Category Archives: Activism

TSA updates from people who opposed the TSA before opposing the TSA was cool

As Stephen Littau noted, November 24th (Wednesday) is the busiest travel date in the country and it’s also National Opt Out Day.  To assist Opt Out Day participants, and all air travelers after Wednesday, the Opt Out Alliance is providing free “Know Your Rights” travelers cards. I spoke with one of the key people at the Opt Out Alliance and he stated that because there isn’t enough time for people to receive a real card via snail mail before Wednesday, people who sign up will get an immediate .pdf copy of the card by e-mail and their wallet card will arrive later in the mail.

Here are some additional recent Transportation Security Agency highlights:

Penn Jillette gets funny:

[The TSA PR person] said, “Well, the airport is very important to all of our incomes and we don’t want bad press. It’ll hurt everyone, but you have to do what you think is right. But, if you give me your itinerary every time you fly, I’ll be at the airport with you and we can make sure it’s very pleasant for you.”

I have no idea what this means, does it mean that they have a special area where all the friskers are topless showgirls, “We have nothing to hide, do you?” I have no idea. She pushes me for the next time I’m flying. I tell her I’m flying to Chicago around 2 on Sunday, if she wants to get that security guy there to sneer at me. She says, she’ll be there, and it’ll be very easy for me. I have no idea what this means.

Ron Paul gets serious. Here’s the bill he’s introduced:

No law of the United States shall be construed to confer any immunity for a Federal employee or agency or any individual or entity that receives Federal funds, who subjects an individual to any physical contact (including contact with any clothing the individual is wearing), x-rays, or millimeter waves, or aids in the creation of or views a representation of any part of a individual’s body covered by clothing as a condition for such individual to be in an airport or to fly in an aircraft. The preceding sentence shall apply even if the individual or the individual’s parent, guardian, or any other individual gives consent.

Over at Forbes, Art Carden gets pragmatic:

Bipartisan support should be immediate.  For fiscal conservatives, it’s hard to come up with a more wasteful agency than the TSA.  For privacy advocates, eliminating an organization that requires you to choose between a nude body scan or genital groping in order to board a plane should be a no-brainer.

Bob Barr was prophetic, then adds that folks should opt out:

Well, surprise, surprise — the government is not telling us the truth.  In fact, the specifications for the manufacture of the machines mandates that they have the ability to store images on hard disk storage, and that they possess the ability to send the images.   Of course, the transmission of such data creates the obvious possibility that hackers could access the data and print out or view the images.  The images themselves portray people without clothes on, and include relatively clear depiction of genitalia.

Jason Pye described the concept of “security theater”:

I don’t know if you’ve heard the term “security theater,” but that’s what we have in our country. Rather than actually doing their jobs and following up on leads like the one given by this terrorist’s father, security officials are more interested in creating an illusion that we are safe by temporarily curtailing privacy rights or keeping you from bringing a razor in your carry-on.

Doug Mataconis targets President Obama:

More importantly, though, Obama’s response strikes me as being politically tone deaf. In the face of outrage over Americans being groped by TSA agents, children being man-handled in a bizarre procedure that makes no logical sense, and people being exposed to the humiliation of having prosthetic breasts removed or being covered in their own urine, Obama’s “Too bad, you’ve gotta do it anyway” response is a sign of how far removed from reality the Presidency makes a person. If the President or members of his family had to subject themselves to TSA screening on a regular basis, one would think his opinion on the matter w0uld be quite different.

Over at Reason, Hawk Jensen and Nick Gillespie channel Chuck Berry with the ultimate TSA theme song:

My Ding-A-Ling My Ding-A-Ling I want you to play with My Ding-A-Ling
My Ding-A-Ling My Ding-A-Ling I want you to play with My Ding-A-Ling

Back to the serious side of things, Gary Johnson asks “Why Do We Have a TSA?” His solution:

Instead of trying to fix or adjust or moderate TSA airport screening procedures to make them less abusive or slightly more tolerable, I say it is time to turn airport screening and security over to those who should be doing it in the first place: the airlines.

To be sure, there are plenty of additional TSA links and stories out there. Republicans galore are coming out of the woodwork regarding this issue right now. It’s worth noting that the original TSA authorization passed the Senate by a vote of 100 -0. Only nine House Republicans (and zero Democrats) opposed the final conference report on the bill.

Therefore, I thought I’d limit the links to people within the freedom movement who actually opposed the TSA long before opposing the TSA was cool.

Airport Activism Anyone?

With the Thanksgiving holiday coming up (and busiest travel day of the year), a group of concerned citizens is calling November 24th “National Opt-Out Day.”

Wednesday, November 24, 2010 is NATIONAL OPT-OUT DAY!

It’s the day ordinary citizens stand up for their rights, stand up for liberty, and protest the federal government’s desire to virtually strip us naked or submit to an “enhanced pat down” that touches people’s breasts and genitals in an aggressive manner. You should never have to explain to your children, “Remember that no stranger can touch or see your private area, unless it’s a government employee, then it’s OK.”

The goal of National Opt Out Day is to send a message to our lawmakers that we demand change. We have a right to privacy and buying a plane ticket should not mean that we’re guilty until proven innocent. This day is needed because many people do not understand what they consent to when choosing to fly.

For more details, go here.

Since I won’t be flying, I won’t personally be participating in National Opt-out Day but I strongly encourage all who are to participate. I’m also interested in what experiences are when/if you are given the “porno or grope” option. I’ll have an open thread ready for you to tell us what you witness or experience.

