Category Archives: The War on Drugs

California Assemblyman: Legalize Marijuana & Tax It

One California Assemblyman is saying it’s time to consider treating marijuana like alcohol:

An assemblyman from San Francisco announced legislation Monday to do just that: make California the first state in the nation to tax and regulate recreational marijuana in the same manner as alcohol.

Buoyed by the widely held belief that cannabis is California’s biggest cash crop, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano contends it is time to reap some state revenue from that harvest while putting a damper on drug use by teens, cutting police costs and even helping Mother Nature.

“I know the jokes are going to be coming, but this is not a frivolous issue,” said Ammiano, a Democrat elected in November after more than a dozen years as a San Francisco supervisor. “California always takes the lead — on gay marriage, the sanctuary movement, medical marijuana.”

Anti-drug groups are anything but amused by the idea of California collecting a windfall from the leafy herb that remains illegal under federal law.

“This would open another door in Pandora’s box,” said Calvina Fay, executive director of Save Our Society From Drugs. “Legalizing drugs like this would create a whole new set of costs for society.”

Ammiano’s measure, AB 390, would essentially replicate the regulatory structure used for beer, wine and hard liquor, with taxed sales barred to anyone under 21.

Ammiano also points to a financial benefit to the state from legalization:

[T]he biggest boon might be to the bottom line. By some estimates, California’s pot crop is a $14-billion industry, putting it above vegetables ($5.7 billion) and grapes ($2.6 billion). If so, that could mean upward of $1 billion in tax revenue for the state each year.

While I’m not a fan of the taxation side of the argument, I also know that it’s an ineviable part of any legalization/decriminalization scheme that would be implemented.

It works for alcohol, why not marijuana ?

H/T: Outside The Beltway

It’s Time To Lower The Drinking Age

Last night 60 Minutes ran an interesting piece about the suggestion from some that the drinking age be lowered back to 18:

(CBS) Last fall, a group of over 100 college presidents – including the heads of Dartmouth, Virginia Tech and Duke – signed a declaration stating that the 21-year-old drinking age is not working, and fireworks went off.

But the college presidents got what they wanted: a national debate about the drinking age.

When the age was raised to 21 in the mid-1980s, the goal was to reduce highway fatalities. But everyone knows that the 21 age limit hasn’t stopped minors from drinking.

And now some experts believe it’s actually contributing to an increase in extreme drinking

Here’s the video of the entire report, which is worth watching:


Watch CBS Videos Online

I don’t agree with the suggestion that John McCardell, the former President of Middelbury College, makes at the end of the report, that a return to an 18 year-old drinking age be accompanied by a combination of alcohol education in high school and “drinking licenses” that allow someone to purchase alcohol.

The education idea is on the right track, but the idea of the government issuing licenses to people to “allow” them to consume alcohol strikes me as a step down the road toward the return of neo-Prohibitionism.

This much is clear, raising the drinking age to 21 has not curbed drinking among people aged 18, 19, and 20, and it may have helped make the situation far worse than it would be otherwise.

Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper: “Legalize All Drugs”

Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper recently appeared on Fox News’ Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld. Stamper belongs to an organization of current and former police officers called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).

Open Thread: Effects Of Marijuana Legalization On Illicit Drug Industry?

Just a little musing I had…

From the little I know about the workings of the illicit drug market, marijuana is one of the main crops. Pretty much everybody — at least everyone in my generation — knows at least one pot-smoker in their lives. Far fewer know people who use (or admit to the use) of hard drugs. But drug dealers are a lot more likely to be one-stop shops than explicitly limiting themselves to a specific drug. So the illicit drug industry — for those who are looking to use hard drugs — is served by a relatively innocuous drug like marijuana being illegal. It ensures that the drug dealers have a much wider prospective net of potential customers. To put it simply, by knowing a few marijuana users, an individual is only a few phone calls away from access to pretty much any illicit substance they want.

So the simple question is:

What would happen to the illicit drug industry if pot — and only pot — were legalized?

There’s a chance that it would sever a link between most people and most dealers. How much illicit drug use would go away simply by legalizing the one drug that connects a large group of drug users to their black market connections?

Hubris

Maybe he should have driven there in a hybrid car:

The head of the Drug Enforcement Administration spent more than $123,000 to charter a private jet to fly to Bogota, Colombia, last fall instead of taking one of the agency’s 106 planes.

The DEA paid a contractor an additional $5,380 to arrange Acting Administrator Michele Leonhart’s trip last Oct. 28-30 with an outside company.

The DEA scheduled the trip as the nation was reeling from the worst economic crisis in decades and the national debt was climbing toward $10 trillion. Three weeks later, lawmakers slammed chief executive officers from three automakers for flying to Washington in private jets as Congress debated whether to bail out the auto industry.

William Brown, the special agent in charge of the DEA’s aviation division, said he’d asked DEA contractor L-3 Communications to arrange the flight because the plane that ordinarily would’ve flown the administrator was grounded for scheduled maintenance. He said he didn’t question the cost at the time.

“Was it excessive? I guess you could look at it that way, but I don’t think so,” he said.

The failures of the US automakers pale in comparison to the failure of the DEA to accomplish their mission. Yet we’re not supposed to believe this is excessive when he spends 100x more than a commercial flight to get to Colombia.

Mencken had the right idea.

A Few Thoughts About the Ryan Fredrick Case

The long and short of the case is that three days after his home was broken into, Fredrick fatally shot an intruder who turned out to be a police officer. Fredrick promptly surrendered to the police once he realized the intruders were in-fact a SWAT team serving a warrant (a very small amount of marijuana was found in Fredrick’s home). The jury considered several charges including capital murder but ultimately decided Fredrick’s actions amounted to voluntary manslaughter and recommended a 10 year sentence.

Rather than rehashing the Ryan Fredrick case here, I would encourage readers to read the coverage by Hamptonroads.com , Tidewater Liberty and Radley Balko .

The police department did not believe the sentence to be harsh enough:

For the Shivers family and the Police Department, the verdict did not provide closure.

“Closure?” said Jack Crimmins, president of the Chesapeake Coalition of Police. “There’s no closure.”

“Their verdict today has jeopardized the lives of police officers,” Crimmins said. “I think the jury failed. They failed the community. You’ve got a man involved in an illegal enterprise, the police come to his house, and he takes the matter into his own hands.”

Funny that Crimmins chose the term “illegal enterprise.” This description is more appropriate for the way this police department chose to circumvent the Fourth Amendment by allowing a known criminal to break into Fredrick’s home to obtain probable cause to search the home in the first place! Most of the case made against Fredrick was from testimony of jailhouse snitches and informants of very questionable character.

And this notion about a homeowner who “takes the matter into his own hands” when someone breaks into his home is especially infuriating. Mr. Crimmins, it’s called the castle doctrine , perhaps you’ve heard of this concept? It’s not exactly new.

