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.


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, 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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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

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.”


“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.


New Ladies of Liberty Calendar Planned

Ladies of Liberty - TinaRachel Mills asks whether it’s time for another Ladies of Liberty calendar (not updated since 2003, 2004). Unfortunately, she’s estimating it will 2009 before it may become a reality:

So what about a high-concept calendar based on Ladies of Liberty behind door #3? Each month deals with one issue and we have the conservative position, the liberal position – both problematic and with lot of mixed media art and captions explaining why. Then there is a paper flap labeled door #3 and the Lady of Liberty is behind that on stark white representing the views of freedom.

Each month would be a lot to look at, a lot to absorb, very different from the last 2.

Production would be a pain. Have to print double the sheets and might have to assemble them myself for that little cutout feature to work… It would be a fun artsy project tho and I have 2 years….


It’s been too long since there’s been any beautiful libertarian eye-candy to adorn the walls around here, and it seems that dry spell may continue a few more years (I gladly let them adorn my arm in the interim). I hope Rachel realizes there’s a huge market potential for this (uh, ever heard of Slashdot or and could make a pretty penny simply by putting out a high-quality version every year (keeping it fresh of course).

UPDATE by Stephen Gordon: Mills is aware of the market potential. One site mentions coverage just from one year:

Rachel Mills, the North Carolina statehouse candidate who starred in the “Ladies of Liberty” lingerie calendar, generated coverage from the Washington Post, the Associated Press and appeared on three national TV shows: Fox News’ O’Reilly Factor, MS/NBC’s “Nachman” and CNN’s “Crossfire.”


NOLA Mayor: I need 512kbps WiFi, man…

Ray Nagin - AFP file photoNew Orleans mayor Ray Nagin has announced a plan to blanket the entire city in free WiFi within a year to help boost the economy:

“What we learned is a network like this is important as a backup in case all other communications fail,” the mayor said.

The system uses hardware mounted on street lights. Most of the $1 million in equipment was donated by three companies: Intel Corp., Tropos Networks Inc. and Pronto Networks. The companies also plan to donate equipment for the citywide expansion.

The network uses “mesh” technology to pass the wireless signal from pole to pole rather than each Wi-Fi transmitter being plugged directly into a physical network cable. That way, laptop users will be able to connect even in areas where the wireline phone network will take time to restore.

The system will provide download speeds of 512 kilobits per second as long as the city remains under a state of emergency. But the bandwidth will be slowed to 128 kbps in accordance with a limit set by Louisiana’s law once the city’s state of emergency is lifted at an unknown future date.

Because the next time the levees are breached, residents can rejoice knowing they can still check their email while trapped in their attics.

[ * Post title is a reference to a previous Nagin quote]


Robbing Peter to Pay Politicians

While most of us have been rightfully railing hard against the Ermächtigungsgesetz Patriot Act and Homeland Stupidity Security, we’ve not been paying as much attention to another civil liberty slowly eroding away. Fortunately for us, Russmo has been on the ball, and provides us with his latest in a long series of timely political cartoons. Asset forfeiture may apply to more than just drug dealers, too. Common household items may be enough to have your home and car seized, as Reason’s Jacob Sullum provides:

Hard as this collateral damage is to justify, it pales next to that suffered by other innocent victims of the government’s war on methamphetamine. Last summer, for instance, state and federal agents arrested 49 convenience store clerks and owners in Georgia on charges they sold pseudoephedrine and other supplies to informants posing as meth cooks.

The supplies, including matches, charcoal, antifreeze, coffee filters, aluminum foil, and cat litter, were all perfectly legal. The charges, carrying penalties of up to 25 years in prison as well as fines and asset forfeiture, are based on the doubtful premise the defendants knew or should have known what the fake customers pretended to be planning.

So where does all the seized money go? Sam Vaknin provides us with his view:

According to David McClintick (“Swordfish: A True Story of Ambition, Savagery, and Betrayal”), in the late 1980’s, the FBI and DEA set up dummy corporations to deal in drugs. They funneled into these corporate fronts money from drug-related asset seizures.

