Author Archives: mikehorn

Assassination of Tony Blair morally justified?

It seems Respect MP George Galloway has, yet again, put himself in a bind. This time for a GQ magazine interview where he… well… I’ll just let you read an excerpt:

In an interview with GQ magazine, the reporter asked (Respect MP George Galloway): “Would the assassination of, say, Tony Blair by a suicide bomber – if there were no other casualties – be justified as revenge for the war on Iraq?”

Mr Galloway replied: “Yes, it would be morally justified. I am not calling for it – but if it happened it would be of a wholly different moral order to the events of 7/7. It would be entirely logical and explicable. And morally equivalent to ordering the deaths of thousands of innocent people in Iraq – as Blair did.” (Independent)

Mr. Galloway’s words are “entirely logical and explicable” considering his history, but isn’t it hypocritical to claim that reciprocal murder is morally justified? And, how do you determine a morally equivalent punishment?

Does anyone agree with Mr. Galloway’s response? If so, would you apply that logic to anyone that supports this “war?” Remember, ALL of us are supporting this war (TAXES) whether we want to or not…

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No Flag for You!

Being an intense soccer fan I am shaking with anticipation as the 2006 World Cup approaches and the U.S. National team prepares for their first game against the Czech Republic on June 12th. Security is always a concern for the host country because of the rivalries and the number of spectators involved. But, it seems the U.S. team is a concern because they are… Well… American.

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) – The official team bus to be used by the United States during the World Cup will not bear a flag for security reasons.

The 32 official buses were presented Thursday in Frankfurt and the other 31 buses have large national flags of the their teams painted on rear sides.

-SNIP-

At the 2002 World Cup, the United States was among the most heavily guarded teams. When the Americans arrived at Incheon International Airport, about 500 police formed a corridor the players walked through as they came out of customs, with SWAT team commandos mixed in. (FoxSports)

When all of the other team buses proudly display their country’s flag while you have to travel anonymously because the American flag is a bulls-eye for terrorists, that can’t be good for morale. I’m curious as to how the U.S. players will be treated by the fans in the stadium. I have a feeling that the whistles (They don’t “boo” overseas, they whistle) will be loud and long.

Hopefully a majority of the spectators will not apply guilt through association and have the mindset that a country’s government does not always reflect the will of the people. Meh… Who am I kidding…

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Don’t Hold Your Nose and Vote

George Conway, half of the “Reconcilable Differences” blogging duo on the National Review magazine website, made the following statement in a recent post:

I voted for President Bush twice, and contributed to his campaign twice, but held my nose when I did it the second time. I don’t consider myself a Republican any longer. Thanks to this Administration and the Republicans in Congress, the Republican Party today is the party of pork-barrel spending, Congressional corruption – and, I know folks on this web site don’t want to hear it, but deep down they know it’s true — foreign and military policy incompetence. Frankly, speaking of incompetence, I think this Administration is the most politically and substantively inept that the nation has had in over a quarter of a century. The good news about it, as far as I’m concerned, is that it’s almost over.

It seems Conway’s feelings are becoming the norm. With the President sucking wind with a 38% approval rating and the (Republican lead) Congress doing even worse at 35%, you would think third-party options would start getting some media attention. Well, the press is hitting the “voter unrest” angle by talking about independents displaying a “throw the bums out” mentality but they fail to make the short jump to actually discussing third-party politics.

From a recent AP article (my emphasis added):

I don’t see any great leaders on the horizon,” says Heller, a Pleasant Valley, N.Y., real estate broker.

These voters are not alone. More and more, Americans are frustrated with politics as usual in Washington, where incompetence, arrogance, corruption and mindless partisanship seem the norm rather than the exception — a pox on both the Republican and Democratic parties.

Analysts say the public may be getting angry enough to give the U.S. political system a jolt, one way or another.

Voters could toss Republicans from power in Congress this fall, or turn the White House over to Democrats in 2008.

Maverick reform-minded Democrats and Republicans might shake up their parties.

Or perhaps voter unrest will fuel a credible third-party presidential campaign.

-SNIP-

I don’t see either party doing anything advantageous for the population,” said real estate broker Heller, a conservative Democrat. “I think the country is getting fed up. Big business is controlling everything.”

-SNIP-

I’m not happy with either party on national security,” said Hirsch, a Republican-leaning businessman from Chicago. “We have a lot of politicians but not a lot of statesmen.”

-SNIP-

“If some larger-than-life personality — let’s say Colin Powell — decided he wanted to launch a third-party candidacy for some office, I think he’d be an impact player,” Bond said. “But he’s not running.”

