Weekly Hit & Run Archive 2005 June 22-31

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From the Shadow Gallery

Reader David Macharelli notes that movie posters for the forthcoming V for Vendetta (based on Alan Moore's classic anarchist graphic novel) are out, with the tagline: "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people."

Poetic Justice Souter

Several bojillion readers have just forwarded this proposal to build a tax-revenue generating, job creating hotel at 34 Cilley Hill Road in Weare, New Hampshire. That'd require the demolition of the house there after it's seized via eminent domain from it's current owner—some guy named Dave Souter. According to the press release:

The proposed development, called "The Lost Liberty Hotel" will feature the "Just Desserts Café" and include a museum, open to the public, featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America. Instead of a Gideon's Bible each guest will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged."

UPDATE: And New Jersey had better watch out as well.

Suck.com It To Me

For devotees of the late, lamented Suck, one Matt Sharkey has written a definitive history of the "first great website," chock-a-block full of quotes from Reasoners (and former Sucksters) Tim Cavanaugh, Brian Doherty, Peter Bagge, and yours truly. Read it here.

A few years back, the Village Voice detailed the "Suck-ification of Reason" here.

Healthy Choices in China

Sunday was the UN-sponsored "International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking." The theme was "Value yourself...make healthy choices." Here's how China celebrated:

In China, still conditioned by the awareness that opium ravaged previous generations and opened the door to foreign imperialists, the Government marked anti-drug day by executing dozens of traffickers.

In the southern city of Guizhou, 24 people were convicted of trafficking over the weekend, and five were immediately executed with a bullet in the neck, according to official media.

In Other Auto-Related News...

I thought I might have been hallucinating when I saw one of these on the highway last weekend, but apparently the State of Maryland issues Libertarian Party license plates.

Reader Participation: America's Worst DMVs

The Reason brain trust is thinking about doing a feature on America's worst Departments of Motor Vehicles. If you've had an especially unpleasant experience at a DMV and would like to nominate it, please send us your story, either by e-mailing me or by posting it in the comments.

We'll need contact information, so don't post a tale you'd like us to use without including a working e-mail address.

New at Reason

Judges nodding off, a President wrapping himself in the flag, and money going down the drain. Nothing but gruesome spectacles, in Reason Express.

New at Reason

Cathy Young throws some cold water on the flag-burning amendment.

The Ten Commandments vs. the Flag Amendment

I suspect there's a lot of overlap between people who support government displays of the Ten Commandments, at issue in two cases decided by the Supreme Court yesterday, and people who think the Constitution should be amended to prohibit "desecration" of the U.S. flag, as the House voted to do last week. But it's hard to see how the latter position can be squared with the divine injunction against idolatry that appears at the beginning of the Decalogue.

Chief Justice Thomas

Inspired by Clarence Thomas' dissent in Kelo v. New London, Jude Wanniski nominates him to replace William Rehnquist as chief justice.

New at Reason

The decision in MGM v. Grokster may have been a knockout, but according to Mike Godwin, it's only a technical knockout.

Sartre: No Entrance, Either

The CBC writes that "Jean-Paul Sartre appears to be fading as a French cultural icon." Sartre's certainly fading at the CBC; the Canadian broadcaster evokes the title of his major philosophical work, Being and Nothingness, to treat Sartre's decline as a headline joke: "Sartre's being drifts closer to nothingness."

What evidence is there for this supposed fade? First, this summer marks the 100th anniversary of Sartre's birth, and a major Paris exhibit celebrating him "has drawn a disappointing number of visitors." Second, his shrinking number of enthusiasts assert that "the general public today knows little about him or his philosophies." Third, "few of his plays, which include No Exit, are regularly performed in French theatres or taught to students."

Here's my favorite exhibit: "His fans complain that the Cafe de Flore in the Left Bank area of Paris, where the prolific Sartre and partner Simone de Beauvoir wrote and held court with other left-wing intellectuals, is now filled with tourists."

Of course it's filled with tourists (many of them French provincials, by the way); Parisians know better than to pay its prices. If you want to, you can still hang out with Left Bank students who are debating culture and politics, but you'll find them in the quarter's fast-food burger joints, not paying $20 for un sandwiche au jambon.

"France hated him when he was alive and shuns him in death," says Bernard-Henri Levy, who wrote a study of Sartre. "He is treated like a pornographer."

Not so: France's leading postwar pornographer is cracking her whip to ever greater applause.

Music to Lose Money By

Live8's German organizer, Marek Lieberberg, admitted to The Independent on Saturday that the July 2 concert "has failed to attract the support of politicians or business sponsors" in Germany. According to the British paper, "the lack of support meant the rock bands appearing at the event risked having to pay" for the million-euro show themselves.

"One can only feel shame," Lieberberg said. "In England and America there has been incredible support from business and politics for this thing. We have written to about 50 major German companies and banks for backing, but we have either heard nothing from them or been turned down. Germany will be the only country in which neither a national business sponsor nor the city itself has provided a cent. Given the problem that we are addressing, I think this is absolutely unbelievable."