The idea was to infiltrate global crime networks but a lot of the money in “Operation Swordfish” may have ended up in the wrong pockets. Government agents and sheriffs got mysteriously and filthily rich and the whole sorry affair was wound down. The GAO reported more than $3.6 billion missing. This bit of history gave rise to at least one blockbuster with Oscar-winner Halle Berry.

Alas, slush funds are much less glamorous in reality. They usually involve grubby politicians, pawky bankers, and philistine businessmen – rather than glamorous hackers and James Bondean secret agents.

The asset forfeitures continue, as well as graft and corruption in high places. Thomas Jefferson defined tyranny as “that which is legal for the government but illegal for the citizenry.” If in doubt about whether we live under a tyranny today, I’d recommend that you go purchase a case of Sudafed, some coffee filters and a few gallons of antifreeze. Before you begin your shopping spree, I have one simple recommendation: Please consider donating your house and other assets to charity.


Iraq Exit Plan Translated

Will the political posturing on both sides ever end? From the AFP:

The White House for the first time has claimed possession of an Iraq withdrawal plan, arguing that a troop pullout blueprint unveiled this past week by a Democratic senator was “remarkably similar” to its own.

[…] The statement late Saturday by White House spokesman Scott McClellan came in response to a commentary published in The Washington Post by Joseph Biden, the top Democrat of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in which he said US forces will begin leaving Iraq next year “in large numbers.”

Translation: We are cutting and running, while calling it a victory and saying that the Democrats were in favor of more drastic cutting and running, while using the same plan they proposed.

McClellan said the White House now saw “a strong consensus” building in Washington in favor of Bush’s strategy in Iraq.

Translation: The new strategy will not include Mission Accomplished banners and Bush wearing a flight suit. And by consensus, we mean we have changed our positions in order to be part of that consensus.

Even if conditions on the ground there improve, “I have to admit that I think the chances are not a lot better than 50-50,” [Biden] said.

“Are we going to have traded a dictator for chaos? Or are we going to have traded a dictator for a stable Iraq? That’s the real question. And that depends on the president’s actions from here out,” said Biden.

Translation: EVERYONE TRADE PLACES! I am the hawk and you are the pussy. I will now hedge my bets in case my idea of leaving Iraq fails, then I can blame you for the plan I endorse.

The Biden plan calls for preparatory work to be done in the first six months of next year, ahead of the envisaged pullout. It includes:

– forging a compromise among Iraqi factions, under which the Sunnis must accept that they no longer rule Iraq and Shiites and Kurds admit them into a power-sharing arrangement;

– building Iraq’s governing capacity;

– transferring authority to Iraqi security forces;

– establishing a contact group of the world’s major powers to become the Iraqi government’s primary international interlocutor.

Translation: And it’s going to work this time, because the Senate voted on it. The vote itself has transformed Iraq into a stable democracy where we can now forget about all the people there who simply want to kill American soldiers.

“The fact is that the Senate amendment reiterates the president’s strategy in Iraq,” the statement said.

Translation: If this fails, it will all be your fault because you voted on it. GOTCHA AGAIN!

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ACLU Apologist for the Police State?

This one is pretty damned scary:

Miami police announced Monday they will stage random shows of force at hotels, banks and other public places to keep terrorists guessing and remind people to be vigilant.

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.

There goes the Fourth Amendment and what particles remain of the Fifth.

“People are definitely going to notice it,” Fernandez said. “We want that shock. We want that awe. But at the same time, we don’t want people to feel their rights are being threatened. We need them to be our eyes and ears.”

Geez, like we need more shock and awe these days. What’s the plan, to intimidate honest citizens into being snitches for the jackbooted thugs. It is comforting to know that they “don’t want people to feel their rights are being threatened” — except for that quirky little 4th Amendment thing.

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.”

I’ve been actively supportive of the ACLU on this general issue, as they have been leading the way with respect to fighting the Patriot Act and related infringements of our civil rights. This time, I’ve got to hold their feet to the fire. The admission that the Miami Model is “more consistent with the Constitution” logically means that it is not consistent with the Constitution.

