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Archive for April, 2009

Chuck Hurley’s appointment as National Highway Traffic Safety Administration head is a troubling one. Read this great piece by Radley Balko to find out why.

As for MADD, they are a perfect example of an organization whose nanny-statism has crossed the line from being annoying to what I can only succintly describe as evil.

[In case anyone is wondering, I do realize that highway and traffic restrictions affect people other the driver, and thus are not necessarily paternalistic. My comments above concern only those positions held by MADD (and others of its ilk) that are either purely paternalistic or so unreasonable that they can only have been motivated by paternalistic concerns.]

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To make up for my lack of posting, let me link to a discussion over at Aristotle’s blog. It started off with Rawls but has evolved into topics like the nature of morality and the objectivity (or lack thereof) of values.

To a casual reader of the thread linked above, I might come across as rather critical of Ayn Rand and what I consider to be a flawed attempt by her to build an objective theory of morality. So to give a more balanced picture of what I really think of Rand and her works, let me quote myself from a different thread on the same blog.

I won’t say Rand is for everyone; I really do think you need to have certain personality traits in order for Rand’s fiction to really speak to you. This is especially true of the way she depicts the sexual and emotional aspects of her characters.

[…] So, I can see why The Fountainhead does not appeal to a lot of people, including many who really value individualism. As for me, I read it in my late teens and have re-read it since. I love it, and that’s an understatement.

Actually Ayn Rand is *not* my favourite moral philosopher; she does not even come close. There are several fundamental logical flaws in the way she treats the topics of rationality and first principles. But The Fountainhead is a different matter; it distills just the right aspects of her philosophy, perhaps by accident, but nevertheless.

There are a lot of things I dream of doing with my life and none of them have much to do with Rand or objectivism.

But if you ask me the name of just one book, *any* book from *any era*, that I wish *I* had written…. it would be the Fountainhead.

Reading Rand was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. For that I will be eternally grateful.

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I am always fascinated when the inclusion of a famous song or classical piece in a movie gets it absolutely right. By that I mean that it not only perfectly reflects the mood and meaning of that movie scene but enhances its emotional impact in almost preternatural manner.

Such is the case with Shostakovich’s “Waltz No. 2” in Eyes Wide Shut. I simply can’t get it out my head however much I try. It is such a beautiful piece; flowery, passionate, romantic yet with that indelible tinge of mystery and haunting spookiness. As a theme music for that movie, Stanley Kubrick couldn’t have chosen any better. Enjoy:

What other well known music inclusions for movie soundtracks can you think of that gets it perfect? Off the top of my head, here are a few that give me the chills: “Johnny Came Marching Home” from Dr. Strangelove,  “Hello” from Bitter Moon, “Bang Bang” from Kill Bill, “Girl, You’ll be a Woman” from Pulp Fiction.

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Reason has some exclusive footage from the aborted sentencing yesterday.

Meanwhile, if you are a reader who is not entirely familiar with the timeline and details of the Charlie Lynch case, I strongly recommend this excellent Reason summary.

To read my various posts on the case, click here.

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Passing on the release by the Friends of CCL group. It is rather interesting.

On Thursday April 23 in Federal Court the Sentencing of Charles C. Lynch was again postponed until Monday June 11, 2009. The court filled with supporters from across the state and across the nation. Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Reason.tv and other news agencies watched and waited as Lynch’s defense team continued a courageous battle against his draconian Federal Prosecution. 

First Judge Wu read the recent letter from the Obama Administration saying the prosecution of Charles Lynch is consistent with the New Policy and said ‘that was that’. Wu then asked for plans for the hearing. Lynch’s Public Defenders said they had a number of testimonials and a video tape to submit to the court. The Prosecution said it had no testimonials from victims or any more information to submit to the court. 

Lynch’s attorneys began with a video tape of one of his former patients talking about Lynch’s compassion and Law Abidingness. The Judge stopped the video and told the defense to transcribe the video and submit it to the court. 

Next Lynch’s friend and former patient Owen Beck and his Father Steve Beck both gave testimonials of Lynch’s professionalism, compassion and compliance with State Law. Owen said that what is happening to Lynch is an injustice and asked the Judge for leniency.

 Next the Mayor of Morro Bay, Janice Peters boldly went before the Judge and told him how the City of Morro Bay had enacted a Medical Marijuana plan dating back to 1993, years before the California Compassionate Use Act was enacted. She continued to talk in support of Lynch stating that this is a victimless crime with one exception. The Mayor said that Lynch himself is the victim in this case, a victim of an unfair prosecution and continued to state how Lynch was handling such a terrible situation in such a respectful manner. 

