Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A thought for the evening directed at my friends who believe in the virtues of the State

A personnel case occurred today that consumed most of my day in my role as union president, and therefore pretty much eliminated bloggin for the day (thanks, Tyler, by the way, for showing the flag).

I obviously cannot discuss the details of a personnel issue here, but it helped crystalize my thinking when I put it together with the current approach to the budget and the salary/benefits of State employees under the proposed Markell budget.

Here's the deal: many if not most of my liberal friends argue that privatization of services is bad policy under almost any conditions because the profit motive will inevitably outweigh any urge to do the right thing. You can't expect, they argue, that contract medical service in a prison will do anything but provide the inmates with the bare minimums of treatment and care. You can't expect people at health insurance companies to actually give a rip about the conditions of their customers when treatments for those conditions will cost money.

The answer, they say, following President Obama, is that only government can and should provide such critical services, because only government puts the desired results ahead of a profit motive. Only government can inspect food; only government can regulate certain financial transactions....

Yet here's the rub: I have worked in and around government and the US military for over thirty years now.

I have worked in the US Army, in the Virgnia Army National Guard, in/with the public education system of three different States, for three different public universities, with the Department of Homeland Security, and the list could go on....

What I have discovered in those three decades is that, sadly, most people in senior administrative and regulatory positions cannot be trusted to avoid abusing their power over their own employees.

A few examples:

As an Equal Opportunity complaint investigator in the US military I looked into more than two dozen cases of sexual harassment or gender discrimination (at least two per year in the major command for which I worked). Investigation proved that about 75-80% of those cases had legs--i.e., substantive, supporting evidence of misconduct by a senior NCO or commissioned officer. In most of those cases the first General officer in the chain of command intervened to stop the proceedings; several of the individuals against whom substantial [even multiple] compaints were lodged received promotions and went on to better things. Most of the women who complained were thereafter denied promotion and were marked for shitty assignments as long as they remained in the military.

In nearly two decades at this job I saw exactly one senior NCO and one officer have action taken. In the case of the NCO it only occurred because one of the women he tried to assault was the daughter of a senior officer. In the case of the officer it was hard to sweep under the rug because there were over 45 witnesses to the incident.

But only two cases....

Within the public school systems of three different States I have seen administrators file fabricated or forged reports into the personnel files of teachers they personally did not like, in order to keep them from receiving tenure.

I have seen senior educational administrators calmly and consciously misappropriate Federal grant money or State education funds, using them for--quite frankly--illegal purposes, and even when caught they faced no civil or criminal penalty.

In the Department of Social Services of one State in which I have worked, I saw the case of a sexually abusive father who was removed from the family, tried, and convicted of child sexual abuse then be given parole and returned by social workers to his family where he continued to assault his own daughters for two more years. They were six and eight years old.

He was eventually sent to prison and the family was broken up. The bureaucrats who either made the decision or looked the other way were promoted. Repeatedly.

I have seen school officials consciously alter the files of special needs students, changing test results, in order to avoid having to provide services or to have those students count against their graduation statistics. When I brought documentary evidence of that conduct to the individual who supervised such fields at the State level, I was told: That's bad, but I try to avoid getting involved with the way individual schools run this program. This was the woman that the State paid to evaluate such programs.

I could go on, but one more example will suffice: What is the State of Delaware proposing to meet its budget shortfall? Salary cuts, lay-offs, or furloughs, certainly.

But the State of Delaware is also reducing the level of health care benefits its own employees may be receiving.

Here's the point: nothing I have seen in thirty years of working around the military, the government, or other public institutions gives me any damn confidence at all in the superior morals or supervisory ability of bureaucrats.

Nothing I have seen in thirty years suggests that there is any real accountability or transparency in government.

What my thirty years of experience does suggest is that whenever human beings receive the ability to exercise power--either within government or within the private sector--a similar percentage of them will abuse that power in either case.

The problem: government is far less accountable for its abuses.

So if you ever wonder (I flatter myself) why I drifted inevitably toward libertarian philosophy, here's the reason:

Government has rarely failed to live down to my expectations; the private sector has occasionally (though not nearly often enough) exceeded them.

Question of the Day

All across Democrat Delaware tax, fee, and fine hikes are in vogue, like gangbusters.

The government spending binge of the last 10 years, wherein the Democrat party has swamped Delaware with bloated patronage, far exceeded both the economic and income growth of the citizenry, easily by a multiple of 2 or even 3, in the case of Wilmington government.

Now that economic growth has ceased, the only real solution proffered from Delaware's monopolist political party is to bleed even more from the productive economy to continue servicing the unsustainable aggregate of government expansion with which the last 10 years has left us.

So, this means, in many cases, higher tax rates all around.

The question is : should we see economic prosperity return in the near future, despite the unbalanced load of government weighing more heavily on it than in Delaware's history, who thinks we will see all these tax increases rolled back as a lot more money begins rolling in from the higher tax rates when times are good?

Who thinks rates will stay high and these governments will simply embark on another round of bloated expansionism and unfettered excess?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday Night Drug War Updates

Oh joy, what a great use of resources : U.S. to send more drug agents to Afghanistan

Meanwhile : Mexico's drug gangs drive film crew out of town

Also : With Mexico's army in the war on drugs

Author : U.S. security no match for drug cartels, legalization should be considered

If you want to hear a thoroughly tired non-sequitur re-hash of the pathetic "save the children; all drugs are the same : evil; we need to restore our culture; marijuana is dangerous, even more than alcohol or tobacco, and is killing kids" propaganda, Asa Hutchinson delivers.

Unfortunately for Asa the Arkansan, the other 7 panelists are stuck on facts and reality, seemingly quite unconvinced by Asa's worn-out rhetorical regurgitations from out of the 1980's :

Internet Mob Vigilantism

Damned if I didn't laugh raucously at some of these cases of e-mob justice...

As one commenter quotes Ned Flanders, "There's no justice like angry mob justice."

#8. Sasha Gomez and the Stolen Sidekick

A 16-year-old New Yorker, Sasha Gomez, made the unfortunate choice to steal the phone she found in the back of a cab. The victim had to buy a new phone and when she logged into her account, she found pictures of Gomez along with her AOL screen name, as Gomez hadn't been a criminal long enough to know that you don't put your name and photo on shit you steal.

A friend of the victim, Evan Guttman, tracked down the thief and sent her an IM asking her to return the phone, to which he was politely told to jam his head in his ass and see if he could look out his own mouth again. All Guttman did in response was to make a simple webpage that included the pics of Gomez and a description of what happened. These things always start small...

Next the page was linked on Digg, and Gizmodo, and from there to hundreds of other sites. Hundreds of thousands of people read the story, remembered the last time they fell victim to some asshat with sticky fingers, and started a massive virtual campaign of harassment against Gomez. People from all across the planet were sending e-mails, some of them likely with the most strongly worded LOLcats you can imagine.

Of course this wasn't nearly enough for the more industrious types who tracked Gomez down on MySpace and started to harass her and her friends. Then it was time for the real hardcore avatars of justice (or the insane) to bring it into the real world, actually finding her address in Queens and driving past her home shouting accusations and 4chan memes.

Eventually the thief's brother--a military police officer--got involved and told Guttman to back off, which at this stage would be like telling to butterfly to stop the hurricane it triggered. This incited a new shitstorm and earned the brother a reprimand from his military bosses. Before the situation could get out of hand and martial law declared, the thief gave up and turned in the phone. She was arrested and the story was added to the annals of cyber-mob justice.

Read the rest.

Kathryn Fridge is my f**king hero of the day

From Classically Liberal (which is not squeamish and doesn't use asterisks like I tend to do):

Kathryn Fridge, 29, of La Marque, Texas was shopping at Wal-Mart with her mother. In a conversation between the two women Kathryn said "fuck." Her sentiments were understandable. A tropical storm warning had been issued and she and her mother were looking to buy batteries. But they found that the shelves had already been picked clean. In response to this unfortunate turn of events, Ms. Fridge expressed dismay by saying that the batteries were "fucking gone."

