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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Profile: Pete Ashdown, US Senate 2006

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

Pete AshdownPete Ashdown may have an uncanny resemblance to Steve from the Dell commercials (“Dude, you’re getting a vote!”), but don’t knock his campaign strategy, which takes open-source to a whole new level with a wiki and regular online chats. Running against incumbent Senator Orin Hatch in Utah, Ashdown is tapping into the geek corners of the Internet. I’m simply going to gank the informative writeup from MeFi and move on:

Pete Ashdown, the founder of Utah’s oldest ISP, is apparently crazy enough to challenge Orrin Hatch’s reelection. Ashdown descided to run when he heard Hatch propose that p2p user’s computers should be required to explode (see also the INDUCE Act). Ashdown’s campaign is the first to wikify its platform & strategy. Boing boing has endorsed him.

OK, the million dollar question, is he libertarian? Short answer: no… democrat. Longer answer: he’s more of a left-of-center libertarian with free market views that tip him more left of center than most purist libertarians will like:

The march towards privatizing and deregulating everything is where I depart with my Libertarian friends. The free-market only works if there is robust competition. The “invisible hand” becomes “invisible clothes” when you start looking at infrastructure, health care, and energy. If the market is dominated by a powerful entity or if entry is cost-impossible, then how does competition have a chance? In fact it doesn’t and guess who suffers?

Arthur emphasized and Lessig touched on the idea that there is a role for government in markets. I say not merely in fostering competition but also where there is a societal benefit. Free-marketeers decry any municipal participation in peoples’ lives as socialism, but that is answering the argument with an extreme. If pure capitalism has brought us Enron, Worldcom, Tyco, and a #16th ranking in worldwide broadband deployment, it is time for the pendulum to swing towards a more active role of government.

When a free-marketeer presents Amtrak as an example of government waste, I have to wonder what they think of the Interstate Highway System. This is also a government program and the cost has been in the trillions. Toll roads with electronic payment systems may have their place, but where would the United States be if Eisenhower had decided to wait for private enterprise to build the highway system? It is the same place we are headed because of the endless wail for privatizing everything in the past 30 years. Commercial healthcare has not brought us universal coverage. Commercial energy has lowered standards but not price. Commercial transportation needs bailout after bailout. America continues to suffer under this delusion.

Yet even with that kind of non-endorsement of deregulation and privatization, I think he has some serious moderate libertarian cred if you check out his position on several issues that party-line Democrats usually diverge on, such as guns, national security / immigration and trade.

He may not be the perfect match Utah libertarians will probably seek, but he looks like a realistic choice in 2006.

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Travel News for Freedom Lovers

In what can only be described as a defining Bob Woodward moment, a Homeland Security Department official leaked news that could only be presented Deep Throat style:

Transportation Security Administration chief Kip Hawley on Friday will announce changes to the list of items prohibited in carry-on luggage and to the airport screening process, according to the official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity (emphasis emphatically added) because the plan has yet to be announced.

The government may actually allow us to travel with cigar clippers, nail clippers, and the tiny pot metal scissors some hotels provide in their sewing kits. I know, I know –the TSA has a list which says some of these items are already allowed. Tell this to government security goons who took my cigar clipper at Phoenix Sky Harbor, my nail clippers at Reagan National, or my hotel sewing kit at La Guardia. Tell it to the little old lady in front of me in the security line at LAX who had her crochet needles seized. I’m sure the little booties she was making were going to be shipped to bin Laden as soon as she landed. (mental note: Call my parents before they fly back from California and let them know they might be able to get a corkscrew on the plane.)

As frequent flier smokers will attest, they may well take your Bic lighter. This is to stop those terrorists with a sudden urge for an inflight cigarette dead in their tracks, apparently. Fortunately, the TSA spends billions to protect us from second-hand terrorist smoke. Travelers should also avoid checking or carrying sex toys when flying in and out of Alabama, as they are illegal there.

A BBC report makes me wonder if banning crochet needles is taking security far enough. After all, our country is still at risk from nail clipper wielding maniacs.

But many flight attendants believe that while such objects could not be used to carry out a 9/11 style hijacking, the items could still be used as weapons to injure other passengers or crew members.

“When weapons are allowed back on board an aircraft, the pilots will be able to land the plane safely, but the aisles will be running with blood (emphasis emphatically added again),” said Corey Caldwell, a spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants.

