FedGov: Protect Privacy; Prohibit Privacy

Dipping deeper into its bottomless well of unbridled hypocrisy, FedGov is forcing privacy businesses to surrender customer lists and copies of their business transactions. During a tumultuous period of alleged privacy protection wherein Congress is poised to (Gasp!) introduce new legislation to ensure private investigators cannot obtain cellular subscriber’s call records, the swastika-wavers at the FCC are demanding that privacy companies TeleSpoof and NuFone who allow customers to place calls showing spoofed info on the receiver’s caller ID device, provide our public servants with every customer name and every call they made, according to a Wired News article.

It appears the FCC’s new chief, Kevin Martin, is well acquainted with the ways of the tyrant, as the investigation (for now) seems to be focused on an abject vagueness.

A seven-page demand from the FCC’s enforcement bureau sent to one such service, called TeleSpoof, says the commission is investigating whether the site is violating the federal Communications Act by failing to send accurate “originating calling party telephone number information” on interstate calls.

Even at this early stage, it is clear that the government’s position will be one of sainted protector regurgitating of of two lines of nonsense: “There is no conceivable legitimate purpose that anyone would want to make a call pretending to be someone else” or “These privacy-seeking customers are potential terrorists bent on releasing nerve gas into a crowded football stadium.”

The article, illustrating one example of legitimacy out of probable hundreds, lays waste to the former excuse of government intervention, leaving the absurdity of the latter to invalidate itself:

TeleSpoof’s operator says he has about 600 users. Private investigators were his earliest customers, but ordinary consumers have found uses for his service as well, he says. In one case, a divorced father was able to talk to his child on Christmas by spoofing his Caller ID to slip the call past his estranged ex-wife, he says.

The nerve of this man. If it were truly important that he speak to his child, government employees would have arranged the conversation.

In any case, the unwarranted action, illegal seizure and unjustified harassment of these companies won’t be the fault of Kevin Martin, his underlings or whatever agency ultimately closes down these and scores of other legitimate businesses. Martin, like his predecessor, will claim he is only doing his job. A job that clearly includes making certain that potential dissenters enjoy no anonymity, ensuring their place as “persons of interest.”


Shameful Treatment

The BBC has managed to get an interview with a detainee at Guantánamo Bay, through the intercession of his lawyer. In it, Fawzi al-Odah describes his treatment during a hunger strike.

“First they took my comfort items away from me. You know, my blanket, my towel, my long pants, then my shoes. I was put in isolation for 10 days.
“They came in and read out an order. It said if you refuse to eat, we will put you on the chair [for force feeding].”
He told how detainees were given “formulas” to force them to empty their bowels and were strapped to a metal chair three times a day, where a tube was inserted to administer food.
“One guy, a Saudi, told me that he had once been tortured in Saudi Arabia and that this metal chair treatment was worse than any torture he had ever endured or could imagine,” Mr Odah said.

Well, at least we can take comfort in the passage of the McCain torture amendment to the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 to ensure that this kind of treatment won’t ever happen again, right? Theoretically yes, but actually that’s wrong. Another prisoner is challenging his treatment in court under the law and running into…umm…problems.

In federal court yesterday and in legal filings, Justice Department lawyers contended that a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, cannot use legislation drafted by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to challenge treatment that the detainee’s lawyers described as “systematic torture.”

Government lawyers have argued that another portion of that same law, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, removes general access to U.S. courts for all Guantanamo Bay captives. Therefore, they said, Mohammed Bawazir, a Yemeni national held since May 2002, cannot claim protection under the anti-torture provisions.

Yep, the same law that prohibits torture prohibits those people most likely to be tortured from access to the courts to get the law enforced.

In court filings, the Justice Department lawyers argued that language in the law written by Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) gives Guantanamo Bay detainees access to the courts only to appeal their enemy combatant status determinations and convictions by military commissions.

“Unfortunately, I think the government’s right; it’s a correct reading of the law,” said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. “The law says you can’t torture detainees at Guantanamo, but it also says you can’t enforce that law in the courts.”

In closing, an excerpt from the BBC interview transcript with Fawzi al-Odah:

Before all this happened, what was your view of America?

I loved America. It freed my country from Saddam Hussein. My father fought with America against Saddam. I respected America. It stood for human rights and fairness around the world. America was the country we all looked up to.

What is your view now?

It has abandoned all of its own traditions and beliefs which were the cause of my respect for it. As someone who lived in the US, I cannot believe the American people know what is happening down here. This is wrong.

