Category Archives: Human Rights

Failbook: Facebook Bans Anti-Prohibition Group

It’s beginning to be really easy to hate Facebook. While Google has stuck to its libertarian principles of free exchange of information by not cooperating with Chinese censorship, Facebook has become more and more creepy:

The people behind the “Just Say Now” marijuana legalization campaign (oft-Boinged Salon contributor Glenn Greenwald is one of many political thinkers on their board) want Facebook to back off its decision to pull their ads from the social networking service.

This is what Facebook’s PR says:

It would be fine to note that you were informed by Facebook that the image in question was no long acceptable for use in Facebook ads. The image of a pot leaf is classified with all smoking products and therefore is not acceptable under our policies. Let me know if you need anything further.

One key indicator that you are dealing with unapologetic authoritarians is when you’re being harshly reprimanded for violating regulations and rules that are unpredictable, undefinable and more than likely not even known by the person touting them. That appears to be the case with Facebook’s policies:

But the group points out that Facebook’s ad policy doesn’t ban “smoking products,” just “tobacco products.” Also, Facebook does permit alcohol ads, even ads featuring images of alcohol products and packaging, though alcohol ads that make alcohol consumption “fashionable,” “promote intoxication” or that “encourage excessive consumption” are banned. Just Say Now calls Facebook’s action censorship.

Perhaps Facebook goes by the old Jack Webb Dragnet school that pot consists of “marijuana cigarettes.”

There’s alot of faux outrage out there, as the Cordoba Crowds in NYC have shown us. Given the extensive cost to normal livelihoods by the continued prison construction and law enforcement funding required by prohibition, Facebook does deserve to be boycotted for trying to silence a group like Just Say Now.

Just Say Now’s Jane Hamsher, founder of Firedoglake.com, is also on the side of liberty in her fight against punitive immigration laws. Check out an appearance she did that I posted at my website Voice of the Migrant. She’s also a cancer survivor and all around political superhero. Give her support and take it away from Facebook.

City of Atlanta Agrees to Pay $4.9 Million to Kathryn Johnston’s Family; Vows to Change Police Culture

Ernie Suggs of The Atlanta Constitution reports:

Four years after rogue APD narcotics officers killed 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston during an illegal raid of her home, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has offered her family a $4.9 million settlement.

[…]

Reed said the resolution of the case is an important healing step for the city and the police department, which was nearly ripped apart because of the shooting.

As a result of the incident, several police officers were indicted in federal and state court on charges and were later convicted and sentenced for their actions,” said Reed, adding that the Narcotics Unit has been totally reorganized.

Obviously, the $4.9 million will not bring Kathryn Johnston back but it is good to see that her family will receive the settlement without having to continue to fight the City of Atlanta in court. I’m also hopeful that the city and the APD are truly making changes to prevent another tragedy such as this from ever happening again.

In a 13-0 vote, the city council ratified George Turner as the APD’s new Chief of Police. With Turner’s firing of two cops who lied and falsified documents regarding the Johnston case, he told the city council that he has higher standards for the department in his charge.

The article continues:

Councilwoman Felicia Moore told Turner Monday that she questioned whether he could reform the department’s culture of silence regarding police wrongdoing that the Johnston case unveiled because he was a product of that culture.

“That culture needs to change,” she said.

Turner responded that he had had already began to reform the Office of Professional Standards to make it more accountable.

“Since being in this role, I have terminated nine employees, specifically those employees who have not lived up to the standards,” Turner said during a committee on council meeting Monday morning.

The article also reports that Turner also said that arrest quotas were at least partially to blame for the botched raid and said that such a metric is not only illegal under state and federal law but also said that what the community really wants from the police is a department “that is accountable, that has high integrity and that gives a good day’s work.”

Police Chief Turner is saying all the right things; we should expect nothing less from any police department in America. Time will tell if these changes will be meaningful or not.

If Turner is successful in changing the APD’s culture for the better, the people of Atlanta will be much better served. It’s just too bad that it took such a terrible, preventable tragedy for such changes to be implemented.

Hat Tip: The Agitator (who else?)

