says in effect, "It's not quite that I admire him -- it's more like awe."

While much of the country has been in a glossy shock over the threat of terrorism since 9-11, I've been in stuttering shock over what the Bush Administration has been able to get the country to gobble up like it was Thanksgiving dinner. Stuttering describes the shock, not me -- sometimes it sneaks in on me with a quick jab combination, and I get that sort of dark awe laced with fear or foreboding. Call it the Cloud of Orwell, if you will. Sometimes it has more of an Armageddon vibe to it. 6 of one, half dozen of the other really. Either vision is pretty damn ugly. You probably know the feeling I'm talking about. The feeling that it's gettin' bad, and it's gettin' worse. Many of the folks I know are gripped right up with it, passing through Hopelessness on their way to Doomsayerville. They left the awe phase behind long ago, and spend most of their time in half-dread, half-fear.

But I shake it off. You have to shake it off, if you want to be of use to the world. And Karl Rove is one of the big reasons why you have to shake it off. Because he's out there being the most powerful unelected man in the country, and he is good at it. He's amazing. He's masterful, and he's super-intelligent, and he's fantastic at his job -- and he's dangerous. And wrong. And he's President Bush's right-hand man.

We have to be vigilant, and smart, and super-aware and super-outspoken, and we have to outplay Karl Rove. Because he is playing major headgames with the country and the world: trying to lock us into perpetual war, with the side effect of indefinite suspension of the Constitution; and to put us on the road to empire -- a concept which has been so thoroughly debunked by thousands of years of history that it's not even funny.

Reduced to its simplest objective form, what he is doing is persuading people more effectively than those who disagree with him are. So those who disagree with him, if they wish to prevail, would be well put to get working on the potency of their persuasion. Translation: We've got some convincing to do, so smarten up!

Know the enemy. Know thyself. Know that if you and I and everyone who's pissed off (pardon my French -- or is it "pardon my freedom" now? Did they change that one?) don't start breaking out with some mass convincing quick-like, then that dark, Orwellian, perpetual war deal is really going to become the deal, and we'll be lucky if the history books look back on this phase in terms of decades. More likely it'll be in terms of generations. Like your kids, and their kids...that sort of thing.

But it is not over yet. It's not a done deal. And giving up hope is simply not an option. The way it works is, everytime you feel like losing hope, redouble your hope instead. Deciding there's no hope is like a self-inflicted death blow. It leaves you nowhere, with nothing. By definition it means you have nothing to hope for, and that's so horrible that I could double this rant just talking about it. I'll talk about hope instead.

Hope -- the expectation that something you think is good will actually occur -- is a very powerful thing. Broken down to its smallest component, it's the thing that motivates virtually all human action. You do something because you want a result. In a small way, everything little thing you do, you do because you hope that something will occur as a result. Something that you want. Whether it's moving your mouse to the left or getting married or taking a new job -- or taking political action. It's all driven by hope.

Max out your hope. Don't give up even a morsel of it. It's your choice whether you hope for a positive future or live in dread and fear of what you see ahead. It hasn't happened yet -- it's the future, after all -- so either vision you choose is pure imagination. Pick the positive future you want -- the best one you can imagine -- and live your life bringing the world to it. It's the best you can do. The other path -- wandering along toward a darker tomorrow -- is not an option. It's poison. Shake it off.

If you're already maxed out, both in hope and energy, like I am most of the time, then you need to figure out how to amplify your efforts. Squeeze more out of it. Increase efficiency and amplitude. Get creative. Get radical if you need to. I'm issuing this wake up call to myself as well. Reading about Karl Rove, and flipping through the rolodex of scary things this administration has done, makes for a potent combo. But all he is is a master at playing the game. He can be outplayed. It's just going to take a team effort. An awesome one.

(Pass this on to your hope-disabled friends. :-)

I'll put together a collection of the scary things, as well as the successes of the hope movement, in the near future. And I'm going to work on coming up with a cookbook of recipes for actions folks can do to rattle the cage.

Posted by Lance Brown at 11:59 PM
May 25, 2003

This article (called "Patriot Raid", by Jason Halperin) gives the "USA-PATRIOT" Act some perspective -- a first-person one. He experienced a raid while eating dinner at a restaurant in New York City, where the agents involved claimed the "USA-PATRIOT" Act as the legal cover for the raid and their conduct during it.

If you know anyone who says, "Don't worry about the Patriot Act...it only applies to terrorists and immigrants...if you're not doing anything wrong, you've got nothing to worry about...the Patriot Act is just providing law enforcement with the tools it needs...", make them read this article. Twice if necessary. Make them acknowledge the reality of it. If they want to continue thinking the above thoughts, fine. But they need to make sure they aren't playing fast and loose with Pastor Martin Niemoller-style excuses and evasions.

The USA-PATRIOT Act means machine guns in your face, and boots kicking in doors where you are, doing your innocent and ordinary things. Not just the terrorists and the guilty, not just the immigrants and the minorities...you. You, sitting there in a restaurant eating dinner. Jason Halperin is you and me and everyone else.

As I see it, the only Niemollerism left upon acceptance of those realities is the idea that "none of those people were harmed; the raid was just a necessary inconvenience in the War on Terror. It's a small price to pay for security from terrorism. 'Loaded guns pointed in faces, people made to crawl on their hands and knees, police officers clearly exacerbating a tense situation by kicking in doors, taunting, keeping their fingers on the trigger even after the situation was under control.'? Well, this is a war -- it won't be all fun and games." Fine, keep thinking that if you want -- and maybe you won't be in the restaurant (or store, or apartment building, or intersection) when one of these raids goes wrong. (And raids do go wrong. That's undeniable.)

I suppose there is one other very slender thread of evasion left that says that it was still a predominantly minorities-focused raid. I guess that could provide folks in the White Belt with a thin veil of false assurance. (I just made up the term "White Belt" as far as I know -- hopefully it's clear I'm talking about the many swaths of America which have a very small minority population. I mean no disrespect to Caucasians. Many of my friends are Caucasians. ;-))

I'm on the far western edge of that belt myself -- the minority population here is about 5%. It's a pretty liberally-minded place, and I've never noticed any remarkable amount of racism here, but in regard to the War on Terror I think there's definitely a sense that we're kind of out of that loop. We have no major metropolitan areas or "high-value" terrorist targets, and we hardly have enough Arabs or Hispanic folks to speak of. (I think the mainstream perception that War on Terror enforcement mostly involves those groups is pretty dominant.) Most people here probably think that nobody in Nevada County is going to be hauled away, raided, or hassled by the FBI, CIA, INS, or the Department of Homeland Security. And they probably think that nobody here is getting searched or surveilled without probable cause and reasonable justification.

I bet that a lot of people, White Belters and otherwise, think those things in the process of processing the thoughts that lead to the "OK"-ing of the "Patriot Act". Well, they need to read Jason Halperin's story. And they need to read Pastor Martin Niemoller's regrets. It doesn't take much puzzling to put those two pieces together into a bigger picture. If you can knowingly, with full awareness, look at that bigger picture and still say, "Yeah, let's go for it!", then fine. You're entitled to your opinion. Though I utterly oppose your view, I won't begrudge you your reasoned and thought-out opinion.

But it's time to set the evasions aside. Dump the "It won't happen to me", the "If you're not doing anything wrong, you don't have anything to worry about", and the "It only applies to terrorists and immigrants." Those are fake reasons -- you don't get to use them. If you're going to help propel the bandwagon that's driving us toward this new, disturbing America, at least be honest about it. With us, and with yourself.

Posted by Lance Brown at 01:18 AM
April 11, 2003
The cost of lost lives

Adapted from a recent post of mine at PeoplesForum.com...

I don't look at lost lives as a numbers game. I think as soon as you start talking about dead folks in the thousands, or whatever type of abstract that takes it away from one dead person who had a real life and a story, then you're not getting any kind of useful sense of what the impact of those dead lives were. I used a rough calculus lately to compute how many people might be feeling distinctly un-liberated by this war: total number of dead Iraqis x 5 or so (probably more). It's obviously simplistic, but it does touch a little upon the point I'm making here, which is that the loss of each life there has real, in-person, on the ground effects in the lives of many others. It's not some statistical thing...it's thousands of individual situations, each with a unique impact and consequence. The loss of a cleric, or a teacher, or a community leader or inspiration, for example, has profound rippling effects.

Think of 100 7-year-old Iraqi kids who had a really great teacher that inspired them and was a big part of their daily lives. If that teacher got killed by a stray bomb -- or worse, was one of those poor folks in that shot-up van -- each of those 100 kids is impacted with a hardcore tragic shift in their lives, one that will ultimately probably impact everything that comes after for them. And any person who added value in one area probably added it everywhere they went -- with their family, their friends, their barber, etc.. And all of those folks will have a personal, individual reaction to their loss.

