Libertarians Blinded to Corporate Eminent Domain Abuse?

Generally, the writers from the Ludwig von Mises Institute make good economic sense. They do until they start talking about Wal-Mart, at least. At this point, they seem to don blinders which shield them from seeing the eminent domain abuse and corporate welfare that provides Wally World with unfair economic advantages.

The latest article from the Ludwig von Mises Institute begins this way:

The attack on Wal-Mart essentially comes down this: opposition to economic progress, defined as greater availability of goods and services people want at ever lower prices that indicate an ever wiser use of resources in the service of society.

The writer could not be more wrong. This is an attack on Wal-Mart, as is this, this, this and this. In each of these cases, Wal-Mart is being challenged for sucking the public teat or acquiring property through the use of eminent domain.

If the bright and generally accurate people writing at ignored Wal-Mart’s use of tax dollars or land seizing habits once, I’d simply let the matter drop. However, they keep singing free market praises for Wal-Mart again and again — while challenging those of us who oppose local government providing Wal-Mart with tens of millions of dollars of tax abatements and outright financial gifts. I never thought I’d see the day when a libertarian institution criticized me for being in opposition to the use of eminent domain which serves some corporate interest.

Hey Lew, would you mind enlightening your colleagues about the elephant sitting in the living room?


Rats Fleeing the Sinking Ship?

Once can be a fluke. Twice may be coincidence. This looks like a trend:

Peggy Noonan: “Back to Mr. Bush in 2000. I believe it is fair to say most Republicans did not think George W. Bush was motivated to run for the presidency for the primary reason of cutting or controlling spending. But it is also fair to say that they did not think he was Lyndon B. Johnson. And that’s what he’s turned into.

Andrew Sullivan: “We have learned a tough lesson, and it has been a lot tougher for those tens of thousands of dead, innocent Iraqis and several thousand killed and injured American soldiers than for a few humiliated pundits.”

George Will: “Three years ago the administration had a theory: Democratic institutions do not just spring from a hospitable culture, they can also create such a culture. That theory has been a casualty of the war that began three years ago today.”

Chuck Hagel: “I think we have had a low-grade civil war going on in Iraq, certainly the last six months, maybe the last year. Our own generals have told me that privately.”

William F. Buckley: “One can’t doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed. . . . And the administration has, now, to cope with failure.”

Wanna see the proposed conservative solution?

Cal Thomas: “Maybe it’s time for a strong third party, or failing that, another revolution.”


Pic of the Day (or last three years, even)

People rag on me daily for my position on the U.S. military engagement in Iraq and for covering South Park related issues. Here’s (finally) absolute proof that the South Park message significantly impacts the American political scene — as well as soldiers on the firing line.

It’s also proof that the designation “South Park Republican” is absolute oxymoronic bullshit.

Props to Daniel via Xeni.


My Lai Type Massacre in Iraq?

“Fortunately, history is not made up of daily headlines, blogs on Web sites or the latest sensational attack. History is a bigger picture, and it takes some time and perspective to measure accurately.” — Donald Rumsfeld in Sunday’s WaPo

Time may have unearthed another bombshell pertaining to the Iraq war. In this exclusive article, they allege that Marines indiscriminately shot up several families in apparant retaliation for a roadside bomb fatality. From the article:

…a Marine communiqué from Camp Blue Diamond in Ramadi reported that Terrazas and 15 Iraqi civilians were killed by the blast and that “gunmen attacked the convoy with small-arms fire,” prompting the Marines to return fire, killing eight insurgents and wounding one other. […]

But the details of what happened that morning in Haditha are more disturbing, disputed and horrific than the military initially reported. According to eyewitnesses and local officials interviewed over the past 10 weeks, the civilians who died in Haditha on Nov. 19 were killed not by a roadside bomb but by the Marines themselves, who went on a rampage in the village after the attack, killing 15 unarmed Iraqis in their homes, including seven women and three children. […]

According to military officials, the inquiry acknowledged that, contrary to the military’s initial report, the 15 civilians killed on Nov. 19 died at the hands of the Marines, not the insurgents. […]

But the military’s own reconstruction of events and the accounts of town residents interviewed by TIME–including six whose family members were killed that day–paint a picture of a devastatingly violent response by a group of U.S. troops who had lost one of their own to a deadly insurgent attack and believed they were under fire. TIME obtained a videotape that purports to show the aftermath of the Marines’ assault and provides graphic documentation of its human toll. […]

When the Marines entered the house, they were shouting in English. “First, they went into my father’s room, where he was reading the Koran,” she claims, “and we heard shots.” According to Eman, the Marines then entered the living room. “I couldn’t see their faces very well–only their guns sticking into the doorway. I watched them shoot my grandfather, first in the chest and then in the head. Then they killed my granny.” She claims the troops started firing toward the corner of the room where she and her younger brother Abdul Rahman, 8, were hiding; the other adults shielded the children from the bullets but died in the process. Eman says her leg was hit by a piece of metal and Abdul Rahman was shot near his shoulder. “We were lying there, bleeding, and it hurt so much. Afterward, some Iraqi soldiers came. They carried us in their arms. I was crying, shouting ‘Why did you do this to our family?’ And one Iraqi soldier tells me, ‘We didn’t do it. The Americans did.'” […]

According to military officials, the Marines say they then started taking fire from the direction of a second house, prompting them to break down the door of that house and throw in a grenade, blowing up a propane tank in the kitchen. The Marines then began firing, killing eight residents–including the owner, his wife, the owner’s sister, a 2-year-old son and three young daughters. […]

The Marines raided a third house, which belongs to a man named Ahmed Ayed. One of Ahmed’s five sons, Yousif, who lived in a house next door, told TIME that after hearing a prolonged burst of gunfire from his father’s house, he rushed over. Iraqi soldiers keeping watch in the garden prevented him from going in. “They told me, ‘There’s nothing you can do. Don’t come closer, or the Americans will kill you too.’ The Americans didn’t let anybody into the house until 6:30 the next morning.” Ayed says that by then the bodies were gone; all the dead had been zipped into U.S. body bags and taken by Marines to a local hospital morgue. “But we could tell from the blood tracks across the floor what happened,” Ayed claims. “The Americans gathered my four brothers and took them inside my father’s bedroom, to a closet. They killed them inside the closet.”