At this point, I have to agree with Mr. al-Odah. The actions of our government are sick, disgusting, and anti-American.


DHS Profiling: Fiscal Responsibility is Terrorism

homeland surveillanceAre you receiving a large tax refund from last year? You might want to think twice about paying off any large credit card debts, as retired schoolteacher Walter Soehnge and his wife Deana found out it can flag you as a suspicious person (thanks Torfinn!):

He was referring to the recent decision by him and his wife to be responsible, to do the kind of thing that just about anyone would say makes good, solid financial sense.

They paid down some debt. The balance on their JCPenney Platinum MasterCard had gotten to an unhealthy level. So they sent in a large payment, a check for $6,522.

And an alarm went off. A red flag went up. The Soehnges’ behavior was found questionable.

[…] They were told, as they moved up the managerial ladder at the call center, that the amount they had sent in was much larger than their normal monthly payment. And if the increase hits a certain percentage higher than that normal payment, Homeland Security has to be notified. And the money doesn’t move until the threat alert is lifted.

Because damned if Al Qaida’s suicide bombers aren’t the most financially responsible people in the world according to this wacky DHS profiling.

Update: HoT pal and sometimes editor Michael Hampton is all over this with more information and snark than the terrorists can shake a stick at, saying “The irony to this blatant loss of financial privacy is that terrorists frequently run up large credit card debts and fail to pay them off.”


Marc Emery to be on 60 Minutes

Marc Emery, the Canadian marijuana seed guru the DEA is trying to extradite to the US, is scheduled to be on the CBS news program 60 Minutes Sunday night. Here is a snippet from the CBS teaser:

The last place he wants to be is in jail, but Emery says if the Canadian courts allow the U.S. government to extradite him and a U.S. jury puts him away, he still sees a silver lining.

“I am blessed by what the DEA has done,” he tells Simon. “I would rather see marijuana legalized than me being saved from a U.S. jail. I hope that if I am incarcerated, I can influence tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of young people to take up my cause.”

The 48-year-old Vancouver, B.C., resident is a fervent activist for the legalization of marijuana and a hero to the movement. He has made several million dollars and claims to have sold more seeds than anyone in the world on his Web site and through a magazine he publishes, “Cannabis Culture.”

Selling the seeds is an illegal activity in Canada, but enforcement is rare and punishment light. The drug is legal for medicinal purposes and, overall, Canada has a very laidback attitude toward marijuana. But Emery estimates that the majority of customers he’s sold to over the past decade are Americans. Furthermore, British Columbia is a region that produces very pungent pot known as “BC bud” that is smuggled into the United States, where it’s well known. Emery takes pride in the image.

The program is scheduled to air on Sunday, March 5 at 7 p.m. ET/PT. You will have to check your local listings if in other time zones to ensure that you catch the program.

BTW, my hardware guy has my video equipment at his shop, so if anyone snags or finds an Internet version of the program, please let me know the link. Props.


Tim West Hospitalized with Brain Mass

As Austin Cassidy and Tim’s fiancee, Gloria, reported, LibertyForSale.com‘s Tim West is hospitalized at Georgetown University Hospital.

I spoke with Gloria a few minutes ago, and will relay what is known of Tim’s condition. As she wrote, they were driving (presumably in West Virginia) when Tim complained of numbness on the left side of his body. She immediately took him to a local hospital, where Tim suffered a seizure. After a CT was administered, they discovered a large mass on the right side of his brain. They evacuated him by helicopter to Georgetown University Hospital in DC.

Gloria told me that they are still running tests on Tim, including bloodwork, EKGs and what appears to be a cerebral angiogram. She has not spoken to any doctors yet, so there is no real update on his diagnosis. It is likely (based on what has been presented so far) that he has either a bleed, aneurysm or tumor.

He is currently intubated and sedated. The sedation is common in order to keep him from ripping out the tube. As a result, it is difficult to determine how Tim actually feels at this time. Gloria said it is likely they will remove the tube today.

Tim’s dad is with him, and they are still trying to contact his brother. His co-workers have now been notified.

Visitors must be confirmed by his family. In the meantime, I’ve got a current phone number and room number, if anyone has a serious need to contact his family. I’m not going to publish it for obvious reasons, but contact me if you would like the information.

Since I blog at LibertyForSale as well as here, I’ll try to keep Tim’s site going by cross-posting appropriate material until we get some idea of how Tim is going to do. I think he would want that.