Related:

The Next Phase of the Kathryn Johnston Saga Begins
Third Police Officer Sentenced in Kathryn Johnston Case
How To Create A Police State
A Kathryn Johnston Update
Breaking: Two Officers Surrender In Johnston Death
Police Culture is the Problem
Did Kathryn Johnston Follow the Four Basic Rules?
More Details in the Kathryn Johnston Case

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.
» Read more

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For additional press inquiries please contact:

Alana Salzberg, Innocence Project
Asalzberg@innocenceproject.org
212.364.5983

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

Immigrant Entrepreneurs and Sugar Tariffs

I wanted to link over to a recent article I wrote at the blog Voice of the Migrant, where I talk about the distinguishable products and services that America’s Hispanic immigrants bring to our society:

In a New Yorker article from 2006, James Surowiecki explores how sugar producers in the United States lobbying for “special favors” has resulted in the blocking out of competition and the subsequent degeneration of sugar-laden products:

But American sugar producers aren’t satisfied with supplying the most sweet-hungry population in the world. They’ve relentlessly sought—and received—special favors from the federal government, turning the industry into one of the most cosseted in America today. The government guarantees producers a fixed price for domestic sugar and sets strict quotas and tariffs for foreign sugar. Economically speaking, this has many obvious bad results. It keeps sugar prices in the U.S. at least twice as high as the world average. It makes it harder for companies that use lots of sugar to do business here—in the past decade, an exodus of candy manufacturers from the U.S. has eliminated thousands of jobs. And import restrictions make Third World countries poorer than they’d otherwise be.

The artificially high price of sugar has resulted in the adoption of high fructose corn syrup as a replacement. High fructose corn syrup is rife with many dangers which are not in cane sugar, including high levels of mercury:

In my previous blogs I discuss the findings that there is mercury in a percentage of the hfcs that inhabits so many of our foods and drinks. This is caused from the mercury grade caustic soda that is used in the processing, leaching mercury into the finished product.

Since the introduction of high fructose corn syrup in the 1970s, obesity rates in the United States have skyrocketed dramatically. Sugar cane, which is used in Coca-Cola and Pepsi in Mexico and in high-end American sodas such as Jone’s Soda, contains several naturally occurring health benefits.

Magnesium, calcium and riboflavin can all be found within cane sugar. While soda is not meant to be a “healthy” beverage, ingestion of a naturally sweetened carbonated concoction is nevertheless a much better route to go than the watered down corn syrup that is found in American drug stores.

Apart from Jones and other high end sodas, one of the best places to get cane sugar sodas is at your local taco truck. Fortunately for Californians especially, these amazing testaments to the entrepreneurial spirit can be found throughout working class neighborhoods. At the Fruitvale BART Station in Oakland, there are two taco trucks nearby, with vendors recently opening up in the small shopping center next to the station.

It’s Still Charlie Wilson’s War

In the fantastic Tom Hanks film Charlie Wilson’s War, Hanks’ character is seen frequently bringing up the deteriorating post-Soviet situation in Afghanistan to his fellow congressmen. Having been active in funding the American involvement in combatting the Soviets during their invasion of the Southwest Asian country, Wilson found it very irresponsible to quickly abandon the country once the Soviet Union had fallen apart. Other lawmakers derided him as being the “congressman from Kabul” in the film. Given the events of 9/11, his maintained concern over Afghanistan seems quite prophetic.

The hard part in life is that there are no solutions, only trade-offs. Seemingly endless wars understandably are quite unaffordable, with record unemployment and enormous deficits. On Twitter, I caught Joe Scarborough saying “What is the end game in Afghanistan? What is our goal?” Not a bad question. I also caught O’TooleFan saying
“Does anyone seriously believe we’re ever going to be able to turn things over to the Afghan army?” Another good question, but one that needs to be coupled with consideration for long term responsibility and rational self-interest.

I am only a twenty something writer. I hardly know the answers. I do, however, have enough knowledge of history to know that troublespots in the world do not stop calling us just because we stop calling them. With Kurdistan showing considerable promise as a home for modernity in the Middle East and a strong amount of blood and treasure spent in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is foolish and irresponsible to think we can just abandon it wholesale. It would not be shocking to witness those whose familes or loved ones fall victim to the tyrannical dictators or roaming ethno-nationalists that will inevitably fill that sort of power vacuum blame it on America.

