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November 30, 2005

Sharp Objects Not So Dangerous, Says TSA

The AP via ABCNews: Sharp Objects May Be Allowed on Planes

Airport security screeners are reportedly going to let passengers bring sharp objects on board airplanes again. Today's Washington Post says the Transportation Security Administration plans to announce security changes Friday.

Sources quoted by the paper say the new rules will allow things like scissors in carry-on bags. The reasoning is that such items are no longer regarded as the greatest threat to airline security. Homeland Security Department officials are said to be more concerned about preventing suicide bomb attacks at airports. Officials want screeners to focus more on finding things that can explode rather than things that are sharp.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Jesus fucking Christ.

Washington Post: TSA Would Allow Sharp Objects on Airliners

In a series of briefings this week, TSA Director Edmund S. "Kip" Hawley told aviation industry leaders that he plans to announce changes at airport security checkpoints that would allow scissors less than four inches long and tools, such as screwdrivers, less than seven inches long, according to people familiar with the TSA's plans.

Sometimes I worry about how younger people can seriously parody an organization that has crossed in and out of The Onion territory so often. How do you calibrate your satire meter in this environment?
Faced with a tighter budget and morale problems among its workforce, the TSA says its new policy changes are aimed at making the best use of limited resources.

The type of social system that both theoretically and actually makes the best use of limited resources is utterly at odds with the type of social system on which the Transportation Security Administration is based. People would rather glaze over and evade this point because they think the ends outweigh the means.
The TSA's internal studies show that carry-on-item screeners spend half of their screening time searching for cigarette lighters, a recently banned item, and that they open 1 out of every 4 bags to remove a pair of scissors, according to sources briefed by the agency.

It's been several years since I've taken a flight in this country so my first hand experience is outdated. However, given what I've heard from friends, family, and acquaintances, there are serious wait time and moron issues these days due to security.
Officials believe that other security measures now in place, such as hardened cockpit doors, would prevent a terrorist from commandeering an aircraft with box cutters or scissors.

As long as the pilot crew has the guts to stand up to someone holding a blade to the throat of a flight attendant, demanding access or the FA gets ventilated. If the captain can withstand that tremendous pressure, then the doors do their job.
However, many flight attendants do not believe sharp objects should be allowed on board. They argue that even though such items would not enable another Sept. 11, 2001-style hijacking, the items could be used as weapons against passengers or flight-crew members. "TSA needs to take a moment to reflect on why they were created in the first place -- after the world had seen how ordinary household items could create such devastation," said Corey Caldwell, spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants, which has more than 46,000 members. "When weapons are allowed back on board an aircraft, the pilots will be able to land the plane safety but the aisles will be running with blood."

CLASSIC interest group fear mongering right here! It has it all:
  1. tiny kernel of truth
  2. wild exaggeration of the danger
  3. sloppy characterization of the threat
  4. fantastic visual description of the danger
  5. legitimate interest pushed at the expense of other people's freedom

It is, needless to say, simply out of the question to consider arming flight attendants or training them to punch, kick, and otherwise beat the everlovin' shit out of any asshole to presents a threat to the FAs, passengers, or aircraft. If I thought the threat of terrorism or violent passengers was great enough, I'd pay extra for a ticket on a plane with gawddamn professionals on it.
Charles Slepian, an aviation security consultant based in New York, said the TSA's proposed changes fail to take into account the safety of passengers and cabin crew. "Whenever you are serving alcohol, you have a double duty to those who are present to protect them from someone who goes off the deep end," Slepian said. "If we allow people to carry things that are really deadly weapons on board airplanes, we're inviting trouble."

Stop. Just, stop.

Jesusfuckingchrist.

Give me a house key, unsharpened pencil, or AA battery and I have a tool to permanently blind you. Give me a stereo cord from an iPod or a shoelace and I have a tool to strangle someone. Give me a CD and if I break it into shards I have a tool to slash open throats. Give me a paperclip and I have a tool to deliver biological, chemical, or radiological weapons by penetrating a person's skin. Give me an object and I have a tool with which to do what I desire.

Of course you see what I'm getting at. There are countless objects that have a structure that can multiply a human's striking, lacerating, and choking power. Sharp objects are indeed "really deadly weapons"...in the hands of a person who intends to use them that way. So are blunt objects and things that can be used as a garrote. With the standard of "it could be used as a weapon!," they've nannied their way right down to absurdity.

An absurdity which would also include banning people with martial arts skills and training from boarding a plane. I mean, let's face it: the mentality that bans weapons is a mentality that says people are not responsible for their actions. It's a mentality that sees inanimate objects as active threats, divorced from the reality that they cannot be used as "really deadly weapons" until a human chooses to use them as weapons. It is a fact that "throwing stars (a martial-arts weapon), ice picks and knives" can be, have been, and sometimes are designed to be offensive weapons. That does not negate the fact that the state has no right to regulate who possesses them. But that particular Rubicon was crossed hundreds of years ago.

So anyway; obviously then, people with latent skills that have increased their killing and maiming potential should be banned from aircraft. If we cannot be trusted to control a pair of motherfucking scissors, how can a Jeet Kune Do or Krav Maga artist be trusted to keep those skills in check? Why, it might be like a Sentient 'Flood' of Guns, arising to life on their own to injure the innocent!

Personally, I'm far more wary of someone who has effectively practiced violent take-downs, pressure points, and such. (kinda like a lot of law enforcement...) But that doesn't mean I blame or target the skill or the weapon. The individual is always responsible.

Other changes are aimed at improving morale among the agency's 43,000 employees, whose number has been cut from 55,000 three years ago. Screener turnover has reached 23 percent and many employees who were recruited to the agency in the hopes of jump-starting a federal government career have not had a raise in three years.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company


Yup, that's right: the honey pot has attracted flies and has bred maggots. These are your security guards and if you piss them off, I'll send my sympathies to your detention room.

November 29, 2005

Eminent Domain is Robbery

Los Angeles Times: An Eminent Domain High Tide

It's across the inlet from Palm Beach, but this town - mostly black, blue-collar and with a large industrial and warehouse district - could be a continent away from the Fortune 500 and Rolls-Royce set.

But Riviera Beach's fortunes may soon change.

In what has been called the largest eminent-domain case in the nation, the mayor and other elected leaders want to move about 6,000 residents, tear down their homes and use the emptied 400-acre site to build a waterfront yachting and residential complex for the well-to-do.

The goal, Mayor Michael D. Brown said during a public meeting in September, is to "forever change the landscape" in this municipality of about 32,500. The $1-billion plan, local leaders have said, should generate jobs and haul Riviera Beach's economy out of the doldrums.


And since the only thing standing in their way are individuals, what's the big fucking deal, right?
Opponents, however, call the plan a government-sanctioned land grab that benefits private developers and the wealthy.

One would dearly hope that these opponents also recognize the existence of the converse problem: government-sanctioned land grabs that benefit "the public" and the poor.
"This is a reverse Robin Hood," said state Rep. Ronald L. Greenstein, meaning the poor in Riviera Beach would be robbed to benefit the rich. Greenstein, a Coconut Creek Democrat, serves on a state legislative committee making recommendations on how to strengthen safeguards on private property.