Bond said the recent third-party candidacies of Perot and Ralph Nader made it easier for future mavericks to gain ballot access. The organizing and fundraising power of the Internet also lowers barriers to third-party bids.

Who knows, maybe with some encouragement and a few decent candidates we might see more pieces like this in the press.

All I ask is that nobody repeat Conway’s “hold your nose” approach. If your party stinks that bad look at third-party options where the air is fresh!

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Urban definitions for “Libertarian”

If you have never visited UrbanDictionary.com I suggest you do so, but only when not at work or when younger, prying eyes might glance at the screen because it can get brutal.

The site is tagged as a “slang dictionary with your definitions.” Anyone can contribute new words (i.e. hindspite: Looking back on a situation or event, regretting that you didn’t do what you should have done.) and add their own definitions for existing ones. Most words also have examples demonstrating how you should use the word in a sentence. Users can then vote “thumbs-up” or “thumbs-down” on each submission sending the most popluar ones to the top of the list.

Currently there are 20 definitions for Libertarian, I thought I would share a few:

1. Definition: A former Republican who grew larger balls and decided to say fuck the establishment.

2. Useage:Liberatarians could save the united states from socialism if only its citizens were not so stupid

7. Definition: One who wants the gov’t to get the hell out of their lives

15. Definition: Anarchism for rich folks.

18. Definition: A political party that people claim to belong to when they are ashamed to admit they are Republicans.

19. Definition: The prototypical Libertarian is a teenager who does drugs and then researches why it’s ok to use drugs on the internet.

20. Definition: Derogatory term used for someone who perennially loses. Is also a political party. Same attributes apply.

I think we faired better than the number one Republican definition which says:

An individual who believes that the white male Christian God should be the only object of worship on the planet, that power and wealth should remain in the hands of 1% of the world’s population while the remaining 99% starve, that health care should be privatized so the poor can’t afford basic medication, that a rape victim living on welfare should be forced to care for a baby she didn’t even ask for, and that America is the only real country on Earth while all those other countries they read about are just fakes invented by communists…oh wait, it’s terrorists now, isn’t it?

And you have to scroll down to the sixth definition of Democrat before finding anything interesting:

A sorry fuck who thinks taht governemnt is the way to solve every problem. To accomplish this mission, they want to charge a 75-80% tax on people who actually go out and work, so they can give it to homeless people and crack addicts. God forbid that any one who works for their money gets to keep it. Also, while they enjoy killing babies, murderers must be saved from the evil Death Penalty.

Well, at least I thought it was funny… And who would ever have guessed that Badnarik would end up being slang for “a person (always male) who approaches people at parties to discuss Ayn Rand and talk about how he will be very rich in the near future.”

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Playing the trump

A recent incident involving Georgia congresswomen Cynthia McKinney (She punched a cop when he tried to stop her from bypassing the metal detector) brought to my attention a method used by politicians/pundits when taking responsibility for their actions isn’t an option, playing the trump. In this case McKinney played a very powerful card:

“I don’t understand exactly why it is that certain police officers have a problem remembering my face,” McKinney said, noting that she is one of 14 black women among the 535 members of Congress. “The issue is racial profiling, and that’s something that we’re going to have to deal with as a country.” (CNN.com)

McKinney, like every other politician busted for doing something stupid, deflects the discussion about her to the face value of the trump. In this situation it was the “Race” card. After showing her hand McKinney was able to avoid inquiries concerning the incident and lay blame on the other person at the same time. BRILLIANT!

It seems to me that every party and most pundits/politicians carry these political trump cards at the ready to throw down whenever they are backed into a corner or have nothing else to contribute to a debate.

For example, President Bush throws his trump cards around like he was playing “52 pickup” at every news conference and “town hall” meeting. Question his executive authorities? BAM!! He slams The “War on Terror” card IN YOUR FACE! Can’t answer a domestic question? FLICK!! The “Economy” card flutters down from the podium into the clapping hands of his unquestioning followers.

The Democrats are the same, whipping out their “Katrina” and “Abramoff” cards to squelch criticism or draw attention away from their lack of direction on key issues.

The decks are stacked in both parties and all we ever see is one side trying to out-trump the other and who knows what they have up their sleeves.

To me the trump cards are nothing more than “dodge and weave” talking-points that I personally detest and would like to avoid using myself. So my question to everyone is, what are the Libertarian trump cards? Are there any? What catchphrase do you hear Libertarians use when they hit a snag in their argument or aren’t knowledgeable enough to debate a particular topic?

If the Libertarian trump cards are out there, put them on the table so I can discard them from future discussions… the last thing I want to do is deal a potential party member a bunch of crap. They get enough bluffing already…

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“Show Me” the Christians!

