Posts from August 2008

Sunday Ego Blogging / Shameless Self-promotion Sunday #16

It’s Sunday again; that means it’s time for Shameless Self-Promotion. This Sunday, unlike most, I’ll be leading off, because here’s what I received in the mail a few days ago:

The  July/August 2008 issue of The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty

Libertarianism Through Thick and Thin

by Charles Johnson

To what extent should libertarians concern themselves with social commitments, practices, projects, or movements that seek social outcomes beyond, or other than, the standard libertarian commitment to expanding the scope of freedom from government coercion?

Clearly, a consistent and principled libertarian cannot support efforts or beliefs that are contrary to libertarian principles—such as efforts to engineer social outcomes by means of government intervention. But if coercive laws have been taken off the table, then what should libertarians say about other religious, philosophical, social, or cultural commitments that pursue their ends through noncoercive means, such as targeted moral agitation, mass education, artistic or literary propaganda, charity, mutual aid, public praise, ridicule, social ostracism, targeted boycotts, social investing, slowdowns and strikes in a particular shop, general strikes, or other forms of solidarity and coordinated action? Which social movements should they oppose,which should they support, and toward which should they counsel indifference? And how do we tell the difference?

In other words, should libertarianism be seen as a thin commitment, which can be happily joined to absolutely any set of values and projects, so long as it is peaceful, or is it better to treat it as one strand among others in a thick bundle of intertwined social commitments? Such disputes are often intimately connected with other disputes concerning the specifics of libertarian rights theory or class analysis and the mechanisms of social power. To grasp what’s at stake, it will be necessary to make the question more precise and to tease out the distinctions among some of the different possible relationships between libertarianism and thicker bundles of social, cultural, religious, or philosophical commitments, which might recommend integrating the two on some level or another.

. . .

— Charles Johnson, Libertarianism Through Thick and Thin, in The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty 58.6 (July/August 2008), pp. 35–39.

You can read the whole thing (warning: PDF blob) at The Freeman‘s online edition. Enjoy! FEE’s website doesn’t (yet) support online comments, but I’d be glad to hear what you think in the comments section over here.

One note about the article: it had to be shortened substantially both for reasons of space and considerations of the likely audience. I’ve talked with Sheldon, and I’ll be posting the longer version of the essay here at Rad Geek People’s Daily in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, I would like to thank Sheldon Richman, for his encouragement, patience, and invaluable editing prowess; as well as Laura Breitenbeck and Roderick Long, for inspiration, discussion, and past collaboration, without which this article simply would not exist.

So, that’s me; what about you? What did you all write about this week? Leave a link and a short description for your post in the comments.

Re-usable Anarchy and A-Cafe updates

Here’s a couple of updates on local anarchist organizing in Las Vegas.

First, follow-up on the A-Cafe. As I mentioned a few days ago:

We’re starting a Las Vegas A-Cafe. (By we, I mean both Southern Nevada ALL and some other local anarchists I’ve contacted. Look out, we’re conspiring.) The Anarchist Cafe is intended as an informal gathering for anarchists (of all stripes, sects, and creeds) to meet and talk with each other–which is free-form enough to allow people just to meet up and hang out if they want to hang out, but y also where they can talk some shop, spread some news, and float some ideas for action. The idea comes from events in Califas (SoCal, NoCal). For the time being, we’re being rather literal by holding the event in an actual coffee house, because they have good meeting space, comfy chairs, and don’t expect us to do anything more for it than buy some of their drinks. Hopefully the first meeting will bring together some new faces and old.

We did heavy flyering on Monday, a little on Tuesday, and quite a bit more on Wednesday. Due both to planning and to some accidents of who was available when, pretty much all of our flyering was concentrated on UNLV campus and the neighborhoods immediately surrounding. About half of the flyers were put up were ALL flyers on police brutality and taxation. About half were advertisements for the A-Cafe specifically. (The latter had the advantage of an eye-catching circle-A, and a specific action item — attending the meeting.)

Here’s the results.

