Category Archives: Libertarians

Is it Possible that More Conservatives are Getting a Clue About Criminal Justice Reform and Even the War on (Some) Drugs?

Up until about Monday of this week, such a question would have made me laugh. As I have increasingly involved myself in criminal justice issues, I have found the Democrats to be slightly more willing to take on the Prison Industrial Complex, mandatory minimum sentences, and decriminalization (if not outright legalization) of marijuana. These Democrats are typically vilified as being “soft on crime” for suggesting alternatives to hard time for non-violent crimes such as the ones I recently wrote about in my movie review for It’s More Expensive to do Nothing.

And no, I’m not talking about Ron Paul/Rand Paul*Gary Johnson, or Republican Liberty Caucus Conservatives here, I’m referring to the traditionally “tough on crime” Social Conservatives like Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Attorney General Ed Meese who usually take pride in legislating morality. Radley Balko wrote an article at Reason about this new Conservative project called Right on Crime. While I haven’t had the chance to review the website for myself, what Balko has reported about the project is very encouraging: they actually recognize many of the very problems I have been writing about such as the size and makeup of the prison population, recidivism, and the economic and social costs associated with each.

As if this new project wasn’t enough to get my attention, there was this video that first saw yesterday on my Facebook page from something Pat Robertson said:

Did Pat Robertson just come out in favor of decriminalizing marijuana and criticize mandatory minimum sentences? It’s a freaking Christmas miracle!

While I don’t necessarily agree with some of Right on Crime’s and Robertson’s proposed solutions to reforming the criminal justice system, I find it very encouraging that they are at least beginning to recognize the problems associated with the “tough on crime” mentality. Perhaps now Libertarians, Conservatives, and Progressives can actually have a much needed adult conversation about these issues and find some common ground.

That would at least be a start.

» Read more

R.I.P. David Nolan, Founder of the Libertarian Party

I’m saddened to report that Libertarian Party founder David Nolan is no longer with us.

From the Libertarian Party website:

We have received news that David F. Nolan, a founder of the Libertarian Party, passed away this weekend. The Libertarian Party was founded in 1971 in Mr. Nolan’s living room. He had remained active with the Libertarian Party including currently serving on the Libertarian National Committee and running for U.S. Senator from Arizona in the recent elections. He is survived by his wife Elizabeth. He will be dearly missed by the Libertarian Party and the liberty community. We’ll have more information about David Nolan soon.

Back in September, I praised Nolan’s performance in his debate with Sen. John McCain.

Nolan died just two days before his 67th birthday.

UPDATE: Press Release From the Libertarian Party on David Nolan’s Passing

WASHINGTON – David F. Nolan, one of the founders of the Libertarian Party (LP), died unexpectedly on November 21 in Tucson, Arizona at the age of 66.

Mr. Nolan was also a member of the Libertarian National Committee (LNC). He is survived by his wife Elizabeth.

Mr. Nolan founded the Libertarian Party with a group of colleagues in his home in Denver, Colorado on December 11, 1971.

Mark Hinkle, Chairman of the LP, said, “I am saddened by the news of David Nolan’s death. He not only helped found the Libertarian Party, but remained active and helped to guide our party for the last forty years. We are now the third-largest political party in America, and one of the most persistent and successful third parties in American history, thanks in large part to David Nolan. We will feel this loss.”

Mr. Nolan ran this year as a Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senator in Arizona, against incumbent John McCain. In 2006, Mr. Nolan ran for U.S. Representative in Arizona’s 8th District, against incumbent Gabrielle Giffords.

Mr. Nolan was also well known for his invention of the “Nolan chart,” a two-dimensional chart of political opinion that was designed to get past the more familiar but deficient liberal-conservative paradigm. Marshall Fritz, founder of the Advocates for Self-Government, refined the Nolan chart into the popular World’s Smallest Political Quiz with its diamond-shaped chart.

The Advocates for Self-Government provides more information about David Nolan’s contributions here:
Visit site.

Comments from friends and colleagues:

Sharon Harris, President of the Advocates for Self-Government: “I am so shocked and saddened by Dave’s death — what a loss for the cause of liberty!”