Finally, I told Gloria that (by now) thousands of people are praying for Tim’s recovery, and she seemed very comforted by that.

Tim has always loved blog comments, so I’ll compose an electronic card for him from the comments you leave on sites where his condition is posted. I can’t think of anything better that we could do to help cheer him up at the moment.


That’s the way it is: Cronkite Comes Out Against the Drug War

As most of you are aware, I’m heavily engaged in promoting the medical marijuana bill in Alabama. The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) has provided us with a great deal of support in this regard. In today’s Huffington Post, Walter Cronkite promoted the DPA and took on the War on Drug Users. From the article:

I covered the Vietnam War. I remember the lies that were told, the lives that were lost – and the shock when, twenty years after the war ended, former Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara admitted he knew it was a mistake all along.

Today, our nation is fighting two wars: one abroad and one at home. While the war in Iraq is in the headlines, the other war is still being fought on our own streets. Its casualties are the wasted lives of our own citizens.

I am speaking of the war on drugs.

And I cannot help but wonder how many more lives, and how much more money, will be wasted before another Robert McNamara admits what is plain for all to see: the war on drugs is a failure.

While the politicians stutter and stall – while they chase their losses by claiming we could win this war if only we committed more resources, jailed more people and knocked down more doors – the Drug Policy Alliance continues to tell the American people the truth – “the way it is.

The world could sure use a few more Walter Cronkites and Harry Brownes.


Former Libertarian Presidential Candidate Passes Away

Harry Browne, who was the Libertarian Party presidential candidate in 1996 and 2000, is reported by multiple sources to have died yesterday. I just confirmed the general information with Jim Babka of DownSizeDC. DownSizeDC intends to be distributing pertinent information by e-mail and on their website later this evening.

Pending a statement from family or friends, the best (speculative) published source of information about his condition is currently on Wiki:

In June of 2005 an unknown neurological illness confined him to a wheelchair. After spending a considerable amount of time in the hospital, he resumed some of his writing and speaking, though it was uncertain whether he will walk again. He succumbed to illness on 1 March 2006.

Wiki also provides some additional biographical information:

Harry Browne (17 June 1933 – 1 March 2006) was an American free-market Libertarian writer and investment analyst.

He was born in New York City to Bradford and Cecil Margaret Browne and currently resides in Franklin, Tennessee.

Browne was the presidential candidate of the United States Libertarian Party in 1996 and 2000. He was an investment advisor for thirty years and was, immediately prior to his death, Director of Public Policy for the libertarian Downsize DC Foundation.

He came to prominence in 1970 with his first book, How You Can Profit From The Coming Devaluation, which correctly predicted the devaluation of the dollar and subsequent inflation. Browne’s second book was 1973’s How I Found Freedom In An Unfree World, which focused on maximizing personal liberty. This book became an instant classic in libertarian circles. You Can Profit from a Monetary Crisis was Browne’s third book and reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. He continued to author books and articles on investing through the late 1990s. […]

More recently, Harry Browne had continued working to increase the popularity of libertarian goals to reduce the size and scope of government. In addition to writing and making appearances on behalf of the Downsize DC Foundation, prior to his death he hosted two weekly network radio shows; one on Saturdays dealing with politics, and the other on Sundays dealing with financial topics. Browne also worked with the Free Market News Network, of which he was the President. Via Free Market News, he had his own internet-based television show called This Week In Liberty. He was also working on a book called The War Racket just prior to his death, but had stated that the book was not near completion, with no definite publishing date.

Members of both the Libertarian Party and entire the libertarian movement have lost a great leader and spokesperson for the cause. Harry, you will be missed. We at HoT would like to offer our condolences to Harry’s family and friends.

I last saw him at the 2004 Libertarian Party convention where my wife and I shared a banquet table with Harry, Pamela and a few other people. While he looked as though he had aged a bit, his wit was sharp and his eyes sparkled with life. In every correspondence we’ve shared since then, that same sparkle was present, motivating me to do more for the cause of liberty.

If Harry Browne was still with us, I think he’d still be trying to motivate each and every one of us to reach our highest potential. I’ll close with one of his quotes which I’ve kept taped to my monitor for years; I think he’d have liked it that way: “The important thing is to concentrate upon what you can do – by yourself, upon your own initiative.”

Additional information is available here.

UPDATE: Lew Rockwell has more here. Reason has more here. Press release here.


