Archive for July, 2010

Cruise-line tobacco police

As many of us have known for years, the Nanny State is alive and well — and growing; especially at the federal level.  It is also well-known that tobacco and the demonization thereof at the hands of Uncle Sam (especially the FDA, which now enjoys statutory power over tobacco products) is a flash point for government regulators.  Clearly, federal, state and local tobacco police will not rest until every cigarette, cigar and pipe has been doused permanently, and every pinch of chewing tobacco destroyed. 

Now, at least one cruise ship line — Carnival — is considering marching side by side with the government nanny-staters.  The cruise line is actually going one step better than the government killjoys.  Carnival has announced it is “testing” the idea of banning smoking in cigar bars on its cruise ships.  That’s right, if the cruise-line busy bodies have their way, passengers hoping to enjoy a stogie in the cigar bar, will no longer be able to do so.  One proffered defense …

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Can we now put the Shirley Sherrod racial debate behind us?

Postscript for the Shirley Sherrod racial comment case:  can we move beyond it?  

After the flap involving her controversial comments to the NAACP, the even more controversial Breitbart Blog  “analysis” of her comments, her firing by the Agriculture Secretary, the mea culpa by the Agriculture Secretary, her indecision about accepting a new job offer, her becoming a media darling, and the Commander-in-Chief’s phone call, can we finally focus on some issues of immediate, vital and continuing importance to the future of our country?  Like an out-of-control national debt; a continuing mess in Afghanistan; continued erosion of individual liberty at the hands of federal, state and local governments; increased taxes;  government take-over of health care; a debate over illegal immigration that grows more heated every day; and a major corruption scandal in the Congress?

Apparently issues such as these are less interesting to many folks in Washington and in the media than …

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Torture questions continue to dog the government

Questions surrounding the use of torture by U.S. government personnel in the period following the attacks of September 11, 2001 continue to dog those involved, including the lawyers whose opinions provided the green light for such activities. 

The U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee has just released a transcript of a lengthy, closed-door interview of Jay Bybee, now a federal judge in Nevada.  The recent interview dealt primarily with actions in which Bybee was involved in 2002, during which time he served as an assistant attorney general heading the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC).  This was the office that provided numerous legal memoranda to the CIA supposedly to guide its officers in conducting lawful “interviews” of so-called “high value detainees” overseas. 

The Bybee transcript and his earlier memos are revealing as a primer in the very clever methods whereby CIA officials presented convoluted requests to the Department of Justice, in order to …

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Georgia Court: Personal medical records are fair game for government snooping

In a decision with frightening ramifications for the protection of a person’s most intimate medical records, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that a person’s medical records are no longer considered “private papers” and thus are not protected from government search warrants.  This ruling came despite language in Georgia law that exempts from the reach of a search warrant “the private papers of any person.”  Of course, a properly executed search warrant may always be used to reach any items, including medical records, that constitute ”instrumentalities of a crime,” but this recent court decision opens the door to law enforcement gaining access to personal medical records that are not themselves evidence of crimes.

This ruling comes as the federal government is moving to increase its involvement in and control over the country’s medical system; and as Washington increases pressure on state governments, physicians and hospitals to use and maintain …

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New “reform” law destroys financial privacy

Hallelujia!  We’ll now have another “Reform!” law — this one designed to “reform” our “financial services” industry to prevent any further meltdowns such as that which struck in 2008 and continues to cripple segments of our economy two years later.  The president himself could hardly contain his hyperbole in describing the legislation he is today set to sign into law; he calls it “innovative” and “creative.”  Yet, lurking within its hundreds of pages of fine print, are provisions that will essentially destroy what little financial privacy remains for virtually every consumer of financial services in the country.  In that respect, yes, the legislation certainly is ”creative”; but that is one kind of creativity we can do without.