The strongest alternative, in my view, is to try to recruit the budding powers of the world stage who also share an interest in a stable and non-volatile Middle East to become involved. This requires a level of diplomacy that will require considerable improvement in ties with growing superpowers like Brazil and strengthening of ties with India. It may also, as Stephen Kinzer has suggested in his prescient book Iran, Turkey, America’s Future, require the courting of natural but untraditional allies.

CounterPoint: Yes, Virginia, States Really Do Have Rights

This is a segment in The Liberty Papers’ continuing “Point/Counterpoint” series. This post is the rebuttal to my co-contributor Michael Powell’s post here, making the point that “states’ rights” are an antiquated and poisoned concept.

When I saw Michael’s post this morning, I was a little bit surprised. I was expecting him to make the argument that States’ Rights don’t exist. In fact, I was waiting for one specific statement that I’ve heard from those who attack the notion of states’ rights many times over. Thankfully, two comments in, commenter John222 made the point:

States don’t have rights, individuals do. Better would be to say, “The interest of the State in protecting the rights of it’s citizens”.

This is a common statement among libertarians, and although I’ve probably used it in the past, there have been points where I’ve become troubled by it.

Michael made some very important points in his post, and these are points that must be answered. However, to begin, we must have an understanding of the origin, the nature, and the limitations of states’ rights. Only by setting this groundwork may I refute Michael. But first, a caveat. In order to make the points I must make, I must work with two critical assumptions:

  1. Natural rights of individuals exist.
  2. Constitutional democratic government is legitimate.

For those that have read my previous work, it should be understood that I believe neither of these assumptions. I am a philosophical anarchist, and while I can construct a non-theistic basis for natural rights theory, I view them as artificial constructs, not incontrovertible truths. However, we must work within the framework we have, and thus I will concede these points for the purposes of this post. For the purposes of discussion and comments, please try to take these two premises at true, and if you have a problem with the argument flowing from those premises, attack the argument.

Let’s start at the beginning:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Here’s the base. Natural rights are the area where we say to government: “Over this line you may not tread.”

Individuals have certain natural rights, and they empower governments to help them protect these rights. The statement that “States don’t have rights, only individuals do” does not account for what we consider the social contract. Individuals enter into an implicit contract with their government, offering to entrust some of the rights they hold in the “state of nature” to their government in order for cooperation and protection of those rights. Those governments do not gain *new* rights as governments, but they inherit the rights of those they are designed to protect.

Natural rights theory does not hold that individuals give up their rights to the government, the rights are retained. It is best to be understood as a legal contract — individuals freely, by exercise of their rights, create their government. They voluntarily empower their society — their government — to protect their rights. A government that reaches beyond the legitimate power of protection of those rights, as Jefferson himself states, deserves no longer our assent or our support. If said government treads beyond the lines defined above, that government has violated the social contract.

“Government”, of course, is not a singular entity. Governments are hierarchical, competitive, and numerous. In many cases, we are under the jurisdiction of several governments — entities within entities. In many cases, the governments we live under must make compacts with other governments outside our territory — treaties — in order to help complete the tasks which we have empowered them. Each of these agreements are contracts or compacts. Rights of the citizens of the government are not abridged, they are retained — at least if the government empowered to act on behalf of its inhabitants are legitimate.

How, then, do we describe the relationships between these levels of government or between competing governments? How do we define the lines over which they may not tread? Let’s take one example: borders. What are borders, other than the territorial lines defining the government which protects the rights of its inhabitants? What do we call a government’s relation to its borders? Territorial rights! Now, of course, these rights are not that of “the government”, but they are the territorial rights of which the individuals supporting that government have ceded to their government to protect.

Likewise, how do we define our US Government’s relationship to the United Nations and the nations of the world? We use the term sovereignty: the inviolability of our government to the others of the world — the statement that our government has “rights”, i.e. lines over which those other governments may not tread.

