WolfesBlogArchives: June 2003

Monday, June 30, 2003

OnPower.org, a new Web site from the Independent Institute, aims to be a resource for scholars studying the growth of government power. The focus is on how government has used war and other "crises" to expand its authority and limit ours. OnPower.org is also a craven ploy to get people to buy books on these topics via the institute's Amazon.com bookstore. (But then, how can I knock that?) If you're doing research in this area, they've come up with an impressive bibliography.

Speaking of government power in a different sense, the new Harry Potter book seems to be heavily focused on how government bureaucrats (in this case from the Ministry of Magic) and a biased press (The Daily Prophet) conspire to destroy what is noble and true. And here we thought Hogwarts lay far from everyday reality.

Posted by Claire @ 11:49 PM CST [Link]

Sunday, June 29, 2003

IF YOU GET YOUR KICKS (OR YOUR MATHOMS) FROM EBAY, consider:

But the trend in the United States, as evidenced by eBay, among many companies, now sees huge private-sector commercial entities becoming, in effect, agents of law enforcement. It's an arrangement between government and the private sector, which Kozlovski calls the "invisible handshake"--Internet companies promise to open their files to law enforcement, while law enforcement insures that citizens stay in the dark. This new relationship raises crucial questions regarding civic life in the United States, and our rights as citizens and consumers. According to Sullivan, "when someone uses [eBay's] site and clicks on the 'I agree' button, it is as if he agrees to let us submit all of his data to the legal authorities..." Is this more than we bid for?

Et tu, Amazon.com ...?

Read more here.


Posted by Claire @ 04:09 PM CST [Link]

THIS IS GOING TO SOUND LIKE THE LAMEST EXCUSE FOR ANYTHING. But the dog ate my e-mail.

Truth. The most rambunctious and athletic of my pack jumped up on the desk yesterday when I stepped outside for a moment. Dunno exactly what she did (my guess is she stood on the DEL key for a lonnnnng time). But when I came back in, my inbox was empty and 2,000 messages were nowhere to be found. Not even in the trash.

Well, you gotta admit, it's more original than claiming I didn't answer your mail because I had a hard drive crash.

The good thing was I was nearly caught up on answering e-messages. The bad thing is that the deleted messages contained, among other stuff, every bit of information from the brave souls who agreed to share their experiences in living SSN-free. I was -- and am -- planning to write an article on how to live without a social security number. So you folks who shared, count on me to contact you again in the next few weeks. Sigh. (Fortunately the outbox survived, so I've got everybody's e-ddress, along with quoted passages from the original mails.)

Anyhoo, I might as well take this opportunity to say how the article's coming along. "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln ..." it's doing extraordinarily, surprisingly well. When I put out the call for info a couple of months ago, so much truly solid, useful data poured in, explaining the different ways people work, drive, raiase their children, and do other normal, everyday activities without an SSN, that I quickly realized we had the makin's of not one article, but two or three. Possibly even a short book. AND I felt greatly heartened and privileged to be allowed a glimpse into the lives of a few people who march to freedom's drummer.

So while it's going to take a while, for various reasons, this is a live project -- thanks to some really gutsy and generous people.

Posted by Claire @ 04:03 PM CST [Link]

Friday, June 27, 2003

GEOSLAVERY. We fear what governments will be able to do to us on the soon-to-arrive day when they can not only remotely track, but remotely control, our movements. But now Jerome E. Dobson and Peter F. Fisher, two long-time insiders in geographic information science (GIS), predict something different but equally ominous. They posit a future of worldwide geoslavery in which abusive spouses control their partners, rigid parents rule their children well into adulthood, plantation owners enslave their workers, and village headmen clamp iron order over their subjects -- all via remote tracking and control technologies. Chilling reading. And their proposed solutions are no less chilling than the horrors they foresee.

Another bright light from Sunni. This article appears in the current issue of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, a professional journal of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Posted by Claire @ 02:08 PM CST [Link]

STROM THURMOND. Somehow, I never thought he'd actually die.

Posted by Claire @ 10:18 AM CST [Link]

Thursday, June 26, 2003

"ARMED, AND SAFER, IRAQIS." John Lott writes in the New York Post about unintended consequences of American attempts to disarm Iraqi civilians.

Ironies abound. The U.S. liberates Iraqis from one of the few dictators in the world who allowed (even encouraged) an armed populace. Then it sets about disarming them. (Ah, freedom!) And yet even at that it allows the Iraqis to have weapons that most Americans aren't trusted, or legally allowed, to own.

There was a time, a long time ago, when I expected human beings to make sense.

Posted by Claire @ 11:28 PM CST [Link]

MY FRIEND HERMIT-ON-THE-WATER READ THE BLOG ENTRY ABOUT JANGLING, JINGLING LYRICS FROM "CATS." He laughed and remembered that Mark Twain, too, had an encounter with fatally attractive jingles. Twain wrote about jangly jingly mindlessly mental madness in his short-short story, "Punch, Brothers, Punch." Read it if you have a few minutes. Mark Twain is always good for the soul.