That’s right, folks – the aisles will be filled with blood because of crazies wielding disposable razors.

While things might be lightening up at the TSA a bit, don’t forget about U.S. Customs. Declan McCullagh informs us that customs officials now read blogs. (mental note: I need to contact co-blogger Michelle, as she is on her way back from Thailand at this moment and probably took a laptop with her.) He must have met some brighter customs officials than I have:

Customs official: I see you have a bunch of cigars which have no bands on them. Are they from Cuba?

Moi: Of course not, officer. As I don’t have much money, I took this trip all the way to Cancun to buy a bunch of local factory rejects.

McCullagh writes:

Hossein Derakhshan, who writes a blog on Hoder.com, said in a post last week that he’s “homeless” because he was prevented from re-entering the country. Derakhshan says he was born in Tehran and then moved to Toronto, Canada in December 2000.

The United States, of course, requires a visa for foreign citizens who want to live here permanently.

So when the border guards found a Newsweek magazine labeled with his name and a New York City address, coupled with the I-live-in-the-Big-Apple contents of his blog, they were suspicious and denied him entry for six months, Derakhshan says.

McCullagh then goes on to tell the tale of my personal friend (and Libertarian Party goober-natorial candidate) Loretta Nall’s border harassment on a return trip from Canada. Like many of her stories, this one fits into the “must read” category. While you are at it, be sure to catch The Great Prison Panty Rebellion of Alabama article, too. Nall is a good writer, and she provides us with yet another in a long list of reasons not to visit Alabama. Here is another. To bring us back on topic, they searched the contents of Nall’s laptop which forced her to miss her flight.

Reminds me, I better clean all those porn anti-Patriot Act links off my laptop before my next flight.

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Plutonium Missing; DoD Staking Out Science Fairs

plutonium - file photoI’m not sure how scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory lost over 600lbs of weapons-grade plutonium, but their possible explanations make me wonder just how shoddy the records-keeping process is (via Homeland Stupidity and Sploid):

* It was shipped to a salt mine without accurate recording.

* It was deposited in an illegally a nearby landfill. The landfills in the immediate area came under scrutiny last year even before the plutonium fears about all the toxins. The clean up was delayed because local pilots feared wind shear would be created by a change in the nearby topography.

* It was stolen.

My own theory is that it’s all just a prank by the local nerdy-yet-affable HS teen, wacky hijinx involving a curmudgeony general, a jaded scientist and a dopey mother will now ensue.

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VOA’s Oxymoron

The Humorous Title of the Day Award goes to Voice of America for this entry: New Debate Underway on Ethics in US Congress. How can there possibly be a debate about something absent in the aforementioned body? The article begins this way:

The resignation of a Republican lawmaker who admitted to charges of bribery, tax evasion and other charges has again focused attention on the subject of ethics in U.S. Congress. Over the years, scandals have been a problem for both major political parties in the United States. However, recent developments are prompting new calls for an ethics house-cleaning in Congress

If there is to be a true house cleaning, I’d only expect to see one man standing at the end of the day: Congressman Ron Paul of Texas.

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Ironic: Fox News Sells “Holiday Tree” Ornaments

With all the bile that Bill O’Reilly and pals dish on city governments for calling a tree “holiday” instead of “Christmas”, you’d think the Fox News store wouldn’t make such a glaring mistake:

Fox News holiday ornament

My personal take on the whole issue is that it’s all a bunch of hooey over what to call a tree. I’m preferential to calling it a Christmas tree since that’s how I was brought up, but I’ll be damned if I remember reading anywhere in the bible about Jesus hanging ornaments on a 6-foot Douglas-fir to celebrate his birthday each year (that’s right, it’s a Christian assimilation of a pagan ritual).

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Send Your Patriot Act Message to Congress

DownSizeDC is promoting a pretty good idea. The following arrived in my e-mail today:

D o w n s i z e r – D i s p a t c h
——————————————————————————–

Action Item: Send a message to Congress encouraging them to continue doing NOTHING to extend the Patriot Act. If Congress does NOTHING then some of the worst aspects of the Patriot Act will sunset, and be no more. We have a chance to win this one. Encourage Congress to do the right thing, which is NOTHING. Click here to send your message to Congress.