The nature of the United States Government and its relationship to its constituent States is a tricky one, historically. The United States Constitution — our governing document — is a compact between states, not a contract directly between the federal government and the people. Historically, the people of the several States entrusted their governments — the entities to which they had entrusted their rights for protection — to form a federal republic. One may support the claim — at least until 1865 — that the States retained sovereignty, and that they had contractual RIGHTS as constituent members of that federation.

These rights are not inherent to them, as States. These rights are the rights entrusted to them by their inhabitants, and the rights they are protecting are not the rights of the State as State, but a collective bargaining arrangement to protect the rights of their inhabitants. Regardless of how you define this, though, the rights exercised are contractual rights exercised by the States on behalf of their inhabitants. The States drew a line, and told the United States Government “over this line you may not cross.” For the United States Government to cross that line would allow the State, if it so chose, to exercise its sovereignty and break the contract — secede.

These rights are not without limit, though. We previously stated that government is created by individuals in order to secure their natural rights. But those rights are retained. A government which does not secure those rights — a government in fact which violates them, is not a legitimate government at all and may be disbanded. Likewise, federal governments or supra-national bodies do not have super-natural powers — they are still only as legitimate as the rights of their constituent states (and thus the rights of their constituent inhabitants). If the United States Government attempts to violate the sovereignty of the states in order to violate the natural rights of its constituent inhabitants, it is just as illegitimate as if the individual state takes that action…

…which finally brings me back to Michael’s post!

Specifically, this country is, and always has been, a work in progress. I said it was illegitimate for a federal government to violate the sovereignty of its constituent States and if a federal government were to do so, it would justify secession. However, while Michael says he wouldn’t cry crocodile tears if the South had been allowed to secede, the South’s secession would not have been justified under States’ Rights theory. Why? Because slavery — a State deliberately violating the natural rights of its inhabitants — is not a legitimate government, and thus the Southern States did not have true sovereignty. A government which violates the natural rights of its inhabitants as a matter of design cannot be granted the authority to act on behalf of its citizens.

The Fourteenth Amendment, in the wake of the Civil War, finally codified this statement. Prior to this, the United States Constitution did not have a method for the Federal government to impede the States from abridging the natural rights of its citizens. (Of course, one can infer from this that the Civil War was illegal, but the destruction of slavery in the South can hardly be described as immoral). It should be stated that Michael’s quote from George Wallace was not truly a defense of States Rights. Those rights of States to discriminate by law against their citizens had long been removed via the Fourteenth Amendment. If he truly believed that the right of the State was inviolable (I doubt this to be the case — I personally think it likely that “States’ Rights”, like patriotism, just happened to be the last refuge of a scoundrel), he was simply wrong.

Michael is correct, of course, that in the intervening century, the term “States’ Rights” was used by all manner of racists, supporters of Jim Crow, and people who are “defiant of settled law”. In American politics, terminology tends to have this problem — terms become appropriated by unsavory characters, and the terms themselves pick up unsavory connotations. We “libertarians” constantly bemoan the fact that our previous label, “liberal”, as appropriated by big-government Democrats. We had to abandon the term completely and build a new one. States’ Rights has some of that connotation, but by definition that doesn’t not negate the concept of those rights.

The term “States’ Rights” may, in fact, be coming into a renaissance. As Michael points out, individual states are fighting the Feds on medical marijuana, and California — the state where we both live — has a ballot measure in November to legalize marijuana entirely. This is in direct contravention of the Controlled Substances Act, but more importantly, this is a state protecting its citizens from the overreaches of Washington!

But again, look at the nature of government. A State government that violates the natural rights of its inhabitants is acting illegitimately. At the same time, a Federal government that violates the natural rights of its inhabitants is acting legitimately. In this case, it is right for the inhabitants of a State to pool to their rights collectively — using their States’ rights — to protect themselves from the Federal government on their behalf. Individuals often have little recourse against the Federal leviathan. They need all the help they can get.

Either way, I think that Michael did not prove, as I thought he would attempt, that states don’t have rights. He did make some valid points that the terminology of states rights had been hijacked for the last century by those State governments who wished to protect their racist fiefdoms. But he belied his own point by bringing up the fact that the very same terms are also being used by States to protect the liberty of their inhabitants from Federal overreach.

