Thursday, August 30, 2007

Newsflash: War in Iraq is a balls-up

According to the Washington Post, a new report from the Government Accountability Office (not yet available on the GAO Website) finds that "Iraq has failed to meet all but three of 18 congressionally mandated benchmarks for political and military progress." The report stands in stark contrast to the blowing-sunshine-up-our-collective-asses version of events emanating from the White House. Of course, anybody who bothers to follow the news knows that the Bush administration's take on the ongoing occupation of Iraq reeks of well-ripened bullshit, but the GAO report adds a detailed, well-researched gloss on the increasingly obvious fiasco that is the U.S. intervention in Saddam Hussein's old bailiwick.

I'm increasingly astonished that anybody remains capable of supporting Bush's war. It's marginally understandable that administration apparatchik's remain wedded to their little overseas adventure--it's hard to admit that you've pissed away lives and money in a fruitless cause--but why do some members of the public-at-large remain in cheerleader mode? It's not like they bear responsibility for the bad choices made by the clowns in Washington.

I suspect the continued support for the war (and for other bad policies of various and sundry politicians) is a manifestation of tribal behavior. People tend to identify themselves as members of groups and to adopt the trappings of the groups with which they've affiliated. I think that's why some of the folks we all know seem to become stereotypes of themselves over time, adopting a whole package of values and attitudes as if they've signed up for a premium cable TV deal. In the case of a lot of war supporters, I'm not convinced that they actually believe the occupation of Iraq is a good idea; they've just accepted a figurative membership card with the group that's gung-ho for putting boots on the ground, so they adopt that position to be good members of the tribe.

I'd like to think the new GAO report will help to shake that tribal conviction. We'll just have to wait and see.



This interesting turn of events from today's news:

A county judge struck down Iowa's decade-old gay marriage ban as unconstitutional Thursday and ordered local officials to process marriage licenses for six gay couples.

It's good news but ... Iowa? Really?


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The pleasure is all mine

I write this as I lounge on my sofa, sipping a glass of bourbon. There's a cool summer breeze wafting in through the window, and I just concluded an enjoyable evening with my wife (and child, at the beginning) of pasta, conversation and a little TV (a retrospective on the first five years of Saturday Night Live--the only years that matter). The important thread running through all of this, one too often given short shrift, is pleasure. The things I did tonight, at least in the way I did them, from creating a fancier supper than necessary to pouring myself an evening drink, have given me pleasure.

Pleasure is an oft-derided value in American life. I'm reminded of that fact as I peruse the latest hysterical headlines about Americans getting fatter and Sen. Larry Craig cruising for "dates" in men's rooms. Sen. Craig has speckled his career with a series of anti-gay votes while, apparently, personally nurturing a taste for beefcake. Americans as a whole are being driven into a panicked lather about expanding waistlines--an expansion fueled by their own relatively new-found (in historical terms) access to plentiful supplies of cheap and flavorful foods. In both cases, a failure to recognize pleasure as a value in and of itself is in play.

Assuming the charges against Sen. Craig are true--and let's not forget his guilty plea--he's on record supporting a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage even as he engages in an almost two-dimensional stereotype of anonymous gay sex. But I think I'm on solid ground saying that the public fascination with Craig's case has little to do with his rank hypocrisy and everything to do with his pleasure-seeking behavior. As sexualized as our culture is, sex is still laden with all sorts of cultural baggage that renders it, in the eyes of the many, as something a bit shameful. We have trouble imagining public figures stripping down and slipping between the sheets--let alone getting freaky in public places. Trouble imagining it? Hell, we think it's a bit icky--better that they say their prayers and utter "good night" with a chaste peck on the cheek.

And what about obesity, that very visible demonstration that food is now plentiful and affordable? Of course eating is enjoyable; besides earth-shattering sex, is there anything more pleasurable than a plate of Pad Thai washed down with a cold beer? Well, a pulled-pork sandwich might do the job too. Why shouldn't people indulge in the gustatory delights denied to hundreds of generations of their ancestors through droughts, plagues of locusts and general crop failures? And if a Buddha belly isn't the healthiest shape for the human body, well then, neither is the skeletal definition of a bout of starvation--and starvation isn't half as much fun as pigging out at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

That's right, pleasure involves trade-offs--but so do all values and preferences. It's up to each of us to decide what's important to us--what will gain us the most enjoyment from life. For some, it's sexual abstinence and a diet of greens and tap water; for others, it's a turn greased up in the sling followed by a smorgasbord. One path may lead to a longer life, but the other may mean a more fulfilling one--depending on your tastes. Most of us, of course, fall somewhere in between.

But pleasure is very definitely an important value, and one which we're all entitled to give the weight we, individually, believe it deserves. And if that means that our neighbors make choices that we wouldn't emulate ... Well, hell, let's just hope that they're having a good time.

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Heh heh

Reason magazine editor Nick Gillespie takes Sen. Larry Craig to the woodshed--not for his fumbling men's-room come-ons, but for his hypocrisy on the issue.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Gonzales is gone

Digging for the roots of the Second Amendment

Just a few words, but they cause so much debate:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution seems clear enough to the casual reader--the amendment means what it says, and protects the right of Americans to own and carry weapons. But, for decades, most politicians and legal scholars either ignored those few words, or claimed that, somehow, they only referred to the power of states to maintain National Guard units. To most folks, that seems an odd reading, but it was the prevailing point of view of the people in power through both Democratic and Republican administrations during much of the 20th Century.

Now the tide seems to have turned once again in the debate over the meaning of the allegedly confusing Second Amendment. In two separate cases: first, United States v. Emerson, and later (and more importantly) in Parker v. District of Columbia, two federal appeals courts have held that the Second Amendment does, in fact, protect the rights of individuals; the decision in Parker actually found Washington, D.C.'s gun ban unconstitutional under that apparently commonsense reading of the amendment's language.

So, what has happened to change the legal landscape so thoroughly? Scholarship! Lots and lots of legal and historical scholarship have tremendously strengthened the argument that the Second Amendment is important to individual rights after all. In Search of the Second Amendment, an important documentary by lawyer and best-selling author David T. Hardy, details the recent findings of a generation of legal scholars and historians--and some of the important uses to which Second Amendment rights have been put to defend other important rights, such as life, liberty and property.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of bumps in the road that might prevent
In Search of the Second Amendment from reaching as wide an audience as it should. Most importantly, Hardy should either have hired a professional sound engineer or else fired the one he did hire and brought in new talent. The audio varies in quality from interview to interview and is so garbled as to be nearly unintelligible in one segment in which Hardy himself appears. The sound problems distract the viewer from the meat of the documentary.

