Category Archives: Activism

California Has Problems, And They’re All Kim Kardashian’s Fault

There are plenty of folks saying today that while California might be — on its own — in the top 10 largest economies in the world, our political system far more closely resembles that of Greece. High spending and an inability to live within our means despite some of the highest taxes in the nation.

Thankfully, the fine folks at the “Restoring California Coalition” have decided to throw their weight behind the solution: the Millionaires Tax! And additional tax of 3% of income on taxable income over $1M, and of 5% on taxable income over $2M. (I’d point out that this would raise STATE tax brackets in those cases to 13.55% and 15.55%, respectively, well beyond any other state).

And of course, they’ve chosen as their poster child for the tax a representative sample of the average California high earner:

Now, I’ve got little love for Kim Kardashian. I fail to understand how someone has parlayed — as Joel McHale of The Soup is so fond of saying — a big ass and a sex tape into a fashion/fame empire. In fact, it’s not even a big ass and a sex tape that were the key; a lot of women probably have those. It’s more that she’s the offspring of a famous lawyer… A lawyer who was only famous because a major athlete/actor allegedly brutally murdered his wife and her boyfriend.

Any world where Kim Kardashian can be said to “deserve” her fame is a bit sketchy to me. In fact, my thoughts on her are oddly similar to those of Wil Wheaton:

That said, though, I don’t hate Kim Kardashian. I don’t know Kim Kardashian. While her onscreen persona is a bit vapid and useless, she’s obviously smart enough to have parlayed her fame into more fame and more money. She at least figured out the cardinal rule of fame: strike hard while the iron is hot. I don’t believe that we, as a society, should punish her because bored housewives find some escapist fantasy following the Kardashian family’s latest doings. And further, I don’t believe that we should, as a society, use her as the public scapegoat as a representative sample of “the rich” when she’s nothing of the sort.

The real “rich” that will be hurt by this tax are businessmen, and as much as the left scoffs at the idea of “job creators”, anyone in this state who has worked for a startup sees the reality: most of those businesses wouldn’t exist without the blood and sweat of the guys at the top — who often forego income, sleep, time with family and stability for years to build a company that eventually rewards them quite handsomely.

But even worse in this analysis is the fact that California has tried a Millionaires Tax rather recently, and the results weren’t exactly as planned:

In 2004, voters narrowly approved Proposition 63, the Mental Heath Services Act (MHSA), which imposed an additional 1% tax on personal income above $1 million. The funds generated from this “millionaire’s tax” were intended to expand county mental health programs. Taxpayer and business groups opposed the measure for a couple of obvious reasons. First, California is already a high tax, high spending state that didn’t need any more revenue. Second, as we predicted, Prop 63 would exacerbate California’s income tax volatility.

Although the final vote for Proposition 63 was tallied more than four years ago, evidence suggests that California’s most wealthy have continued to vote on this measure — with their feet. A recent survey from TNS Research, an international business research firm, found the California counties of Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego had the 1st, 4th and 6th highest number of millionaires in the country. However, even as the national population of millionaire households grew by 5.9% in 2007, Los Angeles County lost about 7000 of these households. Orange and San Diego Counties lost millionaire households as well.

So the net result was that the millionaires left. Further, this tax intended to improve county mental health programs largely had trouble spending the money. The above article (a tad outdated from 2008, to be sure) pointed out that the calls at the time were to pull the unspent $2B+ and allow it to be reallocated to general revenues.

This is bad policy, and it will only work to damage the California economy at a time when we’re already reeling from the housing bust. Following that by making Kim Kardashian the poster child for your movement is cheap and opportunistic, which might not be so objectionable if she represented the “average” California millionaire — but she doesn’t. Of course, I can’t claim it’s a bad tactic — given the moron voters in this state, it might actually work.

California has problems. Those problems require hard solutions, but instead we have people here who think we can simply paper over it by soaking the rich. After all, they just need to pay their “fair share”*.
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Rest in Peace: Siobhan Reynolds

On Saturday Dec 24th, an important voice in the cause of freedom was silenced. Siobhan Reynolds, founder of the Pain Relief Network, tireless foe of the monsters promoting the War on (Some) Drugs, and the financially ruined victim of secret court proceedings that outrage the conscience and will rightly be held in infamy in coming years, was killed in a plane crash.

I can think of no finer eulogy than the one given by Radley Balko on The Agitator:

There aren’t very many people who can claim that they personally changed the public debate about an issue. Reynolds could. Before her crusade, no one was really talking about the under-treatment of pain. The media was still wrapped up in scare stories about “accidental addiction” to prescription painkillers and telling dramatic (and sometimes false) tales about patients whose lazy doctors got them hooked on Oxycontin. Reynolds toured the country to point out that, in fact, the real problem is that pain patients are suffering, particularly chronic pain patients. After Reynolds, the major newsweeklies, the New York Times, and a number of other national media outlets were asking if the DEA’s war on pain doctors had gone too far. …

She was tireless. I often thought she was a bit too idealistic, or at least that she set her goals to high. She told me once that she wouldn’t consider her work done until the Supreme Court declared the Controlled Substances Act unconstitutional. …

Reynolds started winning. She deserves a good deal of the credit for getting Richard Paey out of prison. She got sentences overturned, and got other doctors acquitted. …

Of course, the government doesn’t like a rabble rouser. It becomes especially wary of rabble rousers who begin to have some success. And so as Reynolds’ advocacy began to move the ball and get real results, the government bit back. When Reynolds began a campaign on behalf of Kansas physician Stephen Schneider, who had been indicted for overprescribing painkillers, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tonya Treadway launched a shameless and blatantly vindictive attack on free speech. Treadway opened a criminal investigation into Reynolds and her organization, likening Reynolds’ advocacy to obstruction of justice. Treadway then issued a sweeping subpoena for all email correspondence, phone records, and other documents that, had Reynolds complied, would have been the end of her organization. …

So Reynolds fought the subpoena, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And she lost. Not only did she lose, but the government, with compliance from the federal courts, kept the entire fight secret. The briefs for the case are secret. The judges’ rulings are secret. Reynolds was barred from sharing the briefs she filed with the press. Perversely, Treadway had used the very grand jury secrecy intended to protect the accused to not only take down Reynolds and her organization, but to protect herself from any public scrutiny for doing so. …

Despite all that, the last time I spoke with Reynolds, she working on plans to start a new advocacy group for pain patients. She was an unwearying, unwavering activist for personal freedom.

And she died fighting. Rest in peace.

Read the whole thing.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Quote of the Day: Bill of Rights 220th Anniversary Edition

December 15, 2011 marks the 220th anniversary of the Bill of Rights – at least what is left of them. Anthony Gregory’s article at The Huffington Post runs through the list of violations of these precious rights from the Adams administration’s Alien and Sedition acts all the way to the present day violations of the Bush/Obama years via the war on terror. I encourage everyone to read the whole article and reflect on what these rights mean to you on this Bill of Rights Day. If you read nothing else from the article, at least read Gregory’s conclusion:

Clearly, we fall far short from having Bill of Rights that we adhere to and that was designed for our future posterity over 220 years ago. In the end, it is public opinion that most restrains political power — not words on paper, not judges, not politicians’ promises. A population that is not decidedly and passionately against violations of their liberties will see their rights stripped away. If we want to have a Bill of Rights Day worth celebrating, we must demand that officials at all levels respect our freedoms — and not let the government get away with abusing them.

Gregory is right: preserving the Bill of Rights ultimately rests with all of us.

A Ban Worth Drinking To

For the first time ever, reason.tv is cheering their “Nanny of the Month.”

That’s right, starting September 1 , more than 500 Michigan restaurant and bar owners will begin turning state lawmakers away from their establishments. State Senator So-and-so wants a brew? Too bad. Politicians won’t be served until they revisit the state’s 2010 smoking ban, which, owners say, has devastated business, and left bars like Sporty O’Tooles on the verge of collapse.

Okay, “nanny” is a bit of a misnomer in this case as these bar owners are reserving their freedom of/from association rights in their own establishments but good for them for standing up to these busybodies in the legislature. These are the kinds of bans I would love to see more of.

Controversial Organization Admonishes Soldiers and Peace Officers to Defend the Constitution

Every soldier and every police officer swears an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” but as a practical matter, what does this mean? What happens if the CO issues an order that violates the Constitution; is soldier or peace officer still required to carry the order out? What if the order in question comes from the President of the United States?

Stewart Rhodes, the founder of an organization established in 2009 called Oath Keepers, says that not only do soldiers and peace officers have a right to refuse to carry out an order that violates the U.S. Constitution but a sworn duty to disobey the order. Rhodes, graduate of Yale Law School, veteran, former firearms instructor, and former staffer for Congressman Ron Paul’s D.C. office, started Oath Keepers in response to what he perceived as an erosion of civil liberties that has escalated since 9/11.

Oath Keepers’ critics (particularly on the Left) believe the organization to be a Right wing “extremist” organization full of Birthers, Truthers, militia members, hate groups, and various other conspiracy theorists. In this article in Reason, Rhodes clears the air. Also, found in the organization’s bylaws:

Section 8.02
(a) No person who advocates, or has been or is a member, or associated with, any organization, formal or informal, that advocates the overthrow of the government of the United States or the violation of the Constitution thereof, shall be entitled to be a member or associate member.

(b) No person who advocates, or has been or is a member, or associated with, any organization, formal or informal, that advocates discrimination, violence, or hatred toward any person based upon their race, nationality, creed, or color, shall be entitled to be a member or associate member.

So what specifically makes Oath Keepers so controversial? My guess would be their list of 10 “Orders We Will Not Obey”:

1. We will NOT obey orders to disarm the American people.

2. We will NOT obey orders to conduct warrantless searches of the American people

3. We will NOT obey orders to detain American citizens as “unlawful enemy combatants” or to subject them to military tribunal.

4. We will NOT obey orders to impose martial law or a “state of emergency” on a state.

5. We will NOT obey orders to invade and subjugate any state that asserts its sovereignty.

6. We will NOT obey any order to blockade American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.

7. We will NOT obey any order to force American citizens into any form of detention camps under any pretext.

8. We will NOT obey orders to assist or support the use of any foreign troops on U.S. soil against the American people to “keep the peace” or to “maintain control.”

9. We will NOT obey any orders to confiscate the property of the American people, including food and other essential supplies.

10.We will NOT obey any orders which infringe on the right of the people to free speech, to peaceably assemble, and to petition their government for a redress of grievances.

Imagine how much freer our country would become if everyone in law enforcement and in the military adopted this creed and took their oaths seriously?

Disturbed Offers New Single Download to Support ‘West Memphis 3’

The heavy metal band Disturbed has stepped up in a big way to not only educate their fans of the miscarriage of justice that occurred in West Memphis, Arkansas in a new song entitled “3”, but also to give their fans an opportunity to help. Their new single is available for download only for $.99 ($1.03 after taxes); all proceeds for this single will go toward Damien Echols’ legal fees.

From Distrubed’s official website:

It all began May 5, 1993 when three eight-year-old boys were found mutilated and murdered in the Robin Hood Hills area of West Memphis, Arkansas. Under tremendous pressure to find the killer despite physical evidence pointing to anyone, West Memphis officers coerced an error-filled “confession” from a mentally handicapped teenager, Jessie Misskelley Jr., questioning him for hours without counsel or parental consent, only audio-taping two 46-minute fragments. Jessie recanted his statement the same night but it was too late: Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols and Misskelley all were arrested on June 3rd, and have been incarcerated ever since.

Local media said the murders were part of a satanic ritual; human sacrifices in the wooded areas of West Memphis, Arkansas. The police assured the public the three teenagers in custody were definitely responsible for these horrible crimes. There was no physical evidence, murder weapon, motive, or acquaintance with the victims so the State stooped to presenting Damien’s black hair and clothing, heavy metal t-shirts, and Stephen King novels as “proof” the children were sacrificed to the devil. In early 1994, Echols was sentenced to death by lethal injection, Baldwin received life without parole, while Misskelley got life plus 40 years.

[…]

With the steadfast support and financial help of their supporters, there is now factual, scientific evidence of their innocence. Damien, Jason and Jessie still must fight to gain their freedom but there are major differences now: the “satanic cult sacrifice” motive is now an embarrassment the prosecution doesn’t even embrace. More important, forensic technologies have progressed to the point where previously untested items yielded definitive results: Not one molecule of DNA from the crime scene matches that of Damien, Jason or Jessie. The DNA does match of a pair of individuals (one of them a victim’s stepfather) that were admittedly together on the day the children disappeared.

[…]

In November of 2010, the State Supreme Court of Arkansas finally ruled in the WM3’s favor for the first time, ordering new hearings wherein all post-conviction DNA, forensic evidence or testimony that could lead to their exoneration will be heard. Judge David Laser was assigned to be the judge of this evidentiary hearing which will begin on December 5, 2011.

While it’s true the WM3 can see the light at the end of this tunnel, they still desperately need your financial help. Judge Laser ordered all remaining DNA is to be tested and we must pay for it, as well as additional forensic investigations and legal work. Please visit wm3.org for more information on the case and make your tax-deductible donation to the defense fund.

The case of the West Memphis 3 is one of the most disturbing cases I’ve ever followed; this is a worthy cause. If you are unfamiliar with this case, in addition to visiting wm3.org, watch the HBO documentary Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, the follow-up Paradise Lost 2: Revelations, and the 48 Hours Mystery episode “A Cry for Innocence.”In closing, here are the lyrics to the new Disturbed single entitled “3” below the fold. » Read more

Tu Quoque

A glib question has made the rounds of right-wing blogs over the last two years, asking “Where has the anti-war movement gone?” Megan McArdle uses the question today to introduce a potential answer.

As for me, I rarely bring up such trivialities, because the response you usually get from a leftist is “yeah, well why didn’t you guys on the right care about deficits and spending when Bush was in office?”

Despite the fact that I did care, the question stands.

Is the left hypocritical to care about ending the war until one of their own is in the White House? Yes. Is the right hypocritical to stay silent about the Bush/Republican spending and now throw a fit when a Democrat is in the White House? Yes. Is it doubly hypocritical to call out your opponents for behavior that you’ve just spent 8 years emulating? Yes. It’s a logical fallacy known as a tu quoque, but the question still stands; pointing out your opponents hypocrisy doesn’t excuse your own.

McArdle quotes a post from an antiwar activist who interviewed an academic researcher who has published on this topic. And I think the point is highly instructive:

“As long as voters remain highly polarized along party lines,” he responded by e-mail, “self-identified Democrats are unlikely to protest against Obama’s policies, even if they disagree with some of them strongly. A sudden end to the era of partisan polarization seems highly unlikely. So I would say that it is a very good bet that Obama will not confront large left-wing demonstrations. Of course, LBJ faced large left-wing demonstrations, but the party system was not polarized back then in the way that it is today.”

The same dynamics apply to the Tea Party: “Our analysis implies that the Tea Party will have a lower degree of organization and success in 2012 than it did in 2010. Because the Republicans won the House and made gains in the Senate, Tea Party activists feel much less threatened today than they did a year ago. So, while the Tea Party will obviously be around in 2012 — and it will likely factor into the Republican presidential contest — our analysis suggests that the Tea Party will not generate the same level of enthusiasm next year as it did last year.”

I disagree with his point about the Tea Party, though, as the “public face” of the government is invariably the Presidency, and that will continue through 2012 — including very contentious negotiations over budget matters and a Senate still in Democratic hands. However, should Obama be voted out of office and Republicans take over government, I believe no level of spending or debt will keep the Tea Party’s activism fully fueled.

I don’t play this “gotcha” game because I understand that it’s all deeply rooted in human tribal tendencies. We divide the world into “us vs. them”, and rationalize away the bad things “our guy” does because there must have been a good reason for it, while impugning the motives of what “their guy” does because he’s obviously got ulterior motives. Libertarians, IMHO, are a bit more naturally attuned to see this behavior for what it is, because almost everyone in the world is a “them” politically to us. However, try criticizing Ron Paul, or the Liberty Dollar, or suggesting that Atlas Shrugged might not be a great and insightful movie*, and watch the knives come out as you become a “them”.

Rather we should accept that this tendency exists, so that we can try to guard against it in our own hearts. The answer to being called out for hypocrisy shouldn’t be to point out that your opponents are also hypocritical as if it’s an excuse — it should be to evaluate your own hypocrisy and stamp it out — even if the means you’ll need to go against “your party” to do so.

Thank You!

To all who participated in our fundraising efforts for The Innocence Project, I’d like to give a warm and hearty Thank You!

We were able to surpass our goal and bring in $520 for the organization, and I believe the entire fundraiser successfully exceeded their organizational goal of $20K.

We here at TLP are honored to have readers who were willing to do more than talk about liberty and justice, but who are willing to actually put their hard-earned dollars on the line to help it be achieved.

Last Call to Meet Our $500 Goal/Life After Exoneration

Disclaimer: The views expressed here at The Liberty Papers either by the post authors or views found in the comments section do not necessarily reflect the views of The Innocence Project nor its affiliates.

In support of our fundraising efforts for The Innocence Project, I had tried to dedicate at least one post per week over the last four weeks to the cause of criminal justice reform – many of which are the very reforms The Innocence Project are working to bring about. With today being the last day of this fundraising campaign, 228 “Innocence Partners” combined efforts has raised nearly $15,000 of the $20,000 target. As of this writing, you readers have already donated $375 – 75% of our $500 goal! Thanks to everyone who has donated so far or plans to donate. Remember: your donations are 100% tax deductible.

Believe it or not, in the time we joined this campaign nearly a month ago to help The Innocence Project, 2 individuals have been exonerated as a direct result of The Innocence Project’s help!

In case you are wondering what $20,000 can accomplish (the overall campaign’s goal), this is how far The Innocence Project says the money can go:

• Pay for post-conviction DNA testing that may prove innocence for 4 clients.

• Provide 16 exonerees with basic needs including food, rent, and transportation for the first month after release.

• Cover the costs to send 20 exonerees to testify before state legislatures to reform the criminal justice system.

• Send 25 local advocates to an Innocence Project training to learn how to advance wrongful conviction reforms in their state.

• Allow a staff attorney to represent 5 clients.

• Enable staff to advocate for wrongful conviction reforms in 6 states.

In this series of posts, I covered some of the reforms and issues The Innocence Project has been trying to bring to light such as compensation for the wrongfully convicted, eyewitness misidentification, and false confessions. Rather than doing a rush job writing a final piece for the series, I encourage everyone to follow this link for the Frontline episode entitled “Burden of Innocence” (I couldn’t find a nifty player to embed the episode into this post but you can watch the episode in its entirety there). This episode deals with life after these individuals have been exonerated and their struggles to reenter and rejoin free society. It seems that there is much work that needs to be done here as well.

Good Work — Almost There

Merely a week ago, I posted about a fundraiser for the Innocence Project.

The Innocence Project is a non-profit group working to offer legal services to convicts claiming innocence who have a chance to prove it. Living in as free and just a country as we manage to have, there are still mistakes — many more than we likely realize. Those on the wrong end of those mistakes often have nobody willing to fight for them, even if they are truly innocent.

The Innocence Project hoped to get 200 individuals to set up web pages attempting to raise $100 each for a total fundraising goal of $20K. Given the modest but wider reach of this blog, I set up our page with a goal of $500, and I think it’s a good one, because we’re over 60% there.

If you haven’t rattled the cup yet, I highly recommend you do so. You’re working to help people who have been unfairly beaten by the system clear their name. If that’s not enough, it’s tax deductible, so every dollar you donate reduces the amount the system has to railroad others.

We’re less than $200 from the goal. Go help out someone who needs it.

Eyewitness Misidentification: Revisiting a Previous Discussion

Disclaimer: The views expressed here at The Liberty Papers either by the post authors or views found in the comments section do not necessarily reflect the views of The Innocence Project nor its affiliates.

In support of our fundraising efforts for The Innocence Project, I have decided to dedicate at least one post per week over the next four weeks to the cause of criminal justice reform – many of which are the very reforms The Innocence Project are working to bring about. As of this writing, you readers have already donated $310 – 62% of our $500 goal! Thanks to everyone who has donated so far or plans to donate. Remember: your donations are 100% tax deductible.

With that out of the way, now I will turn your attention to the topic at hand: Eyewitness Misidentification.

Back almost three years ago to the day, I wrote a post about Troy Davis who had his death row appeal denied despite seven eyewitnesses recanting their testimonies (this case is still winding its way through the courts; here is an update on where the case stands today). As is often the case whether here at The Liberty Papers or at other blogs, the discussion that followed my post was actually a great deal more interesting than the post itself IMHO. Jeff Molby, a person who comments on a somewhat regular basis, really got the discussion going with several Liberty Papers contributors and readers.

The part of the post that Jeff believed to be “misleading” was the following statement I took from The Innocence Project webpage that dealt with the role eyewitness misidentification plays in wrongful convictions:

Eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in more than 75% of convictions overturned through DNA testing.

While eyewitness testimony can be persuasive evidence before a judge or jury, 30 years of strong social science research has proven that eyewitness identification is often unreliable. Research shows that the human mind is not like a tape recorder; we neither record events exactly as we see them, nor recall them like a tape that has been rewound. Instead, witness memory is like any other evidence at a crime scene; it must be preserved carefully and retrieved methodically, or it can be contaminated.

This was Jeff’s response:

Eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in more than 75% of convictions overturned through DNA testing.

That’s a misleading stat. The relevant stat would be the percentage of convictions based on eyewitness identification that were later overturned due to DNA testing.

Comment by Jeff Molby — March 17, 2008 @ 12:51 pm

Perhaps the reason Jeff found the quote was misleading was my fault rather than The Innocence Project’s. The page that I took the quote from goes into greater detail complete with links for further reading. From my reading of their material, it seems to me that the statistics they are dealing with are from their now 266 exonerations. As the discussion unfolded, this forced me to do some additional research outside of The Innocence Project [Thanks a lot Jeff : ) ] to see if I could find more data to support –or refute The Innocence Project’s claim. Fellow contributor and lawyer by trade, Doug Mataconis also weighed in with his thought about the reliability of eyewitness testimony.

The highlights from this discussion are below the fold.
» Read more

The Scales of Justice Need Rebalancing

In support of our fundraising efforts for The Innocence Project, I have decided to dedicate at least one post per week over the next four weeks to the cause of criminal justice reform – many of which are the very reforms The Innocence Project are working to bring about. As of this writing, I am pleased to announce that in this very first day of fundraising, you readers have already donated $285 – 57% of our $500 goal! Thanks to everyone who has donated so far or plans to donate. Remember: your donations are 100% tax deductible.

The post below is one I originally posted back in November of 2007 and my first post of any substance here at The Liberty Papers. I’m also very honored to say that this post was chosen by my peers (who I have such a great deal of respect for as thinkers, writers, and individuals) as #5 on the list of the “Top 10 Liberty Papers Posts of the last 5 Years” marking The Liberty Papers 5 year blogiversary. At the time I wrote this post, I had never even heard of The Innocence Project nor its aims to make one of the very reforms suggested in this post: compensation for the wrongfully convicted. The Duke Lacrosse case was also one of the hot issues when I wrote the post (and therefore may seem somewhat dated).

As ‘unbalanced’ as I thought the scales of justice were back then, I now know its much worse than I realized even back then. The Innocence Project is working hard to correct this imbalance but they cannot do it alone. Be part of the solution and help us reach our goal and if you feel so motivated, you can even set up your own page to help The Innocence Project reach their $20,000 goal by April 7, 2011.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here at The Liberty Papers either by the post authors or views found in the comments section do not necessarily reflect the views of The Innocence Project nor its affiliates.

    The Scales of Justice Need Rebalancing


In civics class, we are taught a few lessons about the American criminal justice system: the accused is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, has the right to a court-appointed attorney if the accused wishes not to pay for his or her own, has a right to a trial by a jury of his or her peers, and jurors can only convict the accused if there is a lack of reasonable doubt in their minds. We are told that the accused is guaranteed a fair and speedy trial. We are told the burden of proof falls on the state; the accused only has to provide reasonable doubt (meaning the accused ‘probably’ did not commit the crime). We are to believe that an individual who is innocent would rarely (if ever) be wrongfully convicted because our criminal justice system is about finding the truth and rendering justice.

What the civics classes usually fail to mention is that regardless of the fact that jurors are supposed to consider the accused innocent until proven guilty, it is human nature to assume the worst of someone who is accused of committing a heinous crime. Jurors come with their own biases and world views and may find it difficult to suppress their inclinations and deal with the facts of the case. The civics lesson also usually fails to point out that if the accused chooses to go with a court-appointed lawyer, he or she will not be as likely to have an as aggressive and competent advocate as the state will. If the accused makes the wise decision to pay for his or her own defense, he or she can expect to spend his or her entire life’s savings (and perhaps the life’s savings of other friends and family members) just to have competent representation. Even if the accused has the means to pay for such a competent lawyer, there are no guarantees that he or she will be found not guilty regardless of the evidence or whether or not the accused committed the crime. And if the jury finds the defendant not guilty, then what? Sure, he or she is technically cleared of the crime but he or she still has to pay all the legal fees for his or her lawyer and the fact that he or she was ever charged will remain on his or her criminal record. » Read more

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is — The Innocence Project

[To skip my blather and go straight to The Liberty Papers’ page at the Innocence Project, go here.]

It’s been said before that a conservative is simply a liberal who’s been mugged, and that a libertarian is a conservative who’s been mugged — by his own government.

I know that for me, it wasn’t *exactly* that, but not far off. I spent a good portion of my life as a bit of a law-and-order conservative — or given that I was never on board with social conservatism, a law-and-order libertarian. What has really changed my outlook as I’ve delved deeper into the world of politics is that I’ve lost faith in the government’s ability to fairly and responsibly exercise even these powers. I’ve completely lost faith in the death penalty, because while time can never be restored, it’s a lot easier to free a wrongfully convicted live man than a dead one. I do believe that our government in America, as screwed up as it is, generally is willing to correct judicial system errors when beaten over the head with them.

But who is going to beat them over the head? The convicted are not a naturally sympathetic interest group. The “law-and-order” crowd will typically give the benefit of the doubt to the law-and-order crowd. There aren’t a lot of people who are going to stand up for a convicted rapist or convicted murderer. And it’s not as if proclaiming one’s innocence is something only the innocent do, so it can be tough to determine which convict is worth fighting for.

But none of that changes the fact that the government wrongfully convicts innocent people, and that justice demands that someone stand up for them. That someone is the Innocence Project:

The Innocence Project is a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.

To date, 266 innocent prisoners have been exonerated by DNA testing, 17 who were on death row at the time. The criminal justice system tends to be reticent to accept the possibility of their own mistake, so it often takes outside pressure to have DNA testing performed on “cold” cases. The Innocence Project provides pro-bono legal representation to people trying to prove their innocence. Getting innocent people out of prison? I don’t see how you can argue with that. Note also that The Innocence Project is spending their time and money on the ground, helping actual convicts. This is not an activism organization lobbying your legislators, it exists to actual help individual convicts trying to prove their innocence.

Because of that, I have opened a page on behalf of The Liberty Papers with the Innocence Project, who happen to be running a fundraising drive right now.

The Innocence Project is pushing for $20K in donations by April 7, and are hoping to get 200 individual people to set up pages with a goal of $100 each. I think we here at The Liberty Papers can do better, so I’ve set a goal of $500. Our readers come from many walks of life, and I know that for some of you, $10 might be a suitable donation, and for others, $50 or $100 might be more palatable. Either way, remember that your contribution might help to get an innocent person out of jail for a heinous crime that they didn’t commit.

Also note that your contribution is tax-deductible. For every dollar you donate, you reduce your tax liability by whatever tax bracket you’re in. Not only do you support a quality organization fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves, you help to starve the beast as well. Win-win!

There’s More Missing from the Collective Bargaining Debate for Government Workers than Democrat Legislators

In all the coverage I’ve read, listened to, and watched concerning the public sector unions in Wisconsin and elsewhere, there is one term that is usually very much present in the political debate that seems to be conspicuously absent: special interests.

Special interests, we are so often told, have a very corrupting influence on our system of government. Special interest groups send lobbyists to Washington and the state capitals to influence legislation (usually via the tax code) in such a way that if the special interests were not part of the system, elected officials would be more inclined to represent “the people.” People from both the Left and the Right make this argument (though it seems to be made more by those on the Left) and hold up examples of the groups which are opposed to their policies as special interests; special interest groups they agree with are almost never described as such.

So far as I have noticed, proponents of either side in neither government nor in the MSM has called these public sector unions by this term. Why not?

Surely these unions qualify as special interest groups as they pour millions of dollars into the coffers of (mostly) Democrat campaigns? Can anyone argue that these unions, whether one thinks for good or ill*, don’t have a very strong influence on these politicians? Why else would Democrat legislators go AWOL if they were not scared to death of losing their power due to unhappy union leaders? This is not how legislators normally behave. Under normal circumstances, those who disagree with a bill cast their votes against the bill even when they know that they are going to be on the losing end. Under normal circumstances, the losing side doesn’t take their ball and go home.

Why shouldn’t the Democrats be condemned for caving to special interest groups as would be the case if it were Republican legislators who left their state in fear of losing support from their special interest groups?

The truth of the matter is there will always be special interest groups that will try to influence public policy as long as there is a republic. And why shouldn’t there be? Anyone who runs a business that is subject to government regulation would be very foolish not to try to participate in the system (if not, those who would regulate their business would be at an advantage). The only way to reduce the power of these special interests would be for the state and federal governments to restrict their law making and regulations to the confines of their constitutions.

But for the sake of clarity and honesty, let’s not pretend that unions are anything other than what they are: powerful special interest groups that are no more saintly than any other special interest group.

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House GOP Anti-woman Language Struck from “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”

In an attempt to restrict the practice of federal tax funded abortions, the House GOP committed one of the most incredible political PR blunders imaginable: narrowing the definition of rape to “forcible rape.” The “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” included provisions that would in fact allow for taxpayer funded abortions provided that the pregnancy was the result of such a rape.

So what kinds of rape were excluded? Women who are drugged, intoxicated, mentally incapacitated, under age (i.e. statutory rape), and even date rape victims did not qualify under the House bill’s definition of “forcible rape.” While I do think each of these things should be debated in a criminal justice context, its wholly inappropriate here.

Here’s another example of abortion opponents needlessly taking the issue in to legal territory it need not go. I’ve never quite understood why pro-lifers are so eager to say that there’s no such thing as a right to privacy (though the 4th and 10th 9th Amendments say otherwise) to argue that Roe v. Wade was incorrectly decided. In the case of redefining rape in this legislation, House Republicans could have potentially put women in danger had they had their way. All they really needed to say was “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion.” Period.

Forget about the whole issue of abortion in the context of this language. It’s not difficult to see why this language wouldn’t play well among women – even to pro-life women. Surly some of these congressmen have daughters, sisters, or mothers? If one of the women they loved was drugged and raped, would they really have the nerve to say that the non-consensual sex was somehow not a rape?

If the bill did somehow become law of the land, it’s not difficult to see how a criminal defense lawyer might use the law to benefit his client: “Your Honor, my client in fact did not commit rape at least as defined in the ‘No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act’…he put something in her drink to ‘get her in the mood’ and he likewise took a Viagra.”

Maybe that’s a little farfetched – I don’t know, I’m not a lawyer and don’t even play one on TV. It does seem dangerous though to start redefining words like rape in such a careless fashion.

Fortunately, the offending language was taken out of the bill today due to pressure from various activist organizations but the damage to the sponsors of this bill is surely already done. I fully expect this issue will resurface in attack ads in the next election cycle. This time, the attacks will be well deserved.

Use “YouCut” to Encourage Fiscal Sanity and Restore Liberty

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has set up a website called YouCut to solicit ideas from regular people for suggestions on specific programs and policies that should be cut or eliminated.

From the website:

YouCut – a first-of-its-kind project – is designed to defeat the permissive culture of runaway spending in Congress. It allows you to vote, both online and on your cell phone, on spending cuts that you want to see the House enact. Each week that the House is in session, we will take the winning item and offer it to the full House for an up-or-down vote, so that you can see where your representative stands on your priorities. Vote on this page today for your priorities and together we can begin to change Washington’s culture of spending into a culture of savings.

YouCut appears to be similar to President Obama’s Change.org site – hardly “first-of-its-kind” as boasted in the paragraph above. And like Change.org I doubt any suggestions like “legalize marijuana” (which was the top suggestion at Change.org but I’m not sure if this is still the case) will be taken all that seriously by House Republicans. Even if more “libertarian” suggestions are discarded, however; the way I see it, if they ask for our input we should give it to them rather than simply bitching and moaning on blogs about how nothing ever changes.

I haven’t taken the opportunity to offer any suggestions so far but I’m sure I’ll be able to come up with a few ideas. Any policy or program that takes liberty away from the individual would be an ideal place to start. Even such “pipe dreams” as ending the war on (some) drugs, ending the TSA, DEA, ATF, and various other alphabet agencies that do essentially the same redundant things*, bringing all the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan (and most of the rest of the world for that matter), phasing out Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, cut defense spending, selling federal land to private entities, and other policies that the Republicans may or may not be in favor of should be at least suggested. All these actions would result in significant savings for the taxpayer as well as restore lost liberties.

There have already been some interesting suggestions on the site. If you do make any suggestions to YouCut, be sure to post them here as well.

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UPDATE: Gov. Christie Commutes Brian Aitken’s Sentence to Time Served

Just yesterday, Gov. Christie commuted Brian Aitken’s sentence to time served and earlier today he was released from state custody.

Christie commuted Aitken’s sentence Monday, shortening it to time served. It was the first time he has commuted a sentence since taking office almost a year ago.

“The governor has reviewed all the facts of Brian Aitken’s case and has commuted his sentence to time served,” Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said Monday. “Considering both Aitken’s offense and punishment, the governor believes this is the most compassionate and just solution.”

Aitken was being held at the Mid-State Correctional Annex, which is located on Fort Dix. He declined comment through a spokesman for the Department of Corrections.

It’s very good to see that Gov. Christie did the right thing in this case. Well done sir.

Hopefully, New Jersey legislators will now reconsider these burdensome anti-gun laws to prevent something like this from ever happening again.

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ACTION ALERT: Call/Write NJ Gov. Christie and Tell him to Pardon Brian Aitken

***UPDATE II***Complete written statement from Brian Aitken’s Facebook page (reposted @ TigerHawk) since his release:

Hi Everyone,

I wanted to briefly thank a few people individually for all of their hard work–and I couldn’t think of a better place to do so than here (my very own Facebook Page, crazy)!

Governor Christie, thank you. Seriously. I understand the risk you assume while making any decision that affects the People of New Jersey and that this was no trivial decision for you. In the days and years that will come to pass I am positive you will find yourself proud of your decision… and if you heard that quote about me running against you for President; I was just kidding. :)

Dennis Malloy, thank you. You’ve helped deliver an amazing gift this Christmas for a very loving and deserving family. I wouldn’t be typing these words right now if it wasn’t for you.

Richard Gilbert & Evan Nappen, thank you. You’ve been amazing counsel through this all and I’m proud to have you represent me in this case.

To the 15,000+ Facebook supporters, thank you. To each and every person who wrote the Governor, thank you. To each and every person who wrote to me and sent me hope… thank you.

To the Soldiers, Airmen, and Marines who wrote me from overseas – thank you for your kind words and your dedication to our country. The work you do amasses a debt that can never be repaid and I am humbled that you supported me from bases and War Zones around the globe. Thank you.

Lastly, thank you to my family, friends and beautiful fiancee. I’m lucky to have you all in my life.

There is a great deal of work yet to be done but, in the meantime, I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas.

My very best,

Brian D. Aitken

The Philadelphia Daily News reports that Aitken and his legal team are going to continue to clear his name via the courts:

Christie’s commutation does not clear Aitken’s conviction or criminal record, and he has yet to hear from the New Jersey appellate court. He is not content with freedom, though, and plans a return to court.

“This is not over,” he said.

His case, he said, hinges on an exemption in New Jersey’s gun laws that allows gun owners to transport their weapons if moving to another residence. Aitken had moved back to New Jersey from Colorado, where he purchased the guns legally in 2007, and claims he was in the process of moving from his family’s home in Mount Laurel to Hoboken at the time of the arrest.

ACTION ALERT: Call/Write NJ Gov. Christie and Tell him to Pardon Brian Aitken

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this case involving a lawful gun owner being caught in the snare of New Jersey’s strict gun control laws, here’s a summary of what happened:

On January 2, 2009 Brian was arrested for illegal possession of firearms while moving from one residence from another. All of the firearms were legally owned—Brian passed three different FBI background checks to purchase and had even cleared an FBI screening for employment as a data researcher handling confidential information for a banking security software firm. His integrity, character, and right to own was not in question…so what was?

New Jersey statutes make it illegal for anyone without a concealed carry permit to possess a firearm even if it’s otherwise lawfully owned. The only way to lawfully possess firearms in New Jersey is through exemptions to the law like driving to and from a shooting range or moving residences. However, as they are exemptions from the law they must be raised during trial therefore removing the presumption of innocence for the charge of possession.

[…]

Several witnesses, including the arresting officer, testified that not only did Brian have multiple residences but that his car was packed with his personal belongings–so much so that it took the police 2 hours and 39 minutes before they found Brian’s guns locked and unloaded in the trunk of his car, exactly as NJ law dictates. Brian knew this because only days earlier he had found out through the NJ state police how to legally transport his firearms in NJ. The officers, believing Brian had done nothing wrong, then offered to leave the firearms at his parents’ house, but when they wouldn’t fit in his father’s safe the supervising officer decided to arrest him instead.

[…]

During the trial it became clear to everyone in the courtroom that Brian fit the exemptions of the law for moving between residences. However, the judge withheld the law from the jury, thereby ensuring a guilty verdict. Regardless, the jury returned from deliberation three times specifically requesting to be read the exemptions of the law. One can only assume that this was so they could find Brian not guilty. The judge and the prosecutor made it clear that they had no intention of allowing Brian to walk out an innocent man. They were more interested in a guilty verdict than truth and justice.

It seems pretty clear to me that the judge (who was not reappointed by Gov. Christie) and prosecutor want to make an example of Mr. Aitken. By all accounts, Aitken went out of his way to obey New Jersey’s absurd anti-gun laws but somehow finds himself serving 7 years in state prison.

There is a very good possibility that Gov. Christie (R) will pardon Aitken as Christie seems to be sympathetic in this case. He’s already getting quite a flood of messages into his office to do the right thing but I believe we should join in and encourage even more to do the same.

Call Gov. Christie at 609-292-6000 and politely leave a message to set Brian Aitken free so that he can spend his Christmas with his family instead of behind bars.

You can also join “Free Brian Aitken” on Facebook. Go here for additional details.

***UPDATE***

I’m very pleased to announce that this action alert can be cancelled: Gov. Christie has commuted Aitken’s sentence to time served. Go here to read my update on the case.

Thanks to all who participated in this action alert.

Open Thread: TSA & Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Edition

The reports I have read today so far are that the Opt-Out Day protests haven’t been very widespread with most travelers opting for the full body scan. Is this really what is happening at the airports or is this an attempt by the MSM and TSA to discourage protests?

What I’m interested in is hearing from those of you who are flying for this holdiay. What was your experience going through security? Were the TSA agents generally polite and professional (as I’m sure is the case most of the time) or did you witness or experience something you would consider inappropriate or criminal? (if so, did you by any chance record the event?) Did you see any protestors? (if so how many; did you protest?)

For those of you who didn’t fly, did you choose not to fly because of the TSA or for a different reason? Are you willing to fly in the future if these procedures do not change?

Finally, over the Thanksgiving holiday, did your family discuss the TSA procedures and if so, what was their attitudes about them?

In the mean time, everyone please have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

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