Now Capt. Alfred Decker, moralistic buttwipe and La Marque assistant fire marshal, steps in and decides that because he gets to wear a uniform that he can issue a citation to Ms. Fridge for "disorderly conduct." Keep in mind that Capt. Asshole was issuing a citation, and arresting the woman, while a Tropical Storm was bearing down on the city. Apparently this moronic twat had nothing better to do in the realm of public safety than arrest women for saying "fuck" in his sainted presence. Decker appears to be one of those thugs who likes throwing his weight around and bossing people. The Galveston News says he has "fallen upon people for such things as playing music too loudly in their cars." Decker got in a fight with one man, who is now charged with assault, when Decker started lecturing him about the loudness of his music.

In fact, it appears that Decker arrested Fridge because she stood up for herself. Decker's fire chief, Todd Zacheri said, "If she would have said, 'yes, sir,' there would have been no problem and she would have been able to walk off." But the Galveston Daily News notes: "One of the great things about being an American is that we don't have to say 'yes sir' everytime a government employee speaks to us: we can talk back to authority." In principle true, In practice cops have assaulted a lot of people for questioning their "authorita."

Tell me we're not sliding into police state tactics when a town's Assistant Fire Marshall can hand out tickets for disorderly conduct because he doesn't like your language.

We'll keep taking rapists, but no queers just yet, thanks...

As could have been expected, the Obama administration has placed the question of gays in the military way down the list of things to do:

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US Defense Secretary Robert Gates Sunday ruled out an imminent change in the "Don't ask, Don't tell" policy on gays in the military, saying President Barack Obama believes the Pentagon has "a lot on our plates right now."

Gates comments in an interview on Fox television were in response to an assertion by White House spokesman Robert Gibbs in January that Obama would end the ban on homosexuals serving openly in the military.

"We will follow the law, whatever it is," Gates said. "That dialogue, though, has really not progressed very far at this point in the administration."

"I think the president and I feel like we've got a lot on our plates right now, and let's push that one down the road a little bit," he said.

Probably also to be pushed down the road a little bit is an consideration of the military's current policy of giving "moral waivers" to heterosexual enlistees who have been found guilty of rape or sexual assault (as reported by Waldo).

Give the administration some time: after all, the Democrats have only been promising action on this issue since 1992.

What's nearly two decades between friends?

Another Disturbing Example of How Obama Will Be No Different Than Bush

...and to the extent he is embracing elements of an all-powerful, all-seeing "national security state", he may be worse.

Here is a video report of the type you will not see on corporate (mass) media in the United States, which is all owned by concentrated corporate media / entertainment interests who undoubtedly support such moves by governments to secure their interests via omni-surveillance law enforcement regimes :

Obama's VP Joe Biden has been a whore for organizations like RIAA that would make file-sharing, for example, into a federal crime.

The question is : will Americans put up with the type of massive, invasive, privacy-killing law enforcement over electronic information and the internet as Biden brought us in his failed drug war?

Don't think he isn't fully committed to both, as it appears is Obama.

Balancing the Delaware budget without driving State employees to Food Stamps or costing them their health care...

... is not simple, but it's doable.

Governor Jack Markell gets about $93 million of his budget savings from cutting the salary and benefits of State employees across the board.

Here's how you avoid that trap:

1) Instead of cutting salaries, put all State employees making under $100 K on two weeks furlough. That's roughly a 3.8% pay cut, but it is better than simply reducing salaries for two reasons. One: it meets the temporary requirement far better than a pay cut does; it's a hell of a lot easier to eliminate the furlough next year or the year after than it is to raise salaries 4-8%. Two: it gives the employees back the time to use as they prefer, rather than working them for the full year at lower wages. If it inconveniences some customers or causes some problems with service--well, shared pain is what it's all about, anyway.

By my back of the envelope calculations, this would reduce the $80 million in savings from those workers to $34 million, leaving a deficit of $46 million to recover.

2) Put in a two-year, sunseted additional .75% raise in the gross receipts tax above that which Governor Markell has already requested. This, in and of itself, should raise at least $25 million.

3) According to the US Census Bureau there ar 298,000 households in Delaware, of whom just above 9% gross over $100 K. A one-time surcharge on top of existing State income taxes of $500 per family would net $13.4 million. Again, I prefer the surcharge with an appropriate sunset provision to a permanent change in the tax tables. It amounts to, at most, a .5% tax on six-figure incomes.

4) If we were to move toward the decriminalization of marijuana in this State, one of the side-effects would be reducing the prison population. A best guesstimate is that nearly 1,400 of the incarcerated in Delaware are non-violent drug offenders, most of whom were busted for marijuana possession. Let's assume that I am off by a factor of four and there are only 350 non-violent pot smokers cooling their heels in our jails. If we went to decriminalization on the order of Colorado or Massachusetts, and then commuted the sentences of those 350 inmates, what would we save?

On 2004 it cost $21 k annually to keep somebody behind bars in the First State. Release 350 potheads and you save the State something on the order of $7.35 million--or enough to maintain the health benefits for all State employees at the status quo without busting the budget.

Ask yourself: is the State and Federal war against people who toke up worth your health insurance?

So: to recapitulate: we need about $94 million in savings here. We give back $46 million by reducing the pay cut for most workers to a two-week furlough.

We raise the following: $25 million more from the gross receipts tax; $13.4 million from a one-time surcharge of $500/household on six-figure incomes; and $7.35 million by releasing 350 non-violent drug offenders, for a total of $45.75 million, or--as they say--close enough for government work.

This could all be done, in the now-infamous words of a certain progressive gubernatorial candidate--with a scalpel and not an axe--but it does require some thinking outside the box.

My dissatisfaction, of course, is that it is a much less Libertarian solution than I would like, but I took off that hat tonight just to show you what could be accomplished with some imagination.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Price of Fame : Scummy Opportunists Looking to Cash In By Exposing You - Biden Edition

First Michael Phelps. Now Ashley Biden...

March 28, 2009

A friend of the daughter of Vice President Joseph Biden is attempting to hawk a videotape that he claims shows Ashley Biden snorting cocaine at a house party this month in Delaware.

An anonymous male "friend" of Biden took the video, said Thomas Dunlap, a lawyer representing the seller. Dunlap and another man claiming to be a lawyer showed The Post about 90 seconds of 43-minute tape, saying it was legally obtained and that Biden was aware she was being filmed. The Post refused to pay for the video.

The video shows a 20-something woman with light skin and long brown hair taking a red straw from her mouth and bending over a desk, inserting the straw into her nostril and snorting from lines of white powder.

She then stands up and begins talking with other people in the room. A young man looks on from behind her, facing the camera. The lawyers said he was Biden's boyfriend of some years.

The camera follows the woman from a few feet away, focusing on her as she moves around the room. It appears not to be concealed. At one point she shouts, "Shut the f--- up!"

The woman appears to resemble the 27-year-old Biden, a social worker who was a visible presence during her father's campaign for the White House.

The dialogue is difficult to discern, but the woman makes repeated references to the drugs, said the lawyers, who said they viewed the tape about 15 times.

"At one point she pretty much complains that the line isn't big enough," said the second lawyer, who declined to identify himself. "And she talks about her dad."

Vice President Biden has been an outspoken crusader against drugs, coining the term "Drug Czar" while campaigning for a more forceful "war on drugs" in 1982.

Even if one might think this karma for Joe Biden after his decades of drug warmongering and the human devastation it has caused, his daughter Ashley had nothing to do with it.

Obviously the motive here is the most debased : personal enrichment at very personal expense to Ashley Biden. If all this is true and the purported video becomes public Ms. Biden will have learned a very hard and fast lesson about how little she may be able to trust her privacy even to those she believed to be her "friends", now that her father is vice-president.

