January 31, 2003
AWESOME Flash Introduction to Libertarianism

This Flash animation introduction to "The Philosophy of Liberty" by the International Society For Individual Liberty is really good. It's very basic, but in a good way. Simply put, it's the best simple introduction to the foundations behind libertarian thought that I've seen to date. It's really cool. The way they use the graphics to illustrate their points is brilliant. It's nearly perfect.

Check it out: Flash introduction to The Philosophy of Liberty

It has background music, so you might want to turn down your volume if you're at work.

Posted by Lance Brown at 06:53 PM
January 30, 2003

I don't know exactly what I think about this. A Pennsylvania school district is considering giving likely-or-near dropouts "undiplomas", which would detail all of the joy and opportunity the kid was losing out on by bagging on school.

From the short article:

The document informs students about what they stand to lose by not finishing their education. It says the recipient has decided to drop out "with the full understanding that he or she may lose up to $420,000 in earnings during his or her lifetime" by working in low-wage jobs or being unemployed.

I don't think I like this, but I can't put my finger on the reason(s) why. I'll think on it a little, and maybe I'll come up with something.

Posted by Lance Brown at 12:08 AM
January 29, 2003
Gulf War 2 Simulation

This is one of the hot tickets lately on the 'Net, apparently. It's got its flaws (not the least of which is being called a game when it's a simulation), and some anti-Administration sarcasm, but overall, it presents a not-inconceivable scenario of how the war Bush wants could get really messy pretty easily. I really think that the pro-war people may be underestimating the backlash and response that will likely come if we launch a war.

On that note, check out the Gulf War 2 "Game" here.

Posted by Lance Brown at 11:58 PM
January 28, 2003
Mad at America

Two articles about the international community getting fed up with America...

...one about Europe...
TIME cover story: Mad at America
(which includes in the sidebar this interesting opinion piece by Brian Eno)

...and one, more disturbing, about South Korea...
MSNBC: Is Uncle Sam still welcome in Seoul?

That article is a little weird in that it goes for a while just talking about how p.o.'d the South Koreans are, without touching upon what precipitated their anger. It does get to it eventually though...

The controversy over U.S. forces reflects the fallout from one of the worst episodes ever in the U.S.-Korean military alliance. Ever since two Korean schoolgirls were crushed to death beneath the tracks of a 45-ton U.S. armored vehicle June 13, Korean activists have been organizing demonstrations outside U.S. bases, shouting anti-American slogans and, on occasion, tossing Molotov cocktails over the walls.
The campaign, which had shown signs of waning, heated up again in November when a U.S. military court at Camp Casey, a sprawling base about 20 miles from Seoul, acquitted two Army sergeants who had been charged with negligent homicide in the case. Panels of Army officers and sergeants concluded there was insufficient evidence to convict the sergeants, including the driver, whose view was obstructed by his vehicle, and the vehicle commander, who saw the girls but couldn’t reach the driver over the vehicle’s radio link.

Full story...

Imagine if we had 37,000 soldiers from another country here doing exercises, and two of them crushed two little American girls. Not that we can easily imagine what it's like to be under the boot (um, I mean assistance) of another country's military. It's just incomprehensible for an American I think...being heavily occupied by another country. Any empathy we might claim for those countries who live under our ever-expanding roof of aid, military assistance, and attached strings would be nothing more than guesswork. I don't know when the last time that foreign military forces crushed young Americans on our land was, but if I had to guess, I'd say it was in the 1800's, if at all.

I'm willing to posit that we would have a lot less cavalier attitude toward intervention and empire-building if we got intervened and empire-built-on ourselves. Not that that's ever going to happen. And not that it wish it would happen...I just wish we would get a better sense of the impact of our foreign policy.

Ignorance may be bliss...but it's ignorant bliss.

Posted by Lance Brown at 11:52 PM
January 27, 2003
Creative Campaigning in Chile

This sort of thing won't really be an option for me in my campaign, but I admire the woman's hutzpah:

Chilean porn politician promises to flash breasts

A Chilean porn star has promised to flash her fellow MPs if her election campaign is successful.

Reichel says if elected she will flash her breasts every time rival politicians begin to argue over legislation.

Full story...

Posted by Lance Brown at 11:35 PM
Peace March Photo Opportunity

My picture's in the paper today. Not a photograph of me -- a picture I took yesterday.

I went to a local peace march yesterday. I was running a bit late, and they had already begun when I got there. In my effort to catch up, I cut through downtown on foot, and ended up just in front of the marchers. I had brought my digital camera, so I figured I'd make good of the situation, and I climbed up on a fence to take a few pictures. Later, I got a chance to take a couple more from a different elevated position.