The other problem is that the film wanders a bit during a panel discussion sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute. Hardy probably included the material to further cement the case for the Second Amendment as a protector of individual rights through the testimony of some truly heavyweight legal scholars, but he risks losing his viewers. My wife, who is perfectly capable of chewing her way through medical journals, complained that this material was unfocused and dry.

But that may be the risk you take when you set out to counteract decades of bad assumptions with good scholarship. Watching an intellectual case being built may not woo a mass audience away from its affection for American Idol, but it's edifying viewing if you have any interest in history--especially if you are interested in the cultural and political factors that played such a large part in the evolution of the legal structure with which we live today.

Hardy takes the viewer from the original Englishman's duty to be armed through its transformation by intellectual ferment and political tumult into a right to be armed and that right's transplantation to the fertile soil of the American frontier. From there he describes colonial-era treatment of the right to bear arms, British challenges to that right in the days leading up to the Revolution, and, of course, the painstaking crafting of the Second Amendment during the heated debate over the adoption of the new federal Constitution.

From there, the documentary traces the odd sources of the once-prevalent belief that the Second Amendment had nothing to do with individual rights. Basically, the claim seems to have been invoked from thin air by a few politicians and jurists who (apparently deliberately) misstated holdings by earlier judges and authorities and then cited each other's opinions as proof of their position. The Kansas Supreme Court played an especially contemptible role here--before later carefully brushing the offending opinion under a figurative rug and returning to the individual rights position.

The Fourteenth Amendment comes in for extensive treatment by Hardy because of the explicit intent of its authors to extend the protections of the federal First and Second Amendments to black Americans victimized by racist state officials in the wake of the Civil War. Unfortunately, as the documentary describes, the Fourteenth Amendment has largely been gutted by subsequent court decisions.

The most effective part of the documentary may be the segment describing the use of firearms by blacks and white civil rights activists to defend themselves during the dangerous days of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and '60s. The accounts add an emotional impact to the otherwise scholarly film.

Through it all, Hardy relies on a convincing mix of original documents and interviews with scholars, including law professors, historians, criminologists and activists. Step by step they build an unimpeachable case for taking the Second Amendment every bit as seriously as the First or the Fourth.

Overall, In Search of the Second Amendment is an excellent and important piece of journalism that summarizes scholarship done largely out of the public view in a way that's interesting and accessible. At $24.95 plus shipping and handling, it's an affordable and worthwhile addition to the home library, to be pulled out whenever Uncle Ed starts spouting off about collective rights of the National Guard.

Maybe David Hardy can improve the audio quality of the documentary to match its intellectual impact when he updates the material to reflect the very recent Parker decision.

The documentary's official Website, where the DVD can be purchased, is here.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Drop that sketch!

When I was a kid, I whiled away many painful hours in boring classes by drawing in my notebooks. Since I was a fairly typical boy, these sketches largely consisted of bloody depictions of combat, with every variety of weapon and atrocity penned with painstaking detail in the margins alongside my social studies notes.

If I were a student today--especially if I attended Payne Junior High in Chandler, Arizona--I'd be screwed.

Two students were suspended by school officials at that school over a sketch of a gun. That's right--a drawing. No threats were involved; there apparently wasn't even any of the imaginary gore with which I littered my school papers. It was just an artistic depiction (rendered with an unknown degree of talent) of a weapon.

But, oh yes, it violated the school's infantile zero-tolerance policy, which states that "possession or threatening use of any weapon, real or simulated, is strictly prohibited."

I guess that a sketch of a gun could be interpreted as possession of a "simulated" weapon--by a rules-bound idiot. I guess it's a good thing neither of those suspended kids had the nerve to tote a pocket knife--like my friends and I did through much of our school career.

Call the Chandler Unified School District to tell the folks there that you can hear the wind whistling through their empty heads.

Main number: (480) 812-7000
Community relations: (480) 812-7650
Community relations email:

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Burying the hatchet

Now here's a nice change of pace--a news story from Virginia that describes cordial relations between local public school administrators and the area's thriving homeschooling community.

The area homeschooling network has become stronger, Waynesboro Schools Superintendent Robin Crowder said.

He supports parents who want to homeschool their children.

“We’re going to try to support those parents and we will embrace those children when they come back in our schools,’’ Crowder said.

The progress of Virginia homeschooled students is monitored each year through standardized test results submitted by parents to school districts.

Sometimes, homeschoolers decide to go to public school during their high school years, Augusta County Superintendent Gary McQuain said.

“They come back to our schools because of the opportunities in art and music,’’ he said.

Fordham’s Cooper said most parents can’t teach subjects such as calculus, and the high school offerings of math and science spur some to turn to public schools as students during those years.

Homeschoolers “do well,” in public schools, McQuain said. “If they are motivated to work at home, they will be motivated to work in our schools.”

It's heartening to see home-based education become increasingly mainstream and accepted even by people among the ranks of the competition.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

MP3s just want to be free

Cory Doctorow has an interesting piece in Australia's asking why the music and movie industries are so dead-set on cutting their own throats by attempting to suppress modern distribution systems that could, potentially, be very lucrative for everybody concerned.

Hollywood loves sequels -- they're a safe bet if the franchise is already successful. But you'd have to be nuts to shoot a sequel to a disastrous flop.

The Napster debacle was the entertainment industry's biggest-ever flop. That disaster took place six years ago, when the record industry succeeded in shutting down the pioneering file-sharing service. Record companies show no signs of recovery.

The disastrous thing about Napster wasn't that it it existed, but rather that the record industry managed to kill it.

Napster had an industry-friendly business-model: raise venture capital, start charging for access to the service, and then pay billions of dollars to the record companies in exchange for licenses to their works.

Yes, Napster kicked this plan off without getting permission from the record companies, but that's not so unusual.

The record companies followed the same business plan a hundred years ago, when they started recording sheet music without permission, raising capital and garnering profits, and then working out a deal to pay the composers for the works they'd built their fortunes on.