Again, the problem is not that the poor are getting robbed. It isn't even that the rich are getting robbed.

It's the robbery that's the real issue. And I think it's hilarious a politician (let alone a democrat) seeks to strengthen property rights. Here's a clue, Mr. Greenstein, even though it might appear as a brain-teaser: your income as a state representative and the resources used to operate the legislative committees you're on are derived from property rights violations. The existence of your job, in my opinion, is prima facie evidence of at least a modest disrespect for property rights. Normally, of course, it is much worse than just mere disrespect.

"You have people going in, essentially playing God, and saying something better than these people's homes should be built on this property," said Carol Saviak, executive director of the Coalition for Property Rights, based in Orlando. "That's inherently wrong."

"Unfortunately, taking poorer folks' homes and turning them into higher-end development projects is all too routine in Florida and throughout the country," said Scott G. Bullock, a senior attorney for the Institute for Justice, based in Washington. "What distinguishes Riviera Beach is the sheer scope of the project, and the number of people it displaces."


Man, there are times when I want to see these groups win their lawsuits. I want to see them win because I want to see the end of eminent domain. But at the same time, I know that there isn't a court in the land that'll entertain a serious challenge to the practice because the state badly needs that excuse to exercise power. Being able to legally steal land is absolutely fundamental to government.

The small potential for a lower court to grow a pair and stand up to this shit would be negated by higher court rejection. I certainly don't see the vaunted Supreme Court taking the proper stand on this, and that's where a serious challenge would end up.

By the way, a serious challenge wouldn't pull any punches and would not limit itself to just a specific instance of eminent domain "abuse." It's all abuse and the challenge should directly reject and question one of those sacrosanct "Constitutional rights" in the 5th Amendment. So not only is taking this to the Supreme Court a guaranteed waste of time, you'd have to take your case to Congress (!!!) and then three-fourths of the states (!!!).

Yeah. Good luck asking tens of thousands of people to neuter their power.

In Florida, the law allows local officials to take private land for redevelopment if they deem it "blighted." In May 2001, a study conducted for the city found that "slum and blighted conditions" existed in about a third of Riviera Beach, and that redevelopment was necessary "in the interest of public health, safety, morals and welfare."

The heights of arrogance! And what's really frustrating is that this shit is everywhere! People picked by a subset of a subset of the population who appoint others to tell you your house sucks so bad it ought to be leveled so something nice and shiny can go up in its place.
A skeptical [Martha Babson], who lives in a single-story, concrete-block home painted aqua that she shares with parrots and a dog, did her own survey. For three months, she walked the streets of Riviera Beach photographing houses classified as "dilapidated" or "deteriorated" by specialists hired by the city.

The official study, she said, was riddled with errors and misclassifications. Lots inventoried as "vacant" (one of 14 criteria that allow Florida cities or counties to declare a neighborhood blighted) actually had homes on them built in 1997, she said. One house deemed "dilapidated," she found, was two years old.

[...]

For 25 years, Bill Mars has sold and serviced luxury sportfishing boats in Riviera Beach. He hasn't been told yet, he said, whether a place in the redevelopment zone has been kept for him.

Under the plan, his sales and service center is supposed to make way for an aquarium.

"If you look at our business, we're one of the shining stars of Riviera Beach," Mars said. "Yet no one has come to us to say, 'We're going to take care of you and relocate you.' " That despite the plan's incorporation of a "working waterfront," including boat sales and repair.


That these assholes can't get reality straight is standard fare: it is to be expected. Why so many persist in the perfect delusion that politicians are the best people to make these decisions still confuses me.
Rene Corie has lived for nine years in a custard-yellow home near the Intracoastal. When the house was earmarked for acquisition under eminent domain four years ago, the 56-year-old seamstress became so depressed she couldn't put up her Christmas tree. She and her husband decided to fight City Hall in order to keep their home, or at the least, be paid a fair market price for it.

"We tried to elect a new mayor, we went around to churches, we stood on street corners with signs," Corie said. "When we got home from work, me and David would get into the truck and go door to door, and all day Saturday and Sunday."

Corie said she could be served at any time with another letter of acquisition for the house and the double lot it sits on. "My home is no longer my own," she said.


Mrs. Corie, with all due respect, I have to repeat what I asked of Clarence Thomas earlier this year:

Where the fuck have you been for the last hundred or so years?

Here's the ugly truth: the home you live in is not yours in the sense of rightful ownership by an individual. You may think it is and damn if I wish you were correct. However, all you need to do to dismiss that notion is scan the local ordinances, county codes, state laws, and federal regulations. Each level of government is currently telling what home-possessors may or may not do with, in, around, or to their homes on a daily basis and ever since this country's birth.

Mayor Brown and Floyd T. Johnson, executive director of the Riviera Beach Community Redevelopment Agency, did not respond to repeated requests from The Times for an interview.

As much as I'd enjoy berating these people over this, I don't know if I would want to actually engage them in the argument I'd want to make.
The redevelopment agency's website says the plan will "create a city respected for its community pride and purpose and reshape it into a most desirable urban [place] to live, work, shop, and relax for its residents, business and visitors."

In past media interviews, Brown has said his city was in dire need of jobs, and that if officials weren't allowed to resort to eminent domain to spur growth, Riviera Beach could perish. '


Because to them, the individual is subordinate to the collective. People who think like that fundamentally reject one of my premises, making any discussion with them significantly harder.

Why would you talk about how great your cat is to someone who hates felines?

Dee Cunningham, who made an unsuccessful bid for mayor in 2003, said the blueprint was written to benefit developers. Her own flower shop has been classified as "functionally obsolete" under the plan and could be razed.

"People here are so stressed out from being under threat of eminent domain," said Cunningham. "It's like living in Iraq with a bomb threat."


What's especially difficult to hammer into the heads of morons is that even if her flower shop is a busted-up shack at the mercy of a stiff breeze and a flaky electrical connection, that does not somehow negate her right to determine what happens to the place. If her place hasn't sold a rose in months and loses money every day she opens the doors, that is her business, literally and figuratively.
Residents affected by the plan are supposed to be eligible for new homes elsewhere in Riviera Beach and compensation for business damages.

That these people are offered "compensation" is a heaping of insult upon injury. Not only are they presented with an offer that isn't rooted in good faith and peaceful voluntary exchange, but what's being offered is either directly or indirectly from taxpayers! The robbers aren't just robbing you; they are robbing everyone else to compensate you!

The whole fucking system is rotten from the center outward.

The owners of another business in Riviera Beach's downtown accuse local leaders of not enforcing city codes in order to produce the decay that redevelopment is supposed to remedy.

"They want to leave everything in a dilapidated condition so it seems to everybody and to the government like it's blighted," said Mike Mahoney, a Riviera Beach native who runs Dee's T-Shirts.