After the march was over and almost everyone had gone home, the photographer for the local paper showed up. Apparently no one had notified them (don't blame me -- wasn't my march! :-)), and they just found out by random luck, and too late, obviously.

The photographer and remaining peacefolk (myself included) tried to salvage the situation by doing a simulated march -- essentially a posed picture where the 9 of us walked across the street a couple times. Nobody was really happy about it, and the march's organizers lectured the photographer to make sure the caption was going to accurately reflect what the photo was (i.e., that it wasn't the real, full-blown march).

Instead, I offered my photos as a possibility. The photographer was understandably reluctant about it, and when I offered at first I let him take a pass. But after we did the posed pictures I mentioned, I didn't feel at all good about leaving it at that, and I pressed him harder on how to get my pictures considered instead. The newspaper's office is closed on Sundays, so I knew I wouldn't be able to get mine in on time unless I found the way in. Eventually, the photographer said I could follow him there, and to make a long story short...well, here you go -- they used one of mine.

The page will go into the archives (and require a fee) after a while, so here's the pic and caption for posterity:

Protesting for Peace

About 100 peace advocates march along Church Street in Grass Valley as part of the "Sunday Stroll for Sanity." The march is in response to "the country moving into war as if there is no dissent," said Diane Rosner, organizer of the march.

They dissed me on the credit, which surprises me because I typed in the caption and credit at the paper myself. It's no big deal -- my concern was getting an accurate picture published, not expanding my photojournalism fame -- but it's weird. The caption is exactly as I typed it, but my name got lost in the mix somewhere I guess. I suppose it could be that the staff rubbed me out out of jealousy, but I'd like to assume the best. I can prove I took it, in case you don't believe me -- here's the original.

I've been unavailable for the past couple days because my company's web site has been having uptime problems, and that's a major no-no. We have a pretty constant presence of people discussing things at our site, and many of them spend time there basically all day, every day. So any downtime results in immediate and extended frustration of our members. I've been spending a lot of time dealing with that. Also, I had this message almost ready last night, then lost my DirecWay Internet connection for a few hours. Thus, the recent gap in my messages.

Posted by Lance Brown at 11:13 PM
January 25, 2003
Classic Lance

I just dredged up another opinion piece from my pre-blog blogging days-- this one from 11 days after the 9-11 attacks. I've backdated it so it's back there in the Sept. 2001 archives now. It's called "A Little Bit Worried About America", and it makes for an interesting flashback at this point, on two fronts. On the one hand, my hope that America could go into the post 9-11 era calmly didn't really bear fruit. On the other hand, the readiniess of people to buy into the mentalities I discuss has gone down considerably. So America didn't follow my advice in the short term, but it's coming around.

This re-discovery took place as part of the reorganization of my "Links" section in the right-side column. I'm breaking it apart into regular links to outside resources, and internal links to cool posts of mine. That new section is going to be called "Classic Lance" -- thus the title of this post here.

Posted by Lance Brown at 12:24 AM
January 23, 2003
Free-Market.net's assets for sale -- deadline for offers is Friday

The organization behind the massive empire that is Free-Market.net has gone broke, and they are liquidating all their assets, quick-like.

I was going to write more, but it's hours later and I've got to go to bed now. However, time is short on this item, so I'm posting just the links.

There's a short explanation on their home page actually that will get you up to speed pretty quick. And there's links there to this list of assets they're unloading. Lots of cool freedom-oriented Internet property -- domain names, popular websites, databases full of resources...it's sad, really, to see it all in such a state. I've had a huge amount of respect for that whole network for a long time, and now it's about to be dismembered, or worse.

Anyway, if you know anyone that likes libertarianism a lot and has some money or access to it, pass on the link. And quick -- deadline's Friday!

I'm thinking of putting in an offer for Libertarian.org -- a domain name I've been drooling over for a long time.

Posted by Lance Brown at 04:35 AM
January 22, 2003
Two Towns of Jasper tonight

I've been hearing about this documentary that's coming out about the dragging death of James Byrd in Jasper, Texas in 1998. I heard an interview with the filmmakers the other day on NPR, and then I happened upon today's episode of Oprah, and she did the whole episode about the movie-- including more interviewing of the filmmakers. It sounds like it's really good, and it's airing on PBS tonight (Wednesday).

James Byrd was the black man who was dragged behind a pickup truck for three miles by three white guys. The two filmmakers, one black and one white, went into the town where it happened to get people's different perspectives. The white guy took a white film crew and talked to the white people, and the black guy took a black crew and talked to the black people. Pretty smart. It sounds like the resulting film is really revealing and thought-provoking.

I'll be watching it. Check your local station's schedule, because they vary a lot I hear. Maybe not on this one though, because it's network-wide. The website for the program is fairly in-depth, so check that out if you've got doubts or questions..