When a civilian makes a mistake and kills a police officer, it’s almost always assumed that s/he must “pay the price” but what happens when the shoe is on the other foot? When a police officer makes a mistake and kills a civilian, the badge worshipers and law enforcement boot lickers come up with a statement like this:

A jury verdict that cleared a police officer in the drug-raid shooting death of an unarmed woman will allow other officers to do their job without hesitation, police union officials said.

Officers throughout the state closely watched the trial, fearing that a guilty judgment would have changed how they react in the line of fire.

[…]

During the trial, a Columbus SWAT officer and a retired FBI agent both testified that Chavalia had no choice but to shoot because he thought his life was in danger. They also said Chavalia should have fired sooner.

So when a civilian believes his or her life is in danger, he or she must be certain of who s/he is targeting but when a police officer believes s/he is in danger, s/he can “shoot now and ask questions later”? What’s particularly galling about this is that in statements in both cases, the lives of law enforcement are of paramount concern as the lives of civilians is of little or no concern.

This is but another illustration of how the government has the one power the rest of us don’t: the monopoly of the use of force to accomplish its goals. The War on (Some) Drugs is a means to an (impossible) end (eradication of banned drugs). If non-violent individuals are killed in the process, its considered collateral damage. The War on (Some) Drugs must be won at all costs!

With respect to Ryan Fredrick, his fate is in the hands of a judge (the judge will decide whether or not to impose the jury’s recommended sentence), but what now? How can we prevent these tragedies from happening? Tide Water Libertarian Party has offered some excellent suggestions:

In the months since the tragic death of Det. Jarrod Shivers in the course of serving a search warrant at the home of Ryan Frederick, many questions have arisen regarding procedures of the Chesapeake Police Department. These questions have gone unanswered by the department. The Tidewater Libertarian Party asserts that because all powers granted government to use force on the behalf of the people reside ultimately with the people, it is unacceptable for the agents of government force, the police, to deny the people explanations for their actions when there are legitimate questions as to whether that force has been used with due caution and within the powers granted by the people through our Constitution and law.

• The tragic and avoidable death of a law enforcement officer.

• The use of Confidential Informants is an unfortunate necessity in criminal investigations, and particularly so in drug cases, but we question whether it is good public policy to request or issue search warrants based on the unsupported and unsworn allegations of Confidential Informants without some corroboration through independent investigation.

• Forcible entries in serving search warrants are acceptable police practice only when there is evidence subject to rapid destruction, hostages are in peril, or known, armed, and dangerous criminals are judged to be most safely taken by surprise. The recent trial of Chesapeake resident Ryan Frederick has revealed such forced entries to be the standard practice in serving all drug search warrants in Chesapeake. The Chesapeake Police Department has provided no acceptable explanation for choosing an exceptionally dangerous method of serving a warrant on a citizen with no criminal record over numerous safer and more Constitutionally acceptable methods.

• We are further concerned by the lack of transparency and consistency on the part of the Chesapeake Police leadership regarding what policy changes might be made to avoid future tragedy. Because we believe the police have taken the position that they need not explain their actions to the public, we hold this that is unacceptable in a free society.

This is the City of Chesapeake, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the United States of America. The police are answerable to the people, not only to themselves. Our military and our police are subject to civilian control and review. Citizens are owed the truth. The proper first level of that oversight is through our local elected representatives on city council.

We understand that it may be necessary to withhold some tactical policy from the public at large for the protection of police officers, but what information can and cannot be made public is properly the choice of civilian authority, with expert guidance, and not that of those being overseen.

The Tidewater Libertarian Party therefore requests the City of Chesapeake establish a citizen review board consisting of trustworthy citizens chosen by council, but with no connection to the Police Department or city government, to investigate this matter. This citizen review board should have full access to all evidence, record, reviews, and testimony, and report to the City Council, and ultimately, with council approval of sensitive content, to the public, in order to restore the lost trust of the citizens in our police department and to ensure that our police officers and citizens are no longer placed in unnecessary danger.

I would also like to offer at least one other suggestion: cameras. Each SWAT team member should have a camera attached to his/her helmet. This would provide invaluable insight to a sequence of events and would help ensure that the police follow procedures properly. Police vehicles have cameras installed on dashboards, there is no good reason why cameras should not be used for knock and no knock raids.

Unfortunately, I fully expect to learn of many more of these tragedies before any such reforms are made.

Leave Michael Phelps Alone

It looks like prosecutors in South Carolina are looking to charge Michael Phelps in connection with the bong-smoking photograph:

phelps_516_0102_25518aCOLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Even if a South Carolina sheriff is successful in building a marijuana case against swimming superstar Michael Phelps, it might be hard to make the charges stick, defense attorneys say.

The case took a turn Thursday when lawyers for two people said their clients were among eight arrested last week and questioned at length about the November party near the University of South Carolina where Phelps was photographed smoking from a marijuana pipe. At the time, the men were renters at the house.

The effort to prosecute Phelps on what would be at most a minor drug charge seem extreme compared to similar cases, lawyers said, and have led some to question whether the sheriff is being overzealous because he’s dealing with a celebrity.

”The efforts that are being made here are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before,” said Jack Swerling, a defense attorney in South Carolina. ”I know Leon Lott, I know him to be an honorable guy. I’ve known him for 30 something years. But the efforts here are extraordinary on simple possession cases.”

Given that, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that the prosecutor in question here has made a career out of being flamboyantly aggressive in pursing the War on (some) Drugs:

Lott has made fighting drug crimes a central plank of his career. He rose from patrol officer to captain of the narcotics division in the early 1990s and was well-known in the county for wearing stylish suits like the drug agents on ”Miami Vice” and driving a Porsche seized from a drug dealer. He was elected sheriff in 1996.

The attention that Lott is giving to this case seems disproportionate considering the relatively light sentence that Phelps would receive if he were charged and convicted of possession of marijuana:

A person who violates this subsection with respect to twenty- eight grams or one ounce or less of marijuana or ten grams or less of hashish is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be imprisoned not more than thirty days or fined not less than one hundred dollars nor more than two hundred dollars.

In other words, this is a relatively low-level misdemeanor.

So, why the attention from law enforcement ?

The answer, I think, is obvious. Arresting and convicting Phelps, even on this relatively minor charge, would be a big “get” for a prosecutor, particularly a politically ambitious prosecutor who has built his career on being some modern-day version of Don Johnson with a law degree. If Michael Phelps were just some guy from Baltimore who smoked marijuana while visiting the Palmetto State, this wouldn’t be happening.

That’s what’s wrong with the War on Drugs and proprietorial discretion.

Render Unto Caesar Whatever The Hell He Wants

Commit a crime? No? Have a reason to carry a lot of cash? Yes? Don’t expect to hang onto it:

Over at the poker forum Two Plus Two, pro poker player David Peat writes that he was essentially mugged by DEA agents at an airport in Toledo, Ohio.

According to Peat, he and his girlfriend had originally planned to fly back to Las Vegas together after visiting her family. But after purchasing their tickets, Peat decided to fly to L.A. to play in a poker game. He bought a last minute, first-class ticket, and paid in cash. That apparently was enough to set off red flags.