A recent poll showed that Americans knew more about the “The Simpsons” than they did about the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Well the politicians running the “Show Me” state of Missouri might let out a collective “DOH!” after they realize a bill they are considering violates the first of the five freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment. From KMOV.com:

Missouri legislators in Jefferson City considered a bill that would name Christianity the state’s official “majority” religion.

-SNIP-

The resolution would recognize “a Christian god,” and it would not protect minority religions, but “protect the majority’s right to express their religious beliefs.

The resolution also recognizes that, “a greater power exists,” and only Christianity receives what the resolution calls, “justified recognition.”

The summary for House Concurrent Resolution No. 13 reads as follows:

Resolves that voluntary prayer in public schools, religious displays on public property, and the recognition of a Christian God are not a coalition of church and state.

But wait! DOES this bill violate the U.S. Constitution? The First Amendment states that ” Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” (emphasis added), it doesn’t mention the indvidual states and their governments.

But most state Constitutions reiterate the federal limitations in their text. Article I Section 7 of the Missouri Bill of Rights states:

That no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion, or in aid of any priest, preacher, minister or teacher thereof, as such; and that no preference shall be given to nor any discrimination made against any church, sect or creed of religion, or any form of religious faith or worship. (emphasis added)

This bill seems to be in violation of the Missouri Constitution. You know this bill is going to get ripped apart as soon as the MSM gets hold of it. And since the SCOTUS has ruled several times against the prayer in school issue and religious displays depicting only one religion, the challenge to this bill shouldn’t make it out of the state.

But the question on my mind is, can a state establish a religion and still be in concordance with the Federal Constitution ?

A Bill of Rights that means what the majority wants it to mean is worthless. — Justice Atonin Scalia

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Lawyer shot by a Dick

Image credit via TruthDig.com.

What makes this more amusing to me is that these guys weren’t REALLY hunting:

500 farm-raised pheasants were released yesterday morning at the Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier Township for the benefit of Cheney’s 10-person hunting party. The group killed at least 417 of the birds, illustrating the unsporting nature of canned hunts. The party also shot an unknown number of captive mallards in the afternoon. (WTAE)

Apparently Bush started the “Oops I didn’t mean to shoot that” tradition back when he was running for Governor of Texas against Ann Richards. Richards, a life-long hunter, was being portrayed in the media as being more macho than Bush. Rove set up a dove hunting trip for Bush where he mistook a Killdeer for a dove and shot it. Killdeers are on the threatened species list so Bush was fined for killing it.

So, anyone have a good Cheney joke for this event?

Update by Stephen VanDyke: Don’t miss the ten ways Dick Cheney can kill you.

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Curling for Democracy

What does Democracy have to do with the sport of Curling and the Winter Olympics? If you ask the newly formed District of Columbia Olympic Committee (DCOC), a lot.

The DCOC was formed by Mike Panetta with the purpose of bringing the status of D.C.’s citizens to the attention of other Americans:

There are over 600,000 residents in the District of Columbia. We pay our taxes and fight and die in every war. But the citizens of the the District of Columbia do not have the same represenation in Congress as Americans in the 50 states.

People living in Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have just as much of a voice in our represenative arm of government as we do. These territories, and the District of Columbia, each have a single, non-voting delegate instead of two Senators and a proportionate number of Represenatives.

According to a January 2005 poll commissioned by DCVote.org “82 percent of Americans believe citizens of Washington, DC, should have equal congressional voting rights – in both the Senate and the House – a number that is 10 percentage points greater than a similar poll conducted in 1999.”

The DCOC believes they have a chance to be recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) because there are “all sort of odd recognitions” such as Hong Kong which still sends a team even though they are now part of the People’s Republic of China. Or Palestine’s Olympic Committee despite the fact that they are not technically a state.

And why the sport of Curling?

We figured that it was the only sport that really fit our collective athletic ability, plus there’s usually beer at the end of the games. Plus, nobody really wanted to wear the tight outfits you need for luge. We’re pretty sure you didn’t want to see that either.

The DCOC setup a form for those interested in supporting their effort to be recognized by the IOC and to further their efforts to be represented in Congress.

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McClellan recipient of bad intelligence

It seems bad intel is prevelant in the Bush administration. Scott McClellan, the White House Press Secretary, had the following exchange in his January 4th press conference while responding to questions about possible meetings between Jack Abramoff and President Bush:

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I said it’s possible that they would have met at a holiday reception or some other widely attended gathering. The President does not know him, nor does the President recall ever meeting him.