Posted by Lance Brown at 12:29 AM
January 21, 2003
Jesus Used Healing Cannabis; The "No Fear" Solution

This is another old one that's been sitting on my desktop:

Jesus 'healed using cannabis'

Duncan Campbell in Los Angeles
Monday January 6, 2003
The Guardian

Jesus was almost certainly a cannabis user and an early proponent of the medicinal properties of the drug, according to a study of scriptural texts published this month. The study suggests that Jesus and his disciples used the drug to carry out miraculous healings.

The anointing oil used by Jesus and his disciples contained an ingredient called kaneh-bosem which has since been identified as cannabis extract, according to an article by Chris Bennett in the drugs magazine, High Times, entitled Was Jesus a Stoner? The incense used by Jesus in ceremonies also contained a cannabis extract, suggests Mr Bennett, who quotes scholars to back his claims.

"There can be little doubt about a role for cannabis in Judaic religion," Carl Ruck, professor of classical mythology at Boston University said.

Full Story...

This story speaks for itself really. I'm sure there are skeptics who will brush it off as High Times propaganda, but I suspect Chris Bennett's findings will stand.

So now we have George Washington, William Shakespeare, and Jesus Christ as likely or actual pot users. How does a War on Drugs hold up in the face of such a thing? Is fear really that powerful?

That's a rhetorical question...history since 9/11 has shown clearly that fear can pretty easily trump common sense and principle.

The only way to win that battle, I think, is to diminish the fear. The person in fear is almost always at a disadvantage to the person who is not in fear. Scary Sheriff Hege knows that well enough.

What that usually amounts to is the powerful dominating the meek. But stoner Jesus said "the meek shall inherit the earth", so how do we get there?

No fear. That's how. It was the power of Gandhi, it was the power of King, it's what brings protesters out to face down riot police, and out to pot rallies to risk getting put on "a list". For that matter, it's what leads people to accomplish great things, break through barriers, and make big changes. Fear is an enormous handicap; being without it is an enormous advantage. Take your pick.

Posted by Lance Brown at 12:28 AM
January 20, 2003
Scary Sheriff Hege

Why is Sheriff Hege so scary?

A picture can be worth a thousand words, so I think I'll take the quicker path and just show you:


That picture doesn't really tell the whole story. I could go on and on about what bothers me about Sheriff Hege, but I'm kinda worried he might come and kick my ass. You can take a cruise through his personal site or the official Sheriff of Davidson County website (where I got the image above).

I'm all for law and order, but I'm not for intimidation, moralizing, the militarization of the police, rabid drug warriors, or the "you break the law -- you're a scumbag" mentality.

I wonder if Sheriff Hege and I could find anything we agree upon. There must be something, but it would probably take some exploring. Maybe there's a movie we both like or something -- perhaps Enemy of the State?

Thanks to Tara Sue for bringing Kaiser Hege to my attention.

UPDATE: As a reader mentioned in the comments section here, Mr. Hege has encountered some legal trouble concerning his abuse of power. You can see all the Hege-related articles that have sprung from his exploits (at least the ones that I've read) here. The headline of one kinda sums up Hege's new crisis: Controversial Sheriff Hege Indicted on 15 Counts, Suspended.

Posted by Lance Brown at 11:40 PM
The Cotton Tree

This is a funny (as in quirky) blog that I found while browsing Bloggy Opinions reviews: The Cotton Tree.

The author posts in rhyme -- all the time. Rather than being annoying, it's very compelling -- he's talented, and his style makes even the most ordinary of entries interesting.

Welcome to the blogroll, Sahr Sankoh!

Posted by Lance Brown at 10:43 PM

I finished going through the ACLU's USA-PATRIOT Art Show of political cartoons, and it was really excellent -- one great, biting cartoon after another. It's so cool I'm adding it to my links list, and re-mentioning it here for you, in case you've missed it so far. I found two good cartoons to print out and send to my Mom. I hope I'm not violating their rather strict-sounding copyright statement by doing so. If you interpret their statement strictly, I suppose we wouldn't be allowed to even look at the cartoons. ("CARTOONS CANNOT BE USED IN ANY WAY WITHOUT ARTIST'S PERMISSION!")

Hopefully I won't get sued for sending a couple to my Mom. It could be months before I could get her to go to the website. You, on the other hand, should be there by now.

Posted by Lance Brown at 09:30 PM
Helen Thomas jams Ari Fleischer on War, and Democracy Hypocrisy

I wrote some insights on the following exchange, but I just lost them due to a Google searchbar mishap. Lame. It was nothing spectacular, but it's no fun to put effort into something and have it go to waste.