  • The flyers got some attention: the Southern Nevada ALL website got about 350 unique visits on Monday, about 180 on Tuesday, and about 210 on Wednesday.

  • The A-Cafe went well. Based on past experience, I figured ahead of time I’d count the event as a success if we got a few of the old folks together and made at least one or two new contacts. As it turned out, we had three ALLies (including myself) and one other anarchist we’d already met with pass through the room. We made five new contacts, passed out quite a bit of ALL literature and flyers (including multiple copies to a couple people who were planning to distribute them to friends). We also got in contact with three others who could not make the first meeting but are interested in future events and local organizing. So count this as quite the success, if we can make something of it.

The Cafe itself mostly involved introductions, passing around some small sheets we are using to build a contact list and poll people about the projects they’re interested in working on. A couple of the people who attended were interested in anarchist ideas but not committed anarchists, so we talked about the basics of anarchism with them; and chatted up those who were already committed anarchists about possible local projects.

The next meeting of the Las Vegas A-Cafe will be:

Wednesday, September 3
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Running Rebel Plaza
4550 S. Maryland Parkway

As before, if you are in the Las Vegas area (or you know someone who is) and are interested in the A-Cafe or in Southern Nevada ALL, be sure to come, or to let the interested parties know about it. (You can use Vegas A-Cafe’s Tell-a-Friend form, if you like.) I should be at the A-Cafe on Wednesday, and I hope that several other ALLies will be there too. If you’re interested but can’t make it to the face-to-face, by all means drop us a line so we can put you on our contact list.

The next question then, is, now that introductions are out of the way, what future A-Cafes will involve, at least for those who have been at least one A-Cafe and met other folks already. A large component is supposed to be informal, based on chatting with each other rather than having some kind of agenda to work through. Partly because that kind of thing is boring as hell, and partly because, insofar as it serves a purpose, it only serves a purpose for groups with a much more well-defined set of projects than A-cafe, which is mainly just intended as a space for people to meet each other, network, and have a bit of pleasant and possibly useful conversation. But it will definitely help to have some kind of prompts to get people talking with each other, and potentially things for people to work on individually or in small groups, if that’s what they want to do. Any suggestions? If so, I’d definitely appreciate any proposals down in the comments section….

Second, I’ve received some requests for editable versions of the flyers that ALL has used in its two flyering events. I’ve been dragging my feet a bit, in part because distributing editable content over the web is actually somewhat more complicated than distributing print-ready content. Basically, because print-ready PDFs are designed to be portable — that’s what the P in PDF stands for — and so carefully embed all the data that you might need to reproduce their content exactly. Editable formats don’t provide the same guarantees. But, I realize that editable versions will be much more useful to those of y’ALL who are outside Vegas than a print-ready version that you’d have to use physical cut-and-paste to customize for local needs. So, here is what I’ve done. From here on out, each new action that we post to the Southern Nevada ALL website will have a Re-use section at the bottom of the page, which will include editable copies of all the files we used to produce the material for that action, as well as any auxiliary files that you need to download to make the whole thing work. All of the materials that Southern Nevada ALL has already distributed so far for Tax Day and Radical Re-orientation are now available in their original, editable OpenDocument Text format (which you should be able to edit with OpenOffice.org Writer, Google Docs, and most open-source office software). These flyers all make use of at least one custom font face not included with your operating system; the fonts are all freely available for download, though. Here’s the full set of the fonts you might need (in TrueType format):

And, once you’ve got those fonts downloaded and installed, here’s the full collection of flyers and handbills that we’ve used. I’ve also included a copy of the short form we used for the networking project — for contact information and polling about interest in local projects — in case you might find that useful, too. As usual, all of this is copylefted and made freely available for your re-use. (It would be a courtesy to add a small attribution to Southern Nevada ALL somewhere if you should re-use the flyers we made while changing the contact information. I’d also love to hear about it if you use the designs in your own agitprop. But it’s not like I’m going to sic the Anarchy Police on you either way.) Enjoy!