Anyone of the ilk to purposefully record private, unguarded, intimate, or perhaps even compromising moments of someone's personal life and then seek profit or benefit by making (or threatening to make) public sensation of them is fundamentally twisted.

As an attorney admitted to both the Delaware and California bars I am appalled that such predatory opportunism is advanced by purported "lawyers". No ethical attorney would participate in such a mercenary invasion of privacy.

The party in interest is alleging Ashley Biden committed criminal offenses of which he, and now his lawyers, possess video recorded evidence. Do they think Ms. Biden is somehow immune from drug law enforcement?

I don't care if it's all nice and legal. It is wrong.

ADDENDUM - Agitator Radley Balko takes a bit of a snarky view :

Can’t wait for Biden’s press conference on Monday, where he’ll call for all of the draconian laws he has sponsored over the years to be fully enforced against his kid, including the forfeiture of all of her property, and the use of the videotape as probable cause for a Byrne Grant-funded multi-jurisdictional SWAT team to raid her home in the middle of the night. At that point, Biden will call for the local cops to turn her case over to the feds, who, per Biden’s own favored policies over the years, will then liberally apply RICO and conspiracy statutes to find some way, any way, to rope her in on federal drug-related charges so she can then get hit with the applicable federal mandatory minimum prison sentence.

Chickens. Home. Roosting. All that.

Kidding, of course. Drug Czar Joe will probably just issue a press statement declaring that this is a “family” or “private” matter, and that he has no further comment. And his daughter will get preferential treatment. Just like all the other drug warriors who have had family caught breaking their precious drug laws.

Foreign policy, Libertarian-style

My old friend Waldo seems to think I've gone Republican:

On the other end of the spectrum lie the were-Libertarians. Unlike werewolves, who transform according to the lunar cycle, were-Libertarians transform from standard-issue Republicans every two years at election time.

Take, for example, this Grassley-like pronouncement by The Delaware Libertarian:

Make no mistake: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and whatever comes after are now President Barack Obama's war.

Do the Republicans become more hip broadcasting the same old reactionary message by a new technological means? Should I be more likely to vote for policies counter to my interests jsut because I learn about how the Republicans want to screw me via cell phone?

And why should I want to become a Libertarian if, in the off season, they just peddle GOP talking points (as if Barr-Root wasn't enough of a betrayal of that for which they claim to stand)?...

As much as we admire the Libertarians, no amount of shitty Republican off-year rhetoric will help you make a case for being a viable third party. And if you can't see that your non-greed interests lie with the Left than the Right, well, then, renominate Barr-Root.

Waldo, typing furiously rather than logically in his bath tub, fails to notice a few things:

1) The Libertarian Left (of which I am definitely a part, just ask Eric Dondero and he'll tell you) has been consistently against US military interventionism in Iraq, Afghanistan, or just about any place else. When I criticize President Obama, I do so from a policy of consistency that you won't find many GOPers or Democrats able to claim. Moreover, I criticize President Obama from exactly the same perspective and with the same rigorous analysis I used on Dubya. (Waldo's use of the word pronouncement might erroneously convince readers not to click through to several thousand words of specific political, operational, and logistical analysis.) So the idea that I've fallen into shitty Republican off-year rhetoric is pretty ironic from both a blogger and an entire political party (Democrats) who haven't bothered for even a few minutes to subject the President's policies to any serious analysis.

Pretty much like the pass the GOP and the Dems gave Dubya from 2001-2004.

2) In arguing that Afghanistan is now President Obama's war, I was following such reactionary GOP sources as the Associated Press, the Washington Post, and most major British papers. President Obama had three choices: (a) get out; (b) stick with the status quo; or (c) double down. He doubled down. I happen to believe as a citizen, a Libertarian, and as a 21-year military veteran that he should have gone with choice (a).

Waldo argues that I should keep quiet while my brothers and sisters will be killed in an imperialistic war because those with only a superficial understanding of the issues will think I'm aping the GOP?

3) As far as a viable political party, thanks for the advice. But Waldo again juxtaposes my quote with the Barr-Root nomination, which I disowned, and with the Right Libertarian wing of the movement, which is both courting and being courted by the GOP. Unsuccessfully, I think, but never mind that.

The problem here is one of intellectual consistency (or the lack therefore) which allows the semi-submerged typist to take the analysis of an anti-interventionist Left Libertarian and, by carefully clipping the conclusion without even acknowledging the supporting argumentation, to convert that into a straw man of the Libertarian Right.

Disappointing, but Libertarians are used to it by now.

As for a more concise statement on Left Libertarian foreign policy, here's a good, short intro from Kent McManigal, which will probably get me stereotyped by my other liberal friends as supporting armed revolution, but--what the hell--it's a slow day:

"Isolationist"? "Anti-war"? I hear some people use those reasons as an excuse for why they can't support libertarian philosophy (and Libertarian candidates).

It is dead wrong and absolutely absurd.

I am not "isolationist" in the slightest. That would be barring the door and ignoring the rest of the world. No, I agree more with the founders of America who warned that we should pursue "Trade with ALL nations; entangling alliances with none". That is reasonable and logical behavior. It avoids the mistakes that have marched deluded folks off to foreign battlefields and made otherwise sensible people into murderers in foreign lands. Yet, the false "conservatives" use this excuse a lot to avoid facing their own lack of consistency.

I am "anti-war" in as much as I know it is wrong to invade another country with government troops on false pretext. Starting a war of aggression makes you the bad guy. "Fight them there so we don't have to fight them here" is the excuse of a bully. If you really want to believe libertarians are "anti-war" see what happens if you send troops to our neighborhoods. I have no qualms about "fighting them" here. At least there is no mistaking who the guilty party is in that case.

How does it promote "national defense" to create enemies through meddling, destroying, and killing in other countries? Might the reality possibly be that such acts raise up new generations of individuals who (mistakenly) blame the people of America for the actions of the rogue US government? Doesn't that undermine "national security"? Doesn't that put us all in danger?

If the alternatives to the supposed "isolationist" and "anti-war" views of libertarians are the policy of meddling in everyone's business and the "invade and kill them all before they do something to America" dogma that is chanted in place of intelligent debate, then no thank you. I'll laugh while you call me names.

Careful, Waldo--when you drop those old-style typewriter ribbons into the soapsuds they become awfully difficult to use.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Obama's war

Make no mistake: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and whatever comes after are now President Barack Obama's war.

He campaigned on it, primarily because by making such a big issue of his non-support for the decision to go to war in Iraq, and his opposition to the Surge, he needed something that would make him appear strong enough to defend the national interest.

He got Afghanistan, I've come to think, either directly or indirectly from Joe Biden, who has always thought we should be there in force, going mano e mano through the caves of Tora Bora looking under rocks for bin Laden.

It made great sound bites: We took our eye off the ball and The real frontline on the war on terror is in Afghanistan or ever I will order drone strikes across the Pakistani border.

Today, President Obama officially made this his war, following up the 17,000 additional combat troops he's already started in motion there with 4,000 trainers from the 82nd Airborne, a new legion of civilian advisors and technicians, pleas to NATO for more troops, and promises of billions more in aid and support:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Grappling with a war gone awry, President Barack Obama plans to send thousands more U.S. forces into Afghanistan, hoping to hasten the end of a conflict that still has no clear end in sight.

Obama on Friday will announce a multitiered strategy that banks heavily on world help and invigorated U.S. diplomacy. The Afghanistan war, which Obama calls adrift, is now his, and a central part of the new strategy is to build up the Afghan army....

Obama plans to send in 4,000 more U.S. military troops, whose mission will be to train and expand the Afghan army to take the lead on counterterrorism. He also plans to send in hundreds more U.S. civilians to help the people of Afghanistan rebuild their nation.

