Dirty Little Secrets and Intellectual Property Solutions

My closest friends tell me that Napster sold out, but I may have a solution to the general problem. According to the AP, Kazaa is under fire down under:

Australian record companies on Tuesday accused owners of the popular Kazaa file-sharing software of ignoring a court order to install filters aimed at curbing music piracy by Kazaa users.

But Sharman Networks, which owns Kazaa, said they had complied with the order by preventing people in Australia downloading the latest version of the popular software.

“We have complied with the order,” said Sharman spokeswoman Julie Fenwick. “We have closed down access to getting the current version in Australia … if a user already has it on his computer, he will see warnings.”

Finally, we can start getting to the meat and potatoes of how to (for the time being) resolve this longstanding intellectual property dispute. The debate on the general issue is hot and heavy, with libertarian attorney Eugene Volokh on one side of the issue and libertarian attorney N. Stephan Kinsella at the other.

While the key philosophical argument to be determined is whether an idea is actually property and can be truly owned, Kazaa’s stance in Australia leads us toward a reasonable short-term legal solution while the philosopher kings battle over the long term arrangement.

Under most current legal systems one does not really own the music they purchased on a CD, but they do have a license from the corporation which owns the artist to play it once in a while. I’d like to throw an analogy into the mix.

What if I was at dinner with my favorite companion and asked her, “If I tell you a secret, would you promise to never tell it to anyone?”

Being a normal female (aside from the fact that she was sitting with me), she’d likely agree to my terms without a second thought. “See that redheaded woman at the bar,” I whisper in her ear, “She’s having an affair with the mayor.”

What happened is that I licensed an idea to her. Her agreement to not tell the secret was a verbal contract, and little different from our basic copyright laws. She is free to know and even use the tidbit of interesting information, so long as she doesn’t directly tell anyone about it. If she violated the trust between us, she could be liable for any damages I might suffer as a consequence of her loose lips.

I could have also asked if she would keep the secret and tell no one but her close friends, secretary, psychiatrist, lawyer or religious leader. This would have expanded the use of the license a bit, and I’d be on trickier grounds suing a third party if one of these additional people spilled the beans, as they would not have been involved in the original contract.

Suppose now that I didn’t whisper the rumor to my companion, but told her in normal conversational tones and was overheard by the waiter. Would he have any obligation to keep the information secret? Obviously not, as he was under no licensing contract to keep quiet on the topic.

OK, a few of you may argue that there is some sort of implied contract that cabbies, waiters and bartenders will keep their mouths shut about things they overhear. I’ll expand the concept a bit for the sake of argument. What would happen if I yelled the rumor to a friend at the far side of the bar and a number of people overheard me? Would I have any natural right to compel the patrons of the grill to not disclose this hypothetical dirty little secret about the mayor?

Right now, there is a hodge-podge of laws and rulings which make people not party to the contract in question liable for some big dispute in which they are not involved. While the powers-to-be work out the details on the major philosophical issues, we can at least protect the rights of people merely downloading songs who are not participants in the aforementioned licensing arrangement. Let’s give common sense a chance for once.

Update by Stephen VanDyke: The Mind Trap has a compelling counter-argument:

True, the person relaying the rumour (putting the content on the p2p network) is eagerly breaking the agreement not to pass it on, but the third party has to actively go to their metaphorical house specifically to get the rumour. They’re not really that innocent.

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Inquiring Minds Want to Know: Is Condi Gay?

The folks at Wonkette seem a bit titilated over wondering whether Condoleeza Rice might actually prefer the softer sex. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

Is Condi gay?!?!?!?!??! Only the National Enquirer knows for sure. But we refuse to subscribe to find out. So much better to imagine… mmmm….

We know as much as they do, as we’re also too cheap to buy a copy of the latest National Enquirer. I know we have a lot of readers from both the Birmingham and Denver areas, so won’t y’all be kind enough to cough up a few interesting rumors from her younger years.

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Intelligent Design: Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

Intelligent Design editorial cartoonFrom the news out of Kansas and the heated rhetoric of Pat Robertson, our favorite televangelist scumbag (since Jimmy Swaggart’s retirement, that is), you would think that the Intelligent Design movement is rolling across the heartland, ready to storm the ramparts of higher education and destroy American science. Or, for those who have a different view, bravely standing up for revealed truth against the militant atheists who claim we’re descended from apes, reforming America as a Christian nation. In either event, you’d be wrong. The New York Times reports that all the Intelligent Design hubbub is a collapsing under its own goofy, unscientific weight.

Behind the headlines, however, intelligent design as a field of inquiry is failing to gain the traction its supporters had hoped for. It has gained little support among the academics who should have been its natural allies. And if the intelligent design proponents lose the case in Dover, there could be serious consequences for the movement’s credibility.