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.

Update by Stephen VanDyke: Radley Balko weighs in, saying “If the terrorists hate us for our freedom, then holy shit are we ever appeasing the terrorists.”

Another update by Stephen VanDyke: A modified version of the story in the Washington Post quotes police spokesman Angel Calzadilla as saying “there would be no random checks of identification.” Did the stink on the blogosphere drive them to drop the idea?

Yet another update by SV: Free Talk Live, home of the bestest libertarian talk radio, had a great hour of discussion on their show (MP3 link).

Update by Stephen Gordon: The ACLU is now claiming that Mr. Simon was misquoted. Details here.


Wishful Thinking: Bush Disapproval = Dem Wins

blue state wishful thinkingA set of maps with a blue-washing of states to represent a recent SurveyUSA polling of Americans who disapprove of Bush’s job performance was posted at DailyKos today and has been picked up by several Democrat outlets.

Yet one commenter actually had some insight to the reality of what the polls represent:

First, there’s no doubt that the Republicans party is bleeding out of its center, but I wonder how much of it is bleeding out to the right (or to the northeast and southeast, for the political compass junkies). I imagine many hardcore libertarians are starting to take the third party option much more seriously.

Secondly, many expected that there had been bleeding from the fundamentalist wing over the Miers nomination, and that Alito would bring some of Bush’s number back up, but so far, that doesn’t seem to the case. Either that assumption about poll numbers was wrong, or the fundies are waiting to see if Bush can deliver an Alito nomination, or I guess some of them could also be taking the third party option more seriously, and he’ll have trouble winning them back.

Either way, people moving to third parties on the right isn’t the formula for Democratic success, but it surely helps them a great deal when also picking up moderates (hopefully in droves).

The fact is, libertarian publicity seem to be doing quite well in the wake of Bush’s low approval ratings (along with low support for Democrats or Republicans in general) and a weak Democrat rhetoric (which can often be boiled down to “no, you suck more”).

As the saying goes: don’t count your chickens until they hatch. Democrats shouldn’t assume just because there’s discontent with Republicans that there’s going to be a shift back to voting for them. If you’ll pardon the pun, the failed policies of both major parties may finally come home to roost.


Freedom of the Press Suppressed in Tennessee HS

In a move sure to make members of the Bush administration proud, an Oak Ridge Tennessee high school principle named Becky Ervin has shut down the school newspaper and seized copies which had already been distributed.

Tennessee Independent Media Center reports:

Administrators late Tuesday searched through teachers’ rooms and desks and seized copies, they said. The inter-school mail system delivering copies was halted, and the newspaper returned. Bundles of papers were removed from teachers’ mailboxes, Grooms [the newspaper advisor] said.

Grooms said she was told to retrieve “all copies that went home. I picked up one copy from one student.”

The students don’t seem to be standing down, though.

“The school administration should realize they don’t have the power to censor our paper,” [the paper’s Editor-in-Chief Brittany] Thomas said, while fellow students gathered around her living room late Wednesday afternoon to hand-paint T-shirts they plan to wear to school on Monday in protest.

According to the Boston Globe, the issues at stake are tattoos and birth control:

The Oak Leaf’s birth control article listed success rates for different methods, and said contraceptives were available from doctors and the local health department. Superintendent Tom Bailey said the article needed to be edited so that it would be acceptable to all the school.

The edition also contained a photo of an unidentified student’s tattoo, which the student had not told her parents about, said Bailey.

”I have a problem with the idea of putting something in the paper that makes us a part of hiding something from the parents,” Bailey said.

And we can be sure this infuriated the control freaks even more:

However, this time a quote from a health department doctor explaining pregnant teens rights to privacy went too far.

“I don’t think we should be condoning anything that tries to suggest a school newspaper or a school’s mission is to keep things from parents,” Dr. Bailey said.

To the students at Oak Ridge High: We know what it is like to have to resort to samizdat news coverage. That’s why we run this website. Our presidential candidate was arrested last year, and I’ll bet most of you never even heard about it. Please bear in mind that many authorities at all levels will try to suppress journalistic expression. Journalism classes and school newspapers are supposed to teach students what it is like in the real world. The way things are going politically, this may soon be the case.

