Category Archives: Hubris

Quote of the Day: 4th Amendment Be Damned Edition

“Nobody likes the 4th amendment being violated when going through the security line, but the truth of the matter is we are going to have to do it.”-Former. Asst. TSA administrator Mo McGowan

So when the friendly TSA agents pull you out of the line for a groping or full body nudie scan as you try to make your way through the airport to fly to grandma’s house this Thanksgiving holiday don’t bother pulling out your pocket Constitution to inform them they are violating your 4th Amendment rights. They know they are and they don’t give a shit.

Hat Tip: Say Anything via Boortz

Innocence Project: Key DNA Sample Not a Match to Man Executed in Texas

The Innocence Project reported just today that the hair sample used to condemn Claude Jones to death was not a match.

“(Houston – November 12, 2010) The Innocence Project today released DNA test results proving that crucial hair evidence found at the scene of a murder, the only physical evidence linking the accused Claude Jones to the crime, did not belong to Jones. Although he always maintained his innocence, Jones was executed for murdering Allen Hilzendager on December 7, 2000. George Bush, who was awaiting a decision from the Florida Supreme Court on whether the presidential election recount would continue, denied Jones’ request for a 30 day stay of execution to do DNA test on the hair sample. The memo from the General Counsel’s office that recommended against the stay did not tell Bush that Jones was seeking a DNA test of the hair. Evidence that the hair “matched” Jones was critical to the prosecution’s case at trial and proved to be the key factor in a narrow 3-2 decision by the Texas Court of Appeals finding there was sufficient corroboration of the accomplice who testified against Jones to uphold the murder conviction.

[…]

“It is unbelievable that the lawyers in the General Counsel’s office failed to inform the governor that Jones was seeking DNA testing on evidence that was so pivotal to the case,” said former Texas Governor and Attorney General Mark White. “If the state is going to continue to use the death penalty, it must figure out a way to build safeguards in the system so that lapses like this don’t happen again.”

[…]

“The DNA results released today may not prove that Jones was innocent, but they do raise serious questions about whether the prosecution’s case was strong enough to present to a jury and the decision to seek the death penalty in the first place,” said Governor White. “No matter what your opinion of the death penalty, I hope we can all agree that it should only be used when the state is absolutely sure that the right person has been convicted.”

So why are we only now learning nearly 10 years after the fact that the State of Texas executed Claude Jones who was convicted based solely on a hair sample that did not tie him to the crime scene?

After the San Jacinto County District Attorney’s office refused to give the Innocence Project permission to do testing on the evidence, the Innocence Project, the Texas Observer, the Innocence Project of Texas and the Texas Innocence Network brought a successful lawsuit to do the testing that proved the hair did not belong to Jones.

Yet another example of the State of Texas stonewalling to keep the facts from ever seeing the light of day. These are the same government officials who are actively covering up another case where the state likely executed an innocent man in 2004 by the name of Cameron Todd Willingham (See the Frontline documentary of this case here).

Just two weeks ago, another man by the name of Anthony Graves became the 12th death row inmate exonerated in Texas (and 139th in the country) since 1973 after serving 18 years. Fortunately for Graves, his exoneration came before his date with the death chamber.

In Gov. Rick Perry’s mind, the exoneration of Graves was proof positive the criminal justice system in Texas is “working.”

“I think we have a justice system that is working, and he’s a good example of — you continue to find errors that were made and clear them up,” Perry said. “That’s the good news for us, is that we are a place that continues to allow that to occur. So I think our system works well; it goes through many layers of observation and appeal, et cetera. So I think our system is working.”

Now that this new revelation that Claude Jones was executed based on faulty evidence has come to light, I wonder if Gov. Perry still thinks the system is “working”? They were so cock sure that Graves, Jones, and Willingham* were guilty of capital murder and proven wrong but continue to use the same stonewalling tactics in Hank Skinner’s and other cases. Gov. Perry et. al would rather cover these cases up because they don’t want to risk losing their license to kill.

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The most revolting political video I’ve ever seen

Here are the first two tenets (of ten) of the organization dubbed 10:10:

  1. 10:10 is a voluntary emissions reduction campaign for any person, organisation or business to commit to cutting 10% of their emissions in a 12 month period starting in 2010.
  2. 10:10 is an inclusive campaign. Every person, business and organisation is welcome to join.

The video below (the original has already been deleted from their website) depicts what they mean by the word voluntary.  Those who can’t handle graphical depictions of school children being blown apart shouldn’t watch this, and parents should be advised that this is the sort of material from which some of you may wish to shield your children.

Here’s their current explanation as to why they deleted their own video:

Sorry.

Today we put up a mini-movie about 10:10 and climate change called ‘No Pressure’.

With climate change becoming increasingly threatening, and decreasingly talked about in the media, we wanted to find a way to bring this critical issue back into the headlines whilst making people laugh. We were therefore delighted when Britain’s leading comedy writer, Richard Curtis – writer of Blackadder, Four Weddings, Notting Hill and many others – agreed to write a short film for the 10:10 campaign. Many people found the resulting film extremely funny, but unfortunately some didn’t and we sincerely apologise to anybody we have offended.

As a result of these concerns we’ve taken it off our website. We won’t be making any attempt to censor or remove other versions currently in circulation on the internet.

We’d like to thank the 50+ film professionals and 40+ actors and extras and who gave their time and equipment to the film for free. We greatly value your contributions and the tremendous enthusiasm and professionalism you brought to the project.

At 10:10 we’re all about trying new and creative ways of getting people to take action on climate change. Unfortunately in this instance we missed the mark. Oh well, we live and learn.

Onwards and upwards,

Franny, Lizzie, Eugenie and the whole 10:10 team

They may have deleted the video, but the Internet has a very long memory, indeed. I’m sure political opponents of the environmental movement will be using this footage for years to come.

Nolan Exposes McCain’s Antipathy for Civil Liberties in Arizona Senate Debate

David Nolan, co-founder of the Libertarian Party and author of “The World’s Smallest Political Quiz” (to which the result is plotted on the “Nolan Chart”) is running against none other than the most recent Republican presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain for his senate seat. KTVK-3TV hosted a debate last Sunday which included Sen. McCain along with challengers Rodney Glassman (D), Jerry Joslyn (G), and David Nolan (L). Believe it or not, all candidates were given equal time to debate the issues; something that is usually missing from the debates I’m accustomed to watching.

Despite the skills of those challenging Sen. McCain – particularly the two 3rd party candidates, the latest Real Clear Politics Average Poll shows McCain with a comfortable 17.4 point lead over his closest challenger, Rodney Glassman. Critics of 3rd parties look at poll results like this and wonder “what’s the point” of allowing 3rd party candidates to participate when their chances of winning are so miniscule.

IMHO, I believe that both Nolan and Joslyn did a fine job demonstrating why 3rd party candidates should be included by raising issues, proposing solutions, and exposing the shortcomings of the two party system and the candidates themselves to voters and concerned citizens.

In the 3rd part of this debate (below), Nolan brought up a McCain sponsored bill that is most likely not on the radar of very many people: S. 3081, the “Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010.”