Peat says he was accosted by several DEA agents, who asked him questions about who he was and where he was going. He told them he was a poker player, and had $15,000 in cash in his pocket. They first let him go, but then chased him down, and told him he’d need to come with them for questioning. Peat says the agents then confiscated all of his money, as well as his $50,000 Rolex watch. He says they gave him a receipt, and told him to expect more information in the mail.

There’s no corroboration of the story as of yet, but I see no reason why he would make it up… Further, it doesn’t seem entirely out of character for the Federalis.

Now, I’ll admit that someone traveling with $15K in cash is a bit suspicious. That doesn’t make him a drug dealer, though. It seems to me that he had a pretty simple explanation for carrying so much cash — in his job as a high-stakes poker player, he needs it. And the link Radley Balko found suggests that he could support his story rather easily. Notwithstanding whether the IRS might have an issue with him, the DEA has no reason to. Yet all that didn’t matter. His cash is now in their hands, and he’s likely going to have to prove — beyond a reasonable doubt — that it’s not drug related. Considering that his poker opponents probably didn’t give him receipts for their losses, that might not be easy to do.

For David Peat, I wish him luck recovering his assets from the DEA. For the agents, I wish upon them a punishment far worse than living in Toledo. Something about losing an extremity in a freak x-ray machine accident sounds about right.

Dumbass and Authoritarians Among Us

Here are a few choice comments in response to a recent post where I argued that Ramos and Compean should not receive presidential pardons. I was aware that this was a very unpopular position to take (even among libertarians) but I was stunned and disturbed by the tone of some of the comments. I’ll let these comments speak for themselves.

It is my hope, to all you ACLU types, that an illegal drug running pimp dosn’t stop at your place of residence. After all the drug lord was only looking to put food on his families table.

Who cares if he was shot in the A$$, once again what does that prove. It proves he was shot in the A$$. So what!!! You insane pot smokin, red diaper doper babies would take the illegals side. After all his culture is far superior to ours. Why wouldn’t we want him and his countries poverty, corruption, sewage fertalizer, rampid drunk driving, rapes, and MS 13 here. It would make things so much better here. We have gone from the melting pot to the chamber pot thanks to all you ilk.

Comment by Michael — January 8, 2009 @ 3:59 pm

oh..and…too bad they didn’t blow the slimeball’s brains out! The ONLY crime Ramos and Campeon are ‘guilty’ of is not being better shots! How about this: Give them raises, Give them promotions, and teach them to shoot STRAIGHTER!

Comment by Petra — January 17, 2009 @ 10:01 pm

WAAAAA Get over it, they should have killed the dam drug dealer, They did make a mistake but with the Green card the DEMOCRAPS gave to Davila to yet again bring drugs to the USA again, not as an illegal but as a resident alien, wich is worse? I dont get you guys. No drug dealer is ever without a weapon of some sort.

In cases where there are drugs in the quantities like this case, “judge, jury, and executioner” is fine with me.

Comment by John — January 19, 2009 @ 7:22 pm

Brian, I’m guessing you work in a very safe, predictable environment, free from any real dangers. I know I do. That is why I can’t imagine what these BP agents go through on a daily basis.

There are very real dangers they face every day, and that certainly colors their world and perception of interfacing with other people. I personally am relieved that Pres Bush has commuted their sentences, and like a previous poster, am saddened only that he did not fully pardon them. They ARE heroes. They protect our country daily from scum bag, law breaking thugs that don’t care one bit for a civilzed society complete with rules and humanity.

Against the law to shoot unarmed criminals?!? So every criminal out there that can outrun the police should be allowed to just “run away” from authority to freedom, just because he doesn’t carry a gun? Ridiculous. That’s ok though, because I know there are BP agents out there along with thousands of other brave soldiers of freedom protecting our borders who continue to do their jobs to keep us safe, despite whiny verbally abusive pansies like you sitting in your safe little world sipping your cosmopolitans and spewing liberal rhetoric around like so much poison.

By the way, if you want to call me to talk politics, you won’t need to “press 1? for English. This is America; English IS OUR LANGUAGE. If you want any other language, go the Hell back to your own country!

Comment by Dennis — January 19, 2009 @ 10:47 pm

I say shoot these lazy bastards [illegal immigrants] BEFORE they infect us. What’s the problem with that? I don’t see any. And YES, pot is illegal. I don’t care how innocuous you think it may be to smoke it – it’s ILLEGAL. And smuggling it into the country is illegal and needs to be answered with any force necessary to stop it. BTW, I think many drugs that are now illegal should be legal, but until they are anyone who knowingly is involved with ANY aspect of drug use or trafficking does not deserve any sympathy or benefit of the doubt. He drove a truck into our country with 750 lbs of marijuana in it. That’s a fact and he’s an idiot. I wish the BP agents would have been a better shot and made a fatal shot.

Comment by Dennis — January 20, 2009 @ 5:26 am

Here was another response, this time to the follow-up post I wrote after President Bush commuted Ramos and Compean’s sentences.

Yet another example of the idiotic media “journalists” who publish opinion as fact. You disgust me. Here’s hoping you also have a “close encounter” with the drug smuggling illegal MY U.S. border patrol agents shot.

Comment by Daphne — January 20, 2009 @ 7:06 am

Apparently I’m not the only one at The Liberty Papers who attracts authoritarian loons. Stephen* Gordon had one commenter who doesn’t seem to be too concerned about the possibility that average Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights were routinely violated during the Bush Administration:

I’m always amused by those who fret over privacy. Just exactly what are these people afraid of? What could the Feds possibly learn that they would even care about? Do people really believe that those overworked surveilance people have the slightest interest in what some yokel in Kansas is doing? Paranoia seems to almost a national disease in this country. No wonder we can’t compete in the world – we’re worried about meaningless crap and ignore what’s important.

Comment by kent beuchert — January 22, 2009 @ 1:03 pm

So you may ask: “So you have some nutty people posting nutty comments on your posts…what’s the big deal?” The big deal is that these people vote in elections and serve on juries! Is it really any wonder we find ourselves losing more and more of our liberties? This is the mentality we are fighting against.

On a more positive note, there were also some very well-reasoned arguments by others who responded to these posts. “Brian” (from the first post) was relentlessly attacked for defending the crazy notion that suspects should be considered “innocent until proven guilty.” It’s my hope that there are a few more Brians out there than this small sample of random, (mostly) anonymous, fools.

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Change Libertarians Can Believe In?

There’s no secret that most of the Obama Administration agenda is at odds with the Lockean rights of life, liberty, and property at almost every turn. Obama’s views on freedom are more along the lines of FDR’s so-called “Four Freedoms”. As disturbing as this agenda is, I thought it would be important to identify policies which actually do promote liberty based on the more traditional Lockean model.

These agenda items are the only ones I can at this point say I am comfortable with. There are probably more items I could support but without knowing the details of many of Obama’s policies, I’m hesitant to do so (mostly due to his reliance on doublespeak, i.e. redefining welfare as tax cuts). The two most promising policies I have found so far are in the areas of civil rights and ethics.

