The musings of one Andrew Langer - defender of liberty, passionate protector of individual rights, foodie. (Note: Said Musings of Andrew Langer are his own, and the views represented herein are likewise his views, and not the views of any other people, entities, foodstuffs, etc [unless otherwise specifically and explicitly noted].)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A Principled Stand by a Principled Business

This was sent to me today by alert Liberty Blog Reader M (from her husband, also initialed M):

BB&T Respects Property Rights,Won’t Fund Eminent Domain Abuse

WEB RELEASE: January 25, 2006
Media Contact: _____

Arlington, Va.—BB&T, the nation’s ninth largest financial holdings company with $109.2 billion in assets, announced today that it “will not lend to commercial developers that plan to build condominiums, shopping malls and other private projects on land taken from private citizens by government entities using eminent domain.”

In a press release issued today by the bank, BB&T Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Allison, said, “The idea that a citizen’s property can be taken by the government solely for private use is extremely misguided, in fact it’s just plain wrong. One of the most basic rights of every citizen is to keep what they own. As an institution dedicated to helping our clients achieve economic success and financial security, we won’t help any entity or company that would undermine that mission and threaten the hard-earned American dream of property ownership.”

“BB&T’s principled stand sets an example that should inspire other lenders and should become the new industry standard,” said Institute for Justice President and General Counsel Chip Mellor. The Institute for Justice litigated the Kelo case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the taking of private property for someone else’s private use in the guise of “economic development.” Mellor said, “You can and should accomplish economic development through private negotiation, not the use of government force through eminent domain. As far as we’re concerned, BB&T now stands for Best Bank in Town.”

The U.S. Congress is now considering bipartisan legislation that would federally de-fund eminent domain for private use. Although the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation that would block any federal funds going to private development projects on land taken through eminent domain, the Senate has yet to vote on companion legislation. Last week, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), however, commented on an eminent domain case that was argued before the Ohio Supreme Court. The case involves Carl and Joy Gamble, homeowners from Norwood, Ohio, who could lose their home through eminent domain for a privately owned mall and high-end apartments. Frist wrote in an op-ed published by the Cincinnati Enquirer, “I have some pretty clear thoughts about the [Norwood] case: The Gambles should keep their home and the developer should either build around it or cancel the development plans altogether. . . . Quite simply, no family should ever risk losing its home because a government wants to help a private developer.”

Scott Bullock, an IJ senior attorney who argued the Kelo case, said, “Eminent domain abuse is wrong and unconstitutional. BB&T has stepped up and recognized its corporate responsibility to not be a part of this shameful abuse of individual rights.”

Dana Berliner, an IJ senior attorney who argued the Gambles’ case before the Ohio Supreme Court, said, “Throughout the country, banks have been silent partners in the unholy alliance between local governments and private developers. Banks finance developers and cities that use eminent domain to take someone’s home or business and turn the land into new stores, condos, and office space. Others will hopefully follow BB&T’s courageous example.”

Congrats to BB&T. A very sound decision.

- Andrew Langer


Blogger Tired Immigrant said...

I compliment BB&T bank on their move. I hope other businesses will stand up for the principle of individual rights. Companies like Wal*Mart should publically swear off any development plans that use the power of eminent domain.

January 26, 2006 12:43 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
I know some of you remember me because I still get emails. I guess maybe it is a cosmic coincidence that I am posting this today!

I'm the guy with the delivery company--a couple of my guys parked near the Dupont Scientology place, and the Scientologists went crazy when they mentioned blinkers. The Scientologists have been hassling me ever since then.

Well guess what I did? I went to that Scientology place on Monday afternoon.

I took the metro as I know parking is a pain around there.

I ignored the people outside, walked in like I had business there.

A young man asked if he could help me. I told him who I was and that I wanted to talk to someone in charge. His eyes got very big, but he stayed calm. He asked me to have a seat and wait.

I sat and waited. I have to tell you that they have a very nice place. I think it used to be a house. Someone obviously spent a lot of money on it.

Well a woman came out and asked me to come with her. We went into a little office.

She introduced herself, I won't give the name though.

By the way, I brought a yellow pad and made it clear I was going to take notes.

I told her I wanted the harassment to stop. I layed out what had happened, that they had been calling truck companies and had shown up when I was doing a pickup and told the people there my company was a bunch of religious bigots.

I told her as far as I knew the word blinker was the common term for the flashing lights on a truck.