Q But he has the special designation as a Pioneer, as Terry was alluding to, raising more than $100,000. And he attended, as you told us, three events, holiday receptions at the White House. How likely is it that the President would not have met him —

MR. McCLELLAN: That’s why I said it’s possible. But I just told you what I know at this point, and the President doesn’t recall meeting him and he certainly doesn’t know him.

Q Will you release — go ahead.

Q Since you often take photos in those instances at receptions, will you make that available?

MR. McCLELLAN: I haven’t thought about that. I’ll take it under consideration.

Did someone say photos? Time Magazine has something to say about photos:

The President’s memory may soon be unhappily refreshed. TIME has seen five photographs of Abramoff and the President that suggest a level of contact between them that Bush’s aides have downplayed. While TIME’s source refused to provide the pictures for publication, they are likely to see the light of day eventually because celebrity tabloids are on the prowl for them. And that has been a fear of the Bush team’s for the past several months: that a picture of the President with the admitted felon could become the iconic image of direct presidential involvement in a burgeoning corruption scandal like the shots of President Bill Clinton at White House coffees for campaign contributors in the mid-1990s.

Bummer… sounds like Bush will have some splainin’ to do, or make that McClellan will have to explain for him. As the guys over at Truthdig.com said, Democrats are sensing blood–the Republican equivalent of Clinton-Lewinsky hug videos.

The article goes on to give brief descriptions of the photos, but I have a feeling the following images will be on every Democratic election commercial in 2006:

Another photo shows Bush shaking hands with Abramoff in front of a window and a blue drape. The shot bears Bush’s signature, perhaps made by a machine. Three other photos are of Bush, Abramoff and, in each view, one of the lobbyist’s sons (three of his five children are boys).

McClellan needs to re-check his sources.

Update by Stephen VanDyke: Wizbang says this is probably no big deal. It appears these are innocent pictures taken with donors and supporters in the tens of thousands of times. The blood in the water seems more like Democrats shredding Abramoff for chum and seeing how many misstatements they can catch the White House in. Sure, there’s scandal and Republicans can be painted with a wide brush with this, but it’s gonna be a stretch to stick Abramoff to Bush.

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You Go to War with the Contractors You Have

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

Halliburton subisdiary Kellogg, Brown & Root Services Inc. (KB&R) has been contracted by the U.S. government for building projects in Afghanistan and Iraq. Although KB&R’s history and political connections drive the conspiracy theorists and Democrats crazy, the following report is undeniably disgusting no matter which direction your political compass points. From an AP article:

Troops and civilians at a U.S. military base in Iraq (Camp Junction City) were exposed to contaminated water last year and employees for the responsible contractor, Halliburton, couldn’t get their company to inform camp residents, according to interviews and internal company documents.

Although bottled water was available the contaminated water was used for “virtually everything else, including handwashing, laundry, bathing and making coffee” resulting in “numerous instances of diarrhea and stomach cramps problems.”

Of course Halliburton disputes the allegations saying its “own inspection found neither contaminated water nor medical evidence to substantiate reports of illnesses at the base” despite KB&R’s own employees sending emails to the contrary:

“We exposed a base camp population (military and civilian) to a water source that was not treated,” said a July 15, 2005, memo written by William Granger, the official for Halliburton’s KBR subsidiary who was in charge of water quality in Iraq and Kuwait.

Guess you just go to war with the contractors you have?

The troops were exposed to contaminated water for a year.

Senator Byron Dorgan, (D-N.D) is scheduled to chair a senate Democrats hearing on this situation, but I have this overwhelming sensation of déjà vu… For some reason I feel like nothing will happen. Nobody will be held accountable and the Bush administration will recite KB&R’s “no evidence” statement. Weird.

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Democracy-building for freedom and peace

According to the Washington Post the Bush administration is using the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) as an “invisible conduit” to fund popular Palestinian Authority community projects to suade voters from electing representatives of the radical Islamic group Hamas.

The approximately $2 million program is being led by a division of the USAID. But no U.S. government logos appear with the projects or events being undertaken as part of the campaign, which bears no evidence of U.S. involvement and does not fall within the definitions of traditional development work.

I guess this falls under USAID’s “Supporting U.S. Geostrategic Interests” section for allocating funds. Hey, it’s not “nation-building” right?

One of the more interesting quotes from the article was:

“We are not favoring any particular party,” said James A. Bever, the USAID mission director for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. “But we do not support parties that are on the terrorism list. We are here to support the democratic process.”

Fatah (The ones we are helping) and Hamas are the two leading parties with the latest opinion polls giving a slight edge to Fatah. U.S. officials are “coordinating the program through Rafiq Husseini, chief of staff to Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and leader of Fatah.” How is this “not favoring any particular party?”