Civil Rights:

Eliminate Sentencing Disparities Between Crack and Powder-Based Cocaine

Expand the use of drug courts for first-time non-violent drug offenders

Equal Rights for LGBT couples

Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act

Repeal “Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell”

Ethics:

A More Open and Transparent Federal Government (complete with searchable internet databases)

“Sunlight Before Signing” – Five days for the general public to review “non-emergency”* legislation before bills are signed into law.

The Transparency and Integrity in Earmarks Act – A law which would name names of legislators and the earmarks they request, require written justification for the earmark, and require 72 hours for the full senate to review and approve the earmark.

Make all White House Regulatory Communications Public and Release Presidential Records

Protect Whistleblowers

Eliminate Inefficient Government Programs and Slash Earmarks**

Libertarians, myself included, may be disappointed that these libertarian friendly policies do not go nearly far enough. Having said that, I do believe we should encourage these changes even if they are mere baby steps in the right direction.
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More “Change” From the Obama Administration

Meet the new “change” — same as the old change.

Here’s soon-to-be Surgeon General Sanjay Gupta on the reform of medicinal marijuana laws:

But I suspect that most of the people eager to vote yes on the new ballot measures aren’t suffering from glaucoma, Alzheimer’s or chemo-induced nausea. Many of them just want to get stoned legally. That’s why I, like many other doctors, am unimpressed with the proposed legislation, which would legalize marijuana irrespective of any medical condition. [snip]

But I’m here to tell you, as a doctor, that despite all the talk about the medical benefits of marijuana, smoking the stuff is not going to do your health any good.

There’s a good rebuttal of Gupta’s article here.

Supreme Court Takes Middle School Strip Search Case

More than a year ago, I wrote about an Arizona middle school student who was strip searched by school officials after being caught with Advil, a legal non-prescription, over-the-counter pain reliever, in her possession.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case and determine whether her parents can pursue a claim against the school district:

The strip-search case was brought by the mother of Savana Redding, who in 2003 was an eighth-grade student at a public middle school in Safford, Ariz. Another student, found with ibuprofen pills in violation of a strict school policy, said Savana had given them to her.

School officials searched Savana’s belongings, made her strip to her bra and underwear, and ordered her, in the words of an appeals court, “to pull her bra out to the side and shake it” and “pull out her underwear at the crotch and shake it.” No pills were found. The pills that prompted the search had the potency of two over-the-counter Advil capsules.

A trial judge dismissed the parent’s case against the school officials, ruling that they were immune from suit. After a divided panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed that decision, the full appeals court agreed to a rehearing. By 6 to 5, a larger panel of the court reversed the decision, saying the suit could go forward against the assistant principal who had ordered the search.

“It does not require a constitutional scholar to conclude that a nude search of a 13-year-old child is an invasion of constitutional rights of some magnitude,” Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote for the majority, quoting a decision in another case. “More than that: it is a violation of any known principle of human dignity.”

Judge Michael Daly Hawkins, dissenting, said the case was in some ways “a close call,” given the “humiliation and degradation” Savana had endured. But, Judge Hawkins concluded, “I do not think it was unreasonable for school officials, acting in good faith, to conduct the search in an effort to obviate a potential threat to the health and safety of their students.”

“I would find this search constitutional,” he wrote, “and would certainly forgive the Safford officials’ mistake as reasonable.”

The more important question, though, is what business school officials had in conducting a strip search to begin with. Isn’t that something that should have been done by a police officer with a search warrant issued on probable cause ?

Ramos and Compean Should NOT be Pardoned

As the Bush era comes to a close, the list of last minute pardon requests are growing. Perhaps the loudest demand for pardon comes (mostly) from Conservatives who are angry that President Bush has not acted to pardon two Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean. Those who demand the pardon claim that the agents were railroaded by an “overzealous” U.S. Attorney for “just doing their jobs” when the agents fired 15 shots, one of which hit a fleeing “drug smuggling illegal immigrant” Aldrete-Davila in the buttocks. If you Google “Ramos and Compean” you will find an endless number of articles which make some variation of this argument.

If this were a case of two Border Patrol Agents “just doing their jobs” acting in self defense, then I too would be demanding a pardon for these men. Inconvenient facts which are left out of almost all of these articles point to exactly why Ramos and Compean should NOT be pardoned. A January 29, 2007 article written by Andrew McCarthy for The National Review (not what I would consider a left-leaning or open borders type publication) offers a compelling counterpoint challenging the heroic and mythical image being bandied about of the two Border Patrol Agents:

The preponderance of the evidence established that Aldrete-Davila was unarmed. Besides Compean and Ramos, there were several other agents on the scene. None of them believed Aldrete-Davila posed a threat to their safety; none, other than the two defendants drew their weapons; and Compean and Ramos neither took cover nor alerted their fellow agents to do so.

More to the point, Compean admitted to investigators early on that the smuggler had raised his hands, palms open, in an attempt to surrender. This jibed not only with Aldrete-Davila’s account but with that of another Border Patrol agent. Compean opted not to take surrender, not to place the smuggler under arrest so he could be prosecuted.

On that score, for those over-heatedly analogizing the border to a battlefield, it is worth noting that even under the law of war, quarter must be given when it is sought. Compean, to the contrary, tried to strike Aldrete-Davila with the butt of his shotgun. But it turns out the agent was as hapless as he was malevolent. In the assault, he succeeded only in losing his own balance. The smuggler, naturally, took off again, whereupon Compean unleashed an incompetent fuselage — missing Aldrete-Davila with all fourteen shots.

It was only after the surrender attempt that Ramos opened fire as the unarmed smuggler neared the border. Defending his decision to bring the case, U.S. attorney Sutton later explained: “Border Patrol training allows for the use of deadly force when an agent reasonably fears imminent bodily injury or death. An agent is not permitted to shoot an unarmed suspect who is running away.” The fact that Aldrete-Davila was a drug-dealer — something the agents may have suspected but had not yet confirmed at the time they were shooting at him — did not justify the responsive use of potentially deadly force under standard law-enforcement rules of engagement.

Even Ramos and Compean’s supporters acknowledge that the agents shot at a fleeing suspect rather than a suspect trying to cause injury or death. Do they really want to make every law enforcement officer in the country judge, jury, and executioner and grant the right to use lethal force against a fleeing supect*? After all, forcing law enforcement to obey the law makes their jobs “more difficult”!

McCarthy continues to perhaps the most damning part of Ramos and Compean’s actions – the cover-up:

Once Aldrete-Davila was down from Ramos’s shot to the backside, they decided, for a second time, not to grab him so he could face justice for his crimes. As they well knew, an arrest at that point — after 15 shots at a fleeing, unarmed man who had tried to surrender — would have shone a spotlight on their performance. So instead, they exacerbated the already shameful display.