Posted by Claire @ 10:10 PM CST [Link]

"EVIDENCE" SO "SENSITIVE" IT HAS TO BE KEPT SECRET even from a defendant and his lawyer. Predictably, this is what comes if it. Kafka was a prophet. And prosecutors write fiction.

Posted by Claire @ 10:18 AM CST [Link]

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

I FINALLY SAW "CATS" LAST WEEK. I love musicals, but I've avoided everything by Andrew Lloyd Webber. I don't know why, but somehow I was sure I'd see something that was horrible, but compellingly horrible. I'd really like his stuff while wishing like crazy I didn't. And by golly, I could have written that review of "Cats" without watching the show. Seldom has such talent and verve and pizzaz been put to the service of such ... nothing.

At first I was bored silly. Wow, there's not a singable song (other than the syrupy pop-dirge "Memory"), barely even a token plot, and characters that appeal entirely by their style, not their substance. But after about a half an hour I was sucked in SO deep. And now I can't get "Cats" out of my brain.

That's just the thing, though. It's like this. Ten years ago, I heard a certain really clever, but really bad, advertising jingle. I won't even say what it is, because if I even think of it, let alone talk about it, that jolly-horrible jingle will occupy all the space in my skull for the next two days. And even though I swear to you -- swear on the grave of my sainted grandmother -- that I will never, as long as I live, EVER buy that product -- it's still selling itself. Not on a TV set, but right inside my own skull, where it isn't even paying for the time or space.

Well, after "Cats," that jangling jingle is Beethoven. It's Shakespeare. If my brain plays back one more repetition of "JELL-i-cle songs for JELL-i-cle cats!" or "The Rum TUM Tugger is a curious cat!" I'll stick my head in a bucket of wet cement to get some peace.

(And don't tell me the great T.S. Eliot was responsible before Andrew Lloyd Webber was. Even Eliot had a few bad days. And anyway, he just wrote one quiet little book of sappy cat poems, not the magical musical money-making mind-control machine that is "Cats."

It occurs to me that there's some political point to this rumination. There's something about the popularity of a Really Bad, Really Big Hit Musical (by really talented people) that can tell us something about the age we live in. There's something important in the fact that the mere jingles of "Cats" have replaced real songs that helped develop real story lines in the musicals of yore (and no; it's not just that they were better in "my day"; they were better in "my day" ("Cabaret"), my older brother's day ("West Side Story"), my father's day ("South Pacific"), and his father's day ("Showboat")). There is something that must urgently be said about the malign effects of "sound bite" entertainment in a "sound bite" age. Something that must desperately be uncovered about our increasing willingness to be fed pabulum -- and persuade ourselves it's steak.

But unfortunatly, I can't say it. I'm too busy going

OH! Well,
I NEVer!
Was there EVer
a cat so clever
as MAGical MISter
MisTOFFelees!

Posted by Claire @ 09:42 PM CST [Link]

HOW, IN THIS HIGH-PARANOIA DAY can anyone actually lose an airliner? Or rather, stand by while a "mystery man" strolls onto the plane and flies off with it? Somebody oughta make a movie out of this tale. But it's a tossup as to whether that movie should star Pierce Brosnan or Adam Sandler.

Posted by Claire @ 09:14 PM CST [Link]

BOY, HAVING YOUR 'NET CONNECTION GOING UP AND DOWN faster than a politician's popularity ratings is grueling. After two days of now-it's-running/now-it's-not -- and don't forget those dazzling speeds of 7.84 kbps! -- it's a relief to be back online. Somebody needs to write a book about the love-hate relationship we have with our computers. Or is it a master-slave relationship with serious questions about which is which?

In any case, thanks to Wicked Woman Debra for stepping in yesterday with her subversive message. Girl, I like the way you think and I wish you'd blog here more often.

Okay. To get off to a "lite" start, and in honor of the new Harry Potter release, here's an oldie but a goodie sent by Irrepressible Ernie: Natalie Solent's wry explanation of libertarianism in Harry's world.

Posted by Claire @ 10:41 AM CST [Link]

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Claire's ISP is experiencing technical difficulties, so she asked me to let y'all know that she'll post again as soon as they're resolved.

While I have your attention - there's nothing quite as exciting as a captive audience - I got this little pick-me-up from Free-Market.Net's Freedom News Daily:

"Federal drug agents are so concerned about the growing use of a little-known and accessible herb with hallucinogenic qualities that they are taking steps to treat it like cocaine, heroin and LSD, and make it illegal." Salvia divinorum is a type of sage native to the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range in Mexico, which can alter perception and induce visions when smoked or chewed. It's sold on the 'net and in specialty shops.

Get your seeds and cuttings while it's still legal to do so. You can probably make a nice little profit in a couple of years.

Posted by Debra @ 11:36 AM CST [Link]

Monday, June 23, 2003

GARY MARBUT OFFERED TWO CUTE PRIVACY TIPS while I was stranded at his house last month. I shared the first one on June 12. Here's the other.

This one is for users of PGP and similar forms of encryption. And -- amazingly! -- it's the first idea I ever heard of for turning spam into something useful.

