November 18, 2008


The title of this Samizdata post made me wince.

American Leyland

[...] If the Democrats do decide to rescue the US car industry via a bail-out, they will rationalise and reorder. Perhaps they will even wish to intervene as to which models and which research should be undertaken. Think of the opportunity for renewables...renewing jobs, renewing pork, renewing votes. By the end of this process, it is doubtful if there will be any US car industry at all. Congress will have undertaken a wonderful role in clearing out the undergrowth for more efficient rivals and Detroit will go the way of Morris, Austin and the Triumph marques.

Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it - Santayana

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September 24, 2008

You gotta license for those grapes?

A EULA for produce? Here's the fine print from a package of grapes.

The recipient of the produce contained in this package agrees not to propagate or reproduce any portion of the produce, including (but not limited to) seeds, stems, tissue and fruit.

Photo here.


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April 17, 2008

Whose laws are they, anyway?

Here's an interesting post at boingboing. It always amazes me when government bodies try to apply copyright law to things like laws, regulations, maps, and so forth. Shouldn't those things be a matter of public record - with unrestricted access?

Oregon: our laws are copyrighted and you can't publish them

Rogue archivist Carl Malamud sez,

The State of Oregon is sending out cease and desist letters to sites like Justia and Public.Resource.Org that have been posting copies of Oregon laws, known as the Oregon Revised Statutes.

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April 15, 2008

Patented physics?

This one is hard to believe but it's reported as straight news.

Satellite Abandoned Thanks To Patent On Lunar Flybys

[...] Basically, what happened is that SES had a problem with a satellite launch, such that the satellite did not reach the proper orbit (it was intended to be a geostationary satellite used by Echostar). SES then figured out that it could get the satellite into a proper orbit by making use of a lunar flyby. That part is just basic physics. But, at that point, SES discovered that Boeing happens to own a patent on doing this sort of lunar flyby, despite the fact that you can't patent physics.

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April 14, 2008

George himself

George Harrison performing Taxman in Japan in 1991.

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February 06, 2008

All your mail are belong to us

From the NYT's Opinionator page.

Should the F.B.I. Be Free to Read Your Email?

By Chris Suellentrop
Tags: Crime, Technology

A Los Angeles Times editorial condemns an effort by the Justice Department “to convince a panel of federal judges that the F.B.I. should be free to read your email without obtaining a warrant.” The editorial explains:

It’s not all your e-mail — only messages left on a Web-based system such as Hotmail or on your Internet service provider’s computers. A 1986 law forbids the interception and disclosure of e-mail and other online transmissions without a warrant. But there is an exception. If the messages are more than 180 days old, they can be obtained merely with a subpoena or a court order, which investigators can obtain more easily than a warrant.

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January 22, 2008

The more they stay the same

I lifted this whole post from cato-at-liberty. My guess is that Connecticut isn't unusual in this way.

Endless Earmarks

One sure way to create an uprising against big government would be to sign up every American voter to Senator Tom Coburn’s daily email reports on pork spending. I should take news about pork in stride, but I can’t help myself. I get disgusted every time I read the Coburn blasts.

Today’s item that turned my stomach was from the Waterbury Republican American (Connecticut):

One of the more enlightening disclosures from the legislature’s latest ethics eruption was the state spends about $10 million a year on the salaries and benefits of more than 50 agency administrators whose main function is to lobby lawmakers.

For taxpayers, this may be the costliest appropriation in the distended $16.3 billion state budget. It funds squads of unfettered lobbyists who wheedle and when necessary sleep with key legislators for ungodly sums of your tax dollars for dubious programs and projects. One reason state taxes are so high, state budget growth easily outstrips inflation every year and the state’s per-capita debt is among the highest in the nation is the government constantly lobbies itself to spend and borrow more.

The self-reinforcing or perpetual motion aspect of big government is one of the most disturbing aspects of federal subsidies, which I explore in this study.

Anyway, kudos to Coburn’s staff for its daily reminders of folly in government. You can get on the daily pork blast by emailing

posted by Chris Edwards on 01.04.08 @ 2:39 pm

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January 15, 2008

How to lose customers and influence people

Here's a snippet from an interesting post at BoingBoing about Ford Motor Co. and its legal minions. (My emphasis.)

