The Great Dakosaur Hoax

Immediately following the recent discovery of a significant new Jurassic era dinosaur fossil in Argentina, Kansas Board of Education officials are probably already updating curricula for their high school students. With the exception of Kansas, scholars and students across the world now have the knowledge that the 13 foot long Dakosaurus andiniensis was an oceanic crocodile with a short snout and a mouthful of deadly teeth which hunted large creatures in the sea.

In Kansas, students are likely to learn that Dakosaurus was created on the fifth day. This unique approach to teaching science was approved in the Sunflower State earlier this week. The Clemson University Tiger reported:

On Tuesday, the Kansas Board of Education passed new standards that require the teaching of alternative ideas to Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. The new legislation recommends that schools teach aspects of fossil evidence and molecular biology that directly challenge the theory of evolution.

In addition, the ruling changed the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to using natural explanations — in other words, supernatural explanations now suffice.

Other probable changes to Kansas curricula include:

    God personally handed Judge Roy Moore an autographed copy of the Ten Commandments

Topeka’s Reverend Fred Phelps (founder of godhatesfags.com) will certainly be thrilled by the enlightened stance taken by Kansas educators. He is expected to make an official announcement when he is finished gloating over the murder of Matthew Shepard.

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China Selling Organs of Executed Prisoners

the organ trailRadley Balko often points out the stupidity of lawmakers trying to legislate everything from seatbelts for dogs to barring pizza from 1000 feet of a school in his popular meme — There oughtta be a law. Keep that in mind, because I’m going to do something libertarians rarely do, propose a law.

You see, in China, there’s this practice of selling the organs of prisoners (political or otherwise) who are executed and whose bodies aren’t claimed by the family right away. Apparently this process isn’t voluntary in the slightest:

CHINA: It’s illegal to buy or sell organs in China. But a 1984 law allows organs to be transplanted from an executed prisoner if family members don’t claim the body right away. Amnesty International says Chinese media reported 1,060 judicial executions in 2002. But it says the actual figure may be as high as 15,000. Most harvested prisoner organs are sold to medical “visitors” from Hong Kong, Taiwan, or Singapore.

What’s so wrong with this? Well, it certainly gives new meaning to the term “profiling.” How comfortable would you be living in a country where your odds of going to jail might hinge on someone’s need for a kidney with your blood type? I can already picture Cheney drooling over the latest selection of Chinese dissidents with healthy hearts.

Well that’s China, and frankly there’s not a damn thing we could do to stop them from continuing that type of behavior. But we can make it a crime against humanity for an American to get an organ transplant from any person who did not willingly donate that organ, wherever in the world they may try and obtain it. A blog by the name of Say No to Crack has similar sentiments about tackling legal issues:

There are solutions to this, like opening up country markets to legalize this brand of human tissue trade. It sounds very invasive and immoral to most people, but if there are laws that tackled the issues surrounding the transplant trade there could be brighter futures for the buyer AS WELL as the poor sellers.

If social conservatives can rally around a retarded woman having a feeding tube removed by the state, then there shouldn’t be a problem getting them to back a law banning receiving international stolen goods or backing an international database of consenting donors as the only legal venue for American transplants.

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Nervous Republicans

Not that they don’t have reason to be, but Republicans appear to be a little nervous these days. Pulling every string at their disposal to keep a tight lid on their criminal activities, today they blindsided Democrats by forcing a vote on a bill that would have required the President to provide documents relating to the White House Iraq Group (WHIG):

Hyde had barely finished telling the ranking minority member, Rep. Lantos, that he was probably going to allow some more discussion, then take a recess so that members could vote, and reconvene later after enough time for them to eat. Barely had 3 or 4 Democrats wandered out of the room (a common occurrence on both sides, since members are constantly wandering out in the back hallway to go make phone calls or meet visitors or talk to staffers), when the GOP committee staff started overtly counting heads. Seconds later, Rep. Rohrabacher called the question, forcing a vote.

As usual, Ron Paul was left being one of the only honest Republicans in Congress:

Only 2 Republicans stood up for finding out the truth–Rep. Jim Leach of Iowa and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. Paul, who seems to be an extremely rare species, an honest conservative who is angry about the lies that took us to war, even had the decency to publicly compliment Kucinich for being consistent by not just investigating the war now but also opposing it beforehand.