If you have reason to think the feds might be interested in your e-mails, arrange with a friend to swap spam. Create an encryption key -- or two or three. Make 'em the biggest, most unbreakable keys you can generate. Then encrypt the spam you receive and send it back and forth to chosen friends using these special keys.

Federal code-crackers are thus faced with attempting to break multiple large keys -- and the only thing they'll get out of it is viagra ads.

To make this work, you must remove the original headers on the spam messages and replace them with headers that clue your friend in to the fact that they're dummy messages while not giving the game away to the snoops. (For instance, you might have a word beginning with XX in every dummy message: "Vital update about XXander" or "The secret can be found in the last XX-Files episode." And you might change your game code from time to time to keep others from catching on.)

If you and your friend also have SpamAssassin or another customizable anti-spam program, you can then divert the dummy messages straight into a special e-mail box. It'll really be trash, of course. But call it "Chem-Bio Info" or "Arsenal."

Posted by Claire @ 01:37 PM CST [Link]

IF FASCISM IS A SYSTEM IN WHICH GOVERNMENT AND "PRIVATE" BUSINESS become increasingly indistinguishable, a bill introduced in Congress last week indicates just how blurry the business-government line has become in America.

HR-2517, the Piracy Deterrence and Education Act of 2003, would put the FBI into the copyright-enforcement business. At the same time, it would authorize private organizations -- like the Recording Industry Association of America, the 800-pound canary for which the bill was apparently written -- to send suspected violators a letter composed by the FBI and bearing its seal. And keep in mind that this isn't some generalized "FBI Warning" like you see on videos (which is obnoxious enough); it's intended as a specific threat to a suspected violator, and as a vehicle to scare recipients into believing they're facing criminal enforcement, rather than a civil action.

This proposal is brought to you by the wonderful folks who, last year, introduced the bill to allow private industries to hack into the computers of suspected copyright violators. It was brought to my attention by Free-Market.net.

Posted by Claire @ 01:14 PM CST [Link]

Saturday, June 21, 2003

HERE'S ONE TINY SYMPTOM OF OUR NATIONAL THOUGHT-WARP. This morning on NPR's "Weekend Edition Saturday," Scott Simon interviewed an old man from Larson, North Dakota, population 16, and an even older woman from Kent, Iowa, population 52. The occasion? Both towns had recently disincorporated -- that is, they had disbanded their city councils and put their tiny municipalities into the care of their respective county governments.

There's a lot that could be said, or asked, about events like that. Like why rural America is dying, or what it's like to live in one tiny town all you life, as both interview subjects had. Or what, if any, role government needs to play in a town of 16 or 53 or 1,500. But those weren't the questions Simon asked. It became apparent as he bumbled his way through the interview that, in his mind, both places had simply ceased to exist, because they no longer had local governments.

"Where will you tell people you live?" Simon asked the man. "Larson, North Dakota," he replied.

"And where will you tell people you come from?" Simon asked the woman, "Well, Kent, Iowa," she replied.

They both understood what Simon absolutely couldn't conceive -- that a community exists as a gathering of people and institutions. Although both Kent and Larson may well be dying and the disbanding of city government may be one step in that demise, the communities probably existed before they had town councils and continue to exist without them. Look at any map of rural American and you'll find hundreds of places like Moneta, Wyoming (population 10), which indubitably exist despite not having enough adult souls to fill up a government council table.

But to Scott Simon's Washington, D.C.-soaked mind, when government dissolved -- so did every single thing that made Kent Kent and Larson Larson. Disregarding what both interview subjects had said just seconds earlier, Simon pressed on with his blind belief. He closed the segment with one of his dramatic sighs over the "fact" (at least to anyone of his mindset) that Kent and Larson had been wiped off the map, and were gone without a trace.

This brain-glitch is a tiny cousin to some bigger ideas that plague our country -- like the pervasive belief that if something is worth doing, it must be done by government. Okay, I grant you this is NPR, which doesn't inhabit even the same universe as most of us. But it's still typical, familiar government-supremacist thinking.

Posted by Claire @ 01:35 PM CST [Link]

Friday, June 20, 2003

ADVOCATES FOR THE EAST in the Free State Project have put together a pretty cool 54-page PDF presentation, "101 Reasons to Vote New Hampshire." I was impressed, despite my western biases.

August 15 is now the tentative deadline to sign up as member if you want to be able to vote for the State of the Free. Based on recent growth, that's when the FSP expects to reach the 5,000-member mark.

Posted by Claire @ 11:16 PM CST [Link]

PRETTY FUNNY THAT AFTER STATING THAT THE RECORDING INDUSTRY (those folks who've given him a lot of $$$) should have the authority to "destroy" the computers of anyone with copyright-infringing materials in their files, Sen. Orrin Hatch got caught with unlicensed code on his official senatorial Web site.

So who gets to take a hatchet to Hatch's computer? And while we're at it, should the entire U.S. Senate be brought up on RICO charges for allowing illegal activity to be conducted on their premises? Is there any reason the self-righteous senator from Utah shouldn't be held to the same standard he holds us mere peasants to?