I'm not going to try and work up a new batch of insight. It's kinda not needed for this anyway, and the item is old news by now. I'll just give you the background, and maybe a little comment afterward.

The background is the morning press briefing at the White House on January 6th of this year. It went swimmingly all the way up to the first question, about 60 seconds in.

Enter Helen Thomas, one of the most experienced White House journalists in U.S. history. She's behind the "Q"s below. The emphasis is mine.

Q At the earlier briefing, Ari, you said that the President deplored the taking of innocent lives. Does that apply to all innocent lives in the world? And I have a follow-up.

MR. FLEISCHER: I refer specifically to a horrible terrorist attack on Tel Aviv that killed scores and wounded hundreds. And the President, as he said in his statement yesterday, deplores in the strongest terms the taking of those lives and the wounding of those people, innocents in Israel.

Q My follow-up is, why does he want to drop bombs on innocent Iraqis?

MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, the question is how to protect Americans, and our allies and friends --

Q They're not attacking you.

MR. FLEISCHER: -- from a country --

Q Have they laid the glove on you or on the United States, the Iraqis, in 11 years?

MR. FLEISCHER: I guess you have forgotten about the Americans who were killed in the first Gulf War as a result of Saddam Hussein's aggression then.

Q Is this revenge, 11 years of revenge?

MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, I think you know very well that the President's position is that he wants to avert war, and that the President has asked the United Nations to go into Iraq to help with the purpose of averting war.

Q Would the President attack innocent Iraqi lives?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President wants to make certain that he can defend our country, defend our interests, defend the region, and make certain that American lives are not lost.

Q And he thinks they are a threat to us?

MR. FLEISCHER: There is no question that the President thinks that Iraq is a threat to the United States.

Q The Iraqi people?

MR. FLEISCHER: The Iraqi people are represented by their government. If there was regime change, the Iraqi --

Q So they will be vulnerable?

MR. FLEISCHER: Actually, the President has made it very clear that he has not dispute with the people of Iraq. That's why the American policy remains a policy of regime change. There is no question the people of Iraq --

Q That's a decision for them to make, isn't it? It's their country.

MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, if you think that the people of Iraq are in a position to dictate who their dictator is, I don't think that has been what history has shown.

Q I think many countries don't have -- people don't have the decision -- including us.

That's the end of the exchange. The next item is an unrelated question from a different reporter. You can see it in context here.

I don't know if that last statement of Helen's was meant to just refer to Election 2000, or if it was intended to be a bigger statement about the patheticness of our claim to "representative democracy" given the lack of choice presented by the "bipartisan" front.

Either way, it's great to see someone is still willing to speak up and ask the hard questions. Even if the answers are evasive or absent altogether.

Posted by Lance Brown at 08:44 PM
January 19, 2003
Thanks to the protestors

I want to thank everyone who joined in the protests all around the world yesterday. Don't worry if the mainstream media doesn't give you the coverage you felt you earned. There are plenty of people who don't rely on mainstream media for their news, and they number in the tens of millions, at the very least. Those people -- the underground of the new millenium -- are tuned in loud and clear, mostly via the Internet (and ever-lovin' C-Span).

Thank you for inspiring us, for representing us, for raising your voices, for dissenting, for taking it to the streets, for honoring Dr. King and the long history of non-violent protest, and just for being you. Great job!

Anti-war demonstrators rally on Capitol Mall
Organizers put turnout at 200,000

The People's Daily (China):
Anti-war Protests Worldwide, UN Gets Tough on Iraq
Photo News: Anti-war Demonstration around the World (*this one's really sweet)

Yahoo! News/AP:
Antiwar Protests Draw Thousands in U.S.

San Francisco Chronicle:
Nation rallies for peace
Tens of thousands in S.F. demand Bush abandon war plans

Washington Times:
No Iraqi war, thousands say in Mall protest

New York Times:
Thousands in D.C. Protest Iraq War Plans

BBC News:
Global protests against Iraq war

And so on...click here for links to a zillion (176 actually) other stories.

Interesting thing...I saw links to 3 or 4 stories from China's The People's Daily about the protests -- separate stories about different ones all around the world. Not to mention two stories about poll results opposing the war (or the U.S.), in America and Canada -- all listed prominently on their World News page. I wonder if that's them intentionally capitalizing on the protests to influence their people against the U.S. and the war -- or just good journalism? Either way, they get my vote for best protest coverage that I've seen so far.

And a semi-reluctant three cheers for International ANSWER for bringing it all together. I've still got most of the same concerns about them that I've had since I saw their first rally, but I've got to give credit where credit is due. It's due to International ANSWER. And of course to the thousands of organizations and hundreds of thousands millions of people who worked so hard to make the January 18th protests a major worldwide news event. Very impressive. It's pretty sweet to see people all over the world working together to try to stop a war.