On college campuses, the movement’s theorists are academic pariahs, publicly denounced by their own colleagues. Design proponents have published few papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Well, duh. The scientific evidence against Intelligent Design is overwhelming. The majority of scientists have always been against creationism Intelligent Design. So what? The real news is that Intelligent Design is so inherently unscientific that even the true believers are backing away slowly while speaking softly and watching for any sudden movements from this Crazy Uncle Eddie of “science.”

While intelligent design has hit obstacles among scientists, it has also failed to find a warm embrace at many evangelical Christian colleges. Even at conservative schools, scholars and theologians who were initially excited about intelligent design say they have come to find its arguments unconvincing. They, too, have been greatly swayed by the scientists at their own institutions and elsewhere who have examined intelligent design and found it insufficiently substantiated in comparison to evolution.

When evangelicals won’t even teach it, there may be a problem with the theory. I think Derek Davis, director of the J. M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at that bastion of secularism that expelled students suspended one fraternity, one student, and disciplined the others for posing in Playboy, Baylor University, said it best.

“I teach at the largest Baptist university in the world. I’m a religious person. And my basic perspective is intelligent design doesn’t belong in science class.”

Mr. Davis noted that the advocates of intelligent design claim they are not talking about God or religion. “But they are, and everybody knows they are,” Mr. Davis said. “I just think we ought to quit playing games. It’s a religious worldview that’s being advanced.”

Not only is the only higher educational institution that teaches Intelligent Design a seminary, there’s a trial going on in Dover, Pa. to determine whether teaching Intelligent Design is teaching religion. (World’s Shortest Amicus Brief: Your honor, Intelligent design is warmed-over creationism; the pig’s got nice shiny lipstick on him, but he’s still a pig. Respectfully, Nick Sarwark)

Since the Intelligent Design folks are likely to lose in Dover (we’ve already been through this with the Scopes Monkey Trial), they’re already working the spin machine about how the outcome of the court case is unimportant to the science; probably the only point where I agree with them.

Now, with a decision due in four or five weeks, design proponents like Mr. West of Discovery said the Dover trial was a “sideshow” – one that will have little bearing on the controversy.

“The future of intelligent design, as far as I’m concerned, has very little to do with the outcome of the Dover case,” Mr. West said. “The future of intelligent design is tied up with academic endeavors. It rises or falls on the science.

Thank God.

Previously on Hammer of Truth:
Rethinking My Views on Intelligent Design

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LP Conventions: Nominate in 2007, Hype in 2008

Liberty for Sale gets an email from David Macko which has a rather notable strategy shortcoming of the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination process:

The Libertarian Party should not have a National Convention in 2008! Now that I have your attention, let me assure everybody who is reading this message that I am not a neocon saboteur hellbent on destroying the Libertarian Party. I recommend that we hold our National Convention to nominate a presidential candidate for 2008 in 2007.

This was our practice from 1976 until 1996. The arguments for the change seemed plausible at the time, including more publicity in an election year. Since then it has been proven conclusively that the establishment media is our enemy and will not give us fair coverage.

I agree the LP should start early and nominate the presidential candidates earlier than four or so months before the election — and a year earlier is perfectly acceptable given the marketing hurdle the candidate faces. However, that doesn’t mean throw out the 2008 convention. In fact, I think the LP could strategically use it to hype the candidate, similar to how the DNC and GOP — having decisively chosen their candidate in the primaries — use their conventions as a way to get lots of media coverage.

Update: This LP bylaw would have to be changed at the 2006 convention in order to allow nomination in 2007. Get the wheels turning now if you want to see this happen:

ARTICLE 14: PRESIDENTIAL AND VICE-PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGNS

1. Nominations of candidates for President and Vice-President of the United States may be made only at the Regular Convention immediately preceding a Presidential election.

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MSM Coverage of Third-Party Issues

MSNBC National affairs writer Tom Curry just wrote the best mainstream article I’ve seen on third-party politics in some time. As I personally know each person interviewed in the story, I’ll provide whatever supportive commentary I can. The general theme of the article can be taken from this opening question:

At a time when opinion polls indicate that Americans hold both major political parties in low esteem, can a third party move into the breach?

The Libertarian Party response was accurate, and I’ll be providing some supportive polling data in a future article. Both Stephen VanDyke and I will be teaching courses at the LLS (site content still under development, but viewable), BTW.

“We’re in a rebuilding mode right now, all the focus is on 2006,” said Libertarian Party chief of staff Shane Cory.

The Libertarians are creating a voter identification database to pinpoint likely voters. “Dislodged voters are unhappy with the two-party system,” contended Cory. “That’s who we’re targeting.”

In January the party will launch its on-line “Libertarian Leadership School,” a six-week training course that will teach would-be candidates savvy such as understanding ballot access laws and complying with Federal Election Commission rules.

