Author Archives: Stuart Richards

About Stuart Richards

Stuart Richards is a 26-year-old land surveyor based out of Portland, OR. He is a left-leaning geolibertarian and (theologically) liberal Christian, and has been blogging on HammerofTruth.com and other libertarian sites since 2004.

Badnarik.org

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

At the request of someone in the latest Badnarik thread, I went to Badnarik.org and looked around, seeing if there was any substance to the charges that the Badnarik.org site was unhelpful to the average voter, and if money should have been invested in updating the site.

To those familiar with Badnarik’s site from the 2004 Presidential race, the basic layout is the same. The graphics have been updated to say “Congress” instead of “President.” This seems fine; the basic layout of the site wasn’t bad in 2004, and just updating the graphics instead of completely making new ones from scratch seems reasonable enough to me. Graphics aren’t terribly hard to make, but the average District 10 voter hasn’t likely seen the Badnarik site back in 2004, so it’s basically irrelevant except to the few District 10 voters who’ll be looking at it who have seen both, and out-of-district libertarians like ourselves. But apparently the site’s undergoing a redesign nonetheless, which is a worthy use of campaign resources in my book.

Aside from the graphics, the only holdover from the Presidential campaign seems to be some of the media on his biographical page. Given that this particular page is talking about the man himself and not just the District 10 campaign, this is excusable… but it would be encouraging to see some more media related to the current campaign on the site, in a prominent location. The site just was transferred between servers, as Hacker says, so obviously we can’t expect this tomorrow… but sometime soon would be reasonable. If this is a serious campaign as it seems to be, there should be a wealth of local media interviewing him in a few months. Radio and television media downloadable from the site would be helpful, as well as any ads the campaign might release. It’s still rather early in the campaign, however. It’s good that they have his Constitutional class up there and downloadable, though-for those very few voters in any given election who can be swayed by “education,” Badnarik is an eloquent speaker. Besides, the mere fact that he teaches a class on the Constitution should help him in a conservative/libertarian district.

The blog is down; once again understandable given the recent difficulties. I suspect this should be soon remedied; blogs are useful campaign tools and given Hacker’s extensive examination of any blogs that mention the Badnarik campaign, I think they’re aware of the utility of blogs. I do think, if there is a redesign to be had, that the blog’s latest post or two should be on the front page of the site, a la LP.org, because it gets the reader involved right away instead of having to hunt down a way to be active. I don’t think it should predominate the campaign homepage, though-older blog postings should be archived on a separate page.

Reading the message presented on the site, I was rather impressed with their capability to custom-tailor the message to the locality. The campaign’s themes are “Family, Property, Security,” conservative buzzwords that should play well in the district. The ideas behind the themes don’t breach any libertarian principles, upon reading further, so no worries there. There’s nothing along the lines of “Repeal all taxes!” or “Legalize Black Tar Heroin!” on the site, so that’s good… they do seem to be playing to win, at least by looking at the site content.

The ultimate way to judge the site is by looking at the competition. He does have a good site, but nothing spectacular on first glance. Shouldn’t be too hard to top it with the redesign, if Badnarik, Hacker & Co. are serious.

Anyway, to sum it up it looks decent, far better than the average Libertarian site and though I’ve been on the anti-Hacker fence in past, here he does seem to hold up to criticism.

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Hudson v. Michigan

Radley Balko posted something interesting on Slate 3 days ago regarding an issue we’ve been discussing lately around these parts: no-knock warrants, and overwhelming force in police tactics.

A case is before the Supreme Court, Hudson v. Michigan, in which police got a warrant to search a drug dealer’s house for cocaine, but didn’t give sufficient time after the “knock” to let the defendant answer the door. Consequentially, the defendant is moving to have the evidence (quite a lot of cocaine) thrown out because of the violation of due process.

Balko states some disturbing facts:

It’s impossible to estimate just how many wrong-door raids occur. Police and prosecutors are notoriously inept at keeping track of their own mistakes, and victims of botched raids are often too terrified or fearful of retribution to come forward. But over the course of researching a paper for the Cato Institute on the subject, I’ve found close to 200 such cases over the last 15 years. And those are just the cases that have been reported.

200 is way too much… we complain about how many people are executed by the state, but at least those people have been put on trial and found to be guilty. Whether right or wrong, they at least had the protection of due process and the law. Victims of botched no-knock raids, like Cory Maye, have no due process, no trial, and are almost always completely innocent of any crime, but they’re executed anyway and nobody seems to care.

The culprit is the rise of the SWAT team, according to Mr. Balko, and I’m hard-pressed to disagree with him.