Josh sez, "The folks at BMC (Black Mustang Club) automotive forum wanted to put together a calendar featuring members' cars, and print it through CafePress. Photos were submitted, the layout was set, and... CafePress notifies the site admin that pictures of Ford cars cannot be printed. Not just Ford logos, not just Mustang logos, the car - as a whole - is a Ford trademark and its image can't be reproduced without permission.

Here's the topic at the BMC Forum.

Update: Steve, a BMC member, left this in the comments:

Just a quick update on this situation. I am a member of the BMC forums, and after many many posts to various forums and emails to Ford, the issue has been resolved. If you are interested in what happened between BMC and Ford, here's the link to the thread. Thanks to anybody who may have seen this and was concerned.

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November 20, 2007

Difficult to believe indeed

Nice neighbors... too bad they're lawyers.

Property right wrongly taken
By David Harsanyi
The Denver Post
Article Last Updated: 11/19/2007 01:09:34 AM MST

The story is so absurd, so unfair, so ludicrous, I had a difficult time believing that it could actually happen - even in Boulder.

It's about a couple named Don and Susie Kirlin. They moved to the city in 1980. A few years later, the Kirlins purchased a plot of land near their residence, hoping to someday build a "dream home."


As the children began to make their own way in life, the couple decided it was time to finally develop the property in late 2006.

By then, it was too late.

Despite owning the land, despite living only 200 yards from the property, despite hiking past it every week with their three dogs, despite spraying for weeds and fixing fences, despite paying homeowner association dues and property taxes each year, someone else had taken a shine to it. Someone powerful.

Former Boulder District Judge, Boulder Mayor, RTD board member - among other elected positions - Richard McLean and his wife, attorney Edith Stevens, used an arcane common law called "adverse possession" to claim the land for their own.

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November 14, 2007

And smile when they ask for your papers

The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers policy wonks. This comes from Rich Karlgaard at

Life, Liberty And The Pursuit Of Higher Taxes

Ye shall know them by their own words.

Check out this New York Times piece.

Or don't. Let's save everyone time and quote its absurd proposition:

"Though governments have seen life and liberty as deserving of protection, for all the public policies aimed at increasing economic growth, people have been left to sort out their happiness. This is an unfortunate omission."

There you have it. Government must be responsible for our happiness. We're too stupid to figure it out.

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August 23, 2007

They're watching...

I'm hoping someone will tell me this is an urban legend.

Smile… Or Else
‘Behavior Detection Officers’ are now watching passengers’ facial expressions for signs of danger. It’s a new level of absurdity for America.

By Patti Davis
Special to Newsweek
Updated: 11:40 a.m. CT Aug 16, 2007

Aug. 16, 2007 - It was bound to happen. Now even a frown or grimace can get you into trouble with The Man.

“Specially trained security personnel”
will be watching passengers for “micro-expressions” that will reveal treacherous agendas and insidious intentions at airports around the country. These agents, who may literally hold your fate in their hands have been given a lofty, Orwellian name: "Behavior Detection Officers."

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April 17, 2007

I've been expecting this

Selling stuff online? Here comes the IRS
By Declan McCullagh and Anne Broache
Staff Writer, CNET
Published: April 13, 2007, 3:50 PM PDT

Americans who sell items through Internet auction sites could be in for an unpleasant surprise at tax time next year, thanks to an IRS proposal designed to identify taxpayers who don't report income from those sales.

The U.S. Treasury Department wants Congress to force auction sites like eBay, and to turn over the identities and Social Security numbers of a large portion of their users to the IRS--so tax collectors know how much each person made through online selling.

Via the CFG blog.

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April 15, 2007

Take my hand

A seasonally appropriate oldie:

One day a tax collector went down to take the subway to his office. Unfortunately for him, he stood too near the rails, was jostled, and fell onto the tracks just as a train was approaching.

Many of the crowd leaned over to him, yelling "Give me your hand! Give me your hand!" But the man refused to do so.