While I have read stuff from or about Kevin Zeese for years, we physically met (in DC) for the first time during the 2004 presidential elections. He was my counterpart over at the Nader campaign. If anyone can break the third party/independent barrier in 2006, my money is on either Zeese or Kinky Friedman.

Another third-party stalwart, Kevin Zeese, former spokesman for Ralph Nader’s presidential bid last year, is running for the Senate seat in Maryland now held by retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes, a Democrat.

Zeese is seeking the nominations of three parties: the Libertarians, the Greens and the Populists.

He criticizes Democratic front-runner, Rep. Ben Cardin, for accepting campaign contributions from “the military-industrial complex,” from pro-Israel groups, and from the pharmaceutical industry.

At a recent meeting Zeese had with progressive Democrats, one of them said to him, “You should run as a Democrat; you have no chance of winning outside the two-party system.”

But Zeese said, “If I run as Democrat I don’t accomplish my objective; the two-party system has to be put behind us.”

We’ve already covered Richard Winger once today, but he deserves the multiple mentions. When I need an expert opinion on any ballot access issue, my first call is always to Winger.

A non-presidential election year is a difficult time to launch or expand a third-party movement. That wasn’t always the case, says Richard Winger, an expert on election law and editor of Ballot Access News.

“Back in the days when the United States had more flexible laws, and powerful parties did arise from time to time, those developments usually happened in the middle of election years (even-numbered years),” Winger said.

He noted that in May of 1854 Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act which legalized slavery in territories which had formerly been closed to slavery. In response, a new party opposed to the extension of slavery, the Republican Party, was born on July 6, 1854.

I met Rob Ritchie in New York City during the third-party presidential debates and was very impressed with him. He’s pushing an important idea, and I’m glad to see it covered in the news.

The biggest barrier third party candidates face, according to Richie, is the winner-take-all voting system which most states and cities use.

Richie’s group favors an instant runoff system in which voters would rank candidates in order of their preference. To win, a candidate would need to get a majority (50 percent plus one). If no majority winner emerged from the first round of voting, the top two candidates would go to a run-off in which voter’s second-choice preferences would determine the winner.

This would help third-party candidates such as Nader. A voter could back Nader in Round One, confident that if Nader lost, the voter’s vote in the instant runoff would be awarded to his second-choice candidate, likely a Democrat. No state has yet adopted such a system, although San Francisco and Burlington, Vt. have.

It is refreshing to see the mainstream media pay some attention to third-party politics. Hopefully more Americans will realize they do actually have a choice other than voting for the lesser of two evils.

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Should Constitution 101 Be a Required Course for Public Officials?

It is easy to excuse a child for making some grave error on his or her math assignment. After all, the purpose of the homework is to ensure the child can learn the topic at hand. It is different when a sitting judge makes serious mistakes, as they are supposed to be the experts on the law. This article shows the absolute stupidy of U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. I’ll rebut their position in italics. Sorry for all the repetition, but I understand it helps slow learners.

NEW YORK – Random police searches of subway riders’ bags to deter terrorism in the nation’s largest subway system do not violate the Constitution and are a minimal intrusion of privacy, a federal judge ruled Friday.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

“Because the threat of terrorism is great and the consequences of unpreparedness may be catastrophic, it would seem foolish not to rely upon those qualified persons in the best position to know,” Berman said.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg welcomed the ruling. “We have an obligation to keep this city safe, and the [New York Police Department] will continue to use reasonable precautions like bag searches to do so,” he said.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

On Nov. 14, the police department began a test project to determine the feasibility of using explosive-detection technology in subways that would do an instant analysis of chemicals on the surface of backpacks or other containers.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

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Ballot Access News: Site of the Day at Politics1

Those of you who follow ballot access legislation and court cases are already likely to know of Richard Winger and his website/print publication. Ballot Access News was just named the site of the day by Ron Gunzburger over at Politics1.com, and I can’t think of anyone more deserving of the honor.

Winger has earned his reputation as the country’s foremost authority on ballot access issues as a result of his years of dedicated work on the topic, and he is well respected by everyone I know who knows him. For those of you who don’t already subscribe to Ballot Access News, I highly recommend it — it’s worth a lot more than the $14 Winger charges.

Good pick, Ron. Congratulations, Richard — you have certainly earned it.

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First Time for Everything: I Agree with McCain

As I am clearly on the record with respect to free speech, politics and the Internet, one would assume I hate John McCain with a passion generally reserved for neo-cons who place empire over sovereignty and political contol of dissent over freedom of speech.

This said, I also try to give credit (to either side of the traditional aisle) where credit is due.

McCain gets the credit on this one:

WASHINGTON – Sen. John McCain, a prisoner of war who was tortured in Vietnam, said Sunday he will refuse to yield on his demands that the White House agree with his proposed ban on the use of torture to extract information from suspected terrorists.