The point that Doctorow makes is that every time the recording industry "wins" a round against new technological distribution systems, it drives entertainment consumers to new alternatives that are harder to shut down and run by people increasingly less willing to discuss deal-making.

The public wasn't willing to wait for Sony and the rest to wake up and offer a service that was as compelling, exciting, and versatile as Napster.

Instead, they flocked to a new generation of services like Kazaa and the various Gnutella networks. Kazaa's business model was to set up offshore, on the tiny Polynesian island of Vanuatu. Kazaa bundled spyware with its software, making its profits off fees from spyware crooks.

Kazaa didn't want to pay billions for record industry licenses -- it used the international legal and finance system to hopelessly snarl the RIAA's members through half a decade of wild profitability. The company was eventually brought to ground, but the founders walked away and started Skype and then Joost.

Meantime, dozens of other services had sprung up to fill Kazaa's niche -- AllofMP3, the notorious Russian site, was eventually killed through intervention of the US Trade Representative and the WTO, and was reborn practically the next day under a new name.

Interestingly, Doctorow doesn't delve into arcane discussions about the rights and wrongs of intellectual property rights protections. He dwells, instead, on the practicality of denying people convenient access to material they want without offering a viable alternative. Inevitably, he says, convenient technological solutions will arise, no matter what legal regime is in place.

Plenty of entrepreneurs are looking at easing the pain and cost of setting up your own mythtv box. The only reason that the barriers to widespread adoption of BitTorrent and mythtv exist is that it hasn't been worth anyone's while to capitalise projects to bring those barriers down. But once the legit competitors of these services are killed, look out.

The thing is, the public doesn't want managed services with limited rights. We don't want to be stuck using approved devices in approved ways. We never have -- we are the spiritual descendants of the customers for "illegal" record albums and "illegal" cable TV. The demand signal won't go away.

This strikes me as the most compelling argument against attacks on peer-to-peer file sharing, YouTube and the like. Fundamentally, it's much easier to tailor legal arrangements to suit the societies they serve than it is to engineer societies to conform to preexisting business models and artificial (yes, artificial) though useful constructs like copyright. If people want electric light, it makes no sense to insist on selling them lamp oil, and if they want (and can create easy access to) shared music and video files, it's just smart business to find a way to make money off of that desire rather than wage a losing campaign to bludgeon consumers into purchasing CDs and DVDs.

I say this as a writer who, frankly, has benefited from traditional copyright protections. I very much like being paid for my work. Yet I was an early user of Napster despite my misgivings about the morality of the set-up. Sharing song files was just so easy compared to buying entire CDs for the one or two tracks I really wanted to hear, especially when there were always whispers of some new format lurking in the wings, ready to do to my CD collection what CDs had done to my LPs. It was impossible to resist the lure of getting what I wanted when I wanted it.

People's wants, needs, desires and abilities evolve; law and business have to change to keep up.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Fortunately, nobody was hurt when cops in Worcester, Massachusetts, went a-calling and knocked on the wrong door.

Ms. Carreiro said she watched the incident from her West Street home, which is near 1-3 Cottage St. She described seeing about 10 police officers wearing camouflage, bullet-proof vests, helmets, boots and carrying guns, heading toward her backyard.

“When I got to my deck, I saw another team of police on my right empty out of a similar van that had stopped on Cottage Street,” she said.

“As they lined up along the front of the house, one police officer broke a window with what looked like a crow bar and threw a flash/stun grenade — I had no idea at the time what it was — through the broken window,” she said. “A leaden silence followed the deafening blast from the grenade and the next thing I heard was one of the police say, ‘Do we have the right house?’ As they realized they had the wrong house, I heard grumbling and swearing from the team.”

Police Chief Gary J. Gemme denies that his troops would ever use a flash-bang grenade inside a dwelling, so the witness must be mistaken.

But not as mistaken as the cops who got the address wrong.

Let me note here that I went to college in Worcester. In the '80s it was ... umm ... a pit. I can't say I'm feeling very nostalgic.


Lessons learned

The Tucson Citizen has a depressing opinion piece in today's paper from Gene Policinski, vice president and executive director of the First Amendment Center. Policinski addresses the erosion in recent years of respect for free speech in American public schools.

As high school students head back to school, far fewer have a chance to participate in real student journalism owing to reduced or eliminated programs, fewer trained professional advisers and quite possibly antagonistic school administrators. ...

The combination of school abandonment of support for free press and speech and court decisions in the past two decades is "chipping away at fundamental freedoms" in a trend "for which I see no end in sight," warned Mark Goodman, who led the Student Press Law Center for much of that time.

Among the incidents cited as examples of creeping control-freakery in the government indoctrination camps is the infamous "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case in which the U.S. Supreme Court allowed school administrators to punish students for allegedly pro-drug advocacy during school hours, but off campus. Lesser-known cases involved censorship of student newspapers for calling for tolerance of gays or portraying simulated burnings of the U.S. flag, and an incident in which a student sent a private email message from home that administrators believed would be disruptive.

Too often, parents and the public applaud school administrators for keeping kids in line by suppressing unpopular sentiments and sometimes raw expression. There's a craven authority worshipper lurking in the souls of all too many people, just itching for an opportunity to applaud the humiliation of any teenager so bold as to pen a few pungent words for a newspaper column or a blog.

I can't help but wonder if it wasn't the pointless rules and punishments of the past that bred the deference to thugs of the present. Did raising children for years on end in an environment of arbitrary discipline, 50-minute class periods and long lists of proscribed behavior so twist the minds of many of the graduates that they think turning the screws a bit tighter on the current generation of youth is a good thing? If so, what does that suggest about the future of kids getting dragged through the disciplinary gauntlet now for their initial exercises of their natural right to free speech?

I'm not saying that they'll all turn out to be fans of mindless control, but I worry that some of them will take the wrong lessons to heart. Their schooling will have prepared them for life as willing forelock-tuggers and cheerleaders for the whatever band of arm-twisters happens to anoint itself with a claim to legitimacy.

For what it's worth, the Student Press Law Center is an excellent organization actually doing something about these concerns.


Monday, August 20, 2007

And so?

According to the A.P., the dread scourge of pain-killing medication is making its way across the country like a tidal wave of ... pointless panic:

Retail sales of five leading painkillers nearly doubled over the last eight years, reflecting a surge in use by patients nationwide who are living in a world of pain, according to a new Associated Press analysis of federal drug prescription data.

