Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Cross-Country ‘Cannonball Run’ Race Promoted By Sovereign Citizen Runs Out of Gas

Sovereign-Road-Race[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

It sounded too good to be true, like something from a Burt-Reynolds-meets-Duke-of-Hazzard movie: A cross-country “Cannonball Run”-style road race, sponsored by a Southern “colonel” whose wealth comes from making copper moonshine stills, with a big $50,000 prize waiting at the end. And sure enough, as with most schemes cooked up by so-called “sovereign citizens,” it fell apart upon close scrutiny.

The race – dubbed “Cannonball One,” and described as a “coast to coast race from sea to shining sea” – required an entry fee of $90, and the website promoting it used weasel language about the prize, saying participants could “potentially win up to $50,000”. The competition, scheduled for June 1, had no check points, and any kind of road vehicle, including motorcycles, would be accepted. You could buy your entry tickets through eBay.

The man promoting the race, Vaughn Wilson of Alma, Arkansas, is a self-styled “colonel” who poses for portraits in a white Col. Sanders-style suit. He appears to make most of his income from selling copper moonshine stills that he custom builds to owners’ specifications, according to the website where he markets them.

If Wilson’s scheme sounds a bit outlandish even to ordinary members of the public, it was obviously outrageous to people in the auto-racing community, especially those who had participated in a variety of cross-country races themselves over the years. This included Matt Farah, senior editor over at the auto-racing website The Smoking Tire, who knew, as he described it in his subsequent piece, that “a proper ‘Cannonball’ in the traditional sense is a coast-to-coast, underground race. No hotels. No stopping. Invite only. Low key. Tell no one. Don’t advertise it, or we’ll all go to jail. Wait a year to release your time so the statute of limitations on speeding expires first.”

So Farah called Wilson up personally and recorded the call on video. At about the seven-minute mark of the video, Wilson launches into an attempt to recruit Farah into his scheme to manipulate what he calls “common law” in order to obtain large sums of money. Indeed, it appears that such schemes are the basis for the supposed $50,000 prize money for the proposed race.

Farah described what he learned about Wilson and his beliefs from the call:
  • Wilson claimed he can’t be sued because he’s not running the race on public roads in the United States, he’s running the race on public roads in America.
  • The United States only exists in the District of Columbia, and everything else is “America,” so the rest of the country isn’t covered by statutory regulations affecting “The United States.”
  • He can’t be sued or held liable for anything non-violent because he refuses to acknowledge the existence of anyone that would sue him. He also claims he can’t get tickets, and doesn’t pay any taxes. This, presumably, is also why he thinks it’s okay to violate Brock Yates’s Copyright on the term “Cannonball.
  • He can’t be held liable for what someone does in their own car, even if they pay him to enter his race under the assumption that if they get to Los Angeles first, they win $50,000. He says that “recommending against speeding” is enough of a disclaimer to release his own liability.
  • He can install GPS trackers in cars to prove who got there fastest, and there is no way the government can or will ever see that information, or be able to use it to prosecute.
  • He claims he can’t be arrested because he claims not to be a U.S. Citizen (but he’s not a foreigner either. He just lives here, and is not subject to our laws).
  • Offering a $50,000 prize for being there first is not encouraging people to break the law, only those with “evil in their hearts” can break the law.
Farah concluded, in his conversation with Wilson, that “I thought maybe you were stupid, but you’re actually just insane.”

Participants in a web forum devoted to Ferraris had a humorous discussion about who might have actually been persuaded to try joining the race (no one admitted to this). One noted that he had an email exchange with Wilson, querying about the liability issues, and had received this reply:

Hey Dave. There is a liability clause in the entry form. And it is not suggested for anyone to break the law. Also all rights are reserved. See UCC 1-308

Cordially yours,
Colonel Vaughn Wilson
All rights reserved
UCC 1-308
America without the U.S. federal corporation
The sovereign domain of His Royal Majesty’s creation.

All information given is for informational purposes only. User assumes all risk at all times, places and circumstances. Reliance on any of it by anyone without doing further research, proving, having proof, or verifying is prohibited.

CAVEAT: You have now entered ecclesiastical jurisdiction pursuant to the highest law, the Royal Word of God (Bible), See 1 Corinthians 6:2 and further, the free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment U.S. Constitution, Declaration of Independence 1776, Magna Carta 1215/1225 and Robin vs. Hardaway 1790.

These ideas and beliefs, of course, are classic instances of so-called “sovereign citizen” movement ideas – a belief system derived from far-right interpretations of history and the Constitution that originated with the Posse Comitatus movement. Movement followers believe that they get to decide which laws to obey and which are mere products of an illegitimate government, and they refuse to pay taxes or heed normative licensing laws.

Wilson’s “Cannonball One” website promoting the race has been taken down and is now defunct. He has not yet responded to SPLC’s queries about the race and its status.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Mock Arrests of Pastors for ‘Defending Faith’ Creates Uproar

Mock-Pastor-Arrests[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

It certainly made for a startling video: police, lights ablaze, pull up to local churches. Once inside, they march up to the pulpit and place the pastor preaching there under arrest, in front of the congregation. The men of the cloth are perp-walked out of the church with handcuffs on.

This very scenario created a brief uproar – first at the Akron, Ohio, churches where the “arrests” took place, and then around the country as word spread on social media – among Christians concerned that they were witnessing modern-day persecution.

It was, however, all fake – except for the uniforms of the arresting officers. Those were real enough – and that fact has raised eyebrows in the Ohio precincts where it all took place.

In fact, the mock arrests had been arranged ahead of time by the pastors themselves, who persuaded the Summit County Sheriff’s Department to participate in the stunt as a way of dramatizing and publicizing an upcoming community event called “Defending The Faith,” in which the pastors will face a mock trial and be forced to defend their Christianity.

As the uproar grew, Summit County Sheriff Steve Barry was defensive about taking part in the stunt: “I want to clarify that none of the arrests were real. It was all part of a skit that went along with the pastors’ sermons that day,” Barry said in his statement. “I knew it was being filmed, but I thought it was only going to be shown to the congregation. Once it got out there on the Web, people were commenting about how disgusting we were to interrupt church services to effect an arrest.”

The deputies who participated were clearly aware that things had gone awry. Sgt. Samantha Walker, one of the participants, told WKYC-TV: “You see people crying in the audience,” “They’re not believing this is happening to their pastor. Some of the looks the audience was giving us — I’ve never been so afraid in church in my life.”

At YouTube, where a video of the arrests was posted, commenters were confused. Most of the viewers assumed what they were seeing was real: “Arrested for practicing your faith? Is this communist Russia?” asked one. The comments to the video have since been turned off and removed.

The promoters of the “Defending The Faith” event were pleased:  “In terms of marketing, it has been very successful because it is creating a buzz. People are asking ‘why are those pastors being arrested’ and are digging a little deeper to find out what’s behind the arrests,” Edra Frazier, marketing coordinator for event, told the Akron Beacon Journal. “We do, however, need to do a more adequate job of tagging the posts with production information.”

Monday, March 10, 2014

California Legislator Proposes Outlawing Orca Shows, Ending Captivity

The documentary Blackfish may not have qualified as an Oscar finalist this year, but it has already had more real-world impact than any similar film in memory, in addition to its having sold over 2 million theater tickets. The realization of that impact became manifest this week when a ban on killer-whale shows at marine parks was proposed by a California legislator:

Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D) proposed the legislation at an event in Santa Monica. The Orca Welfare and Safety Act AB-2140) would allow orcas to stay at SeaWorld, but only for research and rehabilitation; the whale would no longer be allowed to perform. Human interaction with the animals would be limited for trainers’ safety.

Also included in the bill are measures to prevent captive breeding and prohibit orcas from being imported and exported in California.

“There's simply no justification for the continued captive display of orcas for entertainment purposes,” said Bloom. “These beautiful creatures are much too large and far too intelligent to be confined in small, concrete pools for their entire lives.”

The proposed legislation stops short of demanding sea parks release orcas back into the wild because experts say they wouldn't survive after living in captivity.
The ban would only affect Sea World San Diego, the only captive-orca facility remaining in a state that once had several. He also has some early support:

Democratic assembly member Lorena Gonzales of San Diego has already gone on the record, via social media, that she will most likely vote 'yes' on this bill.

Gonzalez has posted on Facebook, "SeaWorld's reputation of treating its workers poorly dates back to its opening 50 years ago. It's about time we continue this conversation about job quality and workplace safety at Sea World whether it involves groundskeepers, concessions workers or killer whale trainers. Recent evidence suggests its record with orcas isn't much better. I'm looking forward to having an honest conversation about Sea World's business practices and how they can really be an icon that makes San Diego proud."

As David Kirby points out, such a ban would neither be new nor extraordinary, since a number of places have outlawed cetacean captivity in the United States and elsewhere:

At least five countries—India, Croatia, Hungary, Chile, and Costa Rica—have also outlawed all cetacean captivity, while Switzerland has banned captivity for dolphins.

Dr. Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute, said the bill was inspired by the orcas-in-captivity documentary Blackfish.

“The Blackfish effect has never been in greater evidence—everything has led to this, the first serious legislative proposal to prohibit the captive display of this highly intelligent and social species,” Rose wrote in an email. “SeaWorld should join with this effort rather than continue to fight it. They can be on the right side of history.”
Indeed, Rose has elsewhere proposed a scheme whereby Sea World can turn a profit by doing the right thing for the orcas, and for the children they claim they are educating:

These facilities can work with experts around the world to create sanctuaries where captive orcas can be rehabilitated and retired. These sanctuaries would be sea pens or netted-off bays or coves, in temperate to cold water natural habitat. They would offer the animals respite from performing and the constant exposure to a parade of strangers (an entirely unnatural situation for a species whose social groupings are based on family ties and stability -- "strangers" essentially do not exist in orca society). Incompatible animals would not be forced to cohabit the same enclosures and family groups would be preserved.
Show business trainers would no longer be necessary. Expert caretakers would continue to train retired whales for veterinary procedures, but would not get in the water and would remain at a safe distance (this is known in zoo parlance as "protected contact"). And the degree to which they interact directly with the whales would be each whale's choice.
A fundamental premise of these sanctuaries, however, is that eventually they would empty. Breeding would not be allowed and captive orcas would no longer exist within the next few decades.
Many wildlife sanctuaries, for circus, roadside zoo and backyard refugees, exist around the globe for animals such as big cats, elephants and chimpanzees. The business (usually nonprofit) model for these types of facilities is therefore well-established for terrestrial species and can be adapted for orcas.
Quite predictably, Sea World sees all this -- just as it does Blackfish -- as an existential threat, and is firing back vigorously and viciously:

While we cannot comment on Assemblyman Bloom's proposed legislation until we see it, the individuals he has chosen to associate with for today's press conference are well known extreme animal rights activists, many of whom regularly campaign against SeaWorld and other accredited marine mammal parks and institutions. Included in the group are some of the same activists that partnered with PETA in bringing the meritless claim that animals in human care should be considered slaves under the 13th amendment of the US Constitution - a clear publicity stunt. This legislation appears to reflect the same sort of out-of-the-mainstream thinking. SeaWorld, one of the world's most respected zoological institutions, already operates under multiple federal, state and local animal welfare laws.
This is typical of Sea World: Rather than address the real issues underlying the matter, it chooses to attack the people involved and touting their business credentials; their chief argument seems to be that they are better people -- even while they lie through their teeth to us at every turn, whether it's telling people that captive orcas live as long as wild whiles, or claiming to be really all about conserving orcas in the wild.

Indeed, the most laughable part in all this comes when Sea World tries to claim it is also a leader in conservation and wildlife recovery efforts for the animals in its care. That may be true of Florida manatees, but it is simply a flat-out lie when it comes to orcas.
One thing we know for a fact about SeaWorld: Even though it preaches a "conservation message" to people who come to their theme parks, it does almost nothing of consequence in the real world to assist in the conservation of wild killer whales.

When people at those parks ask what they can do to help killer whales in the wild, they are given generic answers such as watching what lawn fertilizer they use, or not littering, or assisting in beach cleanups.

But these things do little if anything at all to actually help killer whales in the wild. Indeed, you will find only scant references at Sea World parks to the only officially endangered population of killer whales -- the Southern Resident population of the Salish Sea. And if you do happen to hear about them, you will be told that their chief threat is boats and pollution.

What you will not be told is that in reality, the Southern Residents face a doubly whammy. The first whammy came in the loss of over a third of its historic population during the period 1964-75, when SeaWorld and its cohorts founded the captive-orca industry by removing some fifty resident killer whales from Puget Sound waters. Since then, its population has wavered between seventy and a hundred whales -- we are currently at 81 -- in large part because of the second whammy: a lack of salmon, particularly the Chinook salmon that comprise their preferred diet.

Recovering the orca population is necessarily focused on restoring our salmon runs, both in the Salish Sea and in the Columbia River and elsewhere, including Northern California. It is a long and difficult fight, one in which the progress has been slow, in large part because of a lack of financial support for salmon restoration.

Where has Sea World been in all this? Nowhere. They have not funded orca-population studies or censuses, let alone communications and ship-noise studies that are needed. We did see them briefly during the Springer episode, when SeaWorld lent local scientists the use of a diagnostic lab and an overseeing veterinarian to test a sample of Springer's blood before she was transported north and successfully reunited with her familial pod. For that, they now claim credit for the entire project.

If SeaWorld were serious about assisting orcas -- and serious about their claims to being a conservation-oriented organization -- they would be a major presence in the Northwest in the long hard battle to restore our salmon and save our killer whales. Instead, they are nowhere to be seen -- too busy teaching orcas to breach in triplicate and rolling in the revenue stream that creates.

They also specialize in lying about and smearing the people who are in fact actively engaged in the work of saving wild killer whales in their native habitat. This latest confrontation is just another iteration of what we have seen from them all along.

CO Gubernatorial Candidate Contemplated ‘Civil War’ against Obama Administration

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Now that former Congressman Bob Beauprez has officially entered the race for the Republican nomination for governor in Colorado, his long record as a rabble-rousing conservative is being closely examined. This week, an old video he recorded in 2012 resurfaced at, showing Beauprez contemplating the possibility that Americans might turn to violent revolt against the Obama administration.

The observations came in an interview with Perry Atkinson of The Dove TV program Focus Today, recorded July 31, 2012. Beauprez and Atkinson were discussing the alleged dangers of American participation in various United Nations treaties “that potentially would allow Iran to disarm Americans.”

ATKINSON: You know Congressman, this, this, I don’t even like going down this road, but if this saw the light of day, and God forbid that it would, but if this saw the light of day, wouldn’t this be a modern-day civil war in this country?

BEAUPREZ: Well, some are wondering what will be the, the line that gets crossed eventually, where, where people actually rise up and say enough. I mean, our founding documents refer to it, that people have every right, a free people have every right, that when government becomes too obtrusive, too obsessive, too overwhelming, and infringes on their individual liberty and freedom, free people have the right to overthrow that government and establish a new one.

I hope and pray that, that we don’t see another revolution in this country. I hope and pray we don’t see another civil war, but this administration is pushing the boundaries like none I think we’ve ever, ever seen.

The treaty they are discussing, the proposed Arms Trade Treaty, is the focus of numerous far-right conspiracy theories, particularly among John Birch Society adherents and like-minded anti-government “Patriots”.

Beauprez, who campaigns as a “Tea Party” conservative these days, is no stranger to controversy. During his 2006 bid for the governorship (a race he eventually lost to Democrat Bill Ritter by a 17-point margin), he claimed during a debate that “as high as 70 percent, maybe even more” of African-American women’s pregnancies end in abortion, a remark for which he later apologized. Also, his campaign was briefly embroiled in a controversy involving the misuse of a national criminal database for ads targeting Ritter.