happy halloween

This makes me giggle now even more than when I was a kid.

Also, this:


This reason piece is always worth a read (they do it before every presidential election). This year's questions are:

1. Who are you voting for in November?
2. Who did you vote for in 2004 and 2000?
3. Is this the most important election in your lifetime?
4. What will you miss about the Bush administration?
5. Leaving George W. Bush out of consideration, what former U.S. president would you most like to have waterboarded and why?

For an explicitly ideological magazine, the answers are really quite diverse.

(My answers, if you care, are Obama, Kerry and Browne L. Neil Smith*, no, being in my 20's, and Dick Cheney.)

*I was reminded that Browne wasn't actually on the ballot in AZ in 2000, due to internal LP politics in AZ. I had to look up the name of the guy I actually voted for.


how i'm voting (and to some extent why)

We might be the only house on our block without a campaign sign in the yard. We might also be the only house in central Derm with a McCain sign to the right (looking out towards the street) and an Obama sign to the left.

Anyway, I don't typically advertise my political intentions on my yard or bumper because I think it's kind of silly, and more about group identity signaling than actual advocacy. (Has your vote ever been influenced by a bumper sticker or yard sign? If you answered "yes" to this question, please do us all a favor and don't vote.)

I do, however, have a blog for precisely this sort of thing. If someone is running unopposed, assume I'm not voting for them. That said, on with the show...

President--Barack Obama (D)
Believe it or not, this one was not a slam dunk for me, and I was genuinely undecided up until about two weeks ago. Of course, I was genuinely undecided between voting for Obama (whom I supported in the primary) and Bob Barr (who actually reflects my feelings about executive power much better than any other candidate running.) And while Barr is a long way from being completely satisfactory as a Libertarian (can you say 'baggage' boys and girls?) I am impressed that the LP has at least shown some interest in running a national candidate who is not a single-issue fruitcake. (More about the LP and its trajectory in other races below.) But the stakes this time out (and especially in a potential swing state) are just too damn high.

I've written this to death, so I'll just say this much: the consequences of an Obama presidency as predicted by his (credible) critics (socialized medicine, tax increases, a return to protectionist trade policies, and humanitarian intervention in Darfur) frankly scare me a great deal less than the consequences of a McCain presidency as predicted by...well, by John McCain (war, war, and more war.) McCain's occasional nod to fiscal conservatism means absolutely nothing in the face of expanding the scope of US military engagement around the world. I have no doubt that I would be paying for President McCain's foreign policy until I either renounce my US citizenship or die.

US Senate--Kay Hagen (D)
Elizabeth Dole needs to be fired, plain and simple. I am frankly pretty unimpressed with Ms. Hagen, but I am more than happy to give her a chance to prove me wrong, given the alternative. And again, this is a close race, so not one I am inclined vote with the LP on.

US House, NC District 4--William (BJ) Lawson (R)
I've pretty much covered this already. Yeah, he's pro-life, but the simple fact of the matter is that a House member has virtually no impact on this issue. And besides, voting for a Republican in this district is nearly as symbolic as voting for the LP.

Governor of NC--Michael Munger (L)
The LP has made some serious headway this year in getting on the ballot in North Carolina, which has some of the most restrictive ballot access laws in the country. This alone is reason to support the LP whenever possible, but I am also really impressed with Mr. Munger's platform which is about as reasonable, incremental, and realistic a platform as I've ever seen a Libertarian produce. It also directly addresses issues particularly important to the state of North Carolina (forced annexation and corporate welfare.)

LT Governor of NC--Phillip Rhodes (L)
File this under "supporting the LP in NC whenever possible".

Attorney General of NC--not voting
Both the incumbent and the challenger support an aggressive and expansive role for law enforcement.

Auditor, Commissioner of Agriculture, and other partisan statewide races--??
If anyone cares to convince me of a reason to prefer a candidate (other than party affiliation) please feel free to do so in the comments section.

NC State Senate, District 20--David Rollins (L)
I'm a big fan of David's distinctly progressive flavor of libertarianism, and would love to see an LP in this image become the chief opposition party in one-party cities like Durham. He's also my neighbor and regularly reads this blog, which doesn't hurt if you are trying to court my vote...

NC Superior Court--Suzanne Reynolds
NC Court of Appeals--Sam Ervin, James Wynn, Cheri Beasley, Linda Stephens, John Arrowood
I'm basing all of these on the recommendations of a friend who is a public defender, and therefore infinitely more informed than I will ever be.

Prepared Food Tax--Against
I generally vote against every tax and bond issue I can. That said, taxes on food (prepared or otherwise--and for the record, I would completely favor repeal of the 2% grocery tax) are especially regressive. Moreover, adding a restaurant tax in a city that is fighting to revitalize its downtown--particularly when food prices are rising and the economy generally is circling the drain--is a special kind of idiotic. And the notion that approving this thing will forestall property tax increases is frankly laughable. Vote this through and we will get a restaurant tax AND higher property taxes when all the projects proposed on this bond referendum go over budget.


metal monday (muppet edition)

This is the kind of thing that makes me glad Al Gore invented the internet. Personally, I find this way more amusing than lolcats...

adventures in home ownership--plumbing edition

You buy a charming, mid-20th century house in a well-established neighborhood. You enjoy the solid construction, the wood floors, the basement, and the tree-lined street on which it is situated.

What no one mentions to you is that those lovely trees have roots that will strangle your mainline approximately every 18 months, usually resulting in a spectacular fountain of recently discarded water in your basement. If you are lucky, this occurs when you are doing laundry. If you are really lucky, it occurs while you are having a party. In your basement.