I told her that hassling a small business over a word is ridiculous, and that if we could come to some kind of understanding I'd have to find another solution. I had thought about taking the two guys with me but then I thought they might have thought we'd get violent.

She said she'd wished I'd made an appointment. I told her maybe THEY should have made an appointment instead of just showing up and hassling me. I also told her that I did look on their website and it was not clear how to make appointments.

She asked me what I knew about blinkers and I asked her if she meant not the truck kind and she said yes. I told her I had looked on the web and it said that they were teleporting cats and that they were either made from cat dna or that their dna was the basis of cats. It also said that these cats are part of the invaders that are part of Scientology religion.

She said that there are many advanced teachings in Scientology. She asked me what religion I was and I would not tell her. She asked why and I told her I was there to get to the bottom of this and not to tell her my life story. She asked if I knew what was meant by a religion having advanced teachings. I told her not really.

She said in Scientology people come in at the level of preclear and move up the bridge. She showed me a picture of this bridge, there are many steps along the way to something called the OT levels. She said that OT is Operating Thetan and is the highest level.

She said along the way you have to learn various things and that L. Ron Hubbard designed the bridge so you learned things as you needed to learn them.

I asked her what the harm was in accidentally learning something early--like learning about the blinkers.

She said and was very serious that there were cases where people had learned things early and been harmed. She told me there was a court case where some other things had been leaked and they took steps to protect the judge who reviewed the leaked papers.

She also said that there are people who stole Scientology materials and use them in something called the Free Zone. She said that this violates the Scientology copyright. She told me that I should have made an appointment with something called the Religious Technology Center in Los Angeles but that since I was not a Scientologist I might not have understood the web site. I told her I did not know what that was and was certainly not going to go to Los Angeles for no reason.

She said that the Religious Technology Center protects Scientology's copyrights and makes sure that the material is used as it was designed. I asked if it was like quality control and she said yes. She said that Scientology is very precise and gets results if it is applied as designed. I told her that made sense but where was the harm in knowing about these blinker cats. In fact, I told her, the guys on the truck did not even know that the word blinker had anything at all to do with Scientology and that maybe they should use less common words for such sensitive things.

She told me that she had no control over what things were called that everything was based on the writings of L. Ron Hubbard.

I said well it is a good thing Hubbard didn't decide that the word mover is not some other kind of monster or I'd be in even more trouble. I don't think she got the joke. She repeated what she said about Hubbard's writings.

I said well OK what happens now. I said you are harassing me for what, because we parked near you, that's our right and because someone said blinker? I think that's legal too.

She said that we did not have a parking permit. I told her we did not need one. I told her I'd been in the business for quite a while, I know what permits I need. I also told her that if we had a permit violation, DC should deal with us and not her and that it had nothing to do with bigotry or religious secrets.

I told her that they have a special meaning for the word clear, is it a problem if we say something is not clear or that glass is clear? She said no as clear is not part of an advanced teaching. I said that's nuts, how are people who are not Scientologists supposed to know all of this? I said you are hassling my business because someone said blinker. I said Catholics would not get upset if we said cross or mass outside a church and Jews would not get upset if you said pass over.

She said, and I'm not kidding, that this was one good reason to study Scientology. I said why, so people won't break some odd rule? I told her that certain things were obviously offensive to different religions but they were pretty well known. I also told her I thought it was pretty rare for a religion to hassle someone over something so minor.

Then she said well you posted this story of yours on the Internet. She said you mentioned the blinkers. I said well yes I did as the last time I checked America still had free speech. I told her they post all kinds of stuff on the Internet and why are they better than me.

She said well we don't post other religions' advanced teachings or make fun of them. I told her that if I'm making fun of anything at all I'm making fun of their intolerance of the use of a common word in its usual meaning. I told her that if there's any bigotry going on it is against what seems to be some pretty serious stupidity. I told her they had hassled me way more than I had hassled them if I had even hassled them at all. I told her as far as I knew no one had had any problems from hearing us say blinkers. I asked her what would happen if a Scientologist went to the store and someone said they had left their blinkers on and they happened to hear it.

I asked her why, if this word is so dangerous or whatever that something hasn't happened before. I asked her why if these cats exist why hadn't the government done something about them.

At this point she said something about governments suppressing Scientology but I interrupted her and just kept going.

I told her I could have lived the rest of my life and not had a clue about these flying space cats if this had not happened. I told her that there are lots of moves and deliveries in her area and that they should be used to seeing this by now. I told her that when all of the stuff for this building got moved in that someone must have parked nearby to move it.

