Currently viewing the tag: "politics"

steigerwald-montage-2I could have written many more articles, with many more examples, I realized while rewatching season two with my mother.

All of the dirty DC dealings in Netflix’s House of Cards arguably make it the most cynical of the current crop of highly-acclaimed and talked over television shows. However, the epic Game of Thrones – in spite of its fantastical elements – paints an even more brutal picture of the vile nature of politics, and the ruinous nature of wars with even the noblest stated intentions.

The HBO series, set in the magical-tinged fictional land of Westeros, is nearly finished with its fourth season. The show is often criticized for its graphic violence – though that usually has a larger purpose – and laughably gratuitous sex scenes. But neither gore nor smut is the point. The truly entrancing quality of the show (carried over fromthe books by George R.R. Martin on which it is based) is the scads of gray, but sympathetic characters to worry over. Indeed, there are flawed, but compelling characters on every side in the series’ ongoing war to win the Iron Throne. Hence the tension that comes from watching, and from the knowledge that there is no happy ending in store for everyone. Hell, there may be no happy ending for any of these characters.

On Monday, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists published an exhaustive comparisonbetween the dragons of would-be Westeros queen – and George W. Bush proxy, according to both liberal and neocon interpretation – Daenerys Targaryen and the game-changing quality of nuclear weapons in warfare. This side-by-side mostly works, but the ideology of Daenerys remains more interesting than her monopoly on dragons/WMDS. For all her conquering hubris, Daenerys considers herself on a humanitarian mission to free the slaves of various cities that lie along her route to win the throne. She is well-meaning, deeply principled, and yet she is shown bumbling into cultures of which she has no awareness. It’s sometimes hard not to read her journey as a parallel with US foreign policy (even if necons prefer to twist that into praise of the Bush doctrine). If Daenerys says she means to bring freedom with her army; if she shouts her noble, chain-breaking mission from the hilltops, everything is sure to end well. And if she savagely punishes the slave masters in various cities, well, they deserved it and there shall be no negative consequences from changing culture by military force. (There will be, though, because this show is that good.)

The rest here

US_soldiers_returning_to_America_after_WWIThe Veterans Health Administration — the U.S. Post Office of American health care — has always been awful.

I remember 30 or maybe 40 years ago, when it was just the VA and not the VHA,  hearing vets and others complain about the lousy care, the crummy hospitals, the third-rate doctors.

No surprise. It was and is a government bureaucracy and it acts that way — stupid, slow, inefficient, politicized.  Like army bases and defense contractors, a VA hospital is what every congressperson of both parties always wanted in his/her district.

Now, as the horror stories march forth and the whistles begin to blow louder, we are getting a truer glimpse of the reality of the VA.

Where were the media until yesterday? Where was 60 Minutes and The New York  Times and The Wall Street Journal and CNN? Did they ever think of looking deeply and critically into the VA?

The stupid warhawk Republicans, with their insane love of the military and fear of offending it, should have been all over this subject. They should have been calling for the privatization of the VA decades ago — Oh wait.

Mitt Romney made a halfhearted peep two years ago, saying it should be partly privatized. Mitt was partly right, but the great Paul Krugman, who can’t remember the few things he wrote 20 years ago that were right any more than he can remember the scores of stupid things he says now that he’s the Times op-ed page’s house weasel, was completely wrong.

This is what the Noble-winning, formerly honest economist said about the VHA and Romney’s half-smart idea:

What Mr. Romney and everyone else should know is that the V.H.A. is a huge policy success story, which offers important lessons for future health reform.

Many people still have an image of veterans’ health care based on the terrible state of the system two decades ago. Under the Clinton administration, however, the V.H.A. was overhauled, and achieved a remarkable combination of rising quality and successful cost control. Multiple surveys have found the V.H.A. providing better care than most Americans receive, even as the agency has held cost increases well below those facing Medicare and private insurers. Furthermore, the V.H.A. has led the way in cost-saving innovation, especially the use of electronic medical records.