And it wouldn’t be a real U.S. government story without a little hypocrisy. We have no problem dumping dollars into elections around the world and yet the U.S. forbids campaign contributions from foreign nationals. This feels like the time my Grandmother offered a raspy, spittle-filled diatribe on the dangers of smoking as she lit up another cigarette. Do as I say, not as I do?

With past experience influencing elections (Ukraine, Afghanistan, Haiti, and now Israel) I’m not surprised about the Palestinian move. Bush even warned us in his 2005 State of the Union address:

Our aim is to build and preserve a community of free and independent nations, with governments that answer to their citizens, and reflect their own cultures. And because democracies respect their own people and their neighbors, the advance of freedom will lead to peace.

And what better example of this goal can the President provide to the world than the American government which answers to its citizens, respects its people and neighbors and advances peace.

Yes, that’s sarcasm dripping from my lips…

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Stupid in America: How We Cheat Our Kids

Check out John Stossel’s ABC News report tonight on “How U.S. Public Schools Are Failing Kids“:

American students fizzle in international comparisons, placing 18th in reading, 22nd in science and 28th in math – behind countries like Poland, Australia and Korea. But why? Are American kids less intelligent? John Stossel looks at the ways the U.S. public education system cheats students out of a quality education in “Stupid in America: How We Cheat Our Kids,” airing this Friday (January 13th) at 10 p.m.

It sounds like Stossel is going to get all Libertarian on some government officials!

There are many factors that contribute to failure in school. A major factor, Stossel finds, is the government’s monopoly over the school system. Parents don’t get to choose where to send their children. In other countries, choice brings competition, and competition improves performance.

Again, this report airs tonight at 10 p.m. EST.

Update by Stephen VanDyke: Demonoid has a torrent to the show.

Another update by Stephen VanDyke: Here’s a local copy of that torrent. If it doesn’t work, you my have to register with the torrent site mentioned before.

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Bast the Magnificent

From a June 2005 article written by Heartland Institute President Joseph L. Bast:

Libertarian ideas, such as expanding individual liberty, re-limiting government, and protecting private property rights, have become much more respectable during the past two decades. Less progress, however, appears to be taking place in politics. Nevertheless, I predict the President of the United States elected in 2016 will be the candidate of the Libertarian Party.

I’m sure your initial reaction was similar to mine… “Uhh… riiiiiight.”

Bast supports this prediction by citing examples of Libertarian ideas being advanced domestically and around the world, President Bush’s 48 references to “free,” “freedom,” and “liberty” in his second inaugural address (Really?) and forecasting a collapse of the two party system.

Bast believes the Democrats will split resulting in the formation of a new party:

Between now and 2008, I predict the Democratic Party will split into radical and moderate wings. The Michael Moore wing of the party is tired of losing and being taken for granted by the moderate wing of their party.

-SNIP-

This new party, probably called the Progressive Party, will lose the 2008 presidential election, but millions of people will vote for a third-party candidate for the first time.

Bast peers further into his occluded crystal ball and predicts that the Republican Party will also split:

By 2012, the Republican Party will split because once their Democrat foes have divided, there is no reason for cultural conservatives and libertarians to stay in the same party. Freed from the burden of defending government intervention in the name of religious values, the new Libertarian Party also will attract former Democrats and even some Progressives (the smart ones).

Personally I don’t see the two party split happening. The “black or white” mindset of this country (“With us or against us,” “Conservative or Liberal,” etc.) is concrete and reinforced by a media that caters to this concept. Hey, with only two sides trying to make a point you get exciting back and forth commentary and flashy red and blue backgrounds and cool donkey and elephant transition graphics… Why throw a wrench in the machine?

Of course Bast tosses in a few “cover your ass” caveats in the end like permanent ballot status, a large and growing LP membership base, professional staff that is experienced and honest, a good reputation for running credible candidates and positive campaigns… Or what I like to call the “Duh-stuff.” As in “DUH, this stuff is obvious, isn’t it?”

A Libertarian president in 2016? Kind of hard to see with my current Libertarian Party goggles on.

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Abramoff Teaches Libertarian a Lesson

With his January 3rd guilty plea to three felony counts of conspiracy, fraud, and tax evasion super lobbyist Jack Abramoff sent several members of congress scurrying to their coffers to return whatever funds they received from him.

Investigations into the Abramoff scandal have revealed an impressive list of connections to politicians, pundits and even the President. A Libertarian was caught up in the mess when the now former Cato Institute Senior Fellow Doug Bandow (pictured in this post) admitted to accepting payments from Abramoff to promote his clients in his syndicated Op-Ed pieces. From BusinessWeek.com:

Doug Bandow, who writes a syndicated column for Copley News Service, told BusinessWeek Online that he had accepted money from Abramoff for writing between 12 and 24 articles over a period of years, beginning in the mid ’90s.