[…]

– It took Rep. Paul, a libertarian Republican from TX, to point out a couple obvious things: Americans deserve to know how we were taken to war; the Congress let the President go to war, instead of asserting its Constitutional right to declare war (the basis of the lawsuit that fellow AfterDowningStreet.org co-founder and possible MA Secretary of State candidate John Bonifaz brought in early 2003 in an attempt to stop the war from starting); and we need to change our foreign policy. He also noted that between 2000 and 2004, he had voted alone 126 times, by far the most of anyone in Congress–the man does have principles.

Update: I smell a terrorist attack coming. Or at least some more fear mongering by the bird flu crowd.

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Third Party Watch interviews Shane Cory

The fine folks over at Third Party Watch recently interviewed acting Libertarian Party Chief of Staff, Shane Cory. Although disappointed that he did not mention the Florida Libertarian Party’s recent progress when asked about the LP’s accomplishments over the past year, I finished reading the interview with a huge smile on my face. One of my biggest pet peeves with the National LP is their seemingly blatant disregard for the power of the internet. Much to my delight, Mr. Cory addressed that very issue in his interview:

TPW: Are there any plans in the works to upgrade the LP’s website before the 2006 elections?

Shane Cory: Yes. We have already begun working on a redesign and the refocusing of LP.org. For 2006 we plan to dedicate a majority of the content to campaigns and candidates. I’ll be providing a glimpse of the new site at the upcoming LNC meeting in Baltimore.

Combine that whiff of fresh air with Zero Dues and you have one happy Libertarian here.

Read the entire interview here.

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Grandparenting: Hobby or Job?

some token grandparents pictureLots of kids in Washington, D.C. don’t have a traditional, two-parent family. Out-of-wedlock births, high crime, high incarceration rates, poverty, and greater extended-family involvement in the black community are all contributing causes. Many of these kids end up being raised by their grandparents. All things being equal, this is much better for the kids than being shunted into the foster care system.

With all that, why not give the grandparents some extra money to help with those expenses?

The D.C. Council is considering a bill that would provide a monthly stipend to adults raising their grandchildren if they meet income and other requirements. If the legislation passes next month, advocates for the elderly and experts say, the District would be among only a handful of jurisdictions in the country to establish a subsidy for caregivers who are not part of the foster care system.

Kids stay out of foster care, grandparents get some financial help. The city would have spent the money on foster parents anyway. What could be wrong with that?

According to the 2000 Census, 8,100 people in the District are raising grandchildren. The reasons range from a parent’s unexpected death to issues involving drugs or mental illness.

The D.C. office of AARP, the main force behind the bill, convened a grandparents focus group in 2003, published a report and has lobbied council members for more than a year.

The first reason to be skeptical is that the AARP, those same extortionists who are busy mugging young workers for Social Security and Medicare entitlements, are the driving force behind the bill. Senior citizens are the richest demographic in the nation; they don’t need extra handouts via taxes. But let’s suspend judgment until we get to the real kicker.

Under the bill, sponsored by council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D), the stipend would equal what the city provides to a long-term permanent guardian of a foster child: about $718 to $791 per month per child, depending on the youngster’s age and the amount of other public benefits received. The grandparent would have to have legal custody of the child, submit to a background check and meet other requirements, such as having an income of no more than $16,090 a year in a household of three.

Supporters say the cost of the subsidy would be much less than what the city winds up paying when a grandparent cannot afford to raise a child, who then must be placed in foster care, which can cost up to $80,000 a year, according to the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency.

The District has about 2,700 foster children in its care, while roughly 16,700 children live in grandparent-headed households, the agency said.

Aha! This bill isn’t about helping grandparents struggling to raise their grandkids; it just does that by accident. This bill is about making those grandparents into foster parents, with all of the bureaucratic red tape that implies. It’s also about expanding the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency‘s control to more than six times as many children’s lives.

We’re used to D.C. government grabbing land for stadiums or trying to grab Federal disaster relief money, but trying to grab control over the lives of 16,700 kids and their grandparents goes too far. There’s something very wrong with paying grandparents to take care of their grandkids.

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Miller and Maher: Libertarian, Liberal, or Lame?

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

For years, folks have been speculating about whether Dennis Miller and Bill Maher are truly libertarians. A couple of newspaper articles surfacing on my browser today merely increased the level of confusion.