(Beginning at -6:14 in part 3 of the debate)

Nolan: “One of the reasons I got into this race is that right now, at this very moment Sen. McCain is a sponsor – I think the lead sponsor of Senate Bill 3081 […] a bill which would authorize the arrest and indefinite detention of American citizens without trial and without recourse. This is one of the most dangerous, evil, un-American bills that’s ever been proposed in congress and nobody who would sponsor such a bill should be sitting in a seat in the United States Senate.”

And what was Sen. McCain’s response to the charge by Nolan of sponsoring such a “dangerous, evil, un-American” bill?

McCain: “Well again, I hope that our viewers won’t judge me by the remarks just made [by Nolan], they may be a little bit biased.”

Nolan raised the issue again in his closing remarks. Sen. McCain did not respond.

Okay, fair enough. Perhaps Mr. Nolan is biased. He is trying to take his job after all. Fortunately for now at least, the average person with an internet connection can freely search and find the bill and learn of its contents. Let’s take a look and see how “biased” Mr. Nolan was and determine whether or not Arizona’s senior senator should be “judged” by the bill he is currently sponsoring.

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the ‘Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010’.

SEC. 2. PLACEMENT OF SUSPECTED UNPRIVILEGED ENEMY BELLIGERENTS IN MILITARY CUSTODY.

(a) Military Custody Requirement- Whenever within the United States, its territories, and possessions, or outside the territorial limits of the United States, an individual is captured or otherwise comes into the custody or under the effective control of the United States who is suspected of engaging in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners through an act of terrorism, or by other means in violation of the laws of war, or of purposely and materially supporting such hostilities, and who may be an unprivileged enemy belligerent, the individual shall be placed in military custody for purposes of initial interrogation and determination of status in accordance with the provisions of this Act.

(b) Reasonable Delay for Intelligence Activities- An individual who may be an unprivileged enemy belligerent and who is initially captured or otherwise comes into the custody or under the effective control of the United States by an intelligence agency of the United States may be held, interrogated, or transported by the intelligence agency and placed into military custody for purposes of this Act if retained by the United States within a reasonable time after the capture or coming into the custody or effective control by the intelligence agency, giving due consideration to operational needs and requirements to avoid compromise or disclosure of an intelligence mission or intelligence sources or methods.

“Suspected unprivileged enemy belligerent” ? No, that doesn’t sound Orwellian at all. Now let me highlight Sec. 3b3 and let you, the reader decide if any of this strikes you as “dangerous,” “evil,” or even “un-American.”

(3) INAPPLICABILITY OF CERTAIN STATEMENT AND RIGHTS- A individual who is suspected of being an unprivileged enemy belligerent shall not, during interrogation under this subsection, be provided the statement required by Miranda v. Arizona (384 U.S. 436 (1966)) or otherwise be informed of any rights that the individual may or may not have to counsel or to remain silent consistent with Miranda v. Arizona.

Talk about double speak! Such individuals are not “criminal suspects” who in our criminal justice system normally considers “innocent until proven guilty” who have Constitutionally protected rights but “suspected enemy belligerents” who are apparently assumed guilty until a high ranking official in the executive branch, or the president himself determines otherwise.

Sorry, I’m getting a little ahead of myself. I haven’t even got to the most disturbing part of the bill yet – Section 5:

SEC. 5. DETENTION WITHOUT TRIAL OF UNPRIVILEGED ENEMY BELLIGERENTS.

An individual, including a citizen of the United States, determined to be an unprivileged enemy belligerent under section 3(c)(2) in a manner which satisfies Article 5 of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War may be detained without criminal charges and without trial for the duration of hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners in which the individual has engaged, or which the individual has purposely and materially supported, consistent with the law of war and any authorization for the use of military force provided by Congress pertaining to such hostilities.

So here we are in 2010, Sen. McCain et al advocating giving American citizens POW status under Article 5 of the Geneva Convention as they may be “enemy belligerents” in an ill-defined and open-ended “war on terror.” The provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act which were originally supposed to be temporary but now as a practical matter, a permanent fixture of federal law, apparently don’t go far enough to dismantle what is left of the Bill of Rights.

One thing I found interesting in this debate was not only Sen. McCain’s response (or lack thereof) but also the deafening silence of his Democrat challenger who could have easily picked this issue up and ran with it if he shares Nolan’s civil liberties concerns. Could it be that Mr. Glassman would also support this bill if he were elected to replace Sen. McCain? If so, I wouldn’t be at all surprised considering that President Obama who is a member of the same political party as Glassman actually believes he can assassinate Americans without due process of any kind. Both the Obama and Bush administrations have even gone as far to say that if or when the president makes a “state’s secrets” claim, no court can even consider the legality of such cases. There’s little doubt in my mind that President Obama would sign S. 3081 into law as this would only enhance his power.

Maybe for now on we should stop referring to the first ten amendments as “The Bill of Rights” and call them “The Bill of Privileges.” This would at least be honest because rights cannot be taken away and therefore can never be “inapplicable.”

Obama: Judge, Jury, and Executioner in Chief

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” – Amendment V of the U.S. Constitution

I don’t know how I missed this, but apparently the 5th Amendment was repealed a few months back with very little concern on the part of the media. Or maybe this was a big story back in February and I just wasn’t paying attention. I have been quite busy lately but I still don’t see how I missed this most disturbing power grab on the part of the Obama administration to date: the power for the president to order the assassination of American citizens without trial*.

If you missed this like I did and have read about this for the first time here, you may believe this sounds like some kooky black helicopter Soldier of Fortune conspiracy propaganda. When I heard about this the first time from Glenn Beck (of all people) on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s Freedom Watch, I thought it was probably another one of Beck’s over the top Obama boogey man theories. I thought surely if a president, even this president, were to do such a thing as order CIA snipers or perhaps Predator drones to take out an American citizen without trial, even the media on Left would be scandalized by such a policy.

As it turns out, Beck was right. When I entered the phrase “Obama can assassinate Americans” into a Google search, I did find at least one Left wing blog, Democracy Now! podcast hosted by Amy Goodman back in February explore this issue. And to Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s (D-OH) credit, he made an appearance on the podcast to explain why he isn’t giving President Obama a pass.

Kucinich:

Well, I think its incumbent upon the Attorney General to explain the basis in law for such a policy. Our Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, our Seventh Amendment, our Fourteenth Amendment all clearly provide legal protections for people who are accused or who would be sentenced after having been judged to be guilty. And what’s happened is that the Constitution is being vitiated here. The idea that people are—have—if their life is in jeopardy, legally have due process of law, is thrown out the window.

And, Amy, when you consider that there are people who are claiming there are many terrorist cells in the United States, it doesn’t take too much of a stretch to imagine that this policy could easily be transferred to citizens in this country. That doesn’t—that only compounds what I think is a slow and steady detachment from core constitutional principles. And once that happens, we have a country then that loses its memory and its soul, with respect to being disconnected from those core constitutional principles which are the basis of freedom in our society.

Not everyone on the Left is as willing to hold the Obama administration accountable though. Salon.com writer Glenn Greenwald (also a guest interviewed in the above podcast), one of the few columnists to give this policy the condemnation it deserves, wrote a very disturbing piece to remind those who were (rightly) critical of the Bush administration’s policies concerning extraordinary rendition, holding “enemy combatants” indefinitely without trial (including American citizens), warrantless wiretapping, and so on, should be at least as critical of Obama’s policy which goes even further.