Wes Benedict, Executive Director of the LP: “While I’ve admired David Nolan for years, this year I finally had the pleasure of working directly with him. He was an enthusiastic and principled activist doing the hard work right alongside newer members.”

Jack Dean, longtime friend and political associate: “David was the conscience of the Libertarian Party. He was always there to remind us what the party was about.”

Mr. Nolan had submitted a resolution for consideration at the November 20-21 LNC meeting in New Orleans. Unaware of Mr. Nolan’s death, the LNC adopted the resolution, which reads as follows:

“WHEREAS the Libertarian Party can grow only by attracting new members and supporters, and

“WHEREAS libertarianism is a unique political philosophy, distinct from both contemporary liberalism and contemporary conservatism, and

“WHEREAS we need the support of both former liberals and former conservatives who have come to realize that libertarianism and the Libertarian Party offer a better path to achieving a just, humane and prosperous society,

“The Libertarian National Committee hereby reaffirms that the Libertarian Party welcomes individuals from across the political spectrum who now accept the libertarian principles of self-ownership and non-aggression.”

View a biographical article about Mr. Nolan here.
==========

Sincerely,

Wes Benedict
Executive Director
Libertarian National Committee

P.S. If you have not already done so, please join the Libertarian Party. We are the only political party dedicated to free markets, civil liberties, and peace. You can also renew your membership. Or, you can make a contribution separate from membership.

It’s time for libertarians to start taking a look at Gary Johnson for POTUS 2012

“That’s the first sign you know you’re a libertarian. You see the red light. You stop. You realize that there’s not a car in sight. And you put your foot on the gas.” - Gary Johnson

Former two-term Republican Governor Gary Johnson of New Mexico has been hitting the news a lot lately. This makes sense, as he’s not ruled out a possible presidential bid. Wikipedia provides this brief overview of Johnson’s history:

Gary Earl Johnson (born January 1, 1953 in Minot, North Dakota) is an American businessman and Republican politician who served as the 29th Governor of the U.S. state of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003. He is well-known for his low-tax libertarian views and his regular participation in triathlons.

Founder of one of New Mexico’s largest construction companies,[1] Johnson entered politics for the first term by running for Governor of New Mexico in 1994. He beat incumbent Democratic governor Bruce King by 50% to 40%. He cut the 10% annual growth in the budget by using his gubernatorial veto on a record 48% of bills.[1]

He sought re-election in 1998, winning by a ten-point margin. In his second term, he concentrated on the issue of school voucher reforms, as well as campaigning for marijuana decriminalization. During his tenure as governor, he adhered strictly to an anti-tax, anti-bureaucracy program, and set state and national records for his use of veto powers:[1] more than the other 49 contemporary governors put together.[2][3] Term-limited, Johnson retired from politics at the end of his second term.

In 2009, he founded the Our America Initiative, a 501(c)(4) political advocacy organization. Johnson has also been the subject of media speculation as a possible candidate for President of the United States in the 2012 election.[4]

Recent media reviews are a bit interesting. A current Daily Caller interview begins with this paragraph:

“For eight years,” former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson said with a wide grin on his face, “I was a libertarian governor disguised as a Republican!” Often dubbed the “next Ron Paul,” Johnson wears the libertarian (small “L”) label proudly, though in an interview with The Daily Caller he swore he was still a Republican.

Over at The American Conservative, Daniel Larison describes a potential problem with a Johnson candidacy, which is electability in a Republican primary:

The possibility of a Gary Johnson presidential bid is an exciting one, and I say that as a New Mexican who didn’t like some of the major projects he undertook as governor. I can say that I would happily support his candidacy were he to pursue the Republican nomination. That’s part of the problem Gary Johnson faces in a GOP nominating contest: he appeals to people like me and Matt Welch, who are not remotely representative of the Republican primary electorate. For one thing, I’m not a Republican. Not even Ron Paul’s 2008 bid could make me change my registration to vote in the state primary, and I doubt I would change it for the next election.