In closing, here is a short segment from Judge Andrew Napolitano’s “Freedom Watch” called “Right to Know” concerning your 4th Amendment rights.

Back to State’s Rights: Marijuana

At the time that Brad Warbiany and I had a debate about state’s rights, I’d just come back from CPAC in Washington D.C. where there had been a mix of the really good and the really bad. I volunteered at the Campaign for Liberty booth and found three copies of anti-Abraham Lincoln books for sale. Bob McDonnell was declaring “Confederate History Month.” Reports were emanating that tea partiers had hurled racial epithets at congressmen, an accusation that from first hand contact seemed pretty believable. I was beginning to link “state’s rights” with the crusty, racist definition that George Wallace gave us.

Now that I’m back on the Left Coast, state’s rights are able to be looked at in a much different context. With a crippled economy, a fiscally broken state government and 12.2% unemployment, Californians should pass Proposition 19 this November and pay federal drug law no attention. California can be an experimental laboratory for the testing of a new marijuana industry.

For all of the failures of Obama’s spendapaloozas, his administration’s policy of lessening penalties on medical marijuana has helped dispensaries grow in size. Oakland’s city council has voted to allow industrial production of marijuana. Passage of Proposition 19 would precipitate what my friend Dan Carlin called a “Berlin Wall” moment in which the federal government would have to decide if it wanted to enforce drug laws or give way to the will of California. If the federal government, during a crippling recession and a 42% approval rating for the president, acted to stomp out one of the few industries with growth potential in favor of decaying paternal laws, it would be perfectly just to associate Obama with “failure.”

The federal government has had it all wrong on drug policy for a really long time now. The winds of change are moving and the chance for a new industry to develop around a substance that has an unrelenting demand is too good to pass up. California had better not mess this one up, and the federal government had best back off.

Spending, stimulus and bailouts have not pulled us out of an economic rut. I’m not an economist but it seems to me that in a capitalist system, all elements, from Wall Street to the welfare office, need to be driven by capital created from the production of a good that people demand. That’s why marijuana legalization is so important. No amount of government spending is going to be able to create production, but it can stop it.

Will the Tea Party movement be willing to support libertarian-leaning candidates?

Reason‘s Jesse Walker and the Atlantic‘s Andrew Sullivan have some back and forth and back again going on relating to the Tea Party movement and libertarianism.

Sullivan notes:

If only a left/right alliance would cooperate to end the drug war, get a grand compromise on the debt, and rein in defense spending and police state creep. But seriously, does Jesse really believe that the Tea Party would do any of these things?

Yes, they are, for the most part, emphasizing economic and fiscal issues, which is wonderful, even though they have no actual realistic plans to cut spending by the amount they would have to if taxes are not to rise. But that does not mean they have in any way forsaken the social issues substantively. Name a tea-party candidate who is pro-choice. Name one who backs marriage equality. Name one who wants to withdraw from Afghanistan beginning next year. Name one who has opposed torture. Name one who has the slightest qualms about police powers. Name one who would end the military ban on gays serving openly, and take even the slightest political risk on any of these subjects.

I welcome the belated right-wing opposition to out-of-control government spending. But the one thing you have to note about tea-party fervor is that none of it existed when they had real leverage over a Republican president, who spent us into bankruptcy. That tells you something. And if you think a party led by Palin will not embrace every neocon crusade or Christianist social policy, you’re dreaming.

From the perspective of a libertarian Tea Party activist, I’d like to add my two cents to the conversation.

To begin, Scott Rasmussen and Douglas Schoen scribed the following in Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System:

…it is premature to consider the prospects of a Tea Party message on the biggest national political stage. However, Gary Johnson, the libertarian-leaning Republican former governor of New Mexico, is rumored to be a contender in the 2012 presidential election, and possible the preferred presidential candidate of the Tea Party movement.

While Johnson, who has attended several Tea Party rallies, diverges from the Tea Party movement on certain issues such as immigration and support for the Iraq war, he has been praised by Tea Party groups for his support for personal liberty and smaller government. As governor, Johnson vetoes 750 bills, more than all the vetoes of the country’s forty-nine other governors combined, and he gained national notoriety for his support of legalizing drugs.

John Dennis, the Republican running for Nancy Pelosi’s congressional seat, offers the following on his platform:

  • The Constitution was written to restrict the actions of the government, not individuals.
  • If we support some types of liberty but not others, ultimately we will be left without liberty at all.
  • I oppose, warrant less wiretaps, water-boarding and other forms of torture.
  • Governments have historically institutionalized racism through legal preference and advantages to certain groups.
  • Racism a form of collectivism is the antithesis of liberty.
  • It is the pursuit of liberty and the equal application of the law that draws people together.
  • I support ending both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and withdrawing our troops as safely and quickly as possible.
  • I believe the men and women who bravely serve and defend our country should be well trained, well equipped, well clothed, well fed and deployed only when necessary.
  • I do not believe that our troops should be forced to be policemen of the world. Our troops, first and foremost, should protect Americans where they live – in America.

While these platform snippets don’t directly address all of Sullivan’s concerns, they seem to indicate that the candidate is certainly leaning in the direction Sully suggests. To be clear, I have no clue as to whether Dennis considers himself a Tea Party candidate. However, the only Tea Party activists I know in the district support him and it is difficult to imagine any person affiliated with the Tea Party movement supporting Pelosi.