Teacher Suspended for Insulting Hitler

BushHitlerAfter Overland High School student Sean Allen conveniently taped teacher Jay Bennish bashing Hitler, he has finally gone public. And rightfully so. The blatant vilification of Hitler came after President Bush’s State of the Union address, where the anti-Nazi teacher had the audacity to compare Hitler to Bush:

“It’s our job to conquer the world and make sure they live just like we want them to,” Bennish can apparently be heard saying on the tape. “Now I’m not saying that Bush and Hitler are exactly the same, obviously they’re not, OK. But (there are) eerie similarities to the tones that they use.”

The nerve! It is obvious that the two are not similar. As the People’s Blog points out:

1. Hitler was elected.

2. Hitler rebuilt the German economy.

3. Hitler was an artist. (Bush doesn’t even write his own bad poems.)

4. Hitler was not an alcoholic.

5. Hitler was a gifted speaker.

Thankfully we have the Patriot Act(s) to ensure our protection against anti-Nazi terrorists like Jay Bennish. He and the rest of the evil politicians, judges and dictators can go straight to hell with their allusions!

Gott Mit Uns

UPDATE: Listen to the audio here.


Potential Good news from SCOTUS

The Supreme Court seems a bit skepitcal about Vermont’s campaign finance law which places $200-$400 individual contribution limits on most races. From MacPaper:

Justice Anthony Kennedy called the regulations “highly restrictive.” Chief Justice John Roberts questioned whether the limits could be justified because of fears of possible political corruption in the state.

Roberts asked Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, defending the campaign finance limits, how many political corruption cases he has prosecuted. Sorrell said none. Roberts then asked whether Sorrell would describe the state as “clean” or “corrupt.”

If SCOTUS decides they way they should in this case, perhaps it may be time for them to revisit the McCain-Feingold Bill.

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Joke of the Day

The headline reads “Senate Considers Independent Ethics Office”. From the article:

An independent ethics office is included in a lobbying reform package a Senate committee is taking up, putting on the table the sensitive issue of whether lawmakers are capable of policing themselves.

I’d laugh my ass off if it wasn’t so damned serious.


Senate Shoves Updated Patriot Act Down Our Throats

The Senate passed two key votes yesterday intended to ensure that the Bill of Rights remains as useless as soiled toilet paper. From The Chicago Tribune:

Two overwhelming votes virtually assured that Congress will renew President Bush’s anti-terrorism law before its expiration date, March 10. The Senate is expected to pass the two-bill package, renewing the law with the added protections, on Thursday. The House was expected to pass the legislation next Tuesday.

The law’s opponents, who insisted the new protections were cosmetic, conceded defeat.

“The die has now been cast,” acknowledged the law’s chief opponent, Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), after the Senate voted 84-15 to end his filibuster. “Obviously at this point, final passage of the reauthorization bill is now assured.”


The White House and GOP leaders finally broke the stalemate by crafting a second measure–in effect, an amendment to the first–that would limit somewhat the government’s power to compel information from people targeted in terrorism investigations.

That second measure passed 95-4. Voting “no” with Feingold were Sens. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.).

Bipartisanship at its best…

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Texas Redistricting May Be a No-Go

The closely watched congressional redistricting plan in front of SCOTUS right now shows potential signs of failure. From Bloomberg:

U.S. Supreme Court justices signaled reluctance to overturn a Texas congressional map engineered by former U.S. House Republican Leader Tom DeLay.

In a two-hour argument session in Washington, the court aimed a barrage of questions at a lawyer arguing that the 2003 redistricting was a partisan bid to break up Democratic strongholds. The map, which helped Republicans pick up five U.S. House seats in Texas in the next year’s election, replaced one that was drawn by a court in 2001 after a legislative deadlock.

The high court’s skepticism crossed ideological lines, with some of the most pointed questions coming from Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter, who both previously voted to allow challenges to partisan redistricting.

I’ll be watching this one closely, as modifying the districts around the Badnarik’s district are key to the Democratic plan.

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Military Censorship: Soldiers Now Deemed Unworthy to Read the News

Pardon the profanity, but this veteran is really pissed off right now. Really, really pissed. Really fucking pissed. And according to this report, it may be enough to keep this website blacklisted by the military. From a message received at Wonkette:

Just to let you know, the US Marines have blocked access to “Wonkette” along with numerous other sites such as personal email (i.e. Yahoo, AT&T, Hotmail, etc), blogs that don’t agree with the government point of view, personal websites, and some news organizatons. This has taken effect as of the beginning of February. I have no problem with them blocking porn sites (after all it is a government network), but cutting off access to our email and possibly-not-toeing-the-government-line websites is a bit much.

