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

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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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Is it Your Employer’s Business if You Do?

smokerRecently, Wal-Mart got some heat for an internal memo proposing ways to save health care costs by attracting a “healthier, more productive workforce.” But Wal-Mart’s proposed strategy is only the tip of the iceberg, as more and more companies are involving themselves in their employee’s personal health and lifestyle choices. And even moreso in their politics and first amendment rights.

Weyco, an insurance company, has even gone so far as to ban its employees from smoking (at home or at work), firing those who couldn’t kick the butt. And Weyco owner Howard Weyers wants to go even further — firing employees whose spouses smoke (and theoretically anyone they associate with).

This is one of the grey areas of libertarian ideology for some that tends to generate a lot of flack. Because we agree that the companies should be able to hire and fire employees based on whatever criteria they choose, most people (read: Democrats) tend to dismiss us as in favor of big business. Some democrat libertarians will disagree with me, saying that it’s none of an employer’s business what they do at home. Unfortunately, this argument holds no water when it comes to covering that same behavior with health insurance. One person’s hobby of being shot out of cannons on the weekend is suddenly a huge liability for everyone.

The reality is a little more pragmatic. If you don’t agree with how these companies treat their employees, it’s up to you to vote with your dollars. If you continue to buy Weyco Insurance, knowing that the company policy is to openly discriminate against them — you’d be endorsing their behavior, plain and simple.

Common sense says that’s the ideal way to deal with companies that bully their employees.

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The Sham Trial of Irwin Schiff

Many of you may be aware of the recent “trial” (if one can even call it that) of Irwin Schiff, the grand-daddy of the tax honesty movement. You may not like him, but this man has put his life on the line to expose just how corrupt the american judiciary has become.

In a previous posting, I’ve discussed that it really doesn’t matter what the law says if we don’t hold the government and ourselves to them. People say the USA PATRIOT Act was a sign of the beginning of the end. Not true. The government was already exceeding it’s constitutional limitations already. Merely making the unconstitutional laws was more a slap in the face than a change in American Jurisprudence.

So why was this a sham? As one Schiff supporter summarized:

Judge Kent Dawson stated he was the LAW, and anything that Congress wrote was of no bearing in his courtroom.

We would like to resolve the matter, but it appears that Irwin Schiff, 77 years old, will be spending the rest of his life in prison because Judge Kent Dawson stated he was the LAW, which Congress was NOT.

Judge Kent Dawson:
1) Refused to allow the Internal Revenue Code to be read in the courtroom unless it supported the prosecution.
2) Sustained every objection by the prosecution when the defense was asking the questions, which was more than 80% of the defense’s questions.
3) Had only the defense’s witnesses Mirandized and not the prosecution’s witnesses.
4) Had only witnesses in for the defense to be questioned on the character of Irwin Schiff and nothing about his books or other materials on tax law.
5) Allowed the prosecution to state to the jury before they went to deliberate; “You are hereby notified that if you do not bring back a decision of guilty you will be breaking the law.”/span>
6) Denied the jurors from seeing the Internal Revenue Code when they asked for it, thus making the jurors guilty of; “ignorance of the law is no excuse.”
7) Had Irwin Schiff and Cindy Neun convicted on “WILLFULNESS” which was not given in great detail of what it was.
8) Denied bail for both Irwin Schiff and Cindy Neun as they were both flight risks for their promoting the TRUTH of the law, and NOT for any felony!!!

If we are going to try and win back this country, the first thing we need to do is actually adhere to the laws that exist. If the laws on the books are stupid, then repeal them. It’s that simple. But let us not enforce laws that don’t exist.

Update by Stephen VanDyke: In my view this is yet another loss for the legality (loophole) argument of tax evaders, which has always struck me as the intellectually lazy way to fight back. Contrast with tax resistance or tax protesting — not paying based on political beliefs or actual opposition to paying taxes regardless of their legality — and you’ll notice that historically there is a much better case to be made for simply not paying (because you oppose how it is spent or just don’t want to part with your money), whether you’re legally required to or not.