It’s bad enough when the police serve a no-knock warrant at the wrong place. But this is not regular service of a warrant. No-knock raids are typically carried out by masked, heavily armed SWAT teams using paramilitary tactics more appropriate for the battlefield than the living room. In fact, the rise in no-knock warrants over the last 25 years neatly corresponds with the rise in the number and frequency of use of SWAT teams.

I think that Libertarians running local races could make some serious political hay by supporting the scaling-back, or even complete disbandment, of their local SWAT teams. Yes, they’re conceivably useful in a limited number of cases, but nowhere near the amount of cases they’re currently used for. They cost a lot of extra money that could be spent on more regular cops instead, and they don’t really do much to stop crime beyond shoot the innocent. They exist so Republicans can claim they’re getting “tough on crime.” Also, just because they’re wearing a badge instead of military insignia doesn’t mean they’re not violating the spirit, if not the letter, of Posse Comitatus.

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A realistic strategy for Libertarian national politicking

Charles Stricklin posted about the ideal way to begin working Libertarians into the federal government. From his blog:

My strategy relies less on winning the presidency and more on winning seats in Congress, particularly the House.

Currently, Republicans hold a 25-seat lead in the House. Consider what would happen if, over the next, say, 6 years, Libertarians elect 25 representatives: The president, whichever the party, would have to deal with them to pass legislation. Remember that all tax legislation originates from the House.

Libertarians, although not in the majority and therefore no able to dictate which bills are considered, would still be able to wield considerable power and support Republican bills when it makes sense to do so as well as Democratic bills when it makes since to do so. Also, if their performance suits the electorate, it’ll become that much easier for them to support a Libertarian presidential candidate in 2012 or 2016.

On the other hand, if by some miracle a Libertarian were elected president without first building a base within the House, he or she would control neither the majority nor the minority parties in either chamber, and they’d have to work with the majority party to get anything accomplished. To the best of my knowledge, no president has ever served without enjoying the support of either a majority or minority party.

…(snip)…

As a footnote: Senate seats are extremely hard to change parties, in part due to the six year term, in part due to the enormous amount of power to be wielded (1/2 of each state as opposed to a smaller percentage of any sizable state) and in part due to the inelasticity of the position. Once a senator wins his or her first reelection, they’re able to retain their seat short of poor health, scandal or resigning to run for the presidency. This is why my strategy focuses on the House. Again, the Libertarian Party should field senate candidates, just as they should governors and state elected officials, but don’t bet the farm on them.

The logic’s sound enough, I did take a few exceptions to the article though. He talked about the overwhelming power of Republican ideas among voters, which I’m not completely convinced on. Security, maybe… but not necessarily low taxes and deregulation (remember, these are Republican ideas, not what they actually do when elected). He used it to offer proof of the difficulties in electing a President, though, and that I do concur with. We’ll need a contingent in the House before anything happens.

So here’s hoping we can successfully get guys like Michael Badnarik and others in, but I still think that it’ll be a hard fight even to do that. Honestly I think we need to focus harder on local and state races still, but when we’re ready to seriously move into national politics, this is a good blueprint to follow.

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Illegal Immigration

The Jackyderm Party seems to have come to a compromise on immigration. From CNN:

While final details were not available, in general, the compromise would require illegal immigrants who have been in the United States between two years and five years to return to their home country briefly, then re-enter as temporary workers. They could then begin a process of seeking citizenship.

Illegal immigrants here longer than five years would not be required to return home; those in the country less than two years would be required to leave without assurances of returning, and take their place in line with others seeking entry papers.

The rest of the article was just “How sweet, they’re getting along!” filler, and apparently the bill leaves issues of border security unaddressed, but this is an important first step to a realistic, dare I say even libertarian, compromise (purists set phasers to stun!). If they continue and reinforce the Mexican border with heavier security but increase the number of legal immigrants allowed in (or, hopefully, end all numerical restrictions altogether), I think we’ll have a successful compromise that increases both liberty and security.

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My weekend with the Democratic Party

I’ve been swamped lately with various papers and the like coming due, possibly switching jobs, etc. But I did manage to find enough time this weekend for two political events in my otherwise sleepy town of Chadron.

Thursday night, George McGovern came to my college, giving a speech on Iraq. Now, I don’t appreciate many of the man’s positions, but he was one of the most outspoken opponents of the Vietnam War and on that point, at least, was vindicated in a major way. His speech on Iraq didn’t raise any points nobody hasn’t heard yet, and my brief conversation with him afterwards wasn’t about anything major, but the event gave me some food for thought.