While a lot of Republicans liked Ron Paul’s fiscal policy issues during the 2008 elections, his foreign policy views certainly hampered his ability to win a GOP presidential nomination. Johnson has been very outspoken regarding marijuana policy, which has the possibility of making it tough for him to win a GOP nomination, as well.

“Marijuana legalization, arguably Johnson’s hallmark political platform, was advertised as being a main point of the lecture, and Johnson subsequently devoted a substantial portion of his address to it,” writes Patrick Derocher after a recent Johnson lecture at Fordham University.

Over at Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government, long-time Republican political consultant Roger Stone is a bit more optimistic than I am:

A 2012 Presidential candidacy by Johnson would lead to a needed public dialog on the failed war on drugs. Prop 19 failed only because of the gross lies told about marijuana use by police groups, Senator Diane Feinstein and, get this, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Anyone who has seen “Pumping Iron” remembers Arnold puffing on a joint between heavy sets. Do as I say, not as I do, Ahhnold ?

This is not to say Johnson is a one dimensional candidate and their will be plenty of opposition to ending the prohibition of Marijuana in the Republican Party, but a Johnson candidacy would find a constituency in the early primary states, particularly “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire and would spark a national discussion that must be had.

Sarah Palin won’t run ( you heard it here first!). The race is wide open. Run, Gary Run.

Following the same vein, CNN entitled a recent article “Forget Palin, here’s Gary Johnson.” Here’s the pertinent excerpt:

Skeptics of the Tea Party note that the right never organized in opposition to the profligate spending of the Bush administration. They wonder why a movement so vocal about liberty focuses exclusively on the economic variety, and suspect that if the GOP is returned to power, government won’t grow smaller or less intrusive so much as serve different masters.

Come 2012, however, there is one Republican who’ll be uniquely positioned to win over these skeptics: former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, a long-shot candidate whose success in the presidential primary would signal, as nothing else could, that the principles espoused by the Tea Party really changed the GOP.

Certainly Johnson would provide a bridge between fiscal conservatives and the left, as E. D. Kain notes at The Washington Examiner:

That being said, Johnson’s positions on civil liberties, foreign policy, and the war on drugs dovetail nicely with my own, and are quite a lot better and more coherent than anything we’ve seen out of either traditional Democratic or Republican candidates. I’m not nearly the sort of fiscal hawk that Johnson is, preferring to keep reasonable spending levels on public education, transportation, and health, but at least he’s consistent in his approach to both civil liberties and fiscal affairs. Indeed, if the Tea Party was as coherent as Johnson, I might even join up – though my participation would be more a protest of our egregious drug policies and our failed security policies than anything. Limiting government must mean more than simply limiting taxes and spending if it is ever to become a truly coherent political force.
Johnson isn’t afraid to take on his likely competition.  This clip from a recent profile piece from The New Republic is telling:

What does Johnson make of Palin? On a drive through the foothills of New Hampshire, I ask him. Riding shotgun, he turns the question around on me. “Um, I guess some people think she’s folksy,” I say from the backseat. “Well, at first she strikes you as folksy,” he shoots back. “And then you realize: She might be running for president of the United States! And then, don’t we have the obligation to tell her what a terrible idea that is?” Cupping his hands to his mouth, he brays, “Sarah! We love you! Don’t run!” He also performs a rendition of the “deer-in-the-headlights” interview she did on “The O’Reilly Factor,” about the BP oil spill.

He’s also happy to take on the Republican establishment, as The New Mexico Independent notes:

The free-speaking Johnson also penned a critical statement on the Republican takeover of the House, on Facebook:

“After yesterday’s election I think it would be wrong for the Republicans to take the results as some sort of mandate for Republican leadership. I believe that the Republicans have an opportunity to redeem themselves for when we owned the White House and when we ran up record deficits and when we gave America a prescription health care benefit that added trillions to the entitlement liability and ran up record deficits.”

If Johnson runs, and all signs seem to indicate that he will, the Republican primary process will certainly be interesting.

