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General / Town "Master Plan"...
« on: October 08, 2006, 11:59:14 AM »
My lefty town (Amherst, Massachusetts) is holding meetings to come up with a "Master Plan."

It seems like it might be a good opportunity to inject some free-market ideas, and I'm looking for suggestions on ideas that might actually have a chance at 'sticking.'  Anybody had success at getting local governments to become more pro-freedom?

Tiny bit of background:  Amherst is a college town (three universities in town, more students than residents).  Town government is still Town Meeting (which is wonderfully inefficient).  And voters are overwhelmingly left/liberal.

AMHERST - The public brainstorming sessions that will provide ideas for the comprehensive plan will start next Thursday, Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. and Oct. 14 at 10 a.m., both at the Regional Middle School.

Participants will be randomly assigned to a group of 10 to 12 people.

That's to avoid getting a bloc of people in the same idea-gathering session, which could make others feel uncomfortable about speaking up, said project manager Jennifer Lindbom.

The registration forms will provide the organizers with demographic information to determine whether participants represent a cross-section of the population.

The forms will also have a spot to indicate interest in specific areas such as land use, housing or transportation. These are intended to help the Comprehensive Planning Committee appoint members to the ''work groups,'' which will start meeting in November.

To start off, there will be a 15-minute introduction to the comprehensive planning process. Then the participants will separate into their groups, each of which will have a facilitator who has received training in the process.

The brainstorming comes first. Participants will have 10 minutes of quiet to write down responses to the question, ''What should be done to make Amherst the best that it can be in the coming years?''

The facilitator will then go around the room and ask each participant to voice one idea at a time. He or she will then write the idea, typically in five to 10 words, on a large sheet of paper taped to the wall. The facilitator will then go around the room again and repeat the process for a second idea.

No idea is too eccentric to be recorded. Lindbom said that in other towns ideas have included an ordinance against low-rise jeans that expose underwear, and a plea that all roads should be designed to be downhill to conserve fuel.

About halfway through the event, the small groups will do an exercise called ''Strong Places, Weak Places.''

The facilitator will point to a large map of Amherst on the wall and give each participant a smaller map. The idea is to locate on the map places that you like visiting or consider special or reflect well on the community. The weak places would be those that are eyesores or undesirable to visit.

Each participant will be given three green dots (for ''strong'' places) and three red dots (for ''weak'' places) and asked to stand up and put them on the large map on the wall. Then the facilitator will look for consensus and ask where the most green dots and red dots are grouped together.

The facilitator will ask participants to identify one or two reasons why a certain place is strong or weak, and will write them on the map.

Each participant will then receive a card with space for two recommendations ''for making the physical environment in Amherst the best that it can be in the coming years.''

The event will conclude with an anonymous questionnaire.

Public idea-gathering sessions will also take place Oct. 18 at 1 p.m. in the Jones Library and at 7 p.m. at Immanuel Lutheran Church and Oct. 20 at 9 a.m. in Franklin Patterson Hall, Amherst College.


Everyone and every idea is welcome. Amherst planning project manager Jennifer Lindbom said that no idea is too eccentric to be recorded. She said ideas proposed in similar sessions in other towns have included an ordinance against low-rise jeans that expose underwear.

General / Fight censorship RIGHT NOW
« on: October 03, 2006, 11:02:04 AM »
The parents tv council is upset about the cable tv show "nip tuck", and is encouraging people to complain and urge their politicians to take action.

EVERYBODY:  Go here:

... and then replace the auto-generated "whine whine sex whine whine beastiality..." message with a pro-liberty message (ain't it great to use the enemies own weapons against them???).  Here's what I wrote:

Subject: Please protect our rights


The Parents Television Council wants to censor what I can watch on TV.

Please ignore them.  If I don't like what I or my children see on Cable TV, I can cancel my subscription or change the channel.

Personally, I use the V-chip and Tivo's brand-spanking-new "KidZone" features to keep my kids (4 and 6 years old) from watching inappropriate shows.  We do NOT need more legislation, parents already have all the tools we need.

General / The cops don't think there are too many laws...
« on: July 11, 2006, 07:51:09 PM »
Yesterday I finally took the time to walk into a police station and ask them if they could give me a list of the laws I'm supposed to obey.

My wife made me promise not to do it at the local police station-- when I told people what I planned to do, the universal reaction was "are you crazy?  Messing with the cops?  You're gonna wind up in jail...."

Anyway, I picked the police department for the next town over, and walked in around 3:00 Monday afternoon.  I'm buzzed into the lobby (security, I guess), and ask if there's somebody I could ask a few general questions about the police department and the criminal justice system.  I'm told a sargeant should be available in 10 or 15 minutes, so I get to wait.

While I'm waiting, three ladies come in to be fingerprinted (they work for a government agency).  And then two Jehova's Witnesses come in to drop of invitations to the huge meeting they'll be holding in a week (I wouldn't invite the cops to my party, but to each their own, I suppose).

Half an hour later the sargeant comes out, I tell him I'd like to ask him some questions, and he escorts me back to his office.

He didn't ask me to sit down, so the entire conversation took place with us both standing in his office, him with a buzz-cut and piston on his hip, me with just a piece of paper to take notes and a pencil:

Cops must be trained to immediately take control over the conversation, because I immediately feel like I'm being grilled; here's my recollection of about how the conversation went (I took some notes, but didnt' record the conversation).