I spoke with Daniel Adams, the chairman of the Libertarian Party of Georgia, on the telephone this morning.  His gubernatorial candidate, John Monds, had recently spoken at a Tea party event. Adams informed me that by the end of the evening half the of the people in attendance wearing stickers for a gubernatorial candidate preferred Monds while the other half preferred GOP nominee Nathan Deal. At this moment, all of Georgia’s statewide libertarian candidates are polling relatively high for third-party candidates while Deal continues to be plagued with financial (and other) problems.  I’m not stating that the Tea Party movement will go third party, but the Hoffman/Scozzafava debacle in New York indicates at least some willingness to pursue this option, if absolutely necessary.

To be sure, there hasn’t been a plethora of strong libertarian-leaning Tea Party candidates out there so far, but there are certainly plenty of libertarians within the Tea Party movement. Even in Alabama, I’m more likely to run into a Campaign for Liberty member than a Roy Moore supporter at a Tea party event — although both coexist within the movement to pursue common goals regarding fiscal policy and fighting “the establishment.”

There is a certain degree of pragmatism within the Tea Party movement, Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts serving as the perfect example.  It is also interesting to note that I know quite a few libertarians who snicker about Christine O’Donnell’s stance on a certain individual liberty issue, but still enjoy watching an establishment big-government Republican go down in flames in Delaware. I’ve also seen plenty of Ron Paul supporters speaking at Tea Party rallies.  There is clearly some give and take on both sides.

In their book, Rasmussen and Schoen clearly identify libertarians as one of the three major ideological components of the movement.  Combining the aforementioned factors, Tea Party support for reasonable libertarian-leaning candidates seems possible – at least in some districts and in some cases.

Cato Presents: Cops on Camera

As cameras have become more available to individuals and government alike, viral videos of cops behaving badly have become quite pervasive on the internet. This short video by The Cato Institute provides a few recent examples of this relatively new phenomenon and explains why recording the actions of police and government officials for all the world to see is good for liberty. Its government that should be watched and its government that should fear the people, not the other way around.

The New Prison Ray of Death

Some things you just cannot make up:

A device designed to control unruly inmates by blasting them with a beam of intense energy that causes a burning sensation is drawing heat from civil rights groups who fear it could cause serious injury and is “tantamount to torture.”

The mechanism, known as an “Assault Intervention Device,” is a stripped-down version of a military gadget that sends highly focused beams of energy at people and makes them feel as though they are burning. The Los Angeles County sheriff’s department plans to install the device by Labor Day, making it the first time in the world the technology has been deployed in such a capacity.

Maybe this is the sort of thing that Ray Bradbury had in mind when he assessed that government was too big. I’d certainly rather have tax dollars going toward exploring space than coming up with new way to control inmates likely in jail for violating drug laws.

Even Death Penalty Supporters Urge Ohio Gov. Strickland to Spare Kevin Keith

Its one thing when anti-death penalty activists petition a governor to pardon or commute a sentence of an individual scheduled for execution but quite another when death penalty supporters agree. Kevin Keith is scheduled to be executed by the state of Ohio on September 15th for the 1994 murders of 2 adults and 1 child; a crime he has maintained he did not commit. Despite exculpatory evidence which points away from Keith and despite Gov. Ted Strickland’s (D) own public comments where he said he found “certain aspects” of the case “troubling,” the parole board voted 8-0 in favor of executing Keith.

Fortunately, the parole board’s decision is non-binding; Gov. Strickland or perhaps SCOTUS can still do the right thing and halt the execution until the more ‘troubling’ aspects of this case can be fairly reconsidered.

According to this article in The Guardian, among those who are urging Gov. Strickland to halt the execution are more than 30 former judges and prosecutors including former Ohio Attorney General and death penalty supporter Jim Petro (R) and former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Herbert Brown.

Jim Petro in a letter to Gov. Strickland:

“I am gravely concerned that the state of Ohio may be on the verge of executing an innocent person”

Justice Herbert Brown in another letter:

“There is a mass of exculpatory evidence, suppressed evidence, faulty eyewitness identification and forensic reports that support legitimate claims of innocence”

Innocence Network President and Clinical Professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School Keith A. Findley, while likely biased against the death penalty also wrote to persuade the governor:

Like so many of the wrongful conviction cases, tunnel vision by police, prosecutors, and even courts appears to have played a central role in Mr. Keith’s case and his ultimate conviction.

[…]

The evidence of these pernicious effects of tunnel vision, coupled with the compelling new evidence in Mr. Keith’s case, suggests that Ohio might be on the verge of executing an innocent man […]

Keith’s defense team, in a statement following the parole board’s decision points out that Gov. Strickland signed a bill into law which prohibited some of the very techniques investigators used against their client. Unfortunately for Keith, the banning of these faulty procedures came too late.

Yes, the case of Kevin Keith is indeed troubling. Maybe if a few thousand more can petition Gov. Strickland, he will be even more troubled to the point to where he will end this madness (click here to sign the petition).

In other troubling death penalty news, a federal judge has denied Troy Davis’ innocence claim despite 7 of 9 eyewitnesses recanting their testimonies against him.