The analysis reveals that oxycodone usage is migrating out of Appalachia to areas such as Columbus, Ohio, and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and significant numbers of codeine users are living in many suburban neighborhoods around the country.

Actually, the article doesn't completely treat the growth in the use of painkillers as a menace. It's much more confused than that, alternating passages like this:

Dr. Jeffrey Gordon, director of the blood and cancer center at Day Kimball Hospital in Putnam, Conn., said Vicodin is a popular painkiller to give patients after surgery, and many doctors are familiar with it.

"Over the past 10 years, there has been much better education in the medical community to ... ask if people are having pain and to better diagnose and treat it," Gordon said.

With passages like this:

More people are abusing prescription painkillers because the medications are more available. The vast majority of people with prescriptions use the drugs safely. But the number of emergency room visits from painkiller abuse has increased more than 160 percent since 1995, according to the government.

A.P. reporter Frank Bass can't seem to decide whether he's warning of a social peril or describing a commendable increase in the use of often-beneficial medications. He even, at one point, lays out the problems that some legitimate pain patients have in securing sufficient medication to treat their conditions--undermining the "dire peril" elements of the article and further muddying its thrust.

My take is that modern painkillers are an unalloyed good to which we should be happy to have access--even if some people choose to use them recreationally. Hell, recreational use doesn't necessarily strike me as a bad thing either, so long as people don't over-do it.

But a lot of people in this country seem to have trouble coming to terms with the idea that it can be morally acceptable to take and dispense substances that make people feel good. Somewhere in their makeup lurks a residue of the puritan past that insists that suffering is better than alleviating pain, and that outright pleasure-seeking is a terrible, terrible thing.

The result is news reports, like this, that can't quite commit to saying that it's a boon to the world that surgery patients, cancer survivors and the like have access to more options than ever before to make it easier to get through the day.


Friday, August 17, 2007

A little peek behind bars

I have enormous respect for people who have the courage to put their principles into action by defying bad and/or illegitimate laws and refusing to cooperate with the government in a very public way. Such people are willing to suffer a little inconvenience and discomfort for the purpose of making an important point and forcing government officials to examing the morality of their conduct. By their courage, people like Dave Ridley make me feel, frankly, a bit inadequate.

Ridley was arrested in New Hampshire for emulating another man who entered an IRS office to illegally distribute leaflets questionaing the morality of the purposes to which taxes are put and urging the workers there to quit their jobs.

One placid July day in 2006, a jovial free marketeer approaches the Keene, New Hampshire IRS office on an illegal mission. Upon his head is a straw farmer's hat. Over his shoulders a bib and blue overalls. Each hand holds an instrument of defiance, a specimen of contraband restricted from use inside the confines of this remote Federal outpost. One is a pitchfork, the other a wad of leaflets.

These devices, strangely feared and controlled by Washington regulation, are destined to set in motion a lasting, disturbing series of events. But the tall pacifist, backed by a collection of reporters and onlookers...broadcasts only mirth.

He has, some days before, announced his outlaw plans to drop the pitchfork, enter the office of this "Internal Robbery Squadron" and petition for a redress of grievances. His flyers ask that workers contemplate the ill uses to which their revenues are put, renounce torture and quit their jobs. Washington agents are waiting for him at the entrance, in force. They seize him and his straw hat long before he is able to present his handbills or trouble in person the minds of tribute collectors.

He is arrested, released, and immediately intercepted attempting the same endeavor. A court date is presented to him, along with petty charges of Federal origin. He assures authorities he will not attend such trial unless physically dragged to the Concord courtroom, one hour east. The next business day, agents from the increasingly resented Department of Homeland Security oblige him. Streaming through his front door they carry him to that very place, his wife of two years snapping a hasty but dramatic photo of the seizure.

Inside the courtroom he constructs paper airplanes as a shocked national magistrate ponders his fate. He is jailed for three weeks, released without fine or follow-up, left to pursue his libertarian agenda. Media attention is moderate. But an explosion of excitement and interest overtakes his New Hampshire-centric website and the small local paper he produces.

He is Russell Kanning, the Outlaw Leafletter.

A month passes. Then, disgruntled by news of the Federal overreaction at Keene, an imitator enters IRS facilities in nearby Nashua. Unannounced, he stands silent in the lobby, bearing a sign, a friendly expression and more forbidden but respectful pamphlets. Two reach the hands of "Robbery Squadron" agents, who eventually order him out. Upset by the slow speed of his backward withdrawal, they light Homeland Security hotlines and crowd the exit in manic impatience.

He is me, Dave Ridley, the Second Outlaw Leafletter.

In two detailed posts written in a gentle and restrained voice, Ridley describes his treatment at the hands of government agents. Just as important, he outlines the non-compliant, but polite, demeanor with which he conducted himself throughout the experience--as well as a few mistakes along the way. He never made his jailers' jobs easy, but he never let them easily assume that his imprisonment was justified.

Once away from onlookers our conversation evolves. Did *you* take an oath to the Constitution, I ask. None of your business, he replies...a little louder than need be. Is this the kind of thing you signed on for, locking people up for handbill distribution? I don't lock people up, he says. He presses the button on an elevator which takes me to lockup. I thank him, and note that button pressing is easier for him than for me.

"That it is," he replies. ...

Four of them are now with me in the room and engage me regarding my concerns. I thank them for this. One says he'd rather go after sex offenders than demonstrators like me. I say I would rather he did that and nothing else. His name is Deputy Barry, the picture of friendly professionalism. I should probably check the constitutionality of Federal sex crime hunts, but granting his wish would certainly would be an improvement over this!

I suggest they quit their jobs, but am half joking. I tell them if I were a Fed I'd probably keep my job and, from that station, try to minimize the harm such a job inflicts on the public.

When Ridley is moved to a facility in Massachusetts, his new keepers quickly lose patience withs non-cooperation. He cleverly uses the pressure as an opportunity to quickly turn the tables and put officials on the defensive.

A Sergeant enters. What questions has this man refused to answer? Matias looks up from his blank clipboard. Date of Birth, Social, Height, Weight...almost everything.