Time provides that the military version of events is not the same as what I just posted. This said, the military has not told a consistent story and seems to be trying to cover up. I provided what I’d guess to be the more likely of the two scenarios. I’d also like to view the video mentioned in the article, but haven’t found it on the Internet, yet.

Back to Rummy. We’ve had time to look at the historical picture of the My Lai massacre and almost universally condemn what happened there. If this story from Iraq ends up being truthful, the only positive thing about it is that it may help strengthen U.S. resolve to withdraw from Iraq immediately.


Pax Americana Applies to Both Wars

First of all, the Marc Emery story just hit WaPo:

Then came the DEA.

Emery figured something was up when a strange young woman pestered him to buy 10 pounds of pot. He refused. She bought some seeds at his store, asked for tips about how to hide them to go to the States, and left.

Eight days later, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents and Vancouver police tromped into his store, ordered the customers out, taped paper over the windows and began hauling out computers and files. Emery, on the other side of Canada to speak near Halifax at the Atlantic Hemp Festival, was grabbed by six plainclothes policemen as he left a restaurant.

Emery is “one of the attorney general’s most wanted international drug trafficking targets,” the DEA in Washington crowed on July 29, 2005, announcing an extradition request for Emery and two employees. Emery’s bust, the DEA said, was “a significant blow not only to the marijuana trafficking trade but also to the marijuana legalization movement.”

And he thought trying to change the law was legal, Emery muses.

So did lots of other Canadians, it turned out. Emery’s arrest for extradition on U.S. “drug kingpin” charges, carrying a minimum sentence of 10 years to life in prison, outraged many in Canada. They resented the long reach of America’s law and what they saw as the United States’ fevered preoccupation with pot.

“They need to leave our country alone,” complained a letter to the editor in the London (Ontario) Free Press. “If we wanted to prosecute Emery we would, but it is not worth our time and money.”

“Marc’s business was known to police and every level of government,” intoned a columnist in the Vancouver Province. To arrest him now “is petty and dishonest.”

Additionally, Steve Kubby is back in jail — this time for going to Canada to try to stay alive. In both cases, Canada is tested with having the cajones to be a sovereign county. In Kubby’s case, they already failed. With Emery, the verdict is still out — but not hopeful at this moment.

The obvious question is whether domestic U.S. law should dictate the actions of those who live abroad. According to INS, the answer is “yes”. Check out this story from the Philippines:

Many Filipinos consulted with me regarding the same problem: their visa was denied by the US Embassy because they admitted to the doctors at St. Luke’s that they had, years ago, smoked marijuana or used some other drug. At their visa interview, they are shocked to find that their visa is being refused, with the annotation “you have admitted to committing acts which constitute a controlled substance violation – no waiver.”

In one case, a 29-year-old nurse had been recruited for a job in a US hospital. During visa processing, she was asked a very routine question: “Have you smoked marijuana or taken any controlled substance?” The nurse said that she had “tasted” marijuana once during a party when she was 18 years old. It was just a harmless “try”, done out of curiosity. Her visa was denied, and she was banned for life.

Another person was a middle-aged man, said he tried marijuana two or three times when he was a teenager. His visa application was likewise denied. This man, who was petitioned by his US citizen parents, had waited for more than 10 years for his priority date to be current. But now he was being told he would never go to the US.

None of these people had ever been charged with, or convicted of, any drug-related crime. They merely admitted that they tried or tasted marijuana or other drug during their younger days.

While we’re doing what we can on this side, Pax Americana will continue to be the order of the day until enough of you tell our leaders just where to shove it.



Something Rotten in South Park?

Note: this article contains dead links, the url is still in the hover/alt text. Keep the web working, curate content well!

Yesterday, I ran an update on South Park, Tom Cruise and Scientology. In it I mentioned that Isaac Hayes, who provided the voice for Chef, had been reported to have left the program because creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone had poked a bit too much fun at Scientology. According to reports all over the MSM and the ‘net, Hayes is alleged to have said:

“There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins”

I awakened to an article at Fox News that stated that Hayes could not have possibly made that statement. From the mysterious Fox report:

Isaac Hayes did not quit “South Park.” My sources say that someone quit it for him.

I can tell you that Hayes is in no position to have quit anything. Contrary to news reports, the great writer, singer and musician suffered a stroke on Jan. 17. At the time it was said that he was hospitalized and suffering from exhaustion.

Considering my general lack of trust of Fox News and the mystery source involved, I decided to wait a bit and see if additional confirmations of this report surfaced, but they didn’t. After seeing Nick Gillespie run the story, I decided to do likewise. Because my gut tells me that Hayes has been such a vital organ (or at least a reproductive one) of the program for years, this seems a bit out of character.

Now comes this whammy from the Boston Herald:

The 10th season of Comedy Central’s highest-rated series premieres tomorrow night with, of all things, “The Return of Chef.”

Despite the fact that Isaac Hayes quit the show last week, his character takes center stage exhibiting “strange behavior” that prompts Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny to save Chef from causing more damage to South Park.

Who replaces Hayes’ voice? And what happens to the veteran character?

“Tune in Wednesday,” said Comedy Central spokesman Steve Albani. “We’re purposely keeping this a little mysterious.”