The first time this happened (about 2 months after moving in), we, being the noob homeowners that we were, called in the cavalry, a company whose name rhymes with "moto-scooter". This was expensive, and created a gigantic mess in our basement, because at the time we didn't know we had a cleanout buried in the flower bed in the front yard.

I since found the cleanout while doing some gardening earlier this year, so when the tree struck again this weekend, I was emboldened to try taking care of this myself. Not to denigrate the services of the gentleman from the previously mentioned company, but it seemed to me that we were mostly paying for the tool he had, rather than any particular expertise.

I was delighted to learn that you can rent this baby from Home Depot for $42 for four hours. ($60 for 24, if you feel like helping out your neighbors when you're done. You won't.)

And you know what? It works. Really, really well.

That said, I understand why the pros charge so much. If that was my full-time job, you'd have to give me a hell of a lot of money...


mccain to jesus: please save me from my followers!


McCain's worst liability seems to be the people actively campaigning for him.


indy on lawson

The Independent has a great article on the only Republican for whom I intend to vote in a couple of weeks.

While I entertain no delusions that Mr. Lawson has much of a chance, and absolutely agree that the GOP needs to lose a lot this year, Lawson is exactly the kind of Republican I hope rises from the ashes of the militarist/fundamentalist coalition that currently runs the party.

Besides, no one's congressional seat should be as safe as Mr. Price's seems to be...


"i am tired of these mother f*&#ing snakes..."

Well this is probably the strangest news item I've heard in a while:

A Winnipeg man is receiving medical treatment after being bitten by an African snake on Sunday.

A friend drove the 31-year-old St. Vital resident to hospital after he was bitten in the face by a gaboon viper around 6 p.m. Sunday, police said.

The man was knowledgeable about the snake, police said. He told hospital officials what had happened, and how much time they had to get antivenin to him...

The victim lost consciousness before speaking to police, Const. Jacqueline Chaput said Monday, but investigators did have a chance to speak to his friend.

Police are still looking for the snake, but Chaput says the public shouldn't be worried...

I think this would make a killer opening scene for a novel. Guy shows up in the ER of a cold northern city, saying he's been bitten in the face by a venomous African snake, and loses consciousness. Hilarity ensues.


if anyone wants my dr. pepper...

Chinese Democracy drops next month, a few days after my 31st birthday.

When Guns 'n Roses started working on this album, I wasn't old enough to drink (legally), The Simpsons was still funny, and no one expected us to elect a black president anytime soon.


pics from honk!

Click here for lots more.

We're the ones in mostly black and pink.


about that economic freedom...

"The financial crisis is not the crisis of capitalism. It is the crisis of a system that has distanced itself from the most fundamental values of capitalism, which betrayed the spirit of capitalism."

--The President, on the current financial whatsit.

Sadly, not our President.

Paris is lovely this time of year...


I'm off to live the life of an itinerant street musician for a few days at HONK! If you're in the Boston area, come on out to Davis Square in Somerville Saturday...it'll be a, er, blast...


pure theory (or, a libertarian heresy)

It may be a mistake to conflate "smaller government" with "less intrusive government". More to the point, the number of dollars in the budget or the number of people employed might very well be poor metrics of how much government actually intrudes in the lives of its citizens. This may be because it's difficult to get one's head around how to quantify the absence of something. If one prefers to frame public policy thinking in terms of personal liberty, perhaps we should develop something that attempts to quantify the negative consequences of an overreaching state on the lives of individuals...some sort of "net tyranny".

Taking this a step further in the counterintuitive direction, a "larger" government-- particularly one in the form of a sprawling bureaucracy--may actually result in less net tyranny experienced by the average citizen, because a sprawling bureaucracy is (potentially) more amenable to massive decentralization of power. The extreme counterexample should be obvious: the most tyrannical form of government imaginable would be absolute power vested in a single person.

The real-world tradeoff is not trivial; one positive feature of a tyrannical dictatorship is that a dictator is (comparatively) easy for the disgruntled masses to dispatch; it's been done repeatedly throughout history from Caesar to Ceau┼čescu.

Bureaucracies, on the other hand, have a rather stubborn tendency towards immortality...



the veepstakes

"...the most useless office ever devised by the mind of man..."

--attributed to John Adams, first Vice-President

I have serious issues with both VP candidates. None of them are enough to swing my presidential vote one way or another (or more precisely, they kind of cancel each other out). Ms. Palin's competence to assume the presidency on a moment's notice is absolutely a concern. And Mr. Biden has one of the worst voting records on issues that the Democrats are typically the better party on (civil liberties, foreign policy). More to the point, I think the level of attention the vice-presidential race is getting is completely out of proportion with its actual importance.


There is one issue that I would really like to hear Biden and Palin address. The most important question that can be asked tonight of both candidates comes from Gene Healy:

The claim by Dick Cheney that he was exempt from certain disclosure requirements because the vice president was a “legislative officer” has been greeted with outrage. But the main power the Constitution grants the vice president is a legislative one — breaking a tie vote in the Senate.

So, Governor Palin, Senator Biden, doesn’t Mr. Cheney have a point?

But, then, if the vice president is a legislative officer, how can he wield the vast executive powers that Mr. Cheney has exercised, including orchestrating and supervising a warrantless wiretapping program?

Can the vice president shift between branches at his convenience? If not, what, in your view, is the constitutional status of the vice presidency?

I fully expect that this issue will remain completely unaddressed this evening.

UPDATE I am pleasantly surprised to have been wrong about this. And doubly so that Biden more or less nailed it (from about 1:10 on in the video below.)