The starkest way to look at it is to think of any of the people from history who have made huge and crucial differences -- MLK, Ben Franklin, Hellen Keller, Mother Jones, Tom Edison, whoever -- and imagine that they were one of some anonymous civilian death count, 20 years before they did their thang.. No one would ever connect "5 people were killed in a suicide bombing" with the fact that electric lighting was delayed ten years, or the non-triumph of the civil rights movement, or of millions of people not being helped by Ben's autobio or Poor Richard's Almanac...but that's the reality that would have been behind such a statistic if it had occured. It's practically a cliche, but it's also true, that one of the 1000+ Iraqi civilians who have been killed might have been the person who would have found the cure for AIDS.

This isn't meant to argue that 100,000 deaths isn't worse than 10,000 or whatever, and of course the same is true for all the folks Saddam is responsible for killing or ruining...I guess this is just a bit of a rant against the de-personalizing (and thus distorting) effect of talking about casualties dead people in terms of numbers. It's not about the numbers, it's about each of the lives.

One simply cannot begin to calculate the real impact of 10,000 deaths, or even 1,000 deaths. Or even one death, when you get right down to it.

Posted by Lance Brown at 11:54 PM
April 07, 2003
Taboos, skews, and contradictions

Once again, I let loose with an unintended essay at PeoplesForum.com. The subject, I guess, was the moral degradation of society. It took place in a thread about the War on Drugs, when someone there said this:

A friend of mine was telling me that a 13 year old girl in his sons class was pregnant. 8th friggen grade. Not saying it never happened years ago but it seems all too common now. Something has changed. The ages of girls getting pregnant is younger and younger.

I replied:

I think that's partly because the change in society on the personal level has outpaced the changes in society on the structural level. We still have all sorts of taboos, both official and unofficial, which prevent open discussion and education, and even activity. We make big issues where there aren't any, and we have all sorts of contradictions, and we're still hanging on to shame and stigma and force as a way to shape the behavior of our peers, and it skews things.

That, and too much reliance on schools to raise kids (which is really just one part of the above).

and he replied:

I agree and partially disagree with this:

I think that's partly because the change in society on the personal level has outpaced the changes in society on the structural level. We still have all sorts of taboos, both official and unofficial, which prevent open discussion and education, and even activity.

Let me preface this by saying that I agree it all comes down to the parents and your assertions that some parents rely too much on the schools raising their kids is right on. But as far as taboos or stigmas and education I think it's the exact reverse. In education sex ed is taught at younger and younger ages. We teach it, we tell the kids, don't have sex, but here's some trojans for you. I think the taboos have been removed through that and media.

How so, please explain how those taboos and stigmas on sex are still here today ? What's left ?

There's more to his post, but that's the part I responded to. My reponse is pretty lengthy, and it's quite rough. I've fixed it a bit since I posted it there. I will probably polish it up more some day, but it will be a while if I do. So I'm posting it now, with the disclaimer that it's written very casually, and represents a rough draft at best. I think it might be worth reading as is though.

And the real disclaimer is that this message deals with taboos and "forbidden" topics. There are a number of harsh swears in it -- particularly in the section about swear words. ;-) That said, here you go:

But as far as taboos or stigmas and education I think it's the exact reverse. In education sex ed is taught at younger and younger ages. We teach it, we tell the kids, don't have sex, but here's some trojans for you. I think the taboos have been removed through that and media.

I was probably raised on the cusp of this de-taboozation to which you refer -- at least the modern version. When I was in first (and second, and third, and fourth) grade, I learned sex-ed through a program called (I kid you not) L.A.M.O. (pronounced "lammo", not "lame-o"...how they got that past us, I don't know). "Learning About Myself and Others". Right around that time, MTV came into being, and shortly thereafter, Madonna. That was the context of my life as a child and a pre-teen.

Sounds pretty racy and touchy-feely liberal and sexually open and overt, and on many levels it was. However, I can list a dozen related taboos and stigmas and contradictions that thrived during that time, either in my "society" (peers), or in the greater society. Most of them (the stigmas and taboos) are still out there, and thriving pretty well.

masturbation -- It's slowly losing its shame and stigma for adults, but unless school has turned into bizarro world since 1990, it's still rife with that baggage for kids, re: their peers, re: adults and parents, and re: themselves. It's probably one of the most enjoyable activities that most kids engage in, and still loaded with shame, stigma, and fear.

teen pregnancy -- One time a spiteful friend started a rumor that one of my sisters was pregnant, in high school. It was emotionally devastating -- just the rumor was. It was a giant scandal (and shame and stigma for her) until it was debunked. To say nothing of the shame and rejection facing girls who actually are pregnant.

"slut" -- A scarlet letter of sorts for teen girls and women; inapplicable to men.

open discussion about sexual organs or "private parts" -- I learned when I was a little kid what my penis was, but even now over 20 years later, saying "my penis" even on this message board carries some shame and 'tee-hee' baggage. My arm, my leg, my lungs, my head -- all no problem. 90+% of my body parts are just fine to talk about. The others still carry long-standing baggage as being private - embarrassing, secret, even dirty. (What are "dirty pictures" pictures of?)

homosexuality -- When I was in school, "fag" was the most popular put-down by a long shot. It was seldom a real accusation, it was just as I said, a put-down. "Fag" = lame. "Fag" = weak. "Fag" = bad, jerk, asshole, uncool. And for the few folks who were actually suspected of being gay, it was whispers and jeers and shunning, and probably more aggressive stuff that I didn't see. Most kids who were gay in my school probably wisely kept their mouth shut and their feelings inside. On the adult side, gay people in the military have to keep their mouths shut and adapt their behavior by law -- not to mention sodomy laws, and all the legal barricades keeping gay partners from being recognized by the law. Our society is beginning to cope with homosexuality, but it's got a long way to go. And much (most?) of the change that has yet to come about in that arena is institutional as opposed to personal. The blockades are imposed more from on high than from individuals. Society will never be able to fully accept gays while the laws relegate them to second-class citizen status. In a very real way, society is forbidden from settling this issue on a person-to-person level. (The parallels to our treatment of blacks and women are very strong.) On the most basic analysis level -- gay people still have to walk around with a justifiable fear that they could get the shit beat out of them for being gay. Gay cop? Bam! Gay high school football player? Bam! Gay couple? Bam!

nudity -- The idea that a supposedly highly-developed society still has insecurities about the nude body at all is quizzical and amusing to me. Bouncing blurry dots on the TV is a great example of the whole thing I'm talking about...how the institutional structure is having a skew effect on society. Laws and TV norms have decided that a 1 to 2-inch area of reddened or darkened skin on the top half of a woman is something that people (I suppose, "the children") should not see. We can see the nipples of every other living thing on earth...but not the nipples that we would all probably most want to see (compared to those of other things on earth). Do nipples offend men? Do they offend women? Should they offend children, and if so, why? Is it really healthier to have girls gone wild bouncing their boobies behind computer-generated stars and sales pitches? Another example: Topless men -- fine. Topless women? Taboo. Why? It's not due to logic, it's due to mad-old traditions -- the same type of traditions that have Arab women covering up all but their faces, and often their faces too. 'Cause they don't want men thinking those thoughts about them. And it's codified in law -- there, and here as well, just to a lesser degree. And thongs and bikinis and speedos and the word "boobies" and a zillion other things which tiptoe around the issue are OK, but unless it's babies or little kids in the bathtub, nudity is still taboo.

swear words -- It's one thing for society to develop standards (which are organic, and created through the back-and-forth of everyone's individual standards and preferences, and which are enforced by freedom of association and social pressure) about what is inappropriate to say, or rude, or offensive, or dirty or whatever...it's quite another thing for the government and extra-governmental institutions to write up a list of "obscene" and/or "profane" words or subject matter, and enforce them through law. It produces the skew I mentioned originally, and creates a suspended reality in our culture. Beeping out the word "fuck" or "shit" on a TV show or movie doesn't fool anyone -- not kids, not anyone. It doesn't hide the word or prevent its use or produce any sort of notable palliative effect on our culture. The words "fuck" and "shit" are out of the bag...any 7-year-old who hasn't lived in a cave knows them, and probably "motherfucker", "cocksucker", "son of a bitch", "pussy", "dick" and a host of others. It only takes one parent in the village to let a word like those out of the bag, and kids are very good about passing around newfound "off-limits" knowledge -- at least in terms of coverage. Accuracy, context, and meaning don't usually don't get passed around with them, though, precisely because of the off-limits thing. One of the results of that mentality -- which is handed down to kids from above...it's not of their making -- is that words like "motherfucker" (a truly perverse curse) and "cocksucker" (an overtly homo-based slam, like "fag") are still widely used. They can't be banished like "darkie" and "coon" were, because they've been hidden behind the curtain. Beeped, muddled, muted, ignored. The word "fuck" itself has some pretty wack origins -- variously, to beat, to screw (literally), to stab, etc. Almost all the etymological roots of the word "fuck" are violent in nature. But can we explain that to our kids? We could -- but the country's structure is such that for most people, language is taught in school, and most of that in public school. And in public school, an open discussion about the word "fuck" does not fly. (I can just imagine the wave of firings and resignations and lawsuits that would come from that.) Ditto for on TV, and in most of society's institutions. It's kept behind the beep half the time (the institutional level), while being largely accepted usage the other half of the time (the person-to-person level). And the whole time, it's never just dealt with like a normal fucking word. If it was, I bet it would get faded out of our culture voluntarily over time, as its origins and vulgarity were discussed more openly. Instead, under the off-limits/"beep" effect, the usage of it spreads widely. It sorta gets back to the mentality [another poster] expressed by saying that the drug laws are a way of saying drug use is wrong. Saying motherfucker and cocksucker is declared wrong -- it's been branded into society as that institutionally -- literally branded ("R", "MA", "L", "AS", etc.). So society takes a break on actually dealing with the words and their usage. Not entirely, but largely. And they (the words) hang around in a skewed limbo state -- institutionally labeled "wrong", but used on the individual level plenty. (The similarity to illegal drug use is not coincidental.)

