Monday, February 20, 2006

Houston police chief wants you to stop worrying and learn to love Big Brother

Houston eyes cameras at apartment complexes


HOUSTON -- Houston's police chief on Wednesday proposed placing surveillance cameras in apartment complexes, downtown streets, shopping malls and even private homes to fight crime during a shortage of police officers.

"I know a lot of people are concerned about Big Brother, but my response to that is, if you are not doing anything wrong, why should you worry about it?" Chief Harold Hurtt told reporters Wednesday at a regular briefing.

Fantastic idea, Chief Hurtt. May I make a suggestion? How about we place the very first private home surveillance camera right in your bedroom? After the smashing success this is certain to be, we can follow up by placing another one in your bathroom. And we could even webcast the results over the internet; call it the "ChiefCam" or something similarly catchy. C'mon chief, step up and lead by example. Because, you know, if you're not doing anything wrong, why should you worry about it?

Scott Henson, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Police Accountability Project in Texas, called Hurtt's building-permit proposal "radical and extreme" and said it may violate the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable searches.

Scott, please forgive me for saying this, but you are a milquetoast. Arguments like this highlight why I'm an anarchist and not a constitutionalist. Forget about the Fourth Amendment because the Constitution is a dead letter. Show me one ACLU lawyer who will argue the 4th Amendment case against these cameras and I'll show you hundreds more (plus G-d knows how many judges) who will gladly disagree if the agenda suits them. And once you lose in court, you've lost the argument for good. The whole principle of the police imposing surveillance cameras on private property is wrong no matter what the Constitution or the tea leaf reading courts have to say about it. Argue from the normative position, that true liberty can be rooted only in private property and the abolition of the state, and you will never go astray.

Andy Teas with the Houston Apartment Association said that although some would consider cameras an invasion of privacy, "I think a lot of people would appreciate the thought of extra eyes looking out for them."

Andy, I think you mis-spoke. I believe you meant to say:

"I think a lot of people would appreciate resent the thought of extra eyes looking out for at them."

There. Fixed that for ya.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Around the Blogosphere

A few interesting anti-state/anti-Bush tidbits from around the blogosphere:

Brad Spangler:
Update on Aurora, IL students sugar drug case
While the news that the poor kid is only facing misdemeanor charges rather than a felony is good news, this is still an episode that could be best explained by the police and school district officials being on drugs.

LRC Blog (Lew Rockwell):
If You're Not a High State Official
In Oregon, a young man who accidently shot a fellow hunter in the arm was just sentenced to twenty days on the sheriff's road crew, two years of probation (and no hunting), and $865 in costs, for "misdemenor assault and negligently wounding another."

[Assistant Emperor Cheney will of course face no such charges for the same "crime."]

Unclaimed Territory - by Glenn Greenwald
Do Bush followers have a political ideology?
That "conservatism" has come to mean "loyalty to George Bush" is particularly ironic given how truly un-conservative the Administration is. It is not only the obvious (though significant) explosion of deficit spending under this Administration – and that explosion has occurred far beyond military or 9/11-related spending and extends into almost all arenas of domestic programs as well. Far beyond that is the fact that the core, defining attributes of political conservatism could not be any more foreign to the world view of the Bush follower.

[And lest you doubt the hypocrisy of Bush's most ardent supporters, check out...]

Executive privilege watch
"Like all things that don't have the light of day shining on them, you can be sure that it is being twisted to suit the purposes of those who hold the power."

"Wonder how many terrorist plots they have stopped? Sounds like despite trampling Constitutional rights, this was ineffective."

"There is a certain element in law enforcement that truly deserves the descriptive term, "jack-booted thugs." They love kicking down doors and shoving loaded guns in the faces of startled people in their pajamas. Their newest excuse for continuing the steady destruction of the Fourth Amendment will be the War On Terrorism."

Are the quotes above decrying the Bush's latest oversteps in executive privilege in the NSA wiretapping scandal? They could be, couldn't they. But no, these are quotes pulled from the comment thread of an old post at the Free Republic blasting the Clinton Whitehouse's expansion of the FISA courts.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Incognito in the ATL

"We missed you."