Flyer:
How Government Works (#1)
Flyer:
How Government Works (#2)
Flyer:
Taxes Pay For Torture (#1)
Flyer:
Taxes Pay For Torture (#2)
Flyer:
Taxes Pay For War (#1)
Flyer:
Taxes Pay For War (#2)
Flyer:
Your Money Or Your Life!
Flyer:
Your Tax Dollars At Work (#1)
Flyer:
Your Tax Dollars At Work (#2)
Flyer:
Cops are here to protect you. (#1)
Flyer:
Cops are here to protect you. (#2)
Flyer:
A-Cafe invitation
Handbills:
Vegas Anarchy handbills
Handbills:
Las Vegas Anarchist Networking Project

Onward.

The Real Truth About Obama

Yesterday I got a fund-raising pitch for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, courtesy of NARAL Pro-Choice America. Along the way they expressed outrage that:

The other take away is that our opponents are ready to play dirty. CNN recently reported that an anti-choice group calling themselves The Real Truth About Obama, Inc., is trying to Swift Boat Barack Obama by running false ads in key states during the electioneering communication blackout period 60 days before the general election.

They link to a story on CNN Political Ticker as their source. Here’s what the story has to say about this terrible ad:

The Real Truth About Obama wants to post ads on its Web site and on the Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity talk shows in key states during the electioneering communication blackout period 60 days before the general election. The ad features an Obama-like voice saying he would make taxpayers pay for all abortions, ensure minors’ abortions are concealed from their parents, appoint more liberal Supreme Court justices and legalize the late-term procedure that abortion opponents call partial-birth abortion.

Oh, please.

Let’s break this down and look at what, if CNN is reporting the contents correctly, the ad actually claims.

  1. Barack Obama would make taxpayers pay for all abortions. — Obama opposes the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal healthcare programs from funding abortions. NARAL also opposes the Hyde Amendment. Obama’s opposition to the Hyde Amendment is one of the reasons that NARAL supports Obama’s candidacy. All abortions is no doubt wrong — even if the Hyde Amendment were repealed, it would mainly affect women receiving Medicaid, women in federal prisons, women in the military, and a few other groups of women who receive their healthcare coverage from the federal government. But since Obama, like most progressives, believes in substantially expanding the scope of federally-funded healthcare programs, and believes in repealing the Hyde Amendment, he is also committed to believing that many if not most abortions should be paid for using federal tax dollars. I oppose federal funding of abortions because I oppose all federal funding of healthcare. But I see no reason to discriminate against abortion here as opposed to all other surgical procedures: if you believe strongly in making taxpayers pay for other people’s medical care, and you believe that abortion is a legitimate form of medical care, then why the hell wouldn’t you believe in making taxpayers pay for other people’s abortions?

  2. Barack Obama would oppose laws requiring parental notification when minors get an abortion. — Of course Obama would oppose laws requiring parental notification when minors get an abortion. NARAL also opposes laws requiring parental notification when minors get an abortion. As well they should: parental notification laws, which treat young women as if their reproductive organs were the property of their parents, are tyrannical, foolish, and destructive invasions of young women’s freedom, as well as extremely dangerous for young women in abusive or unstable family situations.

  3. Barack Obama would appoint more liberal Supreme Court justices. — Of course Obama would appoint more liberal Supreme Court justices. The fact that he would appoint more liberal Supreme Court justices is a large part of the reason that NARAL supports Obama’s candidacy. And for good reason: pro-choice Supreme Court justices are much less likely to overturn Roe v. Wade.

  4. Barack Obama would work to repeal the federal ban on so-called partial-birth abortion. Obama voted against so-called partial-birth abortion bans in the state legislature in Illinois and in the federal Senate. NARAL also opposes these bans, and the fact that Obama opposes them is one of the reason that NARAL supports Obama’s candiday. And for good reason: late-term abortion procedure bans are tyrannical, foolish, and destructive invasions of women’s rights to control their own bodies, and doctor’s rights to choose the safest available procedure for a late-term abortion. The bans endanger women’s health and criminalize doctors for practicing good medicine.