I could go on about this for a long time. I was going to do a dozen, but I can't do the in-depth thing with that many due to time. Prostitution, stripping, drug use, porn, condoms, abortion, premarital sex, BDSM, sex toys -- each of those issues is tangled in layers of institutional netting and taboo, and in each case the result is a reduction in the ability of non-coercive society to effectively deal with the situations tied to those issues. There are literally a zillion different skewing influences applied on society from above.

Here's three specific examples of the institutional screwing with the personal in a bad way:

--Sex education: Parents and other citizens, many of whom disapprove of sex education, condom distribution and the like, and who believe abstinence is the birth control method of choice, are forced to pay, year after year, for thousands of kids to be given condoms (and taught how, why, and when to use them), etc. Forced to pay to promote and encourage something they find morally repugnant. The personal society is denied its ability to pursue its will in an organic fashion (through individual choice), by the institutional will of society, such as it is expressed through government.

--Parent-kid anti-drug ads: There are currently ads on TV that put pressure on parents to engage in a specific regimen of discipline and control with their kids -- insisting that they track their every move and bug the hell out of them, essentially. The ads use kids to tell the parents of America, "We will lie to you." Not "we might", but "we will". Taxpayers are paying to train parents to assume (or to "know") that their kids are lying to them about drugs. The modes of deceit, suspicion, and distrust are officially sanctioned as proper parenting. Kids who see the ad are reassured that all kids lie about drug use -- that "we will hide it, we will sneak around, we will try drugs". Cat-and-mouse is nationally publicized as the way our nation's parents should handle the drug problem vis a vis their kids. It's paid for by straight-edge working teens who've never lied or tried drugs, it's paid for by open and permissive parents who don't mind if their kids experiment a bit, it's paid for by millions of functioning alcoholics and millions of harmless pot smokers, and by tens of millions of people who tried drugs when they were young and did just fine with their lives.

--anti-pot ads: There are a series of ads on now, paid for by taxpayers, which all end with the line, "Marijuana -- it's more harmful than we all thought." That statement is false right on its face. All it takes is for there to be one person for whom marijuana is equal or less harmful than they thought. It's basically a statement that is by its very construction guaranteed to be false. You could put almost any noun in place of "marijuana" and that statement would be false too. And yet our government is telling us it, over and over again -- stating it as fact. And some people actually rely on what the government says for some sort of compass of truth or good behavior. The guidance behind those ads is, "Take however harmful you thought pot was, and ratchet it up an undisclosed amount. It is more harmful than you thought (no matter how harmful you thought it was)." Maybe that will calibrate a few people correctly, just by chance, but it's not logical, and it's not sound, and it's definitely not organic in the societal sense. What it is, is skewing from above.

Posted by Lance Brown at 10:58 PM
March 29, 2003
Yes, I would stop the war right now

I just posted something at PeoplesForum.com, and I'm going to go out on a limb and post it here. There's a pretty active and intelligent politics thread there, and one of the posters just posted a message asking if the peace protestors really would want the war in Iraq to stop right now. You can read the whole message here (you may need to sign up for PeoplesForum.com to do it -- it's free and easy). What follows is the relevant excerpt from his message, followed by my reply.

C'mon, Lance...you're the President. You can stop this war right now by lifting your finger. Or you can do your best to see it to a quick victory. Whatcha gonna do? I know what your answer will be, "If I were President this war wouldn't have started in the first place," but it's too late for that now, once the fight's started you either run away or duke it out.

My answer would not be as you said. My answer is that I would stop the war right now. I do not believe this war is going to bring a positive result, and I don't think going further along into a monstrous future-damning mistake just because it's already been made is wise foreign policy, or any other kind of policy. I'd rather stop when there is a slim chance of repairing the situation then decide I need to stop way later, when it's all the more infeasible.

I would withdraw the troops, spend several billion dollars in settlement payments to those who've suffered from it, issue an apology to the world and its people, vigorously campaign for rigid ethics-based economic control of the world's oppressive regimes, and spend the rest of my term working to erase the myth and the reality of U.S. imperialism. I would say "85 years of Anglo-American governmental manipulation of the peoples and nations of the Middle East ends today." I would send open letters out to all anti-American terrorist organizations to the same effect, emphasizing that this is not a concession to their immoral tactics, but simply the way I wish it had been all along. I would issue an unequivocal, firm, and heartfelt apology for every wrong thing the U.S. government has done that I can compile (not to the terrorists -- to the world and those affected by those wrongs.)

World opinion and credibility of the U.S. would turn around in short order, and would continue to rise with each passing week. I would work to send out tens thousands of private "people diplomats" and "economic diplomats" to all the corners of the globe to establish our place in the world's heart as a benign, compassionate, and generous people who are interested in peaceful prosperity. I would relentlessly pound the pulpit for private international aid and cooperation, using our recent international conflicts as the poster child for why we all need to better understand the peoples and the forces in the world. I would hold global town hall meetings. I would get together with an Arab pop superstar and do a video version of "Don't Call Me Raghead, Yankee". I would be out in the streets of different countries constantly, doing informal "Around the World with Lance" documentary tours of places which are only stereotypes for most Americans. I would bring back tons of cool stuff from there and hold a press conference upon my return discussing the items that can be found there, their customs, etc. I'd work in rice paddies in China, and sweatshops in Malaysia, and oil rigs in Russia, and cheese shops in France, and so on. I would arrange town hall meetings between towns in America and towns around the globe. I would tell all the U.S. Embassadors to do the same thing. I would make it a short-term mission to replace (and then some) U.S. government aid with private aid and economic growth.

And some other stuff probably. Heading as quickly and smoothly as possible toward "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations -- entangling alliances with none." And encouraging other nations to adopt a similar outlook.

And in case I haven't given you enough fodder for critique, I would offer 25 (or maybe 50 or 100, I'm not sure what's reasonable) billion dollars to the first company that could develop a proven working missile defense shield, and then offer the technology and the equipment for it to every country on earth for the cost of materials. I would encourage a world scholarship fund for nations that could not afford such a defense system.

Oh, and if I were President, this war wouldn't have started in the first place.

As it is now, I'm beginning to factor in a massive amount of world touring for myself between now and 2008, trying to develop clean relationships with people in as many countries as I can going into the race. Offering the world a different kind of America.

Note: I just posted an addendum message that says this:

It's worth saying that I would also be touring around the U.S. during all that stuff above, working to explain to Americans why we need a major change in our foreign policy (and why I pulled us out of the war).

Posted by Lance Brown at 01:44 AM
March 20, 2003
North Korea's Sensible Delusions

I just saw an excellent special on Frontline/World about North and South Korea called "Suspicious Minds". BBC reporter Ben Anderson went to South Korea and toured around and then went to North Korea (undercover, as a tourist) and did the same. I didn't see all of the South Korea bit, but the North Korea part was fascinating. It was really sad -- not like sick-kids-and-rubble-in-Iraq-sad, or Ground-Zero-sad -- more like pitiful-sad. There wasn't as much starvation talk and bleakness as I normally see in North Korea stories, and so even they pity was a different kind than normal. One of the things was my realization that the mainstream North Korean mindset is that they are constantly on alert for American aggression, invasion, or interference. They're still hung up on how we tried to, well, take them over 50-odd years ago. And they see our aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Bush's stated mission of taking out the "Axis of Evil" (co-starring North Korea), as signs that we might look to start military trouble with them at any time in the future.