Update by Rick Rajter:Apparently, I did not make this clear. Irwin is an ACTIVIST. He never just quietly stood back in the background and didn’t file just to save a few bucks. The guy has wrote numerous books, joined up with We The People at GiveMeLiberty.org and their petitions for redress of grievances, and has testified and helped numerous people get in the government’s face at every turn.

Finally – Riddle me this. How does one repeal what doesn’t exist?

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New World RFID Passports

The government is going to start to use tracking devices in passports which will hold your personal information and can be read by the government. RFID can also be implanted into your skin or placed into your drivers licenses.

The US government will require nearly all of the passports it issues to have a computer chip containing the passport holder’s personal information by October 2006, according to regulations published this week.

Starting in early 2006, the US Department of State will begin issuing passports with 64KB RFID (radio frequency identification) chips containing the name, nationality, gender, date of birth, place of birth, and digitised photograph of the passport holder.

Read full story.

Update: Chase Rolls Out RFID Credit Cards in N.Y.

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Blog Free Or Die?

It appears a Constitutional conflict may be on the horizon in New Jersey because a Catholic High School has decided students should remove personal information from the internet even if they used their own computers from home to publish it.

A Roman Catholic high school has ordered its students to remove personal blogs from the Internet in the name of protecting them from cyberpredators.

Students at Pope John XXIII Regional High School in Sparta appear to be heeding a directive from the principal, the Rev. Kieran McHugh, to remove personal postings about the school or themselves from Web sites like myspace.com or xanga.com, even if they were posted from the students’ home computers.

Officials with the Diocese of Paterson say the directive is a matter of safety, not censorship. But constitutional experts say the case raises interesting questions about the intersection of free speech and voluntary agreements with private institutions.

Read full story.

Who do you side with on this issue?

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Rick Stanley’s “The Revolutionary Coalition”

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Rick StanleyI know what you’re thinking. A revolution? That’s sooo 18th century. Well unfortunately, the same is being said for our beloved US Constitution. For most lawmakers and law enforcers, the Constitution is pretty much a dead letter or a ‘quant relic’ of the past.

Stanley is no stranger to the Patriot movement (and no, not the George Bush definition of roll over and play patriot). He was arrested on Bill of Rights Day in 2001 for openly carrying a firearm without a permit. What ensued was one of the most well documented and disheartening cases of power abuse by the judiciary. Despite proving, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that both the US and Colorado State Constitutions forbid laws limiting the right to keep and bear arms, Stanley was put through the legal wringer. Last February, he gave a powerful speech to the rotary club about the ordeal, and an mp3 of this can be heard here. I’ve listened to it at least 6-7 times and it still gives me chills.

Rick Stanley’s platform is one line – “To defend our God given (natural), unalienable, Constitutionally protected and guaranteed rights.” It’s that simple folks. I agree with Rick, because if we can’t even support the framework of law, then getting elected as libertarians and passing or repealing laws means nothing without people actually respecting those changes.

So dismiss it as a pipe dream if you like, but we are losing the battle to an ever encroaching federal government which essentially does at it pleases. The choice is yours. I stand with Stanley.

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Prison Industry: Cheap Labor for Big Business

jail cellSo you want to pay your employees less than illegal-immigrant rates? Well you are in luck! Prison labor is dirt cheap, and you don’t even have to have an HR department to worry about silly things like healthcare.

They don’t have to worry about strikes or paying unemployment insurance, vacations or comp time. All of their workers are full-time, and never arrive late or are absent because of family problems; moreover, if they don’t like the pay of 25 cents an hour and refuse to work, they are locked up in isolation cells.

That sounds pretty darn good for menial tasks… but how many potential workers are we talking about?

There are approximately 2 million inmates in state, federal and private prisons throughout the country. According to California Prison Focus, “no other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens.” The figures show that the United States has locked up more people than any other country: a half million more than China, which has a population five times greater than the U.S. Statistics reveal that the United States holds 25% of the world’s prison population, but only 5% of the world’s people.