The Sergeant turns to me. There will be problems for you if you fail to answer. I tell him I do not have training to withstand torture for a lengthy period but will nonviolently resist for as long as I am able. We don't torture people here, comes the shocked response. I will ask for orders, he says.

At no time (in the two parts about the ordeal posted so far) does Dave Ridley lose his cool. And throughout his imprisonment he remains not just willing, but eager to engage his jailers in friendly discussion about the moral implications of his arrest and their own role in the process. Of course, there's no guarantee that he made any of the police officers or guards actually think about the issues he raised, but he certainly maximized the possibility that somebody will have second thoughts about the government's action and their own participation.

Ridley's account deserves to be distributed far and wide. It's an excellent first-person story about living up to your ideals--and doing so in a constructive way.

Read the full account here.

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Politicians, hookers... What's the difference?

One of Bill Richardson's Nevada operatives ran into a spot of trouble and was forced to resign.

One of Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson's top organizers in rural Nevada resigned Thursday after the campaign learned he had worked for a brothel and was wanted on a felony arrest warrant in California. ...

Kristian Forland, the campaign's eastern Nevada field director, is being sought by Los Angeles County authorities for failure to appear on four counts of writing bad checks. Forland also was arrested twice, once last year and again last month, in his home of Elko, Nev., on a similar bad check charge out of Las Vegas.

I don't know what to make of the check-kiting charges, but I do know that I'd be more likely to support Richardson if I thought he was comfortable with legal prostitution.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Plug for a friend's book

An old friend of mine, Matt Marinovich, has had the well-deserved (and hard-earned) pleasure of seeing a novel of his brought to print. Strange Skies is published this month by Harper Perennial.

According to the Publisher's Weekly blurb:

In Marinovich's artful debut, married, childless Paul Mauro, 38, checks in with his doctor after a lump of cancer is removed from his bicep. He gets a clean bill of health and immediately starts dreading his life to come, which includes impregnating his wife, Lee. On the way out of the doctor's office he meets a beautiful woman, Alex, who has just been diagnosed with cancer. She assumes he's in the same boat, and Paul decides to play along. Paul, who narrates with a gallows humor, lies to Lee, too, about his condition and propels himself into a parallel fake-cancer world where women suddenly find him irresistibly brave. Paul's an unusally self-aware scoundrel, and his adventures, including his dread of fatherhood, are very funny in spots. The ending doesn't quite work, but readerly goodwill built up in the defter sequences compensates.

I haven't yet read Matt's novel, but we used to critique each other's material in a Boston-based writers group. His work was always top-notch. If the blurb appeals to you or you're looking to try a new author, I recommend giving this book a try.

And while I'm plugging Matt's book, don't miss the excerpt from my own (unpublished) novel, High Desert Barbecue, appearing in Rain Farm Press's journal, Paradigm.

It's not easy being green

Flagstaff, Arizona, is one of those communities dotted across the country where the city politicos and much of the population pride themselves on buying into the whole slate of right-thinking college-town beliefs. You know what those are: recycling is good, President Bush is bad, taxes are never too high, property rights are archaic and, above all else, the environment is an Important Issue.

So it's with some interest that I note this story in the Arizona Daily Sun pointing out how difficult--nearly impossible--it is for the residents of Flagstaff and the nearby unincorporated areas to get city or county approval to install wind generators.

In a city that has vowed to reduce its carbon emissions and a county that has made generating environmentally sustainable jobs a priority, generating wind energy in your backyard is nearly impossible now.

A few people stop in each week at Architectural & Environmental Associates of Flagstaff to ask about installing a backyard wind turbine.

Once Vice President Jason Campbell lays out the months-long paperwork delays, the $14,000 in total costs and the uncertainties about whether a homeowner is even allowed to install a wind turbine inside the county or city limits, most people decide against buying them, he said.

The wind turbines stand 6 feet too tall to be allowed under current city and county land use rules.

"With the height restrictions, it's just a struggle to get it permitted. It’s not impossible. But it’s almost impossible," Campbell said.

The problem is that, in this case, the environmental Holy Grail of renewable energy comes linked to an unorthodox exercise of property rights. It's one thing entirely for Flagstaff's trendy tree-huggers to pat themselves on the back for forcing everybody to sort their paper and plastic; donning the hair shirt (and forcing the neighbor into one too) automatically conveys a reassuring sense of collective moral superiority. But letting people actually take a positive step by spending their own money to harness the power of the wind to generate electricity? Well, no--then they'd have to look at the resulting windmill.

Mayor Joe Donaldson compared backyard wind turbines to old television antennas.

"It can be a real mess, real unsightly in the city of Flagstaff to see these things popping up all over the place," he said.

There certainly are real environmentalists in the world--people interested in developing new technologies and reducing humans' negative impact on the planet without calling for a return to the stone age. The sort of people who personally assume the expense of installing wind generators and solar panels are a good example of the type, as are those who build homes with composting toilets and hook up gray-water systems. Those are the sorts of personal commitments that might not be appropriate for everybody, but can make a lot of sense in the appropriate setting (desert regions, like Arizona, come to mind).

But too many self-described environmentalists are more interested in making very visible sacrifices--and forcing others to do the same. They either enjoy the frisson they get from marching whole communities in lock-step self-denial, or they just don't like people very much. Very often the two motives are intertwined.

Actually, it's a lot like a puritanical religious cult with a long list of "thou shall nots" and very little interest in any innovation--no matter how compatible with core precepts--that makes life easier instead of harder.

To them, building a wind generator is like trying to grease the road to salvation.

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I'll drink to that!

Just four years after noticing that Prohibition was over for the rest of the country and belatedly legalizing the sale of beer, wine and liquor within the city limits, Athens, Alabama, faced the possible reinstatement of a ban on alcoholic beverages. Fortunately, the forces of all that is good and right in the world prevailed and Athens voters kept booze legal by a 68% to 32% vote.

Of course, the right to buy, sell and consume anything shouldn't be subject to the whims of the majority, but we'll take any victories we can get.

The only folks mourning today are bluenoses and bootleggers.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Community values

The Arizona Daily Star is one of those newspapers that is, unfortunately, painfully predictable in its editorial line. Whatever the topic, the Daily Star's editorial board will take the position that maximizes government power, promotes the group over the individual and minimizes personal liberty.