“Hallowed Ground”

A friend of mine who I worked with at a hip-hop magazine years ago was a big influence on me turning toward libertarianism. He said this on the mosque fiasco:

The next person who tells me Ground Zero is ‘hallowed’ or ‘sacred’ ground, is getting punched in the balls. If it really were special, it would be more than a hole in the ground NINE YEARS after the fact. Build the goddamn mosque. If you want to honor the people who died on 9/11, assimilate Islam and turn it into the same hollow facade every other ideology in this country is.

Also, I’m sure I’m not the only person who has become far less comfortable talking about this topic than I was years ago. The debate over Islam and America has gone beyond ideological and geopolitical terms and taken on dimensions of immigration, nationalism and assimilation.

Innocence Project Press Release: House Passes Bipartisan Bill to Review and Reform the Criminal Justice System

House Passes Bipartisan Bill to Review and Reform the Criminal Justice System

Innocence Project praises the House of Representatives’ leadership and urges the Senate to enact this legislation as soon as possible

(Washington, D.C.: Wednesday, July 28, 2010) – Late yesterday, the House of Representatives passed critical bipartisan legislation, “The National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2010” (H.R. 5143), to improve the fairness and reliability of the nation’s criminal justice system. Lead cosponsors of the bill include Representatives William Delahunt (D-MA), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Tom Rooney (R-FL), and Bobby Scott (D-VA). This historic legislation, originally championed in the Senate by Senator Jim Webb (D-VA), would create a national commission to examine and reshape the criminal justice system.

Barry Scheck, Co-Director of the Innocence Project, a national organization affiliated with Cardozo School of Law that uses DNA testing to exonerate innocent prisoners and pursues reforms to prevent wrongful convictions, praises House leaders for championing this badly needed legislation and urges immediate Senate action.

“The Innocence Project congratulates the House of Representatives today for passing this historic and crucial legislation. Thanks to the leadership of bipartisan cosponsors, including Representatives Delahunt, Issa, Fudge, Rooney and Scott, this critical commission would improve the underlying fairness and reliability of the criminal justice system. We urge the Senate to pass this legislation quickly so that comprehensive review and reform of the system can begin in earnest.”

For the first time since the Johnson Administration, the commission would review the criminal justice system and recommend key reforms that would improve the system’s effectiveness and efficiency, resulting in increased public safety and confidence. The legislation, which has passed out of the House of Representatives and the Senate Judiciary Committee, now awaits final passage in the Senate. There is significant bipartisan support for the bill, as well as support from a range of interest groups representing law enforcement, academicians, criminal justice reform advocates, and faith-based organizations.

Nationwide, 255 people have been exonerated through DNA testing since 1989, according to the Innocence Project. Those cases are a window into the causes of wrongful convictions. For example:

• More than 75% of wrongful convictions overturned with DNA testing involved eyewitness misidentification;
• In about 50% of the cases, unvalidated or improper forensic science was a factor;
• More than 25% of the cases involved false confessions, admissions or guilty pleas;
• In 15% of the cases, informants provided unreliable information.

The National Criminal Justice Commission could look more closely at these and other causes of wrongful conviction and recommend improvements that would help to prevent such miscarriages of justice. Since the commission would be comprised of highly respected figures from throughout the justice system – including judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, crime victims and other experts – the recommendations would carry significant weight with decision makers. Texas, California, Illinois, Wisconsin and other states have created similar commissions on the state level, and they have led to concrete improvements in those states’ systems of justice.

For additional press inquiries please contact:

Alana Salzberg, Innocence Project
Asalzberg@innocenceproject.org
212.364.5983

This is very good news. Call your senators and tell them to pass this very important legislation so we can begin to repair our broken criminal justice system.

Activists Protest Proposed Church Next To NARAL Headquarters

July 22, 2010
WASHINGTON, DC — Picketers holding anti-Christian placards marched near NARAL headquarters in Washington today, denouncing plans to erect a right-wing Christian church within a block of the abortion rights group. Heated words were exchanged between supporters of the place of worship; luckily physical altercations were avoided in this escalating battle.

Tension has been brewing since late last year, when plans for the Lutheran-denomination church were unveiled in planning commission meetings. NARAL-friendly Councilwoman Diana Matthews had been quietly working to stall the plans, requesting additional information about the parking and infrastructure requirements of the planned structure, but the architect and engineer on the project quickly provided evidence that the demands of the new structure would not materially change from the property’s previous structure.

As the project has neared breaking ground, opponents and supporters have taken to the streets. “It’s an affront to the freedom that NARAL protects that these Christo-fascists would try to base their hate so close to our headquarters,” said Susan Colona, a NARAL employee. “It’s clear that they’re moving so close in order to threaten and intimidate the workers here at NARAL. It’s chilling, in the wake of the senseless murder of Dr. George Tiller, that they’re willing to escalate their actions.”

Protesters carrying signs with slogans such as “Go Back To Kansas” and “Keep Your God Out Of My Uterus” marched outside the headquarters. Supporters of the church countered nearby with opposing signs, “Abortion Is Murder — An Eye For An Eye” and “We Protect Those Who Can’t Protect Themselves.”

Pro-choice US Representative Donna Edwards (D-MD) sides with NARAL. “The actions of the picketers in support of this church are a clear example of hate speech. We are a country that values freedom of religion, and I don’t believe we can legally stop this congregation from forming, but I am deeply saddened that the church would choose such a site for their home.”