In a Miami New Times column, Joanne Green reported this of Maher:

The political satirist is most notable as the former outspoken host of the late-night talk show Politically Incorrect. But in June 2002, ABC network execs canned him after he made a controversial on-air remark in which he objected to the President’s claim that the September 11 terrorists were cowards. “We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2000 miles away. That’s cowardly,” Maher said. “Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it’s not cowardly.”

Even with this firm foothold on solid libertarian ground, Maher stumbled quickly with:

“Bush is a liar,” Maher says. “If you do involve yourself in [politics] to a more detailed degree, you see there is a very big difference between this and the last administration.”

Come on, Bill. While Bush’s lies have certainly cost more lives, neither Bush nor Clinton are innocent of foreign adventurism — and clearly not of telling lies. Unless you happened to believe the old “I did not inhale” line.

Dennis Miller was on equally shakey ground with this interview blurb in in an OC Weekly article by Rebecca Schoenkopf:

But Dennis Miller, we left Afghanistan unfinished so we could go to Iraq, and instead of making us safer, we just pissed off a billion people. You’re smart enough to see that, aren’t you?

Nope. I do know people on the Left say I’m not smart enough.

Miller clearly showed some improvement with:

The controversial host has also criticized the Bush administration’s war on drugs and the more recent war on pornography. “We’ve got to go after people whacking at their computers?” Maher muses. “That we would go after people and throw them in jail for having sex just shows how shallow and unserious this administration is.”

Neither of them seem to be full blooded libertarians — yet. However, they both think outside of the two-party box, espouse many libertarian beliefs, and seem to be slowly moving in the libertarian direction. Still, when wishing for a libertarian message combined with a bit of wit, I’ll continue to stick with grand masters Trey Parker and Matt Stone, with Penn and Teller and Doug Stanhope tied for second in the Libertarian Celebrity Tell-It-Like-It-Really-Is Classic.

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Oil Profit Inquiry?

In a culture of corporate welfare, do we really need to have an inquiry on profit? Americans think that big bad oil was gouging them at the pumps during hurricanes Katrina and Rita? I only had to look around my office to see why the price went up. It is a little concept called supply and demand. I literally watched people top off their gas tanks daily. By the time I got to Costco to fill my empty tank, there was no gas. And this was not in a coastal city dealing with evacuation- this was Dallas. Do you know what I didn’t see? I did not see any complainers modifying their own fuel consumption.

We all have choices. I have three cars in my garage. My favorite gets about 14 mpg. If there is a cell phone yapping ass in the left lane doing 50, and I have to pass him angrily at 100 to make a point, I might get 8 mpg. I choose to drive that car daily and therefore choose to fill up at Costco twice weekly. And I pay what the market dictates. No inquiry needed.

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Germany Wishes for “Free Speech Zones”

As much as I complain about the ever increasing restrictions our speech here in America, I had absolutely no idea how bad it has become elsewhere.

Take a peek at this article by Germar Rudolf.

So what is the truth about Germany today? The truth is that in Germany

— folksingers are threatened with imprisonment for singing peaceful songs;
— a professor who writes his disbelief about certain historical events in a footnote, written in Latin(!), in a scholarly anthology(!) was prosecuted and threatened with jail, and the anthology was confiscated and burned;
— a judge, writing a well-founded, but highly controversial book on historical topics, saw his book confiscated and burned, his pension cut, and his PhD title withdrawn as a result of this;
— a history teacher was sent to jail for uttering historical dissent in a private letter to a high-profile personality;
— a professor criticizing internationalism was kicked out of his job, harassed, prosecuted and driven into suicide;
— a historical dissenter was sent to prison for more than two years just because he published peaceful, scholarly historical material;

Holy shit! Imagine, being a scientist or a historian and getting arrested for having a different belief and *gasp* publishing it! That’s exactly what happened to a man named Ernst Zundel, a well known holocaust denier. Say what you want about his beliefs and the merits of his work, but think of the precedent that this sets. History cannot be debated?

At least in this country, even the completely moronic can still have opinions. Publishing said opinions will only subject them to ridicule if they truly deserve it. However, they won’t be imprisoned because of it.

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Scott McClellan: Weapon of Mass Deflection

Scott McClellanGeorge Bush doesn’t pay this guy enough. Scott McClellan, ‘Master of Deception Deflection’, faced an onslaught of questions regarding the administration’s simultaneous denial of torture being use for interrogations and request for torture exemptions. The resulting dialogue, I swear, looks like it was pulled from an article at The Onion.