Instead of arresting the wounded smuggler, they put their guns away and left him behind. But not before trying to conceal the improper discharge of their firearms. Compean picked up and hid his shell-casings rather than leaving the scene intact for investigators. Both agents filed false reports, failing to record the firing of their weapons though they were well aware of regulations requiring that they do so. Because the “heroes” put covering their tracks ahead of doing their duty, Aldrete-Davila was eventually able to limp off to a waiting car and escape into Mexico.

Whaaaat? But I thought this “drug smuggling illegal immigrant” was a threat to national security? If the agents’ actions were justified, why would they not arrest the suspect and why would they feel the need to cover-up their actions? Were they afraid that the “overzealous” Sutton had an axe to grind against the Border Patrol?

Toward the beginning of his article, McCarthy points out that Sutton had an impressive record of prosecuting coyotes and drug smugglers and supporting the efforts of the Border Patrol. There have even been other cases on Sutton’s watch where agents used lethal force which resulted in fatalities. Because these agents responded appropriately in these cases – using deadly force when there were legitimate threats to the lives of others on the part of the suspects, Sutton’s office did not pursue charges.

On January 17, 2007, Sutton published a press release on official U.S. Department of Justice Letterhead in an attempt to separate “Myth vs. Reality” regarding this case. Within this document contains perhaps the best argument for why the president should not pardon these men:

These agents were found guilty by a unanimous jury in a United States District Court after a trial that lasted more than two and a half weeks.

The two agents were represented by experienced and aggressive trial attorneys, both of whom vigorously challenged the Government’s evidence through cross examination.

Both agents told their stories from the witness stand and had full opportunities to explain their version of events and to offer their own evidence. The jury heard everything including the defendants’ claims of self defense. The problem for Agents Compean and Ramos is that the jury did not believe their stories because they were not true.

Being government agents, Ramos and Compean probably received a better legal defense than the average criminal defendant. They had their day in court and they lost. Their legal team appealed the convictions and they lost again. This is hardly the miscarriage of justice that the pro pardon people would have us believe; this is an example of the system actually working the way it’s supposed to!

Ramos and Compean’s supporters do have at least a couple of somewhat legitimate gripes though. One being the length of the sentences (11 and 12 years) and the other being use of testimony on the part of a criminal who has something to gain (in this case, Aldrete-Davila himself). But these complaints should not be directed at Sutton or the trial judge.

The blame for the length of the sentence belongs properly to the mandatory minimum sentencing law passed by congress which requires a ten year sentence for unlawful discharge of a firearm while committing a crime (this ten year sentence is in addition to whatever other crimes the defendant is convicted of). While I believe that the sentences are appropriate in this case, I am opposed to mandatory minimum sentencing laws on principle. Judges should have the discretion to decide the appropriate punishment not a one-size-fits-all penalty regardless of any unique circumstances in a unique event.

And allowing Aldrete-Dalvia to testify against Ramos and Compean with full immunity? This is standard operating procedure. Prosecutors use informants who have a motive to testify against defendants every day in this country. Why should we be surprised that Sutton would use Aldrete-Dalvia as his star witness? If this approach is appropriate for the average defendant then it is certainly appropriate when those sworn to serve and protect abuse the public’s trust.

But don’t expect Conservatives to start demanding a repeal of mandatory minimum sentencing laws nor expect them to consider criminal justice reform. To them this case is not about two rogue law enforcement agents but about immigration and drug policy. The facts do not matter because the guys with the badges are always the good guys and their judgment is better than due process of law.

Certainly there are many miscarriages of justice which could be rectified with a presidential pardon (*cough* *cough* Cory Maye *cough* *cough*) but the case of Ramos and Compean is not such a case…no matter where one stands on immigration and drug policy. Hopefully neither President Bush nor President-Elect Barack Obama will give in to the mindless demands of this misguided and vocal mob.

***CORRECTION***

Quincy pointed out that the president cannot pardon individuals who have been convicted of crimes in violation of state or local laws but only federal laws. Cory Maye was found guilty under Mississippi law, not federal law. My understanding has always been that the president could pardon anyone for committing any crime in the U.S.

A careful reading of Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, however; seems to say otherwise:

[The president] shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

I also decided to do some additional research on the topic of presidential pardons to determine if the phrase “against the United States” applied to state and local law. HowStuffWorks? has a very informative article which explains how presidential pardons work. In chapter 5 “What a Pardon Does Not Do” I found my answer:

One limitation is that a pardon cannot be issued for a crime that has not yet been committed. Pardons also don’t affect civil cases, or state or local cases. Pardons are meant to dismiss sentences stemming from affronts to the United States through the breaking of laws.

Unfortunately, this means that Quincy is right: the president couldn’t pardon Cory Maye even if he wanted to.

* Think about it: if you surrendered to law enforcement and one of the officers try to hit you with the butt of a shotgun, do you think you might try to run away?

2008 Guide To Government Waste

Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn has published a guide giving a snapshot of the most wasteful programs enacted by the Federal government this year. The programs highlighted total a little over $1.3 billion (which is small potatoes in a year where the budget deficit is hovering around $1 trillion).

Some of the programs highlighted are:

National Drug Intelligence Center – Pennsylvania ($39 million)
In 1992, Congress created, the National Drug Intelligence Center in Johnstown to collect information on drug activity around the nation. Since then, though, it has been labeled a “boondoggle” and, according to U.S. News and World Report, “been rocked by scandal, and been subjected to persistent criticisms that it should have never been created at all.”76 Attempts have been made in recent years by the Department of Justice to shut down the center because of concerns related toduplication, overlap and wasteful spending. None of this stopped Congress from awarding NDIC $39 million in 2008.77 One former NDIC director said, “I recognized that a lot of reports were [awful], poorly written, poorly researched, and, in some cases, wrong.”

This program is a snapshot of the entire War on (some) Drugs. By the way, the Congressman for Johnstown, Pennsylvania just happens to be John Murtha.

Kanjorski Center Parking Garage ? Pennsylvania ($5.6 million)
That the Kanjorski Center, a 32,000 square foot office building in Pennsylvania, has stood completely empty since 2005 did not prevent Congress from trying to funnel $5.6 million in transportation money to add a large parking garage to it.83 Officials at the Department of Transportation opposed the project, noting that current law prohibits the department from funding parking garages unless they serve mass transit needs – and this parking garage would not meet the test. Angered by the rules, one local congressman is fighting to keep the project alive, saying, “I don’t think the rule should have any attention paid to it. Because in Congress we have our own rules.”84 When challenged by a reporter that the parking garage is costly to federal taxpayers, he replied, “For the community, it is free money.”

Paul Kanjorski, a corrupt Congressman who was reelected in November, has found yet another way to steal from taxpayers.

Field Trips for School Teachers – Illinois ($918,600)
Field trips aren’t just for students anymore. Teachers from Illinois were given a grant of nearly $1 million by the Department of Education Teaching U.S. History program for vacations in the name of “continuing education.” Upcoming outings are planned for New York City, while past trips to New Orleans, Boston, California and Washington, D.C. were paid for with federal funds. High school teacher, Chris Johnson, a veteran trip?taker, feels that excursions to other cities help to give teachers “ownership” of the material they teach. “I’m a better teacher today than before I started these trips,” he said.