In this recent editorial, the Daily Star applied its peculiar filter to the manufactured (by the political establishment and its friends) controversy over Prop. 207. The proposition, passed by Arizona voters by an almost 2-1 margin last November, strongly curtailed the power of government to seize private property for the benefit of private parties. It also required that landowners be compensated for the impact of regulatory takings--government actions that deprive property owners of some or all of the use of their property. Not surprisingly, politicians don't like the measure and have been trying to undermine its impact ever since--with the encouragement of certain editorial writers.

Before I get to the Daily Star editors' specific comments about Prop. 207, let me throw in a little philosophical musing they included that explains where they're coming from.

Private property rights are fundamental to our form of government, but Proposition 207 went too far. In effect, it sacrificed the will of the community on the altar of 19th-century libertarianism. The result is anti-social legislation.

The trajectory of civilization has been a movement from farm to village to town and city and nation — a movement away from isolation and toward community building. In the process, individual wishes — at least to some extent — become subordinate to the needs of the community. ...

So individualism is a sad relic of the past and the rights of the individual must be suborned to the demands of the group? Lovely. Mussolini--or Lenin--couldn't have put it better. Neither, for that matter, could some anonymous tribal chieftain from ten thousand years ago.

In fact, the long, dark history of the human race has largely consisted of individuals being squashed by the "needs of the community." From the slaves who built Egypt's pyramids through Roman gladiators and Aztec human sacrifices to the wary citizens of the 20th Century's people's republics, individualism has largely existed as an exception to the rule--a brief breath of fresh air eventually choked off by a slave master, prince or commissar. Even the democracies of the past largely functioned as majoritarian tyrannies, crushing personal freedom beneath the will of a larger group of thugs than the kings and oligarchs who lorded over most countries. Just ask Socrates how that worked--he drank poison to appease the prejudices of the mob.

In the United States, we've been lucky to have enjoyed a rare effort to deliberately establish a nation that--however imperfectly--valued the individual above the group. It was nice while it lasted. I don't expect the Daily Star to publish much of a eulogy.

So, given the Daily Star's explicit disdain for the lowly individual, is it any wonder that the newspaper has little love to spare for Prop. 207?

The trouble with Proposition 207, as recent cases in Flagstaff, Phoenix and Tempe have shown, is that it renders community values subordinate to the individual, and it has the potential to freeze well-intentioned community planning.

Grrr. Those damned individuals! Always getting in the way of the community. Ein Reich, ein volk, ein ... Ummm--you get the point.

There you go. That's the nature of the opposition to Prop. 207 in Arizona. And that's the culture that prevails among the "right-thinking" folks who dominate too many of the editorial pages in this state. If it protects individuals from the mauling paws of government officials, they're against it.

Maybe we should make their wishes come true and exempt newspaper editorial writers from the occasional protection for individual liberty that still comes along from time to time.

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And they're off!

The race is on to gather 700,000 valid signatures to put a measure to reform eminent domain before California voters. California came breathtakingly close to approving a far-reaching measure that would have reached beyond overt land grabs and also shielded property owners from regulatory takings. While a nearly identical measure passed overwhelmingly in neighboring Arizona, the effort proved too ambitious for Californians. The new measure is more narrowly tailored to address abuses of eminent domain.


Drug war follies

Radley Balko of The Agitator has a worthwhile column at Fox News about police excesses--including everything from wrong-house raids to suppressing evidence of defendants' innocence related to drug prohibition.

The conclusion:

These sorts of police tactics would be morally dubious if they were being used to fight terrorism, or to ensure national security. But they grow more absurd—and more intolerable—when you consider the ultimate end, here. None of this deception, corruption, and abuse is being employed to catch sleeper Al-Qaeda cells, or to catch murderers or serial killers or pedophiles. It's being used to stop people from getting high.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Nipple Nazis strike again

Says ABC News:

New York City's hospitals have banned infant formula from their gift bags for new mothers — a policy that they hope will encourage nursing and healthier babies. ...

In New York City's $2 million plan, new mothers will each be given a breast-milk bottle cooler, disposable nursing pads, breast-feeding tips and a baby T-shirt with the slogan, "I Eat at Mom's."

Coaches will work with mothers to begin breast-feeding within the first hour after birth. Mothers will also receive free breast pumps and, for those whose babies remain in the hospital, electric breast pumps.

My initial reaction to this is a rush of sympathy for all of the exhausted and overwhelmed new mothers subject to a hard-sell official campaign to get them to breast-feed. My wife tried breast-feeding our son at the beginning, but she couldn't get him to latch on properly and she had a pediatric practice screaming for the return of her administrative attention and medical skills. Pretty quickly, we opted for formula. Wendy felt guilty enough about the decision without other people laying a guilt trip on her.

Even so, some of the lactation evangelists tried to lean on her; as a local pediatrician, she was able to shut them down with a glare.

Ever since, she's been supportive of whatever feeding options parents choose, so long as the kids get the nutrition they need to keep going. Sometimes that means breast milk; other times it means formula.

But through my wife's experiences, and the experiences of many of her patients' mothers, it's clear to me that some people adhere to breast-feeding with a nearly theological zeal. They're perfectly willing to go beyond touting the benefits of breast-feeding and actually attack parents who choose to feed their kids formula. They'll tell outrageous scare stories and question moms' and dads' love for their children if they don't agree that "breast is best" and, in some cases, keep the kids on the nipple until they're ready for school.

I'm not kidding.

Now the Church of the Tit has become a state religion for some government-owned hospitals. That's unfortunate news for mothers who find breast-feeding too difficult or impractical given the demands of work and life. They'll be subject to the attention of missionaries who have little tolerance for free-thinking when it comes the core issue of their religion.

In the name of constructive heresy, I hope somebody smuggles a few cases of formula into those hospitals.

Say 'no' to group-think

Have you ever seen a good idea turned into a one-size-fits-all knee-jerk policy? Well, that's my fear after reading this Hartford Courant story about the wholesale adoption of what seems like a common sense idea by public school educrats in Minnesota.

Fred Storti, executive director of the Minnesota Elementary School Principals Association, explains that last winter he invited David Walsh, author of the recently published "No: Why Kids - of all Ages - Need To Hear It and Ways Parents Can Say It," to speak at his association's convention of elementary school principals.

He said that Walsh, president of the National Institute on Media and the Family in Minneapolis, contends that kids today are living in a culture that promotes "more, fast, easy and fun," and the result is that kids are lacking important qualities - perseverance, patience, self-discipline, self-reliance - that are vital for success.