Posted by Claire @ 10:55 PM CST [Link]

HARRY POTTER DAY. Okay, maybe it's a little nutty that people are staying up 'til midnight to buy a book that'll soon be as common as toilet paper. But we can take confort that the world's still sane enough that it's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix they're lining up for, not Sex, Lies, and Politics or whatever that latest blat from the Clinton industry is titled. And oooooooh, aren't you glad you aren't yet seeing Bill and Monica action figures (complete with bending knees, of course) down at your local Wal-Mart? Scary thought, eh?

Posted by Claire @ 10:39 PM CST [Link]

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

THE FREE STATE PROJECT NOW HAS MORE THAN 4,000 MEMBERS! Actually, 4,087 at the last update. So if you've been thinking about joining, now's the time. When the count reaches 5,000, the Porcupines vote to choose the future state of the free. Whodathunk it would grow this fast? But there it is. Looks as if the vote could come within a few weeks.

I hear from people who are interested but haven't joined for various very conscientious reasons. As a member (but not any sort of honcho) of the FSP, I'd like to address two of the most common objections.

If you have doubts about the FSP because you don't want to move to certain states, remember, you can opt out of states you don't like. (The only thing you can't do and still be a voting member is to opt out of all states but the one you're living in.)

And if you oppose political action (as I do), rest assured the FSP doesn't require politicking, or even voting in government elections. All it asks is that, when and if membership reaches 20,000, members keep their promises to move to the chosen state and begin influencing the laws and culture there -- and that can be done in a lot of ways.

So if you've been thinking about it, and if that's a promise you could keep, this is your golden moment.

And oh yeah -- Go, Montana!!!

Posted by Claire @ 11:28 PM CST [Link]

I WAS WRONG! I'VE BEEN WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING! I've been a pathetic, benighted, unAmerican fool, incapable of comprehending what's really good for freedom and for America.

But Sen. Orrin Hatch -- oh, thank you, blessed Senator! -- has set me straight. And maybe his wisdom will rend the veil from your eyes, as well:

Nothing in the Patriot Act threatens our cherished Bill of Rights. In fact, the act is expressly designed to enhance our nation's fundamental freedoms. Moreover, despite the steady drumbeat of opposition by some groups, none of them has cited one instance of abuse against our constitutional rights, nor one shred of evidence to contradict the fact that these tools have saved American lives by preventing terrorist attacks against our people.

If you crave further enlightenment, seek ye the Words of Holy Hatch here.

Posted by Claire @ 08:04 PM CST [Link]

MINDSET. It's so crucial to gaining (and keeping) freedom. But why is the importance of mindset so difficult to convey, even to many people who sincerely want freedom?

I'm inviting you to join me in a discussion of this vital & knotty question over at The Claire Files message board. I've posed the question there in the Hardyville section, under the title (no surprise) "Mindset."

Can you cut through the freedom movement's Gordian knot? Swagger on over with a well-sharpened brain and give it a try.

Posted by Claire @ 10:42 AM CST [Link]

Monday, June 16, 2003

A NEW ALLY AGAINST THE DRUG WAR. The crime novels of Tony Hillerman are one of my guilty pleasures. Hillerman's best-selling tales of Navajo tribal policemen Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn are a great escape. So I was surprised when his brand-newest, The Sinister Pig offered a couple of straight-out pitches for ending the drug war -- entirely ending it and legalizing all recreational drugs, not just reforming a few laws. Wow. A Hillerman novel is major mainstream. The meme is getting out there. Unfortunately, The Sinister Pig is about the weakest book in the whole series. But if you like crime novels and could use a little encouragement, consider it for your "lite" summer reading list.

Now, if Sue Grafton would only have Kinsey Millhone come out in favor of total decriminalization ... heaven.

Posted by Claire @ 10:37 AM CST [Link]

Saturday, June 14, 2003

I JUST MADE A BONFIRE OF HORRORS. Thousands of photocopies of historic photos ... into the fire they went. Images of every possible cruelty human beings can inflict upon others. Starved corpses, their empty eye sockets crawling with flies. Charred hands curled into macabre fists. Skulls like cracked eggs. The thousand-yard stare of the dying. The upper half of a body with no bottom, the bottom half with no top. Women wailing over mass graves. And -- the most horribly memorable long after the flames devoured it -- a whole series of photos of a man literally being taken to pieces, alive, conscious, and watching as his tormenters slice segments of his naked body away.

For the last year these photos (and cassettes of equally grim film footage) have been my life. This is the raw material of "Innocents Betrayed," JPFO's landmark video documentary demonstrating that when governments wish to commit mass slaughter, they first disarm their victims. As script writer on the project, I didn't merely write the words (in consultation with Aaron Zelman and Richard W. Stevens). It was also my job to choose the final images from the thousands of photos and dozens of reels of film footage submitted to us. Thus these thousands of copies of photographs, paintings, and documentary film footage.