Turn the clock to Friday at noon. My political science professor, Luke Perry, co-hosted an event at a local restaurant wherein Scott Kleeb, the Democratic (very) hopeful for running for Nebraska’s 3rd District in the House of Representatives, spoke. Since there’s no Libertarian running in this district (that I know of), I sadly will probably vote for this man, despite the fact that he’s pro-war, couldn’t directly answer a question on healthcare with concrete proposals (even though that’s the focus of his campaign) and wants to increase Social Security or Medicare and possibly taxes on everyone, not just the rich. He was a nice enough fellow, and to his credit he spoke against the debt, against corporate welfare and for cutting taxes on alternative energy developers (and some subsidies, which is bad, yes… but we’re subsidizing energy anyway so we might as well do it in a more sensible, less pollutive way that decreases our dependence on other nations) so he’s slightly better than the Republican front-runner, Adrian Smith. I also had a dean from my college, some washed-up hippie from the 60s, tell me that our local paper was a fundamentalist Christian rag… and then backtrack miserably when I mentioned that the paper’s owner (whose wife works in my office) was a Hindu. Good times, good times.

The best part, I think, was Kleeb’s answer to how to overcome a 10-to-1 voter registration advantage for the Republicans: educating the voters. My polisci teacher and I had a good laugh about that afterwards, because this approach, quite simply, doesn’t work. As a politician, you can sway an electorate a little bit one way or another, but you cannot fundamentally transform them. That’s for think-tanks to do; a successful politician must invite the electorate to “come as they are” and appeal to those instincts already within the electorate that he shares.

But anyway, these events gave me an insight into the thought process of the average liberal. They (or at least a lot of them) are against the war not because Iraq was a sovereign country that didn’t attack us, or because the cost was massive, or because the stated end goal-a democratic, stable, Iraq-is unrealistic. They’re against the war because we didn’t go in with the rest of the world, and because not everyone is being asked to make sacrifices for the war. Seriously-there are plenty of liberals out there that would be all for this war if Dubya had said upfront “We’re going in to give them democracy,” had gotten France and Germany on our side, enacted a draft, and raised taxes to wage it.

The basic idea driving them is that whatever is done, should be done by everyone. Libertarians have a name for this-collectivism. We oppose war out of individualism, they oppose it out of collectivism. Perhaps this is why the anti-war left and right can’t get along. It’s sad seeing the mainstream philosophical stepchildren of Locke and Mill having become so collectivist, but as with all political problems, it deserves a political answer. I think the IES was a good answer to that, but unfortunately it didn’t get the attention it deserved. But until then, it is the duty of anyone who really actually wants to end this war to figure out how to work with the collectivist side of the anti-war movement.

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Badnarik Wasting Libertarian Money?

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

Austin Cassidy over at Third Party Watch did a little investigative reporting on the Badnarik campaign. First, he took notice of something rather encouraging for a libertarian campaign: he raised buckets of money. $125,000. Going on that alone, there is absolutely no reason that Badnarik’s campaign isn’t a winnable one.

However, it looks like the majority of that has been spent on dinners out, cruise tickets, and other crap. Almost none of it’s going towards actual advertising or outreach. I’ll just blockquote Cassidy here:

The campaign spends about $2,400 a month on renting an office and quite a bit on consulting and staff. Those seem to be the main expenses; lots and lots of consulting.

There were several hundred dollars worth of car rental charges, several hundred dollars worth of meals at local restaurants, and some other office-related expenses like phone phone and internet access.

They also appear to have ordered 100 T-shirts and purchased an ad in at least one local newspaper. Also an ad in LP News.

Quite a bit of travel for Badnarik and his staff, most of it to and from locations outside his district: Las Vegas, Phoenix, and California. About $1,100 or so went to Royal Caribbean International, presumably for Badnarik to attend the California State LP Convention which was held on a cruise ship.

Amusingly, the candidate himself seems to have paid $4.95 on February 25th for the cost of 2 ginger ales from Royal Caribbean. The item is recorded as “Campaign Event: 2 Ginger Ale: “Michael”.

The folks working on this campaign seem to be expensing quite a few meals out at restaurants. Outback Steakhouse, Luby’s, Marie Callendar’s, and on and on. There must be a couple dozen meals on here. Since last July they’ve spent more eating out at restaurants than most any other Libertarian Congressional campaign will raise or spend at all this year.

Other items include a little less than $1,000 for an Acer notebook computer and $415 for a fridge for the office.

All in all, it looks like pretty normal spending for a major party candidate in a race he’s expected to win. However, I’m not really sure if this campaign qualifies as being in that situation.

Our Presidential candidate is a celebrity of sorts in Libertarian circles, and if there’s ever a real reason to run a candidate for that, this seems to be that reason: we have a good shot at plunking him in the Senate or the House afterwards, since his fundraising capabilities are on par with the majors. But we need people that will use our money responsibly, not squander it.