Pastor Elijah Williams, who would be heading the proposed church, doesn’t understand the fight. “While we as a church are generally against the practice of abortion, many within the ELCA are willing to make exceptions for circumstances such as rape and the health of the mother. In fact, Dr. George Tiller was a member of the ELCA, and we have publicly condemned Scott Roeder for his unconscionable actions. We are a peaceful church, and chose the site of our church because we thought it was the best place for our home, not because of its proximity to NARAL.”

Pastor Williams even suggested that the extremist protestors antagonizing NARAL were not from the ELCA, but rather sent by the Westboro Baptist Church, an organization known for sending protestors to funerals of US Servicemen killed in combat.

The fight doesn’t appear to be waning. NARAL has been searching for legal ways to fight the church, including potentially having the entire block declared a historic landmark due to its age. Stephen Simpson, a lawyer who had previously advised the ELCA on other matters, doesn’t see this as cause for hope. “What should have been a very simple process of building a home for a budding congretation is now likely to be derailed. Once national politics and the legal system become involved, this will become a circus. I hope the church and NARAL can come to some agreement to avoid this outcome.”

Given the contention between the parties, though, this appears unlikely at this time.

Point: “State’s Rights” A Misnomer

This is a post in our continuing “Point/Counterpoint” series, where TLP contributors and/or guest posters debate a topic. In this installment, Michael Powell argues against the existence of “states’ rights”. Tomorrow, Brad Warbiany will defend states’ rights, and his post can now be found here.

During the twentieth century, there were several confrontations between federal authorities and those proclaiming “state’s rights.” The most notable were those of Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, in 1967, who called on his state’s National Guard to block several African American youths from attending high school and Alabama Governor George Wallace, who literally stood in the way of troops sent by the Kennedy Administration to escort students Vivian Malone and James Hood (both instances being unforgivable offenses in the Deep South) in 1963. The state was blatantly violating not only individual rights of its citizens but also the legal authority of the U.S. Supreme Court and the executive branch.

The “right” for the state to discriminate against the individual in defiance of federal law (and human decency, which is another matter and not a concept that is very popular in Alabama or other deep southern states) was precisely what George Wallace cited explicitly in his speech at the University of Alabama on June 11, 1963:

The unwelcomed, unwanted, unwarranted and force-induced intrusion upon the campus of the University of Alabama today of the might of the Central Government offers frightful example of the oppression of the rights, privileges and sovereignty of this State by officers of the Federal Government. This intrusion results solely from force, or threat of force, undignified by any reasonable application of the principle of law, reason and justice. It is important that the people of this State and nation understand that this action is in violation of rights reserved to the State by the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Alabama. While some few may applaud these acts, millions of Americans will gaze in sorrow upon the situation existing at this great institution of learning.

Personally, I would not cry crocodile tears if the South had been let go during the Civil War. My ancestors fought in the Confederate Army but my personal life has been filled with people of color. The South has not simply been racist; it has been the closest region in the Western World to pre-industrial feudalism. Its ugly history of public executions, terrorism, exclusion from employment and education of massive portions of the population (including not just people of color but poor whites, women and those who stood against the Southern Christian traditionalist grain), intellectual rejection, ethno-nationalism, proud ignorance and aggressive religiosity is more reflective of the worst regimes in the Middle East than the enlightened industrial democracies of Western Europe, North America and Asia. Just as is the case with the Middle East, the rich natural resources of the South have been the primary reason for keeping the impoverished backwater area in the sphere of the United States.

If it hadn’t been for slavery, racism and the South, the “state’s rights” argument may have more standing validity. Unfortunately, for those who bring back its spectre it brings to mind Jim Crow laws, lynchings, segregation and war. Just as the swastika, which actually has a relevance to Buddhist philosophy, has been defiled by the actions of German National Socialism, “state’s rights” has been defiled by the actions of Southern political actors.

For issues in which “state’s rights” would be a logical defense, especially regarding marijuana, where states like California seek to protect the individual rights of drug users in defiance of prohibitionist federal intervention, I have to beg the question: Why is it an issue of state governance and not simply the right of the individual to do as he wishes?

This isn’t simply a historical, theoretical argument either. States are still today violating individual rights, with the federal government acting as an intervening force of justice. Arizona’s immigration law, SB 1070, which effectively legislated racial profiling and declared war on undocumented workers who are critical to the American economy, is being set upon by the Obama administration’s Justice Department.

I have worked in Latin American foreign policy, so I would like to add that, while I stand in firm opposition to SB 1070, I understand completely why it was implemented. We are in really bad economic shape, as I surely don’t have to inform anyone here. That is exacerbated by the perception by people that don’t understand economics that Hispanic immigrants are “stealing” their jobs and the horrendous mob violence that has been implemented on the border by drug cartels. I reject Kantian ethics that proclaim motivations to paramount to results, however, and a mob of fearful people hardly ever makes the right decision. In American history, “state’s rights” has been a flag that has often been waved by populist demagogues while “individual rights” has been waved by judges and executives with a better grasp of the law. “State’s rights” is a misnomer which is usually used to defend defiance of settled law. It doesn’t deserve or necessitate revival in our political discourse.

Hank Skinner Execution Update: Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles Deny DNA Test Request

All seven members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles Death Panel voted earlier today to deny Hank Skinner’s request to have DNA samples tested. Unless Gov. Rick Perry or the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes, Hank Skinner will be executed this Wednesday as scheduled. The courts have rejected Skinner’s requests for the DNA tests for over a decade; the rationale being that Skinner failed to request the tests during the original trial.