Government workers taking yet another taxpayer funded junket.

2010 Decennial Census Bailout – ($210 million)

Since 2004, the Census Bureau has embarked on an effort to bring the 2010 Census into the 21st Century, but wound up in the 18th Century. One of the significant challenges facing the Census is the collection of information from 300 million Americans entirely by pper and pencil. To do so, the Bureau awarded a $600 million contract to the Harris Corporation to develop handheld computers that would help census takers collect data electroically. The devices were problematic from the start, and although they rely on basic technology found in nearly all cell phones, the agency was never able to get them working properly. When asked in 2006 whether it would be appropriate to have a backup plan in case the handheld computers did not work, then?director Louis Kincannon responded, “They will work. They have worked. You might as well ask me what happens if the Postal Service refuses to deliver the census form.”93 Despite enormous cost overruns, the devices will only contain half of the functionality originally intended. As a reward, Congress gave the Census Bureau a $210 million bonus in the form of an “emergency” bailout.94 $800 million later, the 2010 Census will still be collected, not electronically but by paper and pencil, just like the first census over 200 years ago.

$800 million pissed away just to count people.

Billings Mustangs Minor League Baseball Stadium – Montana ($328,300)
In 2008, the Billings Mustangs – a minor league baseball team affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds – moved out of Cobb Field and into its new home, Dehler Park. While constructing the new stadium, which cost $13 million, came in under budget and completed its first season of operations, the federal government is sending the team a check for $328,300. Funds will come from the Community Development Block Grant program despite the fact that local citizens fully funded the stadum with municipal bonds and more than $2 million in private donations, making federal money unnecessary. “But I have plans for it,” insists Mike Whitaker, director of the park. He would like to use at least $100,000 of the extra cash to put up a foul ball net that the stadium does not need, “We feel we need to put netting along North 27th Street, even though it’s not required.”

 
Now the Federal government is getting involved in building stadiums…

Senator Coburn has some solutions for fighting government waste:

1.Eliminate programs that do not work. Federal programs do not often disappear, but that does not mean they all work well. If a determination is made that a program is not achieving results, it should be eliminated.

Federal programs are power, for Congressman to buy votes and for bureaucrats to run citizens’ lives. I do not see the government giving up this power anytime soon.

2.Eliminate or consolidate duplicative existing programs. Those that duplicate existing government programs and are no longer needed and should be eliminated.

See item 1.

3. Eliminate earmarks. Earmarks, otherwise known as “pork,” are pet projects that members of Congress single?handedly direct, often to bring home money to their district. While that might seem like a good idea, or even a congressman’s job, the earmark process is corrupt, wasteful and non?transparent. Tax dollars are routinely directed into questionable projects, as seen in this report, which benefit lobbyists, special interest groups and the well?connected. They are not required to have a meritorious purpose or to demonstrate results, and should be eliminated.

The problem with earmarks, as Senator Coburn writes above, is not the amount of money given (which is quite small in the big picture), but the fact that earmarks are often the currency of corruption.

The rest of the items are:

Implement stronger transparency measures. Transparency in government should allow the taxpayer to know how every penny of federal money is spent. The advantages of this are obvious, and include the accountability brought to officials who know that poor spending decisions will be found out and penalized. Taxpayers should be able to track every federal expenditure on loans, grants and contracts down to the penny.
 
Conduct more congressional oversight. Congressional oversight and hearings provide an opportunity to exert Congress’ “power of the purse” on the actions of the government. Oversight should ensure money is spent wisely and in line with objective performance standards. Members of Congress should be held accountable for how tax dollars are spent, and they in turn should agencies accountable for how they spend tax dollars.

End automatic budget increases. Too often, Congress increases the budget of every government agency without regard to the previous year’s performance. This practice must end with resources being directed only to those programs performing well and not to those that fail, as well as to only those programs that are true national priorities.

Require Performance Metrics for All Programs. Many federal programs operate with objectives that are illdefined or nonexistent. Every program should be given performance metrics that are measureable and enforceable.

All of the above require an informed and engaged citizenry that believes in liberty or at the very least an efficient government. That is something we do not have in this country. Until that happens, abuses like ones outline above will continue..

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.

ABC Shows Us Just How Little Anti-Terrorism The Homeland Security Apparatus Does

Reality TV junkie? Also a State-worshipper? Then you’re in luck!

Every day the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security patrol more than 100,000 miles of America’s borders. This territory includes airports, seaports, land borders, international mail centers, the open seas, mountains, deserts and even cyberspace. Now viewers will get an unprecedented look at the work of these men and women while they use the newest technology to safeguard our country and enforce our laws, in “Homeland Security USA,” which debuts with the episode “This is Your Car on Drugs,”

How much of this “epic” TV show will actually have to do with terrorism? Will this finally belie the claim that the Department of Homeland Security was created with purely “keeping us safe from evildoers” as it’s mandate, or will it be another dose of soma “reality television” for the unquestioning masses. Bear in mind, that’s a rhetorical question, we all know the answer is the latter.

One Libertarian’s Advice for Republicans and Republican Leaders

If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism […] The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.

-Ronald Reagan (1975)

For the second election in a row, you find yourselves on the losing end. A significant majority of Americans have lost confidence in you and your lack of vision.

As you debate amongst yourselves the reasons why you lost the White House as well as numerous seats in both houses of Congress, perhaps this former Republican who has flirted with the Libertarian Party* over the last decade can offer you some helpful advice and constructive criticism. While I do not presume to speak on behalf of the many thousands of disillusioned former libertarian- leaning small government Republicans who were once a valued voting bloc in Ronald Reagan’s “conservative coalition,” I am quite certain that there are many others who would agree with my appraisal of why you find yourselves in the position you are in.

President-Elect Barack Obama is wrong about a great many things but one thing he (and his party) has which you do not is clearly defined principles and the ability to communicate these principles effectively. I know what the Democratic Party stands for, what does the Republican Party stand for?

I know what the modern meanings of the terms “liberal” and “progressive” mean, but I have no idea what the modern meaning of the term “conservative” means. I have recently seen polls which ask the following question:

The Republicans lost the election because

a. The Republican Party is too conservative

b. The Republican Party is not conservative enough

I find this question to be impossible to answer!

If by “conservative” one means a party which appeals almost exclusively to white Christian male culture warriors whose primary agenda is using the police power of government to accomplish desired political goals, then my answer would be “a.”

If by “conservative” one means promoting the rights of life, liberty, and property then clearly, my answer would be “b.”

I do not believe the ambiguity of the term “conservative” is by accident. “Conservative” is every bit the nebulous term as we have heard ad nauseam from the Obama campaign (i.e. “hope” and “change”). Because these terms are so under defined, each person who hears these buzzwords assigns his or her own meaning to them. I seem to recall every candidate in the Republican primary refer to himself as a “conservative” or even a “Reagan conservative” at one time or another. How is it possible that candidates with philosophical differences as stark as that of Ron Paul and Rudy Giuliani both claim to be conservative?