I told her I'd had it. I told her she was costing me money and my employees did not like being hassled and followed. I reminded her that I was taking notes and that I was most certainly going to post about the meeting. I told her if she had anything to say she had better get with it and say it as I'd heard about enough about parking permits and dangerous advanced teachings.

She asked if the comment about dangerous advanced teachings was making fun of Scientology and I said well maybe a little. I told her I'd been using the word for years and nothing had happened. I told her that I'd accept that they had advanced teaching but did not see how they could be dangerous. I asked her if she could give me any evidence of this danger and she said the danger was there but she was not allowed to give me an examples.

I said well that's about it, what are you going to do about this? I told her I was really upset and since the problem started here in this building that's where I'd come back to.

She asked me to wait outside while she made a phone call. I said maybe a conference call would be best and she said no. She said she would make a call and that she would have an answer for me at the end of the call.

So I wandered around the lobby for about twenty minutes. I thought they would watch me but if they were it was through hidden cameras. But maybe not, as another woman came up and asked if she could help me and I told her I was in a meeting with the other woman, they do not seem to be all that organized, and there were a lot of people wandering around in there.

Well she came back out and asked me to come back into the office. She said she had been talking to people at the Religious Technology Center about me. She said the disclosure of the advanced teaching about blinkers was recent and a major concern of theirs. She said it was a policy order that anyone not in good standing and disseminating data about blinkers was subject to a suppressive person declaration. That's pretty much what she said and yes I did ask her what it meant.

She said that it meant that in order to control the flow of information about advanced teachings that persons doing so without authorization were declared as suppressive. I told her I was not suppressing anything. She said that I was suppressing Scientology. I said well what happens now.

She said there were various procedures. She said I really should consider becoming a Scientologist in good standing as that would be the easiest way to get the suppressive declare revoked. I said I was not about to convert to her religion over this. She said then I needed to go ahead and make amends in the form of overts and withholds although she said it is hard to do this if you are not a Scientologist.

I told her I was having nothing to do with their rules and procedures. I said you people are after me because we parked near your building and used a common word which you think is some secret religious code word or something. She said that ever since the first disclosure of the blinker teaching there had been a lot of calls into Scientology about it.

I told her I had nothing to with the discovery of this teaching. I said if it is so secret then how did someone find out about it. She said well sometimes people steal documents and leak them. She said in this case it seems someone had bought confidential documents at a garage sale. She said this person posted about the blinkers and other things.

She said that this person then sold the documents to a known suppressive person even though they offered her a fair price for the documents.

Now I will be honest and say that by now I know about that but did not know about it before. I told her. She said well see that's the problem. People talk about these teachings and it causes problems.

I said well you caused this problem. If you had not been taking pictures of my guys and then having a fit when one of them said blinker none of this ever would have happened.

She said people come and protest there and expose teachings. She showed me some pictures of people with picket signs that looked like aliens. She said the alien signs were making fun of other advanced teachings. She said she had seen the blinker pictures on the internet and it was more of the same. I said well I never made any blinker pictures.

She told me that the Religious Technology Center had told her that they could arrange a special price if everyone in my company would at least do some basic processing. I said I am not going to convert over this and it is illegal for me to even suggest it to my employees.

Then she started telling me that Scientology is compatible with all other religions and you really don't have to convert if you don't want to. I told her it would still be illegal for me to even suggest any kind of religious training or whatever it is to my employees. She said that the suppressive person declaration applies to all of you and it is your choice of what to do.

I stood up. I told her well it is my choice to post something about this meeting to the internet. I told her that if you keep messing with me I will find some way to deal with it. I told her that if they want to believe in aliens and flying cats with alien dna and so on it is fine but when a guy talks about blinkers on a truck it is no big deal.

I told her that if it did not cost so much to repaint the trucks I'd rename the company Blinker Van Lines. She had an obvious nervous reaction to this!

So I'll keep you good people informed. I'm still not giving out the the name of the company but I do appreciate all of the good wishes. But if you see an ad for a blinker special you will know it is me!

November 25, 2005 1:09 PM

January 26, 2006 8:12 AM

Blogger Andrew Langer said...

Thanks for the sentiments, TI. I had that very conversation the other night with some folks from Target, in fact, who said that there are serious internal debates about that very issue.

