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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Hurricane Katrina’s 521,000 Pink Slips

The official numbers are out. Katrina took about a cool half million jobs out of the economy. Now granted, some of those jobs included “bead necklace maker,” “crappy radio station WSUX 95.5,” and other jobs that won’t have a real impact on the rest of the country… but that’s still a large chunk of fresh job hunters that will add to already pressure to the already dwindling supply.

If only they were willing to move to India… they might actually find our lost manufacturing base!

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Wal-Mart’s Minimum Effort

By now you’ve probably heard of Wal-Mart getting into bed with Washington by flexing it’s lobbying arm. Out of the newly formed “war room” (incidentally filled with former tobacco lobbyists) came the strategy to ask Congress to raise mimum wage laws.

Because it’s obvious that’s what’s been stopping them from paying their employees more. Yeesh.

Wal-Mart is trying to clean up their public image, but that may not work as planned if they are simply going to use their size and might to bully the government into agreeing with them through yet another corporate lobby.

Like the news that the Department of Labor is in bed with Wal-Mart — offering unheard of tipoffs and leniency when Wal-Mart violates their laws, and get this: issuing joint press releases.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think Wal-Mart is a damned fine retailer when it comes to slicing pennies of the cost of goods and passing that on to consumers (at the peril of suppliers who can’t or won’t do the same). But when any company starts to schmooze their way into government process in such a lewd manner, you know there’s something fishy going on.

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LV Mayor on Graf Artists: “Cut off Their Thumbs”

graffiti - my thumb staysThanks to Wooster Collective once again for a story tip.

Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman proposed his fail-safe idea of making sure his house turns purple, green and orange when he suggested that the best way to curb graffiti is to cut the thumbs off of vandals (or street artists, take your pick) on live TV.

He claims he got this brilliant notion from the French, who beheaded criminals, while conveniently forgetting that the guillotine was later turned on the ruling class:

“I’m saying maybe you put them on TV and cut off a thumb,” the mayor added. “That may be the right thing to do.”

Goodman also suggested that whippings or canings should be brought back for children who get into trouble.

“I also believe in a little bit of corporal punishment going back to the days of yore, where examples have to be shown,” Goodman said.

Street art, or graffiti is a contentious topic of discussion, because for every person who lamely defaces with a tag of their name, there’s an artist who’s blowing our minds with public masterpieces.

And speaking of lessons from “the days of yore” how about a lovely tar and feathering for this idiot mayor.

Update: Wooster is asking people to send in photos of their thumbs:

In response to the Mayor of Las Vegas saying that he wants to cut off the thumbs of graffiti artists – if you’re an artist dedicated to the streets – send us a photo of your thumb (or hand) with a little drawing or message on it. We’ll collect all of the photographs, post them on the Wooster site, and then send them as a group to the Mayor.

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Congress Kills Commercial Eminent Domain

Castle Coalition - hands off my homeOk, this is a big win with a big caveat: it sunsets in two frickin years. Can anyone else say “presidential campaign issue?” Kip Esquire correctly points out in the comments that the bill doesn’t expire in two years. Instead all federal funding is cut for two years. Honest mistake, and we’re much happier now (though I’d still like to see it codified as an amendment that can’t be overturned by the SCOTUS again).

Today, backed by president Bush, Congress passed House Resolution 4128 (text of bill), which in effect strips all federal funding from states that allow seizing of homes for economic development. After an overwhelming 376-38 vote, it’s uncertain just why they decided to sunset the change in just two years and (see above) didn’t push for an amendment to permanently protect property rights from eminent domain abuses.

The Castle Coalition, one of the most prominent groups fighting eminent domain, hailed the legislation as a win, saying in a press release “The legislation strikes the perfect balance. It serves to reassure every American that federal dollars — their own money — won’t be used to kick them off their land, while allowing state and local governments to use federal dollars for actual public uses, like roads and military bases.”

In related news, this will certainly kill any possibility of Louisana lawmakers making use of eminent domain to seize homes in areas of New Orleans devastated by breeched levee flooding. The NOLA seizure plan would have given developers large swathes of land where homes are condemned due to flood damage.

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GOP Seeking Oil Industry Charity (not Taxes!)