With three simple words, Incognito's incomparable frontman J.P. "Bluey" Maunick reintroduced himself to Atlanta tonight. The venerable acid jazz collective had not performed here since 2001 but they warmed up the frigid evening with a sizzling show at the Coca Cola Roxy. This isn't so much a concert review as a celebration. Tonight marked the third time I'd seen them live and they never disappoint.

Tonight's setlist:

1. "Colibri"
2. "Roots (Back To A Way of Life)"
3. "Close My Eyes"
4. "Baby It's All Right"
5. "Talkin' Loud"
6. "We Got Music"
7. "Labour of Love"
8. "Don't Turn My Love Away"
9. "As Long As It's You"
10. Spirited piano/keyboard solo melting seamlessly into...
11. "This Thing Called Love"
12. "Who Needs Love"
13. "Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing"
14. "Everyday"
15. Richard Bailey showing off his skills with a thundering drum solo, which poured into...
16. "Always There"
17. "Deep Waters"
18. "Still A Friend of Mine"

19. "Listen to the Music"

Other highlights:
• Maysa changing the lyric of "Listen to the Music" from "Meet me in the country for a day" to "Meet me in Atlanta for a day."

• Bluey introducing the "musical United Nations" of the touring band, which included 12 members representing such far flung locales as Scotland, the UK, Jamaica, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Israel, and the U.S. (Maysa's from Baltimore). I might even have forgotten a place or two.

• The best part: Bluey promised a return trip to Atlanta for Incognito this summer.

We missed you, too, Bluey. Thank you for bringing the funk, soul, and spirit of Incognito back to Atlanta.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Rick Tocchet Gambling Mess

Those of you who don't follow hockey probably know nothing about this story, but "Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach Rick Tocchet is under investigation in connection with a multimillion dollar gambling ring that allegedly took bets from NHL players and others." The news is generating the predictable response in hockey circles, with the requisite hand-wringing and tut-tutting from fans, media, and senior NHL officials.

You know what I think? Well, of course you do. I'm the anarchist fly in the ointment so you already know what I think. Fuck the state of New Jersey. What bothers me most is how cowed society has become -- cowed by the state, cowed by the media, and cowed by PR concerns. This situation is in no way analogous to the Pete Rose story -- there are no allegations that Tocchet or anyone else bet on hockey. But if hockey does have a problem with its integrity or competition, then the solution must come from in house. Let's not confuse this thing -- this issue has NOTHING to do with hockey's integrity and everything to do with the overbearing state.

NHL Commish Gary Bettman said in a statement: "We view the charges against Mr. Tocchet in the most serious terms. We have pledged our full cooperation to the New Jersey State Police and the New Jersey Attorney General's Office."

Shame on you, Mr. Bettman! Spoken like the smarmy, obsequious lawyer that you truly are. Bravo for standing up to the bully. Just once, I want someone in the public eye to grow a pair and tell the state to butt the fuck out of people's lives. I want someone to wield the concept of jury nullification preemptively, before a trial, and speak the truth about so-called consensual "crimes" -- to stand up and refuse to dignify police and prosecutorial overreach with serious pronouncements and full cooperation. Instead, everybody plays the game of grovelling before the government and pretending that the law means something other than the monopoly of force.

What, you think this is about morality? Or legislation designed to keep people safe? Please. This is about who's in charge. This is the state flexing its authoritarian muscle. Because the state of New Jersey doesn't give a shit about gambling as long as IT alone gets to be the house. See, New Jersey is all too happy for you to gamble away your dollars as long as those bucks find their way into state coffers. You can go to Atlantic City and lose a fortune as long as it's done under the auspices of the state-casino partnership. Tocchet's "crime" is running an operation that competes with the state of New Jersey's gambling monopoly -- a monopoly privilege the state grants to itself, of course. That New Jersey sees your money as its rightful property should tell you something about the nature of the state.

The state has to play the PR game, too. Competition is viewed as healthy and all-American; people tend to bristle over the term "monopoly." So the state can't portray Tocchet's "crime" that way -- it must use loaded terms like "gambling ring" and "ties to organized crime" in order to distract the public from what it is really doing. Thus do the names of respected people like Wayne Gretzky and his wife Janet Jones get dragged through the muck in order to bolster the state's case, which usually works since most people would rather cooperate than appear "guilty" or put their reputations at risk.

But there is nothing inherently wrong with the behavior of Rick Tocchet or anyone else implicated here -- what he and others choose to do with personal property, be it to buy things, invest, give away to charity, or otherwise gamble away, is their prerogative to decide. That is the very essence of private property.