What’s behind this success? Crucially, the V.H.A. is an integrated system, which provides health care as well as paying for it. So it’s free from the perverse incentives created when doctors and hospitals profit from expensive tests and procedures, whether or not those procedures actually make medical sense. And because V.H.A. patients are in it for the long term, the agency has a stronger incentive to invest in prevention than private insurers, many of whose customers move on after a few years.

And yes, this is “socialized medicine” — although some private systems, like Kaiser Permanente, share many of the V.H.A.’s virtues. But it works — and suggests what it will take to solve the troubles of U.S. health care more broadly.

Last week, I was so ready to write a thoughtful, invariably inside libertarian baseball response to Jeffrey Tucker’s piece in the The Freeman. Or I was going to write about horrible police brutality for the various outlets who enjoy that sort of thing. But then my Montana-dwelling aunt called, and we discussed the imminent spring, and the greatness of the Coen Brothers — with me evangelizing about Ralph Stanley, and both of us agreeing that the Greenwich Village-style of folk was not the platonic ideal, being a little too earnest English balladish, and not high and lonesome enough.

And then of course politics faded from my soul, as it does. I subscribe to the Tucker and the Radley Balko school of politics (and, really, most of the Reason writers agree) which says that it is a vile thing, and the victory of libertarianism would mean an ability to ignore politics without feeling as if you were betraying your imprisoned and oppressed fellow man. I just wish I knew how to channel a career into dissecting how Ralph Stanley sounds, as opposed to how endlessly sick the prison state makes me.

I had a lovely birthday on the 8th. I had lovely people come to visit me and gather around. But before I went to my own party, my mom and I went to a church down in Pittsburgh that was doing their monthly shapenote singing sing.

Shapenote singing was a 19th century method of teaching folks who couldn’t read music how to do four-part harmony. There are some great modern and older recordings of it on the internet — One of my favorites, from the famous Harry Smith anthology of folk music, is below:

At its best, shapenote singing has am unpolished eerie quality that undermines and delightfully clashes with its stodgier sort of choral aspects. Instead of just beauty, it has roughness and resonance. Like the voice of Ralph Stanley (who grew up in a Primitive Baptist Church, which bar instruments) sometimes does, the strongest shapenote singers have this quality that can only remind me of bagpipes. It just has this huuuugh gut thing.

Mom, who used to play the saxophone and plays piano and guitar, knew enough music to be baffled. I didn’t know enough to know where to begin or how to follow, plus read, plus hear other people, plus hear myself.

In our post-O Brother Where Art Thou?, post-Mumford and Sons world, I was not surprised that the demographics of the singers were middle age nearing old age and younger, scruffier types. I was not the only singer with a pierced nose, for Christ’s sake.

There was someone who swore, and people who seemed devout Christians. The most powerful, ceiling plaster-endangering singer was a middle aged woman with long brown hair who came from God Only Knows, Alabama. She was all down home encouragement and June Carter sass.

Here’s a more recent kind of shapenote singing — less weird and ancient, more just loud:

Though the traditional text, The Sacred Harp, contains mostly songs about Jesus, and other folk I don’t know well, shapenote singing is so perfectly American and strange, and I think it’s wonderful. It is not mine, but I like to borrow it.

My birthday party had a cacophony of people I love very much talking too loudly in too small a space. It was fun, but the diminishing returns of socializing were lurking at its loudest points.

However, S.T. and J.K., musical friends from Richmond and Baltimore respectively, decided to crash and give me musical celebration. When they play together, they are called the Dirty Mallards. I drank my first moonshine in their presence one summer day in 107 degree Richmond weather. From them I learned that “Tommy” without clarification means Tommy Jarrell, the great North Carolina fiddler.