And I really have no idea where these scientology comments are coming from. I appreciate and agree with the sentiments, but don't vouch for everything in the text.

- Andrew

January 26, 2006 10:01 AM

Blogger Ilena Rose said...

Before the illegal invasion of Iraq by Langer's hero, premature congratulator Bush, Langer was filling Usenet as yet another of the Bush Regime's PR flacks in denial.

Every "talking point" lie Bush's other flacks repeated in other medium ... Langer repeated on Usenet.


The Truth About the State of our Union
by Dennis J. Kucinich

On Tuesday night President Bush will stand before the Congress and the nation, to deliver his annual State of the Union address. We are sure to hear a rosy tale of an economy on the rebound, a blossoming democracy in Iraq, a terror network on the run, and a Gulf Coast region rebuilding better and stronger than ever before. As is most often the case with this Administration, the rhetoric does not match reality.

The facts are clear. Our economy is struggling and leaving tens of millions of Americans behind. According to the non-partisan National Journal, since President Bush first stood before Congress and the nation in 2001, the median income in this country has decreased, the jobless rate has jumped from 3.9% to 4.9% and the number of families living in poverty has increased from 8.7% to 10.2%. Our trade deficit has doubled. Inflation has gone up. Personal bankruptcies have gone up. Consumer debt has gone up. College tuition has gone up. And, the price of gas has gone up. All the while, this Administration has turned a $128 billion federal budget surplus into a $319 billion deficit.

Today, almost 6 million more Americans do not have any health insurance than when President Bush took office. In total, over 45.5 million Americans, or over 15% of our total population, have no health care coverage at all.

During his 2003 address, President Bush told the nation that Saddam Hussein "had biological weapons sufficient to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax", "materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin", "as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent" and "upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents".

Today, almost three years after the start of the President's war of choice, we know Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, had no connection to al-Qaeda and posed no threat to our nation. Yet, our armed forces are bogged down in the middle of civil war that our own generals say cannot be won by military force. Our presence in Iraq is counterproductive and has cost the lives of over 2,200 US troops and $250 billion.

President Bush has delivered four State of the Union addresses since the attacks on our nation on 9/11. In four speeches, the President has never once mentioned Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the terror attacks on this nation. The status of the FBI's most wanted man apparently is not important to the state of our union. Yet, in the same four speeches, President Bush has mentioned Saddam Hussein 24 times, and Iraq 78 times.

President Bush used the opening of his 2003 State of the Union to praise the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. This year our nation, and the world, saw the result of the failure of this massive reorganization of our government. As Katrina rolled ashore, destroying large cities and small towns in four states, it was FEMA, once an independent cabinet level agency--but now rolled into Department of Homeland Security--that failed to react. The searing image of thousands of Americans stranded without food and water dying on American streets will be the lasting legacy of the Department of Homeland Security, not a reorganized government "mobilizing against the threats of a new era" as the President described in his speech.

In his 2004 and 2005 addresses, the President spent a considerable amount of time advocating policies that would roll back much of the social progress made since the New Deal. In 2004, the President touted a Medicare prescription drug bill that will fatten the pockets of the pharmaceutical industry, endangering the future finances of the entire Medicare program, while leaving seniors confused and empty handed as they try to fill their prescriptions under the new plan. In 2005, the President used his address to promote his plan strip seniors of the guaranteed promise of Social Security, and replace it with a risky scheme to gamble their future in the stock market.

What the President has in store for his message this year is not known yet. But, we do know the President Bush will speak in glowing terms about the state of our union. The truth is the state of our union is in great peril. This Administration is conducting a war with no end in Iraq, illegally spying on Americans at home, overseeing an economy that is increasingly leaving more and more Americans behind and abandoning Gulf in their hour of great need.

If recent history is any precedent, then next week we should see more of the same old dance around reality that has been the hallmark of President Bush's annual address.

Since being elected to Congress in 1996, Kucinich has been a tireless advocate for worker rights, civil rights and human rights. He represents Ohio's 10th District.

January 28, 2006 3:36 PM

Blogger Ilena Rose said...

The US military seeks the capability to knock out every telephone, every networked computer, every radar system on the planet.

Published on Friday, January 27, 2006 by BBC
US Plans to 'Fight the Net' Revealed
by Adam Brookes

WASHINGTON - A newly declassified document gives a fascinating glimpse into the US military's plans for "information operations" - from psychological operations, to attacks on hostile computer networks.
Bloggers beware.