Lieberberg said that Berlin's city government didn't show any interest until the city's mayor was invited to join Geldof at a press conference. "But," he added, "the mayor didn't show up."

Kerry noted last week that Geldof's 1985 Live Aid concert "may have done more harm than good" anyway.

Link to The Independent via David Carr at Samizdata.

Kelo v. Complexity

John Norquist, a former mayor of Milwaukee and president of the Congress for New Urbanism, offers PBS a liberal case against Kelo.

Norquist found the Court's decision "shocking, really. The founders of the country put the word 'public use' in the 5th Amendment for a reason, because they wanted property rights to be part of our democracy. And there are really legitimate reasons for condemnation . . . But [Kelo] opens it up to virtually anything; any municipality could say 'Well, the land will be more valuable.'"

The "real problem," thinks Norquist, "is that municipalities haven't been that good at predicting what actions will increase the value of property. I mean, there's empty lots all over urban sites in America where cities have condemned land and then it just sits there idle."

That's Norquist the ex-mayor, of course. For Norquist the New Urbanist, Kelo is a threat to the "complexity of cities" championed by preservationist, pro-pedestrian planners. "The key to revitalization of American cities," he said, "is the complexity of cities, the form of cities, the streets and blocks that were being ripped apart [by urban renewal projects] in the '60s and '70s and '80s. Cities have finally started to figure out that the urban form is actually valuable and they don't need to tear cities down and try to turn them into the suburbs. And that's really what this decision -- the majority opinion sort of implies, that somehow cities automatically know what adds value."

Back in 1999, Randall O'Toole wrote about New Urbanism for reason here. [Note: I've shortened and simplified this last reference since putting up the post.]

Transferring Responsibility

Today the Supreme Court ruled that companies offering file-sharing software can be held liable for copyright infringement if there's evidence they intended to facilitate illegal duplication and transfers. The Court overturned a 9th Circuit ruling that said Grokster and StreamCast, like manufacturers of VCRs, are not responsible for illegal uses of their products.

Last year John Perry Barlow celebrated Grokster's temporary victory in an interview with Reason, while Nick Gillespie welcomed the consumer-empowering influence of file-sharing services.

Screen Right

The NYT reports that there's a "new wave in Hollywood, a group that intends to . . . promote godliness, Pax Americana and its own view of family values."

The "Hollywood Right," according to the Times, cuts "a broad political and religious swath, from 'right-to-life' Christians and foreign-policy hawks to more middle-of-the-road 'family-values' advocates. They include strongly identified Catholics like Mel Gibson and the manager-producer Doug Urbanski (The Contender), and evangelicals like Ralph Winter, who produced X-Men and Fantastic Four. One of their leading voices has long been Lionel Chetwynd, a Jewish neo-conservative whose credits include the 1987 pro-Vietnam War feature The Hanoi Hilton."

The Times also notes "A collection of what might loosely be styled conservative libertarians includes the actors Clint Eastwood, Drew Carey and Gary Oldman, along with the producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Gavin Polone."

Finally, there are "the so-called Sept. 12th Republicans. These include former liberals and centrists like the actors David Zucker, Dennis Miller, James Woods and Ron Silver." In the words of one conservative Hollywood producer, these figures "had a Road to Damascus experience" after 9/11.

The story reports efforts to establish a connection with the Washington right -- and its money -- as well, including a recent meeting in Maryland where "The idea was to start tying money from Washington's right-to-life movement to key Hollywood players," and another meeting in Santa Monica "'to find some intersection of policy and story ideas' for future Hollywood content."

Kennedy the Libertarian

"People say I'm a libertarian," Justice Anthony Kennedy tells The New York Times. "I don't really know what that means." I believe the second part.

Presumably these people (if they really exist) have in mind Kennedy's positions on abortion, sodomy, pornography, and flag burning, where many conservatives would say he twisted the Constitution to overturn government restrictions that libertarians oppose on philosophical grounds (with the possible exception of abortion, which may or may not involve the violation of an individual's rights, depending on the moral status of the fetus). Yet in two particularly egregious recent decisions involving medical marijuana and eminent domain, Kennedy pissed off both strict constructionists and libertarians, abandoning the Constitution to endorse violations of individual rights. It may not have the unifying power of the fight against communism, but surely hating Kennedy is one of the few things that still unites the traditionalist and individualist strains of the conservative movement.

And You Trust the TSA to Protect You?

My family and I flew to Israel last week on El Al, but we bought our tickets through Delta, which flew us from Reagan National to JFK. Delta let us check our luggage in D.C. for the whole trip, which surprised me, because El Al usually has its own security screening. It turned out that the bags were supposed to be screened again in New York, which no one mentioned until we were about to board the plane for Tel Aviv. At that point an El Al security guy whisked me into the bowels of the airport to identify our bags and answer questions about them. He explained that we could not get on the flight with the bags until they had been cleared by the airline. When I mentioned that the luggage had already been screened by the TSA in D.C., he laughed and said, "And you trust the TSA to protect you?" While American air travel security is just for show, he said, the Israeli version is for real.