“I won’t,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” when asked whether he would compromise with the Bush administration. He is insisting on his language that no person in U.S. custody should be subject to “cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment.”

BTW, I’ve met him before, and actually ignored him when I last saw him (passing by at the Atlanta airport). He is much smaller shorter than I expected. He gets an “F” for his restriction of free speech, but at least he will oppose Dubya on torture. I guess that makes him a loser with a conscience.

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A Stranger Blog Than This…

I don’t spend a lot of time promoting other blogs on this site, but I found one tonight which might be up-and-coming. Due to a comment left at another site where I blog, I found another kindred spirit on the blogosphere today. As a devout Heinlein fan, the name of her blog caught my immediate attention. Her latest entry provides some thought on the electoral college (I sort of disagree with her on this, but think she makes some valid points).

More importantly, she drinks beer, thinks she can play pool, hates Dubya, and picks on both parties with equal passion. She also likes B.B. King, Nine Inch Nails, Pink Floyd and John Coltraine. I’ll make no commentary on the ‘Aints at the moment.

what to say about me? i’m a political philosopher (or on the long and bumpy road to becoming one, anyway) who enjoys a good rant now and then, a good beer more often than not, and when you put the two of them together – WATCH OUT, FOLKS, SHE’S GONNA BLOW!!!

i’ll kick your ass on a pool table any day of the week, and if you put down the saints i’ll just kick your ass, period (of course, i can talk all the shit about them i want, being a fan and all).

i take immense personal pleasure in ridiculing our all-powerful leader (dubya, for those of you who are behind on current events) and even more pleasure in riduculing those who like to defend the moron. i mean, seriously, ann coulter? is that really all you’ve got?!?! (oh but don’t worry, i get almost as much joy out of picking on the dems, too. i’m an equal opportunity insulter.)

Yo strangerina, I’m sure you’ll grok this: Eight ball, corner pocket…

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Hillary Shows Her Hawkish Bloomers Again

Hillary the Hawk received a chunk of ink over at MS-NBC. Check out the title and subtitle:

Hillary’s Military Offensive
Clinton’s hawkish stance is a two-edged political sword

Susannah Meadows, Howard Fineman and John Barry properly provided her latest philosophical excrement for us:

But Senator Clinton immediately began a methodical campaign to undo her image as a dovish liberal with no interest in military affairs. Post 9/11, she was quick to recognize that Democrats — and especially one all but openly running for president — were vulnerable on defense issues. It was a trap she has seemed determined to avoid. She supported the Iraq invasion and has resisted the call for a quick withdrawal championed by Democratic Rep. Jack Murtha. “In the wake of 9/11, America will not vote for anyone they do not trust to protect them,” says national-security analyst Lawrence Korb. “She grasps that.”

Based on Korb’s statement, Hillary is still thrusting her finger to the wind, as Republicans rightfully accused the Clintons during two presidential election campaigns. Whatever happened to doing what is right, as opposed to adhering to focus group and polling data?

While they were in the White House, the Clintons were never regarded warmly within the ranks or among the brass, and the First Lady was seen as especially hostile to the military. (There are still soldiers who swear by the myth that she banned uniforms at the White House.)

My last military duty station was in DC. The Clintoons were a key reason for my exodus from over a decade in the Army. In addition to the Somalia travesty, whenever Bill would jog by the office he’d try to run on the other side of the street merely to avoid having to return my salute. From my personal observations, he truly did loath the military. And Hillary was worse. BTW, she didn’t ban uniforms. Several of my friends had to serve food on various White House details. Even the Clinton lovers complained that they were forced to wear uniforms to serve hors d’oeuvres to a bunch of well-bred losers. The story I heard from multiple sources was that they got an ego stroke from having lowly senior military officers serve them food. The feedback I got was the higher the rank the more they liked it.

My opinion: Hillary is neither a hawk nor a dove, but a political opportunist. What she fails to grasp is that America now realizes that the Iraq was a collosal mistake, and she has to use spinmeisters to protect the ground which could have been hers in the first place.

Conservatives already hate her. Libertarians won’t be deceived by the Hillary-spin we can expect over the next election cycle. My word to my progressive and liberal friends is to stay true to your cause, as she will prove to be a traitor to all you find important in the long run.

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BellSouth Yanks NOLA Donation Over Free WiFi

BellSouthThe Washington Post reports that BellSouth didn’t take too kindly to the mayor of New Orleans using the Katrina disaster as an excuse to cut into their Internet business (via BoingBoing):

Hours after New Orleans officials announced Tuesday that they would deploy a city-owned, wireless Internet network in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, regional phone giant BellSouth Corp. withdrew an offer to donate one of its damaged buildings that would have housed new police headquarters, city officials said yesterday.