Now that I have pointed out your apparent error of asking the wrong question (garbage in, garbage out right?) to try to regain the trust of a majority of voters, I believe it is time for you to explain what exactly a conservative is. My understanding of the term is more in line with what Barry Goldwater described in Conscience of a Conservative** as opposed to what the Republican Party has offered in the 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008 campaigns.

I realize that a political party cannot be all things to all people but all of your constituents deserve to have a clear understanding of where your party is going. Does this mean that moving forward that you will have to choose between two very large voting blocs – small government conservatives and social conservatives?

This depends completely on how you choose to frame the issues. Where the Republican Party seems to stand now is that government can and should be used to force individuals to behave a certain way***. This approach is completely at odds with the small government conservative approach that undesirable behavior can be changed with the power of persuasion**** rather than force.

Is it possible that the Libertarian Party has an approach that a majority of social conservatives could live with? Perhaps you could learn something from The 2008 Libertarian Party Platform:

(From the Preamble)

As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.

We believe that respect for individual rights is the essential precondition for a free and prosperous world, that force and fraud must be banished from human relationships, and that only through freedom can peace and prosperity be realized.

Consequently, we defend each person’s right to engage in any activity that is peaceful and honest, and welcome the diversity that freedom brings. The world we seek to build is one where individuals are free to follow their own dreams in their own ways, without interference from government or any authoritarian power.

This approach to governance that the Libertarian Party offers is why I have left the Republican Party and voted accordingly. Thus far, I have not seen any evidence that your party will become the party of smaller government, lower taxes, and more freedom. Some of the names I have heard bandied about as the “new face” of the Republican Party such as Mitt “Romney Care” Romney, Sarah “I can see Russia from my house” Palin, and “Tax Hike Mike” Huckabee suggests that you are yet to learn why small government conservatives are leaving in droves.

This is not to say that you will continue to lose every election until you return Goldwater/Reagan conservatism. There is a good chance that you will regain one or both houses of Congress in 2010 and perhaps the presidency in 2012*****. But if you wish to win elections and stay elected, you will need to return to these philosophical roots.

Until that day comes, I will continue to support the Libertarian Party and only support Republicans who demonstrate in word and deed their wishes to shrink the size, scope, and power of government.

» Read more

Personal Attack Ad…Against Myself!

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be on the receiving end of a personal attack ad? I have. During the 2006 campaign, I thought it would be fun to write my own personal attack ad…against myself! Like many attack ads, everything I wrote about myself was (is) technically true but lacked context (the full context of each charge can be found by following the links).

I found the exercise to be very cathartic and enjoyable. I highly recommend you try it sometime! Feel free to write your own personal attack ad against yourself or write your own against me in the comments section of this post.

Now, cue the unflattering grainy black and white video with dreary music and enjoy my personal attack ad:

Who is Stephen Littau and why can’t we trust him?

For starters, he often advocates ending the war on drugs, suspending drug raids on suspected dealers, and repealing mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug offenders. He has even gone as far as to defend a man who shot and killed a police officer who was simply serving a lawful search warrant.

But that’s not all…

Stephen Littau once wrote “Go ahead and call me an infidel, I will readily embrace this label” and that “an end of faith is way overdue.” Do we really want to put our trust in such a Godless heathen?

Not if you want to defend marriage, the flag, and traditional family values. Stephen Littau opposed the Defense of Marriage Amendment and the Flag Desecration Amendment. He also wants to take God off our currency, out of the Pledge of Allegiance, and remove religious monuments such as the Ten Commandments from government property using the tired old “wall of church and state” argument.

Stephen Littau is so morally depraved that he considers selfishness a “virtue” and wants to eliminate social welfare and entitlement programs leaving Americans to fend for themselves. Stephen Littau wants us to believe that such selfish attitudes are actually compassionate by allowing people to suffer from their poor choices.

Let’s be sure not to suffer from this bad choice. This November, send Stephen Littau a clear message:

Yes to the war on drugs!
Yes to religion in government!
Yes to defending marriage, the flag, and the Ten Commandments!
Yes to a compassionate government!
And No to the secular philosophy and dangerous ideas of Stephen Littau!

Why Libertarians Should Vote: Restoring Liberty via the Ballot Box (Part 3 of 3)

I am not a fan of direct democracy. As I pointed out in part 2 of this series, the Colorado ballot has a number of anti-liberty ballot measures from the Left and the Right. The Colorado ballot is a classic example of how democracy can be reduced to tyrannical of mob rule.

Having said that, the system is what it is; why not use the system in a way which restores the rights of life, liberty, and property?

When Democracy is used to Promote Liberty: The Compassionate Use Act of 1996

Paradoxically, direct democracy has in some ways advanced Libertarian issues in ways which would have been difficult if not impossible given the current two party power structure. Libertarian activist Steve Kubby was a key player in advocating California Prop 215 (a.k.a. the “Compassionate Use Act of 1996”) which legalized the use of cannabis for medical purposes.

Unfortunately Prop 215 has failed numerous legal challenges and patients, vendors, and doctors have suffered severe punishment at the hands of the federal government despite the state law (click here, here, and here for details). Prop 215 has, however, at the very least forced policy makers to rethink prohibition of medical marijuana.

Since the passage of Prop 215, 11 other states have passed similar laws (7 through the initiative process 4 through state legislatures). Earlier this year, Barney Frank (D) introduced HR5843 which would go even further to decriminalize use of marijuana by adults. Still, it may take some time before Washington catches up with the progress being made at the state level but if/when Washington does get over its reefer mania, it will be due in no small part to those who fought for the Compassionate Use Act of 1996.

Pro-Liberty Ballot Measures on the Colorado Ballot?

As terrible as the Colorado ballot is, there are more than a few measures which would restore liberty to Coloradans. Amendment 46 would prohibit state and city governments from using race, gender, or ethnic, based preferences (a.k.a. “affirmative action”) for hiring or promotion considerations.

Amendment 50 would take decisions regarding casino gambling away from the state and allow the local communities where the casinos are located to decide hours of operation, the games which will be played, and maximum wager.

Referendum N removes obsolete language from the Colorado Constitution as originally adopted in 1876 regarding the prohibition of the importing, manufacturing, and selling of “impure” alcohol. Proponents of N point out that the problem of impure alcohol no longer exists as it did when Colorado first became a state. The only argument against the measure in the 2008 Ballot Information Booklet is that enacting N “may diminish the historical character of the constitution.”

And perhaps the best ballot measure of all this November: Referendum O. Referendum O would improve the process of citizen-initiated state laws by raising the requirements for amending the state constitution while simultaneously lowering the requirements for citizen-initiated statutes. Currently, the requirements for statutes and amendments are identical but the state constitution is supreme when statutes conflict with the constitution.