Those forces are on top of the 17,000 extra combat troops that Obama has already approved....

Obama's plan will also cost many more billions of dollars. His officials said Thursday night that they did not yet have a specific budget figure tied to the strategy....

Roughly 65,000 international forces are in Afghanistan, more than half from the U.S.

One part of Obama's plan is to expose fractures in the Taliban in hopes of weakening it.

Obama officials say the most difficult part of their approach will be in dealing with Pakistan, an often chaotic place with an erratic relationship with the United States. The administration will seek to bolster the democratic government of Pakistan, and try to get the people of that country to see the U.S.-led effort as one that is in their interests.

Now first take a look at this map:

Notice three things:

1) Afghanistan is a land-locked nation, and all our supply routes lead through--at best-questionable territory. Sustaining 65,000 combat troops in Afghanisation will cost more than supporting twice that number in Iraq. I did a detailed analysis of that here. Hell, not satisfied with sending supplies overland through Vlad Putin's Russia, we're even asking China and Iran to provide us supply lines. Everybody to whom this arrangement makes sense, raise your hand so I can come to your desk and smack it with a ruler.

2) The potential theater of war in Afghanistan and northern Pakistan is actually larger than the operational area of Iraq, but far less well provided with roads and the infrastructure that a heavy commitment of troops requires. It is one thing to send SEAL teams and Rangers into the mountains, quite another to construct base camps for combat brigades that are heavily dependent on a steady flow of supplies.

3) The Taliban per se has never possessed the military or logistical capability to harm the US or US interests significantly, and--frankly--was never interested in doing so until we invaded. Prior to that they were content to beat women and cut of the hands of people listening to music, but only inside Afghanistan. Al Qaeda is penned up in the region, you say? Great: what we've done is shown the Islamic world that we're willing to commit tens of thousands of troops for years on end to a futile pursuit of people who will, ultimately, un-ass the area and move in Tajikistan or Indonesia when the going gets too tough.

Now look at the war from Iran's perspective. Another map. You may have to click through to see it all clearly:

Take one look at this map and ask yourself, Why would Iran feel paranoid and in need of nuclear weapons?

We have spent a great deal of time demonizing Iran by quoting inflammatory Shi'a rhetoric, and have somehow managed to accept the idea that Iran's ability to lob a few missiles at Israel (or Poland?) is more significant than the fact that we now have the entire damn country surrounded with military forces.

Why are we there, anyway?

Could it be, could it just be that the Defense industry needs a war, the Federal government needs a war, and all our creditors in China need us to secure the oil and natural gas resources of Afghanistan with military force so that they don't have to?

Yeah: black helicopters, MexAmeriCanada, the CFR, and the John Birch Society, right?

Except that every bit of this analysis can be easily verified through senior defense analysts and retired senior officers who didn't go to work for the defense industry.

A lot of my Libertarian friends believe that President Obama's handling of the economy, healthcare, and global warming are the important issues of the day.

My prediction: by 2010 President Obama will be made or broken by the choices he made in his war.

Tonight on CNN's Larry King Live : Marijuana Legalization

This national conversation continues. But will anyone in Washington ever listen to common sense? From the Larry King Live site :

Should Marijuana Be Legalized?

Should Marijuana Be Legalized?

Will President Obama make history and legalize the use of marijuana? Not if opponents can help it! Montel Williams, Stephen Baldwin and other debate the issue!

How reassuring that Obama's drug policies square with D-list actor and religious/social conservative fundamentalist (empty) talking head Stephen Baldwin.

Nick Gillespie writes that Charlie Lynch, the California medical marijuana dispensary owner facing decades in federal prison from a DEA raid of his state-legal business, will also be on the show.

Obama Medical Marijuana Raids Continue

In the drug war: Obama lies, people die.

Is this administration just one parade after another of shameless lies, double-talk, and broken promises or are they not even in control of their enforcement agencies?

(03-25) 22:05 PDT San Francisco -- Federal agents raided a medical marijuana dispensary in San Francisco Wednesday, a week after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder signaled that the Obama administration would not prosecute distributors of pot used for medicinal purposes that operate under sanction of state law.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided Emmalyn's California Cannabis Clinic at 1597 Howard St. in San Francisco's South of Market district mid-afternoon.

They hauled out large plastic bins overflowing with marijuana plants and loaded several pickup trucks parked out front with grow lights and related equipment used to farm the plants indoors.

The dispensary had been operating with a temporary permit issued by the Department of Public Health.

"Based on our investigation, we believe there are not only violations of federal law, but state law as well," DEA Special Agent in Charge Anthony Williams said in a prepared statement.

A source in San Francisco city government who was informed about the raid said the DEA's action appeared to be prompted by alleged financial improprieties related to the payment of sales taxes. DEA Special Agent Casey McEnry, spokeswoman for the local office, would not comment on that information.

Reason Magazine's excellent resident drug policy expert Jacob Sullum has the skinny on this non-change Obama is bringing America :

If those alleged sales tax problems turn out to be the official rationale for the raid, the Obama administration's alleged change in policy may not amount to much.

When Holder said the feds would not go after medical marijuana dispensaries that comply with state law, I assumed he meant state law governing the distribution of marijuana for medical use.

If he instead meant any state law, the DEA has a pretext to raid any dispensary that allegedly has fallen short of a state (or local?) legal requirement, no matter how trivial, even if state law enforcement agencies have shown no interest in the issue.

Meanwhile, a productive enterprising peaceable man's life hangs in the balance, facing life in prison for running a medical marijuana dispensary, as the administration lurches and backtracks.

Morro Bay, California medical marijuana dispensary operator Charles Lynch finds himself caught between the old guard and the new guard. While the dispensary he ran was fully legal under state law, he was convicted under federal law last year and faces the prospect of decades in jail--all for helping sick people.

Lynch is waiting on his sentence. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently signaled that the Obama administration would break with the Bush administration and prosecute medical marijuana dispensary owners only if they violated both federal and state law.

Lynch was convicted during the Bush years, but his sentencing will occur under the new regime. So where would that leave him on his sentencing day--a free man, a lifelong prisoner, something else?

It turns out that the man who hold Lynch's life in his hands isn't sure how the policy shift should affect sentencing. U.S. District Court Judge George H. Wu postponed his decision until he learns more about the Justice Department's policy regarding such cases.

Let's never forget Barack is no stranger to the bong...

ADDENDUM: Also at Reason, libertarian Democrat Terry Michael digs deeper into the larger issue and Obama's flip attitude in 'The War on Drugs is No Laughing Matter - It's time for Barack Obama to take legalization seriously' Michael notes words from French essayist Georges Bernanos : "The worst, the most corrupting of lies, are problems poorly stated."

Obama's Answer on Marijuana Policy Was a Disgrace


REMINDER : Suzette Kelo Today @ Widener Law

From Ed Osborne and Delaware Citizens Against Eminent Domain Abuse :

Friday, March 27, 2009
2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Widener Law School - Delaware Campus
4601 Concord Pike Wilmington, DE

Kelo vs. City of New London

Meet Susette Kelo, the woman whose home and property were forcibly taken from her by one of the most controversial U.S. Supreme Court decisions in recent years over her presumed right to own a little pink house - ‘her’ little pink house. Meet Jeff Benedict, investigative journalist and author of the book, Little Pink House – A True Story of Defiance and Courage.

Join us for an insightful, first-hand look into the process, path and politics of eminent domain and why the plight of a working class neighborhood ignited a national debate about property rights and became a landmark case in American jurisprudence.


Friday, March 27, 2009
2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Missouri Militia Report update: watch Governor Nixon tapdance

From the Kansas City Star:

JEFFERSON CITY | Gov. Jay Nixon on Thursday blamed the "overzealousness" of a Missouri State Highway Patrol unit for a report slammed by conservatives because it links various right-wing organizations with the modern militia movement.