“Land of the free” my ass. 2 Million inmates? Are we really that much safer having a bunch of pot heads or deadbeat dads (and moms) behind bars? This reminds me of one of my favorite books, Go Directly to Jail: The The Criminalization of Almost Everything . And finally.

“The private contracting of prisoners for work fosters incentives to lock people up. Prisons depend on this income. Corporate stockholders who make money off prisoners’ work lobby for longer sentences, in order to expand their workforce. The system feeds itself,” says a study by the Progressive Labor Party, which accuses the prison industry of being “an imitation of Nazi Germany with respect to forced slave labor and concentration camps.”

Boy, I can’t wait for the day when they start invoking the USA PATRIOT Act a bit more and we all become political prisoners for questioning Big Bro. But hey, at least we’ll get 25 cents an hour. Only 20 hours of work for a value meal at McDonalds if inflation stays low.

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How do Democrats “Bork” a SCOTUS Nominee?

Bork-o-maticWith Harriet Miers now yesterday’s news, the Supreme Court nomination process begins anew. But many of you may wonder just how the anti-nomination process works once it reaches the desks of the Democrats. Thankfully, Independent Sources clues us in with this tongue-in-cheek flowchart — The Bork-o-matic:

Independent Sources has happened upon Senate Democrat’s secret flow chart that provides guidance to Barbara Boxer and friends on how to handle Supreme Court nominees. It explains so much. You’ll be shocked! Dismayed! And then you’ll realize that once the President’s next selection is announced, you’re going to save an immense amount of time ignoring the Democrat’s rote opposition.

All that’s missing is excessive use of baseball analogies.

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Libby Scooted from White House

Libby leaving White HouseVice president Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr. was indicted today on 5 charges (indictment documents) related to the outting of CIA agent Valerie Plame — ranging from obstruction of justice, perjury and making false statements — and could face up to 30 years behind bars if found guilty. Libby, 55, immediatedly resigned and left the White House.

We assessed yesterday that Libby would be the fall guy for the charges stemming from the scandal, while it also appears presidential advisor Karl Rove may also see some indictments for perjury. And there’s been some speculation in the past that Bush himself might be called before the grand jury, though that seems unlikely now.

Curiously, special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald has yet to connect the charges with any political motive or conspiracy, which could bring higher level charges such as treason. Fitzgerald however, has said that the investigation portion is still underway and more charges may still be brought:

“Is the investigation finished? It’s not over,” Fitzgerald said at a news conference. “But… very rarely do you bring a charge in a case that’s going to be tried in which you ever end a grand jury investigation. I can tell you that the substantial bulk of the work of this investigation is concluded.”

This could bode very badly for the vice president’s office if Fitzgerald can connect enough dots to connect Cheney to a conspiracy.

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Forbes Goes After Bloggers in Cover Article

Forbes: Attack of the BlogsIn a move drawing much scorn within the blogosphere (led by ultra popular sites like BoingBoing and Instapundit), Forbes magazine’s cover story next week is “Attack of the Blogs,” a venomous article by writer Daniel Lyons — a figure already despised by many within the Linux community for his advocacy of SCO intellectual property lawsuits.

What will generate such contempt? Well, certainly such blanket generalizations as “Web logs are the prized platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective” won’t garner much accolades from bloggers. The premise of Lyons’ argument is taking small examples of bad behavior bloggers (a pump-and-dump scammer who is now under indictment for the same crime from 2000) and skewering what many consider good blogging and fact-checking (“Microsoft has been hammered by bloggers; so have CBS, CNN and ABC News, two research boutiques that criticized IBM’s Notes software, the maker of Kryptonite bike locks, a Virginia congressman outed as a homosexual and dozens of other victims”).