-SNIP-

Bandow confirms that he received $2,000 for some pieces, but says it was “usually less than that amount.” He says he wrote all the pieces himself, though with topics and information provided by Abramoff. He adds that he wouldn’t write about subjects that didn’t interest him.

On January 4th, 2006 Bandow wrote “The lesson Jack Abramoff taught me,” an article in the L.A. Times addressing the Abramoff connection which he declared would be his “last word on the past.” After a few paragraphs of humility and excuse Bandow asks the reader a series of questions in a kind of “everyone does it so what’s the big deal” type of defense:

These are not excuses for my actions — these are issues that should be addressed. Is it “journalism” if the research is helped along by a foundation whose board members have some interest in the subject? How can we be sure that newspapers keep advertisers out of news decisions? Don’t broadcast media hire consultants and pollsters to contribute to their news coverage, people who could benefit financially from promoting the ideas of their other clients? And haven’t reporters sometimes pocketed thousands of dollars speaking at conventions or corporate events and then covered those businesses — or their issues — in one way or another?

Like everyone involved with Abramoff, Bandow was offered money for his influence. Bandow says that he never wrote anything that contradicted his beliefs and that his “biases are too fixed and well known to allow a convenient conversion.” But, it really doesn’t matter in the end… it’s the association that kills your credibility.

PACs are powerful and guys like Abramoff exist because the politicians and punditry ACCEPT what they are being offered.

Maybe this will be the good in an obviously bad situation? Abramoff’s actions will push “K” street to the election podium in 2006 and force politicans to rethink who and where they get their funding from.

Hey, a guy can dream can’t he?

Update by Mike Horn:
Can dreams come true!?

With Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) formally removed from congressional leadership, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) took the next step yesterday in Republican efforts to distance the party from a growing corruption scandal, saying the House will move soon to tighten the rules governing lobbyists’ access to lawmakers. (WashingtonPost.com)

Stay tuned…

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Technology is Killing the Fourth Amendment

Closed Circuit Television, tracking printed material, tracking us by our cell phones, opening our mail, tapping our phones… the list goes on and on as the government’s “war on the fourth amendment” continues.

The most recent advancement in the “spying on citizens” genre of technology is the Radar Scope. The Radar Scope will be deployed to troops in Iraq this Spring and will give “warfighters searching a building the ability to tell within seconds if someone is in the next room.”

This 1.5 pound $1000 beauty can “sense through a foot of concrete and 50 feet beyond that into a room” and is “able to detect movements as small as breathing.”

Plans are already being made to expand on this technology with “Visi Building” devices that would be:

…more than a motion detector. It will actually “see” through multiple walls, penetrating entire buildings to show floor plans, locations of occupants and placement of materials such as weapons caches… (DefenseLink.mil)

(SIGH) Hardened on the field of battle… implemented on the streets of America. I believe the future use of this device is predicted in the following statement by Edward Baranoski from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Special Projects Office:

Ultimately, servicemembers will be able to use it simply by driving or flying by the structure under surveillance.

Why do I have this notion that U.S. law enforcement agencies will be utilizing this technology on our streets in the next couple of years? In the name of the “War on Drugs” of course…

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I know where you were last summer…

Remember a couple of days ago in my post about England using Closed Circuit Television to track its citizens where I said “I’ll make the prediction that one day in the near future a similar system will be proposed by our congress…” Well, I was right… and they are doing it through the Department of Transportation! And it’s WAY better than sticking cameras on poles all over the place.

The concept is called “Value Pricing“:

The Congress has mandated this program [Value Pricing Pilot Program]as an experimental program aimed at learning the potential of different value pricing approaches for reducing congestion. Value pricing, also known as congestion pricing or peak-period pricing, entails fees or tolls for road use which vary by level of vehicle demand on the facility.

Via News.com:

The U.S. Department of Transportation has been handing millions of dollars to state governments for GPS-tracking pilot projects designed to track vehicles wherever they go. So far, Washington state and Oregon have received fat federal checks to figure out how to levy these “mileage-based road user fees.”

So, the DOT wants to install GPS units in vehicles so they can charge “per use” fees on toll roads, similar to calling plans where they charge more during peak times (In this case the equivalent would be rush hour) and less during off-peak times. And here’s the kicker! It’s a little long so put down the sugar cookie and focus. My emphasis added:

The problem, though, is that no privacy protections exist. No restrictions prevent police from continually monitoring, without a court order, the whereabouts of every vehicle on the road.