Q I’d like you to clear up, once and for all, the ambiguity about torture. Can we get a straight answer? The President says we don’t do torture, but Cheney —

MR. McCLELLAN: That’s about as straight as it can be.

Q Yes, but Cheney has gone to the Senate and asked for an exemption on —

MR. McCLELLAN: No, he has not. Are you claiming he’s asked for an exemption on torture? No, that’s —

Q He did not ask for that?

MR. McCLELLAN: — that is inaccurate.

Q Are you denying everything that came from the Hill, in terms of torture?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, you’re mischaracterizing things. And I’m not going to get into discussions we have —

Q Can you give me a straight answer for once?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me give it to you, just like the President has. We do not torture. He does not condone torture and he would never —

Q I’m asking about exemptions.

And on and on for several minutes… He apparently made just one slip up, and despite numerous transcribers and audio recordings catching the slip, the White House Transcript doesn’t show it.

Even champions lose battles here and there. Better luck next time.

Update: Think Progress has an update. Shockingly enough, the administration is standing behind what they “recall” and not what the actually was said. Gotta love these guys. Stubborn till the end.

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I Can’t Drive 55

speed enforcement“Uh, officer, why are you pulling me over?”

“You were doing 73 in a 60 mile-per-hour zone.”

“Sir, you don’t even have radar in your car. How can you possibly know how fast I was driving?”

“Your cell phone told me so. Your driver’s license and registration, please.”

Sound like a scene from a bad movie or a topic from the paranoid fringe? Think again. Bob Barr‘s latest column in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution states:

In Georgia, the handwriting has been on the wall for a couple of years. But the technology is just now being implemented via a partnership between private industry and the government (using your money, of course).

If this partnership has its way, then shortly Georgia will join other states in massive use of this technology to track motorists’ speed, location and direction.

That’s right, the technology is capable of computing the speed of the cellphone in the vehicle, and thus the speed of the vehicle. “But wait a minute,” you might protest, “doesn’t that give the government the capability to determine if I am speeding, and then issue me a speeding ticket?” Yes, it does.

But don’t worry, the bureaucrats promise, the technology would never be employed for such a purpose. And they vow the information will be forever encrypted and unidentifiable — cross their hearts.

One wonders if Big Brother will likewise be tracking how fast their officers are traveling while en route to the closest donut shop.

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Kinky Friedman gets own Reality Show

Kinky Friedman has a posseChalk up another publicity win for the little independent candidate that could — Kinky Friedman, 2006 candidate for Texas governor, is getting his own reality show on Country Music Television:

“Go Kinky,” airing on Country Music Television, follows Friedman, an independent candidate, on the campaign trail in the Lone Star State.

[…] As long as CMT doesn’t support Friedman’s candidacy for governor or does not intend to do so, the show wouldn’t fall under Texas law as a political contribution, Sorrells said.

On one hand, I’m glad to see an independent candidate getting so much media play, even if his views don’t totally jibe with libertarianism. On the other hand, I have to be more than a little skeptical of this kind of free publicity, since this could easily be construed as a free season-long political ad for a specific candidate.

Hopefully CMT will be objective in their embedded coverage of the campaign and show the good with the bad, while also giving the public a glimpse of how political campaigns operate (I’ll be taking notes, of course).

Previously: Willie Nelson Raises $170K for Kinky, Kinky Friedman for Texas Governor 2006

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2005 Ballot Initiatives: Mixed Bag for Libertarians

Governing.com has the best roundup of how the ballot measures did. I’ll attempt to dissect how libertarian ideals fared.

In California the Libertarian Party actually posted a handy guideline to the initiatives, here’s the matchup on how things went (results indicate all measures failed):

Prop. 73 (Parental Notification): No position. Result: No
Prop. 74 (Teacher Tenure): Yes. Result: No
Prop. 75 (Paycheck Protection): Yes. Result: No
Prop. 76 (Live Within Our Means): Yes. Result: No
Prop. 77 (Redistricting): Yes. Result: No
Props. 78 and 79 (Prescription Drug Prices): No. Result: No
Prop 80 (Energy re-regulation): No. Result: No

In Ohio the Libertarian Party urged voters to vote “no” across the board, here’s the election results:

Issue One (High-Tech Spending Package): No. Result: Yes
Issue Two (No Questions Absentee Ballot): No. Result: No
Issue Three (Lower Individual Contribution Limits): No. Result: No
Issue Four (Redistricting): No. Result: No
Issue Five (Election Board): No. Result: No

In New York the Libertarian Party called for a “no” vote for giving more power to the legislature to craft the state budget, calling the budget amendment a “trick.” The measure failed.