But what is sure to raise the ire of many bloggers are some of the dastardly solutions to negative blog coverage: astroturfing (paying other bloggers to support your viewpoint in the blogosphere); mudslinging (digging up dirt on the blogger attacking your company to discredit them); censorship (find any possible copyrighted item on the blogger’s website and call their hosting company to snitch); suing for defamation (if all else fails, just destroy the blogger with your multi-million dollar team of lawyers).

Now, unfortunately, the article fails to give even a cursory look at the good things the blogosphere promotes when it comes to businesses. Like when Savvis CEO Rob McCormick frivolously blew $241,000 at a strip club (he’s been sent on unpaid leave), or when Dell’s customer service causes one blogger to coin the term Dell Hell (and Dell’s subsequent failure to adequately respond drew the criticism of Business Week), or the various political bloggers who demanded spending cuts after Rep. DeLay declared ‘victory‘ in the war on budget fat (a project called Porkbusters was born).

And there’s hundred of similar, good tales for every negative tale about a scammer. Unfortunately, Lyons misses the big picture, that the blogosphere is a community of millions of people who are just as good or bad as the people we meet in real life. Fortunately for us, his doom and gloom outlook isn’t quite as dire as he makes it out to be. But unfortunately, we have to wonder how many businesses will now take his advice and use his guide to counter-attack all criticism, legitimate or not.

Update: VodkaPundit posts an insightful email from one of his readers:

The article’s really quite astonishing. You know, after reading [Gillmor’s post] and the accompanying comments, it occurred to me that one reason blogs are viewed as dangerous is that they serve as means to the (at least ostensible) ends of both liberals and conservatives. Those ends are definitely not always the same, and they come from different motivations, but if liberals want “freedom of information” and conservatives want the “marketplace of ideas,” those are both at least neighboring territories, and blogs go a little ways toward making them more of a reality. Corporations, big media, the government–any entrenched power–can’t help but be nervous, and will eventually seek ways to fight them.

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Libertarians Lauded in St Petersburg, FL Strategy

Pinellas County Libertarian ClubIt’s rare to see highly positive coverage of Libertarian campaigns, but this exhaustive writeup on Libertarian strategy in St Petersburg, Florida may be one of the most insightful I’ve seen in a while (which isn’t getting wide coverage at the moment, save for the keen eyes over at Liberty for Sale).

It was an inspired move, not only getting respectable totals, but deliberately doing so the hard way: intentionally low campaign budgets while submitting candidates via thousands of petitions without a single challenge or rejection by opponents, utterly unheard of in US politics. even more, Libertarian candidates were under strict instructions not to wage negative campaigns, sticking neutrally to the issues. ‘Brilliant’ said Florida Business Insight, while ‘Politics in Florida is changed forever’ said another newspaper. ‘Libertarians basically showed both the other parties and the public that they were able to do things the other parties wouldn’t dare to do, and they knew they could do it whenever they chose‘ said Frank Longo, a member of a local government board who helped lead the effort. ‘It woke a lot of people up, and Libertarians made a lot of friends.’

[…] Meanwhile, the Libertarians startled observers when they declined to run a mayoral candidate [in St Petersburg] despite proposed backing from many in the other parties, saying they’re focusing modestly on community boards and coalitions this round.

“It’s a brilliant strategic move,” said William Sachs, a Democratic activist who recently switched to the Libertarians. “It emphasizes their long term focus while they quietly build up local people in government and keeps encouraging the other parties to work with them. It has to be, because the Republican and Democratic players aren’t exactly stupid here and are interested in what the Libertarians have to say. In the end, the voter benefits.” The Libertarian approach may prove all the more interesting as Libertarian State House candidates have polled over 30% in recent elections.

I could quote much more of the article in length, needless to say. This is the first I’ve heard of the St Petersburg strategy, and I must say it’s impressive. Even though running a mayor if the support was there might have been a good idea, it shows that Libertarians aren’t about gaining and consolidating power just for the sake of the power, instead there’s a distinct urge to educate people about the role of what government should be, and to do that through smaller races that are more winnable. This is an admirable strategy and I look forward to hearing more from this Florida city in coming months as more mainstream coverage finds its way down there.