Grassley - beyond pork-barrelingThis week, GOP lawmakers in Washington are hoping to throw down some taxes on big oil, without actually calling them taxes (because Republicans don’t like the t-word). Instead, they are hoping to guilt oil companies into donating 10 percent of their record profits to the government so they can use it to assist low-income households with heating bills:

Mr. Grassley’s proposal, outlined in letters to three oil and gas industry associations on Tuesday, asks energy companies to contribute 10 percent of their profits to fuel funds operated by states and utility companies that supplement the federal heating assistance program.

“In light of record profits and rising energy costs, it seems only logical for the companies to practice good corporate citizenship by helping low-income families and seniors,” said the Iowa Republican, whose state is one of many in the Midwest where heating bills are expected to rise 50 percent on average this winter.

Mr. Grassley, whose powerful committee writes tax law and oversees charitable organizations, also asked the associations for status reports on charitable giving by the energy companies.

This comes right on the heels of record profits, like Exxon Mobil which reported a $9.9 billion quarterly profit.

Which comes right on the heels of last week’s new program to give federal insurance to oil refiners whose expansion projects are delayed by lawsuits or regulatory snags.

And which comes right on the heels of $14.5 billion in tax breaks and incentives to the energy industry three months ago.

Update: Congress snuck a provision into budget cuts to rent parts of the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) to oil companies for $2.5 billion, which is a good thing considering they could have stupidly given it to them like so many other giveaways.

Another Update: IO Error has a great roundup of all the bills Republicans are trying to shove down the throats of oil companies. It seems for every proposed tax, someone is countering with some refinery land giveaway or relief act for hurricane damage.

Frankly it’s getting to the point where someone needs to compile these bills into a spreadsheet of “give” and “take” columns and run the numbers to see how everything comes out. Give a couple billion here, take a couple billion there… Republicans are baking us a double unbig government cake, right?

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Army “recruits”

Molesting alter boys from work didn’t pan out very well, so I guess Catholic priests are targeting the Army now. It appears they aren’t having much luck there either.

The irony…

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Police Murder Man for Unpaid Seat Belt Ticket

Keep this in mind the next time you forget to buckle up

Vera died on Aug. 19 in an intensive care unit at Medical Center of McKinney after almost two weeks in a coma. He was doused with oleoresin capsicum “pepper” spray by two Allen police officers during his Aug. 4 arrest for an unpaid seat belt ticket out of Irving.

Apparently police can murder someone and get away with it.

The grand jury report stated, “No probable cause exists to believe that any criminal offense was committed in connection with these events, other than Mr. Vera’s refusal to submit to the lawful authority of the police officers who attempted to effect his arrest.”

Collin County Medical Examiner Dr. William Rohr reported Vera’s death was a homicide, adding his death resulted from a struggle with officers. But “that does not “necessarily mean there was any criminal activity involved in Mr. Vera’s death,” Rohr said in his report.

Rohr stated cause of death as a lack of oxygen to the brain, which had occurred while Vera was face down, with pressure on his back.

I guess a homicide isn’t a criminal offense for police. Especially if they didn’t use pepper spray.

Rohr’s report also stated that use of pepper spray, as well as water near the scene and the intramural coronary artery, did not contribute to Vera’s death.

Good thing the judge was looking out for the interests of the victim

According to court documents, the court issued the order to prevent “extensive media coverage” from harming the judicial process.

And finally, you can all rest assured that these fine officers will be back on the street in no time.

Felty added the officers will be reinstated following the debriefing portion of the department’s internal investigation.

Overall, Felty said the department was pleased with the grand jury’s announcement and believe they are participating in “full, fair and impartial investigations.”

“The most important thing here is the Allen citizens know there’s no wrongdoing on the part of their police officers,” he said.

Update: Feel free to let the Allen police know what you think: police@cityofallen.org or their boss: pvargas@cityofallen.org

Another Update: Cool site dedicated to police accountability.

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PA Operation Clean Sweep’s First Victory!

clean sweep pigPeople say activism doesn’t work anymore. Well it has in this case. Maybe it was the 129,000 signature petition rolled out at the capital’s doorstep. Maybe it was the 25 foot inflatable pig. Either way, the pressure has become high enough and the situation embarrassing enough that the Pennsylvania Senate and House have already passed a bill lowering the salaries back.

The Senate, reacting to months of fierce backlash from constituents, unanimously voted early in the evening to repeal the pay increase. The bill included a provision lowering judges’ pay as well, which some lawmakers argued is prohibited by the state Constitution.