Contact: Principal Becky Ervin or Superintendent Thomas Bailey. Props.

Update by Stephen VanDyke: I know this is a bit late, but I wanted to note this comment from Fark:

Fark censorship

Senior Congressman Guilty: $2.4M in Bribes

Rep Cunningham statementIn a story that is sure to rock the “Moral Majority” [ed- on second thought, they seem to pick and choose their morals] wing of the Republican Party, eight-term California Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy and tax charges and tearfully resigned from office. From the Associated Press:

In a statement, prosecutors said Cunningham admitted to receiving at least $2.4 million in bribes paid to him by several conspirators through a variety of methods, including checks totaling over $1 million, cash, rugs, antiques, furniture, yacht club fees and vacations.

“He did the worst thing an elected official can do _ he enriched himself through his position and violated the trust of those who put him there,” U.S. Attorney Carol Lam said. The statement did not identify the conspirators.

The case began when authorities started investigating whether Cunningham and his wife, Nancy, used the proceeds from the $1,675,000 sale to defense contractor Mitchell Wade to buy the $2.55 million mansion in Rancho Santa Fe. Wade put the Del Mar house back on the market and sold it after nearly a year for $975,000 _ a loss of $700,000.

Actually, I don’t care what his political affiliation is, I just hope he ends up sharing a cell with former Ohio Rep. James Traficant.

Update: There might be something in the water down in San Diego that leads to corruption, as this is the 4th high-profile case of the year. Two city council members got swatted and the mayor pulled out all the stops when he was found guilty of corruption… his first day in office.

Another Update: Defense Tech has more details on his military accomplishments and that the Air Force (and their defense contractors) are losing a powerful ally.


“Trophy” Video: Contractors Shooting Civilians

Iraq trophy video stillThe Sunday Telegraph reports that “a ‘trophy’ video appearing to show security guards in Baghdad randomly shooting Iraqi civilians has sparked two investigations after it was posted on the internet.” The video, which was originally posted on an adjunct employee website of UK private security contractor Aegis Defence Ltd, is set to the music of Elvis:

In one of the videoed attacks, a Mercedes is fired on at a distance of several hundred yards before it crashes in to a civilian taxi. In the last clip, a white civilian car is raked with machine gun fire as it approaches an unidentified security company vehicle. Bullets can be seen hitting the vehicle before it comes to a slow stop.

There are no clues as to the shooter but either a Scottish or Irish accent can be heard in at least one of the clips above Elvis Presley’s Mystery Train, the music which accompanies the video.

The wanton disregard for human life displayed in the video has led some to question the role and accountability of private security contractors in Iraq (at one point a Humvee is seen driving on a parallel road with no intervention).

You can see the video for yourself here and here. (via Political Wire)

Update by Stephen Gordon: I just FTPed the video in Windows Media and Quicktime to save bandwidth for the sites linked above.


Marijuana No Longer the Key Gateway Drug

Anecdotal data already indicate that Viagra use leads to pornography, polygamy, and even death. If this trend continues, older people may actually start engaging in sexual activites which don’t even include the missionary position. Considering the absurd position of the DEA on marijuana prohibition, these data should already be more than enough to forever prohibit this evil drug which actually can kill.

New evidence suggests that Viagra is the pill of choice for people using illicit recreational drugs. From the article:

“Viagra has been the number one party pill since it was released,” said Paul Quigley, emergency medicine specialist at Wellington Hospital.

Partygoers report many party pills and illicit drugs make them amorous but unable to perform. They see Viagra and other similar drugs as the perfect finale to their weekend cocktail.

“Most recreational drugs make you very randy but you can’t do much about it,” said Quigley, an expert in recreational drugs. “That’s the standard mix to go out in the evening – to make sure you take some Viagra with you.”

Viagra is a common addition to illegal party pill packs combined with “uppers” for Friday and Saturday night, as well as “downers” to help clubbers sleep on Sunday before work.