This would encourage activist groups to focus their efforts on statutes rather than litter the state constitution with every wacko proposal the mob wishes to impose. And not only does Referendum raise the minimum number of signatures to qualify for the ballot but it also requires that 8% of the minimum required signatures are collected from each congressional district (rather than the will of people of Denver vs. the rest of the state).

Final Thoughts

When the prospects for liberty are not so good, it’s very tempting to drop out of the process. Although I am supporting Libertarian Bob Barr for president in this election, I realize that he does not have a realistic chance of winning.

But don’t tell me I’m “throwing my vote away” because I’m voting my principles. If I were to choose between “the lesser of two evils,” then I would be throwing my vote away. Beyond that, I also realize that in voting Libertarian, I can help pave the way for other Libertarians to have easier access to the ballot in future races from sheriff all the way up to president.

But even if you believe that Barr is not a “real Libertarian” and therefore, cannot support him, I would urge you to skip the presidential race and work down the ballot. Are there any other Libertarians, “Ron Paul Republicans,” or Libertarian leaning independents running? Are there any ballot measures which will either advance or reduce liberty?

As John Philpot Curran once said, “Evil prospers when good men do nothing.”

While it is true that evil may still prosper despite our best efforts, we can each at least say we did our part to resist the emotional whims of our friends, the tyrants next door.

Aren’t Libertarians Being a Bit Hypocritical and Hoplophobic?

One custom that gang members enjoy is posing with weapons. I suppose that the pictures serve a purpose of both reassuring members of the gang about their power to hurt people while acting to intimidate not only the innocent people the gang prays upon, but also rival gangs.

Gangbangers From Richland County Strike Threatening Poses With Their Weapons

Gangbangers From Richland County Strike Threatening Poses With Their Weapons

The Richland County Sheriff’s Department has produced one such picture, showing an armored vehicle with a.50 cal machine gun mounted on it, while members of the gang’s most violent gunmen pose with semi-automatic rifles and body armor in threatening poses. Given the comparative peace and cooperation that the Richland County Sheriff’s Department has with the gangs that dominate neighboring counties, it is clear that the purpose of this weapon is not to defend itself against rival gangs like the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Department.

By process of elimination we can guess that the primary purpose of this weapon is to threaten either innocent people residing in the county, or small gangs that have moved into niches opened by the Richland County Sheriff’s religious war on intoxicants, dog-fighting, prostitution and the like.

Libertarian Reaction

Many libertarians are outraged; they point out that a weapon which is impossible to aim accurately – you start firing and walk the bullets in – whose bullets will go through concrete walls and still have a lethal amount of kinetic energy is absolutely incompatible with modern policing theory. They are, to a point, correct; under the theory of modern policing, police are supposed to use the minimum amount of force required to protect lives and property, and that force is supposed to be narrowly focused only on targets that require it.

OK For Private Citizens, But Not Government Officials?

However, many of these libertarians are also opposed to the government attempts to outlaw private ownership of .50 cal rifles, which pack a similar punch. The legitimate uses for a weapon are:
1) Target practice for sport
2) Hunting non-sentient prey
3) defensive violence against sentient aggressors

The .50 cal rifle, being almost worthless for hunting (blowing a part your prey leaves very little cookable meat), overkill for self defense, and providing just as much sport as a smaller gun when it comes to plinking away at targets, is similarly inappropriate for the regular citizenry.

Why The Double Standard?

If we are to defend the individual’s right to own and play with such a monstrous weapon as a .50 cal rifle, shouldn’t we extend the same courtesy to someone who happens to be a policeman? Why can we trust a guy insane enough to buy a .50 cal rifle at a cost of I don’t know how many tens of thousands of dollars while not trusting a guy who happens to join a police force?

Private Citizens Face Consequences – Police Get Away With Murder

The answer of course is that the private citizen is far less likely to misuse their weapon than a policeman. This is manifest from the double standard that exists when policemen unlawfully shoot someone as compared to when a private citizen unlawfully shoots someone. In fact, one can contrast the double standard that exists when in an armed confrontation with police when a policeman unlawfully shoots someone with what happens when a private citizen shoot a policeman lawfully.

There have been many instances when policemen have stormed a property without a warrant or if they have a warrant without divulging to the property owner that they had a warrant or even that they were police. Furthermore, a significant portion of those raids have been on the property of people who had no reason to expect a police raid of any kind, seeing as they had no involvement with illegal drug trade. In a subset of the latter group of raids, gunfire has erupted between the people on the property who thought they were being attacked by a criminal gang unaffiliated with the police and the police themselves. Regardless of who fires first, regardless of who initiates the fighting or how quickly the residents surrender, the outcome is almost always the same: A police man who shoots someone unlawfully will be exonerated of criminal wrong-doing while the homeowner who shoots a policeman lawfully will generally face capital murder charges.

The most a policeman has to fear is that they may lose their job. They rarely face prison time, and that only in cases where the shooting is so vile, such as gunning down an octogenarian grandmother in her bed and leaving her to bleed to death, that the police face a revolt by the citizenry.  This is true even in situations where they only weapons brandished were in the hands of the police, where the only shots fired where shots out of guns in policemen’s hands, where the only people shot were women and children cowering on the floor.  In effect, the police can be assured they will face no prosecution.

Contrast this with cases where residents have resisted until they discovered they were facing police armed with a warrant, and then cooperated. If they have killed a policeman, as did Cory Maye, they can face a capital murder charge. If they merely fire back without hitting anything, they usually face attempted murder charges and aggravated assault charges. They will do jail time.

Absent any mechanism for holding “law enforcement” equally liable as the private citizenry for the people they kill or injure, stringently limiting the types of weapons police may possess does seem to make sense.

What About That Endangered Creature – The Law Abiding, Decent, Policeman?

However, we should not sacrifice the principle that people should be able to legitimately own the weapons they feel they need to protect themselves and their property merely because we are prejudiced against them. While many policemen are people who want to predate on their neighbors, but decide to select a safer, if less lucrative, form of criminal activity than joining the mafia or MS-13, there are many decent people who chose to join the police because they wish to be a force for good, and want to protect lives and property. Given the territorial monopoly that the gangs of police hold, any person who finds murder abhorrent and decides to dedicate his or her life to bringing murderers to account for their crimes and to deter would-be murderers from committing future murders will have to join some gang of police to practice their avocation. Should we disarm and condemn them because they took the only avenue open to them to accomplish their honorable purpose? I say no!

Gun Control Is Not The Answer – Ending Police Immunity To Prosecution Is

While we can guess that the Richland County SWAT team will injure or kill innocent people should they decide to fire that weapon as part of their duties, we don’t know that they will. All we can do is react to the crimes they commit, not sanction them prejudicially for the crimes we fear they might commit in the future. Applying the same laws to the SWAT team (or any other policeman) that are applied to the Brinks Armored Car guard would go a long way to eradicating abuses, and would do much to ensure that the weapon sat gathering cobwebs in some garage somewhere.

My thoughts about the name for the machine gun may be found here.

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.
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