S.T. and J.K. are more libertarian than not. J.K. is more personally conservative, but he has recently attempted to go off the grid, internet-wise, and I have to assume the National Security Agency is a big reason. When I first met S.T. he seemed to have stepped out of the pages of Tony Horwitz’ Confederates in the Attic, for all that implies about his views. And that’s not all wrong, but it’s not everything about him. He’s a student of history — and some of his conclusions I might disagree on — but he’s incredibly well-read, as well a an instinctual, leave me alone libertarian. They are both good people who provided with with the best birthday present since my cousin T. got Jello Biafra to insult capitalism just for me.

Now, my one association with Jeff Tucker is that he is endlessly optimistic about the non-state. Culture, markets, music, fast food, all of these do and will continue to bring freedom and choice to people. All of this is beautiful and chaotic instead of planned from above.

So when Tucker uses his “brutalist vs. humanitarian” libertarian metaphor in The Freeman essay, he almost pulls it off. The brutalists stripped down architecture to its cold, practical essence. Brutalist libertarians do the same with their liberty. They say, I have my freedom to be as awful as possible, you have yours, we need not encourage social goodness and kindness and need not discourage racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. within libertarianism.  If it ain’t the state, who cares! Is that really what he thinks will happen in Libertopia? Is that what he thinks will happen without an implied litmus test? Does he think that defending pure liberty is implicitly saying we desire to live in small, mean tribal societies? If Tucker truly believes most, or even a lot of people would pick that, he is not the optimist I thought he was.

Though Tucker does not say as much, and his version of this question is better than any of the ones I have seen recently, the artificially of the two camps still gives me a moment’s pause. Are libertarian J.K. and S.T. and their politically incorrect jokes humanitarian or brutalist? How about my conservative-leaning libertarian father? My an-cap atheist friend who professes to hate feminism, who I recently saw defend the Duke porn star from another Facebook commenter who was calling her trash? My Christian an-cap friend with whom I disagree about gender roles and religion, and who has argued with me about that long into the morning?

Even in Tucker’s Libertopia, I would not surround myself only with the angels of tolerance who are always saying just the right things. So, I certainly don’t want to discount flawed creatures before we get to that free land. We live now in a world in which minorities of ALL stripes are put upon by the state: Religious weirdos, the peaceful, bunker-dwelling racists, the cultists, or for fuck’s sake, just the people who maybe don’t want to use college liberal terms to filter the world. I want them all in my tent as well. I want them if only because more people than any libertarian would wish think they are right-wingers — inherently suspicious, likely bad, for wanting less or no government at all.

Libertarianism and friendships both have a sort of Miller Test. Or, rather you “know it when you see it” — know the good people you want in your life, or in your fight for freedom. I can’t tell you who they are for you, and you can’t tell me either.

I think I know good people who are are not PC and who are also a net gain for liberty in the world. This is not to say that we can’t say, as individual libertarians, or as groups, say we prefer tolerance of gay people to not tolerance. This is only to say that the divisions between libertarians, like anywhere else, are rarely as purely simple as paleo vs. cosmo, conservative vs. liberal, or humanitarian vs. brutalist.  Tucker is, again, incredibly deft and fair in his piece. He doesn’t seem to be trying to kick out anyone at all. But the two camps idea still didn’t seem real enough to justify it as an exercise. There is a danger in making people, even just libertarians, seem that A) or B).

I wanted to write a political response to Tucker’s piece. I was distracted by the pleasures of voluntary culture, and life, and music instead. Hopefully that’s still the point.

Though it sadly didn’t end in Nashville, 2013 at least began there. And other non-chronological highlights of that somewhat rocky year were as follows:

by Jayel Aheram

by Jayel Aheram

  • Visited LA, my glorious city of birth. There I met, then ran amok with, Jayel Aheram. This culminated in the most bad-ass photo of me ever taken, seen at right.
  • Took an Amtrak journey (one way with my Ma, one way by myself) and loved it because A) Trains are a lot of fun, dang it. If only they were economically sensible. And B) Because every kind of cross-country travel feels luxurious when you have taken a Greyhound from Pennsylvania to Montana to California, then back again.
  • Visited a (lefty) Anarchist Book-Fair with anarcho-capitalist Anthony Gregory in San Francisco. Should have written about the contrasts and clashes that resulted.
  • Went to New York City, met Pamela Stubbart who recently wrote this piece for the Daily Caller. She’s pretty neat, that Pam.
  • I also met Andrew Kirell, who is good people and writes good, snarky things for Mediaite. He’s good people, that Andrew, even though I still can’t remember how many ls and rs his name contains without checking.
  • Wrote for VICE, eventually became columnist for VICE
  • Became contributing editor for Antiwar.com, blogged there frustratingly infrequently became I am the worst.
  • Spent summer as D.J. Stagger Lee (it works on so many levels — for once!) with my Old Time (More Or Less) radio show. Loved it. Loved it. Hire me for your radio show.
  • Had Antiwar.com blog post quoted by John Stossel twice, which in context suggested he might just agree with me on the NSA. At least a little.

Stossel argued with me a little.

  • Saw Ralph Stanley and reacted like a 12-year-old meeting Harry Styles, or whomever is now most important in the lives of 12-year-olds.
  • Saw Old Crow Medicine Show be on the radio in Nashville. Ate Prince’s Hot Chicken and shrimp po-boys and again mused on living in that city. Was told, “you look familar” by Critter Fuqua, and responded with far too many exclamation points.

Steve and Critter Fuqua from Old Crow Medicine Show talking history nerd stuff

  • Saw other excellent bands and artists including La Plebe, Pokey LaFarge, Jason Isbell, and the best thing to ever come out of Johnstown, PA, as well as the makers of one of my favorite albums of all time, Endless Mike the and the Beagle Club.
  • Brother began blogging for the Stag Blog, culminating in his under-appreciated classic pretend parable, which can be read here.
  • Did not go to a baseball game for the second year in a row in which I intended to do so. (Yes, 2012 had “go on TV” and “go to a baseball game” on the to-do list, and the former happened, but the latter did not!) However, I did watch at least two entire baseball games on television. New record! Plus I watched Catching Hell, so I have a lot of feelings and opinions about Steve Bartman and that one catcher dude for I think the Red Sox? I forget.
  • Had to reject several invitations to go on an RT show, which was not a good thing, but it still made me feel slightly important.
  • Visited questionable North Carolina military surplus store and fired questionable guns with former Reason intern not named here. (Damn gov’mint.)
  • Read some killer books by Jesse Walker and Radley Balko, then wrote some things about that. I briefly browsed a record store in Pittsburgh with Jesse Walker as well, so that makes me feel pretty cool.
  • Decided to elect J. D. Tuccille king of anarchy.
  • Thought a lot about nuclear war.
  • Saw a very big duck.
  • 10351880233_2e9b255dd0_oI mean, that’s a great duck.

 

potMarijuana possession of up to 28g for personal use was decriminalized in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts when the Massachusetts Sensible Marijuana Policy Initiative passed on November 4th, 2008.  I watched the returns sitting in a postpartum room at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston—my first child had been born earlier that day. We had hired a courier to deliver my wife’s ballot to City Hall while she was in labor. Minor pot possession in Massachusetts is now punished by a $100 civil fine, arguably the one of the most libertarian state marijuana laws on the books prior to the 2012 legalization measures in Colorado and Washington.

In 2008, I also voted for the Libertarian ticket for President. In fact, I’ve voted for the Libertarian Party Presidential ticket in almost every election since I could legally vote, starting with Harry Browne in 1996. I’ve attended, as a Massachusetts voting delegate, every Libertarian Party National Convention since 2004. I’ve also backed many Libertarian and liberty-minded candidates for smaller offices locally and across the country. Needless to say, I became used to backing candidates that lost; I even came to accept this as part of the reality of taking radical, principled, libertarian political positions. The unfortunate reality is that Libertarians often get crushed on Election Day. After all, we’re not in anybody’s pocket, no special interests have anything to gain from electing us, and a litany of pork recipients have every reason to vote for other candidates (who will continue government’s culture of largess).