Finally, someone yelled to him, "What's your job?"

"Tax collector," the man replied.

"Then take my hand!" yelled the questioner. The tax collector reached up, took the man's hand and was pulled from the tracks just in time to avoid the incoming train.

The crowd was amazed by the dramatic rescue and some stayed to ask the hero how he'd done it. "How did you get him to grab your hand?" they asked.

"You heard him say he was a tax collector, so he wasn't going to give anyone anything. But he was glad to take my hand."

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April 01, 2007

Weekend Watching II

This video clip is a promotional piece for LEAP -- Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. At 13 1/2 minutes, it's a little long but well worth the time. Why a country that tried and gave up on The Noble Experiment would start a War On Drugs a few decades later is something I never have understood. Are we just slow learners?

I found the link last August at The Agitator's site:

LEAP needs more attention. This is an organization of 5,000 current and former law enforcement officials who recognize the failure and the damage effected by the war on drugs. And it has grown to 5,000 from just five founding members a few years ago. Seems to me that that's pretty newsworthy. So pass this video on. If you're in a position to show it to a large group of people -- students, Rotary clubs, civic groups, etc. -- contact LEAP directly. They'll send you a DVD. Better yet, book one of these guys to come speak in person.

When he posted that, The Agitator was a policy analyst at the Cato Institute, where he published Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America. Be sure to check out the interactive map of botched paramilitary raids. He's now a senior editor for Reason magazine but still tracks SWAT team abuses at his own site.

If this topic interests you, be sure to check out Pete Guither's Drug War Rant.

Posted by joke du jour at 08:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 22, 2007

His word is law

Venezuela's Chavez gets initial approval to approve laws by decree
The Associated Press
Published: January 18, 2007

CARACAS, Venezuela: The National Assembly has given initial approval to a measure that would let President Hugo Chavez enact laws by decree for 1 1/2 years, a key step in what the leftist leader calls an accelerating march toward socialism.

"Socialism or death!" says Señor Chavez. But I think he's using the wrong conjunction.

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November 20, 2006

Nursery rhyme police

From -- and you thought 'Nanny State' was just a figure of speech.

The nursery rhyme police - parents to take lessons in reading and singing

Parents could be forced to go to special classes to learn to sing their children nursery rhymes, a minister said.

Those who fail to read stories or sing to their youngsters threaten their children's future and the state must put them right, Children's Minister Beverley Hughes said.

Their children's well-being is at risk 'unless we act', she declared.

And Mrs Hughes said the state would train a new 'parenting workforce' to ensure parents who fail to do their duty with nursery rhymes are found and 'supported'.

Posted by joke du jour at 06:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 07, 2006

Today's the day

From Reason:

Permission to Speak Freely
The "electioneering communications" ban silences interest groups when their messages matter most
Jacob Sullum

As of Friday, when the 60-day blackout period for "electioneering communications" by nonprofit interest groups begins, political speech will enjoy less protection than dirty movies. While a sexually explicit film is protected by the First Amendment if it has some socially redeeming value, an "electioneering communication" is forbidden even if it deals with important and timely public policy issues.

From Coyote Blog:

Mourning the Loss of Free Speech Through November 7, 2006

In a stunning beat down on one of America's longest-held and most sacred principles, your first ammendment rights to criticize incumbent politicians, at least on radio and TV, are suspended from now until the November 7 election. Congress has decided, and incredibly the Supreme Court has concurred, that only members of the media, including intellectual giants like Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann, can legally criticize sitting politicians on TV and radio in the runup to the election. These restrictions also came very, very close to applying to this and all other blogs. John McCain, Russ Feingold, and everyone who voted for this un-American incumbent protection act need to be voted out of office at our next opportunity.

From Tom Rants:

MFers Tea Party

Well, when our civil rights are violated, it’s time we take a page from the civil rights movement, a little civil disobedience. Maybe dump a few tea bags in a harbor. We can keep it nice for now, no need to water the Liberty Tree just yet. Every day possible from Thursday until the election, I intend to post a piece favoring or opposing some candidate for federal office in this election. I intend to focus, to the greatest extent possible, on criticizing incumbents who voted for McCain-Feingold and supporting those who opposed it. (I may need fodder, so feel free to post a comment or contact me with suggestions.) I’ve beat McCain to death, so I think I’ll hit Feingold on Day One and then see which of the other original sponsors* are up for reelection.

From the Washington DC Examiner (my emphasis):

Editorial: McCain-Feingold was a mistake
Sep 1, 2006 4:00 AM

WASHINGTON - Something almost without precedent in America will happen Thursday. That’s the day when McCain-Feingold — aka the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 — will officially silence broadcast advertising that contains criticism of members of Congress seeking re-election in November. Before 2006, American election campaigns traditionally began in earnest after Labor Day. Unless McCain-Feingold is repealed, Labor Day will henceforth mark the point in the campaign when congressional incumbents can sit back and cruise, free of those pesky negative TV and radio spots. It is the most effective incumbent protection act possible, short of abolishing the elections themselves.

From Professor Bainbridge:

"Thank you, Senators McCain and [plural expletive deleted]".

Posted by joke du jour at 09:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 07, 2006

A bus you don't want to catch

China Makes Ultimate Punishment Mobile

By Calum MacLeod, USA TODAY

(June 15) -- Zhang Shiqiang, known as the Nine-Fingered Devil, first tasted justice at 13. His father caught him stealing and cut off one of Zhang's fingers.

Twenty-five years later, in 2004, Zhang met retribution once more, after his conviction for double murder and rape. He was one of the first people put to death in China's new fleet of mobile execution chambers.


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December 27, 2005

Happy 50th, John

A little black humor for my brother's 50th birthday.


And many happy returns.

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December 06, 2005

Biters bit

From the BBC:

CCTV staff 'spied on naked woman'
Two council workers used CCTV cameras to spy on a woman as she undressed for a bath, a court has heard.

But the men were themselves caught on a camera monitoring Sefton Council's CCTV control room, Liverpool Crown Court was told.

Kevin Judge, 42, of Crosby, Merseyside, and David Welsh, 40, of Anfield, Liverpool deny charges of voyeurism.

Mr Judge and Mr Welsh were recorded playing back the video of the woman, the court heard.

Mr Welsh denies a second charge of misconduct in public office.

Two other men have admitted offences relating to the investigation.

One man has admitted voyeurism and another misconduct in public office.

Peter Davies, prosecuting, said "These cameras were misused. Instead of focusing on streets and car parks they focused on a young lady inside her own flat, where she was in the bath..."

Via Perry de Havilland at Samizdata who comments, "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear... Yeah, right."

Posted by joke du jour at 06:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 10, 2005

The "Track-Me" state

This article appears at, drawn from an AP article.

Missouri: State Spies on Drivers Through Cell Phones
The state of Missouri has begun a program to track individual movements on highways through cell phones.

The Missouri Department of Transportation will spend $3 million annually on a program to monitor the movements of individuals on highways via their cell phones -- without their knowledge or consent.

Well, you can always turn the phone off... This reminds me of other cell phone surveillance stories we've seen.

Via The Agitator.

Posted by joke du jour at 06:52 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 15, 2005

News from the Constitution State

The Fairfield County Weekly reports more news from New London, Connecticut.

A New (London) Low
A refrigerator box under the bridge: The Kelo Seven prepares for the worst

The U.S. Supreme Court recently found that the city's original seizure of private property was constitutional under the principal of eminent domain, and now New London is claiming that the affected homeowners were living on city land for the duration of the lawsuit and owe back rent. It's a new definition of chutzpah: Confiscate land and charge back rent for the years the owners fought confiscation.

In some cases, their debt could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Moreover, the homeowners are being offered buyouts based on the market rate as it was in 2000.

Via Reason's Hit & Run.

Update: It's always nice to see a post get links, and that's especially so for this one - since it involves our most fundamental right. (If you can't own property, then any other "rights" are yours solely at the pleasure of the government, since you can't afford to defend them without property.)

People who picked up on this one are Bill Hobbs and, from Bill, Doug Petch and Jazz Shaw at I'm hoping their readers have been spreading the word, too.

Posted by joke du jour at 08:30 PM | Comments (0)

July 08, 2005



For more, see the UK blogs aggregator, the Command Post and this summary article at the Wall Street Journal site.

Posted by joke du jour at 01:00 AM | Comments (0)

June 21, 2005

Return of The Broadcast Flag?

We interrupt our regularly scheduled nonsense for this important message.

Via Hit & Run, I came across this report at Boing Boing of rumors that the Broadcast Flag will be revived today or tomorrow in an amendment to a Senate appropriations bill.

There's also a Slashdot post linking to a similar alert at EFF.

The Boing Boing post has phone numbers for senators, if you decide to call them. The post at EFF links to some contact information.

Posted by joke du jour at 06:22 AM | Comments (0)

June 04, 2005

An American law worthy of Stalin?

I ran across this at Samizdata, where I stole the title. The excerpt below comes from; click the image to visit that site.

Downsize DCUncle Sam Wants You For The War On Drugs

Congressman Sensenbrenner's (R-Wis.) draconian mandatory minimum sentencing bill will have serious consequences for our democracy, requiring you to spy on all your neighbors, including going undercover and wearing a wire if needed. Refusing to become a spy for the government would be punishable by a mandatory prison sentence of at least two years.

If you "witness" certain drug offenses taking place or "learn" that they took place you would have to report the offense to law enforcement within 24 hours and provide "full assistance" in the investigation, apprehension, and prosecution of the people involved. Failure to do so would be a crime punishable by a mandatory two year prison sentence.

The "certain drug offenses" mentioned above refer to drug transactions involving minors. You can confirm this on the Library of Congress' site. Search for HR1528, using the "by bill number" option.

Posted by joke du jour at 08:43 AM | Comments (0)

April 14, 2005

2005 Pig Book

Who likes pork?

The complete 2005 Congressional Pig Book is a searchable database of 13,997 pork projects. Search by keyword, city, state, or appropriations bill.
2005 Pig Book

Posted by joke du jour at 08:00 PM

April 02, 2005

Life is short

This is hardly humorous, since the driver was killed. Prior to the crash, he'd shot his estranged wife and a friend of hers to death. These events happened in St. Louis in late February.

It's pretty amazing that it was caught on video; and especially amazing to me since I drive through that intersection every day. (It's ~1/2 a mile due west of Midpark Lane, A.E.)

The story behind the crash can be found in this St. Louis Post-Dispatch article.

[WMV format. Save.]

Posted by joke du jour at 12:30 PM

March 17, 2005

You shall know the truth...

...and it shall really piss you off!

One man's account of how BCRA (McCain-Feingold) came to be.

Ryan Sager writes for the N.Y. Post where this column appeared today.

Read the column and then check out his blog for the posts titled Buying 'Reform' and The Goods. The second one features video clips of Mr. Treglia, the fellow he based his article on.

“I'm going to tell you a story that I've never told any reporter. And now that I'm several months away from Pew and we have campaign-finance reform, I can tell this story,” Treglia tells the friendly crowd -- made up of apparently sympathetic “journalists,” some academics and some foundation types -- before going into painful detail as to just how Pew hoodwinked Congress into accepting the “impression that a mass movement was afoot. That everywhere they looked, in academic institutions, in the business community, in religious groups, in ethnic groups, everywhere, people were talking about reform.”

Posted by joke du jour at 07:21 PM

March 04, 2005

"Thank you, Senators McCain and Feingold... [plural expletive deleted]," says Stephen Bainbridge, writing about this potential FEC action.

I was a little surprised that McCain co-sponsored the BCRA. I was really surprised when Bush signed it. I was shocked that the SCOTUS didn't overturn all of it.

But this latest development isn't much of a surprise at all.

From Justice Scalia's dissent:

The premise of the First Amendment is that the American people are neither sheep nor fools, and hence fully capable of considering both the substance of the speech presented to them and its proximate and ultimate source. If that premise is wrong, our democracy has a much greater problem to overcome than merely the influence of amassed wealth. Given the premises of democracy, there is no such thing as too much speech.

Posted by joke du jour at 07:45 PM