Not only might one argue that Viagra is frequently abused by people taking it for recreational use, but it also leads to more dangerous activities. The strength of the DEA argument against marijuana has always rested on the distortion fact that marijuana is a gateway drug. Viagra is much more of a gateway drug, as it is not only associated with the use of hard (no pun intended) drugs, but it also leads to such things as marital enhancement for those with erectile dysfunction and the restoration of healthy sex lives for our elderly. Like marijuana, it must be outlawed today before our society slips into further decay.

Update By Jake Porter: Let’s not forget the government funded Viagra.


Norwegian Expansion of Bush Policy: All Children Left Behind

Not wishing to be outdone by the US, Norway seems to be working on a plan specifically designed to leave all children behind. Aftenposten reports on a proposal to revise the way history is to be taught in the land which bore Thor Heyerdahl and Roald Amundsen:

The new program leaves out the world wars, the Russian Revolution, the Cold War, and does not mention the topics of Nazism or Communism.

The world wars are potentially included under a clause that would allow teachers and students “to choose and examine two or more recent international conflicts, and assess cause and effect”.

The reform would further complicate the teaching of general education by reducing the number of hours of history to two hours a week.

We already know the results of teaching revisionist history in the United States. Let’s just hope that Norway doesn’t forget its proud history of resisting the Nazi occupation, so this piece of soon to be verboten history doesn’t repeat itself.

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Missing Home: the Good, Bad and Indifferent

I am still in Bangkok and I am enjoying a quiet moment. Jet lag has the rest of the family in bed and I am feeling a bit homesick. To combat that ache, I opened and went to my normal starting point- the Op-Ed page. Sunday’s letters section is always grouped by subject matter, and of late, there is a whole section dealing with patriotism and the war. I remembered a George Washington quote and thought to look it up- I wanted to share what I felt reading it years ago. I found much wisdom (as well as contradiction) attributed to Washington, but came across a quote that I did not remember. “An army of asses led by a lion is better than an army of lions led by an ass.” I think this may accurately reconcile the opposing ideas of support for the troops and disdain for the commander’s cause. I never did find the quote I was looking for- I was asked to register for the site and thought that time may be better spent taking advantage of the free mini bar. As I enjoy Thailand’s brew, I will be thinking of our lions. May they have an ass for dinner soon.

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Cleveland Muslim Imam Arrested

Fawaz Damra - photo from The RepositoryThis is an interesting story since it’s going on in my neck of the woods. Apparently the authorities caught a terrorist fundraiser living in Cleveland, Ohio who was funneling money back to the Islamic Jihad:

Controversial Imam Fawaz Damra was arrested outside his home early Friday morning and taken to Detroit for the start of his deportation case.

[…] “He actively espoused and sought funding for the killing of Jews and innocent people,” said [Brian] Moskowitz, who is overseeing the deportation case. “This trumps the others because of the national security grounds.”

Damra was convicted last year of lying on his citizenship application more than a decade ago. He spent two months in prison after prosecutors proved he raised money for Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other groups.

But the real jab in the government’s eye is the possibility that they won’t be able to deport the guy — even with all the curtailing of civil liberties that came in the wake of the PATRIOT Act:

After a year of little public activity on the case, several of the lawyers involved acknowledged they were concerned that Damra could escape deportation for two reasons:

He had committed only one crime — lying on his citizenship application — since coming to the United States. Two crimes of that nature are usually required before deportation, if they occurred more than five years after arrival. [ed- funding terrorist organizations isn’t a crime?]

[…] Damra claims he will be tortured if sent to the West Bank, Gaza or Jordan. International law forbids deporting someone if there’s a likelihood they will be tortured.

I mean come on, this the exactly what they claim to need the Act for, yet they seem utterly hamstrung on what to do with him.

Well, I have a suggestion… do the Israelis a favor and drop him off in the West Bank with a discrete tracking device hidden on his clothes. If he heads for an Islamic Jihad safehouse (you know because the satellite photo will likely show some masked guys carrying RPGs and AKs around the compound), pick up the phone and let Sharon know the coordinates.

[photo credit: The Repository]

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