No rule prohibits that massive database of GPS trails from being subpoenaed by curious divorce attorneys, or handed to insurance companies that might raise rates for someone who spent too much time at a neighborhood bar. No policy bans police from automatically sending out speeding tickets based on what the GPS data say.

The Fourth Amendment provides no protection. The U.S. Supreme Court said in two cases, U.S. v. Knotts and U.S. v. Karo, that Americans have no reasonable expectation of privacy when they’re driving on a public street. (News.com)

I always get a kick out of Supreme Court rulings that rip the Bill of Rights out of our pampered paws…

There you have it, a program (Costing $12M per year) mandated by Congress to implement tracking devices in vehicles to charge “per use” fees with the intent of reducing road congestion because it would be cheaper for consumers to utilize mass transportation systems. (DEEP BREATH). Drive safe! Keep your GPS a’tracking or the cops will come’a packin’!

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Secure beneath the watchful eyes…

I’m sure our National Security Agency (NSA) is drooling over the Brits’ new nation-wide surveillance system set to begin in 2006:

Using a network of cameras that can automatically read every passing number plate, the plan is to build a huge database of vehicle movements so that the police and security services can analyse any journey a driver has made over several years. (The Independent)

Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) has been a part of the English life for decades so I guess their citizenry either could care less about the intrusion of privacy or have become numb to the concept of being watched by their government 24/7.

I would hope that Americans wouldn’t allow the implementation of such an intrusive system, then again I thought there was no way the populace would re-elect Bush the war-monger.

The ACLU lists four problems with Public Video Surveillance:

  1. Video surveillance has not been proven effective
  2. CCTV is susceptible to abuse
  3. The lack of limits or controls on cameras use
  4. Video surveillance will have a chilling effect on public life

Still, I’ll make the prediction that one day in the near future a similar system will be proposed by our congress, probably after another terrorist event, and the people will allow it to happen as they did in England under the assumption that they will be more secure.

Hey, you should only be worried if you are doing something wrong… right?

They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.
-Benjamin Franklin

Update by Stephen VanDyke: In related news, New York judge Gabriel Gorenstein has sided with the US government in its quest to be able to track a cellphone’s physical location via tower data, without first seeking a warrant to do so:

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the decision is based on “flawed legal analysis,” and contradicts rulings by three other judges. Gorenstein based his opinion, in part, on the idea that using tower data to triangulate a caller’s location doesn’t violate the US Constitution’s ban on unreasonable searches, due to the fact that the tracking method doesn’t “install a … tracking device” and only “identifies a nearby cell tower” rather than pinpointing a caller’s location. The EFF vows to continue following what it calls a “dangerous new opinion,” particularly in light of recent revelations about warrantless wiretaps by the Bush administration.

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ID movement gets trampled in Dover, PA

Just over a year ago the Dover School Board (PA) mandated the teaching of Intelligent Design which believes that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by an unspecified higher power. The decision to include ID in science classes was immediately attacked as a subversive attempt to implement religion (read Christianity) into the school curriculum.

The ruling in Kitzmiller v. Dover School District was released this morning and it was nothing less than devastating for the ID movement.

Presiding Judge, John Jones, blasted the defendants by saying they were disguising ID’s real purpose (imposing religion in science class) and then anticipated their “activist judge” counterattacks by including the following statement in his conclusion:

Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.

OUCH. That must hurt…

I think religion is going to play a big part in the 2006 elections and carry over to the Presidential elections in 2008. But, I doubt anyone from the two-party system will take the same stance that Badnarik did and plead the 6th… Article six of the Constitution that is. He never answered the question “What are your religious beliefs” during the campaign. Article VI of the Constitution states (my emphasis added):

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States

Anyone disagree?

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The Ohio Gestapo…

ID PleaseBad news:

The Ohio Patriot Act has made it to the Taft’s desk, and with the stroke of a pen, it would most likely become the toughest terrorism bill in the country. The lengthy piece of legislation would let police arrest people in public places who will not give their names, address and birth dates, even if they are not doing anything wrong. (NewsNet5.com)

I am truly speechless… Ohio? Are you awake? It was reported that there was public pressure… but apparently not enough:

Despite mounting pressure from the public, the amended bill passed the House in a vote of 69-23. It was then sent to the Senate to approve amendments made by the House. The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 29-2 and will now be sent to Governor Taft.
(ACLUOhio.org)

Governor Taft is expected to sign-off on this legislation today… Maybe you can persuade the Governor to kill this piece of… legislation by sending him a message here:

» Contact Governor Bob Taft

Update by Stephen VanDyke: Taft is a lame duck with an approval rating of only 6.5% (that’s not a typo). I’m betting this will be signed into law since he has nothing to lose and probably wants to punish Ohio on his way out of office.