Supposing for a second that the courts have a valid point,* I would argue that there is more than one interest that is not being served other than Skinner’s. For one, if someone other than Skinner committed these murders, the courts are allowing this person to escape the justice the victims’ families so righteously deserve. If Skinner did kill these individuals, there will be lingering doubts by his supporters and he will become a martyr.

I think there is even a more fundamental question though: What is the true purpose of our criminal justice system? If the purpose is to determine the truth, then the interest of truth is also sacrificed in the process. If, however; the purpose is process – regardless of how absurd/the truth be damned as Alito, Roberts, and the seven members of the Texas Death Panel apparently believe, then I suppose the courts are working just as they should.

Where will Gov. Perry/ SCOTUS fall, on the side of truth or process?

For those of you who abhor the idea that an innocent man could be put to death in the name of process and would still like to try to influence the governor’s decision to grant a 30 day reprieve, here is the contact information one more time:

Opinion Lines
Texas callers: (800) 252-9600
Out of state callers and Austin residents: (512) 463-1782

Office of the Governor, Main Switchboard (from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CST): (512) 463-2000

Office of the Governor Fax: (512) 463-1849

The Innocence Project also has an easy petition that only takes a few minutes to fill out.

If you cannot get through on the “Out of state” line, try the main switchboard. I tried both today; I had no success with the Out of state but actually talked to a real person immediately who said she “would pass my message on to the governor” when I called the switchboard (so don’t be rattled if someone actually answers). Be polite but get your point across.

With that, let me leave you with a closing thought from Dallas Morning News Editor Michael Landauer:

We have just posted our editorial set for tomorrow’s paper urging Gov. Rick Perry to do the right thing and delay Wednesday’s planned execution of Hank Skinner. Is he guilty? Honestly, I don’t know. I tend to think juries get things right most of the time, but in this case, there is a lot of evidence that needs to be DNA tested to be sure. I am hopeful Gov. Perry will do the right thing. There is no downside to ordering a 30-day reprieve. The upside is that he looks like someone interested in the truth and interested in the kind of certainty that the proper dispensation of the death penalty requires.

Point of Clarification (March 23, 2010 9:29 a.m. edit)

I mentioned in the post that the DNA evidence could implicate someone other than Skinner and by not testing the DNA, someone else would escape justice. I have since re-read an article that Radley Balko wrote just over a month ago which reminded me of a detail I had forgotten. According to the article, another man by the name of Robert Donnell could have committed the murders. Witnesses say that Donnell had harassed Skinner’s girlfriend (one of the murder victims) the night of the murders. Donnell allegedly raped her on another occasion and had been stalking her up to the day she was killed. If the DNA sample turns out to be that of Donnell’s rather than Skinner’s, Donnell will still have escaped the justice the victims’ families deserve because Donnell has since died.

Related Posts:

ACTION ALERT: Tell Gov. Perry to Give Hank Skinner 30 More Days

Former Texas Prosecutor and Judge Both Believe the State Has Executed More Than One Innocent Man

» Read more

ACTION ALERT: Tell Gov. Perry to Give Hank Skinner 30 More Days

With less than five days until the scheduled execution of Hank Skinner, a DNA testing laboratory in Phoenix, AZ has offered to test evidence that Skinner’s attorneys say will prove his innocence. Chromosomal Laboratories has told Texas Gov. Rick Perry that they will run the tests for free if Perry agrees to grant Skinner a 30-day reprieve. Under Texas law, the governor has the authority to grant a one-time reprieve for capital cases.

The Texas Tribune reports that Gov. Perry has not decided whether or not he will grant the reprieve and said that any decision to test the DNA will be decided in the courts.

My question for Gov. Perry is what is there to think about? The man has been on death row for 15 years; what is the harm in giving him just 30 more days to determine once and for all if he is guilty or not? The state cannot give Skinner his 15 years back if the state turns out to be wrong but he could at least live the rest of his life a free man. The state obviously cannot give Skinner his life back once the state takes it from him, however.

Whether you oppose the death penalty or not we can all agree that the state should at least make every reasonable effort to ensure that the person being put to death by the state actually committed the crime. This is not an unreasonable request.

The execution is scheduled for March 24, 2010 so there isn’t much time left to act (see the contact information below).

Opinion Lines
Texas callers: (800) 252-9600
Out of state callers and Austin residents: (512) 463-1782

Office of the Governor, Main Switchboard (from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CST): (512) 463-2000

Office of the Governor Fax: (512) 463-1849

The Innocence Project also has an easy petition that only takes a few minutes to fill out.

Related: Former Texas Prosecutor and Judge Both Believe the State Has Executed More Than One Innocent Man

How To Shrink The Size Of Government

It’s very simple… Just require federal employees to follow the law, and they’ll make themselves ineligible for service:

`SUBCHAPTER VIII–INELIGIBILITY OF PERSONS HAVING SERIOUSLY DELINQUENT TAX DEBTS FOR FEDERAL EMPLOYMENT

`Sec. 7381. Ineligibility of persons having seriously delinquent tax debts for Federal employment

`(a) Definition- For purposes of this section–

`(1) the term `seriously delinquent tax debt’ means an outstanding debt under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 for which a notice of lien has been filed in public records pursuant to section 6323 of such Code, except that such term does not include–

`(A) a debt that is being paid in a timely manner pursuant to an agreement under section 6159 or section 7122 of such Code; and

`(B) a debt with respect to which a collection due process hearing under section 6330 of such Code, or relief under subsection (a), (b), or (f) of section 6015 of such Code, is requested or pending; and

`(2) the term `Federal employee’ means–

`(A) an employee, as defined by section 2105; and

`(B) an employee of the United States Postal Service or of the Postal Regulatory Commission.