While it’s possible that a succubus drained the life from Chef, it’s considerably more likely that Hayes did indeed suffer a stroke and then got Sarah Brady-ed by a brainwashed friend or family member. We may get some clues on the program when it airs tomorrow.

Let’s just hope they don’t turn Chef into an overweight white woman with lunch-room-lady facial hair. After all, that’s what they did to Jim Brady.

UPDATE: Another clue in da big mystery.

Update by Stephen VanDyke: Boing Boing is tracking the story as well.


Baring Boobs For Votes?

Not really.

I know the candidate well and she has worn lower cut tops for years. The fact that she’s healthfully endowed sent one key state political columnist into a fit of apoplexy, though. For an interesting take on a colorful LP candidate, check out this story at DailyKos. Here’s the Reader’s Digest version:

Alabama columnist Bob Ingram recently mentioned third party gubernatorial candidate Loretta Nall. […]

Apart from the tax credits for home schoolers, Loretta Nall’s platform is as far from “traditional Alabama values” as you can get. “Traditional Alabama values” are wrapped up by former Chief Justice Roy Moore, the Ten Commandments Judge. Yeah, Nall is running against him. […]

So Ingram opens this paper to read his own column and is appalled by the photo showing Nall in possession of what can best be called “breasts.” Ingram fired back in his next column:

“In 55 years of political writing, that was a first for me—a picture in my column of a woman displaying cleavage. I can only hope that my mother…and I know for a fact where she ended in the after life…didn’t see that column. She wouldn’t have approved of that picture.”

So while Ingram is certain of where his mom went after she died, Nall says she is certain that before she died, Ingram’s mom had cleavage. Anyhoo, Nall had a field day with this whole thing in her blog, “US Marijuana Party.”

She sent a letter to Ingram and his editor (the one who picked that lovely photo). You can read the entire letter here, well worth it:

“Now that you and the rest of Alabama have been introduced to the twins perhaps you would like to meet the rest of me. I’ll don my burka so y’all won’t be offended and then perhaps we can discuss the other planks in my platform since you only covered one.”

I love this gal. She’s one of us. Definitely.

And before you think that Loretta is simply a southern version of Mary Carey, she isn’t. I’m really impressed how she handled this columnist. She got him on the phone, explained her platform, got him to agree that she is more than a one-issue candidate and that he would contact her directly if he ever wrote about her again.

Keep in mind, this is the same Loretta Nall who was kicked out of prison for not wearing panties. If you never caught that story, it’s a must read. I’ll simply recommend that those of you with weak bladders go to the bathroom first — or you might pee your pants from laughing so hard.

UPDATE: Hit and Run’s covering this one, too.


Visiting Prentiss, Mississippi: More on Cory Maye

Radley Balko is touring Prentiss, Mississippi doing some research on the Cory Maye case. He’s writing up some interesting observations, too.

Here’s his interview with one of the jurors who convicted Maye of capital murder:

First, the woman lived in a trailer that, even in the context of the shabby surroundings, was in bad shape. She looked to be in her late thirties, early forties, and was missing her front teeth — both top and bottom. She also wasn’t all that interested in talking to me.

“I don’t want to talk about that. I’m trying my best to put that out of my mind.”

“Just a few minutes?”

“I don’t want to talk about it. I want to forget about it.”

“Do you think he did it? Do you think he knew it was a cop he shot that night?”

“I couldn’t say. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. I couldn’t say.”

“You don’t know if he was guilty or not?”

“Some of what he said didn’t make no sense. Some of it made sense. But I couldn’t say.”

“If you weren’t sure, why did you convict him?”

“I couldn’t say.”

“Did you feel any pressure? Were you intimidated?”


“Are you sure? There’s some talk that some of the jurors felt intimidated.”

“No. It wasn’t like that.”

“So you can’t tell me if you think he actually did it or not?”

“I couldn’t say.”

“Do you think he deserves a new trial?”

“Oh, yes. He ought to get a new trial. Everybody deserves a chance.”

“Is there anything else you want to tell me about Cory Maye and the trial?”

“I don’t remember a lot of it. I was on lots of medication. For my nerves. With the medication, I didn’t hear everything. I didn’t remember everything that was going on. So I couldn’t say.”

“What kind of medication?”

“For my nerves.”

“What did you think of Cory’s lawyer?”

“I didn’t like her. I liked her at first, but then she did some things that made me not like her. A lot of people didn’t like her.”

“What kind of things did she do?”

“I couldn’t say, now. I don’t remember. It was a long time ago.”

“Did you convict Cory Mayebecause you didn’t like her?”

“Maybe a little. I couldn’t say. I’m really not sure if he did it or not.”

This poor woman clearly wasn’t clear on the meaning of “reasonable doubt.” She’s also a good example of something I’ll write about in more detail later — a certain sense of reservation among blacks in this area that racism, injustice, and the occasional railroading at the hands of the criminal justice system are all just part life as a black person in this particular part of Mississippi. It’s not only accepted, it’s expected.

If it hadn’t happened in the deep south, I’d call the following bizarre. Here’s an update on some of the witnesses:

One of the more bizarre aspects of the Cory Maye case is exactly what happened to the occupants on the other side of the duplex, Jamie Smith and his girlfriend, Audrey Davis.

Smith was the entire reason the raid took place that night. He’s the only one named in the warrants, had a reputation around Jefferson Davis County as a drug dealer, and indeed had a significant amount of marijuana in his home the night of the raid. So why was he never charged or prosecuted? Why does no one in Prentiss seem to know what happened to him?