In Maine, voters rejected a referendum that would have thrown out a law, passed by the legislature this year, barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. A win for libertarians.

In Texas, an amendment banning same-sex marriage passed. A loss for libertarians who don’t want any state control of marriage.

Washington State banned smoking in any indoor public place. A loss for running your business as you see fit. Yet Seattle killed the monorail by rejecting funding (win for libertarians). Maybe Disney will buy the blueprints for the plan.

UPDATE: Tim West has posted some preliminary Libertarian vote totals over at LFS. The most favorable result is:

VA House of Delegates District 36 with 92% of the precincts in

K R Plum Democratic 15,071 79.14%
D E Ferguson Libertarian 3,912 20.54%

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Jacques Chirac doesn’t care about the Bourgeoisie

France riotingThese days, I’m half expecting to see helicopters rescuing French businessmen with little pencil moustaches wearing berets from the tops of their burning cheese shops. Followed up by a French wine dealer appearing on a telethon fundraiser and chastising Chirac for his handling of the crisis as Gerard Depardieu stands next to him in bewilderment. Because, well… even though that would be surreal as hell, it’d be about as close to the truth as I can imagine right now.

Why? Because the French — borrowing the crisis management playbook from FEMA — have finally acknowledged that the shit has hit the fan. A mere 12 days into the riots engulfing France, president Jacques Chirac cut his vacation short and invoked a state of emergency — mandatory curfews, checkpoints and… oh yeah, a ban on setting cars and buildings on fire:

The violence erupted on Oct. 27 as a localized riot in a northeast Paris suburb angry over the accidental deaths of two teenagers, of Mauritanian and Tunisian descent, who were electrocuted while hiding from police in a power substation.

It has grown into a nationwide insurrection by disillusioned suburban youths, many French-born children of immigrants from France’s former territories like Algeria. France’s suburbs have long been neglected and their youth complain of a lack of jobs and widespread discrimination, some of it racial.

Ironically, those same muslim youth who are complaining about the lack of jobs and education have the bright idea that the way to alleviate their plight is to uh… set fire to the schools, commuter trains and businesses. Genius.

Right on schedule, when government fails to provide security, private citizens fill the void.

For now, I’m simply watching from the sidelines on this one and hoping France can get its shit together before the entire country burns down. And I’m betting no one is going to bother learning any lessons here in the U.S. about integrating immigrants and “guest workers” into the melting pot instead of turning a blind eye to their existence.

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It’s a Mystery

Why does the rest of the world hate us? Ron Paul provides some clues when descibing a recent spending bill:

  • $638 million for the unelected Musharraf government in Pakistan;
  • $735 million to continue dangerous drug meddling in South America;
  • $150 million for development in Gaza, in addition to the billions we already give the Palestinians every year;
  • $95 million in new money for the United Nations Democracy Fund, which meddles with foreign governments but never seems to change them;

I would venture to say the hatred is due to our foreign policy, but I wouldn’t want to be labeled “un-American”.

Dubya:

I’m a war president. I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign policy matters with war on my mind. – On NBC’s “Meet the Press”, Feb. 8, 2004

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We found the WMDs!

Who says there are no chemical or biological weapons in Iraq? There appears to be plenty:

Powerful new evidence emerged yesterday that the United States dropped massive quantities of white phosphorus on the Iraqi city of Fallujah during the attack on the city in November 2004, killing insurgents and civilians with the appalling burns that are the signature of this weapon.

If you need visual evidence, go here.

Update: Meanwhile, the Bush regime has declared Antarctica the next target of it’s war on terrorism:

President Bush has listed the motives for such a surprising decision: “First of all, penguins have still not declared their support for USA, which means they support the international terrorism. Secondly, we have reliable information that penguins possess weapons of mass destruction or WMD’s, hided in giant glaciers. The US Government has made repeated inquires to penguins to send in Antarctica the commissions of international experts for investigation, but they gave no response. So we cannot longer tolerate such state of things.”