You can learn more about the Libertarian Party of Pinellas County (or if you’d like, donate to them).

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Re-indicted and it feels so good…

For over two years, I’ve been publicly predicting that the race for GOP nomination in the Alabama Governor’s race would be between Judge Roy “Ten Commandments” Moore and incumbent Governor Bob “Raise Taxes in the Name of Jesus” Riley. I’ve also stated that when the political season begins, this battle will be between two candidates trying to “out-Jesus” each other. It was interesting to see the Birmingham News use my line in their headline the other day:

“If the race turns into a competition with at least two of the candidates actively engaged in trying to “out-Jesus” one another, voters may forget to think about who’s most qualified to govern the state.”

Libertarian candidate Loretta Nall added to the “out-Jesus” line to sum up the race (so far) pretty well in a recent AP wire piece:

“I’ve got this gut feeling that come November of next year, I stand a very good chance of being governor with the Republicans trying to out-Jesus each other and the Democrats trying to out-socialist each other,” she said.

Most of us are also aware of the successful ploy by HealthSouth ex-CEO Richard Scrushy to invoke the name of Jesus as a judicial tactic. ReferenceForBusiness.com provides:

Lawyers were also skeptical of Scrushy’s decision to join the Guiding Light, a predominantly black church in Birmingham. Although Scrushy said he was “born again,” critics said it was an attempt to influence a predominantly African American jury at his trial.

Alabamians awakened this morning to headlines proclaiming that both Scrushy and former Governor (and current gubernatorial candidate) Don Siegelman had just been indicted by a federal grand jury for charges that Siegelman turned his public office into a criminal enterprise in order to solicit millions of dollars in payoffs. As one might expect, Scrushy had an established position on the donor list, with accusations made that he traded half-a-million bucks for a board seat.

Among the accusations is that Scrushy paid $500,000 to Siegelman’s lottery campaign in exchange for a seat on the state board that decides whether hospitals can expand and for influence over that group’s decisions. Siegelman’s former transportation director, Mack Roberts, was charged with mail fraud for his role in agency actions that helped certain companies.

In a news conference, Siegelman said the indictment stems from a few obsessed government officials who have spent taxpayers’ money in an attempt to control a governor’s election. Siegelman, a Democrat, is running for governor in 2006 and said he has no intention of dropping out of the race.

“The charges are false. I’m going to be proven innocent again and we’re going to go on to win this primary and win this election,” Siegelman said. Prosecutors dropped charges against him last year in an unrelated case.

It seems clear to me that the timing of these indictments is very political. One wonders how much influence Governor Riley used to ensure that Siegelman was indicted in the heat of the political season, as opposed to right after the alleged crimes occurred. If Siegelman follows the lead of his old buddy Richard Scrushy, we can expect to see him at services at the Guiding Light, too. Then we’ll have three candidates trying to out-Jesus each other.

The Alabama race for for Jesus Governor shakes out this way (alphabetical order), so far:

Alabama Gubernatoral Candidates
Name Party Claim to Fame
Lucy Baxley Democrat Ran for her current position of Lt. Gov. on a platform of “We [heart symbol] Lucy” and seems to be using the same platform in the gubernatorial race
Roy Moore Republican Worships graven images in defiance of the Ten Commandments and at considerable expense to taxpayers
Loretta Nall Libertarian Internationally reknowned marijuana journalist and political activist
Bob Riley Republican The former congressman and incumbent told us to “Do the Right Thing” by voting for the greatest increase in taxation in Alabama history. We told him where to stick his tax plan by a vote of 68% to 32%.
Don Siegelman Democrat The former Governor consistently runs on a gambling platform while continuing to run faster than the teams of prosecuters chasing him.

It’s time to put the “goober” back in “gubernatorial”, as opposed to the holy name-dropping competition currently taking place. With choices like these in the race, I’ll likely be rooting for the pot-head.

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