I talked to one woman in Prentiss who knew both Smith and Cory Maye before the raid (it’s actually something of a coincidence, given that there’s little evidence that Maye and Smith knew one another all that well). This woman, who fears repercussions from the police department and asked that I not use her name, says that Smith, Davis, and a 15-year-old named “Jimmy” were actually told to leave town by Prentiss police, precisely because of what they saw the night of the raid. In media reports and interviews with me, Prentiss police and prosecutors say only that Smith “skipped bail,” was “never charged,” or that they simply don’t know what happened to him.

The woman I spoke with wasn’t sure if Smith, Davis, or the boy heard (or, more importantly, didn’t hear) police announce themselves before entering), but she says they did see raiding officers giving a Maye a severe beating after Officer Jones went down. That would explain why Maye was rushed off to a jail in Hattiesburg, some 45 miles away from Prentiss. It would also explain why Maye’s mother, Dorothy Funchess, was denied access to her son for two weeks after the raid. In fact, she was only given access after contacting the mayor of Hattiesburg (who happens to be black). At trial, officers roundly denied beating Maye after the raid, despite some photographic evidence to the contrary. […]

Smith and Davis could shed some light on all of this. But not only do Prentiss officials not know where the couple is, they don’t seem all that interested in finding them. Wonder why that is?

Anyone still wonder why movies like “In the Heat of the Night” were set in Mississippi?

The photograph is the back door of Maye’s residence, which was kicked in by the police. It was (presumably) taken by Radley Balko, and other related photographs may be found on his website.


Sex, Freedom, and Raising Children

Dallas is being hammered with severe weather and my roof has sprung a leak. Right now, the Shinghal family can’t deal with anything heavier than the buckets of water collecting in my bedroom and Yahoo’s Odd News brought a much needed laugh. It also gave me something to think about.

I always knew that Europeans view sex differently than most Americans. In some European countries, soft porn is available on local networks. We hear about the acceptance of extra-marital affairs. But a 70 year old woman getting busted by police trying to have sex in a moving car? Wow! That’s some funny stuff. Italian policed noticed that a car was driving a bit erratically and pulled it over. They found Granny completely nude attempting to have sex with the driver who is just a bit younger. Police made them dress and then tested for drunk driving.

He was three times over the legal (blood-alcohol) limit,” said police commander Angelo D’Anardo in the city of Cologno al Serio, northeast of Milan. We assume they must have been drinking at lunch and then things got out of control.

When asked if the couple were married, the police commander stated that he did not think so-

Married people wouldn’t probably do anything like this.

Reading the next item, I found that Bulgarian media is going nuts over a 3 year old girl and a reality show.

Media were initially delighted to find the cast of moderately famous Bulgarians on “VIP Brother” included self-described “sex hedonists,” an ex-Playboy playmate, and former Miss Bulgaria Violeta Zdravkova.

Until, that is, they found out that the beauty queen had her daughter living there too. A letter sent to the TV station said:

We are extremely worried at the presence in the house of a three-year-old, who has become an unwitting witness of indecent acts.

The station refused to kick the woman off the show. The reason?

Only her mother can decide whether she should keep her daughter in the house,” said the station’s public relations officer Galina Dzhoreva.

A network refusing to bow down to a vocal group of moral busybodies? Some of our own networks should take a lesson. They did not pull the show or kick out the beauty queen. They publicly stated that it the job of parents to determine what is right for their families. How refreshing.

They did not describe the “indecent acts” this child may have witnessed, but as a child, I walked in on my parents having a fun night. As an adult, I went to Mom’s and walked in on her and her husband. Is it gross? Yes. Abuse? No. In the U.S. that child would probably be in the care of social services now.

I am not saying that I find the situation of this child appropriate- I would never allow my children on reality TV.


SpaceShipTwelve, Government Zero!

“When a place gets crowded enough to require ID’s, social collapse is not far away. It is time to go elsewhere. The best thing about space travel is that it made it possible to go elsewhere.” –Robert A. Heinlein

The free market race for space is heating up. People being able to explore “the final frontier” on private spacecraft is clearly the most encouraging development for those in the freedom movement who have a sense of imagination. While SpaceShipOne was certainly exciting, the better news is now they have a lot of competition. From the AP:

Two years after the first privately financed space flight jump-started a sleepy industry, more than a dozen companies are developing rocket planes to ferry ordinary rich people out of the atmosphere.

Several private companies will begin building their prototype vehicles this summer with plans to test fly them as early as next year. If all goes well, the first tourist could hitch a galactic joy ride late next year or 2008 – pending approval by federal regulators.

Unlike the Cold War space race between the United States and Soviet Union that sent satellites into orbit and astronauts to the moon, this competition is bankrolled by entrepreneurs whose competition could one day make a blast into space cheap enough for the average Joe.

“This time, it’s personal. This space race is about getting ‘us’ into space,” said space historian Andrew Chaikin.

Of course it’s expensive — at the moment. Right now, we’re developing aerospace equivalents of the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, Porsche Carrera GT, Rolls-Royce Phantom, Lamborghini Murciélago, Aston Martin Vanquish and the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti. From this technology I’d expect to see the Fords and Chevys, as well as the Saturns, Hondas, Hyundais and Kias, rolling off assembly lines as the technological kinks get worked out followed by streamlining the manufacturing process. One additional advantage of the aerospace industry is they can supersize those cost-effective subcompacts to DC-10 or 747 size (or larger) vehicles.

Unfortunately, the government’s still in the mix:

Before tourists can lift off, several federal hurdles must be cleared. Federal regulations that will govern human space travel and spell out safety and training requirements are expected to be wrapped up this summer.

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta last month told a gathering of space entrepreneurs that the government would move swiftly to grant space travel licenses to companies that can prove they can operate safely.

That’s good news for people like Chaikin, the space historian.

“I’ve been hoping and dreaming all my life to go into space. Now I actually have a shot of doing it.”

We won’t be truly free until we have privately funded totally space-based operations located out of the reach of every terrestrial government. It’s truly a shame that Heinlein didn’t live long enough to see this day, but many of us may see the day when his dreams begin to become a reality.


The Badnarik Saga Continues

Note: this article contains dead links, the url is still in the hover/alt text. Keep the web working, curate content well!

In response to requests for information about Badnarik campaign fundraising, campaign manager Allen Hacker responded over at Blognarik:

First you dig a really deep hole…

…all the way to bedrock. Then you dig some more, and finally, you start your foundation. Note that you had to do a lot of work before you could even start proactively building something.

We’ve built a solid base. We’ve raised more than and spent less than $150K, and we’re ready to cement the foundation. That will happen the 25th when we win the District 10 nomination and can finally start to do the things a formal candidate does. That’s right, In Texas you can’t act like a candidate for office until you are one. We’ve only been a candidate for nomination through now, so we’ve been limited.

Yes, we do intend to raise substantially more than a million, and win this race. We’ve spent so far only about a tenth of that, maybe less. Sure, this takes faith and imagination. We have it, we hope you do too.

What does that foundation look like so far?

Six people working full-time backed up by 5 behind-the-scenes researchers. A fully-equipped office serving as a base from which we swarm out several times a day and talk to people, grab something to eat and keep on going. A mountain of data against which the opposition won’t be able to stand.

FEC reports don’t include “the human side”. All the fiscal analysis in the world won’t tell you how many hours are spent out in the precincts.

We did a listening tour in February. Can’t see all those hours in the FEC report. Starting Monday, and bolstered by radio ads, we’ll do the Feedback Tour. We’ll be out there touching and lighting fires for 4 solid days. Of course, you won’t see those hours or their results in the next report, either.

So please, my friends, let’s not let some nasty innuendo from inexperienced young people who don’t have any business experience mislead you into their thinking that we must do this from a revival tent eating hamburger-helper. They have no idea what it takes, and that’s just the limitation of youth.

They’re not bad guys by nature, but the destructiveness of what they do when they go off half-cocked is real just the same.

And please, let’s be fair both ways. Don’t just lecture me on manners without holding those guys to the same standard. They want to claim they’re doing analysis? Make them do a complete job. They want to say they’re just asking questions? Jump on them for us when they write snide remarks, innuendo and outright accusations instead. Then I won’t have to! (Thanks!)

And don’t let yourselves get jarred into letting them transfer old accusations from one group to another. That’s not analysis at all, that’s just mindless reactivity.

We all need to do better than that. I’m working on it. I hope you are too.

I like the skyscraper analogy, and find his stated defense very reasonable — for the most part. I think Hacker should lighten up a bit on younger supporters, as they provided most of the activism which helped Michael win the LP presidential nomination in the first place, as well as keeping the enthusiasm going throughout the presidential elections. It takes both money and activists to win, and I’d be using a bit less of a top-down approach than Hacker. But as I’ve said before, he’s the man on the ground and I’m several states to the east of them.


V for Vendetta

There are few movies that get me excited enough to tell others about. The last one to fit into this category was Aaron Russo’s documentary “America: From Freedom to Fascim“. Well, it has been trumped. “V for Vendetta” is a libertarian masterpiece, to say the least. As Butler Shaffer puts it:

My wife and I just got back from watching “V for Vendetta.” WOW!! Not only is this the greatest anti-state movie I have ever seen – nothing else comes close in my mind – but one of the best films (regardless of content) I have seen. The acting is superb (especially that of the heroine); the production, script, and direction are marvelous. Even if this film had been about anti-vivisectionism it would be a great film.

This film far, far exceeded my expectations. It explores the dynamics of tyranny; how we are ruled by our own fears; and, . . . well, go see it for yourselves!

I couldn’t have said it any better. This movie is a must see.

UPDATE: You know it has got to be a good movie when the religious wackos are labeling it:

a vile, pro-terrorist piece of neo-Marxist, left-wing propaganda filled with radical sexual politics and nasty attacks on religion and Christianity.

UPDATE 2: Butler Shaffer has a more thorough review of the movie here.


Tom Cruise and the Church of Scientology Really Going off the Deep End

South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone not only push the limits, but they may now wax prophetic. From the concluding scene of “Trapped in the Closet”:

Tom Cruise: You made me look stupid. I’m gonna sue you, too.

Stan: Well, fine. Go ahead and sue me.

Cruise: I will. I’ll sue you in England.

President of Scientology: You are so sued, kid.

Stan: Well go on then, sue me.

President of Scientology: Were going too!

Stan: Okay! Good. Do it. I’m not scared of you. Sue me!

To my knowledge, no papers have (yet) been filed, despite Tom Cruise’s proclivity to challenge people who suggest that he’s a bit light in the loafers (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

It all started earlier this week when Issac Hayes (a Scientologist who provides the voice for the character Chef) is reported to have lost his chocolate salty balls by quitting the program:

“There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins,” the 63-year-old soul singer and outspoken Scientologist said.

Keep in mind that this comes from a man who not only insists that others suck his balls but who also has participated in a television program which had the Virgin Mary bleeding out her ass. It seems Matt Stone agrees:

Stone said: “In 10 years and over 150 episodes of South Park, Isaac never had a problem with the show making fun of Christians, Muslim, Mormons or Jews.

“He got a sudden case of religious sensitivity when it was his religion featured on the show.”

Now Andrew Sullivan is reporting that Cruise declared war on South Park and may be the force behind the pressure applied to Viacom to pull the re-run of the “Trapped in the Closet” episode. Cruise denies these allegations.

I’m of the (uninformed) opinion that the pressure more likely came directly from Church of Scientology, who were challeneged with this line from the show:

Stan: I’m not the reincarnation of L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology is just a big fat global scam.

Comedy Central already has a track record of complying with extortion demands over religious issues, so this would be the obvious line of attack for Scientologists. Here’s John Henke’s take:

…and the well-known tendency of Scientology to file nuisance lawsuits to quash criticism – i.e., barratry. (“the purpose of the suit is to harass and discourage rather than to win” L. Ron Hubbard) Indeed, and in the interests of full disclosure, my own father’s ministry has been sued by the “Church” of Scientology and even given “a detailed description making it appear that Scientologists or agents of the church may have gained access to Watchman Fellowship’s Texas office without our knowledge.

Parker and Stone rarely leave any stone unturned, but they seem to have forgotten one.

Stan’s dad: “Wasn’t L. Ron Hubbard a science fiction writer?”

Head of Scientology: “Yes, but he was also a prophet who know the secret truth about the nature of life.”

Everyone knows that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is the One who knows the secret truth about the nature of life, but the creators of South Park seem reluctant to take on this diety.

Is South Park offensive? Hell, yes — that’s the intent. It’s also provocative and satirical and protected speech under the First Amendment. Comedy Central has the right to pull their programs from their line up — but as we’ve suggested before, you also have the right to voice your displeasure with their decision.

Perhaps Al Barger summarized the entire South Park phenonomon best:

South Park has gotten to be very good at stealthily committing acts of education against their unsuspecting audiences. They come looking for good old fashion poo and gay jokes, and get slipped significant factual educational information when they’re not looking.

It’s pathetic that a cartoon does a better job at political education than the main stream media, our elected politicians or the Republicans and Democrats. Let’s continue to support Parker and Stone.

If you missed the episode, download it here to form your own opinion. I thought it was funny as hell.


Arrested For Public Intoxication – Inside a Bar?

Irving, TX police partnered recently with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) in an attempt to reduce drunken driving. Did they pull people over leaving the bar? No. They partied with them in clubs and after doling out field sobriety tests (in the club); they made arrests (in the club). reports:

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has taken its fight against drunken driving to a new level. TABC agents, along with Irving police, targeted 36 bars and clubs Friday, arresting some allegedly intoxicated patrons before they departed the businesses.

Has something changed recently that made a private business public domain? I looked up the penal code for public intoxication and found that public is defined as:

(40) “Public place” means any place to which the public or a substantial group of the public has access and includes, but is not limited to, streets, highways, and the common areas of schools, hospitals, apartment houses, office buildings, transport facilities, and shops.

One definition of public intoxication is: A person commits the crime of public intoxication if he appears in a public place under the influence of alcohol, narcotics or other drug to the degree that he endangers himself or another person or property, or by boisterous and offensive conduct annoys another person in his vicinity.

The details of the arrests are not public at this moment, but experience tells me that clubs have bouncers to handle bad drunks. Experience tells me that some people drink a little more because they have a friend driving. The legal intoxication limit in the state of Texas is .08. That is slightly more than one drink an hour for my body type. Makes you wonder if they are trying to bring back alcohol prohibition.

I am late for a dinner reservation and I do not think that I will be drinking soda with my steak. If you guys don’t hear from me, call the Dallas area jails. I may have been arrested for PI in a private business.


Defending Badnarik/Hacker and Cassidy/Richards at the same time

Third Party Watch’s Austin Cassidy and HoT’s Stuart Richards have taken the Badnarik for Congress campaign to task for their campaign spending practices. The key complaints seem to revolve around office and staff expenditures.

To begin, Cassidy and Richards have been criticized for broaching the topic or covering it without enough investigation. The issue is clearly a fair one, as inappropriate campaign spending has been a key issue of several high profile Libertarian campaigns in the past. The two Harry Browne campaigns certainly serve as examples. Other related issues include the ongoing debate over decentralization of the Libertarian Party in D.C. and the cost of rent for their offices at the Watergate. Two of the four candidates for LP national chair have spoken strongly in favor of moving LP headquarters from the Watergate. This is a fair and reasonable issue for debate among libertarians.

If there is controversy within the LP or the libertarian movement, I’m in favor of opening the debate and the lines of communication between the various parties involved. Cassidy and Richards had some reason for concern, and Stephen VanDyke handled it appropriately with his open letter to Allen Hacker.

This said, now I’ll render my opinion on the general topic at hand. see more…


NY Times Blows It Again

From their editorial page:

For all the avowals to put the brakes on ethical lapses, the House is showing its true colors with an attempt to turn the Internet into a free-flowing big-money trough for uncontrolled political spending. The measure would exempt political ads on the Internet from a reform law barring corporate and union donors from buying up grateful candidates with six- and seven-figure contributions.

Politicians who chafe under the law’s “soft money” ban would be free to run unlimited ads online, empowered by private donors who would not even be required to file campaign records.

From the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Here’s an act of civil disobedience all of us can practice next election cycle: Let’s exercise our free speech rights by “petitioning the the government for a redress of grievances” by purchasing as many blogads as we can in support of our favorite Libertarian candidates.


New National Polling Data on Marijuana

The good news is that almost half of America now supports the Tenth Amendment with respect to federal decriminalization of marijuana combined with letting states regulate and tax the controversial herb. NORML reports:

Nearly one out of two Americans support amending federal law “to let states legally regulate and tax marijuana the way they do liquor and gambling,” according to a national poll of 1,004 likely voters by Zogby International and commissioned by the NORML Foundation.

Forty-six percent of respondents — including a majority of those polled on the east (53 percent) and west (55 percent) coasts — say they support allowing states to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.

As a pollster who follows marijuana reform issues, I find the demographics interesting:

Respondents’ support for marijuana law reform was strongly influenced by age and political affiliation. Nearly two-thirds of 18-29 year-olds (65 percent) and half of 50-64 year-olds think federal law should be amended to allow states the option to regulate marijuana, while majorities of 30-49 year-olds (58 percent) and seniors 65 and older (52 percent) oppose such a change.

Among those respondents who identified themselves as Democrats, 59 percent back taxing and regulating marijuana compared to only 33 percent of Republicans.

I understand the positive responses from the 18-29 year-olds, but was pleasantly surprised by the 50-64 year-old respondents. Anecdotally, it’s members of this latter group that have most often been the opposition on marijuana-related initiatives and legislation I’ve worked. I was also a bit surprised that a majority of people in my age group (30-49) were in opposition. As many in this class are parents, it’s a bit understandable, though. It’s just a shame they don’t realize that their children are the ones being hurt the most by our current radical and extreme drug policy.

Other data provide (emphasis added):

Forty-four percent of Independents and 85 percent of Libertarians say they supported the law change.

I’m concerned about the 15% of libertarians who didn’t support it. These are likely to be the types who won’t support incremental change of any sort. A related example of libertarian all-or-nothingism exists on a medical marijuana online poll I ran in Alabama. At present, 38% oppose a state medical marijuana bill when I include this option:

No, the government should have no control over what substance someone takes

I’m pretty embarrassed about the 15%/38% of sampled libertarians who refuse to accept incremental reform measures.


Bush: We Don’t Need No Libertarians ‘Round Here

The other day, I noted that Patricia “Lynn” Scarlett, the interim head of the Department of the Interior, was not only in favor of ending the war on drugs, but probably very libertarian — as evidenced by her stint as president of the Reason Foundation. My prediction that Bush would not keep her on came true (and pretty quickly, too). From M&C:

President George W. Bush named Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne to succeed Gale Norton as secretary of the interior Thursday.

In a brief White House appearance with the nominee, the president said Kempthorne would build on environmental progress made by Norton.

Somehow, this came as no big surprise to me.


Fed Raises Debt Ceiling to $9 Trillion

Bennett cartoonA mere month and a half after realizing that the federal bank account was going to start sending out rubber checks, the Senate has stepped in and narrowly (52-48) passed a bill raising the borrowing limit (every man, woman and child alive now owes a mere $30,000 apiece). From the Associated Press:

The Senate voted Thursday to allow the national debt to swell to nearly $9 trillion, preventing a first-ever default on U.S. Treasury notes.

The vote came a day after Treasury Secretary John Snow warned lawmakers that action was “critical to provide certainty to financial markets that the integrity of the obligations of the United States will not be compromised.”

The debt limit increase is an unhappy necessity _ the alternative would be a disastrous first-ever default on U.S. obligations _ that greatly overshadowed a mostly symbolic, weeklong debate on the GOP’s budget resolution.

Not surprisingly, the Senate was mostly empty during debate, as Democrats were only interested in gleefully bashing the fiscal irresponsibility (“When it comes to deficits, this president owns all the records,” Harry Reid) without offering a fiscally conservative alternative of their own making. And Republicans simply just don’t give a crap.

But anyways, $30,000… better take out a loan.


Badnarik Wasting Libertarian Money?

Note: this article contains dead links, the url is still in the hover/alt text. Keep the web working, curate content well!

Austin Cassidy over at Third Party Watch did a little investigative reporting on the Badnarik campaign. First, he took notice of something rather encouraging for a libertarian campaign: he raised buckets of money. $125,000. Going on that alone, there is absolutely no reason that Badnarik’s campaign isn’t a winnable one.

However, it looks like the majority of that has been spent on dinners out, cruise tickets, and other crap. Almost none of it’s going towards actual advertising or outreach. I’ll just blockquote Cassidy here:

The campaign spends about $2,400 a month on renting an office and quite a bit on consulting and staff. Those seem to be the main expenses; lots and lots of consulting.

There were several hundred dollars worth of car rental charges, several hundred dollars worth of meals at local restaurants, and some other office-related expenses like phone phone and internet access.

They also appear to have ordered 100 T-shirts and purchased an ad in at least one local newspaper. Also an ad in LP News.

Quite a bit of travel for Badnarik and his staff, most of it to and from locations outside his district: Las Vegas, Phoenix, and California. About $1,100 or so went to Royal Caribbean International, presumably for Badnarik to attend the California State LP Convention which was held on a cruise ship.

Amusingly, the candidate himself seems to have paid $4.95 on February 25th for the cost of 2 ginger ales from Royal Caribbean. The item is recorded as “Campaign Event: 2 Ginger Ale: “Michael”.

The folks working on this campaign seem to be expensing quite a few meals out at restaurants. Outback Steakhouse, Luby’s, Marie Callendar’s, and on and on. There must be a couple dozen meals on here. Since last July they’ve spent more eating out at restaurants than most any other Libertarian Congressional campaign will raise or spend at all this year.

Other items include a little less than $1,000 for an Acer notebook computer and $415 for a fridge for the office.

All in all, it looks like pretty normal spending for a major party candidate in a race he’s expected to win. However, I’m not really sure if this campaign qualifies as being in that situation.

Our Presidential candidate is a celebrity of sorts in Libertarian circles, and if there’s ever a real reason to run a candidate for that, this seems to be that reason: we have a good shot at plunking him in the Senate or the House afterwards, since his fundraising capabilities are on par with the majors. But we need people that will use our money responsibly, not squander it.

Update by Stephen VanDyke: Ok everyone, take a deep breath and lay off the hyperbole for a minute lest we end up with petty name-calling and shooting Badnarik’s campaign down in a hail of friendly fire. I know our mantra here at Hammer of Truth is to take our own party to task from time to time so I’ve followed up via an open letter to campaign manager Allen Hacker to get his side of the story on why $130K+ has been spent so quickly. I know some of you might have a personal axe to grind here but it’s only fair that we hear Hacker out.


Hot Commenter Trashed in the Dallas Morning News

Frequent HoT commenter (and high school student) Nigel Watt recently had an LTE published (registration required) in the Dallas Morning News about the drug war:

If drugs were just legal

There’s an easy solution to the violence on both sides of the river caused by the Zetas and other drug cartels, a solution that would also save hundreds of millions, if not billions, of taxpayer dollars: legalize drugs.

A little thought and common sense is all it takes to realize that drugs only lead to violence because of their illegality: There are no Colombian coffee cartels or Chilean copper cartels, because cartels are not a viable business model for trading a legal product.

Nigel Watt, president, Highland Park High School Libertarians, Dallas

The response:

Legal drugs? Nonsense

Re: “If drugs were just legal,” by Nigel Watt, Saturday Letters.

This laughable letter makes the simplistic argument that since drug violence is caused by drugs’ illegality, if we would use a little thought and common sense, we would legalize all of them and therefore rid ourselves of the violence and millions of tax dollars spent curtailing drug-related crime and its related issues.

What about the health care burdens of rampant drug use? What about the effects on families and teens who are already more susceptible to trying new things? Overdoses? Car wrecks, shootings and assaults caused by people who were high?

It’s not too difficult to foresee the potentially disastrous effects of legalizing drugs. It just takes a little thought and common sense.

Jared Ambra, Cedar Hill

Mr. Ambra, I’ve got a few questions for you. Why not outlaw alcohol, as the healthcare costs associated with that substance are considerably higher than that of other controlled substances? While we’re at it, we should outlaw prescription pain medications, as they “cause” the same problems. Let’s see, overuse of antibiotics leads to new strains of micro-organisms with resistance to the medications — let’s outlaw antibiotics, too. Perhaps we should also look at Big Macs and pizza, as America’s eating habits certainly contribute to our overall healthcare costs.

If you are concerned about the susceptibility to “trying new things”, we should clearly outlaw teen-aged drivers. We should also outlaw dating, by your standards. Better outlaw all sex, if this line of reasoning is to be applied. This would have to include a complete masturbation prohibition, as it is the obvious “gateway drug” to more dangerous sexual relationships.

Wanna stop car wrecks? Outlaw cars. People will still break legs falling off horses, so we better outlaw them, too. Let’s outlaw guns — that will stop the shootings. Just look at the crime rate in DC for evidence. Let’s outlaw assaults, too. I forgot, with the exception of certain police departments, assault is already illegal.

Bad things happen, no matter how the law reads. There have always been, and always will be, addicts. The same applies to those who commit assault and murder. The solution is obvious: End the prohibition and re-establish a society where people are responsible for their own actions.

Alternately, we could return to the relative safety of the dark ages, where life was hard and cruel and the average life span was in the low 30s. The ultimate irony is if we lived as they did during the dark ages, there’d likely be no prohibition of drugs.


Non-Partisan Anti-War Voting Group to Form

A new non-partisan group of voters who are opposed to the war in Iraq is scheduled to form tomorrow in DC. From their press release:

— Anti-War Movement to Offer Voters a Pledge

— New group to launch Friday for 3rd anniversary of Iraq War, seeking five million voters to sign pledge not to support pro-war candidates

— Well-funded effort aims to make Iraq War “an issue candidates can’t ignore”

WHAT: Voters for Peace, a new non-partisan group, will be launched this Friday, March 17 — the eve of the third anniversary of the start of the Iraq War — to highlight growing public opposition to the war in Iraq and other wars of aggression among disaffected Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike.

Speakers representing the ideological spectrum will appear at the National Press Club at 10 a.m. this Friday, March 17, to formally launch the new organization. They will unveil results of a new public opinion poll showing large numbers of voters would sign a pledge not to vote for any candidate who does not make a “speedy end” to the war in Iraq, and opposition to future wars of aggression, a campaign position.

Voters for Peace will unveil such a voter pledge on Friday, and announce it aims to gather two million signatures on it this year, and five million by the 2008 presidential election.

If someone from the DC area attends the event, please let us know if it is (yet another) lefty group espousing liberal/progressive sentimentalities or if there is a real opportunity for libertarian participation.


President Bush: Iraq Mess Doesn’t Make Preemptive War a Bad Idea

The Washington Post is reporting that the President has restated the “Bush Doctrine” in a new national security strategy document.

“If necessary, however, under long-standing principles of self defense, we do not rule out use of force before attacks occur, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack,” the document continues. “When the consequences of an attack with WMD are potentially so devastating, we cannot afford to stand idly by as grave dangers materialize.”

Last I check, long-standing principles of self-defense required that you be defending against an attack or credible threat, not shooting first and looking for evidence to justify it later.

The document also lays out our new and improved foreign policy, based on spreading democracy worldwide, at the barrel of a gun. Except when the democracy that we spread doesn’t elect people we like; then democracy is bad.

At the same time, it acknowledges that “elections alone are not enough” and sometimes lead to undesirable results. “These principles are tested by the victory of Hamas candidates in the recent elections in the Palestinian territories,” the strategy says, referring to the radical group designated as a terrorist organization by the United States.

Without saying what action would be taken against them, the strategy singles out seven nations as prime examples of “despotic systems” — North Korea, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Belarus, Burma and Zimbabwe. Iran and North Korea receive particular attention because of their nuclear programs, and the strategy vows in both cases “to take all necessary measures” to protect the United States against them.

Goodbye “Axis of Evil,” hello “Seven Bad Dwarves.” Well, at least Cuba’s close by, but I don’t think they’re first on the list. I predict that we’ll bring military action against Iran within the year. Anyone want to bet against it?