"Who are you?"
  -- My name is Gavin.
"Who are you with?  Are you writing a newspaper article?"
  -- No, I'd just like to ask you a few questions for my own personal interest.
"What do you do?"
  -- I'm a computer programmer
"Are you thinking of becoming a police officer?"
 -- No
"Why are you interested in the police?"
 -- I'm interested in law; I'm thinking about maybe going to law school, and wanted to see how things worked from the police department's end

He seemed to like that answer.  It was even kinda-sorta true (I AM interested in the law, and there's a 1% chance I might decide to go to law school).

"So, what do you want to know?"

I know that ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking a law, so I'm trying to educate myself about the laws.  I understand that there are town bylaws, state laws, and federal laws.  Do all police (state, local and federal) enforce all the laws, or do town police just enforce the town laws?

"No, we enforce all the laws against people and property, and all the motor vehicle laws.  Some of those laws we can arrest you for, some of them we can just issue you a citation."

Great, can you give me a list of all the laws that you can arrest me for?

"Umm...  no."

So I gotta know about town bylaws.  So are you saying that whenever I travel to a town I should read the town bylaws to make sure I don't accidently break any of them

"I know it's tough... you can go to City Hall in any city and they can give you a list of the town bylaws."

I'm a parent, so one of the laws that I just happened to look up is the state child car seat safety law.  Do you enforce that law?

"Yes, that's part of the motor vehicle code."

So that law states that children under age 5 or under 40 pounds must be in a child seat.  Do you keep a scale in your squad cars to weigh kids to see if they're under 40 pounds?

"(chuckles) no, no, we don't keep scales in the cars..."

So do I have to carry ID cards for my kids to prove that they're over 5?

"No, we just ask the parents what the kids date of birth is, and we can tell if they hesitate to do the math in their heads."

I asked if there were any laws that I was REQUIRED by law to report if I saw broken-- like, for example, Adultery is illegal, am I required to report it if my neighbor is having an affair?

"No. If you were a police officer or a doctor or a few other professions then there are certain things that you must report.  However, if you do see significant criminal activity we'd encourage you to report it."

I then asked him about drug laws, which led to a fairly lengthy conversation about some recent drug busts, him commenting that they see EVERYTHING, that they use helicopters to spot pot growing on private and public lands (apparently it's easy to see from the air because it's a unique shade of green and has shiny leaves).

I kept my liberty-lovin' views mostly to myself; I tried to get him to talk about his personal opinions, but he was definitely in Official Department Spokesperson mode.  I did also learn that they spend 40 hours a year in training to keep up with changes in the laws (24 at one of the state police academies, and 16 at the local department).

I asked if there were any laws he'd like to see passed, or any he'd like to see repealed:

"No, I think we have what we need to do our job.  Now, if I we had 15 million dollars more in the budget..."


All in all, it was a much more pleasant experience than I anticipated-- mostly because I'm a pretty non-threatening, generic-looking white guy, and went in with a non-confrontational attitude.  I didn't demand answers to my questions, I just asked them, and didn't try to impose my views on him.

We're maggoty with police stations around here (three within walking distance of my house, another 4-5 in easy driving distance) so I'll probably repeat this sometime in the next few months-- and maybe next time I'll push a little harder, be a little more confrontational, and see what happens....

General / FCC Monkey-Wrenching Project : Go!
« on: June 24, 2006, 10:19:38 PM »
I've finished the FCC Obscenity Complaint Form monkey-wrenching script!  See the instructions at:


To make this effective, we volunteers to:

Add raw data to the wiki page.  Fill in more radio station and show data.  I think we especially need more complaint text (I dunno how many bureaucrats process the complaints, but if it's a small number they'll pretty quickly be able to recognize script-generated complaints).  It would be ESPECIALLY GOOD to find old "recommended complaint text" from the Parents TV Council and enter that into the system.

We also need people to run the script a couple few times a day.  The more the better.

General / Monkey-wrenching the FCC complaint form...
« on: June 19, 2006, 01:17:11 PM »
I want help brainstorming ways of pissing off the FCC.

There's a nice, juicy target at:  http://svartifoss2.fcc.gov/cib/fcc475B.cfm  -- it's the online form to file an indecency complaint.

I'm thinking of an automated script that generates ten random complaints a day.  Ideally, from a fairly random IP address (so they can't easily ban the bogus complaints).

Necessary ingredients to make this work would be:
  - A plausible list of shows (radio, tv) to generate complaints about (NOT Free Talk Live or other liberty-minded shows).
  - A plausible list of "indecent" stuff that might happen ("Bill O'Reilly called a guest a motherfucker!")
  - A plausible list of "complainers".  Maybe the leaders of the Parents Television Council and all the members of congress.
  - A fairly large set of IP addresses from which to submit the form.  Ideally, IP addresses at overseas ISPs.

The last one is the hardest.  Maybe using TOR exit nodes is the right approach.  Or maybe volunteers could drive around and connect to unsecured wireless networks to send the email.

The goal would be to flood the FCC with legitimate-looking, but bogus, complaints, so they eventually have to either:
  a) Figure out some way of blocking the bogus complaints (impossible, if we're smarter than they are-- and we are).
  b) Make it harder to file complaints (good)

Before I start writing code... does anybody know if there's already a similar monkey-wrenching project?  And whaddya think of the idea?

General / Too many laws...
« on: March 02, 2006, 07:16:09 AM »
On my next day off I think I might walk into my local police station and tell them that I'm concerned that I might inadvertently break a law that I don't know about.

And ask them if they could please give me a written list of all the laws that I must obey-- at least all the local laws, and ask them who I need to ask to get a list of all the state and federal laws that I must obey.

Then I'll ask them (very politely) if I can get them in Braille so my blind friend can read them....

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