[…] City officials said BellSouth was upset about the plan to bring high-speed Internet access for free to homes and businesses to help stimulate resettlement and relocation to the devastated city. Around the country, large telephone companies have aggressively lobbied against localities launching their own Internet networks, arguing that they amount to taxpayer-funded competition. Some states have laws prohibiting them.

As much as I think BellSouth is the spawn of Satan with their crap service, they don’t deserve to get stabbed in the back by Nagin over donations in good faith. Withdrawing may be a bit harsh though over the cockamamie free WiFi scheme that may die due to bad publicity.

Update: A few of you seem to disagree with me on this, and I’m rather confused.

I must have missed the memo describing how the best course of action in recovery is to advance the ideology of socialism and free government-owned Internet. The fact is, if BellSouth or any other company had worked out a deal to give free wireless on their dime (not the taxpayers of New Orleans), I would have no problem with this — but that’s not the case here.

Instead, the mayor is taking equipment that was donated (the only silver-lining in this story) and stating that he will give away free WiFi, private initiatives be damned. And I think that is wrong.

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Is Terror Alert Level Ernie Around the Corner?

Terror Alert Level According the the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON – The U.S. is at great risk for more terrorist attacks because Congress and the White House have failed to enact several strong security measures, members of the former Sept. 11 commission said Sunday.

Considering that both major political parties predict an immediate terrorist attack, it must be so:

“More than four years after 9/11 … people are not paying attention,” the former Republican governor of New Jersey said. “God help us if we have another attack.”

Added Lee Hamilton, the former Democratic vice chairman of the commission: “We believe that another attack will occur. It’s not a question of if. We are not as well-prepared as we should be.”

It seems about time for another rush on plastic sheets and duct tape as we prepare to elevate our official Terror Alert Level from Bert to Ernie.

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Bush Provided New Upper Lip

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Dood Abides just flattered us — and we like his sense of satire:

Washington, DC (APE) – President Bush, notably absent from Washington, DC this weekend resurfaced today after a secret trip from Paris France, where he apparently underwent a partial face transplant at the hands of Dr. Jean-Michael Dubernard. Bush becomes the second person in history in rapid succession to undergo the groundbreaking procedure, and both patients appear to be doing well. The first patient who as yet remains anonymous had her face severely mauled by a pet Labrador earlier this year. Bush apparently suffered from long-term damage as a result of chronic substance abuse as a younger man.

The operation was to provide the president with a stiff upper lip, required for national security purposes because Bush “has been suffering for some time in regards to staying the course in Iraq and sticking with some difficult choices in regards to interrogation techniques.”

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Journalist Goes Gonzo: Manhunt for Peter Braunstein Moves from NYC to Cleveland

This is an item that’s really only been getting play in the New York City papers, but is making headlines now that the suspect, named a “volatile journalist” by the New York Post, is on the run and in Cleveland. What I don’t get is that this guy is about as brazen as any body on the run could be:

When he wasn’t snorting cocaine or smoking pot, police sources said, the fugitive was spotted in the area’s bars and strip clubs – possibly to acquire a new target.

[…]Tipsters told police that Braunstein, a former writer for the Village Voice and Women’s Wear Daily, was spotted on Nov. 6 and 7 drinking vodka at Moriarty’s Pub downtown and calling himself Peter Brown.

Braunstein – who can’t drive – placed an ad in the Cleveland Plain Dealer to hire a driver to show him around the city, which anchors a metropolitan area of nearly 3 million, police sources said.

But what’s eery is this sole quote attributed to Braunstein:

“He looked all paranoid . . . I asked him if he was all right,” Taylor said. “He said, ‘I don’t know what the f— is going on.’ “

What makes this all so interesting is how smart he his. The guy is actually an erstwhile PhD candidate at New York University, an aspiring playwright and a freelance journalist, who three years ago was working as media reporter for America’s most esteemed fashion trade rag, Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) and the Village Voice. He’d just landed a contract for a book publication in 2007.

Now, I’m not trying to build the guy up or anything, except it’s alleged that he have tricked a 34-year-old woman into letting him into her apartment by dressing as a firefighter and then “molesting” or “sexually assaulting” her for 13 hours (13 hours and she complains? OK, I keed), and for all we know he could have been wrongly accused. We simply don’t know, but I find it odd that the media is painting him to be a serial pervert on the run in the name of sensationalism.

If the latter is indeed the case, I can only imagine what the grandaddy of serial pervs — Hunter S. Thompson — would do. Perhaps a torrent of lawsuits will eminate from Braunstein as he slaps all parties with libel suits at an elaborately staged press conference.

Who knows… but for now, we’re keeping an eye on this story. It could turn out he’s really gone the route of Patrick Bateman.

Update: They caught him in Memphis, Tennessee. Back to reporting on missing white girls in Aruba.