Marijuana policy has always been a key libertarian issue for me. In 2008, I made a substantial financial contribution to the Massachusetts marijuana decriminalization campaign. I donated this money under the same mentality I had for years backing Libertarian candidates: we’re probably going to lose, but we have to try. But, as Election Day got closer, the polling indicated that we were still in the lead, and I began to believe the campaign actually had a shot. Supporting a winning campaign was still a foreign experience for me, and I expected a long grind of returns on election night, with a narrow chance of winning. Instead, The Boston Globe called it for the pro-decriminalization side with only a few percent of precincts reporting. When the final results were in, we had won with a much larger percentage than most had expected (almost 63 percent of the vote). I was stunned and elated, but with a newborn baby, had no time to celebrate.

By 2012, I’d smelled the blood of marijuana prohibition in the water for four years, and I was hungry for another ballot initiative win. The main 2012 campaign that I was involved with—the Amendment 64 legalization campaign in Colorado—was the biggest prize to date. However, every prior marijuana legalization ballot initiative had gone down in defeat, and (private) doubts persisted about Amendment 64’s chances of success, even within the legalization movement. Some suggested the campaign didn’t have enough money for ads. Others argued the initiative was too generously written, for example allowing limited non-medical home growing (a freedom notably absent from the similar legalization initiative in Washington State, I-502, which I also supported and for which I have the utmost respect). And some even said (my personal favorite caveat) that Amendment 64 lacked enough endorsements from law enforcement!

However, despite the hand-wringing, the campaign’s polling data—which I obsessively analyzed on a daily basis over the weeks prior to Election Day—indicated that we were mostly likely going to win. In fact, the returns on Election Day 2012 in Colorado were very similar to the returns from 2008 in Massachusetts: major news networks called victory for our side early in the evening. We ended up winning with over 55 percent of the vote—a total that exceeded the predictions of myself and others closely involved with the campaign. I was gobsmacked to the point of tears. Years of work and tons of money had come to fruition. (I am extremely grateful to everyone who voted for, worked on, and supported the Amendment 64 campaign, especially the late Ashawna Hailey.)

It didn’t used to be this way. The history of marijuana reform is littered with philanthropists putting huge amounts of cash into losing campaigns. By 2012, numerous important marijuana reform donors (many of whom are not libertarians), disenchanted by past failures, were experiencing donor fatigue. But following major wins in Colorado and Washington, they should approach similar initiatives going forward with greater confidence, as it now appears that public sentiment has genuinely changed. Polling now heavily favors legalization in many states (even Texas!). The next major ballot initiative campaign I expect to participate in is the 2014 campaign to regulate marijuana in Alaska.

Barring a major shift in public opinion over a short time period, we are likely to see a steady drumbeat of states legalizing marijuana until the federal government is forced to abandon cannabis prohibition.

R. Antonio Ruiz is  is a major donor and volunteer with the Marijuana Policy Project.  The views expressed here are his own and do not represent MPP. Follow him on twitter: @annoyingcats

Via mindthesciencegap.org

Government grades itself
Via mindthesciencegap.org

We have a long way to go before we get to Libertopia, much less Anarchocapitalistan. Even some kind of “good conservative” (if they still have those) nation where the federal fat is mightily trimmed seems impossibly distant on most days. But there has got to be somewhere we can start in building accountability, accessibility — something besides the same people becoming elected year after year and doing whatever they want with everyone else’s life, time, and money.

In the spirit of pessimism, here are two suggestions for the lowest possible standards in government that would be terrific if actually applied. Please offer your own suggestions in the comments for similar can’t we at least do that while we oppress everyone? (And no, we can’t.)

Speaking of Obamacare — as we have been these last few weeks of government shutdown — remember way back in 2009-2010 when the bill’s circa 2400-page length was one of the Republicans’ many sticking points? Well, that was a pretty fair point, regardless of shady motivations or GOP hypocrisy. Think carefully about the privileges granted to elected officials in Congress — they are permitted to vote on a document nearly two times as long as the entire Lord of the Ring without reading it. And that bill is supposed to become a law that affects potentially everyone in the country — or people in other countries, depending. Is it so much to ask that it be read by everyone who will vote on it? (Yes, yes it is too much.)