Update by Stephen VanDyke: Ok everyone, take a deep breath and lay off the hyperbole for a minute lest we end up with petty name-calling and shooting Badnarik’s campaign down in a hail of friendly fire. I know our mantra here at Hammer of Truth is to take our own party to task from time to time so I’ve followed up via an open letter to campaign manager Allen Hacker to get his side of the story on why $130K+ has been spent so quickly. I know some of you might have a personal axe to grind here but it’s only fair that we hear Hacker out.

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News briefs for 3/13

Robert Murphy of Hillsdale College just posted a fantastic piece about free trade on Mises.org. He basically kills, skins, boils and devours any possible case to be made against globalization. It’s glorious-but then, what else could you expect from a professor at a college that accepts no federal funding whatsoever?

Meanwhile, it appears that the Libertarians in Greene County, Missouri had to deal with a white supremacist trying to run for US Congress under their label. Army veteran, truck driver and racist asshole Glenn Miller first tried to get on the ballot as a Democrat, but they rejected him. So did the Republicans. The Libertarians took their cue from the majors and did the same. Kevin Craig, the LP’s erstwhile candidate for the 7th Congressional District, seems to be a better, non-embarrassing candidate for the region.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Russ Feingold stands alone again. This time he’s trying to censure Bush, an action Congress hasn’t taken since the days of Andrew Johnson Jackson. Predictably, he got little support for the move from the Congressional Invertebrate Sheeple Caucus… but you can’t blame the man for trying. Hell… other than his staunch support for Soviet healthcare, the dude could probably be considered libertarian.

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The State writ small

“…the State is nothing more nor less than a bandit gang writ large” -Murray Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty

If Murray was right, then the reverse would also be true-namely, the mafia is merely the State writ small. Certainly, they both do watch out for each other.

Take a look at the latest mafia news. Apparently, John Gotti just got a mistrial. Fancy that! And, as always, it was on a technicality-namely, that his last act of racketeering was more than five years before the trial date. A jury was hung on the question-undoubtedly because some of them had either been bought or threatened. You would think that the government’s prosecutor would have more jurisprudential savvy than to bring a case to trial in such a manner that would give the mafia plenty of room to maneuver… but then again, let’s not forget that the government has a lot of money to be made by working with organized crime. In fact, two cops in New York seem to have done just that, by moonlighting as hitmen and providing tips to the Luchese crime family.

The two institutions are really one and the same. They both demand “protection money” if you live on their turf. They both will ruin countless lives with their “turf wars” and quietly demand monopolies on drugs and prostitution in their “turf.” Hell, for that matter they’re both into providing welfare-yes, even the likes of Al Capone were bleeding heart New Dealers. And now, by the looks of it, these two crime syndicates are allies in the War on People.

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Yankee go home!

The people gathered one day, made their voices heard and in an 8-to-1 ratio they expressed their political will: Get the Americans out of here!

I’m not talking about Iraq-rather, about Japan. 61 years after American forces landed on the Japanese home islands, we’re still there. 50,000 of us-about 2/5ths the size of our force currently in Iraq. Unlike Iraq, we actually gave liberty, democracy and stability to Japan-but even so, nobody outside of their top government and what’s left of the Japanese hawk movement wants us there.

In fact, the town of Iwakuni, 600 miles west of Tokyo,voted against a plan to expand the U.S. Marine base there by an 8-to-1 margin. The town referendum is non-binding, but it shows well what the average Japanese subject is thinking. In fact, Japan’s main proponent of the deal, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, conceded that it was highly unpopular.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Tokyo would aim to meet the end-March deadline, but acknowledged the plan faces stiff opposition from local communities.

“If a referendum were held, the result would be a ‘No’ vote anywhere. That is the difficulty with issues related to national security,” he told reporters.

If, 61 years after we occupied Japan, we’re still providing defense for a successfully democratized, liberalized nation… then what hope do we have for getting out of Iraq safely? We’ve only been in Iraq for 4 years, and the nation is hardly liberal and its democracy is infantile. It’s already becoming more and more obvious that the American legacy to Iraq is civil war, not liberty and stability. Maybe this is why even conservatives are vocally itching to get out of Iraq these days.

I highly doubt anyone’s expecting Iraq to become the next Japan, after all-but regardless of a nation’s status, this just goes to show that every nation likes sovereignty and that America does its best bringing its troops home from abroad.