Update by Mike Horn: Some other components of the “Ohio Patriot Act“:

…makes it a misdemeanor to witness a crime and refuse to give certain information to authorities. It also requires finalists for state and local government jobs to answer questions regarding potential involvement with terrorism organizations, and expands the authority of security workers to check IDs in transportation hubs such as airports and train stations.(Cleveland.com)

Another Update by Mike Horn:
Libertarian candidate for Governor of Ohio Bill Pierce gave his position on the “Ohio Patriot Act.”

see more…

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Bush secretly authorized NSA to spy on Americans

From the New York Times:

Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.

Why do I have the suspicion that when people look back on this presidency it will be called “one of the worst administrations ever?”

More from the article:

Mr. Bush’s executive order allowing some warrantless eavesdropping on those inside the United States ­ including American citizens, permanent legal residents, tourists and other foreigners ­ is based on classified legal opinions that assert that the president has broad powers to order such searches, derived in part from the September 2001 Congressional resolution authorizing him to wage war on Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, according to the officials familiar with the N.S.A. operation.

Hmm… it seems Congress gave the President more than just the authorization for war.

Some officials familiar with it say they consider warrantless eavesdropping inside the United States to be unlawful and possibly unconstitutional, amounting to an improper search.

You think? Does anyone in D.C. read the Constitution any more?

The article is quite lengthy but worth the read.

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Next Stop: Big Brother…

Papers PleaseWho needs the Real ID when you can get all “Big Brother” on someone going to work using public transportation?

From PapersPlease.org:

One morning in late September 2005, Deb was riding the public bus to work. She was minding her own business, reading a book and planning for work, when a security guard got on this public bus and demanded that every passenger show their ID. Deb, having done nothing wrong, declined. The guard called in federal cops, and she was arrested and charged with federal criminal misdemeanors after refusing to show ID on demand.

On the 9th of December 2005, Deborah Davis will be arraigned in U.S. District Court in a case that will determine whether Deb and the rest of us live in a free society, or in a country where we must show “papers” whenever a cop demands them.

What this introduction doesn’t mention is that a section of the bus route transits the Denver Federal Center, where this incident took place. According to PapersPlease.org no signage was posted warning commuters that presenting ID would be required even though it appears that Deborah will be charged with “Conformity to Official Signs and Directions.” PapersPlease.org responds by saying:

Through these charges, it appears that the Feds are claiming that people were on notice that they had to show ID. Nowhere is this evident, unless ‘Public Welcome’ flags are bureaucratese for ‘Papers, please’.

Would you have shown your ID?

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“Libertarian” the In Vogue Adjective

On the radio, the TV and throughout the blogosphere I have noticed an increase in the use of the word “Libertarian.” But, it seems that whenever the word is used it is to associate the political philosphy with some other THING. On the radio I heard someone being referred to as a “CIVIL Libertarian.” On TV a few days ago someone pointed out that the perspective of one commentator was “Libertarian THINKING.” I read articles about Scalito’s “Libertarian STREAK” and then there is the “Libertarian WING” of conservatism.

I find it curious that media personalities toss around the “L” word to describe characteristics of conversation or to label specific aspects of their idealogy and not as a reference to the philsophy as a whole.

When and why did “Libertarian” become such a popular adjective?! Does this use of “Libertarian” hurt or help the party’s constant effort to “get the word out?”

I do find some satisfaction when the politicking pundits use my party’s label as a reference to behavior or actions that reflect the Constitution. Then again (putting on foil cap) the conspiracist in me feels that the Democrats and Republicans are slinging the “L” word around to suade anyone considering the Libertarian party that they share the same political beliefs… maybe that’s just me.

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Our best interest…

During a TV/Radio broadcast today concerning Hurricane Wilma slamming into Florida Governor Jeb Bush commented on residents who ignored the mandatory evacuation warnings and settled in for the brutal weather:

In our society you can’t force people to do what’s in their best interest…

You can imagine the inquisitive stares I received as I gut-laughed for five minutes straight…

EVERY DAY the government uses FORCE to pay for programs they believe to be in our best interest! By FORCE, the government takes and spends billions and billions of dollars claiming that this is what America wants, what their constituents want, when typically… it isn’t!

By FORCE the government is paying for a war,initially touted to be in our BEST INTEREST, that most American’s disagree with. Through FORCE the people pay for a failing education system, the lost and uncessary battle of the ‘War on Drugs,’ religious institutions through ‘Faith-Based Initiatives,’ the welfare state and the list goes on and on…

Monday’s are typically rough and humorless for me, thanks for breaking the monotony Jeb.

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