Posted by Lance Brown at 12:40 PM
January 18, 2003
The nonconforming minority

From this page:

"This hour in history needs a dedicated circle of transformed nonconformists. Dangerous passions of pride, hatred and selfishness are enthroned in our lives; truth lies prostrate on the rugged hills of nameless Calvaries. The saving of our world from pending doom will come, not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming minority."
--Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1963)

Posted by Lance Brown at 03:16 PM
MPP's Anti-Drug Czar Ads

MPP rocks! This isn't the first time I've said that, nor will it be the last.

The Marijuana Policy Project is relentless. Their latest foray in the war on the War on Drugs is a series of TV ads they've got planned. They are response ads, take-offs on the recent spate of ads linking drugs to terrorism and accidental shootings and other scary stuff like that. All they've got so far are the scripts, but they sound really good. If you've seen the ads that they're mocking, they'll make more sense.

MPP is letting people vote with their dollars, by making donations on behalf of the ads they want to get produced first.

It's part of their "War on the Drug Czar". Just the name of that campaign is a pretty good indication of how much MPP rocks, and how relentless they are.

Check out the ads, and drop some bills on MPP to get 'em made and on the air if you can. If you're anything like me, you get frustrated when you watch the government's outrageous anti-drug ads, and you wish there was a way to respond and debunk them. Here's your chance. MPP's doing the hard part -- your job is relatively easy in comparison.

Posted by Lance Brown at 02:20 AM
January 17, 2003
Information Awareness Logo Switcheroo

I noticed the other day that the Information Awareness Office changed its logo. Should we be worried that our government has a habit of making really poor marketing choices, and then covering them up only after the damage has been done?

First it was Carnivore, a great name for a surveillance tool -- if you want it to be seen as a vicious animal. Of course, I don't think we were ever really supposed to find out about Carnivore, or at least they let themselves think we wouldn't. I can't find another way to rationalize such a poor choice of name. So, months after the huge controversy had already blown up, they changed the name to DCS 1000. But that lasted about a month, a month where news sources referred to both names. But now it's pretty much just "Carnivore" again when people talk about it.

Then there was Total Information Awareness and the Information Awareness Office -- the scariest government surveillance initiative since, well, Carnivore.

And this...
...is the logo they designed for it. It looks like it won a contest for Most Orwellian Logo.

Well, never say that our government is out of touch, because someone with their finger on the pulse of America got a clue and chilled out the logo considerably:


Don't worry folks! It's just some neat technology-type thing! Pay no attention to the logo behind the curatin!

Posted by Lance Brown at 12:16 AM
January 16, 2003
China blocks bloggers

China has blocked a site used by hundreds of thousands people worldwide to post Web logs, according to bloggers and the site's developer.
BlogSpot.com, where people write about their daily lives up to several times a day, has been inaccessible through Chinese networks for a week, they said.

"This is not due to a technical problem,'' said Jason Shellen, business development director at San Francisco-based Pyra Labs, which runs the Web site.

Full story...

Posted by Lance Brown at 12:00 AM
January 15, 2003
The Smoaks and General Patton dot-com

The story/campaign/movement of the Smoaks and their (unfairly killed by an over-eager cop) dog General Patton just took a step in the right direction, in the form of www.pattonsmoak.com.

It looks brand new, but it's already got the seeds of a good activist effort. There's a legal fund for the Smoaks lawsuit against the police, and a Patton Fund which will be distributed to animals shelters and animal protection organizations. They've got contact info for the Tennessee and Cookeville government officials, links to stories about their ordeal, and a way to get in touch with them.

I think I'm going to urge the Smoaks to use the Patton Fund to pay for training police forces in animal sensitivity. There are already lots of organizations and efforts that support general animal-defense projects, but I doubt there are many (if any) that advocate in defense of dogs in poor Patton's position. It just makes sense that that's what the money should go for, I think.

It's only a matter of time before they have a blog. Probably not much time at that.

Posted by Lance Brown at 12:54 AM
Bush's Scorecard of Evil

From The Wage Slave Journal:

George W. Bush Scorecard of Evil

President Bush took a sharp right turn in policy soon after his inauguration, surprising a country that heard a carefully crafted message of moderate governance during the campaign. He's picked some strange battles early in his administration, prompting an outcry from everyone ranging from liberal Democrats to moderate Republicans. It's getting harder every day to remember all of the truly mystifying policies the Bush administration is pursuing, so the Wage Slave Journal offers this scorecard to help you keep track of all of the evil deeds Bush commits and, more important, to provide a record for your perusal when November 2004 rolls around.

I can't speak for everything they claim as "evil", but this appears to be a fairly comprehensive watchdog effort, and that's almost always a good thing.