The irony is knee-deep in these parts.
Some foes of the redevelopment plan have attended seminars in Washington organized by property-rights advocates to learn how to better fight to save their homes.

Some residents have accepted offers from developers and moved out; others have retained lawyers to try to get a better price from the city. Still others are waiting to see what happens, noting the troubled history of local redevelopment efforts. "This is the fourth eminent domain CRA plan I've seen since I've been here," said Mars. "I survived those, and I may survive this one too."

Babson said she was counting on the Florida Legislature, as well as public interest kindled by the recent Supreme Court case, to halt the developers.

"We're definitely in Tiananmen Square: one little guy in front of all of those tanks," Babson said. "We've slowed them down, but we haven't stopped them."

Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times


I'll tell you something and I'm loathe to point it out.

There are precious few ways of peacefully stopping a robber from taking your possessions. Talking, asking, and pleading will only help when dealing with robbers with a conscience and I'm sure you see the general futility of hoping to find one of those. Now consider that in this case and in every other eminent domain case across the country, you are up against repeat offenders who have been involved in the robbery of others since they entered office. Since the Kelo vs New London decision, it is obvious to me that eminent domain for lofty public purposes will remain firmly established as legal.

Leaving you with the one effective way to stop a robber: you physically defend yourself. Unfortunately, the construction foreman or the cop isn't going to arrive at a "holdout" alone these days. When they know the resister is one of those loony property rights people who has been complaining about tyranny, usurpations, individual rights, and self-defense, they won't go in by themselves. They know better. They know what happens when someone takes a principle seriously.

I like how Ms. Babson mentions Tiananmen Square. It was the final result of two groups of people taking their principles seriously. One group consisted of people who wanted the individual to at least have a token of respect in their government-dominated society. The other group consisted of people who wanted the individual to remain a numbered cog in a larger, more allegedly important machine.

"Tiananmen Square" is appropriate because it is not a metaphor.

Pet Responsibility

The AP via ABCNews: Charges Against Texas Dog Owner Unlikely

Milam County Sheriff Charlie West said Monday that he and District Attorney Kerry Spears were unable to conclude that owner Jose Hernandez committed a felony. But West said a misdemeanor citation was possible against Hernandez, who kept the pit bull-Rottweiler mixed-breed dogs in a pen.

[...]

"There are no laws that apply," West told the Austin American-Statesman. "We are still looking, but it is going to be hard to make anybody responsible for it."

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Hmm.

News8Austin: Authorities' hands are tied in dog mauling case

The dogs present a unique problem for investigators attempting to pursue criminal charges against their owner. Milam County is a rural area, and there are no laws on the books that cover what happened to Stiles.

"What I'm incensed about is that somebody needs to be responsible for what happened to this woman," Milam County Sheriff Charlie West said.

[...]

What happened to Stiles in her own front yard has drawn attention to a small community that didn't want it -- putting pressure on authorities to act. County lawmakers say they can't even pass new laws that may stem from the incident.

"Under state law, the commissioners hands are tied. I don't think they have the authority to pass any ordinances or laws," West said.

Copyright ©2005TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin


I'm sensing a pattern...

The Bryan - College Station Eagle: Dogs that mauled woman euthanized

In order for a dog's owner to be held liable, the burden of proof is placed on the complainant to establish that the dog was vicious or had a natural tendency to be dangerous, and that the owner had knowledge the dog might behave that way, according to the law. In many recent cases where people were killed by dogs in Texas, the deaths have been ruled accidental, and no charges were filed.

West said building a criminal case against the dog's owner, Jose Hernandez, who was not at home when his dogs escaped a fenced enclosure, would be difficult. He said no previous reports exist to indicate the dogs - which authorities believe to be at least part pit bull and part rottweiler - were vicious, and there are no laws in Milam County that require dogs to be on a leash.

"We are running into a problem," West said. "We don't have laws in the state or in the county for this. What law did they violate? It's frustrating. I'm not wanting to, per se, hang the dogs' owner, but it's appalling that something like this can happen and no one can be held responsible."


Well, we can certainly be glad Mr. West isn't calling for the lynching of Mr. Hernandez. Three cheers for small victories, I suppose. Knowing "your" sheriff is desperately out to pin the blame and responsibility of what your dogs do to others doesn't quite extend to the death penalty is some consolation.

I think it's somewhat sick to look for The Law to provide guiding moral light, for by doing so it renders otherwise capable and intelligent human beings into cavemen when they realize The Law hasn't yet been extended to [insert human activity here]. The reflexive search for laws, statutes, and ordinances and the subsequent reflexive frustrating sigh when it is discovered that our "representatives" have not yet opined from on high about how to live some specific aspect of our lives sickens me as well. Both add to the cultural inertia that leads to the almost inevitable ratcheting effect of crimping down upon the freedom of others who have done no wrong.

"Our society has become an insane society," [State Rep. Al Edwards, D-Houston] said. "What is it going to take for leadership to say, 'We've got to do something about dogs.' If our society doesn't say that enough is enough, I don't know what we'll do. It's just outrageously sick in my opinion."

© 2000 - 2005 The Bryan - College Station Eagle


Sorry, Mr. Edwards, but "we've got to do something" is fundamentally the wrong way to approach the problem.

Back

Thanksgiving was fun and pictures will be posted in the near future. Until then, let's see if I can work myself up into a frothing rage over some news items!

November 23, 2005

Turkey Day Cometh

I'm off to Wimberley. Be back in a couple.

Falling Standards

Professor Balkin's analysis strikes me as the most pessimistic possible view of the case. It is true that Mr. Padilla has already been deprived of his freedom for three years. On the other hand he was not thrown in an oubliette and forgotten.

-nk over at Balkinization

President Bush, That Sneaky Libertarian!

It seems the dark assertions of Dubya's extreme libertarianism may just be coming to fruition.

November 22, 2005

Spinning the Wheels, Stuck in 1st Gear

News8Austin: School finance decision reached

The Texas Supreme Court ruled 7-1 Tuesday that local property taxes to finance public schools amount to an unconstitutional statewide tax.

The justices have given the state until June 1, 2006, to fix the problem. The date gives the Legislature more time to pass a new finance plan before funding for schools would be blocked.

"The Legislature's decision to rely so heavily on local property taxes to fund public education does not itself violate any provision of the Texas Constitution," the opinion said. Itís how itís being done that the court doesn't like.


I predict this will help increase the pressure for a Texas income tax to pay for public education.
The court ruled that ad valorem school taxes have become a de facto state property tax, a violation of the Texas Constitution. The current system has the state taking money raised from local schools, through property taxes, and then divides the money among "property-poor" districts.

And boy do the "rich" school districts not like Robin Hood.

Point out that this is different from taxing me and giving my money to someone else, however, and the stares you'll get will be empty indeed.

The justices noted in their opinion that Texas has a long history of difficulty with financing public schools.

Copyright ©2005TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin


Texas shouldn't be financing public school education. Individuals have that responsibility, whether expressed through monthly payments to a professional education institution, homeschooling, inexpensive community education programs, or the many other ways to teach people.