Now, no doubt they are hung up on propaganda and rhetoric and a truly ill amount of leader-worship and indoctrination, but their concern that the U.S. might try to take control of North Korea seems pretty well matched up with reality. And due to the indoctrination factor, they would apparently all fight to the death to stop anyone from taking over their country. Which isn't all that crazy either if you think about it. We'd do the same thing here in the U.S., and I bet there are plenty of countries whose people would do the same too.

Now they're a pretty small country in comparison to us, and given that our military greatly overshadows almost every other country's, it's safe to assume that they are also pretty small militarily compared to us. So, thinking/knowing that the U.S. ("the U.S. imperialists", they say) wants to take them over, and being utterly opposed to that occuring, and knowing they are militarily outmatched, what do they do? They train and prepare and drill and have 10% of their population in uniform...and they try to build nukes that can reach here. All pretty logical steps to take when you get right down to it, given their perspective. And they resist "Americanization" with all of their will. (Did you know they possess the only captured U.S. ship in the world? It's a museum -- like a glorious trophy to them.)

And we look at them and see a freaky backwards cult nation which is hell-bent on war. But what was sad about that special was not that North Korea is a paranoid isolationist creepy place, but that the U.S. is their enabler.

I can't speak for whatever human rights abuses the government might engage in to achieve their dream, but it's not like that's a big rarity on the globe. I don't mean to wave it away, but when you think about it, the U.S. was engaged in pretty nasty human rights abuses for most of its history -- the country was built on them -- and it makes the human rights bad guy lists still for the drug war and record-breaking incarceration rates. Tell some guy in prison for life for LSD that he's lucky he doesn't live in horrible North Korea and see what he says. For that matter, think about what the phrase "be all you can be" has come to universally mean, or think about the "Pledge", and tell me the U.S. doesn't do the indoctrination thing too. Thinking back to my school days, and picturing the room of murmuring children pledging allegiance to a piece of cloth (and to the republic for which it stands), the little North Korean girl singing about the Great Leader being the sun doesn't seem quite as creepy. Or the Pledge seems more creepy. Anyway...

The leaders in North Korea have a cultural vision that they want to pursue and preserve -- not strange for any country, and even more commonplace in "old world"-style countries. I doubt they pursue human rights violations just for kicks -- they probably justify it in terms of pursuing and preserving their cultural vision. Kinda like our drug war, where people are locked in cells in pursuit of a misguided plan to stop the use of 10 or 11 particular drugs. The people of North Korea are apparently largely on board with the plan of the leaders, in spite of how horrible it (reportedly) is there. This may be entirely the result of the constant indoctrination by the state, but one, it's a little hypocritical for the U.S. to be judging a country for having propaganda and compulsory state-controlled education, and two, plenty of peoples in heavily-indoctrinated countries have woken up and taken things into their own hands. North Korea's literacy rate is reportedly near 100%, and you'd have a hard time convincing me that 22 million literate people can be bamboozled indefinitely -- particularly in the 21st century.

I just get a looming feeling that the U.S. is going to go beyond enabling NK's paranoid isolationism, and on to fulfilling their prophecy. We've set a stage where having nukes (and building up their capabilities) is the only way they see to protect themselves from us. And that is an accurate viewpoint, as I see it. Nukes are the one "magic weapon" which gives the U.S. pause when dealing with a country. In the end, North Korea's possession of nukes may be the one thing that prevents them from getting treated like Iraq. Which is another thing that's sad. And the result is that instead of having a nutty repressive regime taking over South Korea and being nutty repressive isolationist Korea -- a weird egg that would eventually be cracked by the market, like China has been, or by people's revolt like Yugoslavia under Milosevic, or by a combination of revolt and diplomacy like most of Eastern Europe, or by economic pressure like South Africa...well you get the idea -- instead of that we have a still-nutty repressive regime still sitting up in North Korea, with 50 years of largely justified paranoia and resentment toward the U.S. under their belt -- and nukes. Nukes in case we decide to mess with them again. 50 years of "in case we decide to mess with them again." That's what was saddest about the Frontline thing I saw.

Now as I find the website for it, I see that it was an encore showing which originally played in January. So it's stale, but still cool. :-) Be sure to check out the interview with Ben Anderson about his experiences in making the piece.

The last part of the segment was accompanied by a soundtrack of the Elvis song "Suspicious Minds", and it was just perfect. Funny at first, when I realized what it was, but ultimately really touching in the context of the piece and the closing interactions between the reporter and his government "minders". Ben Anderson seems to be a really genial guy, and they had all become pretty friendly over the course of the week he was there, and...well, it was just very touching. You kinda had to be there.

One other thing that came up in the segment was how North Korea, in its Glorious North Korea pageant or whatever it was, portrayed South Korea as a long-parted sibling that they wish they could have back in the family. (Which they could, the story goes, if not prevented from doing so by the U.S. Imperialists). That subtext was another reason the Elvis song hit the mark.

We're caught in a trap
I can't walk out
Because I love you too much baby
Why can't you see
What you're doing to me
When you don't believe a word I say?

We can't go on together
With suspicious minds
And we can't build our dreams
On suspicious minds.

I've had a soft spot for that song for a while I suppose. It's so metaphorically useful! I mean, relationships are relationships, whether between people or between peoples. And we certainly can't build our dreams on suspicious minds.

(Hey, do me a favor and let me know if reading this was worth your time. Post a comment if you have a minute. Was it sucky and rambling, or interesting and useful? I write posts like this a fair amount, and I'd like a little feedback. Feel free to be blunt-- even rude, if it'll help. :-))

Posted by Lance Brown at 11:52 PM
February 13, 2003
Marketing via Legislation -- Anglo is better, say Australian fascists

Here's the thing: businesses just can't be trusted to figure out how to draw customers into their shops. No, wait...this is it: drivers and pedestrians can get confused and disoriented if they see too many foreign languages on storefronts. No...hold on...I got it: the English-language signpainting industry in Australia is tanking, and something simply must be done to bolster it. Or, maybe it's just the time-honored "them damn immigrants" phenomenon at work.

Confused? Me too. Except you're probably confused because of my cryptic and sarcastic comments. I'm confused because communities in Australia are working left and right to pass laws banning foreign-language signs on storefronts unless they are accompanied by an English translation. Or just mandating English signs and allowing foreign translations. Same difference really.

In one of the places working to pass a law like this, 65% of the residents speak a language other than English. I guess we can't have that, eh? Wouldn't want the poor Anglos to feel like a minority or anything. Just imagine the shame!

Did I mention I think these laws are stupid and wrong? Or did you at least catch that vibe? What's most amazing is not that they managed to wrap censorship, racism, and market interference into such a tight package...what's most amazing is how irrational, rude, and racist they are in their defense of this casual foray into fascism.


Fairfield City councillor Thang Ngo said he would push for a similar policy. "I think having signs in a range of languages is welcoming and inclusive," Cr Ngo said.

That's supposed to be a point in favor of mandating English-language signs. (?!?) Maybe you have to look at it in the mirror for it to make sense -- beats me.


"It makes sense, it avoids a lot of the backlash ... it will be better for the businesses."
That's Thang again. See, the thing is, Thang knows much better than business owners what will be good for them. Because those stupid (foreign-language) businesspeople don't know what's good for them.

Here's a challenge for you: find the place in this article where they say that these laws came about because businesspeople were concerned that their signs weren't working as well as they could. It's a trick, obviously, because the idea is absurd. "Legislators, could you help us please? We are but ignorant business owners...we're concerned that our storefronts are not up to par, and we can't figure out what to do. Please make a law telling us the best way to design our signs!" Uh-huh. Sure.

Or look at it another way: how many business owners do you think there were applauding Thang Ngo's courageous efforts to help them run their business?


"It will make business more attractive and encourage people from all backgrounds to come into them," a spokeswoman said.
Translation: "It will make business more attractive if I can read the signs, because foreign languages are ugly. It will encourage white people to go into foreign shops that previously made them feel threatened and confused."

"It tends to give the wrong impression," Mr Hassett said of the foreign-language signs.
Right, it tends to give the impression that a bunch of "minorities" have somehow become the majority presence. Wouldn't want people thinking that.

Mmmm...nothing like a little subtle racist fascism to clean up the marketplace.

Posted by Lance Brown at 01:20 AM
December 22, 2002
Fed up and fighting back

When I read the story about the rounded up Muslims from a couple days ago on the BBC's web site, I had a small amount of hope that it was a false report. I hadn't seen any other sources, which allowed me to cling loosely to that hope.

No dice.

LA Times:

Hundreds Are Detained After Visits to INS
Thousands protest arrests of Mideast boys and men who complied with order to register.

INS Arrest Numbers Inflated, U.S. Says
Officials accuse groups of exaggerating figures involving immigrants from Muslim countries.

Reuters via ABCNews.com:

Hundreds of Muslim Immigrants Rounded Up in Calif.