Greenwald writes:

“Today, both The New York Times and The Washington Post confirm that the Obama White House has now expressly authorized the CIA to kill al-Alwaki no matter where he is found, no matter his distance from a battlefield. I wrote at length about the extreme dangers and lawlessness of allowing the Executive Branch the power to murder U.S. citizens far away from a battlefield (i.e., while they’re sleeping, at home, with their children, etc.) and with no due process of any kind.

[…]

And what about all the progressives who screamed for years about the Bush administration’s tyrannical treatment of Jose Padilla? Bush merely imprisoned Padilla for years without a trial. If that’s a vicious, tyrannical assault on the Constitution — and it was — what should they be saying about the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s assassination of American citizens without any due process?

[…]

When Obama was seeking the Democratic nomination, the Constitutional Law Scholar answered a questionnaire about executive power distributed by The Boston Globe’s Charlie Savage, and this was one of his answers:

5. Does the Constitution permit a president to detain US citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants?

[Obama]: No. I reject the Bush Administration’s claim that the President has plenary authority under the Constitution to detain U.S. citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants.

So back then, Obama said the President lacks the power merely to detain U.S. citizens without charges. Now, as President, he claims the power to assassinate them without charges. Could even his hardest-core loyalists try to reconcile that with a straight face? As Spencer Ackerman documents today, not even John Yoo claimed that the President possessed the power Obama is claiming here.

Even though I did not vote for Obama in 2008 and was very critical of his policy positions at the time, I thought he would at least be an improvement in the area of civil liberties. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It seems that rather than rolling back these Bush era unconstitutional power grabs, Obama has grown accustomed to them and decided to take these powers to the next level: killing Americans he believes to be enemies of the state.

Perhaps there is room to debate whether or not foreign suspected terrorists deserve all the legal protections of our courts but the idea of killing American citizens without trial most certainly is not debatable. If our government does anything well its identifying individuals and putting them in prison and/or sentencing said individuals to death. This is done successfully every day in our criminal justice system. We need not worry that many actual terrorists will escape going through the criminal justice system provided that the prosecutors have a minimum standard of proof and a jury of average intelligence.

Even as badly broken as our criminal justice system is, this is our system. Ordering the killing of American citizens even in an “emergency” is not among the powers provided to the president under the Constitution (I just double checked) and is not a suitable substitute.
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Welcome, but insufficient to the needs of the day

David Cameron today apologized for the  British Armies conduct on Bloody Sunday.

Great… now do something of substance. Either treat the north as a real part of the rest of the damn country, or get the hell out.

The UK is firmly wedded to a lot of government involvement in industry, in finance, in development… fine. Ok. If that’s what the people of the UK want, then so be it. But it stifles entrepreneurship. The barriers to entry get so high, that it becomes nearly impossible to do anything without government support.

This is coming from someone who has founded and run businesses in the republic, in the north, and in England. I am an American, but also a dual citizen with Ireland. My father is an Irish immigrant. His father was a member of the IRA from the age of 15; when the IRA was still a legitimate organization. Most of my family still lives in Ireland; and I lived in Ireland, and in the UK, for years.

This is not just an American pontificating from afar, I have lived and worked there… and my position on the troubles is that none of it is justified, ever. Terrorism is terrorism, and is never to be tolerated. Government repression is similarly, not to be tolerated.

This isn’t about the troubles anymore. This is about the future of the North… or the lack of future represented in todays situation; because mark me, the north has no future, if the present state of affairs is allowed to continue.

Without government support, it’s near impossible to get anything done in the north. It’s somewhat easier in England itself, in that there is no less interference, but that the government cares more about business development; so it makes things smoother, and gives approvals, and planning etc… more attention.

What this means is, effectively, there is no economic development in the north without government intervention… but they don’t particularly want to intervene, and spend the taxpayers money on PRODUCTIVE projects in the north, when so much is already being funneled into nonproductive drains.

So long as there is no real industrial or technical development support by the government, except in a token way; the north will always be an economic disaster. It is that economic disaster, and the sense of neglect, of second class citizenship, of disrespect, disregard, and disdain… which allows the thugs their safety, and their income.

Either REALLY support economic development, or get the hell out of the way and allow some real entrepreneurship. Get people working, productively. Get the tax base up. Get people motivated to seek higher education, by having something useful for them to do when they get it.

So long as the north is dependent on the government teat, the real government on the street will be the organized crime gangs that masquerade as unionists, or republicans. So long as the thugs are safe, the police are not, and will respond with repression. It’s automatic. A + B will always equal C.

Oh and I should be clear, I don’t blame this situation on the great mass of the population of the United Kingdom.

I blame it on an incoherent, and uncommitted government position on Northern Ireland since 1921.

There is no real policy, nor any real rationale behind what is promulgated as policy. The only conclusion one can come to is that the government of the United Kingdom does not want to govern northern Ireland, but also does not feel they can stop doing so…

So instead, they neglect, and waffle, and make bad and inconsistent decisions. They fight, they withdraw. They take a hardline, then they fold…

It’s insane.

Oh and yes I know, they’re a giant welfare suck… But if the people (and the politicians) of England would treat the people of northern Ireland like actual human beings, not just as a national joke, or a drain on social spending, or a potential terrorist, or an electoral distraction… That might help a bit too.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Pennsylvania Department of Revenue Ad: “Find Us Before We Find You”

The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is currently running an ad – a friendly reminder to encourage PA residents who owe back taxes to pay up because the PDR knows where you live.

Creepy huh?

But don’t be alarmed PA residents who owe back taxes, go to the website (PAtaxPayup.com) and you will find that the PDR is actually doing you a favor: tax “amnesty” for those who pay by June 18, 2010. (The site even features a countdown clock that lets you know how much time you have left. How thoughtful!)

Here are the terms of the amnesty:

Pennsylvania authorized (under Act 48, signed into law on Oct. 9, 2009) a Tax Amnesty period from April 26 to June 18, 2010.

During this limited, 54-day timeframe, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue will waive 100 percent of penalties and half of the interest for anyone who pays his/her delinquent state taxes.

Individuals, businesses and other entities with Pennsylvania tax delinquencies as of June 30, 2009, are generally eligible to participate in the Tax Amnesty Program.

What a bargain! If you “voluntarily” pay your taxes by June 18th, not only do you get to avoid the whole armed government agents forcibly removing you from your home and taking you to jail thing but they will also take a little less of your money.

In some ways, this is one of the most honest PSAs ever produced by a government agency but still fails to directly address the question of what happens if PA residents allow the PDR to “find them” first. What the ad implies but does not directly say is “If we do find you first, we will make your life very miserable because, we, the government have the legal ability to use deadly force to get our way and you do not.”

Let’s put aside the whole debate about whether or not taxation is legitimate or if it is theft and consider the bigger message. Perhaps George Washington, the father of our country himself said it best:

“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”

Government = Force. Keep this in mind next time you want to ask the government to “do something” on your behalf.

