May 2011

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Monday, May 30, 2011

We Can't Dance If We Want To 

Here's a message I sent to my congressman and senators:

Dear xxx,

I’m writing you this Memorial Day because of a disturbing video I watched yesterday (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PDhjNF9eUQ) of park police aggressively stopping non-disruptive expression at the Jefferson Memorial.

I believe that they were there to peacefully protest the recent D.C. Circuit Court ruling in Oberwetter v. Hilliard (http://www.cadc.uscourts.gov/internet/opinions.nsf/748BE2DE8AF2A2A485257893004E07FC/$file/10-5078-1308285.pdf). In that case, a young woman was arrested for silently (with ear buds) dancing, with friends who were doing the same, at the Jefferson Memorial to celebrate the birthday of Thomas Jefferson around midnight in 2008.

I believe that the original arrest was the result of poor judgment of over-zealous police, and the court decision was an, unfortunately all too common, example of the state protecting its own misdeeds rather than correcting them. I think this will lead to an escalation of harms. It’s possible that the police actions and the court’s decision fall within the current letter of the law, but they fall outside of the spirit of individual liberty that makes this country uniquely great.

It’s my understanding that Congress has authority over the policies governing D.C. memorials, and so I urge you to take quick and decisive action to correct the policy and prevent future abuses of people at our memorials.

I agree that it’s reasonable to prevent large protests within the memorials and other activities that would interfere with the ability of visitors to enjoy them. But, I think it’s clear that such considerations do not apply to these cases and perhaps the policies need clarification to establish that.

We honor the memory of Thomas Jefferson for his commitment to individual liberty. In this country, we not only tolerate but we celebrate individual preferences in how happiness is pursued. We do not insist on uniformity. We do not believe that there is only one way to worship, or one way to honor our founders.

Many people are disturbed that our government has over-reacted to calls for security after the horrible attacks on 9-11, and are threatening the very values that make our country worth securing (excesses including TSA security theater, Patriot Act abuses, etc.). Please end this abuse of innocent citizens and visitors and avoid displaying the opposite of toleration at our shrines to liberty.

Please let me know what you are doing to solve this problem as soon as possible.


Monday, May 16, 2011

So Long, Sahara 

The Sahara Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas closed today, and it's a little sad for me.

I have a lot of fond memories of that place, and I'll miss it.

When I was a teenager, my father used to take me along with him on many trips to Vegas, and we would often eat a great dinner at the Sahara's upscale House of Lords restaurant, where I'd usually have a shrimp cocktail and a filet mignon with béarnaise sauce. I've yet to find a substitute that lives up to my memory (which probably exaggerates the truth somewhat) of those meals. I never saw the Rat Pack perform there, but I saw other shows including a great performance by Don Rickles.

Over the years, I've frequently gone back to the Sahara to gamble, both for the personal nostalgia and for the low minimum bets for blackjack and craps.

I'm going back to Vegas next month, and it will be strange to not be able to go back to the Sahara.