Congress already ripped up the Constitution with Patriot Act I, and now they wish to burn the shredded remains with Patriot Act II. It is imperative that we continue to voice our displeasure with the tyrants in Washington, and DownSizeDC provides a great medium for us to do just that.

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Independent 2008 Presidential Candidate Announces Iraq Exit Strategy

In a press release issued earlier today, Independent presidential candidate Webster Brooks has provided a summary of his 11 Point Iraq Peace Plan. Brooks has also called for a total withdrawal from Iraq no later than December 2008. His plan may be viewed on his campaign website.

The 11 key points of the exit strategy are:

    1. The New Iraq: A Functional Confederation of Three Autonomous Regions
    2. Accepting Iraq as a “Theo-democratic” Islamic Republic
    3. The Iran Factor – A Marriage of Convenience and Necessity
    4. Preserving the Militias Will Enhance Iraq’s Security
    5. Securing Kurdistan’s Autonomy by Taking a Hard Line With Turkey
    6. Bring the Arab League Into Iraq to Facilitate Sunni Reconciliation Talks
    7. Diminishing the Insurgency by Sealing the Syrian Border
    8. Closing the Back Door To al Queda; Securing the Saudi and Jordanian Borders
    9. Influencing an Equitable Oil Revenue Sharing Formula
    10. Establishing a Timetable to Train 300,000 Iraqi Troops
    11. Shift the Focus of the U.S. Military to Establishing “Green Zones”

Webster Brooks is an former DC mayoral candidate currently residing in Hartford, CT. He has managed both Republican and Democratic campaigns and is the founder of New England Republicans of Color and the Low Country and Chesapeake Society (an independent black think tank). Brooks left the GOP in 2003, and has been studying independent movements and third parties since then. He is currently running for president as an independent on a platform he describes as centrist, and his campaign is employing a unique electoral vote strategy.

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Hurricanes Are Also Black

Brian J. once again brings an important topic to my attention.

He contends sheds light on the question of whether racism is being used since blacks are not getting hurricanes named after them (I thought this ended in the sixties when people protested in the streets for the right to have hurricanes named after them).

The congressional newspaper the Hill reported this week that Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, feels that the current names are too “lily white,” and is seeking to have better representation for names reflecting African-Americans and other ethnic groups.

“All racial groups should be represented,” Lee said, according to the Hill. She hoped federal weather officials “would try to be inclusive of African-American names.”

Click here to read full story.

I have a dream one day we will live in an America where black storms are allowed to exist.

Now I can’t help but think what would happen if we started naming storms after blacks we would all be racists for doing so. Which goes to prove affirmative action is bullshit especially when used to name hurricanes. Read Article 1, Section 8 and show me where Congress derives the power to name storms.

Update by Stephen VanDyke: Woops, I was trying to clean up a couple of Jake’s grammar errors in the post and accidentally ended up changing the context. Sorry Brian J, didn’t mean to misrepresent you.

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Pirates & Emperors: Libertarian Schoolhouse Rock?

Pirates and EmperorsI’ve been having a conversation with a few people about educating the public on libertarian points of view using Schoolhouse Rock type animations when I remembered that someone has already done a short a while ago that brings up the duplicity in allowing the government to commit crimes that would put individuals in jail.

In the cartoon Pirates and Emperors (video), the tale starts in Roman times and quickly moves forward to paint a duplicitous foreign policy around the world, ending in Iraq:

ALEXANDER THE GREAT: What meanest thou by keeping hostile possession of the sea?

PIRATE: What meanest thou by seizing the whole earth; because I do it with a petty ship, I’m called a robber, whilst thou who dost the same with a great fleet art styled emperor.

It’s sharp and witty and handily reiterates the libertarian ideal of minding our own business (“Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.” Thomas Jefferson).

I hoping the author has plans for more of these libertarian-ish common sense cartoons in the future.

After Googling “libertarian schoolhouse rock:” Benjamin over at Libertarian Longhorns wrote:

I find one of the most difficult libertarian positions to defend is non-interventionist. It’s hard to defend the idea of not coming to the aid of victims. Unfortunately good intentions in the minds of common people and in the minds of our leaders, turn out to be wrong, often disastrously so. Since WWII, the U.S. has supported, then rebuked a long line of tyrants. The philosophy of “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” has led to supporting Saddam, the Mujahideen, the Shah of Iran, and many others.