There’s no Swift Boating here, because the ad consists mainly of factual statements about Barack Obama’s positions — positions which Barack Obama is, in the main, right on, and which NARAL agrees he is right on. Of all the claims made in the ad, only one part of one of the claims actually attributes a position to Barack Obama which he does not hold. Only part of one of the claims attributes any claim to Obama that NARAL does not actually support. And only one of the claims attributes any claim to Obama which he is actually wrong to hold. The ad says a bunch of things about his view which are mostly true and which he is mostly right about. His views on these topics may be controversial, but they are only controversial among people who are already anti-abortion, or who are take-one-for-the-party doughfaces and useless hand-wringers without any consistent position. They are certainly not controversial within the pro-choice movement. And what the hell is the point of an outfit like NARAL if not to publicly support and agitate for controversial positions on behalf of the pro-choice movement, rather than pretending as if it were somehow bad to have those positions attributed to you?

A little courage of our convictions, please.

The Las Vegas A-Cafe and Radical Re-Orientation at UNLV

Here’s the latest on Southern Nevada ALL and anarchist organizing in Las Vegas.

We’re starting a Las Vegas A-Cafe. (By we, I mean both Southern Nevada ALL and some other local anarchists I’ve contacted. Look out, we’re conspiring.) The Anarchist Cafe is intended as an informal gathering for anarchists (of all stripes, sects, and creeds) to meet and talk with each other–which is free-form enough to allow people just to meet up and hang out if they want to hang out, but y also where they can talk some shop, spread some news, and float some ideas for action. The idea comes from events in Califas (SoCal, NoCal). For the time being, we’re being rather literal by holding the event in an actual coffee house, because they have good meeting space, comfy chairs, and don’t expect us to do anything more for it than buy some of their drinks. Hopefully the first meeting will bring together some new faces and old. The first meeting is:

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008
6:30pm – 8:00pm
@ The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Running Rebel Plaza
4550 S. Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas, NV 89119

Bring yourself. Bring a friend. And bring anything — ideas you’ve had, projects you’re working on, literature, zines, flyers, art, whatever — that you’d like to share with some like-minded people. For myself, I’m going to try to encourage everyone to sign on for some networking projects, bring a lot of ALL literature to set out on a table, and chat people up about possible local actions and projects.

For more details, see the Vegas A-Cafe website.

In order to announce the upcoming A-Cafe, to raise awareness about the domestic and foreign and perpetrated by the State, and to reach out to incoming and returning students at UNLV, Southern Nevada ALL took its second flyering action today — the first day of classes for the upcoming semester at UNLV. We’re calling this outreach action Radical Re-Orientation. Right now, we’re limited mainly to posting flyers and distributing handbills. In the future, if we gain more of a foothold on campus, I hope that we can really trick the event out, through some strategic use of tabling, more extensive first-week events, and hopefully coordination with other groups on campus. But, in any case, for now, there is the A-Cafe, and there are the flyers and handbills. The numerical majority of the paper that we’ve been pushing has been a pair of new flyers on police brutality, a handbill on anarchy, and a flyer announcing the A-Cafe event. In addition, we also have some fresh copies of existing flyers on how we are forced to pay for war and torture through government taxation.

Flyer:
Cops are here to protect you. (#1)
Flyer:
Cops are here to protect you. (#2)
Flyer:
Taxes Pay For Torture (#1)
Flyer:
Taxes Pay For Torture (#2)
Flyer:
Taxes Pay For War (#1)
Flyer:
Taxes Pay For War (#2)
Flyer:
A-Cafe invitation
Handbills:
Vegas Anarchy / What Is Anarchy?

The handbills are designed to be printed out as a double-sided 4×4 sheet, with the logo on one side and the What Is Anarchy? text, with a link back to the A-Cafe website, on the back. We’ve dropped a few in public places, and spread the rest around under car windshield-wipers and on doorknobs; the idea is for the front to catch your eye with the logo, and the back to give some idea of what we’re all about. I hope to re-use the design with a bunch of different texts on the back; for the first one, I tried a capsule summary of what anarchism is about. Thus:

What is Anarchy?