Hat Tip: Reason Hit and Run (also take a look at the June 2004 Reason cover that is eerily similar to the above ad)

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

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

Hank Skinner is scheduled to be executed by the State of Texas on March 24th. Despite more than a decade of requests to have his DNA tested, Texas courts have denied him every step of the way. The Medill Innocence Project has even offered to pay for the testing to no avail. Skinner’s attorneys have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to force the issue before it’s too late. Given the recent ruling in Osborne, I’m not optimistic that Alito and Roberts would put their slavish allegiance to process aside long enough to allow the truth of Skinner’s guilt or innocence to see the light of day…at least until after Skinner is executed (maybe).

Former Texas prosecutor Sam Millsap wrote an op-ed piece in The Houston Chronicle explaining why he believes the courts should grant Skinner’s request, if for no other reason, to learn the truth. He also pointed out that only a week ago, Gov. Rick Perry pardoned Tim Cole posthumously some 9 years after he died while in prison. Why wouldn’t the same governor want to avoid making the same mistake again?

Millsap:

I’m not an advocate for Hank Skinner. I’m an advocate for the truth. If DNA tests could remove the uncertainty about Skinner’s guilt — one way or the other — there’s not a good reason in the world not to do it […]

[…]

It is cases like Skinner’s that ended my lifelong support for the death penalty. Any system driven by the decisions of human beings will produce mistakes. This is true even when everyone — judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys — is acting in good faith and working as hard as he or she can to get it right.

From there Millsap gets personal and explains why he, acting in good faith, may have been responsible for prosecuting an innocent man who was executed in 1993.

Why the change of heart? Millsap explained that one of his star witnesses against Ruben Cantu recanted his testimony 20 years later. Millsap said he believes the witness’s latest version of the events because the witness had nothing to gain from changing his testimony “except a whole lot of trouble.”

Beyond Cantu, Millsap also believes Texas has executed at least two other men he says “were almost certainly innocent”: Carlos DeLuna, executed in 1989 and Cameron Todd Willingham, executed in 2004.

Millsap is by no means the only individual inside the Texas criminal justice system who recognizes inherent flaws in the system which kills more people every year than any other state. State District Judge Kevin Fine recently granted a pretrial motion declaring the death penalty unconstitutional due to his belief that innocent people have been executed in Texas and elsewhere:

“Based on the moratorium (on the death penalty) in Illinois, the Innocence Project and more than 200 people being exonerated nationwide, it can only be concluded that innocent people have been executed,” state District Judge Kevin Fine said. “It’s safe to assume we execute innocent people.”

Fine said trial level judges are gatekeepers of society’s standard for decency and fairness.

“Are you willing to have your brother, your father, your mother be the sacrificial lamb, to be the innocent person executed so that we can have a death penalty so that we can execute those who are deserving of the death penalty?” he said. “I don’t think society’s mindset is that way now.”

The article goes on to point out that Judge Fine’s ruling will likely be overturned on appeal and is more symbolic than anything else (i.e. a way to force people to discuss the issue of the death penalty). Fine is taking quite the career risk in a very pro-death penalty state which elects its judges. His critics, who like to point out that Judge Fine is a former cocaine addict, argue that his ruling has no basis in the law.*

And maybe Judge Fine’s critics are technically right** about his “judicial activism,” but can anyone really argue with the judge’s logic? Is it possible for sates to execute only guilty individuals 100% of the time when states have admitted to wrongfully convicting others for lesser charges? If not, what is the acceptable margin of error when we are talking about allowing the government to kill?

These are the kinds of questions which I hope keep Gov. Perry up at night with the scheduled execution of Hank Skinner and those who will undoubtedly follow.

» Read more

Kathleen Sebellius Blames Insurance Companies For The Effects of Obama’s Stimulus Program

Like her ideological forebears from the last century, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is angry that businessmen who are eager to avoid a loss are raising prices.

From the LA Times, Anthem Blue Cross asked to justify controversial rate hikes :

The Obama administration called on Anthem Blue Cross on Monday to justify its controversial new rate hikes of as much as 39% for individual policyholders, saying the increases were alarming at a time when subscribers are facing skyrocketing healthcare costs.

In a letter to the company’s president, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius voiced serious concern over the rates, which go into effect March 1 for many of the insurer’s estimated 800,000 individual policyholders.

The increases have triggered widespread criticism from Anthem members and brokers, who say the premium hikes will put health coverage out of reach for some and very costly for others.

“With so many families already affected by rising costs, I was very disturbed to learn through media accounts that Anthem Blue Cross plans to raise premiums for its California customers by as much as 39%,” Sebelius wrote to company President Leslie Margolin.

“These extraordinary increases are up to 15 times faster than inflation and threaten to make healthcare unaffordable for hundreds of thousands of Californians, many of whom are already struggling to make ends meet in a difficult economy.”

Let’s get one thing straight;  these increases are entirely due to inflation, and they are likely largely caused by the Obama administration’s stimulus plan. Anthem executives didn’t wake up one morning and say “Hey! Let’s jack up prices so that our customers can no longer afford our product!”  Rather they are increasing prices to deal with the increased costs they anticipate for the coverage they provide.  Now why would they do that?

It turns out that while California has been receiving large amounts of bailout and stimulus funds, the supply of medical service providers has stayed steady.  That new money has largely gone to the California State government’s payroll and to cover their administrative overhead costs.  One of the largest discretionary expense most government employees have is the cost of medical insurance, and the demand for the insurance is relatively inelastic.  This insurance is used to pay for a multitude of doctor’s visits etc.  Thus you have a large pool of people with freshly printed money in their pockets engaged in a bidding war trying to consume an essentially static supply.The winners pay higher prices for the scarce goods, and the losers are left out in the cold.

This phenomenon is precisely how prices increase when whoever controls the money supply engages in inflation.  It’s not mysterious.  It’s not greed.  It is merely a predictable outcome counterfeiting.

This is one favorite method used by totalitarians to justify their seizures of power.  They engage in reckless government spending financed using the printing press.  Then, when these newly printed funds lead to a bidding war between buyers that drives prices up, they use the price increases as a justification for even greater usurpations of power.

If Kathleen Sebelius is serious about reducing prices for health care in California, she should be penning angry letters to the head of the California Medical Licensing Board.  This bullying of a company trying to stay solvent despite an economic storm created by government intervention – while making for very nice populist theater – will contributed nothing positive to the problem.

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.

“Are these Republicans Walter”? “No Donny, these men are just nihilists”

“I mean, say what you like about the tenets of the Republican party, Dude, at least it’s an ethos…”

Apologies to Joel and Ethan Coen…

There has been a recent meme circulated by the leftosphere, that the Republicans… in fact any opponent of the Obama agenda… are nihilists.

Now, I have to say, I don’t think most of the people promoting this idea even know what a nihilist is (and if they did, many of them would realize THEY are the ones that come close to fitting that bill), never mind that current republican ideology is nihilist. Current republican ideology is empty, obstructionist, and reactionary; but that’s not actually nihilism… or even close to it.

A few days ago, a person whose intellect I generally respect, John Scalzi, randomly tossed off a comment calling Republicans (and Obama oppositionists) Nihilists.