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90% of Americans support a third party

The Lou Dobbs Show on CNN apparently asked its viewers a question on Tuesday: Would you consider membership in a third party? As of the latest reporting (via DailyKos), 90% of them said “yes.” Coming on the heels of Greenspan’s prediction of a viable centrist third-party candidate for President in either 2008 or 2012, this is big news. Obviously, the people are getting fed up with Republican betrayals of the Constitution and fiscal discipline, and Democratic betrayal of their spines.

Will this translate into unprecedented Libertarian successes in 2008? Well, in order for that to happen, we’ll have to give the voters what they want-fiscal discipline, an end to the war in Iraq, and a moderate stance on immigration, along the lines of the LRC’s proposal or Chuck Hagel’s proposal. And that’s pretty much it. Maybe a few tangential issues, like marijuana decriminalization or some other issue that enjoys broad public support, but that’s it. We have to be credible, and only run on those principles that the voters support. This, of course, means that the LRC has to be leading the Libertarian Party by then. After all, if we don’t give the voters what they want, someone else will… and diehard libertarian though I am, I’ll probably vote for that man.

But just by looking at the Republican candidate circus, it’s evident that we can probably just expect more of the same from them. As for the Democrats… as time passes it looks more and more like Clinton’s got the nomination clinched. The voters are crying out for an alternative-it is our duty to give it to them.

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Feuds, Funerals, Fundies and Free Speech

Fred Phelps, the mind behind godhatesfags.com, is quite possibly the modern living embodiment of George Orwell’s quote “if liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” He and his church have become infamous for their shocking-but largely legal-denunciations of homosexuality. Their favorite modus operandi seems to be picketing funerals, as they did with Matthew Shepard.

Their latest gig seems to be picketing funerals of American soldiers killed in Iraq. The argument they base these protests on is that America supports homosexuality, therefore every dead soldier is God’s way of telling America to stop supporting homosexuality. The twistedness of this man is unfathomable-I’ve never known any anti-war protester who actively hopes for the deaths of our soldiers. That’s just sick.

Patriotic veteran bikers seem to think so, as well. Organized as the Patriot Guard, they are now going to funerals to support the war’s dead against the protests of Fred Phelps’ church. While mindless flag-waving annoys me, this seems to me a very noble thing to do.

This shows the world that the best antidote to free speech is more free speech. Those who would curtail Fred Phelps’ right to spew bigotry would merely make it harder to protect other forms of free speech. Meanwhile, protecting all free speech lets the moral force of the Patriot Guard be brought to bear against Phelps and his sinful, racist, drug abusing, immoral lot.

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Just Another Government Whore

According to the Dallas Morning News, a Democratic candidate for the Texas House used to be a male prostitute. I had a few reactions after reading this bit of news.

First off, at least he’s an honest whore; the rest of the government should be so honest. Both in literal acts of adultery and in the corporate lobbyist harlotry that so commonly takes place.

Second off, I thought “A former prostitute! This guy should know better than anyone that prostitution should be legalized.” While Mr. Malin himself has personally repudiated prostitution after a religious conversion, he hasn’t said anything regarding its legality. His backers, however, have said plenty… and they’re considering ending their support for him. So much for the civil libertarianism of the Democratic Party.

Oh well… the rest of Malin’s platform appears to be pretty moderate for a Democrat, so just for the sake of supporting an honest fellow I hope he wins the primary, at least. I’d rather a prostitute in government than a corporate whore any day.

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Homeland Security considers bloggers a threat

Big Brother is watching you.

No, really.

Our own government just ran an exercise where it tried to counter some dangerous national threat from the likes of “anti-globalization activists, underground hackers and bloggers.” Called “Cyber Storm,” the exercises were also attended by the likes of Microsoft, Cisco, Verisign and other various Fed-bedding techno-glitterati.

That’s right guys, we’re a threat to the national government. That pesky free press guaranteed by the First Amendment is just not cool anymore! I, as a blogger and a national menace, want to fuck this country up, because the government simply isn’t doing it fast enough. Maybe, if I try hard enough at the whole “revolution” thing, I might get my face emblazoned on some yuppie’s shirt in the process.

You know us bloggers are a pretty nasty lot, but man… we’re nothing compared to those anti-globalization activists! All those protectionist corn farmers in Nebraska with their confused politics are clearly a threat to national security. Just look at who they vote for, after all. Granted, maybe they’re referring to the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle where police broke up a largely nonviolent protest. The horror of those anti-globalization folks!

In closing, I’d just like to offer a cookie to the spook(s) that are probably reading this on my tax dime. Thank you, thank you for protecting innocent Americans from my “political rantings and musings about current events.”

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A Shining Example Of Local Government In Action

There is a house in New Orleans Valparaiso, Indiana that’s worth approximately $121,900. In the latest example of government brilliance, property tax collectors valued the house’s value at $400 million.