The Price of Gold

Gold price approach 18-year high of 500 dollars

Is it accurate to say that while it is certainly possible more people value more gold more than in the recent past, it is more likely the primary reason gold is growing more expensive in dollars is because the dollar itself is growing more worthless?

November 18, 2005

What Would a "A Constitutional Right to Privacy" Entail?

A Constitutional Right to Privacy

I've long thought that Democrats could benefit from making "privacy" a plank of their platform. People instinctively don't like government meddling in their private lives, and "privacy" is a broad enough notion to encompass everything from reproductive freedom to the Patriot Act.

How about starting an effort to enshrine a right to privacy in the Constitution? Maybe it's time to make it explicit, rather than continue the tedious debate over whether the Constitution really guarantees such a right.


Little do these morons know, an serious and enforced right to privacy would ruin their precious state. Some of the commenters in that thread recognize that, and are doing their level best to retain the facets of regulation they see as absolutely vital to a functioning society.

November 17, 2005

Andrew Taylor, Associated Press Renegade?

Holy shit.

How is this true?

Am I crazy?

The AP via ABC News: House Rejects GOP Leaders' Budget Cuts

House Rejects Cuts to School, Health Care Programs, Part of GOP Campaign to Reduce Deficit

By ANDREW TAYLOR Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON Nov 17, 2005

Republicans suffered a startling setback in the House on Thursday, losing a vote on cutting spending for education and health care programs. A broader budget-cutting blueprint targeting the poor, college students and farmers also was in danger.

Both bills are part of a campaign by Republican leaders to burnish their party's budget-cutting credentials as they try to reduce a deficit swelled by spending on the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina. In both cases, GOP moderates balked.

The 224-209 vote against a $602 billion spending bill for health, education and labor programs disrupted plans by the Republican leaders to finish work on 11 spending bills that would pay for government operations and freeze many agency budgets through next September.

Democrats were unanimous in opposing that one-year appropriations bill. "It betrays our nation's values and its future," said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md. "It is neither compassionate, conservative nor wise."

A companion deficit-reduction bill that would slice $50 billion from the deficit through the end of the decade, also faces unanimous opposition from Democrats, as well as from many moderate Republicans who are unhappy with cuts to Medicaid, food stamps and college loan subsidies.

It would cut from so-called mandatory programs whose budgets increase automatically every year. The proposed savings are modest considering the $14 trillion the government is set to spend during the five-year period.


*pause*

What was that?

The proposed savings are modest considering the $14 trillion the government is set to spend during the five-year period.

I read that and my mind went into overdrive.

I've seen a good number of AP/Reuters/etc wire reports. I've never attempted to conduct or have digested an authoritative accounting of wire news political bias, but I know crap when I smell it. And the news media produces no shortage of crap.

I cannot recall a wire story that published words of its own as quoted above. Not in the literal sense, because I'm certain I've come across news articles that talk about the exponential difference between the total federal budget and some government program. No, I mean look at what is being described as "modest": "Medicaid, food stamps and college loan subsidies."

Imagine that! A moderately negative comment about the defeat of a bill that cut bread-and-butter big government programs.

Then there is this at the end:

The deficit-reduction bill is the first effort in eight years to take on the automatic growth of mandatory programs like Medicaid, which make up about 55 percent of the budget. By comparison, the annual appropriations bills fund about one-third of the budget.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Now how about that? Pertinent information that casts a potentially wry eye at monolithic government combined with the above-mentioned comment.

I chuckle here, however, to note that even if you classify this as some sort of "victory" for the individualist liberty camp (as I nearly did), this merely represents a nanoscopic lessening of the momentum of a truly staggering mass.

Michael Ventura on the Coming Collapse

Austin Chronicle: Letters at 3AM - We Are on Our Own

I suggest reading it and filing it away for future reference: A Liberal Describing a (damn near) Market Anarchy Without Serious Derision or Contempt.

On the other hand, there are a few gaps in his analysis and there are still sections that cannot be reconciled, such as:

Right now, and for at least the next three years of this administration, the United States of America is not being governed. Not really... No attention is being paid to what is necessary. Neither the White House nor Congress gives more than lip service to issues upon which our future depends. Energy, transport, global warming, education, health care, subsidies, scientific research, sustainable agriculture, infrastructure upkeep and modernization, state-of-the-art communication, manufacturing capacity – at the federal level you will find almost nothing concrete, nothing useful, nothing that addresses root problems.

[...]

A most important fact of our situation was shoved back to page 5 of The New York Times' business section on Oct. 1: "Since the end of 2000 ... federal debt is up by $1.l trillion. American investors, as a group, have lent not one penny of that." Almost all that money has been lent by foreign entities. This means that the USA no longer owns itself. Not only are we on our own, but as a nation, we are owned.


Both excerpts were written with a negative connotation. The first implies that the United States of America ought to be governed at the federal level. The second implies that being owned by another person is a bad thing. Mr. Venture references "facts" several times in this article, so perhaps he can pull himself out of his mental mess.

Until then, I continue planning for the times when Society's Support (whether I wanted it or not) ends and there are no pretenses about whom I am responsible for.

Myself.

Austin Property Taxes Hurt the Poor...So Let's Raise Austin Property Taxes!!!

News8Austin: East Austin residents want more affordable housing

Lela Castro's family has owned a home on Holly Street for more than 100 years.

A lot has changed over the decades. The most noticeable -- property taxes. They're higher than ever before. "Four times higher," Castro said.

The story is similar all over East Austin.

"People that are trying to stay here, they're taxing them out of here," Castro said.


To whom does the blame for high taxes go?
"It has raised in this area, the land value 400 percent. Our taxes have increased 123 percent," Susana Almanza of People Organized in Defense of Earth and Her Resources (PODER) said.

Sure, it is true that with increased land value the government will take more in property taxes. But even statutory provisions like that don't make this some passive process. Someone still has to decide to tax you. Someone still has to send you warnings of late or underpayments. Someone still has to knock on your door to serve a warrant. Someone still has to issue a lien against your property.

Someone still has to threaten you with police violence to make The System "work."

PODER says affordable housing is a hard thing to come by.

"The development that is coming in, a lot of the local people can't even afford to rent it. All the different so-called economic development that came down 11th Street, if you look at it, it's national corporations," Almanza said.


DUN-DUN-DUUUUUNNNNN!!!
The city of Austin has a bond advisory committee that's responsible for coming up with capital improvement ideas. They have created a package worth $769 million. In that, $25 million is allocated for affordable housing.

PODER and several other groups say that's not enough. They want the bond proposal to dedicate at least $75 million for affordable housing.


You are all stupid motherfuckers (and I won't even get into the absurdity of PODER's name).

IF:
High taxes are impeding the ability of low-income Austinites to live, particularly in the East Austin area.

THEN:
Why do you want the city to issue bonds that will put greater upward pressure on property tax rates down the road for everyone?

What fucking world do you people live in? If a bond passes, the city will "borrow" from me (a grossly inappropriate description) and then pay it back to me plus interest. Now, put your thinking caps on: from where will that repayment plus interest come?

