Archive for May, 2011

In French or English, Strauss-Kahn Being Railroaded

French-bashing is a pastime of increasing popularity among conservative politicians and media pundits. The French attitude of superiority, recognized by Alexis de Tocqueville in the 19th Century (“the French want no-one to be their superior”), facilitates this sport. This is, however, most unfortunate for former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn (often known simply by his initials, “DSK”), as he fights felony sex charges leveled against him in New York City.

The rush to judgment against the wealthy and flamboyant Frenchman has turned the legal process into something more like a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, than the measured and deliberate search for the truth which is the presumed goal of our judicial system.

The charges against Strauss-Kahn, splashed across the front page of tabloids from the Big Apple to every European capital, are well-known. The now-former chairman of the International Monetary Fund and potential Socialist Party candidate for the French presidency, …

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Circumcision May Be Outlawed in San Francisco

San Francisco, a city that has long been a safe-haven for the liberal elite, has been on a ban-happy kick of late. But the City by the Bay may have gone a bridge too far with its latest proposed ban . . . on circumcisions!

Last year, so-called “Happy Meals” – children’s meals accompanied by a free gift for the toddlers – found themselves in the city’s gun sights (a bad turn of phrase, I know, for a city that shudders when even a picture of a gun appears in an advertisement). That particular ban would permit such inducements to be given away only if the meal met the city’s stringent “nutritional criteria” (probably broccoli, spinach and carrots). The city manager explained, apparently with a straight face, that San Francisco was “part of a movement that is moving forward an agenda of food justice.”

Now the city may be moving toward an agenda of “genital justice.”

Regardless of whether the city’s Grand Pooh Bahs can defend with a straight face the proposed ban on clipping a …

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Governments Hassling Gold Coin Sales

If you plan to sell a few gold coins or pieces of gold jewelry because the price of gold is at a record level, be prepared for increased hassling by government regulators and local law enforcement.

The good news for those who own some gold coins is that the price of gold is at an all-time high. The bad news is that local governments are passing ordinances and regulations making it increasingly difficult for law-abiding citizens to sell gold coins to dealers. This is another in an ever-expanding list of examples of government’s irresistible urge to regulate everything, especially if it is something popular.

As usual, governments are justifying their latest moves to make the sale of gold coins more difficult, by claiming the booming popularity of buying and selling gold coins (and jewelry) have led to an increase in theft of such items. That may be; but this typical government response of inconveniencing everyone in order to facilitate nabbing a small number of lawbreakers, …

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Congress To Expand War on Terror

When it was learned US forces had killed Osama bin Laden, many observers quickly concluded this signaled the end of the “war on terror”; because our primary objective in bringing those directly responsible for 9/11 had been satisfied.

Unfortunately, those of us seeking to start scaling back the “war on terror” – so costly in term money, lives and civil liberties here at home – may have a long wait. In fact, if the House Armed Services Committee has its way, the “war” will actually expand.

According to a report by Eli Lake at the Washington Times, this committee – led by Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) – has added language to the defense budget for the upcoming fiscal year that “would define the current war on al Qaeda to include the Taliban and affiliated armed groups.”

House Republicans argue that since bin Laden is out of the picture, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), passed just days following the September 11, 2001 attacks, needs to be “updated.” This …

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Techno-Nannies Target School Lunches

Taxpayer-funded and government-controlled surveillance cameras are – unfortunately – becoming commonplace in cities large and small across the country. They are employed for everything from increasing local government revenues from red-light scofflaws, to supposedly guarding against terrorists attending sporting events. Now, a school district in Texas has taken this surveillance-camera obsession to a new low – spying on grade school students’ eating habits.

According to a recent report from the Associated Press, five elementary schools in San Antonio are using some $2 million in US taxpayer funding from the Agriculture Department, to install high-tech cameras that will calculate how many calories and nutrients individual students consumed during lunch. (The same high-tech snooping presumably will be employed at schools serving the little darlings taxpayer-funded breakfasts.)

Each child will be assigned a lunch tray with a barcode. As the child pays for their meal, the …

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Indiana Court Okays Illegal Police Entries

For centuries a person’s home has been considered his castle. This fundamental liberty was recognized in the Magna Carta and later in our own Bill of Rights. After all, our Founding Fathers fought a war for independence from the British for routinely violating these cherished and long-recognized rights.

The Fourth Amendment is not ambiguous in its meaning; clearly stating that “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Just last week, however, in a move that would have made King George III proud, the Indiana Supreme Court cavalierly decided that police can enter a person’s home for any reason – or no reason, or an unlawful reason — and the homeowner forced to stand aside and let them do …

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U.N. Gets in Bed with “Mother Earth”

The United Nations has long been an institution of little true value; serving largely to spread statist ideals around the world, and which purports to act as the arbitrator of legitimacy in international affairs, despite its many scandals and failures. It is hard to foresee a scenario that would increase the worthlessness of this organization, but a recent proposal may do just that.

Bolivia, led by leftist President Evo Morales, and other socialist nations are pushing a treaty that would afford “Mother Earth” the same rights as humans. This proposal actually will be seriously considered by the UN; which two years ago encouraged such nonsense by passing a resolution establishing April 22nd as “International Mother Earth Day.”

According to an article at Canada.com, the treaty would give the Earth “a series of specific rights that include rights to life, water and clean air; the right to repair livelihoods affected by human activities; and the right to be free from pollution.” …

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Does The Patriot Act Trump The Constitution?

Two days ago, I testified before a subcommittee of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee. The topic was the USA PATRIOT Act; and specifically, provisions of the law set to expire at the end of this month. The most problematic of these provisions allows the government to gain access to a person’s private records and other “things,” in the hands of a third party, if sought for an investigation involving terrorism or foreign intelligence. This would include, for example, a person’s medical records, financial records, school records, business records, travel records, etc.

Currently, under the PATRIOT Act, the government can access this private information or other items, without any showing whatsoever that there is a suspicion (much less, “probable cause”) that the person whose privacy the government seeks to violate, has committed any offense or is associated in any way with a suspected terrorist or even an associate of a known or suspected terrorist.

Among the other …

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Government – The Blind Leading The Blind

Nearly two years ago, officials in Cobb County, Georgia purchased a shopping center at a cost of $5.75 million [taxpayer] dollars in hopes of converting the property into offices and a senior center. The local government officials planned on using federal dollars from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to assist with construction of the senior center. 

Since the new location had to be used to consolidate administrative offices for seniors, the county had planned to use revenues from the sale of properties where those offices and the existing senior day care center were located, to help defray the cost of purchasing the shopping center, according to a recent article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

However, an idiotic but little-noticed federal regulation has thrown a major monkey wrench into the County’s plans.  Apparently, since the proposed center lies in the flight path of Dobbins Air Reserve Base, the county is barred from using federal HUD funding …

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The Privacy Paradox

Americans are fascinated with electronic communication devices; “obsessed” might be a more accurate descriptor. This has created a noticeable, perhaps bizarre, contradiction.  On the one hand, users of personal communication devices willingly, almost delightedly, send to the world detailed descriptions of their daily lives; from what they eat, to where they go, to what they see, and how they feel.  They want such devices to reveal the quickest route to get somewhere, and to tell them the cheapest price for an item they covet once they get there.

On the other hand, when one of the companies that makes such communication devices is discovered or alleged to be gathering data showing where users are when they use the devices, many of those very same users cry “foul.”  The companies themselves are whipped-sawed between meeting customers increasing demands for ever more useful “apps,” and efforts to maintain some degree of privacy of users’ information.

It should come as no surprise …

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