Apparently it was a glitch, some former program in one of the government computers messed things up. A local official described the defective program this way:

“It didn’t get fixed all the way,” Murphy said.

Well, good to see that their local Department of Stating The Obvious is on the ball.

At any rate, $8 million was supposedly owed on this house, when the normal tax bill is about $1500. This is basically a funny story, but there is an insidious side to it… what about all the minor glitches that only add a hundred or two? Those hardly would have made CNN, but they’re likely far more frequent, and citizens are far less capable of fighting them.

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West Apologizes for Exercising Right of Freedom of Expression

This is bullshit! I have never in my life seen the entire Western world pandering to a bunch of religious wackos in such an extreme way.

Let’s review some facts here. A Danish newspaper publishes a series of cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad. This severely rankles the religious sensibilities of Muslims, whose religion bans depictions of people period, let alone one of the holiest figures of their faith. Denmark has 5,432,335 people, about only 200,000 of which happen to be Muslim. That means about 3.7% of all Danes are Muslim, so clearly it’s a tiny minority group there.

But what a private company publishes in a free country with a relatively small Muslim population is apparently monumental enough for Muslims to storm Danish embassies. Not just the Danish, either! A few countries republished the cartoons in a blatant defense of freedom of speech-and their nations have had embassies attacked as well. Even unrelated nations, who happen to be a part of the European Union, have indirectly had their assets attacked when a Palestinian mob hurled stones at a European Commission building and stormed a German cultural center in Gaza City. What do the leaders of these attacks have to say for themselves?

“We should have killed all those who offend the Prophet and instead here we are, protesting peacefully,” Mahmoud Zahar, a top leader of the militant Islamic group that won the January 25 Palestinian elections, told Italian daily Il Giornale.

“We should have killed them, we should have required just punishment for those who respect neither religion nor its holiest symbols,” Zahar was quoted as saying.

Oh, how nice of you pathetic fundie bastards to allow men to live after they so criminally voiced their own opinions! see more…

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USA PATRIOT Act extended one month

In the latest attempt to dodge a thorny issue, the House of Representatives has extended the USA PATRIOT Act by another month. The last time they did this was in December, when under the cover of recess Senator John Warner voted, by himself, to renew it.

The good news here is that this is only the House, which by all means is far more under neocon control than the Senate, which has enough Democrats and libertarian-leaning Republicans to block a renewal, which they well should.

The last time a renewal was passed, it was to give more time to deliberate on the matter. Well, the month’s up, buckos, you had your chance to deliberate. Don’t come crawling back to us with the same tired excuse because you don’t want to lose political points with “hawks.”

Oh yeah, and this little bit of Democratic cumguzzlery is ticking me off as well.

Added Rep. Jane Harmon, top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee: “We must extend it, mend it, but not end it. “

The Democrats are actually afraid of Republicans on this issue, this issue that they own, this issue where the bulk of the American people are behind them. What’s the matter? Corporate money speaking too loudly? Just goes to show that the jackyderms are in this together; it’s both of them screwing us.

Well, we can hold out hope that the Democrats in the Senate will renew it for another few months, probably until after the 2006 races are over. Then, to give the appearance of difference from the Republicans, they will sell out the libertarian wing of the GOP and strike a deal with the neocons that renews most of the bullshit and scuttles maybe two or three of the sixteen most contentious points.

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Alito Confirmed, What Do We Think?

Samuel Alito has just been confirmed by the Senate as the 110th Supreme Court justice in the nation’s history. A last-ditch effort by Senate Democrats to filibuster his nomination failed miserably. But where does that leave us?

Alito’s record is mixed-he supports gun rights, which is good news to us, but he also supports wiretaps. He’s confusing on abortion, where he’s personally against it but tends to rule in its favor, which is murky whatever side of the line you’re on.

I suppose he’s better than Harriet Miers, but I can’t figure out what else to think about the guy.

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White House Sees Shadow — Six Weeks of Impeachment Predicted

Apparently 1600 Pennsylvania is getting ready for the second impeachment hearings in ten years. We suspected that an impeachment was in the winds, but there’s really no better confirmation of this than President Bush himself getting antsy and preparing for it.

Like I’ve said before, I hope this goes through. But I also wonder what this portends for American politics. There have been three impeachment hearings in American history-the first one was for Andrew Johnson in the late 1860s, and it was a time when the nation was still deeply polarized after the Civil War. The second one was for Richard Nixon, when we were polarized by Vietnam. The third one was for Bill Clinton, when we were, um, polarized by a cigar. Or something.

My point is that impeachments have become more common in the modern era, and that is because of the increasing number of independent voters, I suspect. Less and less fealty is granted to the main two parties, meaning that the net amount of hostility to any given President is much greater than in previous years.

Is this a watershed? Is this permanent? The only solutions to this “problem” we’ve cooked up in times previous are some major decades-long struggle with a foreign power (Cold War), the emergence of a single powerful party for a few decades (1820s-1850s dominance of the Democrats). “Terrorism” just won’t work as the next Big Bad Threat, and both parties are currently equally despised. I think that, in America’s new political system, we’ll find impeachments a regular feature, as well as at least one more regular party (the Libertarians, I hope). But, when Hell freezes over, the Devil gives free sleigh rides and a Libertarian is sitting in the White House, expect him/her to get impeached over something or another. It’s just the new political reality.

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Men (and Women) in Black Defend the Constitution

Gonzales protestors

Today, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales gave a speech to Georgetown University regarding the legality of Bush’s wiretapping program. It was shaping up to be the usual fascist-justifying affair until some hooded folks came in. (No, not these guys, but people to actually be proud of.)

These black-hooded protesters raised a banner with Benjamin Franklin’s immortal words inscribed; “Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.” Gonzales, intellectually outclassed by a dead man and a sheet, resorted to the only course available to him-ignoring the protest. Not just the four hoodeds holding the sheet, but the 22 other protesters who had their backs facing him.

So yeah… go Hoyas!

Update by Nicholas Sarwark: Gonzales was also interviewed by NPR today. In the interview, he claims that the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) authorized all activities “incident to war.” Basically, when we’re fighting an enemy, the President is authorized to spy on and detain the enemy. I’m with him that far.

The part that makes me wonder how he looks in the mirror at night is that, in advancing this argument to justify warrantless surveillance of American citizens, he’s conveniently sidestepping the Constitution and the FISA Act. And what level of proof does it take to authorize this magical transformation of an American citizen into an enemy? The “determination of career professionals at the NSA,” that’s what. But that shouldn’t bother us, because the Inspector General of the same agency has been reviewing the program to make sure it’s okay. I’m not a lawyer (yet), but I’m pretty sure there’s a reason why the Fourth Amendment requires warrants to be issued by a neutral magistrate.

The interview gets even more maddening when he tries to justify not using the FISA courts because he’s have to be sure that there was sufficient probable cause to justify the surveillance to said courts before his office could apply for the warrant. Seriously, he said on national radio that he wasn’t using the FISA courts because he couldn’t come up with sufficient justification (for a court that has only turned down ten warrants in the course of its entire existence) for the surveillance ahead of time, or even be sure that they could round up the justification within the 72-hour emergency provision.

There’s a word for fishing expeditions like that: illegal.

Update by Stephen VanDyke: DailyKos has more photos from the event in this comment thread. This wide shot is really good.

Another Update by Stephen VanDyke: Here’s a bigger, better version of that wide shot photo. I’d love to get ahold of the original size and use it as my desktop if anyone knows how to contact the photog from the event.

Update by Stephen Gordon: Scoplaw was one of the original participants, and has some updates here. Lyco, another of the participants, explains the black hoods. Perhaps Stuart shouldn’t have linked to the KKK, but rather to the White House. The visual explanation of what the hoods are for is right after the jump.

Update by Stuart Richards: As has become obvious by now, the protesters themselves are on here and seeing this. This was listed on Google News as one of the few articles dealing with this protest early on, so everyone pretty much came here to give the protesters support. So if you want to say anything to the protesters, rest assured it’ll reach them through this medium. Even if what you have to say is like this guy’s, it’ll still get through. see more…

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Probably the most explicitly evil thing I’ve seen our government do

1629-EPAI never thought that I’d live to see the day where the American government would allow pesticide testing on little children against their will.

I wish I was making this up. But the story goes like this: in August 2005, Congress mandated that the EPA institute rules protecting pregnant women and children from pesticide testing. The EPA, which is by all accounts a “captured” agency as of late (meaning that the industries it supposedly regulates have managed to get their people installed at its highest levels), has interpreted “pregnant women and children” to exclude neglected, abused, or mentally handicapped children. Just look at the letter of the law here:

70 FR 53865 26.408(a) “The IRB (Independent Review Board) shall determine that adequate provisions are made for soliciting the assent of the children, when in the judgment of the IRB the children are capable of providing assent…If the IRB determines that the capability of some or all of the children is so limited that they cannot reasonably be consulted, the assent of the children is not a necessary condition for proceeding with the research. Even where the IRB determines that the subjects are capable of assenting, the IRB may still waive the assent requirement…”

So if children aren’t capable of assenting to being subjected to pesticide testing, they can still be tested. Even if they are capable of assenting and refuse to, they can still be tested.