The PATRIOT Act was rammed through a cowed and anthrax-fearing Congress in October of 2001. It was a relatively slim 242 pages in length. Yet it was so colossally serious a subject that it warranted more debate than the everyday farm subsidy bullshit, not less. Certainly more than 72 hours of it. Certainly politicians should have been given any and all opportunity to at least not bother to read PATRIOT.

The average bill length is a measly 15 pages, but spending bills and others run much longer. Too bad. Too bad if you want to attach a million riders. You have to read the entire thing — and you have to be given time to do so.  Everyone had a good laugh over Herman Cain’s attempt at the 2012 Republican nomination, but his vow to veto any bill over three pages was brilliant. 

Even better, my boyfriend offered the suggestion that the Congressional researchers could make a quiz about the bill’s contents — if your legislative official scores a B or higher, they may vote. And if that worries you idealists, take comfort in the barely-over-a-page 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force. After all, it’s not the size of the bill that matters, it’s the amount of power carelessly granted within.

On to number two on the bare minimum standards for officials. Not to sound like a certain breed of tiresome paleolibertarian who swears that every single libertarian employed inside the DC city limits is constantly hobnobbing at cocktail parties with elected officials, but really, the least we can ask of politicians is that once they are out of office we stop respecting them so much. Not saying we need to prosecute them for war crimes, or economic ruin, or 2 million people in jail. How about we just start with maybe stop giving them respect for the rest of their lives once they end their own particular brand of horror.

Henry Kissinger, LBJ, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, anybody in charge of a big war, or a disastrous domestic policy, or any fuck-up that took lives, fortunes, and freedoms gets to finish their term. And then they they get to fuck right off. No more pension, no more Secret Service protection, no more respectful titles, and yes, no more God-damned swanky parties for you. And no more turning to you for seasoned advice for the next big, bad idea.

We don’t do prosecution; we don’t do historical black marks even if you nuked two cities, locked up 100,000 citizens without charge, or militarized the war on drugs. Can we at least socially shun the people who use the suit-and-tie-sociopath’s excuse of “policy” as their reason for treating human beings like puppets? Can we not offer the slightest bit of disincentive for theft, murder, imprisonment ,and massive social engineering? Do we need to keep calling them “public servants,” too?

Bill Emerson of Kansas City read my book and liked it enough to give it four stars, for which I am grateful.
But he couldn’t understand why I had put so much of my  libertarian politics in the book.
Here’s his comment from Amazon.com, followed by my explanation/response.

I had read several Steinbeck books, but not Charley.

I really did like the “investigative” parts to this. Bill
Steigerwald does a great job of tying the time of Steinbeck
in with today.

One thing I did not understand and would like to ask the author:

What in the hell does Libertarian have to do with it?

Don’t you know that there are only 17 Libertarians
anywhere in the world at any one time? Except when a Democrat is
president, then it mushrooms to most of the Republican party…..

 

My response:

Thanks for the nice comments. As I write somewhere in the book, when you drive the miles and write a road book about America you — the author — get to air/spew your political opinions about what you see and think. Steinbeck did, though most of his (liberal Democrat) comments were taken out of his original manuscript. Bill Barich did in “Long Way Home.” Philip Caputo just did in “The Longest Road.” Heat-Moon did.Everyone does.

Sprawl, commercial development, cars, the environment, energy policy, city planning, race relations, the ups and downs of the economy — they’re all driven by politics (unfortunately) and open to debate. Most travel books are written by liberal Democrats who, as I point out in the book, all sound like they’re reading from the editorial page of the NY Times. They hate sprawl, they hate malls, they make fun of free markets, they unthinkingly embrace government regulation, they hate the culture and the conservative politics of Flyover Country — and they say so in their books. Most reviewers don’t even notice or mention the authors’ left-liberal-East Coast politics, mainly because the reviewers invariably are liberals too. I’ve been an open libertarian journalist/columnist/media critic for 30-plus years. For me to pretend not to disagree with Steinbeck’s political point of view or the liberal Democrat point of view of Barich et al., or to let their political commentaries or biased asides about America or its people pass without comment, would have been dishonest and phony, not to mention foolish.