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CIA: Apologize for Torture? — Never!

The Washington Post has some additional insight into the wrongful imprisonment of German citizen Khaled Masri. They provide detail which makes one of the government agencies we entrust with the ever-so-important responsibilities of kidnapping, starvation and torture look like a bunch of bumbling fools.

The article confuses me at one point, though. After the CIA learned that they had kidnapped, starved and beaten the wrong guy, there was debate over issuing an apology:

“You couldn’t have the president lying to the German chancellor” should the issue come up, a government official involved in the matter said.

Senior State Department officials decided to approach Interior Minister Schily, who had been a steadfast Bush supporter even when differences over the Iraq war strained ties between the two countries. Ambassador Coats had excellent rapport with Schily.

The CIA argued for minimal disclosure of information. The State Department insisted on a truthful, complete statement. The two agencies quibbled over whether it should include an apology, according to officials.

From the context, it seems the debate was over an apology to the German government, but it could have suggested an apology to Masri. They kidnapped a guy, ripped his clothing off, drugged him, held him without bail and denied him due process. That they wonder if they should apologize indicates the mindsets of those who supposedly protect our freedoms.

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Billboards “Liberated” in Sacramento

We heard Michael Moore was seen frantically licking these billboards (via Wooster Collective):

Subliminal Thought #7 - They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

More after the jump…
see more…

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Unbound: Cato gets a Blog

Cato Unbound*** Hammer of Truth Exclusive, we rule! ***

I got a tip from a friend Friday that the Cato Institute, reknowned libertarian think-tank, is launching a blog tomorrow: Cato Unbound. Their goal is to build on the conversations on blogs and use that open forum format to create a discussion on policy issues where the marketplace of ideas will hopefully promote the best ideas to the top while refining them. They picked a good managing editor in Will Wilkinson, a blog veteran — though I find his writing to be a bit on the dry side.

From the about page:

Cato Unbound is a state-of-the-art virtual trading floor in the intellectual marketplace, specializing in the exchange of big ideas. To be sure, there is no shortage these days of online forums for hashing out the issues of the day. All too often, however, the advantages of instant analysis and communication are compromised by obsession with the trivial and ephemeral. Here at Cato Unbound we try to step back, take a deep breath, and focus on the larger picture.

Each month, Cato Unbound will present an essay on a big-picture topic by one of the world’s leading thinkers. The ideas in that essay will then be tested by the comments and criticism of equally eminent thinkers, each of whom will respond to the month’s lead essay and then to one another. The idea is to create a hub for wide-ranging, open-ended conversation, where ideas will be advanced, challenged, and refined in public view.

While I’m impressed at their methodology in approaching the blogosphere to foster these conversations, I can only wonder if the resulting conversation will end up being incredibly boring to the average reader and devolve into a libertarian intellectual circle-jerk.

Oh well, hats off for having a blog.

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Alabama: The Bible as Public School Curriculum?

I’ve been very critical about the teaching of Intelligent Design in public high school science classes recently. While many people are adamantly opposed to the use of the Bible in any form or context in public education, I strongly disagree with them. In order to properly understand western history, religion, literature, art, society, culture and philosophy, I find the Bible totally indispensable. For me, where the line is to be drawn is about the context in which the material is be studied.

You won’t find me agreeing with Democrats very often, but I’ll give a couple of them some credit on this issue from WorldNetDaily:

Two Democratic leaders of Alabama’s House of Representatives introduced legislation that would authorize local boards of education to offer a course in Bible literacy as an elective in grades 10-12.

The bill, expected to pass both legislative chambers without opposition, would make Alabama the first state to offer a Bible curriculum in a public education setting.

The legislation, introduced by Speaker Seth Hammett and Majority Leader Ken Guin, refers to use of a course called “The Bible and Its Influence,” with an accompanying textbook authored by Cullen Schippe and Chuck Stetson and published by the Bible Literacy Project.

As I’ve not read the textbook, there may be grounds to oppose the bill based on its content — time will tell on this issue. Also, for the sake of disclosure I should add that I’ve placed bills in front of both of these sponsors before, and will likely be doing so again when the state legislature reconvenes.

This said, these Democrats seem to have a more rational and libertarian grasp on the issue than their Republican counterparts, one of whom wishes to ban books that refer to homosexuality in a positive or even neutral light. Mel Seesholtz provides his take on the topic:

Gay novelist Michael Holloway Perronne sent a copy of his novel A Time Before Me, along with a miniature shovel, to Alabama lawmaker Rep. Gerald Allen. The Alabama legislator had proposed legislation to remove from school and public libraries books with any gay content, no matter how small. When asked what he’d do with all the works by gay and lesbian artists, and all the other works that refer to homosexuals and homosexuality, Rep. Allen said, “I guess we dig a big hole and dump them in and bury them.”