"I think today people are so fast-paced and busy, and in the majority of families, both parents work," said Storti. "Sometimes because life is so fast-paced, there's sometimes a guilty feeling parents have that they haven't spent enough time with their kids. ... Many times, to make things easier, we give our children things."

Walsh's message hit such a strong chord among the principals that they decided to conduct a statewide campaign, which they are calling, "Minnesota: Say Yes to No."

Now, I'm in full accord with the sentiment that children should be told "no" on a fairly frequent basis. Well-defined limits are absolutely necessary for children who need to be taught about right and wrong. So is encouragement to persevere in the face of obstacles--life is hard, and kids need to be aware that temporary setbacks are part of the program. Giving kids everything they ask for and smoothing over all of the rough spots does them a disservice; they'll never grow into self-reliant adults that way. While I've never read it, I just might like David Walsh's book.

But it's one thing to say that Walsh is on to something, and it's another entirely to convert his ideas into group-think slogans like "Minnesota: Say Yes to No." They'll probably even put posters espousing that idea in the teachers' lounges. I can't think of any better way to ruin a good idea than to turn it into the educational philosophy flavor of the month, complete with un-subtle marketing campaign.

Of course, how else do you transmit promising ideas from the center throughout an institution so that they're adopted by administrators on the periphery?

That's probably the wrong question. The real question is: How do you keep institutional education from turning even good ideas into mindless slogans to be applied to children of varying dispositions and abilities?

The answer, I'm afraid, is that you can't. Having surrendered the education of most of our children to a vast bureaucracy, we've ensured that even the best intentions will be applied in the worst way possible.


We now return to our regularly scheduled blogging ...

My son survived his second birthday party. I survived his second birthday party. The relatives are gone. My house is once again mine. Mine, I say ...

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

New fans for wiretapping

Not surprisingly, questions are being raised (by me, among others) about Congress's approval of the Bush administration's wiretapping bill. The conventional wisdom is that Democrats won control of Congress on a wave of public revulsion toward the war in Iraq and related incursions into civil liberties here at home. The Republicans got booted so that Democrats could at least provide some legislative opposition to the Bush administration's excesses.

So why did the Democrats vote to expand the government's power to spy on Americans' without warrants?

It's one thing for Congress to be unable to actively bring the troops home; President Bush would veto any such measure (although the symbolic value would be important, I think). The most Congress can do about the war is refuse to approve funding--not that Congress critters have even gone that far. (In fact, I think Democrats like the continuation of the war so they have an issue with which to bludgeon Republicans.)

But the wiretapping vote was completely unnecessary. Congress could have voted the measure down, pleasing many Americans, especially among the Democratic Party's core constituents.

The answer, I think, lies in Democrats' anticipation of victory in next year's presidential election. All of the powers and precedents accumulated through eight years of George W, Bush's presidency will be available to the new resident of the White House. Quite clearly, Democrats--the party's leadership, anyway--aren't so much opposed to civil liberties violations as they are opposed to civil liberties violations by their enemies. The possibility of wielding such powers themselves is too tempting a prospect to resist.

It's true that the law "sunsets" after 180 days, but I won't be surprised to see yet another extension of wiretapping authority when that time is up. Democrats will allow themselves to be dragged--kicking and screaming, of course--into creating new powers that they themselves will ultimately use.

Whichever of the major parties you look at, the constituency for liberty as a value in and of itself is vanishingly small.

Look for the next administration to be roughly as nosy and intrusive as the one currently in power.


Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Mandatory civility

New York City may ban the use of the word "bitch." Really. Referring to the fact that the city council has already outlawed the word "nigger," Council Member Darlene Mealy, the mastermind behind the ban scheme, says, "They buried the n-word, but what about the other words that really affect women, such as 'b,' and 'ho'? That's a vile attack on our womanhood."

Left unaddressed by Ms. Mealy are questions about how people's language is any of the government's business.

You can contact Ms. Mealy at:

Don't be afraid to call her a ... you know what.


Monday, August 6, 2007

And water is wet

So advertising builds brand awareness? Duh. I figured that companies were spending all that money on 30-second spots for a reason.

But so what?

The important point in the article is buried at the end.

Pradeep Chintagunta, a University of Chicago marketing professor, said a fairer comparison might have gauged kids' preferences for the McDonald's label versus another familiar brand, such as Mickey Mouse.

"I don't think you can necessarily hold this against" McDonald's, he said, since the goal of marketing is to build familiarity and sell products.

He noted that parents play a strong role in controlling food choices for children so young.

That's right; it's the role of parents to help their kids interpret the information their children receive, including that from advertisements. They're also supposed to exercise control over their children's choices, because the little tykes aren't yet capable of rationally assessing the input they receive. If parents' role was unnecessary, we could just hand the kids Visa cards and be done with it.

Of course, that's not the lesson the professional bedwetters draw from the article. They want legal restrictions placed on advertising because kids might develop preferences based on what they see and hear.

The study is likely to stir more debate over the movement to restrict ads to kids. It comes less than a month after 11 major food and drink companies, including McDonald's, announced new curbs on marketing to children under 12.

I repeat, it's the role of parents to guide their children. We don't structure the world to fit the presumed needs of the wee ones--we live in a world made for adults, and we prepare our kids to fit into it through all the arguments and tantrums.

If that's too difficult a role to play, don't have children. It's as easy as that.

I'd blog, but ...

I'm exhausted from tiling and grouting counter tops in our master bathroom -- and the job is only about half done. My wife and I bought this fixer-upper three years ago, only to discover that the addition of a kid and the parade of grandparents that ensued make the house just too small. Now I'm hustling to finish renovations not for us, but for the sake of resale.

I'm happy to say that I've never pulled a permit for any of my DIY projects.

Telling it like it is

Here's Rep. Ron Paul in fine form at the latest debate. I'm more impressed each time I see him.


Friday, August 3, 2007

Smoking ban scofflaw

Yet another British pub owner says he'll defy the U.K.'s draconian smoking ban.

"It's a very hard thing to prove," said Mr West. "The doormen will ask everyone who enters if they are a policeman or a council officer, which they have to declare, and they will then radio down to us.