The City of Austin's stores?
The City of Austin's productivity increase in it's factories?

No, it'll come from the fruits of brainless fucking twits DEMANDING higher property tax rates. Thanks. Thanks a lot.

"It's a basic human right. That's what it comes down to. It's a basic human right that everyone should have decent housing," Almanza said.

No, no it is not you collectivist asshole. Here's a hint: there is nothing "right" about a gun in my face telling me to pay up so some other guy can live. Fuck that and fuck you.
In the meantime, neighbors want city leaders to come up with additional solutions.

"City council needs to open their eyes and see what is happening to this area. They need to open their eyes and see and be fair with the people down here and not allow this to be happening," Castro said.


Then get your friends. Gather your family. Go up to the city council, look them straight in the eye, and tell them to actually, empirically, absolutely lower our gawddamn taxes.
The Austin Bond Advisory Committee will hold a public hearing Nov. 29 at 6 p.m. at city hall. At the hearing you can offer your own input on how to use bond money.

Copyright ©2005TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin


Bah, that's a Tuesday and I'll probably be swamped with other shit to do.

But why would I even bother to go? I'd arrive there with alien premises. I'd be at best a curious creature from some Martian black lagoon, not worthy of the deep nuanced consideration afforded to others. At worst, I'd be the meeting's designated lunatic and treated accordingly.

Why would I want to talk to walls all evening?

November 15, 2005

George Carlin is my Anti-Drug

God - everything he makes dies! Where'd he get such a great reputation? This batting average of his is .000!

-from An Evening with Wally Londo - Disc 5, The Little David Years, "Religious Lift"

November 14, 2005

Datapoint - Best Education in Austin

The current poll on the front page of News 8 Austin's website:

Where do you think kids get the best education?
  • Public school
  • Private school
  • Home school
  • Other

As of this writing, the results are:



Public school117(22%)
Private school324(60%)
Home school67(12%)
Other36(7%)

All the usual caveats apply about Internet polls, but this is a wonderful sign that some rationality still exists out there. More than 75% of the people polled preferred non-governmental education*. In today's demo-lingo, this is a landslide against government education.

*Of course, even what are termed private and charter schools are regulated and tampered with by the state, the recognition of which I doubt graced many minds taking this survey.

Somewhere, Somehow, You Will Always Be a Minority

English speakers are 5% of the global population and we believe in "one person - one vote" which means "Houston we have a problem."

-Bill White at tacitus.org

November 10, 2005

Changing Domain Servers

Service may be interrupted for a day or two.

November 09, 2005

Center for Individual Freedom on the McCain Amendment

The following arrived in my inbox a few days ago. All formatting below and all [emphasis added] is in the original.

From: "Townhall.com" townhallmessage@townhall.com
To: Drizzten
Subject: Senators Vote 90-9 to Aid Terrorists
Date: Thu, 03 Nov 2005 05:59:00 -0400

Center for Individual Freedom


This set off warning bells instantly. Why would a group named like this be sending messages out from Townhall.com? Conceptually, the former has little to do with the latter.

Dear Friend:

Wouldn't you go absolutely ballistic if you read the following headlines?

"SENATORS VOTE 90-9 TO AID TERRORISTS"
or

"U.S. SENATE SUPPORTS RIGHT OF TERRORISTS TO BOMB U.S. TARGETS"
or

"SENATORS SAY U.S. TROOPS ARE 'BARBARIC' AND 'INHUMANE'"

Yet these headlines describe what the U.S. Senate did just days ago!
Yes, folks, the following is an Establishment Conservative reaction to the McCain Amendment that Andrew Sullivan and others have been pushing.

Actually, I think "reaction" doesn't quite describe the hyperbolic verbal explosion the CFIF puts on display here.

The GOP-controlled Senate added an amendment to the $440-billion military spending bill that would extend to spies, terrorists, and Islamic jihadists the same rights U.S. citizens enjoy under the Constitution.

I don't think the Constitution gives us any rights, but since that's the delusion employed by so many these days, I'll play along with it for this argument.
In other words, our military interrogators can no longer question suspected suicide bombers and murderers of women and children without the ACLU looking over their shoulder -- ready to haul some poor enlisted man into court just because he yelled at a terrorist or hurt a terrorist's feelings.

I'm a "bright line" kinda guy when it comes to what constitutes torture. That line is not crossed when interrogators make fun of, insult, or belittle a person's culture, religion, sexual orientation, family, philosophy, and so on.
If the Senate had done such a despicable thing during World War II, the American people would have stormed the Capitol, tarred and feathered all who voted for such treachery, and ridden them out of town on a rail.

The Right dearly loves WWII, doesn't it? It seems like the penultimate moment in American government and society. They invariably claim to know what The Greatest Generation would have done in these times.
This evil, suicidal bill - if implemented - would expose Americans to the greatest danger in the history of our nation: The planting of explosives on our subways. Suicide bombers killing American women and children. Airline hijackings. Assassinations.

Do you realize that not a single terrorist attack has occurred on American soil since 9/11 - despite the dark, dire predictions of the political know-it-alls.

You know why? Because our worldwide intelligence operation has discovered and exposed plot after plot to kill Americans, both abroad and at home.

You may be alive today because some interrogator wasn't too fastidious about how he got his information from some proud, smirking jihadist.


Gotta love the post hoc, ergo propter hoc! Who needs evidence! We established the Department of Homeland Security after 9/11 and nothing has hit us since, so obviously if Israel established a DHS of their own, the terrorists would leave them alone, too!

See how easy this is? It is damn useful during times of government secrecy when What Is Done In Our Name must be hushed up, buried, covered, concealed, and kept from us until decades after the fact, long after the picks of the winning voters' choices and the winning voters' choices themselves have left power and reside on ample government retirement checks.

The e-mail's general tone is almost as if those who crafted it began to wonder if they were no longer preaching to the choir. After losing 90-9 on the Senate vote, they may not be far from the truth.

Use the hyperlink below to send your 20 urgent Blast Fax messages to President Bush and EACH of the Members of the Senate Conference Committee. Tell them to have the political courage to put the lives of innocent Americans above the interests of third world terrorists, thugs and dictators and kill this McCain amendment in committee.

And at the same time, send this urgent Blast Fax message to President Bush. Since he has already promised to VETO this legislation, DEMAND that he do so if Congress fails to act in the interests of the American people.

http://www.cfiflistmanager.org/terrorth.ht ml

AOL Members Use This Hyperlink

If the above hyperlink does not function, please copy and paste it into the address bar of your browser.


This blast fax message appears several more times in the e-mail.

The McCain Amendment -- SA 1977 -- Says The Following...


"No individual in the custody or under the physical control of the United States Government, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment." [emphasis added]

No cruel or inhuman treatment... that sounds reasonable... or does it?

But the phrase "degrading treatment" - which could have been invented by Amnesty International -- is so vague and full of holes you could drive a Hummer through it.