Anarchy means lawlesness. It does not mean riot or chaos. The government schools and the corporate media have taught you to believe that Anarchy means disorder because they need you to believe that order and peace can only exist where they are imposed by government laws and enforced by government police. The elite few who pull the strings in the government and in the corporate media need you to believe that social order requires social control. After all, they intend to do the controlling. They expect you to surrender your freedom to their authority. In exchange they promise you peace, protection, security, and order. But what they deliver is fear, war, police brutality, and humiliating “security” checkpoints. Their “order” means taking orders. Their “protection” is a prison.

In Anarchy there is another way. Instead of a coercive order imposed by government, we believe in consensual order. Instead of “protection” from brutal government cops, we look to individual and neighborhood self-defense. Instead of “relief” from indifferent government welfare bureaucracies, we look to fighting unions, worker solidarity and cooperative community-based mutual aid. Instead of “order” imposed by obedience to government laws, we look to voluntary contracts and agreements between free people negotiating as equals.

We oppose all government prohibitions, government taxes, government borders, government police, and government wars, because we are for peace, freedom, and social harmony. These can only exist between people who come to agreements as equals, not between people who are forced to obey out of fear. It is government law that produces violence, riot, and disorder. Only in Anarchy can there be true order, real peace, individual freedom and social harmony.

If you are interested in learning more about these ideas, or meeting other people in Las Vegas who are working to make them a reality, check out the Vegas Anarchist Cafe at: http://vegas.anarchistcafe.org

We put up about about 150 flyers and passed out about 200 handbills today. We’ll be spreading more anarchist love in upcoming days. I’ll let y’all know how it goes in terms of attention, new contacts, and the A-Cafe. As usual, if you find any of the pictures pretty or the text useful, they’re all freely available for you to reuse and recycle as you see fit.

If you are in the Las Vegas area (or you know someone who is) and are interested in the A-Cafe or in Southern Nevada ALL, I’ll be at the A-Cafe on Wednesday, and I hope that several other ALLies will be there too. If you can’t make it to the face-to-face, by all means drop us a line. If you want to put up flyers, feel free to contact me — I can hand you off a stack of flyers to put up and give you some idea of the areas that have already been hit — or feel free to print them up yourself from the PDF and put them wherever seems best.

Onward.

What Is Anarchy?

Anarchy means lawlessness. It does not mean riot or chaos. The government schools and the corporate media have taught you to believe that Anarchy means disorder because they need you to believe that order and peace can only exist where they are imposed by government laws and enforced by government police. The elite few who pull the strings in the government and in the corporate media need you to believe that social order requires social control. After all, they intend to do the controlling. They expect you to surrender your freedom to their authority. In exchange they promise you peace, protection, security, and order. But what they deliver is fear, war, police brutality, and humiliating security checkpoints. Their order means taking orders. Their protection is a prison.

In Anarchy there is another way. Instead of a coercive order imposed by government, we believe in consensual order. Instead of protection from brutal government cops, we look to individual and neighborhood self-defense. Instead of “relief” from indifferent government welfare bureaucracies, we look to fighting unions, worker solidarity and cooperative community-based mutual aid. Instead of “order” imposed by obedience to government laws, we look to voluntary contracts and agreements between free people negotiating as equals.

We oppose all government prohibitions, government taxes, government borders, government police, and government wars, because we are for peace, freedom, and social harmony. These can only exist between people who come to agreements as equals, not between people who are forced to obey out of fear. It is government law that produces violence, riot, and disorder. Only in Anarchy can there be true order, real peace, individual freedom and social harmony.

If you are interested in learning more about these ideas, or meeting other people in Las Vegas who are working to make them a reality, check out the Vegas Anarchist Cafe at: http://vegas.anarchistcafe.org[1]

  1. [1]This is the text from a series of handbills that Southern Nevada Alliance of the Libertarian Left prepared to advertise the Vegas A-Cafe, back in 2008. I wanted a place to link just to the text, without the clutter of a bunch of now out-of-date meeting information, so I’ve made this a separate post. –CJ, Sextilis 2015.