Orange County Register:

Arrests amid INS effort spark ire
Middle Easterners, Muslims express anger, fear as they try to comply with federal program.


Families of Jailed Middle Eastern Immigrants Say Rights Violated

SF Chronicle:

Iranians furious over INS arrests
Abuse alleged after men agreed to register in L.A.


ACLU Calls Immigrant Registration Program Pretext for Mass Detentions

WASHINGTON – In a development that confirms the American Civil Liberties Union’s initial fears about a controversial immigrant fingerprinting and registration program, the Immigration and Naturalization Service is apparently using the program as a pretext for the mass detention of hundreds of Middle Eastern and Muslim men and boys.

I'm really getting about fed up with all this police state nonsense.

Seriously...the federal government has stepped over the line so many times in the past year+ that it seems to be forgetting that there ever was a line at all. Selectively clamping down on people because of their nationality and gender; arresting people who show up to cooperate with the law under the guise of the war on terror; strip-searching people for overstaying their visas. All of that at once, no less.

Welcome to fucking America. Pardon my language, but I'm really pissed. I'd be dishonest if I said it any other way, because that's just what's going through my mind.

The key, I think, is that we must redouble our efforts with each new gross violation of liberty that the warriors on terror commit. Tomorrow, I'm going to call 5 local Libertarian Party leaders and convince them to start Bill of Rights Defense Committees in their areas. And on Monday, I'm going to call 10 more.

You wanna go, Bush Administration? You want to take my country away? You just keep pushing and pushing and pushing...assuming, I presume, that we're just going to roll over and take it. Well, you're wrong. I know a little about the power of the people, and the power of the people is greater than the power of government. So, you wanna go? Fine. Bring it on. I'm not afraid of you.

To quote Ice-T:

You try to keep us runnin'
And runnin' faster
But I ain't runnin' from ya
I'm runnin' at ya

If you're pissed off like I am, why not join the fight? Go to the Libertarian Party's State Directory, find your state, and pick 5 or 10 county Chairs to call. Or find a campus group. Call them up, let them know about the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, and urge them to put one together in their area. Tell them to call me if they want (530-274-2474), or e-mail me,and I'll talk them through it. I'm a county LP Chair in Nevada County, CA. Or if Green is more your flavor, find some local Green Party groups and do the same thing. They can call me too -- I like working with Greens.

Better yet, start a local BORDC on your own. You can do most of it on the phone and at your computer, and before you know it you'll have a coalition of people willing to help out.

The Bill of Rights Defense Committee movement is a winner. It's smart, effective, and relatively easy. It will continue to grow, and it will inevitably reach a critical mass that can't be ignored. And it will raise mad amounts of awareness in the process. The BORDC is going to be in the history books -- mark my words.

Wouldn't it be nice to take part in real-deal history-making? Well, then get on board, 'cuz it's on.

Posted by Lance Brown at 02:22 AM
December 11, 2002
Let 'Em Keep Trent Lott

The Trent Lott fiasco is gaining steam, which is good to hear. I think it's clear that he's not fit to be a major leader of the Republican Party, unless the GOP is really that nasty underside that almost every GOPer will insist they're not-- which is to say, a bunch of "good 'ol boys", with all the negative stuff that can be used to imply.

If they're not that -- and they better not be if they plan to stick around in American politics -- then they should drop Trent like...something that gets dropped very quickly.

In case you haven't heard yet, what happened is that Trent made a comment at Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party, to the effect that things would have been better if Strom had gotten elected President when he ran in 1948. Sounds nice enough, unless you know that Thurmond ran as a racial segregationist candidate, saying, for example, "All the laws of Washington and all the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro into our homes, our schools, our churches." Eek. This was almost 100 years after The Civil War. And Trent said -- granted, loosely, at a party -- that it would have been better if Strom had won back then. Super eek.

There are three possible explanations for Trent's statement. There's the one he's using, which is that it was a "poor choice of words". This is being bolstered by his dwindling supporters, who say that he was just flapping lips at a party, trying to pay an old man a compliment, and it wasn't meant to be taken literally.

If that's the case, then Trent should get the boot. The only non-poor choice of words that a major leader in America should use to refer to Strom's sick, racist '48 campaign is some variation on the theme "that's despicable". Paying it any kind of compliment or positive acknowledgement (other than maybe "He ran for President, and that takes some gumption") is inappropriate. If people want to remark fondly on such a thing, that's fine for them, but that's not who America wants to be leading them. There's a very welcoming subculture for folks like that -- it's called "white supremacists", or more simply, "racists".

If Trent isn't one of those folks, then he truly did make a really poor choice of words. So poor as to be incompetent. He chose lots of words in order to make that statement -- it was multiple sentences tied together into a cohesive paragraph, all building up to his thesis. That's a lot of choosin'. It wasn't a word or two he misspoke -- it was a whole statement.

If Trent is capable of choosing such a colossally inappropriate set of words, the GOP would be nuts to keep him as a party leader.

Another possibility is that he was joking, meaning that he was kidding, and meant the opposite of what he actually said. I actually think this would have gotten the best mileage -- if Trent had claimed sarcastic humor. But he didn't, and there's nothing to support the theory. Sure, the comment was made in good humor, but the intent was to pay a compliment. It wasn't a roast, it was a birthday party. It was sincere good humor, not sarcastic. And while Trent apologized for the misunderstanding, he didn't go so far as to say "I didn't really mean to heap praise on Strom's '48 campaign." It's like he expects that we will accept that he meant what he said, but he didn't say what he meant. Or vice versa. Don't think about it too hard -- there's no way out of that conundrum.

Explanation number three is that Trent really meant what he said. Mississippi is really proud of voting for Strom in '48, and Trent really wishes he had won then. And boy oh boy, wouldn't that have been great! None of this messy "negroes everywhere" business like we have today. (Now that's sarcasm. Maybe I should become a Lott speechwriter.)

If that's the real truth -- and I think that's the most plausible explanation...after all, could he really be stupid enough to make such a "poor choice of words"? -- then we're back to what I said at the outset. Unless the GOP wants to be known once again as the party of racists and rednecks -- an image it has worked decades to shed -- then they should drop Trent Lott like...something that's too heavy to keep holding onto.

Word on the streets is that Trent has known ties to a number of racist front organizations, so it's likely that the perception will focus on that last explanation. Whether it's true or not, it's baggage the GOP doesn't need right now. Keeping Trent as Senate Majority Leader would be bad political economics -- and not just because it will involve other Republicans having to try and defend his mistake. There's just little to gain from keeping him there, and lots to lose.

That said, a big part of me hopes they let him stay. I hope their party is so affected by their own grandiosity that they are dumb enough to let him stay in charge. In some respects, a part of me still tries to hope that goodness and morality and real civic virtue and leadership will get a foothold in one of the two major parties, and deposing Trent would present a great opportunity for the GOP to upgrade in that respect, but I just can't be moved to believe it will do any good. There are a tiny handful of truly useful and virtuous Democrats and Republicans in Congress, but their usefulness and virtue generally correspond with their capacity to go against the grain of their party. Which, in a Congress dominated by party politics and "bipartisanship", means they actually aren't very useful at all. They are powerless and ineffectual -- tiny currents against a mighty tide. And if Trent is deposed, as he should be, that bipartisan tide -- not the virtuous currents -- will choose his replacement. And off we go for another round of Same Old-Same Old.

So, given that I think hoping for the reformation of the "bipartisans" is a waste of time and hope, instead I hope for their demise. Not personally, as in the demise of the people in the parties, but the demise of the parties themselves. The sooner those two are out of our national life, the better. If we leave them there long enough they'll ruin the place for good.

In that spirit, I say to the GOP: Keep Trent in charge. He's a real winning ticket. And he couldn't possibly mess up so badly again, right?

( hehe )

More on the Lott controversy:

"Poor Choice of Words," Lott says (Washington Post)

Vacant Lott: The GOP and the Ghosts of Mississippi (National Review Online)
(I give this one the "Most Clever Title" award.)

Lott Decried for Part of Salute to Thurmond (Washington Post)

Lott Apologizes for Thurmond Comment (CNN.com)

Caught Whistling Dixie (Salon.com)

Posted by Lance Brown at 02:39 AM
November 23, 2002
The Libertarian Factor, or "problem" if you will

John Miller writes in a New York Times op-ed about "the libertarian problem" that is plaguing the Republicans ("A Third Party On The Right"). I have to tell you, this is the kind of stuff I love, love, LOVE to see. Not because I think it could give Republicans a much-needed wake-up call, as Randy Barnett at National Review Online hopes. I love it because it concedes the obvious but little-stated reality that the Libertarian Party is having a profound effect on the Two Parties.