So I'll say again what Rick Tocchet, Wayne Gretzky, and Janet Jones can't (and what Gary Bettman won't): fuck the state of New Jersey. Its strongarm tactics are the legal and socially approved versions of what some of New Jersey's other famous criminals do.

Monday, February 06, 2006

a picture is worth several thousand words

As a quick addendum to my previous post about not supporting the troops, please enjoy the following:

*Special thanks to the amazing PostSecret blog for displaying this postcard. I don't know who made it and I used it without permission. Hope that's OK.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

In Support of Joel Stein: I Don't Support the Troops, Either

I realize I'm a little late to this party but, as previously noted, I've been out of town and then got sick soon after returning. Anyway...

Joel Stein has taken quite the beating for this column that bravely begins with the admission, "I don't support our troops." No cow is more sacred in statist circles than the military so it takes real guts to admit this. Stein would have elicited only slightly more outrage had he publicly wondered why the big deal about kiddie porn. The howls of denunciation came swiftly and predictably from all corners but I thank Joel Stein for his courage. Not only do I see nothing objectionable in his comments, I support Stein without hesitation because, well, I don't support the troops, either.

I've never quite understood this country's military worship. The mindset that sanctifies the military sees virtue not in freedom but in unquestioning obedience. It's a mindset that subordinates the individual to the state and in the process celebrates collectivism, bloodshed, and destruction. Innocent human suffering is dismissed as "collateral damage," and peace and liberty are swept aside by nationalism and patriotism.

Much of the support for the troops is encouraged by overheated rhetoric and cryptic logic. We are told the troops deserve support by virtue of their courage, sacrifice, selflessness, etc. But digging a little deeper and asking some tough questions about the real nature of military service yields some troubling answers. There is virtue in sacrificing oneself to a greater cause but ought we not examine the righteousness of the cause itself?

Let's face some facts here. The troops do not protect our freedoms, nor are they repelling an invading foe from our shores. None of us owe our freedoms or safety (such as we have left) to the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq. None of us is made freer or safer when a life (military or civilian) is sacrificed in Iraq.

Right now the troops act as the enforcement arm of the federal government's foreign policy ambitions -- nothing more. It's easy to be hoodwinked by semantics but remember: the troops do not serve "our nation," they serve the government. They serve at the whim of the state -- that gang of thieves and murderers with delusions of legitimacy.

Serving the state demands that you ignore your moral compass; why celebrate this at all, let alone in the form of the soldier? The worthiness of the cause for which the troops fight is determined entirely by the state and its minions, and considering the way the state manipulates reality to achieve its goals, we have good reason to be skeptical whenever the use of force is advanced. Our "enemies," and especially those who merit military deployment, are constantly shifting depending on the federal government's entangling alliances of the moment. The troops fight whomever the incumbent Commander in Chief orders them to. For these troops, there is no room for individual morality or conscience -- only obedience. Stein eloquently makes the point: "An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying."

And so it goes with the present regime's misadventures in the Middle East. We are sold a bill of goods with vague allusions to "weapons of mass destruction," "bringing the fight to the enemy," "waging a war on terror," "spreading freedom and democracy," "liberating a people from a brutal dictator," etc., ad nauseum. But no matter how the Bushies paint this thing, they can't escape the facts: over 2200 American servicemen killed, and anywhere from 30,000 - 100,000 Iraqis killed (the administration sees no need to "keep track" officially). All of these lives wasted and none of us freer, safer, or more admired because of it, and yet it is considered bad form or unpatriotic to question this pointless crusade. We who speak the truth are marginalized and made to apologize for our beliefs, while prudent public opinion meekly favors supporting the troops and keeping them overseas to "finish the job," which as far as I can tell means more maiming and killing for the glory of the U.S. hegemon.

I know how this must come off. Like I'm some chickenshit hiding behind a keyboard who has no right to exercise the very freedom of expression protected by our brave soldiers. Fine, fair enough. Everyone's entitled to an opinion. I harbor no ill will toward our troops, individually or collectively. G-d knows I don't want them hurt in any way. I just want them to come home, now. So to Joel Stein, and others of like mind, we must not apologize for refusing to exalt death and destruction because it wears a uniform, carries a rank, and boasts popular sanction. I do not support the troops and I am not ashamed to say so.