Solitary confinement, harsh language, ridicule, mild threats, good-cop-bad-cop -- the Senate wants to outlaw all of these standard questioning techniques and restrict interrogators to the etiquette of a ladies' lawn party.

These terrorists are butchering women and children all over the globe -- as well as launching sneak attacks on our troops - and we're supposed to walk on egg shells when we try to find out which Americans they intend to kill next?

Exactly what are our troops suppose to do when questioning these terrorist thugs in an attempt to save American lives?

"Pretty please Mr. terrorist... I beg you...could you please tell us the details of your NEXT attack on innocent Americans?"

That's about the size of it folks. After all, we will now have to be extra careful not to do ANYTHING THAT WOULD DEGRADE OR INSULT THESE KILLERS!


Notice this unwavering assumption throughout this e-mail that everyone detained by the United States Government is a threat to national security? In only one place is there any acknowledgement that some of these people in custody are suspected of being bad guys. The assumption is crucial to the argument.

Anyone who takes this stance is also taking another: federal agents (DoD, CIA, FBI, NSA, and others) aren't making mistakes when they arrest and detain someone for questioning. The individuals nabbed don't deserve respect and the benefit of the doubt because the State says they don't. Trust in government.

Yeah, I'm not surprised right wingers are saying that, either.

The U.S. Senate hasn't gotten the message: We're at war with fanatics who hate Americans.

Expecting the United States Senate to recognize reality is a waste of fucking time, people.
These jihadists are willing to die for their faith, and we aren't even willing to be ill-mannered to protect our freedom.

Strawman and a foul collective generalization. The authors of this message are certainly willing to break a few eggs. At least a few hundred thousand Americans are as well. Nine members of the Senate seem to agree with you. This anger is really making the authors sloppy, but, again, it's a political tract of outrage, so accuracy isn't something I expected.
blast fax message

At the bottom of each of these messages is ...when these 20 legislators receive thousands of faxes from concerned Americans -- they will take notice!

A blizzard of form letters is what special interest issue advocacy boils down to these days.

Here Are Some Terrorist Attacks That American Intelligence Units Have Discovered And Thwarted.


In mid-2002, U.S. agents uncovered a plot to hit targets on the East Coast. The plotters intended to use hijacked airplanes. By the way, one of the plotters of this caper was also involved in planning 9/11.

In May of 2002, the U.S. busted a plot to bomb U.S. apartment buildings. Jose Padilla, one of the plotters, even pushed for exploding a "dirty bomb" inside the U.S. A dirty bomb is filled with conventional explosives and radioactive materials.


In addition to these plots to attack us on our home soil, the U.S. helped to uncover and thwart a number of major plots throughout the world. For example:
A 2003 plot to attack London's Heathrow Airport, using hijacked airliners.

At least two plots in 2004 to blow up targets in Britain - strategies designed specifically to kill civilians.

At least two plots to attack ships in the Arabian Gulf and the Straits of Hormuz.


No one knows how many hundreds, if not thousands, of lives have been saved by the interrogation methods used by U.S. intelligence units, military and otherwise.

The assumption that every one of these instances is true is a hard one to swallow, but I'll say it right now: doing evil in the name of good is wrong and the goal of protecting us from terrorism does not justify all acts made towards that goal. The CFIF isn't advocating that exact position, but deferring to the executive branch as they do might as well be the same thing.
Do you want them to stop what they're doing and take lessons on prison manners from a bunch of POLITICIANS?
blast fax message

Clicking on that link gets you the following:
TO: President George W. Bush

The Hon. Ted Stevens, The Hon. Thad Cochran, The Hon. Pete Domenici, The Hon. Christopher Bond, The Hon. Mitch McConnell, The Hon. Richard Shelby, The Hon. Judd Gregg, The Hon. Kay Bailey-Hutchison, The Hon. Conrad Burns, The Hon. Patrick Leahy, The Hon. Robert Byrd, The Hon. Tom Harkin, The Hon. Byron Dorgan, The Hon. Dick Durbin, The Hon. Harry Reid, The Hon. Dianne Feinstein, The Hon. Barbara Mikulski, The Hon. Arlen Specter, The Hon. Daniel Inouye.

FROM: YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS WILL BE PRINTED HERE

RE: The McCain Amendment: SA 1977

I am appalled and ashamed that Republican Senators recently approved an amendment designed to restrict our intelligence gathering, intimidate those in charge of prisoner interrogations and place all Americans at risk from our enemies.

Terrorists are not covered under the Geneva Convention and terrorist detainees are not entitled to constitutional protections from "degrading treatment." I am appalled that Republican Senators actually placed some "phantom rights" of terrorists above the safety and interests of the American people.

I demand that you show the political courage to put the lives of innocent Americans above the interests of third world terrorists, thugs and dictators and kill this McCain amendment in committee and, should you fail to act in the interests of this great country, I demand that President Bush veto this legislation as he has promised.

Despite a few instances of individual misbehavior - mild by comparison with what our enemies, past and present, have done to their prisoners - our intelligence community has been enormously successful in preventing another terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

Passing pompous, high-sounding legislation won't prevent an occasional violation of regulations by the mean-spirited or incompetent. Meanwhile, this bill, if enacted into law, will compromise our intelligence network and inhibit our interrogators. Can you guarantee that you haven't paved the way for some greater catastrophe?

Sincerely

Your Signature Will Be Recreated Here


Sounds like "a bunch of POLITICIANS" who have "done such a despicable thing" who have "AIDED TERRORISTS" and think "U.S. TROOPS ARE 'BARBARIC' AND 'INHUMANE'" are the very kind of people you want your petitioners to bow down before and beg for their support. Hat in hand, go to these people and - angrily, mind you - ask that they change their minds.

The chains of servitude are transparent indeed. The rest of the e-mail is reprinted below.

What Do We Really Mean By Degrading Treatment

Underlying this vile and contemptible amendment is the same assumption that the Supreme Court used in recent cases: the looming supremacy of international law...

Let's look at this ghastly amendment one more time...

SEC. __. PROHIBITION ON CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT OF PERSONS UNDER CUSTODY OR CONTROL OF THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT.

  1. (a) In General.--No individual in the custody or under the physical control of the United States Government, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. [emphasis added]

  2. (b) Construction.--Nothing in this section shall be construed to impose any geographical limitation on the applicability of the prohibition against cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment under this section. [emphasis added]

  3. (c) Limitation on Supersedure.--The provisions of this section shall not be superseded, except by a provision of law enacted after the date of the enactment of this Act which specifically repeals, modifies, or supersedes the provisions of this section.

  4. (d) Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Defined.--In this section, the term "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment'' means the cruel, unusual, and inhumane treatment or punishment prohibited by the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, as defined in the United States Reservations, Declarations and Understandings to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment done at New York, December 10, 1984. [emphasis added]

The words "cruel [and] unusual" are taken right out of the 8th Amendment - "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted" -- thereby conferring on a bunch of terrorists the CONSTITUTIONAL rights of U.S. citizenship.