Posted by Lance Brown at 12:07 AM
January 14, 2003
Cockfighting Rooster Kills Handler

I'm not an advocate of violence, but I support self-defense. In that spirit, go rooster! Hopefully the scumbags who run cockfights are stupid enough to keep arming their "fighters". Viva la revolucion del martillo! Power to the poultry!

Posted by Lance Brown at 11:31 PM

I haven't been posting that much in the past couple days, mostly because of intervening events. My car broke down on Sunday, and dealing with that has taken up a couple hours a day since. Plus I had the Nevada County Libertarian Party monthly meeting yesterday, which takes up a lot of my time, especially when we're videotaping it (because I've got to pick up the equipment for that and bring it back the next day). It doesn't take that much to eat up my precious free time each day, and most of the stuff I've been wanting to post here isn't quick and easy.

Posted by Lance Brown at 11:30 PM
January 13, 2003

Here's a collection of controversial and aggressive cartoons about the War on Civil Liberties and other post-9/11 initiatives.

From the site: "WARNING: This show includes the cartoon Ari Fleischer calls 'wrong as wrong can be!'"

Thanks to the ACLU for this.

Posted by Lance Brown at 03:24 AM
January 11, 2003
More on the Smoaks and General Patton

Thankfully, the story of the Smoaks is gaining national attention. (They're the folks whose dog was killed in a totally FUBAR highway stop a few days ago.) The video from the police cruiser was released a couple days ago, and it looks like it's becoming a full-blown Major Story. I couldn't be more glad (well, under the circumstances at least).

I haven't seen the video yet -- I get a "bad address" error when I try to pull it up from CNN's page -- but word is that the average viewer wouldn't think the dog's killing was at all justified, and the Smoak's version of the story was accurate. Nothing seems to support the officer's claim that the dog was growling or acting aggressively. And the dog was only out of the car for three seconds before he was shot.

Anyway, you can read all about it at this site, which has about 6 related stories linked at the bottom. To get an idea of the public reaction, check out the discussion page that springs from the story. It has over 2300 comments posted on it in the past two days. Why, even my post here on the subject from a few days ago had two comments posted to it-- which is one more than any other post so far.

Check out CNN's page, which has two video clips on it (that I can't see).

Here's a page with the Smoaks contact info, and some other bits from the local North Carolina Fox affiliate. That site also has a story about how people are planning a memorial service for Patton at the mile marker where he was killed.

The Smoaks are pursuing legal action against both of the police agencies. I think I might send them some money to help them out in that regard, if it could help.

Hopefully all this outcry will result in more sense and restraint in police treatment of innocent dogs, along the lines of what I was saying the other day.

It's kind of a shame that without the video footage, this story wouldn't have gotten nearly as huge. But I guess the flipside is that videotaping on cruisers is becoming more and more common, and it did catch this one. Otherwise, Officer Hall's version of the event, which sounds like it's not entirely accurate...

"Suddenly, a dog, I believe to be a pit-bull, jumped from the suspect vehicle, singled me out from the other officers, and charged toward me growling in an aggressive manner.

"I yelled at the dog to 'get back' but it attempted to circle me to attack, so I felt that I had no other option but to protect myself.

...would probably have predominated.

Supplement: If I sound kinda unemotional and dry when talking about this, it's just because I'm intentionally not allowing my full, visceral feelings about this to brew up. If I start to think -- even for just a second or two -- about how the owners must have felt in that situation, or how horribly sad it is that that dog was murdered just for being curious, my heart rate and adrenaline levels start to rise. I was finally able to catch some of the police video, off of this page, though it was mixed in with a bunch of other newsbits from the story, and they intentioanlly covered up the shooting itself. For me, the smoking gun is General Patton's tail, just as he's running to his doom. Ever seen a pissed-off dog running with his tail sticking up in a big happy swoop? I highly doubt it.

It makes me nervous about taking my pets with me in the motorhome once I go on tour. With any luck, the Smoaks will accomplish their goal of this never happening to anyone else.

I'll repeat what I said the other day:

Tranquilizers. Stun guns. A big slab of steak. There are other ways to stop a dog.

Posted by Lance Brown at 11:58 PM
January 10, 2003
Time asks you to vote on the greatest threat to world peace in 2003

Time's doing an online poll with the question "which country poses the greatest danger to world peace in 2003?"

The choices are Iraq, North Korea, and the U.S..

It's either surprising, or no surprise at all, that the U.S. is currently "winning" with 52.1% of the 27,000+ votes.

Cast your vote here.