Road books are about the road, the country, the people you meet, etc., but they’re all filtered through the author — his life, his thoughts, his politics. Not everyone is a Republican or a Democrat, thank god. The two major parties have brought us a national government that is a Big Nanny/Big Snoop at home and World Cop overseas.

It’s pretty sad that my libertarian politics — that peaceful people should be as personally, economically and socially free as possible; that government should be as decentralized and weak and unnoticed in our daily lives as possible; and that America should mind its business overseas — would seem exotic or out of place to a fellow America today. Those basic libertarian principles have been forgotten and abused. But they would be very familiar — and very dear — to Jefferson or Washington or Grover Cleveland or Twain or Mencken or Milton Friedman or hundreds of other dead great Americans whose politics were essentially libertarian.

1000992_10100888966231447_827789867_n1) Every knee-jerk patriot who so loves his loyalty to flag and country is celebrating treason right now. Yes, treason.

2) The Declaration of Independence is a dynamite piece of work, it really is.

3) Bill Pullman’s presidential speech before the final battle in Independence Day. Tell me he doesn’t give his all.

4) The X version of “Fourth of July”, which I played on my radio show yesterday afternoon. It’s such a gut-wrencher in many different ways. What a ridiculously great song. In order of quality of versions it goes 1) X 2) Drunk Matt Welch 3) Dave Alvin, for what that’s worth.

5) Maybe the bad-ass words of the Founders have melted into offensive hypocrisy, perhaps they did right away (or by the time John Adams rolled into office with his Sedition Act shenanigans), but again, that Deceleration is a kick-ass “fuck you” to people getting involved your business of living.

Hell, the World War I Christmas Truce failed, but I still think about and toast it every December 24. Maybe I could celebrate, if nothing else, the sheer audacity of people throwing off their King and saying, nah, we can do better. Henry David Thoreau wasn’t the perfect American woodsman, but his Civil Disobedience does the poetry of liberty better than anything. There’s a place for the pretty words of even the Founders. They knew. They knew so well the dangers of government tyranny and they still were all awful presidents — thereby proving their warnings that it’s the power that’s the problem.

6) Yes, six. I think under my libertarian anarchism there is some stupid, poetic core that wants America to be what its reputation says it is. You know, that wacky, anti-collectivist nation. The world’s cool Bohemian cousin who is kind of scary, but captivating. The life of the party. Can you imagine if we really were the bad-ass, individualist, cranky, cool nation of only Lysander Spooners and Rose Wilder Lanes? Who kept to ourselves, but always left the front door open to immigrants?

That’d be nice.

The fact that I have a lingering disappointment in America always surprises me. We’ve got such great geography, history, folklore, culture. We could have been a contender…We could have been the America that conservatives tell themselves that we always were and are and forever will be. (But better, cause we’d also have Mexicans and gay people.)

And now my patriotism for the year is done. Because again I’m wondering and worrying over where America’s trimmings of liberty are what keeps people from realizing how bad it is, and how much worse it can get. We have the amendments, we have that wonderful document of (mostly) negative liberties (God, what an awesome idea), and then we have a million tiny chips in each one. The Fourth is in particularly bad shape, but since it’s still there in law, are we going to notice if it becomes utterly meaningless, like my friend Bob’s sandals that were eventually held together only with duct tape?

Is it ever going to feel like a people in the street, this time it’s serious, this time we make a stand moment in a nation devoted to pretty words about being the freest place in the world? Are we just lulling ourselves to sleep by repeating what we were supposed to be as a country? What kind of shield is a piece of paper, anyway?