I've seldom every felt so honored to work on a project and so grateful to have been chosen. And I've never, ever been so depressed -- so downright horrified -- by a project. "Innocents Betrayed" is going to be outstanding. Every time I see a rough cut of a new segment, I'm astonished. Thinking I never want to view another second of those horrors, I'm moved anew by what Aaron has wrought. But ... well, once you've seen "Innocents" you may never see the world the same way again.

Please don't let me give you the impression that "Innocents" will be a horror fest for viewers. It won't be. It's a powerful, moving account in which you see horrors as a consequence of a bigger reality. But living with it every day for the last year, and knowing those unthinkable images were piling up higher and higher in what is meant to be my little house of peace ... well, that has been unbearable at times.

"Innocents Betrayed" is almost done now. Just a few more minutes of footage to produce. And I am done now. Every segment of the script, right down to the closing credits, has been written, reviewed, re-written, and submitted to the production company, along with its hundreds of images. I've got just one job left and that will be a pleasure -- to sit in on the recording of the voiceover with the wonderful, talented, skilled pro who'll give the final polish to our production. (Up to now we've been cutting to a "scratch track," a non-professional narration that gives the editor a pattern to follow but still gives us the flexibility to keep on polishing the script right to the end.)

And so, the bonfire -- consigning a two-foot-tall monument to human cruelty and misplaced trust to fierce, cleansing flames. When I first carried the folders of photocopies out to the burn barrel, I thought I was merely doing something practical -- throwing the images away without taking up space in the trash can. But as the flames roared out and one after another the images curled up and withered away and out of my life, out of my house, out of my consciousness, into the pure blue spring sky, I felt my own spirit rising with the heat above the fire. My shoulders, which have been tight for months, suddenly didn't hurt any more. The horrors are still real and in the world and a genuine danger to us all. But in some absolutely primitive, visceral way, I felt as if they had also risen into the air and dissipated like the spirit of Sauron after the One Ring went tumbling into the fiery crack on Mt. Doom.

Posted by Claire @ 09:10 PM CST [Link]

Friday, June 13, 2003

ALASKA ADOPTS VERMONT CARRY!

JUNEAU -- Alaskans will no longer need a permit to carry a concealed weapon under a bill signed into law Wednesday. ...

The bill would adopt the so-called "Vermont Carry" law that allows residents to carry a concealed weapon without a special permit. Vermont has no laws against carrying concealed weapons, the governor's office said.

Read more here.

(This good news was sent by Charles Curley.)

Posted by Claire @ 09:06 PM CST [Link]

SUNNI MARAVILLOSA, ONE OF THE FREEDOM MOVEMENT'S TRUE BEAUTIES (in many senses of that word), looks less like a crone than most women I know. But she's written this very warm, strong, proud essay on approaching cronehood with joy and resolve.

Posted by Claire @ 01:58 PM CST [Link]

KAREN DE COSTER SENDS THIS REMINDER OF WHAT A FREE COUNTRY WE LIVE IN:

"We have legal custody of the children and we will do with them as we see fit," DSS worker Susan Etscovitz told the Bryants in their Gale Street home."They are minors and they do what we tell them to do." ...

Both sides agree that the children are in no way abused mentally, physically, sexually or emotionally, but legal custody of the children was taken from Kim and George Bryant in December 2001. The children will remain under the legal custody of DSS until their 16th birthdays.

The sad tale is all about homeschooling and standardized testing. And here I thought this sort of thing went out shortly after the state of Utah "assisted" the John Singer family with its homeschooling plans.

Posted by Claire @ 01:20 PM CST [Link]

Thursday, June 12, 2003

THEY HATE BOTH FUN AND FREE SPEECH. Who are they? They're your friendly local Democrats. And Republicans. And -- of course -- the DEA. Most of us missed the so-called RAVE Act when the Dems sneaked it into a must-pass bill a couple of months ago. But we can't miss it now. It's not only being used to toss people in prison for decades for hosting parties, but -- that quick! -- it's also become a giant club to whack away at marijuana-reform activism.

Here's the story of how the DEA is successfully shutting down a benefit for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP).

And here's one on the bigger picture of this sneaky new law -- along with a proposal to start the Party Party to counteract such federal party pooping.


Posted by Claire @ 03:16 PM CST [Link]

I PROMISED I'D SHARE PRIVACY TIPS GARY MARBUT GAVE ME while I was happily stranded on his glorious mountaintop after the Grand Western Conference of the Free State Project. Here's one.

You know how businesses will sometimes ask your SSN when they have no real "need to know"? For instance, when you're cashing a check or filling out some form that's only going to be used should you abscond with a library book. I've always either refused or taken advantage of my (genuine) numeric dyslexia at such moments. But Gary, who prefers not to be dyslexic and who doesn't like to see clerks get that "slapped in the face look" when he refuses, came up with something clever.

When a clerk asks for his SSN, he politely explains that he won't give them that, but he can, instead, give them his "personal ID number." At that moment, he whips out a business card he created in his computer. Printed on it, looking very official, is "Personal ID: 322-24-8536." The happy little clerks copy it down, satisfied with any number that looks so official.