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Sign of the times

A high school mock election of the New Jersey Governor’s race resulted in a win for the Socialist Party:

Socialist Party candidate Tino Rozzo, at 21.6 percent, narrowly edged Corzine and three other contenders in a survey of 270 freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors last week.

Rozzo, whose platform includes a $12-per-hour minimum wage and a “socialized healthcare system under workers and community control,” would seem an unlikely favorite at a high school in relatively wealthy, Republican-dominated Morris County.

Still, he had some proud backers among students attending today’s 1 p.m. debate in the high school’s auditorium, with students standing in for five of the candidates running for governor.

“I believe we need to get rid of these capitalist ways,” said Steven Honickel, 14.

Public education at it’s best.

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Pro-terrorist Church

The IRS wants to punish a church for not spreading pro-government propoganda:

The IRS cited The Times story’s description of the sermon as a “searing indictment of the Bush administration’s policies in Iraq” and noted that the sermon described “tax cuts as inimical to the values of Jesus.”

One subject of the church sums it up interestingly:

“In a government that leans so heavily on religious values, that they would pull a stunt like this, it makes me heartsick.”

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…’til the Fat Lady Sings

Radly Balko should be a carpenter, as he hits the nail squarely on the head everytime he writes something. In his latest article, he takes on the misconception that government needs to become involved with our love handles.

Local and state legislatures, the U.S. Congress, regulators at all levels of government, and public health advocates have since seized on the idea that nearly a half million people are needlessly dying every year because of their love handles. The Bush administration has earmarked millions of federal dollars for anti-obesity initiatives (though not nearly enough for the obesity warriors). Congress is considering menu-labeling laws, some in Washington have suggested taxes on high-fat or high-sugar foods, and others are calling on the FTC to regulate the marketing of junk food. Many states have banned junk food from school cafeterias and vending machines. And the Medicare program announced last summer that it would begin considering paying for treatment for obesity, a new entitlement that could prove to be more costly as the prescription drug benefit.

America is at war with obesity. We could eventually come to find, however, that this war’s origins are dubious as the sinking of the Maine.

Heaven forbid that we ever formally declare a War on Obesity. Considering our success with other similar wars (i.e. Iraq, poverty, drugs and illiteracy), future middle seat assignments on airliners could begin to prove fatal.

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Uncle Sam Wants Your Records

Look at this following example of what the government will do with your library records. And I thought they said they never used this.

The FBI came calling in Windsor, Conn., this summer with a document marked for delivery by hand. On Matianuk Avenue, across from the tennis courts, two special agents found their man. They gave George Christian the letter, which warned him to tell no one, ever, what it said.

Under the shield and stars of the FBI crest, the letter directed Christian to surrender “all subscriber information, billing information and access logs of any person” who used a specific computer at a library branch some distance away. Christian, who manages digital records for three dozen Connecticut libraries, said in an affidavit that he configures his system for privacy. But the vendors of the software he operates said their databases can reveal the Web sites that visitors browse, the e-mail accounts they open and the books they borrow.

Christian refused to hand over those records, and his employer, Library Connection Inc., filed suit for the right to protest the FBI demand in public. The Washington Post established their identities — still under seal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit — by comparing unsealed portions of the file with public records and information gleaned from people who had no knowledge of the FBI demand.

It makes me think how many other people willingly gave up this information.

The FBI now issues more than 30,000 national security letters a year, according to government sources, a hundredfold increase over historic norms. The letters — one of which can be used to sweep up the records of many people — are extending the bureau’s reach as never before into the telephone calls, correspondence and financial lives of ordinary Americans.

Issued by FBI field supervisors, national security letters do not need the imprimatur of a prosecutor, grand jury or judge. They receive no review after the fact by the Justice Department or Congress. The executive branch maintains only statistics, which are incomplete and confined to classified reports. The Bush administration defeated legislation and a lawsuit to require a public accounting, and has offered no example in which the use of a national security letter helped disrupt a terrorist plot.

Read full story.

Remember, just because you’re paranoid does not mean they are not after you.

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Congressional Democrats Throw First Amendment into the Wastebin

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

According to Declan McCullagh, Congress refused to act on a law aimed at protecting the First Amendment rights of bloggers. You won’t see me siding with Republicans very often, but if this report is accurate, I’ll take exception to this rule:

In an acrimonious debate that broke largely along party lines, more than three-quarters of congressional Democrats voted to oppose the reform bill, which had enjoyed wide support from online activists and Web commentators worried about having to comply with a tangled skein of rules.

