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New blog

Hey y'all, reactivating one more time to say that I'm posting at a new blog. rfmcelroyiii.wordpress.com is the address. As I'm in graduate school now it should be less fire-breathing and more academic, but Eleutheria, Praxis, Kosmos is still the guiding principle. I hope to see you there.


My morning at magistrate court

Paying traffic fines really chaps my ass. I got pulled over about six weeks ago for driving without my seat belt on. Just as you’d expect, a few days prior I’d taken all my car documents out for some reason, so I also got a ticket for not having insurance. I brought that to court and had that charge dismissed, but I still got slapped with the fine and fees for the seat belt violation. The breakdown is a great example of local government in action:

Automation fee $10
Since none of my transaction was automated, I can’t imagine what this is for.

Mag[istrate] Facilities fee $10
While I don’t like the idea of any of this, at least it was actually in magistrate court. However unwillingly, I did sort of use the facilities. I don’t think I got ten dollars’ worth out of the fountain, but maybe the water is extra expensive there.

Jury and Witness fee $5
This was a pretty simple victim-and-clerk transaction, without judge, jury, or witnesses, so who knows why I had to pay this.

Correction fee $20
So generic that it’s hard to say anything about.

Traffic Safety fee $3
The only thing I got pulled over for was not having a seat belt on. Not reckless driving, not running red lights--basically, nothing unsafe except possibly for myself.

Judicial Education fee $3
Is the judge taking night classes? Is this for the sack lunches for Take Your Child to Court day?

DV Treatment fee $5
In this case, “DV” is for domestic violence, a practice I’ve never engaged in, and one that’s not in any way related to traffic either.

Brain Injury fee $5
This is my favorite one. The state trooper harasses me and makes me late for work over something that I should be allowed to do, and then the county makes me pay for it.

Fine $25
At long last, here we come to the punishment, a fine amounting to 29% of the take they demanded before I could leave.


Queso contrabando

Driving across the bridge from Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua into El Paso, Texas, you see a lot of signs. This is prohibited, that is required, these documents are necessary, those items are banned.

One of the many things banned by federal regulations is the import of cheeses made with unpasteurized milk. I admit I’m no expert on cheese, pasteurization, or even decent food, but I do suspect that when the FDA bans something that works perfectly well only a few miles away I don’t have any special reason to fear it. (Scary FDA warning here.)

Asadero cheese is one such food item. It’s commonly used in northern Mexican cooking, particularly melted or baked. It is delicious, and all us law-abiding suckers up here have to get by with substitutes that aren’t quite the same thing.

Or, of course, you could live on the border, have relatives or contacts on the other side, and occasionally get a little taste of paraíso.


2 and counting

Moamar Gaddafi must really be getting desperate:

Overnight, Libyan television aired what it said was another speech by Mr Gaddafi made by telephone, where he blamed the unrest on young Libyans who have been brainwashed by drugs or Al Qaeda.

"It is obvious that this is run by Al Qaeda, " he said. "You in Zawiyah turn to bin Laden. They give you drugs.

"Those armed youngsters, our children, are incited by people who are wanted by America and the Western world.

"People were getting all their daily needs ... why did you have to get involved with the bin Laden ideology?

"They have been brainwashing the kids in this area and tell them to misbehave... the ones who are under bin Laden's influence and authority, under the influence of drugs."

It looks like it's only a matter of time for another Arab dictator. This is exciting.


Be on the lookout for America's #1 terrorist organization

When I was writing yesterday I was thinking in the back of my mind about how Julian Assange will be in a month. Probably in jail somewhere, with the US government chomping at the bit to bring him here. In two months, there will be rallies to support him in various places, and those rallies will be honeycombed with undercover FBI agents, including, no doubt, agents provocateurs who will try to incite the crowds to do something illegal.

I didn't write this, and now I wish I had, as I just saw a story about the FBI sending an agent to a mosque in Irvine to incite people to illegal acts. The Muslims targeted here actually got a restraining order on the guy, as he was trying to provoke violence. We'd be fools to doubt that the FBI is actively inciting people to violent activity all over the country.

Via Radley Balko.


Wikileaks, as good as it gets

I'm sure I don't have to express how excited I am about Wikileaks. This whole affair is thrilling. The Ron Paul campaign was a mixed bag for me, but Wikileaks is something I can get behind 100%.