Initially all web blocking was done locally at the hub sites in Iraq. If you wanted a site “unblocked” you just had to email the local administrator with a reason (like, “I’d like to read my email, please.”), and if it wasn’t porn or offensive, they’d allow it. Now, all blocking is done by desk-weenies at the USMC Network Operations Center in Quantico, VA, who really don’t care if we get our email (or gossip) out here, as they get to go to happy hour after working 9 to 5 and go home to a nice clean, warm home with a real bed!

If we aren’t already cut off for the offensive language, we will certainly be rendered unavailable to those people actually die on a daily basis for our criticism of military higher-ups and US foreign policy.

Despite my opinion of this particular war, anyone who is dodging bullets deserves to know the full reason why they are there. If the story is accurate, the REMFs just shut down the news in the field. I know the language is offensive, but it’s to make a point. Old enough to die, but not to drink or read the news. Just motherfucking swell.

UPDATE: There may be several reach-arounds available for our bullet dodging friends out there. Try Firefox, instead of IE, for starters. Other tips are provided here.

UPDATE 2: Just got back home. Major crisis averted (some details linger for future debate) for now. Details (and check your own website).


Modifying the LP Platform

If you are a member of the Libertarian Party (state or national level), you have your chance for input into the 2006 platform. Simply visit http://lpconvention.org/platform/ and register. It may take up to a business day or so for your registration to be validated by someone at the national office, but then you can provide your input to any recommended platform changes.

Don’t bitch if you don’t get involved.

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Homer for President ’08 Campaign Kicks Off with Good Polling Numbers

Before reading this article, state the following sentence out loud:

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.

Guess what? You are better informed than most Americans, according to this source:

Americans apparently know more about “The Simpsons” than they do about the First Amendment.

Only one in four Americans can name more than one of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment (freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and petition for redress of grievances.) But more than half can name at least two members of the cartoon family, according to a survey.

The study by the new McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that 22 percent of Americans could name all five Simpson family members, compared with just one in 1,000 people who could name all five First Amendment freedoms.

Joe Madeira, director of exhibitions at the museum, said he was surprised by the results.

The only confusing portion of the linked article is that Madeira was surprised by the results. There’s a national poll of registered voters every four years which consistently confirms the same general results. D’oh!?!


Hitting the Bull’s Eye: Dealing With Firearms Prohibitionists

My wife is a psychiatrist. Following being raised and attending medical school in Alabama, she completed her psychiatric residency and a child psychiatry fellowship at Georgetown University Hospital. A significant portion of her training was during the Clinton years, where she was constantly under attack for her “radical views” by the Georgetown elite. This was a big cultural shock to her, coming from a home and social order where firearm ownership is the accepted norm. I still remember her frustration one day after her attendings suggested that a teenaged patient was psychologically defective merely because he owned a BB gun.

I found an interesting article written by another female psychiatrist which outlines the psychodynamics of people who favor victim disarmament, and more importantly provides some tactics for successfully engaging such people in debate about Second Amendment issues.

In a nutshell, Dr. Sarah Thompson provides that firearm prohibitionists use common defense mechanisms such as denial, projection and reaction formation in order to deal with their own psychological inadequacies. Here is one example:

Another defense mechanism commonly utilized by supporters of gun control is denial. Denial is simply refusing to accept the reality of a given situation.9 For example, consider a woman whose husband starts coming home late, has strange perfume on his clothes, and starts charging flowers and jewelry on his credit card. She may get extremely angry at a well-meaning friend who suggests that her husband is having an affair. The reality is obvious, but the wronged wife is so threatened by her husband’s infidelity that she is unable to accept it, and so denies its existence.

Anti-gun people do the same thing. It’s obvious that we live in a dangerous society, where criminals attack innocent people. Just about everyone has been, or knows someone who has been, victimized. It’s equally obvious that law enforcement can’t protect everyone everywhere 24 hours a day. Extensive scholarly research demonstrates that the police have no legal duty to protect you10 and that firearm ownership is the most effective way to protect yourself and your family.11 There is irrefutable evidence that victim disarmament nearly always precedes genocide.12 Nonetheless, the anti-gun folks insist, despite all evidence to the contrary, that “the police will protect you”, “this is a safe neighborhood” and “it can’t happen here”, where “it” is everything from mugging to mass murder.