"Our customers will then put their cigarettes in the ashtrays and even if they had lit cigarettes in front of them, how can you prove they have been physically smoking them?"

That's the spirit! I wish we'd see a lot more rebellion of this sort against the nanny-staters and professional scolds.

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Thursday, August 2, 2007

Flag cops back off

Remember the Kuhns? They're the couple assaulted by a Buncombe County, North Carolina, sheriff's deputy for flying a flag upside-down. Well, authorities have dropped all charges against the pair.

But I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that deputy to get fired.


Hey foreigners, libel this!

I'm not sure how I missed this case when it was decided by the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals back in June, but the case of Ehrenfeld v. Mahfouz was an important victory for free speech rights.

Basically, Rachel Ehrenfeld of The American Center for Democracy, wrote a book, Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed, and How To Stop It, that implicates Saudi billionaire Khalid Salim A. Bin Mahfouz, among other people, as supporters of terrorism. Bin Mahfouz sued the New York-based Ehrenfeld in the U.K., which has libel laws that virtually make squinting at people the wrong way actionable under law. Bin Mahfouz won his case and Ehrenfeld was ordered to pay a hefty fine, publish an apology and destroy her books. Seeing how she's an American and the court doing the ordering is British, she declined to comply. Instead, she sued in New York to prevent the British decision from being enforced.

On June 8, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a District Court decision against Ehrenfeld, agreed that U.S. courts could intervene in such cases, and formally asked the New York Court of Appeals to determine if the law gives the state jurisdiction over the case that would allow it to shield Ehrenfeld from the British decision. On June 28, the New York Court of Appeals agreed to answer the jurisdiction question.

Yeah, I know. That sounds like a lot of legal mumbo-jumbo. But it's important.


Because in today's increasingly interconnected world, with books published internationally, even the smallest Websites available around the globe, and no courtroom more than a few hours plane ride away, it's all too easy for the aggrieved to hunt down venues that will entertain even the silliest complaint. People are potentially subject to litigation for doing and saying things that are perfectly legal and protected where they live. The U.K. is one of those jurisdictions where speech that enjoys First Amendment protection in the U.S. can be punished.

Noted civil liberties attorneys Harvey Silverglate and Samuel A. Abady call such venue-hunting "libel tourism" and warn of its potential for use as a bludgeon against American writers and publishers.

No other nation goes as far to protect speech. Indeed, outside the United States, truth is often not a defense to allegations of defamation. The Sullivan standard is not accepted in Britain, Canada, Australia, or any of the 41 member states of the Council of Europe.

Bin Mahfouz and fellow libel tourists have made the English libel bar rich, leading the London Times to declare the United Kingdom the "libel capital of the Western world." English lawyers now refer to the "Arab effect" to describe the surge of English libel actions by wealthy, non resident Arabs accused of funding terrorism. This trend has produced a succession of rulings, settlements, and damage awards against English and American media defendants costing millions of pounds.

There's no way to force other countries to improve their protections for individual rights--especially at a moment in history when U.S. credibility on the issue is at a historic low. There's also no easy way to convince other countries to close their courts to venue-seekers looking to hunt American targets on friendly legal turf.

That leaves U.S. courts the task of reassuring Americans that foreign judgments that violate U.S. protections for individual rights are null and void in the United States. Americans can rest easy no matter what foreign judges say if U.S. courts treat foreign decisions that violate the Bill of Rights as a lot of outrageous hot air.

Which is why the decision in Ehrenfeld v. Mahfouz was an important step in the right direction.


Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Overregulated Arizona

In a recent piece, Arizona Republic columnist Robert Robb details the impositions inflicted by Arizona's legislature upon the suffering citizens of this state.

This last session, there were 296 laws enacted. Few of them were consequential. The overwhelming majority involved some minor tweak to the Tedious State. ...

The Tedious State really likes to tell us how to do our jobs. To renew a hearing aid dispenser license now will require 12 hours of continuing education, rather than the dangerously low previous requirement of only eight. I'm sure you're glad to hear that.

Unlicensed contractors, or those who aid or abet them, will be ineligible for probation until all sales taxes due for the job are paid. I understand that government has to get its. But, in most cases, won't the cost of incarceration quickly exceed the amount in arrears?

Nurse practitioners will get to do more, but those who sell insurance at self-service storage facilities will have to be licensed.

It wasn't all bad news.

In some cases, the grip of the Tedious State was relaxed a bit, but this serves mainly to illustrate how intrusive it has become. Motorcycles can now be driven in HOV lanes and optometrists were given greater authority to prescribe antihistamines. The lending authority of banks was expanded a little and credit unions were permitted to charge prepayment penalties on business loans. Internet estimations of home values were put beyond the regulatory clutches of the Board of Appraisal.

This three-steps-forward, one-back movement toward control-freakery has has been my experience of Arizona, too. Every year there are a few more rules and regulations, only partially counterbalanced by the repeal or softening of some silly restrictions that sufficiently ticked off enough people to get legislators' attention. Building codes and "general plans" are a good example. Not too many years ago, you could build what you pleased on your own land in Yavapai County; now you're subject to a host of restrictions and requirements, as well as a long-term scheme for how the county "should" be developed--at least, according to the fever dreams of the current crop of elected and appointed parasites.

But the Grand Canyon State is still far freer than the East Coast people's republics in which I was raised. That's not just because we still have less red tape ensnaring us than our eastern cousins. It's also because many of the residents turn a cheerfully blind eye to so many laws, and to their neighbors' defiance of those laws. I and my neighbors build, burn, remodel and run businesses with little concern for the wishes of state and county busybodies. The only other place I've seen such cheerful disregard for the law was in New York City, a jurisdiction so overburdened with regulations that only a masochist with plenty of free time would consider submitting to many of them.

Occasionally, though, the people become part of the problem. At the polls, last year, Arizonans voted to penalize anybody willing to work for a lower wage than popular opinion thought appropriate. They also joined in the national xenophobic fervor and passed new restrictions on immigrants at the ballot box. That electoral tantrum then prompted the legislature and governor to join in the anti-immigrant fun.

Overall, then, Arizona--like the U.S. as a whole--seems destined to become less free as the years go by. The saving grace, if there is one, will be the extent to which Arizonans will willfully defy the laws they and their supposed representatives put into place.

I sincerely hope that I continue to enjoy the company of cheerful scofflaws.

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