I infer from this then that the Center for Individual Freedom is opposed to treating American citizens the way it wants to treat foreigners. I suppose the "individual freedom" they advocate withers away at the edge of the American national border. If so, a more appropriate name for their organization would be Center for Individual American Freedom. But that doesn't square with this statement on their website: Recognition of the individual as a free and voluntary actor, whose freedom must be protected as much as possible against infringement by the state lies at the heart of the Center's philosophy. Not only does such individual freedom of belief and expression stand as a pre-eminent value in its own right, it also stands as a bulwark against all other attempts to improperly constrain freedom. No mention that the freedom they value and find in the Constitution shouldn't apply only to Americans. I could spend several posts discussing what they've got on their website.

Anyway, back to the e-mail, which will continue interrupted and without further comment.

But "degrading treatment" is a phrase lifted from a document drafted by the United Nations.

Henceforth international terrorists throughout the world have all the rights of accused criminals in the United States. And an additional right - freedom from "degrading treatment" - which comes from the U.N., an organization also known as Hate America International.

We can't tolerate this surrender to Kofi Annan's gang, a cowardly act designed to undercut the self-preservation of Americans under international attack.

blast fax message

Let's Clear Up A Few Things Right Now


We don't torture prisoners. We don't blindfold them, threaten them with execution, and televise their pathetic pleas for life.

We don't condone cruel and unusual punishments. We don't lop off prisoners' heads in front of TV cameras or on the world wide web.

With few exceptions, we treat prisoners as humanely as any enemy has ever treated its enemies. Ask the handful of U.S. troops who survived captivity how the terrorists treated them.

Abu-Gharib was the exception -- not the rule -- and mere child's play in comparison to how these terrorists, murderers and thugs treat our people -- or even their own people for that matter.

The only atrocities going on at Guantanamo Bay are the atrocities that these murderers and thugs who are being detained are heaping upon the fine U.S. soldiers assigned to guard them.

We give these terrorists their own Korans, prayer rugs, clean living conditions, indoor plumbing and three square meals a day... many of them NEVER had it so good.


Of course that has not stopped anti-America members of our own media from literally beating up on our brave men and women in uniform -- looking for isolated examples of "abuse" -- and -- in many cases -- simply making them up.

These facts did not stop the liberal Senator from Illinois -- Dick Durbin -- from falsely comparing our brave men and women in uniform to NAZIs.

However... perhaps you now see why our GOP-lead Senate voted for this ghastly amendment?

Simply put, they did not want to be skewered by members of the anti-American press who would have -- without a doubt -- FALSELY reported opposition to this dastardly amendment as support of torture.

And that -- dear friend -- is cowardice, pure and simple!

While our troops risk their lives on the battlefield half-way around the world -- these spineless Senators would not even risk a little bad-mouthing from a biased media!

It's so sick... it's disgusting!

McCain's amendment is a nasty, politically motivated slur on the integrity of our armed forces, and a gross insult to the American people.

What the Senate did two weeks ago must be undone this week.

Take action now!

blast fax message
Yours In Freedom,

Jeff Mazzella
President
www.cfif.org


The CFIF Action Alert is a service to the conservative community. If this e-mail was forwarded to you and you would like to subscribe please go to www.cfif.org/signup.

[...]

Center for Individual Freedom
113 S. Columbus St., Suite 310
Alexandria, VA 22314
703-535-5836
Fax:703-535-5838

CFIF is a 501(c)(4) not-for-profit constitutional advocacy organization with
the mission to protect and defend individual freedoms and individual rights
in the legal, legislative and educational arenas. Contributions to CFIF are
not deductible as charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes.
Contributions may be deductible as a business expense.

People who defend individual rights and liberty might want to be wary of this bunch.

November 08, 2005

Private Defense

Jay Jardine notes: "Avoiding pirate attacks can be quite profitable."

November 07, 2005

Wurstfest 2005 Aftermath

Wurstfest is one of the few New Braunfels traditions that I wholeheartedly enjoy; this is the third consecutive year I've gone to the "Ten Day Salute to Sausage." My father and mother are playing along and dressing up as Opa and Oma.

There will be pictures and not only of them!

Another excellent time. They upped the beer prices but DAMN was that pork chop on a stick awesome! Leaving it for last while feasting on assorted sausages on a stick was a good idea I'll have to remember next year.

UPDATED
And here we go:

The weather was excellent all day. No crazy humidty, not sweltering, not blindingly bright.

A touch of breeze kept the smell of sausage alive. These specimens came from the New Braunfels Smoke House.

Beer goes well with smoked meats. Especially when you've got a big-ass ceramic mug to drink out of.

This was our collection of beer pitchers and some of the cups about 1/3 the way through our visit. There were 11 of us and nearly everyone drank at some point. Buy a pitcher or a cup of beer, keep the container. Our collection after more than five hours out there totaled 14 of the former and 46 of the latter.

From the left to the right: Sister Kelley, Mother, Father, myself, and Sister Katie.

Near the beginning of the visit, probably around 5pm. We set up base camp near the river. Our location allowed fast access to the beer ticket line and the adjacent beer line proper.

Fast-forward about three hours.

My girlfriend, Christa, liberated my camera and strolled around. She took the following shots.

Christa.

There was an astounding collection of beer bottles in the spasshaus. One of the display cases said of the estimated 15,000 bottles in the donor's collection, they could only squeeze 2,500 or so in the interior of the building. Quite a humbling experience. Some of the beers were older than my father. Some of them were exposed to the atmosphere of World War I.

Good Times.

November 04, 2005

"There was a crooked party..."

The London Fog digs up a delightful Canadian folk rhyme.

November 03, 2005

Beer Run, Courtesy of the Satan's Cheerleaders and the Flametrick Subs

Halloween night, 2005:

Good times.

The November 8, 2005 Texas Constitutional Election

[Updates below.]

Sounds dramatic, doesn't it?

I won't be voting, part of the estimated 84% who'll be staying home doing more important things.

More important things than amending the state constitution?

Why, yes, Hypothetical 3rd Person! I'd rather discuss things online, eat dinner, clean my cat's litter box, or go to the gun range than vote.

Here are the 9 proposals:

Proposition 1
Ballot Language
"The constitutional amendment creating the Texas rail relocation and improvement fund and authorizing grants of money and issuance of obligations for financing the relocation, rehabilitation, and expansion of rail facilities."

Brief Explanation
HJR 54 would create a Texas rail relocation and improvement fund in the state treasury and would authorize grants of state revenue and issuance of public debt to relocate, rehabilitate, and expand privately and publicly owned passenger and freight rail facilities and to construct railroad underpasses and overpasses.


In other words, this is designed to subsidize the railroad industry and help government-funded public transportation. No thanks.
Proposition 2
Ballot Language
"The constitutional amendment providing that marriage in this state consists only of the union of one man and one woman and prohibiting this state or a political subdivision of this state from creating or recognizing any legal status identical or similar to marriage."

Brief Explanation
HJR 6 would provide that marriage in Texas is solely the union of a man and woman, and that the state and its political subdivisions could not create or recognize any legal status identical to or similar to marriage, including such legal status relationships created outside of Texas.