Around 11 p.m., the House took up the bill, but added an amendment that tied together each part of the bill. So if a judge strikes one part down, the entire bill is repealed and the raise might return.

So it’s not through yet and there is some rider amendments that may piss some people off, but the ball is rolling. And remember, PA Clean Sweep’s goal is to get every incumbent out of office for the audacity of their 11th hour move to jack up their salaries by as much as 54%. Good Luck!

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How not to get BlogBashed

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

Following up on the Forbes hooplah on “attack” blogs, Boing Boing points to this 10-point list of simple things to do to avoid negative blog coverage:

1. Create quality products and services.
2. Sell what you advertise.
3. Make certain your products and services do what they claim to do.
4. Fully test and study your products and services before offering them for sale.
5. Disclose all risks posed to purchasers of your products and services.
6. Tell the truth.
7. Fulfill your warranty promises.
8. Don’t cut corners.
9. Comply with all applicable laws and regulations.
10. Don’t try to buy influence.

It sounds simple, but for corporate bureaucracies, it doesn’t hurt to spell out the obvious.

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Political Stencils Greet Bush in Argentina

Wooster Collective (my favorite street art site) has this stencil/graffiti from Argentina, where President Bush is visiting this week. Bush can also expect massive protests from Argentinians unenthusiastic about multiple facets of U.S. foreign policy.

Argentina / Bush - fucking cowboy, go home

You know, we’re totally holding out for the Marlboro man remix or maybe just some enterprising artist can make some killer t-shirts from this.

Update: 10,000 protest Bush in Argentina. We’re shocked… SHOCKED!

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Forget legislation, we have the FCC

In October 1994, President Clinton signed the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) into law forcing telephone companies to re-design their networks to better accomodate the government’s ability to spy on you. This legislation did not apply to the internet.

If you wanted this legislation to extend to data communications, what would you do? Lobby congress to change the law, perhaps? Not if you are the FBI, DEA and DOJ. Why bother with a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo when all you have to do is petition the FCC to take care of it?

The petition requested that CALEA’s reach be expanded to cover communications that travel over the Internet. Thus, Broadband providers would be required to rebuild their networks to make it easier for law enforcement to tap Internet “phone calls” that use Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) applications such as Vonage, as well as online “conversations” using various kinds of instant messaging (IM) programs like AOL Instant Messenger (AIM).

Who do you think is going to end up picking up the tab for the $7 billion in changes?

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Landmark Case Decided For Disabled Veterans

Despite my staunch stance against the war in Iraq, I believe in keeping promises to the soldiers that served and did so in a way that didn’t disgrace the nation (like those at Abu Ghraib).

Yesterday, November the 1st 2005, after 14 years of denial, a military tribunal has finally recognized ‘Gulf War Syndrome’. This is huge, as it will finally allow Vets that were promised medical care by the government to get medical treatment for their disabilities.

There is a great documentary out there, ‘Beyond Treason’, which shows the evidence and just the sheer magnitude of this problem. In a war that only had a coalition causality count of 378, The American Gulf War Veterans Association is claiming the post war casualties are as high as 15,000 from exposure to things like depleted uranium.

Hopefully the vets can get some of the help they were promised, and hopefully no more of our troops will have to suffer in such a manner (particularly for this debacle of a war we have going on now).

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N.H. Residents Fight ‘View’ Tax

No, it’s not your political views being taxed (as I’m sure I’d be broke right now if it was the same rate as NY’s sales tax). Residents of NH are getting upset from rising property taxes because their homes have more ‘value’ because of their scenic views.

I remember growing up in an upper-lower class part of upstate NY (hey, it can always get worse!) and having people absolutely dread the time when their homes were to be re-appraised. I knew many people that purposely left some renovations incomplete for as long as possible in order to delay the inevitable increased tax burden. I do recall one guy leaving out a wall of his garage for this exact reason. Hey, it’s not a garage yet! You can’t tax it as such! Yes, it was a stupid technicality, but it was just one of the many lengths people would go to stymie the tax man.

Getting back to NH

Whether tax or factor, Orford residents find the increased costs difficult to bear and are leading a tax revolt that is gaining support in other rural New Hampshire towns. Pressured by residents, the Orford Board of Selectmen voted in September to set aside soaring revaluations of property until the state legislature develops objective standards for valuing views.