As the world turns networked, the Pentagon is calculating the military opportunities that computer networks, wireless technologies and the modern media offer.

From influencing public opinion through new media to designing "computer network attack" weapons, the US military is learning to fight an electronic war.

The declassified document is called "Information Operations Roadmap". It was obtained by the National Security Archive at George Washington University using the Freedom of Information Act.

Officials in the Pentagon wrote it in 2003. The Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, signed it.

The "roadmap" calls for a far-reaching overhaul of the military's ability to conduct information operations and electronic warfare. And, in some detail, it makes recommendations for how the US armed forces should think about this new, virtual warfare.

The document says that information is "critical to military success". Computer and telecommunications networks are of vital operational importance.


The operations described in the document include a surprising range of military activities: public affairs officers who brief journalists, psychological operations troops who try to manipulate the thoughts and beliefs of an enemy, computer network attack specialists who seek to destroy enemy networks.

All these are engaged in information operations.

Perhaps the most startling aspect of the roadmap is its acknowledgement that information put out as part of the military's psychological operations, or Psyops, is finding its way onto the computer and television screens of ordinary Americans.

"Information intended for foreign audiences, including public diplomacy and Psyops, is increasingly consumed by our domestic audience," it reads.

"Psyops messages will often be replayed by the news media for much larger audiences, including the American public," it goes on.

The document's authors acknowledge that American news media should not unwittingly broadcast military propaganda. "Specific boundaries should be established," they write. But they don't seem to explain how.

"In this day and age it is impossible to prevent stories that are fed abroad as part of psychological operations propaganda from blowing back into the United States - even though they were directed abroad," says Kristin Adair of the National Security Archive.

Credibility problem

Public awareness of the US military's information operations is low, but it's growing - thanks to some operational clumsiness.

Late last year, it emerged that the Pentagon had paid a private company, the Lincoln Group, to plant hundreds of stories in Iraqi newspapers. The stories - all supportive of US policy - were written by military personnel and then placed in Iraqi publications.

And websites that appeared to be information sites on the politics of Africa and the Balkans were found to be run by the Pentagon.

But the true extent of the Pentagon's information operations, how they work, who they're aimed at, and at what point they turn from informing the public to influencing populations, is far from clear.

The roadmap, however, gives a flavour of what the US military is up to - and the grand scale on which it's thinking.

It reveals that Psyops personnel "support" the American government's international broadcasting. It singles out TV Marti - a station which broadcasts to Cuba - as receiving such support.

It recommends that a global website be established that supports America's strategic objectives. But no American diplomats here, thank you. The website would use content from "third parties with greater credibility to foreign audiences than US officials".

It also recommends that Psyops personnel should consider a range of technologies to disseminate propaganda in enemy territory: unmanned aerial vehicles, "miniaturized, scatterable public address systems", wireless devices, cellular phones and the internet.

'Fight the net'

When it describes plans for electronic warfare, or EW, the document takes on an extraordinary tone.

It seems to see the internet as being equivalent to an enemy weapons system.

"Strategy should be based on the premise that the Department [of Defense] will 'fight the net' as it would an enemy weapons system," it reads.

The slogan "fight the net" appears several times throughout the roadmap.

The authors warn that US networks are very vulnerable to attack by hackers, enemies seeking to disable them, or spies looking for intelligence.

"Networks are growing faster than we can defend them... Attack sophistication is increasing... Number of events is increasing."

US digital ambition

And, in a grand finale, the document recommends that the United States should seek the ability to "provide maximum control of the entire electromagnetic spectrum".

US forces should be able to "disrupt or destroy the full spectrum of globally emerging communications systems, sensors, and weapons systems dependent on the electromagnetic spectrum".

Consider that for a moment.

The US military seeks the capability to knock out every telephone, every networked computer, every radar system on the planet.

Are these plans the pipe dreams of self-aggrandising bureaucrats? Or are they real?

The fact that the "Information Operations Roadmap" is approved by the Secretary of Defense suggests that these plans are taken very seriously indeed in the Pentagon.

And that the scale and grandeur of the digital revolution is matched only by the US military's ambitions for it.



January 28, 2006 3:39 PM

Blogger Andrew Langer said...

Please feel free to read my extensive comments regarding Ilena Rosenthal, Director of the Humantics Foundation for Women, who had it's license temporarily suspended last summer by the State of California (why was that, again?), elsewhere on this blog.

February 01, 2006 2:49 PM


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