Circus Maximus

Last year, I criticized Matt Welch’s and Nick Gillespies’s book, The Declaration of Independents, as nothing more than journalistic wishful thinking and buzztalk that was completely irrelevant to the problem of political reform. Politics is not lifestyle consumerism. Political competition is not akin to competition in consumer electronics.

Gillespie only demonstrates the critique with this lionization of Andrew Breitbart. Breitbart clearly was Gillespie’s model entrepreneur regarding the “Declaration” thesis. Writes Gillespie:

t doesn’t matter who we is, kemo sabe. It’s the conservatives at Drudge, the liberals at HuffPo, the leftists at DailyKos, the libertarians at Reason. It’s all of us and Breitbart helped create and grow a series of do-it-yourself demonstration projects through which we can all speak more loudly and more fully.

Breitbart is dead, but the conversation pits he built will live on for a long, long time. A lot of people theorize about democratizing the public square and bringing new voices and sources into conversations about politics and culture. Breitbart actually did it. It wasn’t always perfect and it wasn’t always pretty (ask Shirley Sherrod, the former Department of Agriculture official who sued him for defamation), but he blazed a path that surely leads to a far richer and more interesting mediascape than the one we all grew up with.

I don’t really know what speaking “more loudly or fully means” nor do I quite get what is meant by “democratizing the public square” with “new voices and sources into conversations about politics and culture.” My take is that if you are interested in politicians’ crotch shots or Anthony Michael Hall look-a-likes dressed up as Superfly to dupe “liberal special interest groups,” then Breitbart was indeed your guy. However, I would point to Sacha Cohen as more of pioneer in this media space–and a much more of an entertaining one at that. If, however, you are interested in such mundane matters as secret US military operations in North Africa, the Middle East, Southern and Western Asia, then I would respectfully stick with that bastion of lifestyle consumerist mediascape, al-jazeera. Unfortunately, they ain’t available on my satellite TV, yet. And don’t hold your breath…

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What Would Lysander Spooner Say?

Although I’m not a progressive, I nonetheless still generally enjoy the content published by Counterpunch. Counterpunch, after all, is in my blogroll. However, occasionally they will publish something that I find to be completely bullshit. The last time I made note of such an example involved a ridiculous screed by Pam Martens regarding the Free State project that more or less reduced to advocating police state tactics to get rid of the rift raft in her neighborhood. Now I’ve found another example with this article, Saving the Postal Service (and Union Jobs), that amounts to little more than a PSA from the Post Office.

Subtitled "What Would Ben Franklin Say," the piece is an exercise in the logical fallacy of special pleading that ostensibly makes the argument that monopoly postal rates are the price we pay for funding public union pension plans. Of course, that's not how the argument is actually presented. Instead its the typical clap trap that postal delivery is a public good and austerity measures pursued by the forces of privatization threaten not only public pensions but vital Saturday delivery for little old ladies out in the boondocks who will likely drop dead as a consequence. Besides, we are told, since 1970, the post office has not accepted a nickel of tax-payer monies. And the current postmaster Patrick Donahoe(Wilford Brimley has apparently retired) promises a new era of Gorbachev-esque market reforms for our monopoly provider.

Ordinarily, I probably would have let the article slide without comment except I was struck by the subtitled reference to Franklin, the conservative appeal to tradition–why, the horrors, the “historically significant” Ben Franklin post office on Market St is under siege–and the snide reference to Somalian anarchy. Well, that did it for me. If we are going to appeal to tradition then I would only remind our author, Jack A. Smith, that it was an American anarchist, Lysander Spooner, back in 1844, who demonstratively kicked the Post Office’s collective ass, operating his American Letter Mail Company though a maze of loopholes for 7 years until the Government finally shut it down for good. But by that time, however, Spooner’s company had managed to deliver the mail, without subsidy, for a postage rate of 3 cents. As such, Spooner is the rightful father of the 3 cent stamp. The State shut down Spooner but matched the postal rate–of course, with a tax subsidy. When the direct subsidies ended in 1970, that’s when the postal rates began their current ascent.

So, Mr. Smith, little old ladies in the boondocks would have received their medicines in the mail for 3 cents–without subsidy. Now, truth be told, the Post Office is not really that high on my shit list. Frankly, I appreciate the noise. After all, little old ladies are not the only one who get their drugs through the mail.