The Democratic governor faced numerous questions about the report and how the state's police agencies gather intelligence during a news conference following a signing ceremony for legislation creating two new state accounts for federal stimulus money.

"I'm confident that some of the overzealousness of this previously formed unit will be appropriately managed," Nixon said.

It is clear, however, that Nixon is just trying to stay ahead of the firestorm of criticism this report has brought:

Anger over the report's conclusions has bubbled among conservatives for weeks. The controversy intensified Wednesday after Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder held a news conference in the Capitol and called for Nixon's director of public safety to be disciplined.

Several hours after Kinder's news conference, Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. James Keathley said he had halted distribution of the report and said no future reports will be issued from the state's fusion center before he and Public Safety Director John Britt approve them.

This one's really rich, as Col. Keathley and his minions have already been found to have illegally distributed information about Missouri citizens on law enforcement databases.

Of course, for Governor Nixon, that's a non-issue: it's all the fault of the Republicans:

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Nixon called that an important oversight step that was neglected when the information center was created under former Republican Gov. Matt Blunt.

When asked from where the ideas behind the report's conclusions originated, Nixon said he did not know.

"I have no idea, I was not governor when MIAC was formed," Nixon said. "I was not the governor, I did not hire any of the people who are there, and nobody from my administration — the director of public safety or the colonel (Keathley) — saw the stuff before it went out."

What Nixon is actually saying here is that he took no interest in MIAC fusion center operations, and left it all to Keathley and Britt--who didn't supervise the MIAC either, since they didn't see the fusion center reports before they were distributed.

Nixon then manages to conflate the issue--as if somebody had said law enforcement agencies shouldn't gather terrorism intelligence, instead of responding to the criticisms that the MIAC did so in an amateurish and Orwellian manner:

"Threat assessments are important to do in all law enforcement," he said. "When a cop walks a beat — whether it's in a school or down a neighborhood — they look at a lot of houses of a lot of law-abiding people. And basic police work takes in intelligence and deals with that and develops threat bases, threat assessments."

Fortunately, other folks in Missouri are not having any of that:

But Nixon's explanation was not sufficient to some angered by the report.

Kinder spokesman Gary McElyea said reviewing future reports is good but that the lieutenant governor's questions have not been answered about why the report was even drafted and if there are other reports that politically profile people.

"Someone should still answer for the profiling that was done in this previous report," he said.

Later Thursday, U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., released a letter to Nixon asking that the state determine if any federal funds were used to help create the report.

And state Rep. Jim Guest, R-King City, pledged to file legislation to create a special oversight committee to examine the fusion center's activities and procedures, including whether it engaged in racial, religious, political or social profiling.

These are two critical questions that we can't allow the government to sweep away:

1) What other reports are out there in the hands of law enforcement officials--in Missouri or elsewhere--that are equally amateurish and potentially dangerous without any redeeming intelligence value?

2) When will we realize that the so-called war on terror (which must now be domestic contingency operations, I guess) has given law enforcement a good eight years of a virtually complete vacation from citizen oversight.

The only way that other abuses will be found and/or prevented is if we find them and prevent them.

Meanwhile it has again fallen to bloggers--this time Missouri blog Fired Up--to take the story to the next level and ask direct questions about the man who actually approved the MIAC report:

Somehow lost in the MIAC report fury is MIAC director Van Godsey. Godsey has been the MIAC director since its creation, and the Superintendent of the Highway Patrol has identified Godsey as the man who reviewed and approved the report.

Godsey has long been close with top Republican leaders. He was appointed to his current position as Director of MIAC under Governor Blunt. He was a confidant of former Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Kenny Hulshof, and worked directly with Hulshof in the tragic Joshua Kezer case. Once, Van Godsey described himself to Matt Blunt's former chief counsel, Henry Herschel, as Blunt's "smartest hardworking asset." Herschel, in turn, called Godsey one of the Governor's "best employees."

When and how did Godsey approve the report for distribution?

And it's just a regular guy who has Col. Keathley's amazing statement which reveals that until this controversy there was absolutely no oversight of the material coming out of the MIAC fusion center:

The release of a report on militia groups last month by the Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC) has led me to take a hard look at the manner in which the Missouri State Highway Patrol oversees the dissemination of law enforcement information by the MIAC. My review of the procedures used by the MIAC in the three years since its inception indicates that the mechanism in place for oversight of reports needs improvement.

Until two weeks ago, the process for release of reports from the MIAC to law enforcement officers around the state required no review by leaders of the Missouri State Highway Patrol or the Department of Public Safety. That process had been unchanged since the MIAC began issuing these reports in June 2007.

For instance, the militia report was created by a MIAC employee, reviewed by the MIAC director, and sent immediately to law enforcement agencies across Missouri. The militia report was never reviewed by me or by the Director of Public Safety, John Britt, at any point prior to its issuance. Had that report been reviewed by either my office or by leaders of the Department of Public Safety, it would never have been released to law enforcement agencies.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Department of Public Safety believe that law enforcement officers require intelligence of the highest quality and that the report in question does not meet that standard. For that reason, I have ordered the MIAC to permanently cease distribution of the militia report. Further, I am creating a new process for oversight of reports drafted by the MIAC that will require leaders of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Department of Public Safety to review the content of these reports before they are shared with law enforcement. My office will also undertake a review of the origin of the report by MIAC.

In the future, high-level review of these reports prior to issuance will ensure not only that law enforcement officers get better quality intelligence, but also that certain subsets of Missourians will not be singled out inappropriately in these reports for particular associations. The Highway Patrol has already developed a new system for this review, and is working cooperatively with the Department of Public Safety to integrate departmental leadership fully in that process.

Fortunately for all our sakes, Missouri Libertarians also remain all over this story.

Breaking : House Passes H.B. 5

After 40 minutes of debate the Delaware House passed H.B. 5 by a vote of 26-14-1.

Listen to the debate :

[Thanks to Mike Matthews at DWA for hosting the audio.]

Notable are the differences between the House and the Senate, as far as what century and mindset in which they seem to exist.

For example, I listened (and now you can too) to the House audio webcast the entire debate over an expansion of civil protections for non-heterosexual citizens, and then pass it nearly 2 to 1.

In contrast, the Senate debated changing our constitution to ensure rights are denied to entire categories of couples by banning any legal union for anyone but heterosexuals and, lust like a century ago, this important debate was neither broadcast nor recorded, and privy only to those physically in attendance.

Thankfully the social "conservative" Senate stalwarts, many of whom have long had a death grip on the Democrat Senate, could not muster enough to stop the rest of the senators from doing the right thing by defeating the misguided legislative monstrosity in S.B. 27.

Unfortunately the senate stalwarts may have their revenge, bottling up the freshly-passed H.B. 5...as they have for nearly a decade worth of General Assemblies.

SB 27 fails: thanks, everyone

DWA had it first.

Don't know the roll call, but the anti-gay forces could not even muster a simple majority, let alone two-thirds.

We're not California, thankfully.

Now let's see if we can get the House to pass non-discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Former Criminal Dope-Smoker Obama a Bust on Marijuana Legalization

Economic benefit was the only real impetus that might have seen the Obama government consider federal legalization of marijuana.

(I am already fairly convinced this ultra-statist uber-leader doesn't give a rip about civil liberty, privacy, or self-determination...so these are certainly no reasons to which he would pay any mind in re-considering his drug war.)

Now he has dispelled any notions of a sane policy, even as it regards just marijuana for which substantial majorities of the public now support decriminalization if notoutright legalization.

Obama was asked the following question at the behest of more than 3 million online voters :

With over 1 out of 30 Americans controlled by the penal system, why not legalize, control, and tax marijuana to change the failed war on drugs into a money making, money saving boost to the economy? Do we really need that many victimless criminals?