Well.. at least John knows what a nihilist is… which is why I was disappointed in his statement… because as far as I’m concerned that analysis is just lazy.

Then a few days later, as part of his commentary on the state of the union speech, he wrote this:

“As for the Republicans, a recent reader was distressed when I said they were “hopped-up ignorant nihilists,” but you know what, when your Senate operating strategy is “filibuster everything and let Fox News do the rest,” and the party as a whole gives it a thumbs up, guess what, you’re goddamned nihilists. There’s no actual political strategy in GOP anymore other than taking joy in defeating the Democrats. I don’t have a problem with them enjoying such a thing, but it’s not a real political philosophy, or at least shouldn’t be.”

Ok… not much of the core of the analysis there I can disagree with… but again, it isn’t nihilism.

Today however he posted a link to further explain the position he was trying to express in shorthand by calling the Republicans nihilist.

Again, there’s nothing I can really disagree with in this analysis:

[N]othing could be worse for the GOP than the illusion of success under present circumstances. Worse than learning nothing from the last two elections, the GOP has learned the wrong things… Not recognizing their past errors, the GOP will make them again and again in the future, and they will attempt to cover these mistakes with temporary, tactical solutions that simply put off the consequences of their terrible decisions until someone else is in office. They will then exploit the situation as much as they possibly can, pinning the blame for their errors on their hapless inheritors and hoping that the latter are so pitiful that they retreat into yet another defensive crouch.

Is the GOP in a worse position than a year ago? On the surface, no, it isn’t. Once we get past the surface, however, the same stagnant, intellectually bankrupt, unimaginative party that brought our country to its current predicament is still there and has not changed in any meaningful way in the last three years.

The best thing though, is the source of that quote: The American Conservative

Thus showing, once again, for those who don’t already know; that Republican does not necessarily mean conservative or libertarian, nor does conservative necessarily mean Republican.

Oh and continuing in that vein, conservative doesn’t necessarily mean religious either; nor does religious always mean conservative (especially if you’re Catholic).

I am neither a Republican, nor a conservative; but I DO register as a Republican because my state has closed primaries, and I like to vote against John McCain and Joe Arpaio.

I am a minarchist, which is a school of libertarianism that pretty much says “hey, leave me alone as much as is practical, and I’ll do the same for you, thanks”.

I’m well educated (perhaps overeducated), high earning, catholic, married with two kids, and a veteran. I was raised in the northeast but choose to live in the Rocky Mountain west, because I prefer the greater degree of freedom and lower levels of government (and other busybodies) interference.

I don’t care who you have sex with or what you shove up your nose, down your throat, or into your lungs so long as I don’t have to pay for it, or the eventual medical bills you rack up.

I KNOW from direct personal experience we need a strong national defense, but that freedom and liberty (which are two different things) are rather a LOT more important than internal security.

I have no faith in the government not to do with… really anything other than defense… exactly what they did with Social Security, or AFDC, or any number of other programs that they have horribly screwed up, wasting trillions of dollars in the process.

Yes, there is great benefit to some of those programs at some times (and I was on welfare and foodstamps as a child, I know directly this is true); but the government couldn’t make a profit running a whorehouse, how can they be expected to run healthcare, or education, or anything else for that matter.

Oh and for those of you who believe that government really can do good, without a corresponding and greater bad… I’m sorry, you’re wrong.

It’s a sweet ideal, but it just isn’t true. Good intentions don’t mean good results, unless combined with competence, efficiency, passion, compassion… HUMANITY in general; and the government is not a humanitarian organization.

Governments are good at exactly two thing: Stealing and Killing. Yes, they are capable of doing other things, but everything they do proceeds from theft, coercion, force… stealing and killing.

That doesn’t mean that good can’t come out of it; but everything the government does has an associated harm that goes with it. Sometimes that’s worth it, sometimes it isn’t and it’s DAMN hard to figure that out. Who gets to decide? You? Your friends?

Do you have the right to tell me what to do, how to live my life? Do I have the right to tell YOU how to live YOUR life?

So why is it ok if you get a few million of your friends, and I get a few million of my friends, and just because you have more friends than I do you get to tell all of us how to live and what to do?

Sorry but, HELL NO.

I want the same things you want. I want people to be happy, and healthy, and have great opportunities… But the government doesn’t have the right to steal from me to help you do it; anymore than you would have the right to hold a gun to my head and take the money from me personally.

Actually, the government doesn’t have any rights whatsoever. The PEOPLE have rights, the exercise of which we can delegate to the government.

It absolutely amazes me that both liberals and conservatives understand that the government isn’t to be trusted; they just believe it’s not to be trusted over different things:

Liberals trust the government with your money, education, and healthcare; but don’t want them to interfere with your sex life, or chemical recreation.

Conservatives on the other hand are just fine with the government making moral, sexual, ethical, and pharmaceutical choices for you; but don’t trust it with your education, healthcare etc…

Well, I don’t trust them with ANYTHING except defense (which they also screw up mightily, but which is at least appropriate to the coercive and destructive nature of government).

It’s axiomatic that the intelligence of any committee is equal to that of the least intelligent member, divided by the total number of members.

There are 435 members of the house of representatives, 100 senators, 21 members of the cabinet, 9 supreme court justices, a vice president, and a president; for a total committee size of 567.

Now, if we’re charitable and say they’re all geniuses with IQs above 140 (don’t hurt yourself laughing), that’s an overall government IQ of .25

Why on earth would you want THAT spending your money, or making any decisions for you whatsoever?

Now… Given that thumbnail philosophy, who am I supposed to vote for?

I certainly can’t vote Democratic; they want to take all my money and either give it to other people, or use it to force me (and everyone else) to behave as THEY decide.

On the other hand, I can’t much vote for Republicans, because they still want to give my money to other people (just mostly different other people than democrats), and use my money to force me (and everyone else) to behave as they decide…. They just want to take a little less of it.

And I really can’t vote for Libertarians, because they are profoundly unserious and incapable of effecting any real political change. I want to vote for someone who will PREVENT the worst abuses of government, and sadly, voting libertarian has no hope of accomplishing that goal.

I end up voting for whoever, or whatever, I hope or believe will reduce those undesirable characteristics of theft and coercion inherent to government.

Often that means voting Republican, but that shouldn’t be taken as an indication of my support for Republicans.

So tell me, is that nihilism? I don’t think so. I think it’s playing defense, which isn’t a winning strategy; but it’s not nihilism.

Nihilism would be standing by the sidelines say “there’s no point in playing, you’re all going to lose anyway”… which coincidentally is the position of a lot of Libertarians.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

A Must Watch on “Climate Change” from Climate Skeptic

Warren is local to me (he lives about three miles away actually), and runs both the excellent libertarian small business and economics blog CoyoteBlog, and the absolutely essential climate blog Climate Skeptic.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

A doctor calls for a kinder gentler war

I regularly read the Science Based Medicine Blog since it is an interesting combination of intelligent, rational examination of medicine and the naive monstrous morals of a toddler.