Next the Morro Bay City Attorney Rob Schultz was sworn in, as the prosecutor demanded he be sworn in to testify, talked how he had been directed by the City of Morro Bay City Council to draft a solution that allowed medical marijuana dispensaries.  Shultz talked about how he had researched how other Cities such as Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles had adopted local ordinances regarding dispensaries and used these ordinances as models for the Morro Bay rules and regulations. Shultz zoomed in one rule in particular that the City had provided Lynch and that rule was the age limit of 18 or older unless accompanied by a parent for patients of the dispensary. Shultz testified that this seemed to be the standard among other cities across the state and so that was the rule that was designated for Lynch’s dispensary. Shultz also continued to say that Lynch’s dispensary was in compliance with the Local Laws issued by the City of Morro Bay. The prosecutor grilled Shultz and asked about Federal Law and mentioned Lynch’s dispensary in Atascadero that had been closed due to zoning changes. Shultz said the City of Morro Bay wanted to give Lynch a chance to run a professional law abiding dispensary and felt that Lynch had done so. During Schultz’s testimony Judge Wu was busily taking notes and scratching his head. 

Joe Elford of American’s for Safe Access spoke to the court and mentioned how Lynch was in compliance with the latest California Attorney General’s guidelines one and a half years before the guidelines were even issued. Reuven Cohen pointed out to the court the California Attorney General statements in the guideline that say “no legal conflict exists merely because state law and federal law treat marijuana differently” and that Lynch has been ‘duped’. Judge Wu responded saying ‘well that’s life’ as a very audible moan of disbelief echoed through the court room. Judge Wu continued the proceedings saying that he needs ways around the mandatory minimums and pointed out some language that he thought needed some briefing from defense and prosecutors before sentencing could continue.

As it became obvious that Lynch was not going to be sentenced during the hearing members of the media began heading for the doors in time to meet deadlines for the six o’clock news as prosecutors stared forward in disbelief. Lynch supporters wearing green “Compassion” ribbons stood in unison as the judge began scheduling for the next hearing saying that would be the final hearing in this case. Lynch is now scheduled to be sentenced on June 11, 2009.

As Lynch, his attorneys and supporters exited the building a large number of members of the media waited with microphones and video cameras in front of the Court house. Lynch, his attorneys and Morro Bay City Attorney answered questions for the cameras. Shortly after the press conference Lynch and his supporters gathered at a local pub for food and libations. Lynch said he was happy to walk out of the court house today and wanted to thank his family, his attorneys and his supporters for all they have done for him. 

Charles C. Lynch Sentencing
Monday June 11, 2009 at 10am
Federal Court Building Courtroom #10
312 N. Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012

I think it is becoming increasingly clear that Obama’s drug policy will be one of spineless dweebism. In short, he will mostly hem and haw; actual changes will occur only if he considers that it is politically safe for him to do so. Well there you go, Mr. President, there is currently enough sympathy for Lynch from the NY Times and your other friends and supporters. It really will be ok to stop this prosecution. So just do it: if not to redeem your integrity, at least to get some good press!

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I get plenty of junk in my Facebook feed every day most of which I barely give a second glance; today however, one particular item caught my eye. Titled “Vigil for Binayak Sen”, this particular Facebook event was in support of Dr. Binayak Sen, whose continued detainment by the Chhattisgarh government violates every principle of justice. Not only has he not been charged with any recognizable criminal offence, the laws under which he was arrested allow for arbitrary detention without any right of appeal: he has been in jail since May 2007 with no end in sight.

All that, however has nothing to do with why I am writing this post; the reason is because the description of this event  begins as follows,

Jonathan Mann award winner and civil liberties activist, doctor of the poor, Dr. Binayak Sen has been jailed by Govt. of India under fabricated charge of being a supporter of Maoism.

But why should it matter who Dr. Sen supports? Maybe he supports the Maoists, maybe he does not. That fact is completely irrelevant. If freedom means anything, it means the right to expouse any views, however repugnant. If you believe in freedom of thought and speech, supporting an organization, whether it is is the Maoists or Al-Qaeda or the Nazis, should never be a crime. It is only directly criminal deeds that ought to be actionable, nothing else; not views, not speech, not associations.

By starting the description of the event in this manner, the author automatically gives an impression that this arrest is wrong because Binayak Sen is accused of supporting the Maoists while he in truth does not. BS!  This arrest is wrong because it violates individual liberty and it’s wrongness would not reduce even the slightest were Binayak Sen the greatest supporter of Maoism in the world. Why are so few people inclined to defend liberty purely for liberty’s sake?

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Honestly. Can this be real?

A criminal case was filed in a court on Thursday accusing Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh with ‘hurting’ fans by staying away from the Padma awards function.

Dhoni and Bhajji were to be honoured with the Padma Shree by President Pratibha Patil in New Delhi on Tuesday.

Senior advocate Sudhir Kumar Ojha filed the case in the court of the CJM Ramdarash seeking to book the cricketers under sections 499 (defamation), 500 (punishment for defamation), 503 (criminal intimidation) and 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace).

Ojha alleged that the two cricketers insulted fans and dishonoured the prestigious award by staying away from the function.

The comment section is depressing to read. This one, by someone called Kapil Sapre, is probably my favourite:

This is not insult of fans but this is insult of our Honourable President who honours the celebrities with such awards. It is also insult of our nation. Showing such attitude those have made our country to fall on face at international level. No celebritiy henceforth should be allowed to do so and to prevent this those should be fined in terms of money like 25 crores as they also earn that much and imprisonment for at least 3 years. There should be no case and nothing direct punishment. Why because such people are idols of rising youth. If they do so, youth will also tend to do so.

(Hat Tip: Aristotle the Geek)

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