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AP Misquote or ACLU Misstatement?

I wrote about the ACLU appearing to accept new 4th Amendment violations the other day. The key issue was over this statement, which originated from an AP article:

Howard Simon, executive director of ACLU of Florida, said the Miami initiative appears aimed at ensuring that people’s rights are not violated.

“What we’re dealing with is officers on street patrol, which is more effective and more consistent with the Constitution,” Simon said. “We’ll have to see how it is implemented.”

The point I was making is that it appears Mr. Simon is excusing the plans of the Miami cops because they are doing better at complying with the Constitution. As this is typically not the position of the ACLU, I also provided for the potential of a misquote with this line:

While I’m not at all surprised by another usurpation of our rights as American citizens, I am deeply upset (assuming the quotation above is correct) that an ACLU spokesperson has become an apologist for the police state.

It seems the official ACLU line is that Simon was misquoted by the AP. Below is the message we received from them this morning:

AP misquoted our Executive Director, Howard Simon, and ran a correction on the wire. Can you please clarify this for your readers? Thanks.

Here’s our response:

For Immediate Release:
Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Contact:
Alessandra Soler Meetze at 305-576-2337 ext. 16.

ACLU Statement on Miami Shield Program

There is some confusion over the specifics of the “Miami Shield” Program. Reports differ as to whether the plan involves large squads of officers stopping everyone at a locale and then demanding people to produce identification. Although the Miami Police Department has claimed that “Miami Shield” will respect people’s right, much of its constitutionality will depend on how the program is implemented.

If police officers plan on stopping people and demanding identification without any reason to believe that there is criminal activity, that is unconstitutional.

When law enforcement stops people based on individualized suspicion of wrongdoing, that is always both more effective and consistent with constitutional principles.

Other post 9-11 law enforcement tactics such as randomly searching subway users in New York City or conducting mass pat-down searches of everyone entering the Raymond James Football Stadium in Tampa violate constitutional principles and are a waste of law enforcement resources.

We’ve asked for a link to or the wording of the retraction, but have not received a response, yet. I’m curious as to whether a mistake was made and the ACLU is trying to cover for it after the fact, or if the AP reporter got the quote wrong in the first place.

In an effort to keep our reporting fair and balanced (Bill O’Reilly should take some notes on this), we’ll try to provide all sides of the story here at HoT.

UPDATE: Suzette M. Laboy, Broadcast Editor for the AP of Florida sent me the following retraction they issued:

MIAMI (AP) – In a Nov. 28 story about the Miami Police Department’s new counterterrorism initiative, a police official discussing a hypothetical exercise said that officers might surround a bank building and check the identities of people entering and leaving. The story should have made clear that police will not be checking identification without cause.

Unfortunately, this does not clarify much. If it is an exercise (as opposed to a real terrorist incident), then any identity checking still would be done without cause.

Update by Stephen VanDyke: Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the “hypothetical” that was presented by the AP as being told by the police. Oddly enough, Deputy Police Chief Frank Fernandez and police spokesman Angel Calzadilla are interchangeable:

Original version (Nov 28th): Deputy Police Chief Frank Fernandez said officers might, for example, surround a bank building, check the IDs of everyone going in and out and hand out leaflets about terror threats.

Updated version (Nov 30th): As an example, uniformed and plainclothes officers might surround a bank building unannounced, contact the manager about ways to be vigilant against terrorists, and hand out leaflets in three languages to customers and people passing by, police spokesman Angel Calzadilla said.

MORE UPDATES by Stephen Gordon: The ACLU statement is now posted on their website.

Alessandra Soler Meetze of the FL ACLU sent this to us by e-mail:

The revised AP story is [linked here]. As you can see the story states — “[Calzadilla] said there would be no random checks of identification.” And it includes the correct quote from Simon.

It is interesting to note the change from:

“What we’re dealing with is officers on street patrol, which is more effective and more consistent with the Constitution,” Simon said. “We’ll have to see how it is implemented.”

to

“What we’re dealing with is officers on street patrol (making informed decisions on which individuals to stop), which is more effective and more consistent with the Constitution,” Simon said. “We’ll have to see how it is implemented.”

With all of the oopsies (hopefully) out of the way, maybe we can get back to the real issue of combating the increasing usurpation of our civil liberties.

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