Police question

Last night between the survivalist meeting and the bar, I saw three separate police incidents involving six patrol cars within five minutes of each other on the same road. My buddy and I noted that this seemed pretty bizarre, especially given that they had pulled over two similiar-looking drivers in similar-looking vehicles. I myself got pulled over after not slowing down enough through a green arrow within two minutes of passing the third incident. The officer asked for my ID only—not my registration and insurance—and after a brief chat about how I did in fact have the green arrow, gave my ID back and sent me on my way. I was not wearing a seat belt at any point here, and my driver's license and license plate are from two different states. If the guy had wanted to break my balls, as is their custom, it would have been easy.

Clearly they were looking for someone in particular, and fortunately I was not him. It leaves me puzzled though, as I live in the Mexican border region and trafficking in drugs and even weapons is not unusual. It is also not usually combatted by stopping everybody possible. I have not heard of any heinous murders or bank robberies. The local paper does not give any clues this morning, so it appears they haven't found the guy yet.

Feel free to join my weekend brainstorming project of figuring out what type of person they could have been looking for.


Cui bono (iam)?

It's hard to decide what to make of a story like this:

(Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai intends to impose rules restricting international involvement in anti-corruption investigations, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.

The justification by the Afghan government is that the US government has de facto control over this body under current rules. I have no trouble believing that Karzai is absolutely corrupt and wants to shield himself, but I also have no trouble believing that the US government has control of the body and is using it to "influence" Karzai. I'll be interested to see where this story goes.


State secrets vs. you

With the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals handing out free passes to hide torture under the "state secrets" doctrine, I have to ask statists, what's with the "state secrets" doctrine? I mean, what's the rationale? Where does it arise when we're constructing a just theory of the state (not necessarily the current state that actually obtains, and notwithstanding the fact that I don't believe such construction is possible)?


Conservatism: fear writ large

I've had this idea in my mind for a couple weeks now, and now after spending several days with a very conservative family member, I'm convinced: the driving force behind American conservative foreign (and occasionally domestic) policy is the overwhelming fear that America is actually very weak.

A bunch of guys hiding in caves are really such a threat to America that the US military has to have a presence in the majority of countries, or we might be toppled. The "Ground Zero mosque" has to be defeated because if "the Muslims" get this foothold, they really might introduce Sharia law into America. This is not a joke.

To them, anyway.


Kidnapped Mexican mayor found dead

The only silver lining I can see to story after story after story like this is that the answer is clear as day, and sooner rather than later they'll embrace it.


North Korean team "reprimanded"

Frankly, I was expecting the fate of the North Korean soccer team to be much worse after losing three straight games in the World Cup.


The empire destroys its own

Get a load of this:

WASHINGTON — A record high number of Army suicides are linked to an increasingly "permissive" environment in the service where soldiers take personal risks in their lives by using alcohol and drugs, committing crimes and refusing to get psychological help and do not enough to curb the behavior, according to a sweeping internal investigation released by Army officials today.

Internal investigations by government agencies always seem to turn out this way. It's not the multiple deployments, the stress of fighting in a conflict where you can't tell who wants to kill you until they're doing it, the moral burden of shooting at innocent people, the vagueness of the goals of the conflict, or any of that. In other words, it's not the essential part of what soldiers do these days.

It's that, for some reason, without any causes, soldiers are engaging in risky behavior, and their commanders are just too darn earnest about prosecuting the war to notice.

I know that someone involved in this investigation realized how insultingly stupid this conclusion was, but I also know that mainstream American political consciousness is so pro-war that most people won't be insulted.


Restricted airspace

I'm not sure why or how, but the New York Times reported on the difficulties newer airlines face in the U.S., in what is by no stretch of the imagination a "free market":

In the airline industry, the fittest do not always survive. But that has not stopped start-up carriers like Virgin America from trying.

...

Industry experts offer a long list of challenges faced by start-up carriers, as well as upstarts like Southwest and JetBlue. That list includes access to take-off slots and gates at desirable airports, restrictions on foreign investment in American airlines, and rules preventing foreign carriers from flying within the United States — all hurdles that Virgin America has had to overcome.

...

“King Solomon couldn’t start a U.S. domestic airline these days,” said Hubert Horan, an aviation consultant. “No matter how well they’re run, it’s tough for any airline that’s small to survive.”

...

“Here are these well-run efficient airlines — people like them, they have low costs — but they can’t get the badly run inefficient airlines to go away,” he said. “In a competitive market, the people with the better-run companies ought to drive the high-cost companies out of business and that just doesn’t work in the airline industry.”

Boy, I wonder if there are any other industries that have similar structural problems...


They've got us beat on that

I don't know how much all of you dear readers have been following the World Cup, but it doesn't take long to notice one thing: the US flag makes a hideous decoration theme. See here.