Obama's perfunctory response :

"There was one question that voted on that ranked fairly high and that was whether legalizing marijuana would improve the economy and job creation. And I don't know what this says about the online audience, but ... this was a popular question. We want to make sure it's answered. The answer is no, I don't think that's a good strategy to grow our economy. All right."

Of course, the master manipulator evaded the root of the question - excessive incarceration and a criminalization system that is, in fact, a drain on the economy.

Unfortunately, the obviously pro-legalization people who voted for this question (a huge % of whom also probably voted for Obama) stupidly thought they'd get a thoughtful answer, not a cursory one-word dismissal.

Of course, they were wrong. In typically-misleading fashion Obama set up a straw man - as if anyone ever stated that marijuana legalization is a "strategy to grow our economy" - and dismissed it out of hand.

And there's your change, folks.

Fortunately, this may become a federalism issue with over a dozen states' (and many more lesser jurisdictions) already having enacted various forms of safe, legal access to marijuana under their laws.

Response from Jack Cole, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) :

"Despite the president's flippant comments today, the grievous harms of marijuana prohibition are no laughing matter. Certainly, the 800,000 people arrested last year on marijuana charges find nothing funny about it, nor do the millions of Americans struggling in this sluggish economy. It would be an enormous economic stimulus if we stopped wasting so much money arresting and locking people up for nonviolent drug offenses and instead brought in new tax revenue from legal sales, just as we did when ended alcohol prohibition 75 years ago during the Great Depression."

Amen, sir.

[Source : Obama Takes Pot Legalization Question During Townhall]

The Hypocrite Obama on the Campaign Trail :

"I inhaled...uhhh....frequently....uhhhh....that was the point."

Re-post : Join Us Tonight!

A few of us will be informally gathering at

Dead President's on Union Street in Wilmington

around 7 pm - Thursday March 26, 2009

Please join us for some libations and good cheer.

You never know who might show up for a "few"....

Mat, Dominique, Hube, Mike Matthews, Shirley 'Curmudgeon' Vandever & Chainsaw, (possibly) Steve Newton, Paul Falkowski, and perhaps a few others will be there.

[At the same time Wilmington Mayor Baker will be delivering his budget (tax hike) address....maybe Dead President's will tune it in on their TV's so we can hurl food at the screen....Boooooooo!]

Plus, they serve a mean "Chicken Nixon" at Dead President's!

Hope to see you there.

UPDATE : Delaware Liberal's own Pandora and Mr. Pandora will be joining us. We will be discussing what anti-gay religious fundamentalist Joe Lecates meant when he testified to the Delaware Senate : "If you open Pandora's box, you'll never get the lid back on."

Establishment Media Blackout of Ron Paul : Washington Post Version - Federal Reserve Issue

The Washington Post is shit. Let's face it. It's heyday is long gone. It is predictable and often insufferable in its narrow Beltway elitist perspective.

Its articles are so much filtered pseudo-factual manipulation, at best.

So I guess I shouldn't find it almost mind-boggling that this paper would publish an article titled :

...without so much as a single solitary mention of the first, longest-standing, and most persistent voice of all in this "chorus" : Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX).

For God's sake, this man made the power and unaccountability of the Federal Reserve Bank one of the top, if not THE top, issues of his campaign for president.

Paul raised the issue of the Fed and its deleterious manipulation of our monetary policy dozens of times in numerous nationally-televised presidential debates over at least a full year.

Currently, Paul is the sponsor of HR 1207 - The Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2009, which has gained dozens more bi-partisan House sponsors over the last several weeks, (44 as of today) including Delaware's Congressman Mike Castle!!

(Great great move, Congressman Castle. Thank you!)

This bill would simply allow for an audit of the Federal Reserve Bank, something the public has never had in our de facto central bank's near century of control over the monetary system of the United States.

HR 1207 is the same type of legislation Paul has introduced year after after year, going back to the 1990's. Paul has also separately proposed to abolish the FED as we know it today. I have no doubt such a bold move as this, designed to take our currency and our monetary policy back from a private bank run exclusively by Wall Street finance scions, is becoming more and more timely almost by the day.

Many people are waking up to the reality famously laid out by Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) who said :

"The Federal Reserve is about as federal as Federal Express."

The Washington Post's total omission of Ron Paul in an article about growing doubts about the FED shows just how far out-of-touch the traditional Beltway establishment outlets have become...a portend to how soon we will see the ultimate demise not only of their influence but of their very existence.

Perhaps the same could be said of the Federal Reserve Bank itself.

Ron Paul's update on HR 1207 :

Timeless Lessons in Simple Words

Pat Buchanan recently commented on the ongoing debasement of our currency, posing risk of hyperinflation as the Fed and the government seek to flood the economy with trillions of dollars printed out of thin air. It is a good read.

One quote in particular struck me. It is from a great American literary icon and reminds me of how precise, profound, and prescient are the words of many notable Americans throughout our couple centuries of existence.

What a shame our current discourse within 'officialdom' is so cheapened and watered that simple truths are impossible in the blizzard of doublespeak, duplicity, and other assorted shallow political gobbledygook.

“The first panacea for a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency; the second is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity; both bring a permanent ruin. But both are the refuge of political and economic opportunists.” - Ernest Hemingway

Harvard Economist : Legalize Drugs to Stop Violence

The man makes some very salient points...

Legalize drugs to stop violence

By Jeffrey A. Miron - Senior lecturer in economics at Harvard University.

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Over the past two years, drug violence in Mexico has become a fixture of the daily news. Some of this violence pits drug cartels against one another; some involves confrontations between law enforcement and traffickers.

Recent estimates suggest thousands have lost their lives in this "war on drugs."

The U.S. and Mexican responses to this violence have been predictable: more troops and police, greater border controls and expanded enforcement of every kind. Escalation is the wrong response, however; drug prohibition is the cause of the violence.

Prohibition creates violence because it drives the drug market underground. This means buyers and sellers cannot resolve their disputes with lawsuits, arbitration or advertising, so they resort to violence instead.

Violence was common in the alcohol industry when it was banned during Prohibition, but not before or after.

Violence is the norm in illicit gambling markets but not in legal ones. Violence is routine when prostitution is banned but not when it's permitted. Violence results from policies that create black markets, not from the characteristics of the good or activity in question.

The only way to reduce violence, therefore, is to legalize drugs. Fortuitously, legalization is the right policy for a slew of other reasons.

Prohibition of drugs corrupts politicians and law enforcement by putting police, prosecutors, judges and politicians in the position to threaten the profits of an illicit trade. This is why bribery, threats and kidnapping are common for prohibited industries but rare otherwise. Mexico's recent history illustrates this dramatically.

Prohibition erodes protections against unreasonable search and seizure because neither party to a drug transaction has an incentive to report the activity to the police. Thus, enforcement requires intrusive tactics such as warrantless searches or undercover buys. The victimless nature of this so-called crime also encourages police to engage in racial profiling.

Prohibition has disastrous implications for national security. By eradicating coca plants in Colombia or poppy fields in Afghanistan, prohibition breeds resentment of the United States. By enriching those who produce and supply drugs, prohibition supports terrorists who sell protection services to drug traffickers.

Prohibition harms the public health. Patients suffering from cancer, glaucoma and other conditions cannot use marijuana under the laws of most states or the federal government despite abundant evidence of its efficacy. Terminally ill patients cannot always get adequate pain medication because doctors may fear prosecution by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Drug users face restrictions on clean syringes that cause them to share contaminated needles, thereby spreading HIV, hepatitis and other blood-borne diseases.

Prohibitions breed disrespect for the law because despite draconian penalties and extensive enforcement, huge numbers of people still violate prohibition. This means those who break the law, and those who do not, learn that obeying laws is for suckers.