`(b) Ineligibility for Federal Employment- An individual who has a seriously delinquent tax debt shall be ineligible to be appointed, or to continue serving, as a Federal employee.

`(c) Regulations- The Office of Personnel Management shall, for purposes of carrying out this section with respect to the executive branch, prescribe any regulations which the Office considers necessary.’.

(b) Clerical Amendment- The analysis for chapter 73 of title 5, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:

`subchapter viii–ineligibility of persons having seriously delinquent tax debts for federal employment

`7381. Ineligibility of persons having seriously delinquent tax debts for Federal employment.’.

Sounds like it’s time to get some folks with clout to push this. Get Ron Paul on board, get Jeff Flake on board, and get the TEA Party folks on board. I say we make this happen.

Hat Tip: Reason

Liberty Rock Friday: “Prison Song” by SOAD

Here’s a perfect song to complement my recent call to action to pass the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009.

toxicity

System of a Down
“Prison Song”
Toxicity (2001)

Written by: Tankian, Serj;Malakian, Daron;Odadjian, Shavarsh; and Dolmayan, John

They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,

Following the rights movements
You clamped on with your iron fists,
Drugs became conveniently
Available for all the kids,
Following the rights movements
You clamped on with your iron fists,
Drugs became conveniently
Available for all the kids,

I buy my crack, my smack, my bitch
right here in Hollywood.

Nearly 2 million [*] Americans are incarcerated
In the prison system, prison system,
Prison system of the U.S.

They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison, (for you and me to live in)
Another prison system,
Another prison system,
Another prison system. (for you and me to live in)

Minor drug offenders fill your prisons
You don’t even flinch
All our taxes paying for your wars
Against the new non-rich,
Minor drug offenders fill your prisons
You don’t even flinch
All our taxes paying for your wars
Against the new non-rich,

I buy my crack, my smack, my bitch
right here in Hollywood.

The percentage of Americans in the prison system
Prison system, has doubled since 1985,

They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison, (for you and me to live in)
Another prison system,
Another prison system,
Another prison system. (for you and me to live in)
For you and I, for you and I , for you and I.

They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
For you and me,
Oh baby, you and me.

All research and successful drug policy show
That treatment should be increased,
And law enforcement decreased,
While abolishing mandatory minimum sentences,
All research and successful drug policy show
That treatment should be increased,
And law enforcement decreased,
While abolishing mandatory minimum sentences.

Utilizing drugs to pay for secret wars around the world,
Drugs are now your global policy,
Now you police the globe,

I buy my crack, my smack, my bitch
right here in Hollywood.

Drug money is used to rig elections,
And train brutal corporate sponsored
Dictators around the world.

They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison, (for you and me to live in)
Another prison system,
Another prison system,
Another prison system. (for you and me to live in)
For you and I, for you and I , for you and I.
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
For you and me,
Oh baby, you and me.

*This number has since increased to about 2.4 million according to the Sen. Webb’s findings.

Action Alert: Help Pass the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009

In April of 2009, I wrote a post entitled “Reforming America’s Prison System: The Time Has Come”

A full 8 months later, the time has truly come. Sen. Jim Webb’s (D-VA) bill S.714, the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009, is scheduled to be before the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow.

The purpose of the bill is as follows:

SEC. 3. ESTABLISHMENT OF COMMISSION.
There is established a commission to be known as the `National Criminal Justice Commission’ (referred to in this Act as the `Commission’).

SEC. 4. PURPOSE OF THE COMMISSION.
The Commission shall undertake a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system, make findings related to current Federal and State criminal justice policies and practices, and make reform recommendations for the President, Congress, and State governments to improve public safety, cost-effectiveness, overall prison administration, and fairness in the implementation of the Nation’s criminal justice system.

America accounts for 5% of the world’s population but a staggering 25% of the world’s reported prisoners. This statistic seems to be at odds with those of us who want to believe our nation is a “free” and “just” nation.

Also, its worth pointing out that this commission will give the war on (some) drugs some much needed scrutiny (as the graphs below show, drug offenses account for more than half of the prison population).

Source: Bureau of Prisons as of February 2009

Source: Bureau of Prisons as of February 2009

bop-graph_page_2

I have already contacted my senators, now its time to do your part. If you don’t want to spend much time on writing an e-mail or letter, NORML has an easy form to fill out here (the message goes directly to both of your Senators even if you don’t happen to know who your Senators are).

With your help, perhaps this bill will pass. This will be a great first step in combating the prison industrial complex.

ACTION ALERT: Put The Stake in Obamacare

Well the good news is that the Democrats are saying they don’t have the votes. Probably one of the reasons why they don’t have the votes is because people are finding all about what’s in HR 3962.