I don't particularly care about the off-chance that Republicans might wake up and get religion, so to speak, as regards libertarianism. Randy Barnett thinks they can win back that key margin if they try hard enough, and he lays out a list of proposals on how Republicans could become "more libertarian" and "keep libertarians inside the tent".

The reasons I don't care much about the "wake-up call" factor are both centered around the fact that it's not going to work. Reason one is that most Libertarians aren't ever going to go back to whichever Two Party they came from. They will never trust the Democrat or Republican parties to properly respect freedom. Both parties are so far off the path, and have been for so long, and so willingly, that it's absurd to think that either of them will change enough to bear any legitimate claim to the title of "libertarian".

It used to be that Democrats favored violating certain (largely economic) freedoms, and Republicans favored violating certain (largely personal) freedoms. Now they work in concert, "in the spirit of bipartisanship", to violate freedoms on both sides of the aisle. The majority of the party leaders and representatives don't even bother to hide the fact that they're basically partners with the other party. They can barely speak a sentence without the word "bipartisan" in it.

Most people who are pulling the voting lever for Libertarian candidates see this farce for what it is, and it would take a titanic (as in massive) shift-- not the Titanic (as in the ship) shift the Bipartisans are embarking on -- to convince them otherwise. Both parties will continue to lose increasing numbers of voters to Libertarians...the tide is not going to start shifting the other way any time in the foreseeable future.

Which brings me to reason two that the "wake-up call" is a relative non-issue: they aren't waking up. Not even close. A quick look at Randy's proposals bares the lie. It reads like "Republican Talking Points From Oppositeland". Half of his proposals are things the GOP is rabidly opposed to, particularly at this juncture-- stuff like respecting privacy and the Bill of Rights, not to mention backing off prohibition, of all things. Really, the whole list is dreamland stuff. The Bush Administration is the biggest thing to hit U.S. government since F.D.R., and if King George has his way, it'll be the biggest thing since Lincoln. Republicans are headed firmly away from all the supposed "republican" qualities that people admired about them-- free markets, leave-me-alone-ism, states' rights, you name it. The only "Republican" quality they seem to be firmly holding onto is serving Big Business. And that's not even a rightfully republican stance. Oh, and war-mongering. Of all the Rebublican stuff they decide to stick with, it's those two.

And, back to the point, they're not sticking to the old-school "republican" things Randy Barnett suggests. The only one of his points that has any possibility of coming to light is the appointments of libertarian-ish judges, but given the Administration's overt desire to steamroll civil liberties, gut the balance of power, employ a police state of indefinite duration, and generally eliminate privacy, my hunch is that the judge-nomination-sifter will probably catch most of the libertarians and toss them out. Way too inconvenient in times such as these.

Republicans who want to bring Libertarians "back into the fold" (and for the record, I didn't come from that fold) are wishing in the wrong direction. It's not that the Republican Party needs a revitalizing dose of pure-bred Libertarians -- it's that the Libertarian Party needs an infusion of libertarian GOP defectees. The Republican Party is hopelessly damaged, and the Libertarian Party is inspiringly pure. It's clear which way the tide should be heading, and it should be clear that it will continue to head that way.

Posted by Lance Brown at 01:36 AM
December 07, 2001
More on Gay marriage

This is a late addendum to my long-ago post about gay marriage.

I think the base issue is that people should be able to form whatever unions they want as long as they aren't hurting anyone. If two people want to draw up a contract that says they consider themselves married to one another, with all the associated responsibilities, it seems like any court would have to honor that contract.

Now, whether businesses or other private enterprises choose to acknowledge such a contract may be a different issue. It should be up to hospitals and other non-government places to set their own standards on what constitutes a family according to their procedures. But the government should not be making such a value judgment on our behalf. Family takes on so many different shapes these days that there is no way to create a national standard, or even local standards. It must be left up to consenting adults to decide who their family, or partner, is.

Posted by Lance Brown at 08:01 PM
September 25, 2001
"I do not shrink from this responsibility, I welcome it."

"In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility, I welcome it."

-John F. Kennedy

I have always identified with that quote, and have very much embraced "the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger," but I have never felt the importance of that role to the extent that I have in the past week. If you've been watching the news, you know that Congress is considering all sorts of new legislation in response to the 9-11 attacks. You probably also know that much of what Congress is considering could have a negative impact on our remaining civil liberties.

You may or may not know that a huge coalition of non-profits and political organizations came together to urge Congress to be careful, and to guard our essential liberties as they attempt to legislate a solution to the "new" terrorist threat. You may or may not know that a number of other pro-freedom declarations and petitions have appeared to urge the same, and to urge restraint in the impending military response to the terrorists. I've been following this quite closely, and I have been pleasantly surprised to find how loud and effective the voice of freedom is in America. Normally, I wouldn't find it surprising at all—I am acutely aware that the forces of freedom in America are strong and getting stronger— but there was a short period of time when it really looked like Congress, with the backing of the polls, was going to run off and change all the rules in a series of quick moves. This scare was begun when the Senate (too quickly) passed an amendment expanding law enforcement powers to a dangerous level, just two days after the attacks, in a hurried nighttime vote.

Luckily, that huge coalition of political groups formed almost overnight, and issued a firm and resounding "SLOW DOWN!" call to Congress and the nation. They rightly garnered a decent amount of press coverage in doing so, and apparently their action, and other related outpourings of reaction , have been enough to shift the tide, and restore some deliberation and critical analysis into the discussions of new legislation. 

"Only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom..." Ours is one of those generations. JFK was talking about defending freedom in a different way than I am, but he was talking about the same freedom. It's the freedom we take for granted when we call this a "free country." The freedom by which we distinguish "the free world." It's the freedom of individuality and self-determination, the freedom of the pursuit of happiness. It's the freedom of privacy and security, and of knowing that you can do what you want as long as you don't hurt anybody— and nobody will interfere with your activities.

"...in its hour of maximum danger." Freedom is in danger, and in many ways, right now could be seen as its hour of maximum danger. There are enough freedoms on the bargaining table right now, that if the cards fall the wrong way, we could end up with a radically altered America, and a radically redefined conception of what "the free world" will mean in the future. It doesn't have to be that way, and hopefully it won't, but make no mistake, those are the cards on the table. Freedom itself is at stake right now, and we can either protect it and defend it, or we can be silent, and allow it to be taken away from us, and from future generations.

"I do not shrink from this responsibility, I welcome it." You may think that there's nothing worth fighting for, or that the "game" is fixed—that The Powers That Be are pulling all the strings, and all we can do is try to survive and raise good kids in spite of it all— but that is not the case. There is still very much about America that is worth saving, and the fight is on—right now. Your generation—our generation—has been granted the opportunity to defend freedom in its hour of maximum danger, and it is time to answer the call of battle. Don't let the warhawks and authoritarians intimidate you. Don't give in to the pressure of the polls and pundits. Be questioning, be provocative, be challenging. Make it hard for those who want to abridge freedoms, or who want to indiscriminately bomb other countries. Don't take this situation lying down. If you've ever wanted to stand up for something, here is a golden opportunity. You have the opportunity to defend freedom in its hour of maximum danger.

Don't shrink from that responsibility. Welcome it.

I have compiled a page of action items and readings to help you do your duty to your country, to your family, and yourself. Spend some time working for freedom this week. Spread the word, write a letter to the editor, call a talk show, and call your Congresspeople. Forward this article, or my freedom actions page, to your friends. Do something, and do it this week, and the next week. Keep it up until our freedoms, all of them, are safe and secure. If we work hard enough, we can make it happen—if not for our generation, then for the ones to come.

Posted by Lance Brown at 10:45 PM
September 22, 2001
A Little Bit Worried About America

It's now been over a week since the "9-11 Attacks," and I have to say, I'm a little bit worried about our country. 70+ percent think it would be o.k. if we caused civilian casualties in our hunt for the perpetrators—somehow ignoring the fact that causing civilian casualties is what we are hunting down the perpetrators for in the first place. 70+ percent think it would be o.k. if we had to forego some of our freedoms in response to the terrorism— somehow ignoring the fact that our freedoms are what make this a country worth defending from terrorists.

At my StopCarnivore.org website, there has been a sudden shift in e-mailed opinions—the majority of those e-mailing me think that use of Carnivore and increased surveillance are a fair price to pay in light of the "new" dangers we are now facing. One woman (a Eugenia Provence) went so far as to hope that my website suffers an attack of its own—hoping that StopCarnivore.org gets "hacked, junked, and thrown out the window." Apparently terrorism is o.k. as long as it is against perceived "enemies" of the United States.  Eugenia seems to think that because I still believe that we should follow the Constitution, I am one of those enemies, and thus it is o.k. to wish harm upon me and my endeavors.

"Now is not the appropriate time to be criticizing our Government," is a popular thing to say this week. "We must do whatever we need to in order to rid our country of the menace of terrorism," is another. "We may need to temporarily suspend some of our liberties in order to preserve freedom," is how another one goes. And of course there is, "When the Constitution was written/when our Founding Fathers wrote the Bill of Rights, they couldn't have imagined the world as it is today."