Prohibition is a drain on the public purse. Federal, state and local governments spend roughly $44 billion per year to enforce drug prohibition. These same governments forego roughly $33 billion per year in tax revenue they could collect from legalized drugs, assuming these were taxed at rates similar to those on alcohol and tobacco. Under prohibition, these revenues accrue to traffickers as increased profits.

The right policy, therefore, is to legalize drugs while using regulation and taxation to dampen irresponsible behavior related to drug use, such as driving under the influence. This makes more sense than prohibition because it avoids creation of a black market. This approach also allows those who believe they benefit from drug use to do so, as long as they do not harm others.

Legalization is desirable for all drugs, not just marijuana. The health risks of marijuana are lower than those of many other drugs, but that is not the crucial issue. Much of the traffic from Mexico or Colombia is for cocaine, heroin and other drugs, while marijuana production is increasingly domestic. Legalizing only marijuana would therefore fail to achieve many benefits of broader legalization.

It is impossible to reconcile respect for individual liberty with drug prohibition. The U.S. has been at the forefront of this puritanical policy for almost a century, with disastrous consequences at home and abroad.

The U.S. repealed Prohibition of alcohol at the height of the Great Depression, in part because of increasing violence and in part because of diminishing tax revenues. Similar concerns apply today, and Attorney General Eric Holder's recent announcement that the Drug Enforcement Administration will not raid medical marijuana distributors in California suggests an openness in the Obama administration to rethinking current practice.

Perhaps history will repeat itself, and the U.S. will abandon one of its most disastrous policy experiments.

John Stossel is a little less professorial in his similar commentary today : The War on Drugs Is Idiotic

My sense is that we are seeing a floodgate of pent-up public and pundit sentiment opening in favor of massive drug policy reform.

For decades, it has been taboo in "mainstream media" and the prevailing political "narrative" even to suggest the idea of drug policy reform, much less legalizing drugs. This unfortunately was only reinforced by reactive, pandering politicians like Senator Joe Biden, who for years abused the federal criminal code as a grandstand for his tough-guy posturing on crime and drugs, in particular.

Biden, and squishy politicians like him, lived in constant fear of being portrayed as "soft on crime" liberals. So they went way way way overboard trying to one-up themselves in insane, people-crushing draconian drug laws.

For decades Biden went from photo-op to pandering session with the law enforcement community and distraught relatives on hysterical crusades to destroy anyone (including users) having anything to do with the particular targeted drug for which their family member was an abuser. Biden, being an attention and praise hound, always bought right into such lawmaking based on the exception rather than facts, science, or objective reality.

We see the same shoddy political pandering still ongoing, with lawmakers like Delaware State Senator Karen Peterson (D) who, based on one death in Delaware (a suicide) and a grief-clouded family, engaged in a whole bunch of shallow emotive grandstanding, based in no scientific reality, and led the charge to ban in Delaware a plant called salvia divinorum. [I make no judgments on this plant, one way or the other, but I know adding it to the near 1000's of other scheduled illegal drugs is not the answer to its potential abuse.]

The new chorus of voices, coming from all across the political spectrum, calling for an end to prohibition are not a bunch of ex-hippies or strictly-libertarian types, opining in obscure alternative media outlets.

They are intelligent, informed, rational citizens who know that the only sustainable path in drug policy, to curb both abuse and violence, lies in rational, above-board regulations and laws to normalize these markets away from an uncontrollable criminal underground.

Whatever your belief, the blood-soaked body count from the current prohibition regime is indefensible, by any measure.

As I have written before, we don't have a drug problem.

We have a drug war problem.

Writer Laura Carlsen of "America's Program" exposes the dishonesty and manipulation of Drug War Doublespeak. [Credit to Radley Balko for the link.]

Things are true because words mean what I say they do

Overseas contingency operations will replace the war on terror.

We will no longer use the term enemy combatants even though we will still engage in extraordinary rendition and we assert the power to hold people pretty much forever without charges.

President Obama will keep his promise to withdraw all combat brigades from Iraq by renaming them:

Despite President Barack Obama's statement at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina Feb. 27 that he had "chosen a timeline that will remove our combat brigades over the next 18 months," a number of Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs), which have been the basic U.S. Army combat unit in Iraq for six years, will remain in Iraq after that date under a new non-combat label.

A spokesman for Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Lt. Col. Patrick S. Ryder, told IPS Tuesday that "several advisory and assistance brigades" would be part of a U.S. command in Iraq that will be "re-designated" as a "transition force headquarters" after August 2010.

But the "advisory and assistance brigades" to remain in Iraq after that date will in fact be the same as BCTs, except for the addition of a few dozen officers who would carry out the advice and assistance missions, according to military officials involved in the planning process.

Gates has hinted that the withdrawal of combat brigades will be accomplished through an administrative sleight of hand rather than by actually withdrawing all the combat brigade teams. Appearing on Meet the Press Mar. 1, Gates said the "transition force" would have "a very different kind of mission," and that the units remaining in Iraq "will be characterized differently."

"They will be called advisory and assistance brigades," said Gates. "They won't be called combat brigades."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Missouri Militia Report update: MO House bars law enforcement from "political profiling"

From the Springfield (MO) News Leader:

JEFFERSON CITY — In response to a controversial report profiling political beliefs of militia members, the Missouri House of Representatives has barred the Department of Public Safety from spending any "state or federal funds for political profiling."

On a voice vote, the Republican-controlled House adopted an amendment to the budget bill for Department of Public Safety, forbidding that state agency from funding reports like the Missouri Information Analysis Center's recent Feb. 20 "modern militia movement" report.

The Department of Public Safety has apologized for the militia report, which links fundamentalist Christians, strict followers of the U.S. Constitution and people who oppose taxes, abortion and illegal immigration as possible members of militias.

Earlier today, the Missouri State Highway Patrol retracted the militia report and admitted errors in the way the report was distributed without getting reviewed by top state officials, including DPS Director John Britt.

Rep. Jim Guest, R-King City, introduced the amendment.

Rep. Shane Schoeller, R-Willard, spoke on the House floor in favor the amendment. The northern Greene County representative said he's fielded numerous calls from constituents in the past week who are outraged by the report and its generalizations.

Schoeller compared the report's profiling of conservative political thought to the tyranny the nation's Founding Fathers fought against.

The authors of the MIAC militia report remain unknown.

“It is our job to hold them accountable,” Schoeller said. "We must be strong, we must take a stand today and we must stand up for the people because that was what we were sent here to do."

The amendment passed on a partisan voice vote, with Republicans voting "yes" and Democrats in the chamber voting "no."

This raises an interesting political dynamic: GOPers against political profiling and Democrats in favor of it--at least in Missouri.

This comes on the heels of Missouri's highest elected Republican official--the LtGov--calling for the suspension of the head of the Missouri Department of Public Safety pending an investigation:

JEFFERSON CITY — Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder has called on Gov. Jay Nixon to place Department of Public Safety Director John Britt on administrative leave pending an investigation of a controversial report profiling members of militias issued by Britt's department.

Kinder held a press conference outside his second floor office in the state Capitol to denounce the Missouri Information Analysis Center's Feb. 20 "modern militia movement" report, which labels members of third party political movements and people who oppose illegal immigration and abortion as possible members of violent militias.

Kinder decried portions of the report meant to help police officers profile members of potentially violent militias. He said the report unfairly maligns "Christians, anti-abortionists and advocates for protecting our borders and supporters of certain political candidates as potential threats to the public safety."

He noted the report makes no mention of environmental terrorism or Islamic terrorism.

"There is no mention of that kind of extremism and the threat that it posses to our liberties in this report because apparently it's more important to focus on pro-lifers," Kinder said.

It's unclear who Kinder wants to investigate Britt and MIAC. The governor's office had no immediate comment on Kinder's demand, but a statement will be coming out later today, spokesman Scott Holste said.