70 FR 53865 26.408(c) “If the IRB determines that a research protocol is designed for conditions or for a subject population for which parental or guardian permission is not a reasonable requirement to protect the subjects (for example, neglected or abused children), it may waive the consent requirements…”

So if a child comes from an abusive situation or has nobody caring for it, it can be tested on against its will.

70 FR 53864 26.401 (a)(2) “To What Do These Regulations Apply? It also includes research conducted or supported by EPA outside the United States, but in appropriate circumstances, the Administrator may, under § 26.101(e), waive the applicability of some or all of the requirements of these regulations for research…”

This means “yeah, boys, do whatever the hell you want to those brownie kids in Whereverstan.”

The EPA wrote a reply to critics of the policy, it may be added, but it was just a rehashing of what they were told to do but didn’t. They might as well have said “hey, we’re not testing pregnant women or children except for the ones we are!” When their own regulations say otherwise, I think it can be surmised that they think we’re idiots.

I hate to break Godwin’s Law, but there’s not much else that can compare to this.

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52% of America says: Impeach Bush!

According to a new Zogby poll, 52% of America believes that President Bush should be impeached over his use of warrantless wiretaps, while only 43% think that he shouldn’t. Those who identified themselves as libertarians supported impeachment by 71%, with only progressives surpassing them for impeachment support at 90%. Even those identifying themselves as “very conservative” post a 23% support for impeachment.

We may actually be on to something here, something we can not only use to get Bush out of office but to find common ground with a majority of Americans. And it may actually work-the last impeachment proceeding had the support of only 36% of the American public, and only 26% actually wanted Clinton out of office. With borderline libertarians like Bob Barr being at the forefront of the wiretapping indictments and upcoming calls for impeachment, this could be a way to get the libertarian name out there in front of the American people in a good light.

What would a successful impeachment bring? It would put Cheney in power, yes, and he’s widely regarded as the power behind the throne already. But even Captain Halliburton himself would be on edge after seeing the fate of his former boss. Sic semper tyrannis has a way of bringing out the libertarian in just about anyone. And we could go into 2008 with the energy of a successful, popular change in American politics already proving our efficacy to voters.

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A Radically Different Take on the E-annoyance Law

One of the more recent controversies across the blogosphere has been a law recently signed into effect by President Bush which states, among other things,

“Whoever ‘utilizes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet’ without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person — who receives the communications — shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.”

Like everyone else reading those words, I was immediately shocked, appalled, and I concluded with the majority that this would get stricken down by the courts as soon as it was challenged. And then I gave it little thought, satisfied that the Supreme Court would save me from yet another of Bush’s ineptitudes.

Perhaps I was a little hasty.

First off, I didn’t look at the law in depth. Because the context of the oft-copypasted quote is missing from most blogs. I happened upon the context at Arstechnica.com and the bill is more pussycat than tiger. Check it out:

(h) Definitions
For purposes of this section:
(1) The use of the term “telecommunications device” in this section:
(A) shall not impose new obligations on broadcasting station licensees and cable operators covered by obscenity and indecency provisions elsewhere in this chapter;
(B) does not include an interactive computer service; and
(C) in the case of subparagraph (C) of subsection (a)(1), includes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet (as such term is defined in section 1104 of the Internet Tax Freedom Act (47 U.S.C. 151 note)).’.

Surprising to us libertarians, I know; the government, moreso Bush, is actually not screwing us over for once.

But there’s still something lingering in my head about all this… perhaps the government ought to have a bigger role in the Internet. see more…

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Nothing’s Smoking in New Jersey except Civil Liberties

Add New Jersey to the list, 11-strong, of localities that have banned smoking in restaurants and other supposed “public places” that are privately owned. The one exception, this time around, is casinos. Why? Because the casino lobby in New Jersey is strong enough to stop them, and that’s it.

All of this would be bad enough for supporters of smokers’ rights-except that New Jersey went even further. They’ve joined with three other states in raising the age at which one can legally buy cigarettes from 18 to 19.

So we have a new law that not only destroys two civil liberties, but also adds to the confusing mess that is government regulation. You can smoke at 18, you just can’t buy cigarettes. Smoking in public is very very bad for your health and the health of others, except in casinos where apparently it’s not. I wouldn’t care so much about this, except that it’s yet another precedent that health Nazis here in my native Nebraska can cite next time they try to pass this political abortion of a law.

EDIT: My apologies for not crediting the good folks at Bureaucrash.com for the image on the right. It’s one of their shirt designs, and you can see more of them on their site.

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