But it’s really too late.  Thanks to this financial services “reform” law, federal bureaucrats will have ready access to virtually every financial transaction that will take place in the country — from the largest bank acquisition to the …

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Public trusts post office, not Justice Dept. according to survey

Even as the federal government moves to implement the massive health care “reform” President Obama signed into law earlier this year, and as the Census Bureau nears completion of the 2010 census, citizens’ trust in government’s ability to safeguard the privacy of the information it collects on them, remains at a distressingly low level.  The lack of trust Americans have in the federal government is graphically illustrated in two surveys this year conducted by the non-partisan Ponemon Institute, headquartered in Traverse City, Michigan.

The Institute’s signature survey is the annual “Privacy Trust Study of the United States Government.”  This year’s study, released June 30th, surveyed more than 9,000 adults across the country, and asked their views on the trustworthiness of some 75 federal agencies.  The results should – but probably won’t – concern the administration and the heads of many well-known government offices.

As in prior years, the Postal …

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Wine vending machine will be a gold mine of data for government

In the lastest example of Americans’ willingness to trade privacy for convenience, wine drinkers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are purchasing bottles of wine from computerized vending machines.  Were this simply a matter of putting your money in the machine, selecting the bottle of wine you wish to purchase, touching a button and then retrieving the bottle of fermented grape nectar that suits your palate, it would hardly be problematic.  In fact, because Pennsylvania has some of the most complex and restrictive alcohol-purchasing laws  in the country, it would be a great way to empower citizens to exercise what should be an un-fettered right to puchase whatever wine they want whenever they want. 

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.  In order to purchase that bottle of wine from the new, state-of-the-art electronic merchant in Pennsylvania, you have to not only pay for the wine, but also:  (1) swipe your driver’s license, (2) submit to having the machine take your …

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Washing dead bodies down the drain – a new “green” trend?

“Soylent Green” was a 1973 science fiction film that starred Charlton Heston.  In the movie, a primary foodstuff for an overpopulated and over-polluted world is something called “soylent green,” which is a processed, wafer-like biscuit.  Toward the end of the movie, which depicts a dystopian police state, Heston discovers that the primary ingredient in soylent green is processed human corpses. While the process of dissolving and then reconstituting human bodies into edible products does not yet appear to be on the horizon in the real world, the process of dissolving human bodies into liquids and disposing of them at water treatment plants, is.

The process of placing a human corpse in a pressurized vat with potassium hydroxide and then heating the liquid until all but bones, teeth and artificial metal joints are left, is catching on as more “eco-friendly” than cremation as a method of disposing of a loved one.  People whose mission in life is to do everything in as …

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Chicago thumbs its nose at Supreme Court over gun case

Who says a city council cannot act quickly to address an emergency?  Less than one week after the United States Supreme Court ruled Chicago’s 28-year old gun ban unconstitutional, the city’s mayor and compliant council rushed through a new firearms ordinance designed to address what they apparently viewed as a crisis, if not a catastrophe – that crime-beleaguered citizens of the Windy City might actually decide to lawfully possess firearms for self-protection.  The City’s rapid response to such a situation is nothing short of blatant civil disobedience; a local government thumbing its nose at the nation’s highest Court. 

The lightening speed with which Daley and his cohorts, including the city’s top lawyer, Mara Georges, acted to thwart the Supreme Court’s June 28th opinion in McDonald v. Chicago, was swifter even than that by the District of Columbia following the high Court’s 2008 Heller decision striking down the three-decades old gun ban in the …

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Supreme Court bases life sentence ruling on “global consensus” nonsense

The Supreme Court’s recent ruling that struck down Chicago’s 28-year old gun ban received the lion’s share of the publicity that accompanied the flurry of decisions handed down by the High Court toward the end of its term.  However, another opinion — this one dealing with life sentences for juvenile felons — raised extremely troubling questions about the basis on which the Court decides to apply constitutional principles.  In particular, the Court’s ruling that a juvenile offender cannot be sentenced to life without parole for any offense short of murder, was based in large part on amorphous grounds that to hold otherwise would offend a “global” consensus on treatment of juvenile offenders, and would be inconsistent with “evolving standards of decency.”

Additionally, in ruling as it did in this case involving a juvenile repeat burglary and home-invasion offender sentenced to life in a Florida court, the five-member majority was clearly making a policy decision and …

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