Let's take a look at each of those ideas, and see how much merit they have:

"Now is not the appropriate time to be criticizing our Government"

Right now, the stakes involved in any action our Government takes are higher than at most times in our nation's history. We are deep in the midst of defining what America and the World will be like in the 21st Century and beyond.

The actions that world leaders take now could result in restoring freedom on earth for all, or they could result in the world being annihilated by nuclear weapons. It's possible that the freedoms which make America so great will be preserved indefinitely, and it is also possible that those freedoms will be eliminated forever in a short period of time.

Now is the time when careful critique and analysis of what our Government does is more important than ever before in our lives. It doesn't do us much good to keep the country alive if we allow the principles which make the country worth saving to be eroded for the sake of "national unity." I support my country in its efforts to rebuild; I support my government in its efforts to fight terrorism; but I cannot sit idly by while opportunistic politicians use this crisis as cover for their less-than-noble pursuits. Now more than ever we must watch what our leaders are doing on "our behalf" like a hawk. It won't do us any good to defeat terrorism, only to look around us and find that the America we loved is a thing of the past.

Perhaps if the voices decrying the Vietnam War as an immoral waste of time had been louder, a few thousand American men would still be alive. Perhaps if those who said the military shouldn't be deployed at campus protests had been louder, there wouldn't have been any Kent State Massacre.

"We must do whatever we need to in order to rid our country of the menace of terrorism"

This is one of the more disturbing mantras floating around in the past week. Many Americans seem willing to go to any extreme, in hopes of eliminating terrorism. Perhaps the most frightening of those extremes is the fact that most Americans think it's permissible for the U.S. to kill innocent civilians in pursuit of our new faceless enemy.

Let's review that once, really slowly. What are we so upset about? The fact that innocent civilians were killed in an attack. And we should be upset— the murder of innocent civilians is a hateful, abhorrent act. And yet somehow (I honestly can't understand how) people seem to be finding a way to rationalize the creating of more innocent casualties in this war between us and the terrorists. Somehow it is escaping those folks that as soon as we kill innocent people, we become terrorists ourselves. It escapes them that our killing of innocent people in the past 60 years is one of the things that has made us a terrorist target in the first place. It somehow escapes them that for each innocent mother we kill, we may be creating an orphan who will someday be another terrorist, looking to avenge the death of his innocent, dead mother.

"We may need to temporarily suspend some of our liberties in order to preserve freedom"

Killing innocent people isn't the only extreme Americans seem willing to go to. If you believe the polls, most Americans are also willing to give up some of our remaining civil liberties in order to fight this war. Perhaps this is because most Americans are under the impression that we will only have to give up these liberties for a limited amount of time. If only it were so.

During World War II, a law was introduced to force the withholding of income tax from people's paychecks— producing an important revenue boost during the war. And though it has been almost 60 years since we have been in a war of that magnitude, income tax withholding is still with us—an apparently permanent leftover from WWII. During the Civil War, states' rights were largely suspended in order to "preserve the union." Unfortunately, states never got back most of those rights, and in many ways America's major wars have resulted in the humongous Federal Government that we have today.

Whatever we give up to fight this war against terrorism we may never get back. If you are ready to give up your right to privacy, your freedom of movement; if you are ready to have roadblocks at all of our borders; if you are ready to have national fingerprinting and I.D. cards—you had better be ready to live with those things (or without those freedoms) for the rest of your life. And you should be aware that you are sticking future generations with these "temporary measures" as well. We are not talking about temporary war measures to help fight terrorism—we are talking about permanent changes to the way America works. If, someday in the future, you are sitting in jail because you forgot to bring your national I.D. card with you while walking your dog, you can look back to these weeks as the time when you sent yourself to jail.

"Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program," said Milton Friedman. He's a smart guy. Probably smarter than you and I. Don't form your opinions around the idea that the changes being proposed for America will be temporary. Odds are, even if it says "temporary" right in the legislation, it's a change we'll be stuck with for a generation or two, at minimum.

"When the Constitution was written/when our Founding Fathers wrote the Bill of Rights, they couldn't have imagined the world as it is today."

There isn't much that irks me more than when the "average Joe" second-guesses the wisdom of our Founding Fathers. For that matter, I don't like it much when even exceptional Joes second-guess them. These men thought long and hard while designing our government, and they weren't trying to design something that would work only in their time. They aimed to design a government which could change and grow with the times, while always preserving what they had determined to be essential liberties.

The invention of airplanes and computers does not change what our Founding Fathers concluded was good government, after considering all the governments that had come and gone before them. The fact that the majority of communication takes place via telephones and e-mail instead of in person and via letters does not change a person's right to be secure in their "papers and effects."

And as for the idea that our Founding Fathers could not anticipate what the future would hold—keep in mind that these are the men who managed to break away from one of the greatest empires on earth, and create a nation so impressive and prosperous that it became the greatest empire itself, faster than any nation in the history of the world. These men had foresight to spare, and they set up our government to last forever— and to preserve our rights forever. 

The Bill of Rights was intended to list the essential rights that all people should have...it wasn't a temporary measure—it was a list of liberties which should never be infringed upon. The idea that the existence of the Internet, or fiber optics, or automobiles, or whatever else somehow makes the Bill of Rights obsolete is short-sighted almost to the point of being painful.

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety," said Benjamin Franklin. What did Ben Franklin know? Enough to discover that lightning was made of electricity; enough to invent the battery, and bifocal lenses, and a new type of stove, and the odometer, among other things. And he knew a lot more about running a free country than you or I do.

Do you think you know enough to second-guess the wisdom of one of our country's wisest men? Do so at your own peril. Personally, I'll take Ben's word for it. I'm much more inclined to trust the judgment of him and his colleagues than I am to trust the fools and thieves in Congress today, or the opinions of a random sample of 1000 people called up by MSNBC.

I'm worried for our country. I worry for poor Eugenia Provence, who wishes harm upon me; I worry for the war hawks who are wishing a burning Hell upon Afghanistan; I worry for the Muslim-Americans who will find life more difficult for a long time to come; mostly, I worry for the future generations who will be forced to live under the laws that may get pushed through in the coming weeks.

Be smart, America. Calm and smart. Our country is fine (for the most part)—please don't screw it up. We have to live here, you know?

Posted by Lance Brown at 01:04 PM
August 18, 2001
Penalizing Success

So today I'm supposed to talk politics. Let's get to it.

It is none of my or your business how a businessperson runs his or her business. Let me add a qualifier to that- I don't mean that businesspeople can break the regular rules that everyone has— don't hit people, don't kill them, don't take their stuff. And there can't even be "business" without the presumption of the contractual agreement, so businesses can't cheat people, lie to them, or break their contracts.

That being said, I find it utterly absurd that we (through our bully-friend the Government) have made up zillions of rules about how any given person MUST run their business. I mean, noted exceptions excluded, what business is it of ours how a businessperson decides to do their thing?

Here's an example: once it gets past a certain number of employees, a company falls under many new laws. Most of the federal laws about workplace discrimination, etc., don't kick in until a company reaches a certain size-- 15 employees, in most cases. Now think about it- how arbitrary is that? Someone somewhere down the line picks this number (a committee probably picked it), and all the sudden it stratifies the business world.

Before, the 14-employee businessman and the 15-employee businessman were basically the same thing. But then, voila!, some committee pick the number, and those two guys become as different as can be. One of them can be subject to devastating federal lawsuits, while the other one can only be subject to devastating state lawsuits. And what for? For not hiring someone, or for firing the wrong person, or something like that.

That's the funny part right there (to me, at least). Mr. 15-employee businessman (or Ms......woman) never had to open up his (or her) company in the first place. For those 15 jobs to even exist is the result of that person's work and choices. He or she created those 15 jobs, where before there were none. That point bears rephrasing: if the businessperson hadn't chosen to make it so, those jobs wouldn't even exist.

So, this person goes from supplying the world with 14 jobs, to supplying the world with 15 or more, and we reward them with a set of encyclopedias worth of new laws. That's a great example of our twisted view of the businessperson— "The more you succeed, the more tools we have to tear you down with."

I'm running off at the mouth now— I got myself riled up thinking about poor Ms. 30-employee businesswoman (or Mr....man))— so I will close with a quote from Ayn Rand about businesspeople:

"The American businessmen, as a class, have demonstrated the greatest productive genius and the most spectacular achievements ever recorded in the economic history of mankind. What reward did they receive from our culture and its intellectuals? The position of a hated, persecuted minority. The position of a scapegoat for the evils of the bureaucrats." 