Although he was hardly a disinterested observer, the comparison had the ring of truth. To begin with, Israeli screeners tend to be brighter and better trained than their American counterparts. Like the TSA, they scan baggage and run people through metal detectors. But much of their job involves asking passengers questions and reading their responses, including tone of voice and body language. This approach, which is in some ways more intrusive than a TSA pat-down and in other ways less so, requires skills that you can't learn in a quick pre-employment course and screeners who do more than watch monitors and wave wands. In the U.S., which has many more flights than Israel and faces a lower risk of terrorist attacks, I'm not sure whether more-professional airline security personnel would be worth the cost. But from what I've seen and read of the TSA in action, the El Al screener was right that the U.S. program is essentially cosmetic. The question is whether the appearance of security serves to deter terrorists or only to falsely reassure passengers.

As Long As We Were Looking Back at Watergate, We Might As Well Take In the Clinton Scandals As Well...

Leftist Clinton critic Doug Ireland gives thumbs down to Edward Klein's The Truth About Hillary.

The Italian Job

How many agents does it take to capture an Egyptian cleric living in Italy? 19. How much does it cost? Around $42,000, in one Milan hotel alone, followed by soujourns in Italian cities, or the Alps, once the job is done. Now we know why morale in the CIA has hit rock bottom.

Ink-Stained Retches

Today's unanticipated factoid: among the people increasingly "less trusting of the professional behavior" of journalists are . . . journalists! A survey of professional journalists by Euro RSCG Magnet, a PR and marketing outfit, and Columbia University, found that "45 percent of journalists are less trusting of the professional behavior of their own colleagues -- up from 34 percent in 2003." Many of these journalists were unhappy about the recent unpleasantness involving Dan Rather: "78 percent believe that Rathergate has profoundly altered the media's credibility."

The welcome news is that "93 percent of journalists said they are being 'excruciatingly careful' in fact-checking their stories in 2005 -- a huge increase from 59 percent in 2003, likely a reflection of the press's declining credibility." The grabber here is here is that in 2003, 41 percent of journalists said they were being something other than 'excruciatingly careful' in fact-checking their stories.

The survey actually focused on journalists' attitude toward blogs. "[O]nly 1 percent believe blogs are credible," yet "more than half of journalists use Weblogs regularly, with 28 percent relying on them for day-to-day reporting." Assemble those responses as you wish. Many pro journalists use blogs, the survey reported, to find story ideas and sources.

Tech blogs get especially high marks. Indeed, one of the Columbia profs involved in the survey observed that "it is becoming imperative that journalists and journalism students continue to integrate blogs, especially blogs that cover technology, into their reporting practices."

Here's Washingtonian Magazine's list of "Best Political Blogs: DC Journalists Pick Their Favorites." (Nick posted about this list here.) Hit&Run made the cut.

Finally, in late-breaking developments involving the agenda-setting press, The New York Times today kicks off a poker column. Texas Hold'em, writes James McManus in the debut offering, is "intrinsically beautiful."

Iran: President Ahmadinejad?

Reuters is reporting that Tehran's "ultra-conservative" mayor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has "swept to victory in Iran's presidential election." Aides to the other candidate, "moderate" cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, told Reuters that, "It's over, we accept that we've lost."

The wire service speculated that an Ahmadinejad victory would result in an "end to fragile social reforms and rapprochement with the West." Ahmadinejad has promised to redistribute Iran's oil wealth and to attack corruption; his apparent victory has been attributed to support from the urban and rural poor.

The ostensible new president may owe his victory to other factors as well. One is alleged voter intimidation on his behalf by militiamen; the other is a boycott of the election by reform-minded Iranians who are weary of their revolution and who seek to foment a crisis of legitimacy.

The "official" turnout numbers are that 22 million people, or 47 percent of Iran's eligible voters, participated in this round of the elections. Assuming those numbers to be accurate, that's a major drop-off from the 63 percent of Iranian voters who reportedly participated in the first round of voting on June 17. (The regime's June 17 numbers have been disputed by anti-regime bloggers.)

Anyway, Reuters reminds us that in revolutionary Iran, "Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the last word on all matters of state." Nobody is president of Iran until the Supreme Leader says he is president of Iran.

Kelo: A Solution

If I'm reading the Supreme Court correctly, if I conduct abortions on my property I'm pretty much untouchable, access to abortions being a fundamental right and all. At least I'd get some kinda strict scrutiny from the courts when the local fascists* come calling.

The big ol' stirrup chair will clash with the dinette, but you do what you have to do.

(*Sorry, I don't know what else to call the illusion of property rights, utterly subjugated to state and corporate aims.)

New at Reason

Tim Cavanaugh interviews Scott Bullock, the attorney who defended the expropriated homeowners in Kelo.

First, Do No Harm

I think it's fair to say that the doctors at Guantanamo Bay were not taught to do this in med school:

The former interrogators said the military doctors' role was to advise them and their fellow interrogators on ways of increasing psychological duress on detainees, sometimes by exploiting their fears, in the hopes of making them more cooperative and willing to provide information.

In response, Erica Jong at the Huffington Post proves that she hasn't learned anything from the Ordeal of Durbin:

Of course Nazi Germany asked doctors to experiment with Jews--thrusting them into freezing water, performing useless operations without anesthesia. But they were Nazis and we're Americans in love with liberty. Right? Also the Nazis thought Jews were subhuman so they got no benefit of empathy. So now we're doing that to Muslims. The Attorney General, Mr. Gonzales, approves.

A Good Day for Porn

Wired News reports that an agreement between federal prosecutors and the adult industry's Free Speech Coalition will (for the moment) stall enforcement of burdensome new "2257 rules" that would've imposed extensive recordkeeping requirements on sites providing explicit content. The rules are billed as necessary to fight child porn, but the FSC says they'll have a much broader chilling effect:

The Justice Department's new interpretation raises a slew of issues. Adult performers fear their real names, addresses and ages will end up in the hands of countless webmasters who must now keep these records. "We deal with stalkers now," said Bill Rust, webmaster of Arikaames.com, a soft-core site featuring his wife. "We've had people who join the site and try to track her down, send cakes and candies to her parents' house."

Rust said he stopped providing the site's content to hundreds of affiliates because he wasn't willing to give out his wife's personal information to comply with the new rules.

There's another potential problem with the regulations. According to Odenberger, the law would require websites to store every explicit image they ever post. The government, he said, doesn't realize "there are such things as 19-year-old (live web) cam girls sitting in a trailer with $200 in their bank accounts, going online solely to support their child. To require them to buy terabytes worth of storage puts down an impossible barrier between them and internet access."

Flying Dragons of Fury vs. Warlords of the Forbidden City

If events in China's Hebei province are any indication, the defeated plaintiffs in Kelo v. New London may want to head down to their local dojo to prepare for the next phase in their struggle. For the second time, peasants have turned back an attack by goons trying to clear them out to make room for a state-owned power plant. Sez The Globe and Mail:

The farmers fight back against the attackers with wooden poles and pitchforks. At one point, they knock down one of the assailants and club him repeatedly as he lies motionless on the ground. The four-minute videotape abruptly ends when the farmer with the digital video camera is forced to flee from the assailants. He reportedly suffered a broken arm in the battle.

Of the six slain farmers, most reportedly died from bullet or stab wounds. One of the attackers also died, the Beijing News reported.

Lefty bloggers are said to be dismayed.

Watch the video. Thanks to kevrob.

Libertarians Against Privatization?

One thing about the argument over Kelo struck me as a little ironic in the wake of yesterday's decision: The libertarian side of the argument seems to entail that takings are permissible if the government is using the land itself to accomplish a goal, but not if it makes use of private markets to do so. In other words (on this argument) it is a public use if government condemns a strip of land to build a public highway, but not if it auctions the land to a private firm hoping to build a toll road, as many libertarians would presumably prefer. There does seem to be an interesting tension there (or, at any rate, a delicate balancing act) between the view that "public use" can't just mean any giveaway to a private company that would produce incedental public benefits, and the view that it's better for government to take advantage of the effiiciency of private markets rather than running things soup-to-nuts itself when possible. I see Eugene Volokh had the same thought, which he explores in a long and interesting post.

Friday Fun Link

The author of The Anarchist Cookbook apparently recants. (Link via Dr. Frank.)

Shorter Lefty Blogosphere Reaction to Kelo

  • "hoyapaul," on The Daily Kos*: Thank God we stopped the property-rights extremists in their tracks!
  • Atrios: It could have been worse -- conservatives could have written a majority opinion.
  • Matthew Yglesias: It's not the end of the world, therefore I'm angry that people are outraged about it.

Taking the cake (or should I say "razing the house"?) is this nauseating New York Times editorial, which begins thusly:

The Supreme Court's ruling yesterday that the economically troubled city of New London, Conn., can use its power of eminent domain to spur development was a welcome vindication of cities' ability to act in the public interest. It also is a setback to the "property rights" movement, which is trying to block government from imposing reasonable zoning and environmental regulations.

Yesterday, Julian Sanchez asked, in the wake of Raich and Kelo, "will some court-watchers on the left begin to question the wisdom of having let economic freedom become the red-headed stepchild of modern jurisprudence?" A preliminary answer -- some may have, but several of the more influential ones have concluded that the unchecked government power to bulldoze your home and sell your property to Wal-Mart is the price we all must pay to avoid the scourge of "property rights extremism." Rarely are public policy issues so stark, in terms of revealing whose side you're on. If it's a mainstream liberal idea that defending the rights of an individual human against the zillion-pound hammer of government is "extremism," then mainstream liberalism is sicker than I thought.

* Originally said "kos." Damned group weblogs!

UPDATE: Like I said, "stark." Yglesias comments on my Wal-Mart scenario: "Pejorative rhetoric aside, that's absolutely correct." Then adds:

Matt, Julian, and co. down at Reason have an extreme and pernicious view of property rights that, if implemented in full, would have disastrous consequences for the country.

You heard it right: If our nation's city halls didn't have the ability to seize your property any time they thought a new owner could produce more sales-tax revenue, the result would be "disastrous." It's a wonder how we made it through those first two centuries....

Sanctions or Engagement?

Fareed Zakaria makes a persuasive case that engagement, not isolation, is the best method for encouraging regime change of dictatorships from the outside. Excerpt:

To change a regime, short of waging war, you have to shift the balance of power between the state and society. Society needs to be empowered. It is civil society -- private business, media, civic associations, nongovernmental organizations -- that can create an atmosphere which forces change in a country. But by piling on sanctions and ensuring that a country is isolated, Washington only ensures that the state becomes ever more powerful and society remains weak and dysfunctional. In addition, the government benefits from nationalist sentiment as it stands up to the global superpower. Think of Iraq before the war, which is a rare case where multilateral sanctions were enforced. As we are discovering now, the sanctions destroyed Iraq's middle class, its private sector and its independent institutions, but they allowed Saddam to keep control. When the regime was changed by war, it turned out that nation-building was vastly more difficult because the underpinnings of civil society had been devastated.

In a careful study, the Institute for International Economics has estimated that U.S. sanctions on 26 countries, accounting for more than half the world's population, cost America between $15 billion and $19 billion in lost exports annually and have worked less than 13 percent of the time. But what if it's even worse? What if our policies have exactly the opposite effect than is intended? Look around the world today, and you will see regime change in places where Washington has no such policy and regime resilience in places where it does.

Whole thing here; link via Export Control Blog.

Border Cops Read Reason (Hey Kids, Comics! Edition)

From the blog of Fantagraphics, publisher of Peter Bagge and Bob Levin's The Pirates & the Mouse: Disney's War Against the Counterculture, which we excerpted last December. The writer is Eric Reynolds of Fantagraphics describing a trip he took to Canada:

Last December, Greg Zura and I traveled up to Vancouver for a day to attend meetings with our Canadian distributor, Raincoast Books. We headed back home in the early evening, after dinner, and hit the U.S. border around 8PM or so. It was an unusually quiet night with almost no traffic, and we pulled right up to the first available U.S. agent. As always, he asked us where we were coming from and what our business was in Vancouver. I told him we were publishers, visiting our distributor. He asked me, "What do you publish?" Things got weird from here:

ME: "Comic books"

AGENT: "Comic books? Ever heard of them 'underground' comic books?"

ME: "Uh, yeah."

At this point Greg and I look at each other and start to get nervous; is this a sting operation or is Ashton Kutcher about to jump out from behind the Peace Arch and yell "PUNK'D!"?

AGENT: "You ever read REASON magazine?"

At this point I just figured I met the world's least likely Peter Bagge fan, but no.

ME: "Uh, yeah, are you a Peter Bagge fan?"

AGENT: "Yeah, he's good, but you ever read about the Air Pirates?...Well, remember guys, you gotta spread the libertarian word. You gotta get out and pound the pavement. I can't do it all myself -- I'm here all day!"

Whole thing here.

Question: Is "REASON...a firmly libertarian mag in the Ayn Rand model," as Reynolds avers? And if so, could somebody please tell that to readers pissed off at our coverage of Rand's 100th b-day?

Hat tip to Elizabeth Spiers of Mediabistro.

New at Reason

Jacob Sullum argues it's time to kick Big Bird and Elmo off the dole.

Biblical Injunction Against Human Cloning Explained

"What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun," wrote the Preacher in Ecclesiastes. Apparently this weary lament applies to human reproductive cloning according to a press release promoting evangelist Matthew Omaye Ajiake's new book, Nephilim: The First Human Clones--Why Their Existence Led to Noah's Flood.

I can't explain Ajiake's argument any better than the press release below:

Is Human Cloning Really A New Biomedical Breakthrough?

In 1996, Dolly the sheep became the first surviving mammal known to be conceived by laboratory cloning. Other animals since Dolly, including horses and cattle, have been created using this method. The biotechnology used to create a human clone is essentially the same as that used to clone animals.

Human cloning in the laboratory is inevitable and will bring with it disastrous consequences, according to Matthew Omaye Ajiake, author of Nephilim: The First Human Clones.

Ajiake makes a case for the existence of human clones in Old Testament times in the form of the Nephilim, descendants of Cain, one of the sons of Adam. The Nephilim were referred to as "giants" and "the fallen ones" - unnatural and grotesque creatures.

Because Cain had murdered his brother Abel, Cain and his descendants were cursed by God and destined to become extinct after seven generations, according to biblical passages cited by Ajiake.

He writes that Lamech, a sixth-generation descendant of Cain, tried to escape this annihilation by creating clones of himself through a process that involved women from the lineage of Seth, another son of Adam. Son of Man.

Ajiake contends that the Nephilim were the first nihilists, having no respect for traditional values and beliefs, seeing existence as senseless and God as irrelevant. This attitude, also adopted by most other people of the era, brought about God's appeal for humankind to repent.

God selected Noah to be the messenger of His call for repentance, and to build an ark as protection against a great flood that was to come if humanity failed to change its ways. No one heeded the warning call, and all humans except Noah and his family were destroyed by the flood.

Ajaike's central message is that the world today is parallel to that of Noah's time and that by ignoring God's principles, humanity will bring destruction on itself.

He quotes Jesus saying, "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man (the Second Coming of Christ)."

Part of the great evil of our time, Ajiake believes, is seen in attempts to create and manipulate life through the cloning process.

Proof that cloning is a perversion of nature and God's purpose can be seen in the fact that the majority of cloned animals never survive, and that those who do are often oversized and demonstrate other physical anomalies, Ajiake says. He uses internationally respected authorities on cloning to support his argument.

"The greatest challenge in dealing with human cloning will come when we see an assortment of cloned humans and other creatures - from designer pets to designer babies to obscene hybrids," Ajiake writes. "The process of human cloning has the potential to result in more loss of life than any catastrophic event modern mankind has ever experienced."

Who knew that God was against "designer pets"? And in other news, the Wisconsin State Assembly is evidently trying to save Badger Staters from divine retribution.

Death Aid?

Writing in Prospect, David Rieff argues that Bob Geldof's Live Aid may have done more harm than good in its response to Ethiopian famine in 1985:

The truth is that the Dergue's resettlement policy -- of moving 600,000 people from the north while enforcing the "villagisation" of 3m others -- was at least in part a military campaign, masquerading as a humanitarian effort. And it was assisted by western aid money.

Whole thing here.

"I'm sure you'll forgive me from criticizing the vice president"

Yeah, general, that does tend to get one's career shit-canned with this crew, now doesn't it?

But Gen. John Abizaid's reluctance to cross Dick Cheney's "last throes" thesis on the Iraq insurgency does not bode well. The basic problem goes all the way back to Rummy's metrics memo of October 2003. If the U.S. is not, in fact, killing more insurgents than are being created, the whole operation is treading water.

Abizaid said he thinks infiltration into Iraq has increased in the last six months. This does not sound like a "last throes" situation no matter what the vice president might say.

A Matter of Time

As Nick Gillespie noted, now that the ink is dry on the Raich decision, what's a federal government to do but start raiding (still-legal) medical marijuana dispensaries? Good thing that the feds aren't specifically targeting medical marijuana, though:

"It's not the pot clubs per se" that were targets, said one law enforcement official, who asked not to be named because the indictments were still under seal. "It's not an attack on medical marijuana. This is an organized crime group that is using the whole pot club thing as a front."

I have a feeling we'll soon be finding out that a shockingly large number of medical cannabis distributors are actually just fronts for organized crime. (Link via Sploid.)

"Hello Garci?"

The hottest cell-phone ringtone in Manila these days features the alleged voice of the Philippine president apparently engaged in swaying the election that brought her to power last year. A 17-second snippet of a phone conversation supposedly between then-candidate Gloria Arroyo and a man believed by many Philippine citizens to be election official Virgilio Garcillano ("Garci") features Arroyo discussing the election returns: "Hello? Hello? Hello Garci? So, will I still lead by more than 1M (million)?"

Most users have downloaded the snippet, set to various musical backgrounds, from the Internet. Street vendors are also selling CDs containing the material.

The conversation is part of a mass of similar material obtained via illegal wiretaps allegedly placed by military officers hostile to Arroyo, according to the SF Chronicle. (Transcripts and audio posted here.) Arroyo says only that "I will not comment on the authenticity of the material that accusers admit were illegally derived." She says she will discuss the recordings further at an "appropriate time."

Chicago Offers Pimps Free Ad Space

Chicago's police department is publishing the photographs, names, and partial addresses of the city's alleged johns and pimps on a public site. The Web site (which tactfully reminds us that the humiliated men are "presumed innocent") is apparently not part of the "Choose Chicago" tourism pitch, but an attempt to "out" offenders and clean up Chi-town so its residents can continue to wallow in the prairie mudhole unblemished by the louche impulses of their friends and neighbors. Money quote:

And despite the public humiliation factor, Daley said the city's effort is built on compassion for victims -- starting with the prostitutes themselves -- some 25,000 women selling sex in Chicago over the course of a year.

My Safe Goat

Long Beach and Newark Harbors, among other huge industrial port complexes, may still be vulnerable to terrorist attacks, but you'll be relieved to know that Kentucky's goats are safe. (Link via Sploid.)

Cracking Down on Medical Marijuana (Stupid California AG Edition)

Here's Bill Lockyer, California's Attorney General bullshitting after the Supreme Court decision in Gonzalez v. Raich, which banned medical marijuana even in states that had approved its use:

People shouldn't panic. There aren't going to be many changes. Nothing is different today than it was two days ago, in terms of real-world impact.

More on that here.

Not much has changed--except for this:

Federal agents executed search warrants at three medical marijuana dispensaries on Wednesday as part of a broad investigation into marijuana trafficking in San Francisco, setting off fears among medical marijuana advocates that a federal crackdown on the drug's use by sick people was beginning.

About 20 residences, businesses and growing sites were also searched, leading to multiple arrests, a law enforcement official said.

Whole thing here.

Ry Cooder and Kelo v. New London

On the heels of today's horrible decision in Kelo v. New London, check out this appreciation of Ry Cooder's recent album in the Christian Science Monitor.

Among other themes, Cooder's Chavez Ravine deals with the late '50s eminent domain rulings that cleared the way for Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles (ironically, a facility built mostly with private funds).

"Los Angeles is the home of eminent-domain abuse, and poor people are the ones who get moved around," opines Cooder. "If [the Supreme Court justices] come down in favor of the rights of citizens, it would be amazing."

He got that right. But what does he think of Castro's eminent domain policy?

New at Reason

Jesse Walker says radio station execs who try to compete with the iPod on its own terms don't know Jack.

New at Reason

Nick Gillespie and R.U. Sirius discuss libertarianism, intellectual property, the ideological dispositions of Silicon Valley CEOs, federalism, slavery, and why Reason is such a good magazine.

New at Reason

Franklin Harris thanks the comic book censors for aiding in the seduction of the innocent.

Fascinating Source of Climate Change Skepticism

Yury Izrael, Director of the Global Climate and Ecology Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences and UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Vice President opines, "There is no proven link between human activity and global warming."

Hat tip to Benny Peiser.

What's Yours is Mine

The Supreme Court has rendered its verdict in Kelo v. New London, and the widely-expected result has come to pass: a 5-4 loss for property rights. As Raich taught us that growing pot in your backyard for personal consumption is "interstate commerce," Kelo informs us that taking people's homes to hand over to private developers building an office complex is a "public use."

You do wonder: Now that the "liberal" justices on the court have sided with the drug warriors against cancer patients, and with a plan to rob people of their homes for the benefit of wealthy developers, will some court-watchers on the left begin to question the wisdom of having let economic freedom become the red-headed stepchild of modern jurisprudence?

UPDATE: The opinions are here. As with Raich (in a sense just a reaffirmation of Wickard), we're just seeing a particularly outrageous confirmation of what was already, in effect, the law. As the majority opinion says, quoting an earlier decision, the "Court long ago rejected any literal requirement that condemned property be put into use for the ... public." Which is to say, they've rejected the notion that "public use" means anything more stringent than: "legislators want to do this." The Court's view is that any "public purpose" will do, and such purposes apparently include increased tax revenue. The straightforward implication is that any taking of a private residence to hand it over to a business, or just from a poor person to a wealthy person, will be a taking in service of a public purpose: As a general rule, the rich pay more taxes than the poor, and businesses pay more taxes than households.

UPDATE 2:The Institute for Justice's press release on the verdict is here.

Low-Cost Showdown: Clifford the Big Red Dog vs. His Royal Tampon Wannabe

Yesterday, I appeared on National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation to discuss tax funding for PBS and NPR. Among the other guests were Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the idjit who gave the "V-Chip" its name and who recently outed himself as a possible furry by appearing with PBS shill Clifford the Big Red Dog.

Let's leave aside the fact the CTBRD existed years before he showed up on PBS and that books featuring him have sold something like 110 million copies worldwide, suggesting that Clifford and other similar characters would flourish absent taxpayer funding of public broadcasting. One of Markey's main arguments for maintaining the status quo was that public broadcasting only costs each U.S. citizen $2 a year.

My question is this: Given that we've recently learned that British public coughs up roughly $1.10US to support Prince Charles, whose most memorable utterance involved a desire to be reincarnated as a tampon, and his ragtag band of Col. Klink impersonators, don't you feel cheated--if not ashamed of your country? In terms of sheer entertainment value, the British Royal family is clearly delivering superior entertainment value--and at a substantially lower cost. Did we win the revoulution only to lose the peace?

Deprivatizing Social Security

If you're a terror suspect, you'd better have paid your taxes. The Social Security Administration and the IRS released private information--ranging from SSNs to occupations--on an ad hoc basis to the FBI for 9/11 investigations.

The Open Government Project at the Electronic Privacy Information Center obtained internal memorandums and records from the agencies through a Freedom of Information Act request. The SSA and IRS insist that there were no abuses of information.

Writing about "Real I.D." in January, Brian Doherty wore shades and a scarf to cover his bruises and lamented, "how little our 'partners' in D.C.--supposedly our agents, in fact, representing our own interests and using only powers we've ceded them--really respect us." Just imagine what the FBI would do with national ID cards, on an ad hoc basis only, of course.

Coulda Sworn There Was a War on, or Something

In one of those periodic moments that make me feel sane for not belonging to any political party, the scarequote-worthy "House of Representatives" just passed the Flag-Burning Amendment, by a whopping 286-130. The Party of Limited Government (Except When We Run it) voted 209-12, and the Loyal Opposition pushed the amendment over the goal line with a disgraceful 77-117 showing. Here's the complete roll-call list of congress-dopes who should probably never be taken seriously about anything ever again.

UPDATE: Via Andrew Sullivan comes this foul quote from Rep. Randy (Duke) Cunningham, R-San Diego:

Ask the men and women who stood on top of the Trade Center. Ask them and they will tell you: pass this amendment.

The Senator Would Like to Add that He is Vewy Sowwy

Dick Durbin finally gives the people what they want, a (sort-of) retraction of his (sort-of) comparison of U.S. interrogation techniques to those of the Nazis, the Soviets, and the Khmer Rouge:

"Some may believe that my remarks crossed the line," said the Illinois Democrat, at times holding back tears. "To them I extend my heartfelt apologies."

I, for one, am glad to see that this national crisis is over. Words have consequences, a "lesson that we all learn over and over again and again," as Bill Frist aptly noted. To pre-empt the occurrence of any similar atrocity, perhaps the White House press apparatus, in conjunction with the Office of Legal Counsel, could put together an exhaustive list of acceptable metaphors, similes, historical analogies, proverbs, and various turns of phrase that will enable criticisms of government policy to lead to lively debates about...government policy.

New at Reason

Matt Welch grabs his garlic and ventures in to the Romanian political scene.

Semantic Stalemate in Berkeley

Tainted as it is by prez number three's slave-trading ways, parents and teachers want to change the name of Jefferson Elementary. Parents in Berkeley (a city named after proud slave owner George Berkeley) prefer the egalitarian ring of "Sequoia Elementary." The problem, as the New York Sun frames it:

Some community members have pointed out that under Chief Sequoia's leadership in the early 19th century, the Cherokee nation owned more than 1,500 black slaves.

Not to worry, say administrators:

A spokesman for the Berkeley Unified School District, Mark Coplan, acknowledged that Chief Sequoia "presumably owned slaves and was rather barbaric," but he emphasized that the proposed new name would honor the sequoia tree, not the Cherokee leader.

Along those lines, can't the school just declare itself a monument to George Jefferson?

Reason Writers Around Town

Writing in the New York Sun, Kerry Howley reviews Finding George Orwell in Burma.

New at Reason

Ron Bailey wonders how cracking down on scientific research protects us from lunatics with boxcutters.

De-funding PBS From Coast to Coast

Like Flava Flav to Nick Gillespie's Chuck D, I'll be on St. Louis' KMOX 1120 AM today at 3:10 local time, talking to Paul Harris about de-funding PBS.

How Do You Expand Free Speech in Slovakia?

By (satirically) calling the archibishop a motherfucker.

Greasing the Slope

Smoking ban opponent Carol Schwartz proposed a tongue-in-cheek alcohol prohibition bill (promptly withdrawn), explaining that ""I never thought I could ban drinking just because I didn't like it, but now I know I can. The impending smoking ban has empowered me."

The Washington Post, in a dreary response, clucks that it's all fun and games till someone loses a lung, managing in a single sentence to reinforce the new, degraded meaning of "public health" (everyone's a member of the public; so all health issues are "public health" issues!) and repeat the infantilizing suggestion that workers "have no choice but to breathe secondhand smoke."

Sweet Success

An EU commission appears to be serious about slashing sugar subsidies.

Gillespie on NPR Today

I'll be on Talk of the Nation today at 2pm ET, discussing the upside(s) to taking NPR and PBS off the public teat.

Go here to find your local affiliate carrying the program.

Go here for Managing Editor Jesse Walker's recent take on the issue.

And go here for my 1995 (!) editorial on the then-hot issue of public funding for the arts, etc.

Gaseous Europe

Better hurry up with those British carbon-emission ration cards that Ron posted about yesterday. The European Environment Agency is reporting that the EU's carbon dioxide emissions rose by 1.5 percent in 2003 in the 15 member-states of the "old" EU, after falling in 2002. In fact, Britain was one of the major offenders (along with Finland and Italy). A spokesman for Friends of the Earth obliged the BBC by calling the new figures "shocking."

The Beeb passes along this quote, too: "The blame goes mostly to national economy and industry ministers, who constantly block any attempts to introduce mandatory targets for renewable energies, energy efficiency rules or fuel consumption standards for cars." Also, "cold weather was blamed for a rise in the use of fossil fuels to heat homes and offices."