Gary generates the number at random, changes it from time to time, and makes no attempt to ensure that he's not using someone's SSN (after all, since it's NOT and since he never CLAIMS it's an SSN, it shouldn't matter).

You can also generate a null number never used by the Social Security Administration if you prefer. Or, if you want to be sure the number actually DOES match an issued SSN, you can download this software, used by state governments to check.

Posted by Claire @ 10:43 AM CST [Link]

IF YOU'VE WONDERED WHETHER AT&T'S NEW PREPAID ISP SERVICE might be a useful privacy option, check out the commentary on Declan McCullagh's PoliTech list. The short version is that unless you know some technically sophisticated workrounds, your phone number will be recorded, even if you've blocked it, and AT&T may also record the URLS of any sites you visit, any people you send e-mail to, etc.

Posted by Claire @ 10:10 AM CST [Link]

Monday, June 9, 2003

I'M HONORED TO ANNOUNCE that The Claire Files and The Mental Militia have conspired to create -- TA-DAH! --

THE GRAND AND GLORIOUS CLAIRE FILES MESSAGE BOARD

(No kidding, that's what they've called it -- although I suspect a few tongues were protruding pretty far into cheeks at the time. There are a couple of links, both on the board and on The Mental Militia's main page, to explain how the project came about.)

The board is dedicated to discussions of living free, monkeywrenching, mindset, and other good things for freedom lovers. One section, appropriately enough, is for talking about the Free State Project. Another, called Hardyville, is for people who want to discuss either my writings or (better yet) how to apply those writings, the writings of other do-ers, and general ideas of liberty to life on this weird, weird planet.

This gem was created by Debra Ricketts the friend who keeps me in the world; Elias Alias, who has now created two beautiful gems for me; Ladylearning, who brought her wise and gentle touch to the affair, and the mysterious Bark, aka Walter, the webmaster behind The Mental Militia.

Please go there. Post wonderful, wise, do-able, outrageous, intelligent, glorious, friendly, wickedly witty, infuriatingly anti-authoritarian action-oriented stuff. And I'll join you there as I can.

Posted by Claire @ 07:59 PM CST [Link]

NOT LONG AGO, THOMAS FRIEDMAN WROTE A NEW YORK TIMES COLUMN, A Theory of Everything, to explain why people around the world increasingly resent the influence of the United States.

Now Michael Geist has written U.S. Extends Its Hegemony Over the Internet to explain in similar terms why other countries are upset at having their own copyright and Net-access laws overridden by U.S. laws and policies. It is indeed a global village, and the U.S. isn't always the most tactful "mayor."

Posted by Claire @ 07:39 PM CST [Link]

Sunday, June 8, 2003

EPISCOPALIANS IN NEW HAMPSHIRE HAVE JUST ELECTED THEIR FIRST OPENLY GAY BISHOP. They said God told them this was the right and loving thing to do. In the meantime, God -- this very same God, mind you -- tells other groups of equally Christian folks that all gays should be put to death for their abomination.

Don't you just wish God would make up his darned mind? Really, if you can't count on the All-Wise and All-Seeing Deity of the Universe to get his story straight, who can you count on?

Posted by Claire @ 10:23 PM CST [Link]

BECAUSE SOMETIMES THERE ARE THINGS MORE IMPORTANT THAN POLITICS.

From Patt Morrison of the L.A. Times:


I shouldn't even be telling you this, but I belong to a secret society.

We are determined, loyal, fanatical.

There are millions of us, everywhere, among you -- working in your offices, shopping at your malls, teaching in your schools, driving in the lane next to you.

You wouldn't know us by just glancing our way, but we can all recognize one of our own at once, by the encoded insignia we wear on our lapels. Sometimes we wear it on our sleeves, or on the legs of our trousers. OK, yes, or on the sofa, or the car seat.

It is dog hair -- the sure mark of the true believers of the First Church of Canine.

Yes. We the Dog People.

In the name of the First Church of Canine, I have topped out my credit card paying vet bills for strangers' dogs. I have dashed into freeway

[more]

Posted by Claire @ 05:02 PM CST [Link]

Friday, June 6, 2003

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL HAS THE BEST TAKE YET on the recent scandals and resignations at the New York Times. Their editorial makes a point about mainstream journalism that lots of folks on the outside have been yelling about for years. Read it here.

Posted by Claire @ 01:55 PM CST [Link]

Thursday, June 5, 2003

GUN BANNERS' DOUBLETHINK: Rising "gun crime" in Britain is a sign that the gun ban works.

Posted by Claire @ 05:41 PM CST [Link]

ED ROSENTHAL HAS BEEN FREED!!!

Set free by a San Francisco federal judge who sentenced him to Just one day in prison, medical cannabis grower Ed Rosenthal said today that his case will be the catalyst to overturn all U.S. marijuana laws under which 750,000 Americans are arrested each year.

"These laws are doomed," said Rosenthal to group of cheering supporters outside the courthouse after his sentencing. "I am going to make it safe for everyone to grow by bringing these laws down."

rosenthal was convicted in January of three marijuana cultivation and conspiracy charges. He faced more than 80 years in federal prison and $2.5 million in fines. The Federal Probation Department had recommended that Rosenthal be sentenced to two 21-month sentences to be served concurrently.

He's still a felon, which is itself an outrage. But this is a major piece of good news. Read more at Alternet.org.

Posted by Claire @ 05:16 PM CST [Link]

OKAY, YOU WERE RELUCTANT, BUT YOU WENT OUT AND GOT A SAFEWAY CARD. After all, Safeway is the most convenient place to shop and you didn't want to be aced out of all those members-only deals. So you either surrendered your privacy to get into Safeway's "consumer" (don't you hate that word? sort of like you're a pod or a blob or something from a really bad 1950s movie) database. Or ... well, you lied. You signed up as Percival Blakeney or John Singleton Moseby.

That's good. So is signing up as Ambrose Bierce or James Hoffa.

But here's something even better: The Ultimage Shopper. Clone yourself! Or if he's still playing this prank, become a database clone of Rob at Cockeyed.com.

Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!!

William Kane, who found and sent this delicious datawrenching tidbit, has also started his own list of 101 Ways to Monkeywrench the Government. He invites you to submit your own monkeywrenches. You contribute, he'll add. And Mr. Kane: Keep me posted!

Posted by Claire @ 05:07 PM CST [Link]

FRANKENRANGERS, THE GERMAN SHOOTING GROUP WITH A BILL OF RIGHTS OUTLOOK now has a blog with entries in English and German. The first post concerns today's mysterious and gory death of a controversial German politician who, at the time of his demise was under investigation by the "Waffen-IRS," among others. (If it was suicide, he sure picked a guaranteed method!)

Got any German students in your house? These side-by-side bilingual blog entries might make great practice for a language student who's also a political junky.

Posted by Claire @ 03:03 PM CST [Link]

Wednesday, June 4, 2003

BIG BROTHER'S AT IT AGAIN.

The CIA is bankrolling efforts to improve technology designed to scour millions of digital photos or video clips for particular cars or street signs or even, some day, human faces.

The innovative software from fledgling PiXlogic LLC of Los Altos, Calif., promises to help analysts make better use of the CIA's enormous electronic archives. Analysts also could be alerted whenever a helicopter or other targeted item appeared in a live video broadcast.

PiXlogic plans to announce Wednesday that the CIA's venture-capital organization, In-Q-Tel, has invested an unspecified amount to help the company improve the software.

In-Q-Tel named for "Q," the fictional inventor of fanciful spy gadgetry for James Bond makes about a dozen such investments annually with roughly $35 million it receives from the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology.

Don't you find it annoying that the CIA spends millions of your dollars to snoop into your life, while fantasizing that it's part of a cool, sexy, macho movie-hero world? Of course, this means it regards you as Dr. No.

Webmistress Debra sent the above story. It's wonderful having so many friends brightening the day.

Posted by Claire @ 12:11 PM CST [Link]

Tuesday, June 3, 2003

IF YOU'RE HAVING TROUBLE BREAKING AN UNHEALTHY FAST-FOOD HABIT, here's a little newsflash that might keep you away from that drive-up window:

Dressed as a McDonald's employee, an undercover officer worked the drive-through window March 21 and April 25 and spotted enough wrongdoing inside customers' cars to warrant six arrests and 29 citations.

According to arrest reports, Officer Glen Eppler did the undercover work - peering into customers' vehicles as they stopped at the window where money is exchanged.

When Eppler saw lawbreakers - from people smoking marijuana in plain view to those who hadn't strapped their children into safety seats - he would radio officers in patrol units down the street and have the cars pulled over.

"Hey! I ordered a Big Mac, not Big Brother!"

This happened in Ft. Myers, Florida, and reportedly neither the franchise owner nor McDonald's corporate HQ were aware that "McSting" was being conducted at their driveup window. The whole thing was set up by local cops and McDonald's managers. For this, Ft. Myers earned the Privacy Villain of the Week award from The National Consumer Coalition's Privacy Group.

Posted by Claire @ 06:04 PM CST [Link]

HERE'S MORE ON LIFELOG, the favorite new project from the folks who brought you Total Information Awareness.

The word "total" didn't really fit TIA. But by damn, does it ever fit LifeLog.

Don't worry, though. Application of LifeLog will be entirely voluntary and LifeLog won't be used for any nefarious domestic purposes. How could you even think such a thing, you little paranoid, you? (Clearly, people of your suspicious mindset will have to be watched -- strictly for your own and the country's security, of course.)

(It's very generous of Free-Market.net to keep sharing such finds.)

Posted by Claire @ 03:14 PM CST [Link]

BLOOMBERG'S WEALTH MANAGER SAYS WYOMING IS THE MOST WEALTH-FRIENDLY STATE. No surprise. Wyoming has come up on top six years in a row, and wealthy coast-folk have used it as their haven residence for decades. But the stats are interesting.

Alabama & Nevada (tied for second), Tennessee, Louisiana, and Washington round out the top five in "overall wealth friendliness." (But I'm convinced Washington always ranks high in such tables because the compilers of stats don't have a category for that state's horrible, one-of-a-kind Business and Occupation tax. The Washington state constitution forbids an income tax. So instead the state -- with the full approval of its supreme court -- has ... a tax on income. Go figure.)