Posted by Lance Brown at 10:18 PM
May 09, 1997
The Lesser of Two Evils (is still evil)

I received a comment recently from a concerned citizen-

...the only reason I support a party who supports this here war on drugs, is for the lesser of two evils. At least I have a say in the system. Libs can toss their vote to [Harry] Browne or Lance (in the future). I'll stick with my ole compromised self.

I respond:

the only reason I support a party who supports this here war on drugs, is for the lesser of two evils.

Does this mean that not supporting the War On Drugs is the greater of two evils? And Libertarianism is the great evil, while Demorepublicatism is the lesser evil?

And if you're simply saying that the Dems and Reps are The Two Evils, and you are choosing one (which you presume is less Evil)-------Why are you choosing evil? Presumably it's because

At least I have a say in the system.

You have a say in the system that arrests 500,000 people each year for marijuana crimes, and self-admittedly is graduating millions of morons annually from its schools. Congratulations.

The founding fathers had "a say" in the British-ruled government of their Colonies, too. Over the distance of a vast, vast sea. Just like us. In order to change the rules that they lived by, they had to go begging to the Motherland. Since the Motherland didn't actually live under the rules, it was difficult for It to understand the implications of those rules locally, or to care. It didn't work then, and it isn't working now.

You "have a say" within a very limited framework, one that will perpetrate evil no matter what you say. The implications of the level of involvement in our personal and financial lives that the Two Evils advocate and enforce is immeasurable. The agency in charge of collecting almost 2 Trillion Dollars from us (IRS, don'tcha know!) hasn't released a conclusive organizational budget (their own budget, not the big one) in years, and the number of deaths caused by over-reaching military involvement (also immeasurable) is something that you couldn't lower if you wanted to.

We all know the atrocities; The list is practically infinite. How many involuntary experiments on citizens and soldiers? How many unjust wars? How many opportunities stifled? A biggie- How many people unfairly jailed?

Under a Libertarian Government, the capacity for these atrocities would be diminished severely. Indeed, the government's near-sole purpose would be to eliminate the use of force against others.

While you might have to work to stay alive if the Libertarians were in charge, you sure wouldn't have the government spiking your punch, or eradicating innocent foreign folks without cause.

Posted by Lance Brown at 08:37 PM
December 18, 1996
How to Make Prisons Work

Click Here To Read a Happy Prison Story

I think that prison (as it stands today) is a pretty bad way to try to reform criminals. In fact I'd say that criminals tend to find their criminal nature enhanced during the prison experience. Now just why is that, do you suppose?

First of all, let me make it clear that when I say "criminals," I mean real, pain-causing criminals. As I've mentioned before, I do not consider non-violent offenders to be "real" criminals. And, while many a pot-head or DeadHead has been turned into a violent thug by a stay in prison, that is not the subject at hand.

Today we are talking about reforming true, violent criminals. Rapists, muggers, murderers, and the like. Or can they even be reformed? Is it simply our fate to have a certain (growing) population of misanthropes (people who hate mankind)? And will we just continue to build more giant cinderblocks to stack them in? Boy, does that sound like fun, or what?

The alternative would be to try to examine the nature of criminality, and try to design a system of solutions to society's many degeneracies.

I will readily grant that the reforming of the criminal element in society is neither a simple task, nor an easily achieved one. But everybody knows that education is the main weapon we have against crime. It is common sense that a person will be less prone to crime if he/she is smarter, and thus more confident, more able, and more aware of others.

What if prisoners were required to get a high school diploma (or G.E.D.) in order to "graduate" from prison?
What if prisoners were required to get a job before being let out of prison?
What if violent criminals had to pass a "sympathy curriculum" connected to their crime, to make them gain an understanding of their victims?

A lot of people are in prison because of a single lapse in judgment. Many more are there because they had felt, from the day they were born, that they were marked for prison, and all-too-often that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. These people, originally good in nature (mostly), now leave prison not less likely, but more likely to return than before they went in.

In layman's terms: An average Joe, or Jane, who "screws up big time" once, may go to prison. If he/she does go to prison, he/she will (on the average) be much more likely to go to prison (again) than he/she ever was before!

Additionally, if Joe (or Jane) is of one of a few select (read: non-white) races, then his/her chances of going to prison are higher as soon as he/she is born! Oftentimes, this will affect Joe or Jane's self esteem enough to increase his/her chances of "screwing up big time" in the first place.

Fascinating, isn't it? Unfortunately, it's all so true.

And as for the "true psychopaths." (Webster's : {psychopath} - "person suffering from a mental or emotional disorder, esp. one who is asocial and amoral"). These are the arsonists, bombers, terrorists, child accosters, and the like. It seems to me that they tend to float in and out of prison and court on the luck of either the State or the Defendant, and it is likely that those types would also attempt to abuse a system like the one I proposed above. After all, many bombers and child molesters can appear normal, and are often plenty intelligent. But these criminals would slip through the cracks no more than they already are.

So many people are so solidly convinced that we have to be "tough on crime" that the educational measures I discussed will be scoffed away almost as soon as they're read, but frankly, that's moronic. To take all these people, who used to have families, who used to have jobs, who used to have lives, and just throw them down the crapper for good? That's basically what prison is for most people - the end.

I mean really, when was the last time you heard a happy prison story?

Posted by Lance Brown at 08:16 PM
December 11, 1996
On Gay Marriage

I think that someone should be allowed to marry whomever they please. In fact, I don't think the government has any place getting involved in the decision at all.

What is marriage? Webster's says, "A close union." Do we really want the government deciding who we can form "close unions" with? I think probably not. I actually don't want the government having any say in any of my "unions" with anybody.

If we don't want the government deciding who we can work for, be friends with, go to the movies with, do business with, or live with, then why would we want them interfering with the most sacred of human unions, marriage?

Last week I posited that we are each our own little life experiments, and I said, in effect, "The more experimenting, the more results." Well, with marriage, what you have is two people who desire to bond their lives together in a way that they truly believe will be a greater whole than the original parts. They are trying to increase the value of their individual lives by combining their efforts. To me, that sounds like a damn noble thing to do, and it disgusts me to think that our United States government, and many of its states' governments, are taking it upon themselves to ban certain folks from forming this union.

What if they discovered that certain family lineages, or even certain races, exhibited a tendency toward, say, violence, or crime or perversion or something, and they decided to ban unions between those folks?** What if it was your family or race they wanted to stop? Would you be content to accept that a certain group of people had decided you weren't allowed to marry the person you wanted to marry? I think probably not.

Listen, I am not gay, and I have no plans to be. But I say, "Let 'em live! Let them bond. Bonding is good." Like I said before, people who want to marry want to make their lives (and presumably, the lives around them) just that much better. Who is anyone to stand in the way of that?

If you are still opposed to gay marriage at this point, please try this experiment for me: Institute a fifty-year ban on marriage and/or child-rearing in your family. Then write to me, in fifty years, at lance@freedom2008.com , and tell me how it turned out. If it's a fun story, I'll publish it here in my column. Good luck.

**6/22/03 NOTE: I didn't mean to imply here that gay people have any of the tendencies I named. Claims of social or genetic inferiority have been the justification for nearly every scheme to ban various marriage combinations throughout history, including the efforts against gay marriage. If someone were to seek to prohibit a given reader in the future from marrying in general, it would almost certainly be based on the same claims that have been used for centuries -- ones that were used against blacks, and latinos, and European immigrants, and lower classes, and mentally handicapped people, and so on.

I posted a brief addendum to this article in 2001. You can read it here.

Posted by Lance Brown at 07:59 PM
December 04, 1996
Leave Everyone Alone

What I think is that everybody is too pissed off at everybody else to get anything serious done. If we could just leave everyone alone to do as he or she pleases, and if we only punished those who hurt others or stole, we would have things just about as good as they are going to get.

I think what we need to make universal is the idea that we are each our own individual human experiment, and not a one of us can unequivocally declare that he or she alone knows the correct or best way to live a life. We have yet to agree upon The Rules, and we may never know The Meaning, so why is everybody always hassling everybody else?

I say, "Leave 'em alone!" Whoever "they" are. Nobody ever got anywhere by picking fights.

So if we're all these individual experiments, wouldn't we get more done if we let everybody do their own experimenting? Humans have shown themselves to be pretty smart on more than one occasion, and some of humankind's greatest contributions have come from perverts, junkies, and addicts of every kind. Nearly everybody's got their own form of self-indulgence or self-abuse, and each of us tries to settle our inner conflicts in our own way.

I think that we can all agree that you shouldn't hurt other people, and you shouldn't take their stuff. If you don't agree, I think you are wrong, and part of an extremely limited minority.

So let's cut it down to two laws: 1.Don't hurt anyone (that includes killing) 2.Don't take someone's stuff.

Let the judge (or better yet, the jury) figure the rest out. Isn't that what they're there for?

Posted by Lance Brown at 07:51 PM