This is the Big One, the proposition that has garnered the most attention, including a KKK rally. Non-traditional marriage is already banned in Texas and a literal reading of the text says this amendment not only outlaws gay marriages but heterosexual unions as well: "any legal status identical or similar to marriage"? In any event, the government has absolutely no right whatsoever to determine what relationships among free people are valid. People should stop seeking state recognition of their love. The state should also end the many subsidies, special benefits, and unique protections it gives married couples.
Proposition 3
Ballot Language
"The constitutional amendment clarifying that certain economic development programs do not constitute a debt."

Brief Explanation
HJR 80 would provide that local economic development program loans or grants (other than debts secured by a pledge of ad valorem taxes or financed by the issuance of any bonds or other obligations payable from ad valorem taxes) do not constitute or create debt. Any provision of state constitutional law that may prohibit or limit the authority of a political subdivision of the state to incur debt does not apply to those loans or grants.


Given that all state handouts eventually end up in the taxpayers' laps to finance or have already been stolen from them - a "debt to society" if you will - this is just painting a pig a different color. Now, if it was an amendment to Section 52-a, Article III of the Texas Constitution that prohibits the state from using tax money for "economic development"...
Proposition 4
Ballot Language
"The constitutional amendment authorizing the denial of bail to a criminal defendant who violates a condition of the defendant's release pending trial."

Brief Explanation
SJR 17 would authorize a district judge to deny reinstatement of bail or new bail to a person accused of a felony, if the person's bail had been revoked or forfeited as a result of the person's violation of a condition of release related to the safety of a victim of the alleged offense or to the safety of the community.


Given that the state shouldn't have a monopoly on the prosecution and punishment of criminals, this is a small detail that'll probably end up screwing more people than protecting.
Proposition 5
Ballot Language
"The constitutional amendment allowing the legislature to define rates of interest for commercial loans."

Brief Explanation
SJR 21 would authorize the Legislature to exempt commercial loans from state usury laws that set maximum interest rates. "Commercial loans" are loans made primarily for business, commercial, investment, agricultural, or similar purposes and not primarily for personal, family, or household purposes.


Banks should be free to set their own interest rates as they see fit, whether loaning money to businesses or individuals. This is a half-ass measure that, while putting a well-deserved knee in the face of the arbitrary legal concept of "usury," still allows and in fact entrenches state control over the banking system.
Proposition 6
Ballot Language
"The constitutional amendment to include one additional public member and a constitutional county court judge in the membership of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct."

Brief Explanation
HJR 87 would increase the size of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct from eleven to thirteen members by increasing from four to five the number of public members and by adding a constitutional county court judge. The additions would ensure that the commission has an odd number of members, which is required by another provision of the state constitution.


Now, in a just world, the agency tasked with being "responsible for investigating allegations of judicial misconduct or judicial disability, and for disciplining judges" would be hard at work kicking out judges right and left for interfering with and aiding the violation of our rights. But this isn't a just world these days and adding more authorities at the top isn't going to solve any real problems.
Proposition 7
Ballot Language
"The constitutional amendment authorizing line-of-credit advances under a reverse mortgage."

Brief Explanation
SJR 7 would authorize new options for reverse mortgage agreements for senior homeowners allowing them to draw advances at unscheduled intervals, if and when needed, and only in the amounts needed, during the loan term. These are in addition to options that would allow a lump sum payment after settlement or regular periodic, predetermined equal amounts over a term of years or the lifetime of the homeowner. Additionally, SJR 7 would: (1) prohibit the agreement from requiring the use of a credit card, debit card or similar device to obtain an advance; (2) prohibit the charge or collection of a transaction fee solely in connection with any debit or advance, after the time the extension of credit is established; and (3) prohibit the lender or holder from unilaterally amending the extension of credit.


Just as with Proposition 5, lenders and homeowners should be free to set up whatever arrangements they want. This amendment sets up the liberty to do so, then mires it in regulations.
Proposition 8
Ballot Language
"The constitutional amendment providing for the clearing of land titles by relinquishing and releasing any state claim to sovereign ownership or title to interest in certain land in Upshur County and in Smith County."

Brief Explanation
SJR 40 would clear individual land titles by relinquishing and releasing all claims of state ownership interests, including mineral interests, in two local areas, namely, a roughly 4,600 acre area located roughly 14 miles southeast of Gilmer, Texas, and a separate 900 acre area located north of Tyler, Texas.


To me, "relinquishing and releasing any state claim to sovereign ownership or title to interest" sounds like a helluva nice idea. This are should be expanded 37370.5 times its size and it actually mean it.
Proposition 9
Ballot Language
"The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for a six-year term for a board member of a regional mobility authority."

Brief Explanation
HJR 79 would authorize the Legislature to provide staggered six year terms of office for board members serving on regional mobility authorities, with no more than one-third of the board positions being appointed every two years.


Get rid of these "authorities," don't add to them.

Of course, this is also the time for all kinds of local government hijinks (PDF) leveraged through the election process.

BOND PROPOSITION NO. 1
THE ISSUANCE OF $65,225,000 OF ROAD BONDS AND THE LEVYING OF THE TAX IN PAYMENT THEREOF

BOND PROPOSITION NO. 2
THE ISSUANCE OF $62,150,000 OF PARK BONDS AND THE LEVYING OF THE TAX IN PAYMENT THEREOF

BOND PROPOSITION NO. 3
THE ISSUANCE OF $23,500,000 JAIL FACILITY BONDS AND THE LEVYING OF THE TAX IN PAYMENT THEREOF


This is all for Travis County and I want no part of any "tax levying." This repetitive nonsense has got to stop. The state is the wrong entity to be doing all this. Tax money for commercially- and residentially-void outdoor recreational areas (aka, "parks")? No.

It doesn't matter if this amounts to "a few dollars per year per homeowner." THESE ARE OUR DOLLARS. This flippant endorsement of systemic aggression is absolutely sickening, but I expected no less from the Austin Chronicle editorial board.

On a more fundamental note, while one can point to pragmatic reasons to vote for or against these things on a individual liberty footing, that footing remains a superficial one when it endorses the state as the proper agency to accomplish those goals. I withdraw my sanction and I encourage others to do the same.

UPDATED 11/8/2005 8:23am
I forgot to mention a previous post I wrote regarding the democratic process: The Austin American-Statesman, Voting, Free Speech, and Information

UPDATED 11/10/2005 12:41am
The election results are in. All three Travis County bond propositions passed.
Some of the statewide propositions passed.

Bah to the whole ordeal.

Hung Jury!

onelittlebrother had a Halloween experience paid for by taxpayers.

November 01, 2005

Secession Rhetorics

jomama knows the crucial aspect of the concept "secession." Do you?

FedRegWatch

The newest column is up at Strike the Root.

As I mentioned previously, I'll soon be building a subsite that contains all my Federal Register Watch work along with full-text copies of the Register publications in question. I'll probably get the outline complete by this weekend.