Montana, which I went on about with such glee yesterday as a potential Free State, places a dismal 44th. No surprise there, either, I'm sad to say. Despite its blessed lack of a sales tax, Montana has nasty property and income taxes. (Which Porcupines will surely change when they have their say, right?)

Bloomberg also says Montana's big Free State competitor, New Hampshire, is #11.

Porcupines and other liberty seekers: Read all about it in the PDF article "States of Despair."

Posted by Claire @ 01:47 PM CST [Link]

BOB BAUMAN OF THE SOVEREIGN SOCIETY WRITES:

Last Friday the New York Times reported ... that the US Justice Dept. in secret has begun using counter terrorism powers to seize millions of dollars from foreign banks that do business in the US. And the kicker is that, according to one government official, "the seizures have involved fraud and money laundering investigations that are unrelated to terrorism." So can the IRS tax collectors be far behind?

These seizures are not based on criminal convictions or even indictments for alleged crimes. They're based solely on suspicions of US government agents. They base their money grabs on Sec. 319 of the PATRIOT Act that gave federal money police the power to seize unrelated cash that passes through banks in the US. Although these extraordinary powers were to be used to fight terrorism, the money grabbers are confiscating funds for non-terror crimes. All they must do is convince a judge that the money deposited overseas at the bank "was obtained illicitly." No probable cause. No due process. No notice and no appeal.

Millions have been snatched from foreign banks' US "correspondent accounts" in American banks, which usually are nothing more than a cash flow to facilitate US-offshore bank transactions. Thanks to federal judges who seal the records of the pending cases, America knows little about these cash seizures.

Congress passed the PATRIOT Act without even knowing what was in it. Less than six weeks after 9/11, the Congress rammed through a 362 page law, sight unseen, with few members having the courage to oppose one of the worst attacks on the American liberties ever enacted into law.

Now maybe they will discover what havoc they wrought. Welcome to the New America.


Posted by Claire @ 01:34 PM CST [Link]

LIVING THE PRINCIPLED LIFE. Alan Bock has written a thoughtful, encouraging piece on why we should live by what we believe. It's sort of a commencement address for grownups.

Posted by Claire @ 01:19 PM CST [Link]

Monday, June 2, 2003

(This is my second report on the Grand Western Conference -- re-created and re-posted after Friday's original was lost after a server hack.)

OPTIMISM. If I were to describe in one word what I brought home from the Grand Western Conference of the Free State Project "optimism" would be it.

If you know me, you understand what a big deal that is. I'm a born pessimist and a made cynic. I simply don't do optimism. My attitude toward life (and especially toward the future of freedom) is that of a suffering patient pluckily, but not often successfully, determined to make the best of terminal cancer. So when I feel optimistic -- which I still do, a week after the conference -- it's a small miracle.

Why optimism? Well, first of all because nearly all of the 150 (maybe 200) people who gathered in Missoula, Montana, appeared to be dedicated do-ers. I talked with only two or three the entire weekend who came across as typical libertarian yammerheads (more interested in complaining, philosophizing, or riding some personal hobbyhorse than in acting to gain freedom). The rest were overwhelmingly determined to create liberty in their lifetimes -- exactly what the FSP aims to do.

Second, I'm optimistic because I was so vividly reminded of the spirit of the West -- the real West, the West of Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, and rural Utah, Colorado, and Idaho. This spirit is unquenchable. I knew. But it was good to be reminded.

Better yet, it was powerfully brought home that this unquenchable, quintessential Westernness is also the spirit of western Canada. And with that realization (which a lot of conference attendees picked up on) I also think Montana just leaped to the forefront as the one truly great candidate for the Free State.

If you don't know what the Free State Project is organized to do & how it's going to do it, check out the FSP Web site. The short version is this. When FSP membership reaches 5,000 (probably this fall), participants will vote on the low-population state they envision as the best place for freedom lovers to move to. When 20,000 have joined, the move begins. The idea: 20,000 activists (as opposed to couch potatoes) can strongly influence the laws and culture of a state. The 5,000 milestone inspired the timing behind the Montana conference and a big bash going on in New Hampshire.

Libertarian watchers know there've been a gazillion bright ideas to take over states, build island nations, and whatnot -- all in hopes of [more]

Posted by Claire @ 12:24 PM CST [Link]

GROAN!. My Web hosting service had a big oooops on Sunday. The server holding clairewolfe.com got hacked. They shut it down all day and when it went back online, they reconstructed my site using a backup copy. A not-very-current backup copy, unfortunately. So if you're here looking for my second report from the Grand Western Conference of the Free State Project ... come back later. I will try to recreate it by this evening. (I didn't have a backup copy, either.)

My first report (from Wednesday) survived. It mainly relates the joys of being stuck in a strange city with a broken truck. The real meaty stuff about the conference got ground up in the Great Maw of the Internet.

Posted by Claire @ 09:28 AM CST [Link]

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