Anti-gun people who refuse to accept the reality of the proven and very serious dangers of civilian disarmament are using denial to protect themselves from the anxiety of feeling helpless and vulnerable. Likewise, gun owners who insist that “the government will never confiscate my guns” are also using denial to protect themselves from the anxiety of contemplating being forcibly disarmed and rendered helpless and vulnerable.

In my opinion, she makes many valid points but goes off the deep end while discussing victim identity. While many advocates of victim disarmament may clearly suffer from self-identification as a vicitm, she painted certain stereotypical groups with too broad a brush:

Consider for a moment that the largest and most hysterical anti-gun groups include disproportionately large numbers of women, African-Americans and Jews. And virtually all of the organizations that claim to speak for these “oppressed people” are stridently anti-gun. Not coincidentally, among Jews, Blacks and women there are many “professional victims” who have little sense of identity outside of their victimhood.

At both a local and national level, I know far too many pistol packing mommas, Jews and black people for her statement to hold water. This disagreement does not take away from what I consider the most important aspect of Thompson’s work.

After painting the picture that most people who oppose private ownership of firearms do so because of emotional reasons, she outlines mechanisms we can use to effectively communicate with them and perhaps even persuade some to reverse their illogical thought processes. Again, here’s an example:

Another example might be, “Why do you think that your children’s schoolteachers would shoot them?” You might follow this up with something like, “Why do you entrust your precious children to someone you believe would murder them?” Again, you are merely asking questions, and not directly attacking the person or his defenses.

Of course the anti-gun person might continue to insist that the teachers really would harm children, but prohibiting them from owning guns would prevent it. So you might ask how using a gun to murder innocent children is different from stabbing children with scissors, assaulting them with baseball bats, or poisoning the milk and cookies.

It’s important to ask “open-ended” questions that require a response other than “yes” or “no”. Such questions require the anti-gun person actually to think about what he is saying. This will help him to re-examine his beliefs. It may also encourage him to ask you questions about firearms use and ownership.

As a political consultant, I find the advice of my wife indespensible when dealing with the emotional perceptions of target audiences for which I have no special empathy. Oftentimes, firearms enthusiasts are as emotionally charged as their opponents, and Dr. Thompson provides some great tools for opening the lines of communications in order to protect our Second Amendment rights.


Google, Kiddie Porn and the Bill of Rights

I’ve suggested it before, and I’ll suggest it again today. In January, articles first started to surface that the Department of Justice wants to seize Google records in order to chase kiddie porn perps. We aren’t just talking about specific information being subpoenaed to find evidence about some specific alleged wrongdoer, but major fishing expeditions of millions upon millions of records.

Today’s news indicates that all the DoJ wants is a “sample of URLs and search queries”:

The Department of Justice (DoJ) has rejected Google’s assertion that a government subpoena for search data threatens the privacy of Internet users.

“The government has not asked Google to produce any information that would personally identify its users,” according to the DoJ’s response filed Friday in a San Jose court.

Yeah, right. The DoJ is going to look at search strings which indicate that someone may be looking up questionable porn and then not obtain a search warrant for more complete records — and I’ve got some beachfront property in Kansas for sale. But the issue goes deeper than this. What the feds want 1) costs a lot of money and 2) jeopardizes trade secrets. Both of these issues are covered by the 5th Amendment:

…nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

It could be fairly easy to establish a reasonable price for the data requested; the Constitution demands it. What would not be so easy is determine the valuation of Google’s trade secrets. This would be a very hefty bill, to be sure.

Instead of trying to find new ways to enforce a law already determined unconstitutional by the courts, perhaps our nannies in DC might just enter a few search strings into Google themselves.


Pro-Liberty Talk Show Makes the “TALKERS 250″!

Talkers 250
The Talkers 250 is a list of the 250 most important talk shows of 2006. This year, the world’s most pro-Liberty show, Free Talk Live, was included!

This is a major honor in the business, and FTL is receiving it after only a year and a half in syndication! This is because of listeners calling their local talk stations and creating a demand for principled, pro-Liberty talk content by asking for Free Talk Live!

Oh, and if you vote for us in March, it helps drive new people to Liberty!



Libertarian Ideology Ruins Horror Genre

horror film gun commercial

This actual pro-gun commercial from Totally Awesome Guns & Range in Utah is sure to be an instant viral classic as it portrays how short a horror film would last if the token ditzy blonde was armed to the teeth in the first scene (via SayUncle).


Zogby: Overwhelming Majority of Troops Favor Withdrawal from Iraq

Kevin Zeese popped me an e-mail this morning with the heads-up about an article he will be publishing later today. It stems from this NYT article by Nicholas Kristoff which indicates that 72% of American troops think they should be withdrawn within a year. For some reason, I can’t access my TimesSelect account at the moment (I’m on the road right now), so I’ll provide the pertinent blockquote from Think Progress:

A new poll to be released today shows that U.S. soldiers overwhelmingly want out of Iraq and soon. The poll is the first of U.S. troops currently serving in Iraq, according to John Zogby, the pollster. Conducted by Zogby International and LeMoyne College, it asked 944 service members, “How long should U.S. troops stay in Iraq?” Only 23 percent backed Mr. Bush’s position that they should stay as long as necessary. In contrast, 72 percent said that U.S. troops should be pulled out within one year. Of those, 29 percent said they should withdraw “immediately.”

According to Zeese, Zogby will be releasing the poll later today. The devil is always in the details, and I don’t yet know the exact wording of the survey questions, how many of the troops polled are reservists or National Guard, how many of them have been deployed to Iraq, etc. These sorts of issues may end up being the spin spouted by the neocons (spoon fed by O’Reilly and Limbaugh, of course). This said, the poll has the potential to become very politically significant over the next few months.

UPDATE: The Zogby results are here. They answer a lot of the questions I asked. Prediction: The hawks will start saying that Marines are “real soldiers” while reservists and National Guard are not.


The Real Reasons to Hate Wal-Mart

A lot of my favorite libertarian writers spend a lot of time defending Wal-Mart, and rightfully so for the grounds they have chosen. Here are a few examples. From Radley Balko:

Yet more states are passing bills aimed specifically at requiring Wal-Mart to pay for its workers’ health care. Unbelievable. I don’t see how such Wal-Mart-specific legislation can pass constitutional muster. But then, I find it appalling that lawmakers in an allegedly quasi-free market society would tell a private company that it is required by law to give its employees free stuff.

Wal-Mart’s losing on another front, too. More states are requiring the store to cary the morning-after pill on its shelves.

Let me repeat.

State governments are requiring a private business to put a certain product on its shelves.

What next? Why not force Wal-Mart to sell certain books? Why not ban it from selling others? In fact, why don’t these states just set up a regulatory agency to take over the day-to-day operations of Wal-Mart stores inside their borders?

Balko is certainly correct in this case, as he is here, too:

It sure is thoughtful of lefty activists to work so hard to keep Wal-Mart out of urban areas. We can’t have this corporate behemoth exploiting low-income folks with jobs that wouldn’t otherwise exist, and by selling them good stuff at low prices.

The horror.

Better people who are well-employed decide for the urban poor that they don’t need those jobs. And that they should be shopping at more tasteful stores, anyway.

I think that maybe — just maybe — anti-Wal Mart sentiment has more to do with an aversion to the white, rural ethnology the store sometimes represents than its labor practices. We can’t have our Ethiopian restuarants and esoteric bookstores blighted by NASCAR culture.

Sabine Barnhart correctly wrote:

The hate campaign against Wal-Mart reflects the late Weimar Republic Nazi oratory when Hitler’s election slogans were directed against free economy in general and certain prosperous businesses — many of them Jewish owned — in particular. They were deemed “Non-German in their zeal for profit.” Never mind that their reason for being profitable was in their success in catering to the German citizens themselves. Hitler’s dubious grasp, his promises of greater Germany despite the NSDAP’s destructive economic planning do seem to resonate once again.

Laurence Vance provided some good arguments to hate Wal-Mart today:

Good reason #1: Crowds

Good reason #2: Parking

Good reason #3: Carts

Good reason #4: Lines

Good reason #5: Cashiers

Good reason #6: Inventory

Good reason #7: Selection

Good reason #8: Self-checkout registers

Good reason #9: Prices

Good reason #10: Getting Help

If you still prefer the “bad” reasons for not shopping at Wal-Mart then by all means don’t shop at Wal-Mart. Just quit citing your bogus reasons as if they were facts.

He’s correct, up to this point. Then he blows it.

Wal-Mart has never caused any firm to go out of business. Wal-Mart can’t close down any store but one of its own. It is the customers who no longer do business with a company or shop at a particular store who put that company out of business or closed that store.

Despite all of these valid arguments in favor of Wal-Mart’s right to compete in a free market system, the arguments provided start to lose their validity when statements like this are made:

Contrary to popular thinking, Wal-Mart does not drive other retailers out of business: customers do by choosing to patronize a store that does a better job of supplying their wants than do their established competitors.

I can’t speak for the entire country (although I hear of similar cases in other states), but in my state of Alabama, Wal-Mart is the beneficiary of eminent domain and political pay-offs — and they use these tools to gain an edge in the marketplace.

I’d like to quickly describe three Wal-Marts in my community. The first one was in Alabaster. They used eminent domain (and the coercive threat thereof) to kick dozens of people from their homes. From Neal Boortz:

Alabaster City Councilman Tommy Ryals thinks that these property owners are just being greedy. “Sometimes,” he says, ” the good of the many has to outweigh the greed of the few.” Indeed, Councilman Ryals, how dare these private-property owners refuse to sell their private property when the new owner could generate so many tax dollars for the good of the many! Don’t these people realize that the rights of one individual to his property are nothing when the need of the collective is considered?

Vance and Shaffer insist that Wal-Mart does not drive other retailers out of business. However, the planned Wal-Mart in Birmingham’s Crestwood area will be sharing parking lot space with the last remaining K-Mart in town. Here is the kicker. The city plans to give Wal-Mart $11 million taxpayer funded cash dollars to compete with the K-Mart. What sort of principled libertarian could support this sort of deal or not see how it may well drive the K-Mart of out business?

If eminent domain and pay-offs aren’t enough, what happens when the two are combined in the same deal? Just ask the 30 or so business owners who were shut down after Wal-Mart set its eyes on a new location in the Roebuck section of Birmingham. Only one of them actually fought the deal, but he had the cajones to explain why the others didn’t:

Chris Curran, owner of Spuds Pub, told the newspaper that the city has put a gun to owners’ heads. “Anybody who has been signing contracts with Wal-Mart is signing under duress,” Curran said. “That means: Here’s our contract, sign it and if you don’t sign it, we’ll take it. … They (city officials) just want a trophy, and they don’t mind pushing us out of the way to have that trophy.”

Additionally, Wal-Mart got a $10 million dollar tax abatement in that deal. I’m all for tax abatements, but only if all businesses get their fair share. In this case, like many others, Wal-Mart was the only beneficiary.

Libertarians are opposed to the abuse of government force and the threat thereof. The consistent misuse of eminent domain and tax dollars to give one business an advantage over others clearly qualifies as such force.

Since the Iraq War started, it is rare that one would find me disagreeing with Radley Balko and writers at the von Mises Institute and LewRockwell.com while agreeing with Neal Boortz. I’d suggest that libertarian writers check their facts a bit more before making such knee-jerk defenses of Wal-Mart.

UPDATE: The debate is hot and heavy here and here, too.

UPDATE 2: I just spoke with my assistant, and she reports that by a vote of 8-0 (of nine members), the Birmingham City Council just passed the latest $11 million dollar deal for Wal-Mart. The only member who was opposed was sick today. He was given three minutes by speaker phone to address the council, but was not allowed to vote against awarding the contract. This should be a very proud day for all of the Wal-Mart supporting libertarians out there.


Russmo Tackles Socialized Healthcare

Here’s the latest from Russmo:

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Grannies, Guns, and Government

Julian VanDyke often gets under my skin. I don’t think I am alone in thinking that his combative attitude makes it tough to have true discussion. That attitude is not reserved only for the discussion posts. Recently, in our inboxes, HoT editors received this challenge:

How about it, Hammer of Truth writers. Write something about this or is the only thing you can do is bash the Iraq war and promote pornography? Let’s see some Second Amendment action. Guys like me are really interested in preserving what little freedom we have to buy, sell and own arms of all kinds and descriptions without interference from big brother. Are you interested in this issue or are you hung up on bashing soldiers and our military?

Naturally, he included a tip. February 15th was reserved for the Oversight Hearing of “The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) Part l: Gun Show Enforcement.” This site provides the testimonies of a gun show manager, a former police officer turned gunsmith and an enthusiast. The testimonies, if true, demonstrate that the BATF has completely failed- either by ignorance or irreverence- to uphold its duty as servant of the American people and the constitution we hold dear. That failure reaches past the Second Amendment and actually brings in the First and Fourth as well. see more…