Yes yes. Just what we need. Viewing value standards. It sounds like an FCC project gone awry. Let’s see here. I can see 3 trees, 4 shrubs, about half a pond, and it looks like your skyline angle during sunset is about 20 degrees (not too shabby). So based on our NH land value calculation sheet, your house is worth an extra 20,000.

I guess it pays to live in a dank dark swamp area then.

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“Mile High” Legalized in Denver

A 54% vote in favor of legalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults in Denver, Colorado may give new meaning to the city’s nickname as the Mile High city. Under the new measure, anyone over the age of 21 could legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use (via Catallarchy).

The group backing the legalization — SAFER, or Safer Alternatives For Enjoyable Recreation — argued that legalizing marijuana would reduce consumption of alcohol, which campaign organizer Mason Tvert said leads to higher rates of car accidents, domestic and street violence and crime. Opponents such as Mayor John Hickenlooper, were criticized for protecting alcohol consumption and their ties to the alcohol industry (Hickenlooper owns a popular brewpub).

While the measure passing is to be commended, and shows that there is popular support for ending the war on drugs, pragmatists pointed out that most possession charges are filed on the state and federal level, outside the jurisdiction of Denver municipal courts.

Still, high fives to Denver residents for voting for what they believe in and not buying into the reefer madness hype.

Update: Last One Speaks has a link to an incredibly tempered Fox News video clip.

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For Bush, Leaks are Laughing Matter

Bush laughing (generic)President George Bush was in Argentina today when a reporter asked him a question that was answered rather oddly:

When an Argentine reporter said sources told him that Kirchner planned to ask Bush for help reaching a new financial agreement on its debts with the International Monetary Fund, Bush expressed mock surprise that government officials can act as secret-leaking sources.

“I’m not going to ask you who they are, of course,” Bush said, drawing laughter from the U.S. contingent in the room. “Inside joke here, for my team.”

You know what’s even more hilarious? Sending that reporter to jail for not divulging their sources. There’s a punchline in the colon for ya, mister smarty-pants reporter.

Update: Wonkette has the press pool transcript.

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HR 4004: A Plan To Lower Gas Prices

Former Libertarian Party Presidential candidate Ron Paul (now a Republican Congressman from Texas) has developed a plan to lower the gas prices and a surprise to some is that it requires less government regulation than more.

Many Americans understandably are upset with the sharp spike in gas prices since Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast in August, and are concerned by reports of oil company profits. But we must understand that high oil prices are not the result of an unregulated free market. On the contrary, the oil industry is among the most regulated and most subsidized of U.S. industries. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves whether too much government involvement in the oil markets, rather than too little regulation, has kept the supply of refined gasoline artificially low.

Consider Marathon Oil, which operates a refinery in Texas City. Marathon recently announced the construction of new refinery that will bring several hundred thousand barrels of oil online every day- which is exactly what the nation needs. But building a new refinery is a daunting task that requires billions of dollars in capital investment. The process of obtaining federal permits alone can take several years. As a result, we won’t see a drop of refined gasoline from the new Marathon facility until 2009.

Federal subsidies and regulations are largely responsible for limiting the supply of refined gasoline in this country. The demand for gasoline has risen dramatically in America due to population growth in recent decades, but virtually no new refining capacity has been added. Basic economics tells us that rising demand and a fixed supply will lead to higher prices. No amount of congressional grandstanding about price gouging will change this economic reality. We must increase domestic exploration, drilling, and refining if we hope to maintain reasonable gas prices. We need more competition, which means we need less government.

Read more.

It would lower the gas prices almost twenty cents a gallon and maybe much more. You can read the full text of the Bill here.

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Senate Holds Closed Session on Iraq

Senate closed hearingsIn what may be little more than a political stunt by Democratic leader Harry Reid today, the Senate halted all normal procedures, kicked the public out and finally talked about Iraq in the most democratic form anyone could hope for… behind closed doors.

We’ve been too busy tipping at the titty bar thanks to FEMA debit cards to really give a shit about this whole “why are we still in Iraq” thing, so we’re gonna just turn the whole “question the government” schtick over to our homeboy Knappster, who has questions for both sides:

Question for Senator Reid — If “the American people and U.S. troops deserve to know the details of how the United States became engaged in the war,” then why call for a closed sesion instead of an open one?