Others have been speaking up on this issue. For reference, please see the following:

Don't Support the Troops by Brandon J. Snider
There’s a tendency in libertarian circles to think that radical criticism of supposed sacred cows will prove to be disastrous to the future of the movement. I look at it differently. I think the other side should be ashamed of themselves, and we should encourage such shame with our rhetoric. We should not apologize for our views; we should make the statists apologize. We are libertarians, they are totalitarians; is this not correct? When I see libertarians Supporting the Troops! and reserving criticism for policy-makers, I see this view in practice. Yet Supporting the Troops! is a distinctly collectivist idea. Self-sacrifice for the state – is there any principal more anathema to individualism?

I Don't Support the Troops by John DeHope
The troops want to kill people, and I want them to not. They want to overthrow other people’s governments, and I want them to mind their own business. They want to be career soldiers, and I want them to get real jobs. They want a government paycheck, and I want them to work in private industry. Is it any wonder that I don’t support the troops? Do you?

Perpetuating War by Exalting Its Sacrifices II by Sheldon Richman
To sobering effect, Richman juxtaposes a passage from the film "The Americanization of Emily" alongside a recent AP photo of another grieving widow and fatherless toddler.

I realize this opinion will win me few friends or supporters but I welcome all comments here, pro and con...

Saturday, February 04, 2006

sorry for the delay...

I promised an update regarding Joel Stein's "I don't support the troops" column and it's still coming. I got about 90% of the way through it on Wednesday night when I started feeling ill...and I haven't seen daylight since. Been completely waylaid by flu-like symptoms -- fever, chills, body aches, weakness, congestion, etc. I felt like I was cut open and had all my soft tissue replaced by Ziploc bags stuffed full of cold jelly. For the last 72 hours or so I've been in lockdown/quarantine mode and haven't even had the wherewithal or concentration necessary to post even this meager update until now.

But I'm finally starting to feel human again and I hope to have that Stein update posted by tomorrow afternoon. A few other quick things:

•I know it's hip to trash "Saturday Night Live" but there have been some genuine bright spots this season. I'm looking forward to tonight's episode, which features a power packed, high-wattage star combo -- Steve Martin hosts for the 14th (!) time and is joined by musical guest Prince. Maya Rudolph returns from maternity leave, and Tracy and I eagerly anticipate a "Prince Show" skit that features the real Prince and Beyonce Knowles (don't forget, she's in the new "Pink Panther" film with Steve Martin).


UConn 88, Indiana 80. I think the Huskies are starting to hit their stride. They were impressive today. Down early, 29-20, in a hostile environment, it would have been easy for the team to wilt or otherwise let this one get away. But they never looked rattled -- they kept their composure, worked the half-court offense, and took control of the game by being patient and playing UConn basketball: owning the boards and tenaciously contesting every shot. The frontcourt played another great game and Rudy Gay is growing comfortable in his role as the go-to guy. To borrow a Coach Calhoun phrase, this team has a chance to be special.


I'm not a huge football fan but I must admit to having totally bought into the civic religion of Super Bowl Sunday. The whole day is just one big damn party -- what's not to love? I'll post something more substantive tomorrow, including picks and hopefully a review of the best and worst commercials after the game. But I can't wait for kickoff...

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

quick update

Yes, I'm still alive and no, I didn't abandon my blog. For one thing, I just got back into town Monday night after a weekend in Florida. For another, a lot's been happening lately, most of it exciting. I'm not at liberty to discuss details right now (ooh, mysterious!) but hopefully I'll have something to report soon. Anyway, look for a substantive update later tonight.

State of the Union, meh. Didn't watch it. Was at Jeffrey's drowning season-ending sorrows with my hockey teammates (we lost our playoff game, 4-3). I'll check a transcript of the SOTU later but, really, why bother? The whole exercise is a self-congratulatory circle jerk. Bush squints his beady little eyes into the TelePrompter and mouths the usual platitudes and buzzwords penned by his speechwriters. Eff it.

Though news gets stale quickly in the blogosphere, I did have some thoughts on Joel Stein's controversial "I don't support the troops" column. The teaser: I support Joel Stein (shocker, that).

OK, gotta go to work. Hope everyone has a great day...