The vote tally in the House of Representatives, 225 to 182, was not enough to send the Online Freedom of Speech Act to the Senate. Under the rules that House leaders adopted to accelerate the process, a two-thirds supermajority was required.

“I’m horribly disappointed that this important measure failed to pass,” said Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn. “This bill was designed to protect the free-speech rights of Americans whose only alleged crime is wanting to use the Internet to express their opinions.”

Since I’ve always been told that Democrats are supposed to be the defenders of our civil liberties, I went looking for some Democratic outrage over this outcome, but couldn’t find it. What’s truly telling is that a search for “Online Freedom of Speech Act” over at DailyKos.com provided the response of “Found 0 results.”

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libertarianism?

The terms “liberal” and “conservative” seem to have evolved to mean socialism and fascism, respectively. Liberals tend to promote a highly regulated economy that re-distributes wealth to “benefit” the lazy or incompetent at the expense of property rights. On the other hand, conservatives prefer to legislate morality because of some sort of misguided superiority complex telling them that they know how to live your life better than you do, also at the expense of property rights. Combine the ingredients and viola! You have totalitarianism, or at least a nicely paved road towards that end. A steady progression towards the ultimate goal of communism. Karl Marx would be proud.

Which leads me to ponder what exactly the term “libertarianism” really means and what it’s purpose is. Depending on how far back you go, liberalism in the classic sense is almost identical to libertarianism. The same applies to conservatism, again depending on which part of history you are referring to. So what are we doing calling ourselves libertarians when we are truely the principled liberals and conservatives? Are we compelled to distinguish ourselves as a fringe group?

Update: The Register-Guard has a nice piece about this subject from a university education perspective.

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Free State Project Changes Target Goals

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the Free State Project (FSP) is giving up on its 2006 recruitment goal of 20,000 people by 2006.

Amanda Phillips, Free State president, said the goal was never an official deadline.

Once the deadline was met, the group planned to move to New Hampshire. The project has about 6,800 members, and most live in California and Florida. Only about 130 people have moved to New Hampshire, The state was targeted because it doesn’t have sales or income taxes and defers to local government control. The group said it will promote just moving to New Hampshire instead.

The FSP website provides their explanation for not meeting their target, but I disagree with reason they provided:

One of our longstanding goals has been to reach 20,000 signatures by the end of 2006. While not outside the realm of possibility, this goal now seems unlikely to be reached. The reason for this is apparently a much lower level of national media attention since the state vote in 2003. The good news is that our growth rate remains steady, that Free Staters are already moving to New Hampshire, and finally, that we think we can improve our media attention substantially in the coming months.

To begin, the FSP has received a fair amount of media attention. While I’ve always supported the FSP, I’ve not personally jumped on board for several reasons:

1) New Hampshire is darned cold in the winter (especially for this southern boy)
2) My immediate family would face a significant decrease in income and probable increase in living expenses were we to move to NH
3) The amount of increased freedom I would receive is negligible compared to the expense and amount of work required to move to NH. The federal goverment would likely “outlaw” most gained freedoms in NH, anyway.
4) I prefer working to make my city a Free City Project, my state a free, and doing what I can to restore the U.S. as a free country.

This said, the FSP might still be able to entice me by offering a few babes like Amanda to keep me warm through the cold northeastern winters.

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Hammer of Truth Feedback Request

bright ideaSome of the old-timers who read this blog will remember when it was just one solitary dude writing this stuff — me. I posted maybe once a day at best and would wander off and not blog for weeks at a time when I was burnt out (from blogging, work, life). Well, there’s seven of us now and several posts a day on several different topics that catch our eye.

Recently, we were even added as an official Google News source, which is giving us some major visibility and traffic to boot.

I want to ask you, faithful readers, how are we doing so far? How can we do better?

Beyond those questions, I have another: the direction of the site. My goal is to slowly transform Hammer of Truth into the biggest libertarian community blog that exists. I’d like to move in the direction of mega-site DailyKos, allowing anyone to join the site and start their own blog/journal, with frontpage linkage being decided on meritocracy, and to a lesser extent, my own prerogative. And I’d like to implement some form of threaded commenting with community moderation. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, and I’d like to know exactly what kind of community features you think would be a must-have.

Have your say in the comments.

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