Seesholtz provides a rather pertinent point:

That would have to be a pretty big hole to contain everything by gay and lesbian writers and other works that had “any gay content.” A partial list of artists, authors and thinkers to be buried would include Sappho, Socrates, Plato, Alexander the Great, Michelangelo, Emperor Hadrian, Richard the Lion Heart, Peter the Great, Francis Bacon, Montezuma II, Virginia Woolf, George Frideric Handel, T. E. Lawrence, Tchaikovsky, Lord Byron, Florence Nightingale, Tennessee Williams, Andre Gide, George Cukor, Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, Leonardo Da Vinci, Christopher Marlowe, Herman Melville, Horatio Alger, Jr., E.M. Forster, John M. Keynes, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Noel Coward, King James I, Queen Anne, Langston Hughes, Hans Christian Andersen, Tom Dooley, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Dag Hammerskjold, Rainer Maria Rilke, Edward II, Gore Vidal, James Baldwin, W. H. Auden, Susan B. Anthony, Leonard Berstein, Malcolm Forbes, Henry James, James Joyce, Georgia O’Keeffe, Marcel Proust, Jean Cocteau, Cole Porter, Alan Turing, Rudolph Nureyev, Christopher Isherwood, and Aristotle.

This Republican censorship goal is indeed scary, as it would deprive our youth of vast bodies of important knowledge. However, Democrats often take these things too far, especially when the try to ban all references to God and Christianity. Homosexuals and the Bible have both had a strong influence on western society, and to deny either is simply burying our heads in the sand.

It has long been my opinion that separation of church and state issues have been politicized by both the right and the left for purposes of self-aggrandizement — generally to the detriment of our students. Finally, someone has proposed what appears to be some common sense legislation which will allow youth to actually learn the about biblical history, literature and philosophy in a proper context.

If we truly wish for our children to make the world a better place, it is important for us to provide them every possible tool at our disposal. Censorship from the right or the left deprives them of these critical resources.

UPDATE: Debate has already started on the issue:

But Larry Darby, former head of the Alabama chapter of American Atheists, said the bill would lead to the Bible being taught as faith in Alabama public schools.

“This is just an instrument to open the door for preachers to proselytize,” Darby said.

Barry Lynn, head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State in Washington, said the course could turn into a faith-based class, depending on who taught it.

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On George Will and Libertarianism

Over at Hit and Run, Tim Cavanaugh notes that Newsweek columnist George Will recently put in a good word for libertarians with:

So Rep. Jeb Hensarling, a 48-year-old Texan, tried riding to the rescue. Hensarling is a Republican, which means next to nothing nowadays, but also a libertarian, which means he believes, as Republicans once did, in limited government.

which prompted this commentary from Cavanaugh:

I gag at putting in a good word for any baseball elegist or bowtie-wearer, but Will consistently provides a strong critique of campaign finance reform in media that regular people actually pay attention to; he’s probably the most prominent figure making this argument in the mainstream media. So godspeed to him.

It wasn’t just Will’s latest column which used the “L” word in a positive light. On November 27, Will had the following to say about Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels:

In the division between social conservatives, who emphasize nurturing virtue, and libertarian conservatives, who emphasize expanding liberty by limiting government, Daniels is with the latter.

Whether Daniels is truly libertarian is a matter for debate, however. Indiana attorney and state Libertarian Party chairman Mark Rutherford sent the following message out on the LP State Chairs’ e-mail list:

No. Mitch is not now, nor has he ever been a Libertarian. And with such government-expanding actions as:

  1. advocating taxpayer money to build a new stadium for the multi-million-dollar business, the Colts;
  2. seeking to spend millions of dollars on an unnecessary Interstate-69 route when the state can’t afford to maintain and upgrade current roads;
  3. dumping the state’s tax burden onto local entities to fulfill the whims of the governor and the legislature;

Mitch Daniels will never become a Libertarian.

While Will may not be libertarian either, he clearly seems to respect libertarian principles, and it is truly refreshing to see him using the increasingly popular “L” word.

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Upcoming.org (Again)

libertarian upcomingI want to give everyone a status update (previously). We’re up to 20 members on the Libertarian Party Upcoming.org group and 3 all states have official groups (see list below). You can also view all groups that have been tagged “libertarian” and see if you want to join them.

If you haven’t joined already, please do. We can grow our group there to the #1 slot (Flickr holds the title with 288 members), because I know we have way more national peeps than them. If you have a blog, help us out by posting a link to the group. I’m betting with enough blog publicity we could pass Flickr by the end of the year.

JOIN NOW!

State groups (join yours in addition to the national group):
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington State, Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

[Interesting side item: former Libertarian presidential candidate Michael Badnarik is a member]

Update: Over at the Peirce for Ohio Governor campaign, we officially made the switch last night to Upcoming.org for all of our scheduling. Any state party that wants an easy to use PHP/XML parser need only ask me and I’ll gladly provide.

Another Update: I probably wasn’t clear, the Upcoming.org PHP script is free. As the Google model exemplifies, I can do better if I give away the tools to get content back in an open format. I know this may sound cliche these days, but is Libertarian 2.0 coined yet?

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Our Message to Washington: Let My Bloggers Go!

Over here at HoT, we write quite a bit about the interface of blogging and politics.

Recent news provided that FEC upheld the journalistic rights of bloggers, but Adam B over at DailyKos reports this may not necessarily be the case:

In other words, these Commissioners have indicated that they believe a site that gets too partisan will have to file with the FEC. Fired Up isn’t there yet, they indicate, but it could be. As could others — like this one, clearly…

…People engaged in online politics should not have to worry about having to submit themselves to a fact-intensive “major purpose” test to determine if their website has to register and file as a political committee.

As I’ve stated before, I’ll continue to blog until they “pry the First Amendment from my cold, dead fingers” — and I am not going to fill out freakin’ FEC paperwork in order to do so.

Fortunately, an old ally is jumping to the rescue. Christopher over at Suicide Girls informs us:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, in addition to suing Sony regarding its famed digital rights management, has started a support network to protect blogger rights. Rights such as anonymous blogging, confidentiality between sources, fair use of IP, open discourse in comment threads, protection against unlawful server seizure, access to public information, and the freedom to blog about elections and employers have been explicitly cited by the EFF.

The EFF Bloggers’ Rights page is here, and it hosts a lot of good reference material on the legal rights of those of us who blog. I’ll likely begin with the Bloggers’ FAQ on Election Law.

Washington keeps trying to stick its meddling fingers into the inner workings of the blogosphere, proving that they just don’t get this freedom thing we keep talking about. If they keep it up, I’ll predict an alliance between libertarians, the left, and the right which will topple their little authoritarian bureaurocratic world.

Graphic credit: EFF (and we’re pretty darned sure they won’t mind)

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Facial Transplant Greatly Needed in the US

According to PajamasMedia, doctors have completed the first partial face transplant in France:

Doctors in France said they had performed the world’s first partial face transplant, forging into a risky medical frontier with their operation on a woman disfigured by a dog bite.

The 38-year-old woman, who wants to remain anonymous, had a nose, lips and chin grafted onto her face from a brain-dead donor whose family gave consent. The operation, performed Sunday, included a surgeon already famous for transplant breakthroughs, Dr. Jean-Michel Dubernard.

America is in dire need of a full facial transplant in the Oval Office. With (today’s count) 2,110 Faces of Death, finding a donor for the brain-dead commander-in-chief should be at the top of our priorities.

UPDATE: Speaking of faces, be sure to check out this online video.

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The World on Drugs

When people are down in the dumps about something or another, it sometimes helps to take a look at someone wallowing in deeper doo doo. As deplorable as the failed war on drugs in the United States is, it could still be worse. At least we’re not executing people for smuggling drugs across the border — yet.

Thinks might be lightening up a bit in the UK, however. According to this article, “DRUGGIES caught with enough cannabis to make 500 joints could escape being charged as dealers” under recently proposed guidelines.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse may not be executing people, but they certainly aren’t concerned about intellectual integrity. Their new claim is that weed causes AIDS. They launched a new commercial (view it here) with the following verbal lines:

Female Number One: What about Kim?

Female Number Two: She has HIV. She got high, got stupid, and now she has HIV.

As funny as the taxpayer supported advertisement is, Owen Emberley gives us a humorous and almost accurate view of the differences between marijuana and alcohol intoxication. Here is a sample:

A Drunk Would… A Stoner Would…
Driving under the influence
Drive fast and recklessly crashing into a caravan of carriages and killing dozens of babies and young mothers. Drive fast and recklessly setting a new high score on Mario Kart.
In a Stairwell
Fall down the stairs and lay at the bottom moaning until the janitor woke him the next morning by dipping his head in the mop bucket. Stand there wondering why the escalator was broken.
Eating out
Go to Taco Bell and vomit on the floor. Go to Taco Bell and eat a half pound burrito, 3 chalupas, 2 steak quesadillas, a zesty border bowl and an order of cinnamon twisties. Then have a long and insightful conversation with the Chihuahua before proceeding to also vomit on the floor. (Okay, so this one’s a toss up, but at least the stoner is supporting the local economy.)
With A Guitar
Butcher the chords and mutter incoherent profanities that would have Korean karaoke singers covering their ears. Compose classic songs and timeless hits. If you don’t believe me, just check the facts. Every great songwriter is a stoner. It’s a fact. I read it in a thesaurus.

Read his whole article here.

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