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

Children Raised By Lesbians Better Off?

An awesome study turns social conservative thought on families completely on its head:

Contrary to what the religious right might say, children raised by lesbian parents are doing just as well as their peers, according to a new report based on a 20-year study to be published in the journal Pediatrics. In fact, they may be even better off. “When we compared the adolescents in our study to the so-called gold standard,” Dr. Nanette Gartrell, the study’s author, said, “we found the teens with lesbian mothers were actually doing better.” Researchers found that the children showed significantly fewer social problems and rated much higher academically and socially. As for why their children are faring well, Gartrell suggested that lesbian mothers “are very committed, very involved parents,” and may also be better off economically.

Such research proves two things: Gay people are actually an exceptionally well-to-do group, likely based on the fact that they are often couples of working individuals. Also, a free society must not only be politically and economically fluid but also culturally so. Every child is different, and there’s no set standard for how to raise every single one.

Quote Of The Day

Via Coyote, after seeing an E-Verify poster that states “If you have the right to work, Don’t let anyone take it away”:

This is fairly Orwellian for those of us who believe that all people have the right to work, irrespective of the country they were born in, and this right does not flow from any national government and therefore does not stop or start at any border.

Indeed.

SCOTUS will Hear Hank Skinner’s Case but Might Not Make the Final Decision

Yesterday SCOTUS decided they will hear Hank Skinner’s case; arguments will likely be heard sometime next year. However, even if Skinner ‘wins,’ SCOTUS is unlikely to decide once and for all if convicts have a Constitutional right to challenge their convictions if exculpatory evidence becomes available post-conviction. Legal experts say that the most Skinner can hope for is a SCOTUS ruling which would allow a lower court to make the decision which would likely lead to one appeal after another and potentially find its way back to SCOTUS.

Brandi Grissom writing for The Texas Tribune explains the long road ahead if SCOTUS rules in Skinner’s favor:

Even if the court agreed that Skinner can request DNA testing under federal civil rights law, Hoffmann said, it’s unlikely the courts would rule that he has a constitutional right to prove he was actually innocent. The Supreme Court has never ruled that the Constitution spells out such a right. It’s likely that Skinner’s case or a similar one would make its way back to the Supreme Court and eventually force the court to face that question. If the court were to answer it affirmatively, Hoffmann said, it could start a flood of litigation from inmates claiming innocence. That, in turn, could raise a myriad of questions about how the justice system operates and really “gum up the works,” he said. “They really don’t want to kind of bite the bullet and recognize this as a federal constitutional right.”

Allowing DNA requests under federal civil rights law would also bring the Supreme Court closer to a larger question that Blackburn and Hoffmann said the elite jurists have carefully avoided: whether inmates have a constitutional right to prove they are actually innocent. With the rise of DNA science, the question looms large in cases such as Skinner’s, in which testable evidence exists that the jury never heard. Currently, federal innocence claims are primarily based on deprivation of an inmate’s constitutional right to due process — things like shoddy representation or biased juries. There is no legal remedy for convicted criminals who claim the jury just got it wrong, even though their rights were properly protected at trial, Hoffmann said.

“Whether they’re actually innocent or not is kind of a legal irrelevancy once the jury has spoken its version of the truth,” Hoffmann said. “Basically, our legal system is constructed in such a way that that’s the end of it.”

I’m not a lawyer and would never claim to be but a criminal justice system in which judges and lawyers can say that actual proven innocence is ‘legally irrelevant’ is surly a criminal justice system that is broken – particularly when an individual’s life is on the line.

This is why I do not trust the government to kill in my name. There is a legal definition for taking the life of an innocent* person: homicide.

» Read more

A Succinct Take On Immigration

As someone whose great-grandparents were the ones who dropped everything they knew, hopped on a boat to cross an ocean to an entirely new continent, and built an entirely new life in the freedom of America, I’m somewhat blessed. So I share TJIC’s thoughts here. What I’d never considered is exactly what it would take for me to leave America — when you live here, “greener pastures” don’t seem to exist. So this little thought experiment is very interesting:

To imagine the delta in life and happiness that a Mexican can achieve by sneaking into the US and consensually trading labor for cash with a willing adult citizen, we can’t merely picture ourselves sneaking into some fictional Richistan in order to earn 2x or 3x our salary.

…because we’re all (and by that I mean the software engineers, the lawyers, and the starving musicians reading this blog) at the point in the income curve (largely because we had the good luck to be born in the US) where an additional dollar of income doesn’t mean much. Heck, even a doubling of income doesn’t mean much to us – most of our basic wants have been satisfied.

Instead, we have to imagine something comparable in benefit to what a Mexican sneaking over here achieves. A 200 year lifespan, guaranteed happiness for our children, or long and healthy life for our pets, a long, vigorous and healthy old age for our parents – that’s perhaps the equivalent.

What would you do to make sure that you, your parents, and your children lived hapilly for 200 years?

I, for one, wouldn’t hesitate for a second to sneak into a country that prides itself on its immigration, and which has a ton of work that needs doing, and has a ton of employers who are willing to pay me.

Neither would I. So how could I possibly begrudge those who come here for a comparative increase in standard-of-living to the thought experiment above?

A New Introduction

I am honored to join The Liberty Papers.

Brad Warbiany and Doug Mataconis have been very welcoming, and my new realm into libertarian thought should be fulfilling and rich.

I’ve been at United Liberty for two years, starting with the 2008 election and running all the way up to coverage of Arizona’s discriminatory immigration law. My work goes back even further, back to the San Francisco Examiner and the neighborhood newspapers North Seattle Herald Outlook and Madison Park Times in Seattle, Washington.

In the times we live in, there seems to be a political shift going on. The United States is becoming more ethnically diverse, the economy continues to stagnate, and government is making short term maneuvers without foreseeing long-term effects. On the other side of the coin, the Right, who talk a lot of jive about freedom, are parading their own twisted form of nationalism. In these times, it’s important to try to solidify and distinguish the libertarian movement as a separate alternative to the forms of authoritarianism so far proposed to us. I hope my work at The Liberty Papers will help to do that.

I am also currently working on a book on the future of race in politics. It should be finished within the year and published subsequently.

This Day in History: 40th Anniversary of the Kent State Massacre

From the Progressive/Left-wing DemocracyNow.org’s coverage:

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the Kent State Shootings. On May 4th, 1970, National Guardsmen opened fire on hundreds of unarmed students at an antiwar rally at Kent State University in Ohio. The guardsmen fired off at least 67 shots in roughly 13 seconds. Four students were killed and nine others wounded.

The events of May 4, 1970 at Kent State were certainly tragic but the notion that the Nation Guardsmen fired at “unarmed” students engaging in peaceful demonstrations is plainly untrue. In fact these “peace” protesters failed to practice what they preached as they set fires, looted, vandalized cars and buildings, and threw rocks and bottles at the police/National Guardsmen who tried to restore order. These anti-war protesters certainly didn’t practice the Libertarian “non-initiation of force” principle as they, like the U.S. government initiated force to attempt to accomplish a political goal.*

However, sending in the National Guard complete with semiautomatic M1 Garand rifles (.30-06 FMJ rounds) with fixed bayonets to suppress these riots seems to be a bit of an overreaction on the part of the governor.** The methods used to suppress these violent protests were very different from the less lethal methods police use today (which some say is a direct result of this event).

Were the National Guardsmen’s deadly actions justified self-defense? A full 40 years later, this is still a subject of great debate.

One thing which isn’t debatable is that this event was tragic and preventable.

» Read more

Abortion Is Not Libertarian — Or Conservative Or Liberal

In libertarian circles, the abortion issue is a thorny one, for the same reason as in the general political spectrum: it depends on a priori beliefs outside those of a political philosophy.

It comes down to two different potential mutually exclusive beliefs:

  1. The intrinsic “human-ness” of a fetus begins at conception, or viability, or wherever you define — but nonetheless prior to birth.
  2. “Human-ness” begins at birth.

It’s a near-universal belief, whether libertarian, conservative, or liberal, that humans have certain rights. Libertarians nearly always define these as “negative rights”, i.e. freedom from external restraint or infringement. Liberals typically extend this significantly to “positive rights” or the common good, i.e. everyone has a right to an education, a square meal, health care, etc, and individuals may have some liberties restrained (i.e. income taxes, etc) in order to ensure provision of those positive rights for others. Conservatives, as far as I can tell, more define such positive rights as the ability to live in a stable, moral, traditional society, and are willing to curtail liberties (such as drug use, prostitution, etc) that threaten the wider societal “stability”.

But either way, they all believe that individuals have rights and murder is wrong.

If you believe the first proposition — i.e. that a fetus prior to birth has innate “human-ness” and thus human rights, to allow for that innocent “child” to be killed is murder. While there may be needs from time to time to balance rights of one against rights of another (i.e. when health of the mother is threatened, perhaps), one might side with the mother, but that would be considered a justified moral tragedy, not a dispassionate and lightly-considered “choice”. To someone who believes proposition 1, Roe v. Wade is an abomination, as no amount of privacy justifies murder.

If you believe the second proposition — that a fetus prior to birth has no innate rights, then you have no issue with abortion. At that point the fetus can be considered an invasive and unwanted growth inside ones body, and the removal of such is entirely at the discretion of the mother, as it is her body and thus her choice. To infringe on her personal privacy is thus immoral and not the purview of government.

The belief in the first or second proposition is not covered by any moral theory of libertarianism that I’ve come across. Thus, if you define your view of abortion as a logical outgrowth of the rights the fetus does or does not have, you can impart that a priori belief into libertarianism.

As with all beliefs, there are a lot of people who have gut instincts but have never put in the hard thinking to really boil this down to proposition 1 or 2, and then accept the consequences thereof. Most tend to choose a pro-life or pro-choice position and then try to work backwards to justify it in arguments… But then that’s true of most political debates — the average layman incorporates a lot of subconscious values into his/her belief system, and then chooses the political party that “feels” right based on those subconscious values.

But I personally think that the entire debate over abortion boils down to whether one believes proposition 1 or proposition 2. That is fundamentally not a libertarian, conservative, or liberal belief — regardless of the fact that there’s significant overlap between religions who believe proposition 1 and conservatives, and many secular and liberal folks who believe proposition 2. Believing proposition 1 and allowing abortion is philosophically inconsistent, and believing proposition 2 and disallowing abortion is a violation of individual freedom of the mother.

It’s as simple as that.
» Read more

Quote of the Day – Taken from “Government Brutality and Society’s Shadow”

This is an excerpt from a post from the blog Classical Liberal that was written in response to the post Doug wrote yesterday regarding the University of Maryland student police beating caught on tape.

As long as men and women in uniform (State-issued costumes) carry out these violent acts, we think it’s okay, because they’re “protecting us.” But the State gives a false sense of legitimacy to acts that if carried out under other circumstances, would be serial criminal activity.

The government doesn’t do this to us, however, because the truth of the matter, is that it’s merely a reflection of our collective shadow … when otherwise good men and women become agents of savage brutality … turning us all into sociopaths.

This is the price of identifying ourselves with the State.

Read the whole thing. It’s a sad commentary on just how far we as a people have allowed the state to carry out unjustified acts of violence in our name.

SCOTUS, Not Gov. Perry, Grants Hank Skinner a Reprieve

Hank Skinner will not be executed today. With about an hour left before Skinner was to be taken to the death chamber, SCOTUS put an immediate halt to the process.

Michael Graczyk of the Associated Press reports:

The brief order grants him the delay but does not ensure he will get such [DNA] testing. Perry had not decided on the delay.

[…]

In the order, the justices said they would put off the execution until they decide whether to review his case. If the court refuses the review, the reprieve is lifted, according to the order, and Skinner would become eligible for another execution date.

So it looks like the process is back at square one. If the court refuses the review and the reprieve is lifted, a new date will be set and Skinner’s life will be back in Gov. Rick Perry’s hands. Hopefully this case will generate even more attention than it already has and even more pressure will be placed on Perry and others to make sure the DNA testing takes place if SCOTUS doesn’t force the issue first.

There certainly are no guarantees other than the fact that Texas will not risk killing an innocent man on this day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Posts:

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

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

» Read more

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 3 4 5 6 7 10