They’re objecting to:

  • Higher taxes on individuals and businesses which will drive up unemployment
  • Government dictating what’s in their healthcare plan
  • Government unconstitutionally requiring consumers purchase health insurance or face fines and/or jailtime
  • The creation of a government run healthcare plan which will eventually take over the entire healthcare system
  • The creation of over 110 new bureaucracies
  • The outlawing of any health insurance policy not purchased through the government’s new “exchange”
  • The new unfunded liabilities for state and local governments which will result in higher taxes on the local and state levels

So lets get out the sharpest stake we can find and drive it through the heart of the vampire known as Obamacare and kill it until 2011 at the earliest. Get on the phone and call your Congressman or e-mail them if you have not done so and tell them to vote NO on HR 3962. If you don’t know who your Congressman is, follow the link and type in your zip code.

Also, please call everyone you know, post on your Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter pages; and post on your personal blogs, Live Journals, whatever and tell your friends and readers to also call their Congressmen and tell them vote NO on HR 3962. The Obama Administration and the Democratic House leadership will be calling your Congressman to vote for their government run health care scheme, will you call and tell your Congressman to stand for freedom?

The next 24 hours are critical in defeating government run health care and together we can and will defeat it.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Good News On Health Care Reform: They Don’t Have The Votes Yet

This is a good sign:

WASHINGTON – A House leader says Democrats haven’t yet lined up enough votes to pass their health care overhaul bill.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland says the vote that House Democrats had scheduled for Saturday could slip to Sunday or early next week.

Hoyer acknowledged to reporters Friday that Democratic leaders don’t yet have the 218 votes needed to pass President Barack Obama’s historic health overhaul initiative.

Let’s make sure they never get those votes.

Liberty Rock Friday: “Land of Confusion” by Genesis

I’m actually surprised that it hasn’t occurred to me to post “Land of Confusion” for Liberty Rock sooner. This is a great song with a great message that seems perhaps even more appropriate now than its original 1986 release.

The song raises questions in my mind such as:

Who is ultimately responsible for this land (world) of confusion?

Is this confusion intentionally orchestrated by people in high positions of power or is this confusion the result of unintended consequences of government policies which passed with the best of intentions? (I tend to think it is a little of both).

Is this confusion inevitable due to our very humanity? (As long as there are individuals who wish to control the lives of others and wish to take from others by force and fraud, I can only conclude that the answer is “yes.”)

How can we, as in the words of the song, make this world “a place worth fighting for” ? (Do we really have any other choice?)

Below the fold, I also included both the Genesis music video and Disturbed’s cover version.

invisible touch
Genesis
“Land of Confusion”
Invisible Touch (1986)

Written by: Phil Collins, Tony Banks, and Michael Rutherford

I mustve dreamed a thousand dreams
Been haunted by a million screams
But I can hear the marching feet
They’re moving into the street.

Now did you read the news today
They say the dangers gone away
But I can see the fires still alight
There burning into the night.

There’s too many men
Too many people
Making too many problems
And not much love to go round
Cant you see
This is a land of confusion.

This is the world we live in
And these are the hands were given
Use them and lets start trying
To make it a place worth living in.

Ooh superman where are you now
When everythings gone wrong somehow
The men of steel, the men of power
Are losing control by the hour.

This is the time
This is the place
So we look for the future
But there’s not much love to go round
Tell me why, this is a land of confusion.

This is the world we live in
And these are the hands were given
Use them and lets start trying
To make it a place worth living in.

I remember long ago –
Ooh when the sun was shining
Yes and the stars were bright
All through the night
And the sound of your laughter
As I held you tight
So long ago –

I wont be coming home tonight
My generation will put it right
Were not just making promises
That we know, well never keep.

Too many men
There’s too many people
Making too many problems
And not much love to go round
Cant you see
This is a land of confusion.

Now this is the world we live in
And these are the hands were given
Use them and lets start trying
To make it a place worth fighting for.

This is the world we live in
And these are the names were given
Stand up and lets start showing
Just where our lives are going to.

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Congressional House Call Day

Tomorrow on the Fifth of November, Americans for Prosperity will be coordinating with Congresswoman Michele Bachmann a Meetup at the United States Capital. The purpose of this meetup is to kill Obamacare.

This blog, along with many bloggers and activists were invited to a conference call tonight with Congresswoman Bachmann and Redstate.com’s Erick Erickson. The conference call was generally just a planning session that was not newsworthy in itself. However, in the conference call, activists from all over the country including Virginia and New Jersey in particular were reporting great success in arranging for buses for activists to head toward the capital to take part.

The purpose of this meetup is confront Congressmen, with video cameras preferably, and demand they take a stand opposing Obamacare. In addition to confronting Congressmen at the Capital, other activists will be going to district offices all over the country and making their opposition to Obamacare known.

Here’s the information for the event at the capital directly from AFP’s website:

WHAT: Health Care “House Call” on Capitol Hill
WHO: Americans concerned about our health care future
WHEN: Thursday, November 5, 2009 from 12:00-1:00pm
WHERE: West Front Steps of the U.S. Capitol (House Side)

Congresswoman Bachmann wanted us on the conference call to make sure to tell everyone to get there before noon.

In addition, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to increase security at the Capital to prevent the buses from parking close to the Capital.

If you want to demonstrate your opposition to Obamacare, AFP has made it easy to find your Congressman’s district office. Just follow the link.

Finally if nothing else, follow the link to find your Congressman and call their DC or even district office and tell to simply vote no to any government run health care.

Now is the time to remind our Congressman that we do not support the government take over of our health care. If we make our voices heard tomorrow and this week, we can kill Obamacare until 2011 at least.

Get on those phones or better yet, get to the Capital or your Congressman’s district office and make your voice heard.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.
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