Posted by Lance Brown at 08:00 PM
A Drug War Carol

A Drug War Carol is a cool comic book-style look at the history of drug prohibition, told through a take-off on Dickens' "A Christmas Carol". It's quite long -- a long series of comic book panels -- but also quite thorough. I thought I knew a pretty good amount about the history, but I learned quite a bit by reading this. The art and style of it is done extremely well -- it's very professional. I could continue to describe and praise it for a long while if I tried, but I wouldn't do it justice. It's better seen than described.

If you know someone who has an open mind but who's fairly clueless about the wretched history of Prohibition, and passively or actively supports the War on Drugs, send them to A Drug War Carol.

Posted by Lance Brown at 12:01 AM
January 08, 2003
Bloggy Op'd

It turns out that as I was writing yesterday's post in anticipation of my Bloggy Opinions review, it was already done and posted on their site. Here it is. There weren't too many surprises, but it was a good review, and the longest one of the several new ones on their main page, if that means anything.

I'll post a more in-depth reaction to it tomorrow this weekend in a while.

Posted by Lance Brown at 11:59 PM
January 07, 2003
Bloggy Opinions

I added a link to Bloggy Opinions in the blogroll. They're a blog/diary review site. I think it's a great service, and they seem to do it mainly as a labor of love, which makes me all the more appreciative. They appear to be very direct and straightforward in their critiques, which I think is great. I don't have enough harsh critics in my life-- seriously.

So I added a link, initially as a gratuitous attempt to get bonus points in my upcoming review. But as I was adding it, under that rationale, I stopped myself and made me evaluate whether I wanted to add it on its own merits. And I realized that I sure do, for the reasons I stated above. Helping people improve their blogs for free is good stuff.

And, having reached that conclusion, I decide to do one better and opine about it here, and give BO a little extra exposure.

Posted by Lance Brown at 09:48 PM
Why Police Should Not Have More Power (Reason #701685)

I get pretty upset when I hear that a person's dog got killed in a police raid. I don't care what the person did; dogs are innocent victims who have no way to compose a rational response to such a situation. Which is to say, there's no way they could know they should stand down when cops are around. Any dog with half its wits is going to growl and/or act erratically when faced with big, forceful strange men and women speaking or shouting in stern voices and grabbing their owner(s).

I get even more upset when the dog gets killed in a raid that's a mistake -- a raid on an innocent person. I can only begin to imagine the outrage and pain a person who was subjected to that must feel. (Not to mention the suffering the dog feels, and all the happiness it will never have.)

I get even more upset when the dog gets killed because the police ignored the pleas from the owner to close the car doors so the dogs wouldn't get out.

And, assuming I've got any more room for upsetness, I get even more upset when all this takes place because a bunch of idiots had their heads up their asses and their wires crossed, resulting in a family being handcuffed on their knees behind their car, and forced to watch, helpless, while the then-inevitable played out, and their dog growled his way to a sudden case of having his head blown off-- all for the crime of leaving a wallet on the roof of the car at the gas station.

You may have gathered by now that I'm not talking in general any more.

Meet the Smoak family. Guilty of the felony offense of having a wallet fly off of their car, the Smoaks have joined the rapidly-growing ranks of innocent folks who know what it's like to be on the wrong end of the long arm of the law.

I'm unable to give an objective account of what happened to them, so you'll just have to read it for yourself. I've given some pretty good hints so far though. The link above goes to a main page where stories seem to be collecting as the news unfolds. There you can read the original story which got me fired up -- 'Felony stop' leaves family traumatized -- and the more recent stories of the police officers rationalizing what they did.

To be fair, it sounds like the (local police) officer who shot the dog was a victim of the situation as well, and it sounds like the State Highway Patrol is to blame for creating the situation itself-- the felony stop that never should have been, and the open car doors and unheard Smoak pleas. But how much consolation is that to the Smoaks? My guess is somewhere around zero.

Although it's almost a secondary issue considering the grand amount of incompetence involved in this particular mishap, here's my two cents on the issue of dogs as innocent victims of police raids. I'll keep it short:

Tranquilizers. Stun guns. A big slab of steak. There are other ways to stop a dog.

(I've since posted update posts here and here)

Posted by Lance Brown at 03:07 AM
January 06, 2003
Top 25 Libertarian Sites

I'm finally getting close to showing up on the Top 25 Libertarian Sites list. Not bad, for having only been signed up for a couple months. Right now, the #25 site has 289 incoming clicks, and this site has 201 clicks. That means the campaign should be on the list within a week or two, and hopefully it will continue to rise from there. That should prove to be some good exposure.

You can help speed up the process by clicking right here.