The MIAC report stirred up an unexpected firestorm of criticism, when it was leaked a couple weeks ago, with the Libertarian Party of Missouri seizing a good cause and running with it. They had already managed to force a formal apology out of the Department of Public Safety, despite the fact that Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has remained most unrepentent about the report.

Part of this, assuredly, is good old point-scoring, bare-knuckles, partisan politics.

Yet, as several academic sources including Professor Phllip Jenkins of Penn State have noted, there is a tendency under Democratic presidential administrations for the internal security focus (sorry, I'm trying to drop the use of the word homeland whenever possible) to rest primarily on domestic rather than foreign threats.

Do incidents of domestic terror increase during Democratic administrations? If so, it would lend legitimacy to the fear among liberals and progressives that Glenn Beck and Chuck Norris are secretly arming sleeper cells around the country to (at the very least) take back Texas.

And if you cherry-pick your data points you can probably make a case that will fool 90% of the people 90% of the time, what with Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City and other high-profile incidents. But, as law enforcement officers know, it is the lower-level incidences of such violence that make up the real trends. There the evidence is a lot more ambiguous, and depends on how you group your violent incidents.

Was abortion clinic bomber Eric Rudolph a phenomenon that could be credited to a militia movement?

Should Waco, Texas, be counted as militia violence?

No, you can't really do that, so you lump it all together (ignoring the fact that the BATF actually attacked the Branch Davidians and not vice versa) as right-wing extremist violence and then you get to count anybody and anything you want that isn't an environmental activist.

Reality? Militia violence during the late 1980s through the mid 1990s probably peaked, and it died down not through the kind of idiotic profiling that Missouri has engaged in, but due to several major infiltration operations and the slow development of real intelligence. But was the upsurge in the 1990s due to Bill Clinton being in office, or because the Attorney General made the militia and sovereign citizen and Christian identity movements a priority. Chickens? Eggs?

The problem with the Missouri Militia Movement report is perhaps best stated by Libertarian Tom Knapp (who is, after all, from the "Show Me" State):

When MIAC or one of its sibling organizations produces unmitigated crap like the elementary school quality "strategic report" on militia organizations, they may think they're just playing cheesy lounge music for their paychecks ... but there's always the possibility that some cop on the beat will take the nonsense seriously. And in the case of the MIAC report, that could result in one or more of the nearly 100,000 Missourians who voted for a Libertarian or Constitution Party candidate last year (most of whom are not associated with the militia movement, let alone its tiny terrorist sub-set, and most of whom are not by any stretch of the imagination criminals) getting shot -- murdered by MIAC, at least indirectly.

I seriously doubt that any of the schmoes staffing MIAC are knowing pawns of any weird-ass "New World Order" or "North American Union" plot. They're just bureaucrats who want to maintain their lips' deathgrip on the taxpayers' teat. That can be just as dangerous.

What the whole controversy really shows is that it is time for American citizens to begin exercising some significant oversight of law enforcement activities before even more of the Constitution is tattered and trashed. We have moved from the National Security State of the Cold War era into the Homeland Security State of the post 9/11 era, and there is one blinding similarity between the two:

The government at all levels will use a real but limited threat of something really really bad happening to us in order to maintain a state of Permanent War and diminishing civil liberties.

So for all the fact that Missouri's Lieutenant Governor and the Republicans in the Missouri House are surely scoring political points with this controversy (most of them would have had no trouble profiling Muslims), they are doing the right thing if probably for the wrong reasons.

With so few people today willing to do the right thing under any conditions, I can't afford to be that choosy about the motivations.

Join Us for a Little Blogger Get-Together - Thursday March 26th - Dead President's Pub

A few of us will be informally gathering at

Dead President's on Union Street in Wilmington

around 7 pm - Thursday March 26, 2009

Please join us for some libations and good cheer.

You never know who might show up for a "few"....

Mat, Dominique, Hube, Mike Matthews, Shirley 'Curmudgeon' Vandever & Chainsaw, (possibly) Steve Newton, Paul Falkowski, and perhaps a few others will be there.

[At the same time Wilmington Mayor Baker will be delivering his budget (tax hike) address....maybe Dead President's will tune it in on their TV's so we can hurl food at the screen....Boooooooo!]

Plus, they serve a mean "Chicken Nixon" at Dead President's!

Hope to see you there.

DSU truth or dare: a correction

Normally I try to avoid direct comment on DSU because of potential conflict of interest.

But sometimes it gets to be too much.

Nancy Willing has published a recycled list of half-truths and misleading statements about DSU (combined with some serious, true charges) that has been bumping around for at least two years.

I provided a rebuttal in the comments section, to which I signed my name--unlike the anonymous individuals who continue to circulate this list without correcting the errors.

There is much to be changed at DSU, but we won't do it with people who refuse to do the simple research to verify their information.

Sorry, Nancy, I expected better.

Hillary Blames Americans for Mexico Drug War Violence

Unfortunately (and stupidly) she blames the wrong ones.

It is establishment careerists like Clinton and their failed militarist prohibition laws and policies that have created the violence of massive black market cartels.

These people are so ass backwards they could whistle Dixie from their a-holes, which is about what they do anyway with embarrassments like this...

Hey, Hillary, how are American forces and billions of dollars going to sate "our insatiable demand for illegal drugs"?

Secretary of state in Mexico to bolster anti-narcotics cooperation

The Associated Press - updated 2:31 p.m. ET, Wed., March. 25, 2009

MEXICO CITY - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday that America's "insatiable" demand for illegal drugs and inability to stop weapons smuggling into Mexico are fueling an alarming spike in violence along the U.S.-Mexican border.

Clinton said the United States shares responsibility with Mexico for dealing with the violence. She said the administration will work with Mexican authorities to improve security on both sides of the border.

"Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade," she said. "Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians."

"I feel very strongly we have a co-responsibility," she told reporters accompanying her to Mexico City a day after the administration of President Barack Obama said it would send more money, technology and manpower to secure the United States' southwestern frontier and help Mexico battle the cartels.

Obama himself said Tuesday that he wanted the U.S. to do more to prevent guns and cash from illicit drug sales from flowing across the border into Mexico.

"That's part of what's financing their operations. That's part of what's arming them. That's what makes them so dangerous," he told a news conference. "And this is something that we take very seriously and we're going to continue to work on diligently in the months to come."

Police outgunned

Clinton's remarks, delivered ahead of her arrival in Mexico City, appeared more forceful in recognizing the U.S. share of the blame. Mexican officials have in the past, particularly under the administration of former President George W. Bush, complained that Washington never acknowledged the extent that the U.S. demand for drugs and weapons smuggling played in fueling the violence.

"These criminals are outgunning the law enforcement officials," Clinton said, referring to guns and military-style equipment such as night vision goggles and body armor that the cartels are smuggling into Mexico from the United States.

"Clearly, what we have been doing has not worked and it is unfair for our incapacity ... to be creating a situation where people are holding the Mexican government and people responsible," Clinton said. "That's not right."

She said she would repeat her acknowledgment as loudly and as often as needed during her two-day visit to Mexico City and the northern industrial city of Monterrey during which she will brief Mexican officials on the administration's plans for the border and counter-narcotics aid to Mexico.

The administration announced Tuesday that it would increase the number of immigrations and customs agents, drug agents and antigun-trafficking agents operating along the border. It will also send more U.S. officials to work inside Mexico.

Rampant corruption
In her discussions, Clinton plans to stress Obama's commitment and encourage Calderon and his top aides to boost efforts to combat rampant corruption by promoting police and judicial reform, according to senior U.S. officials.

U.S. help for such projects has already begun under a three-year, $1.4 billion Bush administration-era program known as the Merida Initiative through which Congress already has approved $700 million to support Mexico's efforts to fight the cartels.

Clinton's visit is among several high-level meetings on the matter. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder are to meet with Mexican officials in early April before Obama is expected in Mexico ahead of the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago.