Category Archives: Liberty

Gary Johnson and Ron Paul CPAC Speeches

The 2012 G.O.P. candidates each gave speeches at CPAC following the debates. Below are the speeches from Gary Johnson and Ron Paul. The first video is Johnson’s presentation before perhaps the largest audience he has had in awhile. Johnson spends a good part of his presentation introducing himself before giving an overview of his proposals. In the second video, Dr. Paul who is no stranger to CPAC, gets right into his prescriptions for fixing the economy and restoring lost liberty.

Don’t Bother with the Fine Print, Just Pass the Bill

The title of this post ought to be a red flag no matter who the president is or what your political persuasion. President Obama is demanding that congress pass his “American Jobs Act” in front of supportive crowds of people who I am sure have taken the time to read the whole bill and understand its contents. This bill should be passed “immediately” and with “No games, no politics, no delays,” so sayeth our dear leader.

I can’t help but think of another piece of legislation that had to be passed “immediately” and “without delay” nearly ten years ago in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The piece of legislation I am referring to of course was the USA PATRIOT Act. I mean what’s not to like? The bill has the words “USA” and “PATRIOT” in them and would make our country safer because the law would give law enforcement the tools needed to fight terrorism.

One of the tools the PATRIOT Act (Sec 213), a.k.a. “sneak and peek” provided law enforcement the ability to delay notification of search warrants of someone suspected of a “criminal offense.” Between 2006 and 2009, this provision must have been used many hundreds or thousands of times against suspected terrorists, right? Try 15 times. This same provision was used 122 in fraud cases and 1,618 times in drug related cases.

Is this what supporters of the PATRIOT Act had in mind when most of them didn’t even read the bill?

So we’ve been down this road before – pass a bill with a name that no one would be comfortable voting against. To vote against the PATRIOT Act might suggest to voters that you are somehow unpatriotic as voting against Obama’s jobs bill will undoubtedly be used in campaign ads to say opponents are “obstructionists” or are not willing to “put politics aside” in order to “put Americans back to work.” And don’t even get me started on all the bad laws that have been passed using names of dead children.

But who is really playing political games here? I think the answer quite clearly is President Obama in this case. He knows damn well that if the economy is still in the shape it is come Election Day he has very little chance of winning a second term unless he can find some way to successfully pin the blame his political opponents. He knows that raising taxes is a nonstarter for Republicans – particularly Tea Party Republicans. There may be some good things in his bill that should be passed (the Devil is in the details of course) that Republicans can support but if it’s all or nothing, the answer will be nothing.

President Obama is counting on the nothing so he can say it’s the House Republicans’ fault that the economy hasn’t recovered. This class warfare rhetoric plays very well on college campuses and union rallies. The worst thing that could happen from Obama’s perspective is if the Republicans call his bluff, pass the bill, and the bill fails to provide the results he claims his bill will achieve (though as a political calculation, it may be a wash as Tea Party voters in-particular would not be pleased either).

The worst thing the congress could do for this economy would be to pass this bill as hastily as the PATRIOT Act was a decade ago. The best thing congress could do is for its members to actually read the bill and have a rational discussion* and debate it line by line. Whether Obama’s intentions are for good or ill, there will be seen and unforeseen consequences if the bill does pass. A top down approach (as I think this bill is) is rarely if ever a good recipe for an economy. No one is smart enough to plan the economy, not even the brain trust of the Obama administration (this should be obvious by now).

Just because the president says his bill will create jobs doesn’t make it so.
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A Ban Worth Drinking To

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

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

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

Cultural Tensions Between Conservatives and Progressives is a Feature Not a Bug

Whether you consider yourself more of a conservative or a progressive (as defined below), have you ever stopped to think about what our culture would be like today if your side had ever “won” the culture war? Would this truly be a culture you would like to be part of?

Before I go any further, for the purpose of clarification I think it’s important to define some key terms namely “conservative” and “progressive” as I’m not using these terms necessarily in the political context that readers here and elsewhere are most familiar with (though in the political context, I find both these terms to be often quite ambiguous).

According to the World English Dictionary, the most appropriate definition for the purpose of this post for conservative is “favouring the preservation of established customs, values, etc, and opposing innovation.” The same dictionary’s definition for progressive is “favouring or promoting political or social reform through government action, or even revolution, to improve the lot of the majority: a progressive policy” (this definition is a little more off the mark IMO; progressives don’t necessarily have to use government via the political process to change the culture).

In thinking of my original question with these definitions in mind, I also find it instructive to learn about other cultures. Believe it or not, my inspiration for this post and raising this question came from watching a documentary series on TLC called “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.” My wife introduced me to the series just the other day. Because I knew next to nothing about Gypsies and being the curious person I am, I decided to watch several episodes with her that we had recorded on the DVR. This documentary series follows several British/Irish Gypsy families and interview the few trusted outsiders (the bridal dress makers in-particular) to give viewers a small glimpse into their culture.

What did I learn about English Gypsy culture? I learned that they are a very closed community; very resistant to allowing outsiders in. Girls are married off at a very young age in very extravagant weddings, many are engaged by the time they are fourteen (girls who marry at 20+ are considered old). Wedding receptions are especially important events for both single Gypsy boys and girls as this is where many find their mates. Teen and even preteen girls are scantily clad and dance provocatively (almost like stripper moves) to attract the boys who are encouraged to “grab” one of the girls for a kiss (i.e. often against her will). At first glance, watching the reception Gypsy culture seems quite hedonistic. But then I learned that Gypsies are actually quite strict on the question of sex. Cohabitation and/or premarital sex is an absolute taboo as to engage in either would bring shame to their families. Divorce is also a big no no and marrying non-Gypsies is rare and frowned upon (to put it mildly). Gypsy girls are usually taken out of school at a very young age to help care for younger siblings and therefore illiterate. Most have no dream of having a career or even a menial job outside the home as they are expected to be good housewives for their families (the woman’s place is in the home which is usually a camper trailer). According to the show, there is no notion of equality between men and women in Gypsy culture. These aspects of Gypsy culture isn’t likely to change anytime soon as many Gypsies fear that any change would further threaten their culture already in decline (according to the show, there are some 300,000 Gypsies in the UK).

In watching this, I couldn’t help but think of our own culture and then culture more generally. There’s nothing all that unique about gender roles in Gypsy culture, even as appalling as we might find them. This sort of male dominance is common throughout world history and has crossed nearly all cultures at one time or another. It wasn’t all that long ago when this was how our culture treated women. I doubt that all that many American conservatives would want to return to that time. Progressives challenged the notion that women should be second class citizens and I would argue that our culture has benefitted. Yet at the time, conservatives must have thought such change would doom our culture.
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Gary Johnson Excluded from New Hampshire Debate

Of 13 candidates and potential candidates for the G.O.P nomination who were invited to participate in the June 13th debate in New Hampshire, 7 have decided to participate. As of now, the 7 participants in the debate will be Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum. Notable no-shows are Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels, Rudy Giuliani, and Jon Huntsman (Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee were also invited but both have since decided not to run).

Not invited to participate: 2 term New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. Johnson did not meet the “objective criteria” as determined by CNN, WMUR, and the New Hampshire Union Leader. To put it bluntly, Johnson’s poll numbers are too low for him to qualify.

The Johnson campaign is understandably very disappointed that their candidate was not invited to debate in a very key early primary state. Ron Nielson, a blogger for Johnson’s official campaign website writes:

In the latest Gallup poll, released one week ago, Governor Johnson’s level of support registered at 3% nationally. This is competitive with candidates like Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum, both of whom have been invited to participate. In fact, I’m not aware of a poll in which Mr. Santorum has out-polled Governor Johnson nationally.

[…]

Why are CNN, WMUR, and the Union Leader excluding the one Republican candidate with executive experience and a record of fighting for true fiscal conservatism and limited government? Why are they denying Americans the opportunity to hear from the Republican presidential candidate whose popularity is growing by the day? If only Governor Johnson had supported a statewide health insurance mandate, like other candidates.

From there, Nielson encourages Johnson’s supporters to contact CNN, WMUR, and the Union Leader and urge them to change their minds. Nielson also points out that 2 of the debate participants, Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum haven’t even officially announced (seems to me that if the debate organizers wanted to exclude individuals, limiting the participants to those who have announced would be a more fair criteria).

In a statement Gov. Johnson released yesterday, he said he respects the decision of the debate sponsors but said its “unfortunate” that there will be a “missing voice” in the debate:

What will be missing is the voice of those who hold an undiluted view of individual liberty – those who believe that individual rights extend to women who face choices about abortion, Americans who happen to be gay, and those who don’t place other asterisks on freedom.

Likewise, there will be no voice for the growing number of Americans who see the hypocrisy and failure of drug laws that condone alcohol at White House Dinners while incarcerating millions of Americans, including our kids, who choose to smoke pot.

[…]

I look forward to participating in the July 10 debate in Las Vegas, sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform and the Daily Caller.

I’ve already made my case why candidates should not be excluded from the debates at this early stage, so I’m not going to repeat those arguments here. There is one point I intended to make in that post that I forgot to bring up though: the point in the campaign when candidates should be excluded from debates.

Is there a point in which candidates should be excluded? Of course! The point at which candidates should be excluded from the debates should be when it is mathematically impossible for the candidate to win enough delegates for the nomination. Last time I checked there haven’t been any primary votes and not a single delegate awarded to any candidate. Gov. Johnson has exactly the same number of delegates as Gov. Romney: 0.

Less than a month ago, Hugh Hewitt dismissed Ron Paul, Herman Cain, and Gary Johnson as “1%ers” who should be “exiled” from the debates because they have “no prayer of winning.” As of right now according to the RCP Average, Rep. Ron Paul is running in 4th place with 8.3% and Herman Cain is in 5th with 7.2%. Gov. Johnson doesn’t register on the RCP Average but is polling between 1-3% in the polls individually. In the most recent CNN/Opinion Research Poll (May 24 -26) “HORSE RACE WITHOUT RUDY GIULIANI OR SARAH PALIN” Ron Paul comes in 2nd with 15%, Herman Cain 3rd with 13% and Gary Johnson 9th with 2%.

While these poll numbers do not bode well for Johnson at this point, the other two individuals who were “1%ers” who had no business being included in the debates less than a month ago are polling better than some of the establishment favorites. Less than a month ago Herman Cain lacked name recognition and has gained substantial ground once he had the opportunity to introduce himself to primary voters. The same can happen for Gov. Johnson once more people learn about his record as governor and where he stands on the issues.

It really does get better…

And now it’s time for another post in which I irritate my socially conservative readers…

Watch all the way to the end please, and listen… unless rather serious vulgarity and profanity offend you in which case don’t watch the video, or just skip to the end spoken word bit (yes, this is VERY VERY NSFW):

I’m not gay, and I wasn’t bullied in high school even though I am the worlds biggest geek… But it wasn’t out of the inherent kindness of teenagers. I wasn’t bullied, because I was the biggest and strongest, and sometimes the meanest kid out there. I was the one who taught bullies a lesson… and believe me, I taught a LOT of lessons.

I’m not big on the “anti-bullying” bandwagon currently gathering steam in America. As it is, it seems to be a politically correct hysterical reaction, combined with an unhealthy dose of overprotective parents, liability obsessed administrators, and fame seeking psychobabblers.

But, I still think forcing someone to pay a price for non-conformity, is wrong.

I don’t care whether you disapprove of homosexuality or not; this isn’t really about being gay, it’s about being different. About not conforming to the social conventions and constructs enforced by the institutions we laughingly call educational in this country.

I wont say there isn’t some value to those social conventions and constructs; society operates smoother with them, and when they are generally followed. A society without a commonly agreed upon set of social conventions is a society that quickly collapses in on itself.

The problem becomes when those who choose not to follow those conventions, in essentially harmless ways, are FORCED into doing so; or are actively persecuted, or actively hurt, physically, financially, spiritually, and emotionally, for not doing so.

That, is the very definition of coercive restraint of human liberty; and it is flatly wrong.

You don’t have to support someones choices; but you have no right to enforce your choices upon them.

As people who love liberty, we would not tolerate such behavior from the state; but what is the state but a collection of individuals acting in concert… We should not accept this behavior from individuals, any more than we would from the government.

The message of this video is, if you choose another way, and you are being hurt because of it, it get’s better. And unfortunately, until we can destroy those so called educational institutions and rebuild them into something that supports liberty and freedom and individual rights, giving kids that message is the best we can do.

Remember folks, in our fine institutions, it’s those who love liberty who are the minority. The ones who don’t fit in. We are the threat to the social order.

I don’t see how anyone who says they’re for freedom, liberty, and individual rights can not support this; because supporting freedom, liberty, and individual rights, means doing so for everyone, even if their choices are completely abhorrent to you (so long as their choice is not infringing on your rights).

It’s not about gay or straight, it’s about free or not.

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

Quote of the Day: Why We Should be Skeptical About the Tea Party’s Commitment to Liberty Edition

Alex Pareene writing for Salon.com in an article entitled: Tea Partyers don’t actually care about “liberty” :

[V]arious New Mexico Tea Partyers booed one of the movement’s superstars [Former New Mexico Governor and potential 2012 presidential candidate Gary Johnson] for daring to suggest that a wasteful and — let’s just say it –tyrannical government campaign [the war on drugs] be ended.

[…]

If ending the disastrous, expensive, immoral and racist drug war gets booed at a Tea Party rally in liberty-loving New Mexico, there is absolutely nothing remotely libertarian about the movement besides a visceral hatred of taxes and the conviction that undeserving Others are benefiting from them.

When people ask me what I think about the Tea Party generally, my response is that I’m glad it’s out there shaking things up and challenging the establishment, but I keep them at arm’s length (where were these people during the Bush years?). This article not only deals about Tea Partier attitudes about the war on (some) drugs but also other liberty issues such as gay marriage and free trade (among many other issues not mentioned in the article).

I have been skeptical about the Tea Party’s commitment to liberty all along but the 2012 presidential primary will provide an opportunity to prove me wrong. If the Tea Party overall supports Gary Johnson or Ron Paul, then I would be happy to admit I was wrong. If, however; the Tea Party backs someone like “Tax Hike” Mike Huckabee, Sarah “the Quitter” Palin, or “Mandate” Mitt Romney I can safely say my skepticism was validated.

I so hope to be proven wrong but if the response from the New Mexico Tea Party is any indication…

Back to First Principles: An Excellent Primer on the Rights of Life, Liberty, and Property

In beginning the 112th Congress, House members took turns reading the Constitution aloud to a nearly empty chamber. While I in some ways appreciate members at least uttering the words, I believe that the members would have been better served not by merely reciting the words but by studying the philosophical roots of the Constitution, particularly the Bill of Rights. This two part video does an excellent job explaining the meaning of the Bill of Rights as the document related to the times it was written as well as how it continues to aid us in the difficult times we currently live.

Part 1 deals with the philosophical foundations that came out of the Age of Enlightenment.

Part 2 explains the reasoning behind each of the ten amendments we call the Bill of Rights

As the narrator went through each of the amendments, I couldn’t help but think of the many instances where these very rights have been violated and continue to be violated by federal, state, and local governments throughout the country. For those of you who want to really know what we are about and the larger liberty/small government movement is all about, these are the very principles we are trying to restore. These are our guiding principles.

If ever you are perplexed by a position that we write about be it our opposition to the war on (some) drugs, opposition to conscription, support for sound money, support for the right to bear arms, opposition to ObamaCare, opposition to the so-called Patriot Act, etc. , you might find it helpful to refer back to these first principles.

I would like to encourage others to share these videos because I would like to see these videos go viral to remind our friends on the Left, the Right, and the middle about why these rights are so important and worth fighting for.

Related: The Philosophy of Life, Liberty, and Property Explained

Open Thread: Successes and Setbacks for Liberty in 2010/Hopes for 2011

Was 2010 a good year or bad year for liberty and why? Like most of you will likely respond, 2010 was very much a mixed bag IMHO.

On the positive side, the mandate section of ObamaCare was found unconstitutional, the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was repealed, Wikileaks exposed the federal government for the corrupt organization it is, the Democrats took a beating on election day, and the Bush era tax cuts were extended (though with the return of the death tax, extension of unemployment benefits, and other compromises in the bill, I’m not yet sure if this was a good or bad thing).

On the other hand, Republicans gained ground on election day (I’m not optimistic that they have changed much since the last time they ran things), the vast majority of incumbents in both parties were easily reelected, government spending is way out of control, the Fed wants to pump some $600 billion into the economy by printing more counterfeit money, unconstitutional invasive searches continue to take place at airports in the name of safety, both Democrat and Republican politicians consider Wikileaks to be a “terrorist” organization, and President Obama believes he can assassinate American citizens where they stand with no due process whatsoever.

On the criminal justice front, The Innocence Network (part of The Innocence Project) exonerated 29 individuals in 2010 for crimes they did not commit. Back in March, Hank Skinner came within an hour of being executed when SCOTUS halted the process. Skinner’s case continues to wind its way through the courts. In other death penalty news of 2010, Kevin Keith’s death sentence was commuted to life by Gov. Strickland, Anthony Graves became the 12th death row inmate to be exonerated in Texas, a key DNA sample was determined to not be a match for another Texas man, Claude Jones who was executed in 2000, and Texas continues to stonewall inquiries into the likely wrongful 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham. As these questionable death penalty cases pile up, hopefully this will be the beginning of the end of the death penalty in Texas and elsewhere.

In a couple of other cases we never quite got around to at The Liberty Papers but deserve to be mentioned: Cory Maye was granted a new trial by the Mississippi Supreme Court because the trial judge failed to give jury instructions to consider a “defense of others” defense and in Arkansas, the Arkansas Supreme Court ordered a new hearing for the so-called “West Memphis 3” to consider newly discovered DNA evidence and juror misconduct from the original trial (if you are not familiar with this case, I urge you to follow this link as a starting point. The more I have looked into this case the more disturbing I find it to be…a perfect example of what is so terribly wrong with the system).

Hopes for 2011
Rather than offering predictions for 2011, here are some of my hopes:

– I hope that the justice will be served in the above cases.

-I hope I am wrong about the Tea Party Republicans and that they will actually be a force of positive change for more liberty and smaller government

-I hope that Ron Paul decides not to run for president for the 2012 campaign but instead puts his support behind former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson (I’ll get into my reasoning in a future post).

-I hope by this time next year, I’ll have far more successes than setbacks for liberty to report.

Now it’s your turn. How do you feel about the state of liberty in 2010 and how do you feel about the year ahead?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hi Everyone,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My very best,

Brian D. Aitken

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

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

“This is not over,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

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

***UPDATE***

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

Thanks to all who participated in this action alert.

TSA Update: More Strip and Grope, Opponents are “Domestic Extremists”

Strip and grope to come to boats, trains, and more?

“[Terrorists] are going to continue to probe the system and try to find a way through,” Napolitano said in an interview that aired Monday night on “Charlie Rose.”

“I think the tighter we get on aviation, we have to also be thinking now about going on to mass transit or to trains or maritime. So, what do we need to be doing to strengthen our protections there?”

Opponent’s of strip and grope are “domestic extremists”:

Following the publication of my article titled “Gate Rape of America,” I was contacted by a source within the DHS who is troubled by the terminology and content of an internal memo reportedly issued yesterday at the hand of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. Indeed, both the terminology and content contained in the document are troubling. The dissemination of the document itself is restricted by virtue of its classification, which prohibits any manner of public release. While the document cannot be posted or published, the more salient points are revealed here.

[…]

The terminology contained within the reported memo is indeed troubling. It labels any person who “interferes” with TSA airport security screening procedure protocol and operations by actively objecting to the established screening process, “including but not limited to the anticipated national opt-out day” as a “domestic extremist.” The label is then broadened to include “any person, group or alternative media source” that actively objects to, causes others to object to, supports and/or elicits support for anyone who engages in such travel disruptions at U.S. airports in response to the enhanced security procedures.

Fabulous, now I’m a domestic extremist. Well, as Barry Goldwater said: “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” On second thought, when it comes to opposing an agency dedicated to controlling and intimidating American travelers, I will wear the extremist label with pride. Will you?

Every argument for the right to keep and bear arms, in just 8 minutes

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

Aren’t You Glad To Be A Gamma?

I had a really interesting philosophical discussion with Brad Warbiany, our curator at The Liberty Papers, over a Facebook status I wrote. I had just re-listened to the CBS Radio Workshop rendition of Brave New World and had commented that it seemed like a far more livable situation than 1984.

Warbiany added that California, if Prop. 19 passes and allows the modern equivalent of soma to be freely ingested, the state really will look like Brave New World. With the state already self-organized into a caste system (Listen to someone from Northern California talk about Southern California or someone from Berkeley talk about Sacramento some time), abortion and every sort of contraceptive widely available and the domination of a vapid mass culture (seen at San Diego Comic Con or Wonder Con in San Francisco) taking precedence over civic involvement for Californians, the Golden State really resembles Huxley’s “negative utopia.”

Warbiany also handed me this great cartoon:
Orwell v. Huxley

On Twitter, alot of progressive and libertarian leaning activists tend to advocate alot for issues of freedom and emancipation in countries like Iran or China. In a way, situations in so obviously repressive countries like those are much easier for the activist. They fit into the Orwell dynamic and the villains and heroes are very clear. In his opposition to the death penalty, our own Stephen Littau does take on the American equivalent to state repression. Along with questionable foreign policy and drug policy, however, those are really the only avenues for passionate American political activism.

Beyond such clear issues of state force, however, one runs into a brick wall when faced with the mass culture, dullness and vapidity of consumer society. It seems that in this society, the majority of more normal people (myself and most people reading this strongly excepted) do not become Jeffersonians but instead “turn on, tune in and cop out,” as Gil Scott Heron once said. How does one become an activist in a society in which people freely subjugate, segregate and limit themselves?

I have a funny story that relates to this, that I didn’t even remember until I read what Brad said. While living in Alameda, California, I lost my phone. A teenage girl, around college age most likely, found it and called my mom, who e-mailed me about it. When I got the phone back, I was really grateful but had no money on hand. The only possession I had literally was a copy of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. I offered it to her.

She literally responded, “No thanks. I don’t read.”

I know. Alameda is not a low income area where reading should be rare, either. There are several bookstores in the area, along with hip restaurants, record stores and everything else you expect in cosmopolitan society. It even has an incredible vintage movie theatre that I rank as the best in Northern California, next to Oakland’s Grand Lake Theatre. This girl was obviously more involved in other factors of modern life, all of which I can safely assume are of less consequence intellectually than the work of Huxley.

It’s especially ironic given that there is a passage in Brave New World in which infants are given books while bombarded with screeching, loud noises, in order to dissuade them from being too intellectual when they reach adulthood. With video games, television, the internet and iPhones, that seems unnecessary as modern people have been incentivized out of intellectualism.

That girl did go to extra trouble to give me my phone back, with no advantage to her, however. That means she had a decency and sense of altruism that her lack of reading hadn’t impeded. Having grown up around the hyper-educated and being on that road myself, I can also attest that we’re not the nicest group of people. Perhaps then we really are on the road to progress.

Quote of the Day: No, Cops Do Not Have Any Expectation of Privacy Edition

Anthony Graber, the man who was charged for violating Maryland’s wiretapping law for recording on his motorcycle helmet cam and posting a video to YouTube of an undercover cop who pulled a gun on him during a traffic stop will not spend the next 16 years of his life in prison. Hartford County Circuit Judge Emory A. Pitt Jr. dismissed the charges explained (correctly) that the police do not have an expectation of privacy while on duty and in public.

“Those of us who are public officials and are entrusted with the power of the state are ultimately accountable to the public. When we exercise that power in public fora, we should not expect our actions to be shielded from public observation. ‘Sed quis custodiet ipsos cutodes’ (“Who watches the watchmen?”).” – Judge Emory A. Pitt Jr.

Just a gentle reminder to public servants that they work for us and are accountable to us, not the other way around.

Hat Tip: Hammer of Truth

Related: Cato Presents:Cops on Camera

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.”

Perhaps it’s time for a little compassionate libertarianism

“It is to put conservative values and conservative ideas into the thick of the fight for justice and opportunity.

“This is what I mean by compassionate conservatism. And on this ground we will govern our nation.

“We will give low-income Americans tax credits to buy the private health insurance they need and deserve.

“We will transform today’s housing rental program to help hundreds of thousands of low-income families find stability and dignity in a home of their own.

“And, in the next bold step of welfare reform, we will support the heroic work of homeless shelters and hospices, food pantries and crisis pregnancy centers people reclaiming their communities block-by-block and heart-by-heart.” - from George W. Bush’s 2000 Republican National Convention acceptance speech

True fiscal conservatives, especially libertarians, are among the most compassionate people I’ve ever met.  Time and time again I’ve witnessed the poorest of libertarians being the most generous with their money, especially when the giving process is personal and not directed through some government agency or large non-government organization. When a house burns down across the street, these are often the first people to show with food and clothing. When someone needs money for a medical calamity, these are the people who host the bake sale and pass the hat. They’ll assist in a traffic accident or help a stranger fix a flat in the pouring rain. Or give a homeless guy a few bucks. When you see that glass jar with a tattered photocopy of some local kid in need taped to it over by the checkout counter at your local mom-and-pop store, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Compassionate conservatism, at least of the variety schemed by Karl Rove and practiced by George W. Bush, has been a topic of constant ridicule from the left, libertarians, and the few fiscal conservatives with enough testicular fortitude to criticize Republican leaders for their hypocrisy regarding economic issues. True to his word,  Bush intervened in the health care, housing and welfare reform arenas, providing us with costly programs like Medicare Part D, the collapse of Freddie Mae and Freddie Mac, and problematic Faith-Based Initiatives, respectively.  And let’s not forget the federal expansion of the No Child Left Behind program or the federal intervention of the Terri Schiavo case. While these big-ticket items provide enough fodder to dismiss compassionate conservatism, there are countless additional examples of how Bush and his cronies managed equate the word “conservative” with a redistributionistic domestic policy or expansion of government.

A bit of fast forwarding provides the same general liberal and libertarian criticisms of compassionate conservatism today, but the populist mood has shifted and provided us with a Tea Party movement willing to, at least in part, take aim at the policies of the previous administration.  The Tea Party movement has also provided new fiscally conservative candidates, emboldened the few small-government conservatives holding public office, and forced others to wear a temporary, election year I-also-hate-deficit-spending-except-when-they-forced-me-to-vote-for-it cloak. For better or worse, the political landscape has certainly changed over the last couple of years.

President Obama’s election combined with a Democratic takeover of Congress led to an interesting phenomenon: An increase in the sales of Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged.   All of a sudden, non-libertarians were no longer wincing when being criticized for greediness and the Tea Parties of early 2009 sported a lot of Rand-influenced signage.  During those days, I ran into a plethora of activists who could easily illustrate how individual “greed” is actually a virtue.

By the time the April 15, 2009 Tea Parties had concluded, the initially blurry composition of the movement had focused into a coalition of libertarians and fiscal conservatives with a better defined message regarding greed and compassion. Still today, there is a clear-cut and not-necessarily-defined-by-party-lines “us” and “them” — “them” being the liberals, the big-spenders, the establishment, the liberal media, elected officials, and so on.  In other words, the big-government political elite and their enablers.

In the process of defining “them,” fiscal conservatives also began to brand who the “us” are: the victims of the big-government political elite and their enablers. Populist identity politics in the Tea Party era focuses on the rights, and the votes, of people afflicted by government policies — especially redistributionistic ones. While a few people still concentrate on the Randian self-victim angle, a great deal are now concerned about how fiscal deficits will impact their children and grandchildren, how cap-and-trade legislation places arbitrary regulations on industries, and on how socialized medicine removes personal choice from large sectors of our society.

It seems that Bush’s brand of compassionate conservatism was designed primarily to win enough liberals without repulsing too many conservatives in order to win on Election Day.  This played out to three large sectors of the voting population:  It guilted the “haves” into paying for the “needs” of others, it bribed the “needy” in exchange for votes and the word “conservative” was tacked alongside socialistic policies in order to pacify other elements within the GOP.

That formula couldn’t work today because the “haves” are becoming fewer in number and those remaining are less inclined to pay taxes for either social or corporate welfare. Despite the protestations of the Mike Huckabees and Lindsey Grahams of the world, the word “conservative” is being redefined and the current incarnation deals more with fiscal than social issues.  Providing government services to classes of people in exchange for votes will always exist, but as the system continues to collapse, people have less faith in the ability of their own sector of society to continue to be the beneficiary of government largesse.

“Compassionate libertarianism” is not some policy of economic redistribution, as others have suggested in the past. It isn’t pandering for votes, although that could be a positive consequence. It doesn’t require compromising any values, therefore it isn’t oxymoronic.

“Compassionate libertarianism” is concentrating the imagery of the libertarian message towards the victims of government benevolence. It focuses on the small company forced to shut down because of ObamaCare or other tax and regulatory burdens. It illuminates a new class of unemployed as a result of Cap-and-Trade. It highlights a working family which just cut their food budget while paying for the more expensive food of people who don’t work at all. It centers our attention on the small businesses which are laying off employees while the government continues to hire.

Other examples include those suffering from collapsing roads or utility systems because government can no longer pay the bill. People being forced to purchase insurance they don’t desire. The family farm which can’t compete with the government-subsidized mega farms. The non-bailout automobile companies competing with those obtaining government cash. Someone who dies as a result of a government-influenced denial of his or her medical care. The people being looted, as opposed to the looters and beneficiaries of the looting process.

For the first time in my life, it seems that more people sympathize with the people being looted than with the looters. Maybe this is because more people are being personally impacted by our current fiscal crisis than has happened for quite some time.  And this seems to have led to additional education about our Constitution and the history of the dawning of our republic.

Perhaps this is the time to turn our country’s sympathies toward those individuals who are working hard and doing the right thing but having their property confiscated in the variety of social and corporate welfare scams being administered in D.C.

If we are going to be compassionate, let’s at least aim it at the true victims in society — the ones actually being tyrannized by our government, as opposed to the looters who receive the spoils of this economic and political war.

Ken Buck’s “Radical” Proposal to “Rewrite” the Constitution

I do not support Ken Buck in the Colorado senate race and I will not vote for him. Actually, between his extreme position on abortion, on banning common forms of birth control, and his sexist comments he made about his primary opponent, I think he is quite a jackass.

But even as much as I have some major concerns about Ken Buck and dislike him personally, the Democrats are running some ads that I believe are lacking in historical context and misrepresent the founding principles of our constitution and our republic.

Here’s the first ad entitled “Different”:

This “radical” idea that the state governments would choose their senators instead of the voters is hardly a new idea conjured up by Ken Buck. If we accept the notion that Buck would “rewrite” the Constitution, he would merely be changing the way senators are selected back to the way the founders intended 223 years ago. It wasn’t until the 17th Amendment was passed in 1913 that senators were chosen by popular vote in each state. In fairness, the ad does mention that for “nearly 100 years” Colorado voters picked their senators. It seems to me that the Democrats are counting on the average historical ignorance of civics 101 of the average person to be outraged at such an “un-democratic” idea.

Now to the second ad entitled “Represent”:

The second ad repeats the “rewrite the Constitution” claim but goes even further “change the whole Constitution?” Repealing the 17th Amendment is hardly changing the whole Constitution.

And what about this scandalous idea that Ken Buck wouldn’t necessarily “represent” what Coloradans wanted and would “vote the way he wanted”? Is this really what we want – senators and representatives with no will of their own?

To the lady in the ad who says “If Ken Buck doesn’t want to listen to what we have to voice our opinion then why is he even running?” my response would be that if its up to each senator to poll his or her constituents on each and every issue, why do we even need senators at all? This is why we have elections. If your congress person or senator consistently acts contrary to your principles, vote for someone else on Election Day. If you have a problem with Ken Buck’s policy positions as I do, don’t vote for him.

Despite popular belief, our system of government is not a democracy but a republic based on the rule of law. The senate was designed to be a counter balance to the fickle whims of the majority of citizens. Prior to the 17th Amendment, senators were selected by state legislatures so that the states themselves would be represented at the federal level while the people were represented directly in the House of Representatives.

There are certainly some good arguments for repealing the 17th Amendment that I don’t believe are “radical” at all. For one, if the state legislatures picked the senators, perhaps there would be more reason to pay attention to government at the state level. How many people in 100 can name their senator and representative in their state legislature let alone have any idea about their voting records?

Also, because senators are chosen by popular vote, some argue that their loyalties are not so much with the states they are supposed to represent but the senate itself. As a result, its much easier for the federal government to blackmail the states via unfunded mandates and holding funds hostage if states pass laws the federal government disagrees with (ex: forcing all states to keep the drinking age at 21 in order to receive highway funding).

Certainly, the repealing the 17th Amendment wouldn’t be a panacea and there are probably some very persuasive arguments in supporting the 17th Amendment. No system of government is perfect even in its most ideal form.

The founders were keenly aware that majorities could be as tyrannical as any monarch or dictator. A more democratic government does not necessarily mean people have more liberty; the opposite is more likely the case.

Cato Presents: Cops on Camera

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

Religious Fundamentalists Join In On Anti-Pot Crusade

Just as religious groups played a significant role in revoking the freedom to marry in California, it looks like religious groups are subsequently involved in squashing the freedom to put whatever you want in your own body:

The same day Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca became co-chair, with Dianne Feinstein, of the No on 19 campaign, he held a press conference to announce the arrest of a suspect in a triple murder case in West Hollywood.

Baca used the platform — and his role as sheriff — to further the goals of the political campaign by railing against medical marijuana dispensaries. He said that they had been “hijacked by underground drug-dealing criminals” and that “it is no surprise that people are going to get killed … drugs and violence go together.”

Baca is an enthusiastic advocate of Scientology’s drug treatment programs, which he actively promotes. Baca has close ties to Scientology, and claims to have to trained deputies in his department using Scientology materials. The Scientology website says that it “sponsors” the independent non-profits drug treatment programs Narconon and Criminon, which and are based on “The Fundamentals of Thought” by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

According to a Time Magazine cover story:

Hubbard’s purification treatments are the mainstay of Narconon, a Scientology-run chain of 33 alcohol and drug rehabilitation centers — some in prisons under the name “Criminon” — in 12 countries. Narconon [is a] classic vehicle for drawing addicts into the cult.

Revenues for Narconon and other drug treatment programs are generated in large part by court-ordered rehabilitation for drug users, which would be dramatically reduced if marijuana prohibition ended. Much like other elements of the prison industrial complex, Narconon has campaigned aggressively against medical marijuana over the years.

Every era and generation has a common force of darkness that threatens liberal society. In the first half of the twentieth century, it was aggressive collectivization which resulted in a near dictatorship in the United States and tyrannies in the form of Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Imperial Japan and Communist China.

The common thread destroying individual liberty in our own age, from women who are forbidden to go to school, cartoonists who are threatened with death for daring to be creative, religious minorities who are terrorized and loving couples who are forbidden to wed due to their matching chromosomes, is religious fundamentalism. It’s our job to fight it.

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