Question for Senator Lott — If Reid was just interested in making “some sort of stink about Scooter Libby and the CIA leak,” then wouldn’t he have done so in public instead of in secret?

Question for Senator Reid — If Senator Pat Roberts “reneged on a promise to fully investigate whether the administration exaggerated and manipulated intelligence leading up to the war,” then why haven’t Senate Democrats moved to bring Senate work to a halt until such an investigation is done, or introduced a motion to censure Roberts for dereliction of duty?

Question for Senator Lott — If Senator Reid’s procedural move “violated the Senate’s tradition of courtesy,” how would you characterize Senate President Dick Cheney’s admonition, given on the Senate floor, to Senator Pat Leahy to “go f–k himself?”

Last word before we go back to stuffing bills into g-strings: If no one was paying attention to the Democrats raising a stink about Iraq before, exactly how is a closed-door session meant to change that?

Update: Fafblog puts the “stunt” in hilarious perspective.

Another Update: Wonkette gives us more to laugh at with this infographic depiction of the difference between “pure stunt” and “extraordinary move.”

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What’s Wrong With That?

Jeff Jarvis posts this one-liner from Triumph the Insult Dog on Howard Stern:

Libertarians are just conservatives who like porn

I’m sure there’s a long-winded libertarian reponse to that, but I’ll just let it stand that it was said by a dog that gets filmed with a hand up his ass.

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Scooter Libby’s Erotic Literary Past

As if things couldn’t get any worse for Scooter Libby, the New Yorker has turned up an embarrasing dirty novel written by Scooter in 1996 entitled “The Apprentice.” in reality, it would have been better named “The Aristocrats” considering the lurid nature of the work, which includes scatology, bestiality, pedophelia, bestiality with pedophelia, scatology with bestiality and so forth. Some of the prized passages:

“At age ten the madam put the child in a cage with a bear trained to couple with young girls so the girls would be frigid and not fall in love with their patrons. They fed her through the bars and aroused the bear with a stick when it seemed to lose interest.”

[…]”At length he walked around to the deer’s head and, reaching into his pants, struggled for a moment and then pulled out his penis. He began to piss in the snow just in front of the deer’s nostrils.”

[…] He asked if they should fuck the deer.

The New Yorker informs us that, indeed, he does.

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Liberal Spender Says What: Bush’s $7.1b Flu Plan

Bush pandemic spendingShowing once again how out of touch he is with fiscal conservatives, president Bush today unveiled a $7.1 billion plan to fight a flu pandemic. Broken down into individual measures, the expensive plan would pay $1.2 billion for stockpiling 20 million of the perishable doses, or enough for less than 10% of the U.S. population (which he admitted may not even combat the specific strain that may cause a pandemic).

Another $2.8 billion would be given away by the government to private industry in the form of technology freebies and vaccines (which they would undoubtedly turn around and sell back to the government for a pretty penny).

And another $1 billion would be spent on the most realistic measure, stockpiling antiviral medicines such as Tamiflu and Relenza.

While it’s evident that president Bush is pandering to the media hype surrounding flu pandemic fears, the money has to come from somewhere. And with a federal budget stretched thin by recent hurricane spending and the Iraq war, there’s no indication where the new proposal will find funding (aside from more deficit spending).

Oh, and if the lackadaisical security response since 9/11 (or hurrican Katrina) is any indication, the U.S. government will have an effective response to a flu pandemic at least four years after it hits.

Update: Prairie Weather has a very good analysis and breakdown of this government giveaway scam, noting that avian flu is just the latest tangible boogeyman for the administration, and saying we need to kep an eye on thing “to the extent to which “pandemic” is replacing “bin Laden” as a political tool.”

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Willie Nelson Raises $170K for Kinky

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

Kinky Friedman fundraiserWe’ve grown accustomed to pointing out the independents- winning- 2006- elections- yumminess being spouted by some of the media when it comes to third parties in 2006, but it looks like one candidate is really trying to pull off a gubernatorial upset in Texas for 2006.

Kinky Friedman recently raised and estimated $170,000 in one night thanks to friend and country music singer Willie Nelson. And while it’s a far cry from the $5 million his manager say he needs just to get on the ballot (that seems preposterously high, but we’ll roll with it), Freidman has some serious star alliances going on, including former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura and comedian Penn Jillette.

You know, there might be some real legs to third parties races if they can duplicate this kind of fundraising (and this kind of message).

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