This week’s column by Dr Steven Novella does not disappoint. The good doctor reviews the medical impact of modern sodium consumption and states:

As usual, the medical and regulatory communities are tasked with making sense out of chaos – with implementing bottom-line recommendations in the face of inconclusive evidence. While there remains legitimate dissent on the role of salt in vascular health, the current consensus is something like this:

  • Most of the world, including Americans and those in industrialized nations, consume more salt than appears to be necessary.
  • In the US most of that salt comes from processed or restaurant food (while in other countries, like Japan, most salt intake is added while cooking).
  • There is a plausible connection between excess salt intake, hypertension, strokes and heart attacks.
  • There is evidence to suggest that reducing overall salt intake will reduce the incidence of these health problems, but the evidence is not yet conclusive and longer term and sub-population data is needed.

Given all this it seems reasonable (from a scientific point of view – and ignoring the role of political ideology) to take steps to reduce the amount of salt in processed and restaurant food, while continuing to study the impact of such measures. But we also have to consider unintended consequences. Part of the reason salt is added to processed food is because it helps preserve it – give it a longer shelf life. People also develop a taste for salty food, and a sudden decrease in salt content may be unsatisfying, leading people to seek out higher salt foods. But these are technical problems that can be addressed.
It should also be noted that salt requirements and tolerance may vary considerably from individual to individual – based upon genetics, and certainly underlying diseases. Therefore recommendations from one’s doctor should supercede any general recommendations for the population.
In any case it seems that the War on Salt has begun. I only hope this is a war we choose to fight with science.

The last sentence left me gobsmacked. A war fought with science? Does he understand what exactly it means when a government wages war?

The essential feature of government is the enforcement of its decrees by beating, killing, and imprisoning. Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.

Ludwig von Mises, Human Action

Let’s take, for example, the war on (some) drugs. 150 years ago, if I had described the government proscribing the growth of hemp, sowing poison on illicit fields in an attempt to kill marijuana smokers, sending paramilitary forces into homes with orders to shoot first and ask questions later, and setting up checkpoints where people with large amounts of cash would have it confiscated on the grounds it must be involved in this illicit trade, it would have beggared belief. Those who lobbied for its outlawing would have denied wanting to do those things, they merely wanted to protect white women from being seduced by black jazz musicians and to preserve the social order against uppity darkies.

And once the stuff was outlawed, once the law enforcement apparatus started to wage its low level guerrilla campaign, and faced resistance the government naturally escalated, flooding the media with propaganda to buttress its position, until the war became an end to itself, with otherwise sensible people saying things like “I am a fan of freedom but we must protect the citizenry against the scourge of drugs”

I am curious why the good Dr Novella thinks that a war on salt will turn out any better than the War on Gold, the War on Sucrose, the War on Opiates, the War on Miscegenation or any of the other social crusades little petit tyrants enlist the government to engage in?

Moreover, is he blind to the fact that these wars on inanimate substances and ideas are actually wars on people? It’s not the marijuana that’s getting its child’s hand shot off in a police raid, it’s a person. It’s not the marijuana who is having their life savings confiscated, it’s the retired couple who don’t trust banks. It’s not the marijuana who has his dogs shot in his home, its the hardworking mayor of a small town.

If I were to propose a War on the North Korean Government, I would imagine that Dr Novella might be a little reluctant to support it, given the large number of innocent people who would inevitably die having been propagandized into fanatically defending the state that looted and brutalized them so thoroughly.

But here, we get nary a peep of condemnation, only a pious desire to have “science” inform the strategy of the war on a common cooking ingredient, which will really be a war on people who use to much salt (according to the government) in their food preparation.

And, I should note, this war would have savage monsters like Mary Beth Buchanan deciding what was an appropriate amount of salt, just as she decided her judgment on how much pain medicine was appropriate for patients in chronic agony was better than that of the MD’s treating them, and used that rationale as justification on her war on doctors.

Dr Novella’s blindness it encoded in an assumption in the first sentence I quoted:

As usual, the medical and regulatory communities are tasked with making sense out of chaos – with implementing bottom-line recommendations in the face of inconclusive evidence.

Why are they tasked with this? Sure, doctors are asked to give advice on questions where there is no clear answer, much like any other profession. They have the power to say “I don’t know”, however. Moreover, there is nothing wrong with doctor’s giving advice. The act of making a suggestion does not actually harm anybody.

The regulatory apparatus, on the other hand, is dangerous. When it acts, people get hurt, they go to jail, they have their finances ruined. If we assume such an apparatus should exist, then we should use it only when the harm it does is worth the benefit. Otherwise, the regulatory apparatus need do nothing! Especially where there is no overwhelming evidence to justify regulation. It’s not as if salt causes an epidemic like cholera! The notion that people with vascular disease drives up health care costs requiring such regulation is laughable. Dr Novella has never, in all the essays he has authored that I am familiar with, shown much concern with the major reasons why health care costs are so high. If anything he supports the measures that are the primary drives of the high costs.

It is a shame that otherwise rational people fail to learn the lessons of history. Their blindness would not be so bothersome, if it weren’t for the fact that their hands are helping aim the guns pointed at us.

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.

Congressional Thug Tries To Silence Free Speech

Meet Congressman Alan Grayson, a punk ass bitch and wannabe thoughtpoliceman

Not everyone thinks imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

In fact, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando took such offense at a parody Web site aimed at unseating him that the freshman Democrat asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the Lake County activist who started it.

In his four-page complaint, Grayson accuses Republican Angie Langley of lying to federal elections officials. In particular, he writes, the Clermont resident lives outside his district but still uses the term “my” in her Web site, mycongressmanisnuts.com. The name mocks a Web site started by Grayson, congressmanwithguts.com.

“Ms. Langley has deliberately masqueraded as a constituent of mine, in order to try to create the false appearance that she speaks for constituents who don’t support me,” writes Grayson. “[She] has chosen a name for her committee that is utterly tasteless and juvenile.”

Grayson’s office confirmed he wrote the letter — including the request that Langley be fined and “imprisoned for five years” — and released a statement from Grayson saying, “Everyone has to obey the law, even rude, right-wing cranks.”

Langley, a former top Republican official in Lake County, said the letter initially “scared the heck out” of her but that she got angry after an attorney friend — who is acting as legal adviser — told her that the accusations were “groundless.”

“This man is nothing but a bully and an intimidator,” she said.

For those of you who don’t know Alan Grayson, he’s also the little punk who has described the GOP health care plan as dying quickly among other things. He’s basically the Sarah Palin or the Joe the Plumber of the left. Now this wannabe commissar is trying to jail a woman for expressing her opinion. Here’s a little obstacle to that:

Amendment 1 – Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

There are no gulags in this country for those who speak against members of Congress, Representative Grayson. Hopefully his constituents will send this thug into retirement next year.

Related Link: Alan Grayson is Nuts

Edited on 12/20/2009 at 8:06PM to insert related before link

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.

Huckabee’s hypocrisy

The former governor munching on a Huckaburger that he'd try to keep you from eating

The former governor munching on a Huckaburger that he'd try to prevent you from eating. Credit: Reuters

According to this Twitter account, if former Governor Mike Huckabee’s lips are moving, he’s lying.  Let put that statement to a test.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent interview transcript (emphasis added):

The last time out, my biggest challenge was with the establishment Republicans who just never showed their support. And while I think a person can possibly win without them, the Republican Party needs to unite if it’s going to win in 2012.

Now let’s compare Huckabee’s appeal for unity to other comments he has made.  This is from a year-old Time article:

In a chapter titled “Faux-Cons: Worse than Liberalism,” Huckabee identifies what he calls the “real threat” to the Republican Party: “libertarianism masked as conservatism.” He is not so much concerned with the libertarian candidate Ron Paul’s Republican supporters as he is with a strain of mainstream fiscal-conservative thought that demands ideological purity, seeing any tax increase as apostasy and leaving little room for government-driven solutions to people’s problems. “I don’t take issue with what they believe, but the smugness with which they believe it,” writes Huckabee, who raised some taxes as governor and cut deals with his state’s Democratic legislature. “Faux-Cons aren’t interested in spirited or thoughtful debate, because such an endeavor requires accountability for the logical conclusion of their argument.” Among his targets is the Club for Growth, a group that tarred Huckabee as insufficiently conservative in the primaries and ran television ads with funding from one of Huckabee’s longtime Arkansas political foes, Jackson T. Stephens Jr.

Then there’s this little gem from HuffPo:

Republicans need to be Republicans. The greatest threat to classic Republicanism is not liberalism; it’s this new brand of libertarianism, which is social liberalism and economic conservatism, but it’s a heartless, callous, soulless type of economic conservatism because it says “look, we want to cut taxes and eliminate government. If it means that elderly people don’t get their Medicare drugs, so be it. If it means little kids go without education and healthcare, so be it.” Well, that might be a quote pure economic conservative message, but it’s not an American message. It doesn’t fly. People aren’t going to buy that, because that’s not the way we are as a people. That’s not historic Republicanism. Historic Republicanism does not hate government; it’s just there to be as little of it as there can be. But they also recognize that government has to be paid for.

It seems that Huckabee is all for GOP unity so long as everyone in The Village agrees with his big-government prescriptions.  Not to kick a big-government Republican while he’s down, but it seems he’d be more concerned about dealing with his Willie Horton moment right now.

UPDATE: Here’s why The Humble Libertarian doesn’t heart the Huckster.

The War of the Whoppers

For some time, it looked like Republicans were more persuasive liars than their counterparts in DC. After all, they (with the assistance of Judith Miller and The New York Times) convinced a great deal of Americans that aluminum tubes had been intercepted which were to be used to create nuclear bombs. Visions of Islamic terrorists flooding across our southern border with truckloads of nukes provided the rest of the political support necessary for us to begin military operations in Iraq.

Of course, these so-called weapons of mass destruction were never found, which forced President Bush to state that he “fully understood that the intelligence was wrong, and [he was] just as disappointed as everybody else” about it.

Now it seems the Democrats have been caught with their pants down. Already dubbed ClimateGate, it seems that the data which has been used by the left to push for tighter environmental regulations is at least partially based on junk science — and they’ve been covering this up for some time.  It will take some time to determine the impact of the revelation of hacked e-mails and other files, but I’d expect to see at least a few reversals in environmental policy over the next few years.

Currently, the War of the Whoopers is playing out on another front: health care.  Megan McArdle has a pretty good take on the fecal matter being spewed by both sides. We’ll start with the red team:

  • This bill uses accounting gimmicks to front load the taxes and back load the spending, which is the only reason it’s deficit neutral over the ten year window.
  • The Democrats are refusing to let cuts to doctor payments stand, and also, doctors don’t get paid enough.
  • Millions of people are going to be added to Medicaid, which is a terrible program because providers don’t get paid enough.  Also, it would be too expensive to add people to Medicaid.
  • Medicare costs too much, and also, shouldn’t be cut.
  • The Republicans favor “real reform” which mostly seems to consist of liability caps.

Now for the blues:

  • Insurance companies are evil institutions which deny everyone any care that costs more than a pack of Freedent gum.  Also, they cannot control health care costs without substantial government intervention, because they spend far too much on expensive procedures.
  • Ted Kennedy sure was a swell guy, wasn’t he?  He’d be proud of every dang one of us today.  (It is impossible to exaggerate how great a role this point played.  There was a five minute stretch which consisted largely of people telling Ted Kennedy’s replacement that Teddy would be awfully proud of him, and him saying, “No, really, Ted would be proud of you.”)
  • Small- and medium-sized businesses are groaning under the weight of their health care costs.  Also, starting next year, we’re going to force them to give you much more generous coverage from your employer, such as coverage for non-dependent “children” up to the age of 26.
  • This problem is incredibly urgent, which is why we have to pass this bill, which now takes effect in 2014, RIGHT NOW.

She covered it pretty well, but seemed to miss one piece of GOP excrement the left frequently observes: ties between Republicans and the health insurance industry.

I’ve made this point before and I’ll make it again: So long as the Republican leadership doesn’t try in earnest to remove the legislative ties between employment and health insurance, they are leaving themselves wide open to accusations of hypocrisy.

The Democrats are trying to convince the American public that they can increase regulations, insure everyone, and still cut costs without running up the deficit. And don’t forget President Obama’s pledge not to increase taxes. I’m sure even Joseph Goebbels would be impressed with this one.

But Republicans can’t say squat about deficit spending. To listen to the typical GOP incumbent on the campaign trail, deficit spending is some new evil Democratic invention. Although these Republicans voted for one bloated budget after another, somehow they are managing to convince the voters in their districts that they are the voice of fiscal responsibility.  I felt as if I needed hip waders at the last congressional town hall meeting I visited.

Troops are lined up on both sides of the battle line shooting outright lies and hurling bullshit grenades at each other.  It wouldn’t bother me if they fought to the last man and took each other out.  Of paramount concern, however, is that the American people are the ones suffering the collateral damage.

On promises made and broken

In the lead up to the vote on H.R. 3962, the “Affordable Health Care for America” Act (scare quotes intentional), Barack Obama offered this encouragement to legislators to vote for the bill:

“This is their moment, this is our moment, to live up to the trust that the American people have placed in us,” Obama told reporters in the White House rose garden. “Even when it’s hard, especially when it’s hard, this is our moment to deliver.”

Two-hundred and fifteen did live up to the trust we placed in them, while two-hundred and twenty failed to do the same. How exactly is that trust defined? In the oath of office taken by each and every United States Representative:

“I, (name of Member), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

Each and every Representative took a solemn oath to “bear true faith and allegiance” to the Constitution. Each and every Representative who affirmed the House health care bill, with its threats of fines and prison for not buying “government-approved” health insurance, has forsaken that oath. The mandates contained in the Pelosi bill are a kludge, a poor attempt to graft a clearly unconstitutional power such as this on to the enumerated powers of the commerce clause and taxation.

To attempt such a thing, one cannot bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution. At best, those who attempted this hold the Constitution in the same regard that the 17-year-old script kiddie in his parents’ basement has for security measures–both are interesting challenges that require interesting solutions. At worst, they hold the Constitution in contempt and are actively working to debase the very core of the social contract between the government and the people.

In either case, it is now our turn as patriots to remind our Representatives that while they do not hold themselves to their oaths and promises, we do. In a little less than a year from now, voting booths across this great land will open again, and one of 435 representatives will be seeking your affirmation. If your representative has forsaken his or her oath to the Constitution, withhold it. It’s not about party affiliations or common views, it’s about holding legislators accountable for the promises they make to us.

Do your duty as a patriot. Refuse to support legislators who vote to abuse the Constitution or the People of the United States.

The House values Control over Health Care

So it is done: 220-215. Two-hundred and twenty United States Representatives put their support behind 20 pounds and 2,000 pages of abusive legislation in the form of innumerable mandates enforced by 110 new government agencies.

One of those mandates, though, cuts so violently to the core of our freedoms that it cannot go unanswered: Buy insurance or face the wrath of the IRS. From Representative Dave Camp:

Today, Ranking Member of the House Ways and Means Committee Dave Camp (R-MI) released a letter from the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) confirming that the failure to comply with the individual mandate to buy health insurance contained in the Pelosi health care bill (H.R. 3962, as amended) could land people in jail. The JCT letter makes clear that Americans who do not maintain “acceptable health insurance coverage” and who choose not to pay the bill’s new individual mandate tax (generally 2.5% of income), are subject to numerous civil and criminal penalties, including criminal fines of up to $250,000 and imprisonment of up to five years.

Imagine being faced with the loss of a job. That is a rough event for anyone to go through. Now, under the Pelosi/Obama plan, you have the following choice: Buy insurance you likely can’t afford with far less income coming in, pay 2.5% of the income you do have coming in to the government for *nothing*, or go to jail.

That choice has no place in a bill about reforming our broken health care system. That choice is about criminalizing people for not behaving as the self-styled ruling class wishes them to. When it comes to undocumented immigrants, Democrats love to say that “no one is illegal”. When it comes to economic diversity, they tell us that those who will not be controlled are illegal.

The media says this is a bill about health care. So do the Democrats. They lie. This is a bill about control. The bill’s proponents want to control you. Whether or not you actually get health care is irrelevant.

Update: Coyote Blog links to a WSJ article detailing some of the high (low?) points of the legislation. Here’s what you must do under the Pelosi/Obama plan:

• Sec. 202 (p. 91-92) of the bill requires you to enroll in a “qualified plan.” If you get your insurance at work, your employer will have a “grace period” to switch you to a “qualified plan,” meaning a plan designed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. If you buy your own insurance, there’s no grace period. You’ll have to enroll in a qualified plan as soon as any term in your contract changes, such as the co-pay, deductible or benefit.

• Sec. 224 (p. 118) provides that 18 months after the bill becomes law, the Secretary of Health and Human Services will decide what a “qualified plan” covers and how much you’ll be legally required to pay for it. That’s like a banker telling you to sign the loan agreement now, then filling in the interest rate and repayment terms 18 months later.

On Nov. 2, the Congressional Budget Office estimated what the plans will likely cost. An individual earning $44,000 before taxes who purchases his own insurance will have to pay a $5,300 premium and an estimated $2,000 in out-of-pocket expenses, for a total of $7,300 a year, which is 17% of his pre-tax income. A family earning $102,100 a year before taxes will have to pay a $15,000 premium plus an estimated $5,300 out-of-pocket, for a $20,300 total, or 20% of its pre-tax income. Individuals and families earning less than these amounts will be eligible for subsidies paid directly to their insurer.

• Sec. 303 (pp. 167-168) makes it clear that, although the “qualified plan” is not yet designed, it will be of the “one size fits all” variety. The bill claims to offer choice—basic, enhanced and premium levels—but the benefits are the same. Only the co-pays and deductibles differ. You will have to enroll in the same plan, whether the government is paying for it or you and your employer are footing the bill.

• Sec. 59b (pp. 297-299) says that when you file your taxes, you must include proof that you are in a qualified plan. If not, you will be fined thousands of dollars. Illegal immigrants are exempt from this requirement.

• Sec. 412 (p. 272) says that employers must provide a “qualified plan” for their employees and pay 72.5% of the cost, and a smaller share of family coverage, or incur an 8% payroll tax. Small businesses, with payrolls from $500,000 to $750,000, are fined less.

Think that’s bad? Go read the rest of it.

Update: Here’s a link to the roll call vote so you can see if your Representative is one of the 220 who wants to control you.

Hubris – Above The Law

I hate excerpting entire blog posts, but this one at Radley Balko’s place is short and can’t be done justice without the full text:

If you follow with any regularity the police misconduct stories I post on this site, you’re no doubt familiar with the phrase “paid administrative leave.” No matter how serious the alleged misconduct, cops nearly always get paid while they’re being investigated, a period that typically takes months.

But last week Stockton, Utah police officer Johsua Rowell was actually put on unpaid administrative leave.

His transgression? He issued a traffic citation to the son of Stockton Mayor Dan Rydalch.

Go ahead and read the news account linked… It’s as bad as (or worse than) Radley makes it sound.

Nobel Committee Insults America

Yesterday the Nobel Prize Committee insulted the Great Helmsman, President Barack Obama by awarding yet another prize to an unworthy second rater while ignoring the Great Helmsman’s dramatic contributions in every field.  Our dear leader wrote the two greatest books in modern civilization. These books are an inspiration to all of us who are his children. Yet the award was given to some woman who is practically unheard of, who touched no more than a few million people tangentially. How can our dear leader be ignored so?

The prize for Chemistry was awarded to some scientists who worked on questions regarding how ribosomes interact with DNA. Worthy work, yes, but was not the work of the American scientist not guided by our dear leader, his work funded by the Federal Government? How can they ignore the work on many fields that is being inspired by the magnificent all-encompassing vision of our dear leader as he directs the human race towards ever greater heights of prosperity and scientific achievements?

Similarly the prize in Physics honors people for a improving the use of semiconductors in fiber-optic design. Yet were not grants from the U.S. Federal Government used to fund this research? Did not the enlightened guiding hand of the father of the people not show them the way, not just in this area but in all the areas pf research into physics? Thousands of lifetimes’ worth of research is conducted by people following the guidance of the great Helmsman, yet he receives no credit? Do we award the plank of wood for the actions it carries out when directed by a man at the rudder?

The prize for medicine ignores the millions who will have their lives saved when our Great Helmsman reveals his plan to reform our medical industry to ensure maximum care for all with great justice.

How many millions more will owe their lives to our president than to the work of these few doctors?

Our leader deserves all the prizes; the economics prize for keeping unemployment below 8.4%; the mathematics prize for improving accounting theory to minimize budget deficits; the peace prize for his efforts to make the world a more peaceful place by increasing the vigor with which Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan are pacified, and his offers to pacify Iran as well.

It is time that the Nobel Prize Committee recognized that our Dear Leader is guiding our great nation to produce numerous scientific, technical and social innovations that improve the lives of not just the happy people living in America but throughout the world.  Anything less is an insult to the tireless efforts of our leader that benefit humanity.

Update:  As this was going to press, the Nobel Prize Committee announced that the peace prize had been given to our dear leader.  While I praise them for finally coming to their senses on this one matter, I warn them that it is not sufficient.  Again, if one looks at all the fields covered by the various prizes,our leader’s contributions are far in advance of those made by anyone else.  Only the transfer of the other prizes to our dear leader from the people they mistakenly gave them to will appropriately and justly remediate the situation.

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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