Posted by Lance Brown at 03:47 AM
January 05, 2003
Sierra Students for Change

I met yesterday with folks from Sierra Students for Change, which is a newly-formed local organization, founded at nearby Sierra College. I met one of the founders of the group through the Funeral for the Bill of Rights a few weeks back. Her name is Darlene Loyd, and she's a really pumped-up activist-- all energy and positivity. Good stuff. According to the summary of the meeting, I was a "Special Guest" -- so that's something. I just let the folks know about the Bill of Rights Defense thing we're putting together here.

Sierra College -- at least our small local campus -- has been utterly quiet politically the whole time I've lived here, as far as I know. I've wanted to do something about that, but I haven't known anyone who's a student there who had the time and inclination to rouse up some activism there. I could have just taken the initiative and roused it up myself, but without any knowledge of the college dynamics, and with a need to prioritize my efforts, I just haven't done it. Darlene's committed to getting some activist action out of the generally sleepy campus, and the group seems to be doing well, considering that it was just founded a few weeks back, during the last week of last semester.

The only potential concern is that the club is defining itself loosely as "progressive". And "progressive" tends to mean the use of a bit more government force than I'm confortable with. It's all good, though-- these days there's plenty for lefties and libertarians to agree on, what with the creeping police state and the prospect of permanent war, not to mention corporate welfare up the yin-yang.

Also, in the meantime I'm going to work on showing Darlene that she's probably really a libertarian. :-)

As far as I know they don't have a website yet, or I'd link to it.

Posted by Lance Brown at 11:37 PM
January 04, 2003
Truth Out

Truth Out is a good "dissident" news site. They appear to aggregate stories from all different sources. I get their e-mail updates, though I don't think I signed up for them. I think someone else might have signed me up, because the e-mail address I'm subscribed at is one I can't imagine using for that.

You can subscribe here.

Or give 'em some money. I just did. Apparently they're growing fast and aren't making ends meet. It'd be a shame to have them go away for lack of funding.

Posted by Lance Brown at 04:04 AM
January 03, 2003
TV Turn-around

I had a TV appearance yesterday which took a bunch of cool turns for the better, resulting in a lot of talk about libertarianism and individual liberties -- in other words, politics a la Lance. :-)

The scenario was that I was one of the three hosts of the Nevada County News Hour, the community access TV show that I was a guest on a few weeks ago. It was intended to be a "2002 in Nevada County" review-type news hour, but the conversation kept wandering into abstract political theorizing-- mostly, me espousing libertarian views and the other two hosts debating back and forth with me about them. I wasn't really trying to pull the show that way, but the other two sort of encouraged and went along with it.

We kept going back to local politics and news, but there was just a lot more abstract political debate than anyone expected. The main host, Eric Tomb, even joked at the end by closing with, "You've been watching the Nevada County Political Theory Hour." I don't know if the people watching it were as amused by us as we were, but it was good fun nonetheless. The other host is a woman named Sharon Boivin, who has worked in government since she finished college, and who tends to support a fairly sizable central government. She's a sorta moderate-conservative, working younger grandmother type. She's lived in Nevada County for over 50 years. Which is to say, her and I are a little different. ;-) I get along pretty well with her-- she's a really nice lady, and she gives me a lot of credit and respect, even though I'm just a punk kid in comparison to her. Though now that I think of it, she did try the 'ol "I used to think like that when I was younger, too" trick once. Mostly she's really supportive though, and listens and asks questions like she really wants to hear what I think. She was very complimentary toward me both during the show and afterward. She admires my ability to stick to my principles and defend them so adamantly. I told her I work hard at it, which is true. I like that I'm able to get along well with people from a variety of spectrums of society-- particulary people who are significantly older than me. Nevada County has a demographic slant toward the older age groups-- my age group is the smallest of all, I think. Most of my friends and primary acquaintances locally are in their 40's, 50's, and beyond. (I'm 30, BTW.) It's kinda weird, but it's kinda cool, too. It's like I'm skipping a grade, socially, and moving up to the older kids class. Not that I do a lot of "normal" socializing-- most of my interactions locally are in the course of activism of some sort or another. I don't do much of the casual, have-a-good-time time socializing. I got my fill of that routine during high school and college.

Anyway, back to the TV appearance. I don't think I'll put the whole thing online, because a bunch of it is local political stuff which won't mean much to folks without the local background. Maybe I'll grab a few clips of the juicier freedom debate portions that came up. It won't be right away, because I'm behind and bogged down in work and projects and stuff. I have to do some catching up.

That's also why I lamely missed posting on the first two days of this year. I have a lot of different things going on, and my days are overflowing with things I need to get done. It's a temporary condition...I'm slowly pulling out of it. I almost wrote and posted this message last night, but then I got derailed by a way-overlong phone call, and the overflow effect mounted some more. I'm inching my way back, though, and I think I'll be back to posting daily again now.

Posted by Lance Brown at 04:22 AM