“As an unabashed Johnson supporter (which is an extremely unusual place to find myself vis-a-vis a politician), my main hope has been that at least one libertarian-minded candidate make it to the GOP’s final round in 2012,” writes Matt Welch at Reason. “Though as one wag suggested to me on Election Night, why not two?”

Over at Slate, Dave Weigel noted that the process could be a lot of fun, too. Here’s the excerpt he pulled from the TNR profile, which was immediately followed by the quote at the top of this post:

“Look,” he says, “there are times and places where it would be perfectly safe to go one-forty, and there are others where it would be reckless to go fifty-five.” Within moments, he’s taking aim at stop signs and red lights. “I’m not opposed to the concept,” he allows. “But sometimes, you know, it’s 5:30 in the morning! There’s nobody on the road!”

I’ll have the advantage being able to have some face time with Governor Johnson next week, as the Samford College Republicans and the Alabama Republican Liberty Caucus (disclosure: I’m the current chairman) will be co-hosting a campus event in Birmingham where he will be speaking. We are following this up with a Liberty on the Rocks mixer right down the street, where Johnson will also be present.

While it’s far to early to begin predicting the outcome of the 2012 GOP presidential nomination process, it seems pretty safe to predict that the debate could indeed be interesting.

Jim DeMint Gives The Middle Finger To Libertarian Republicans

Only a few days after Mike Huckabee dissed libertarians on Fox News Channel, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint did the same thing:

One doesn’t expect excessive amounts of wisdom from Sen. Jim Demint (R-SC), the troglodyte who recently told an audience, according to the Spartanburg Herald, that “if someone is openly homosexual or if an unmarried woman sleeps with her boyfriend, then that person shouldn’t be allowed in the classroom,” but this is a new level of stupid. When asked to comment on Gov. Mitch Daniels’ suggestion that it’s time for détente in the culture war, Demint tells Fox News that one “can’t be a fiscal conservative and not be a social conservative.”

Video:

As Hot Air’s Allahpundit points out, DeMint’s comments point out the possible conflict between social conservatives and more libertarian oriented Republicans:

Originally, I thought this message was just something DeMint was pitching at Christian conservatives to convince them that the tea party’s libertarianism is overblown, that they’re still a cherished constituency despite the reordering of conservative priorities to favor spending over “values.” But now I think he means it, which makes me wonder. For instance, last I checked, Glenn Beck’s a fiscal conservative (and notably a fan of the idea of Americans turning back to God) but also … fine with gay marriage. DeMint himself, however, is not: He told Al Hunt last year that neither the feds nor state governments should have the power to legalize same-sex unions. Per his God/government dynamic, I would think he’d support getting government out of the marriage business altogether and trusting in Judeo-Christian morals to handle this problem, but he still supports state recognition of traditional marriage as far as I can tell. Likewise with his comments about how gays and unwed mothers don’t belong in the classroom. Said GOProud’s founder Chris Barron of that, “The idea that someone who says they believe in limited government would support the government weeding out gay teachers and unmarried sexually active female teachers simply defies logic.” So maybe our error here is in assuming that when DeMint says “fiscal conservatism,” he means it as a byword for “less government” universally.

And Jim DeMint has made no secret of his desire to use the state to enforce his social goals. Just a few years ago, for example, he said that that gay men and unmarried women shouldn’t be allowed to teach in public schools, so it’s fairly clear that when it comes to the shrinking the size, scope, and power of government Jim DeMint is not onboard. Libertarian-minded Republicans should take note of that fact.

To the extent Jim DeMint was ever on my 2012 “short-list,” he’s off it now.

Update: Jason Pye nails it over at United Liberty:

Republicans were able to regain control of the House of Representatives because the economy is tanking. Social issues were of little concern to voters. Even at CPAC, the annual conference for conservatives, attendees were much more concerned about the economy than social issues.

I believe very much in free markets, but I’m not a social conservative. Why? Because I believe liberty applies to more than just economics. We are sovereign individuals, and we are entitled to live our lives free of government intervention, provided we are not infringing on the rights of others. It’s what John Stuart Mill called the “harm principle” in his book, On Liberty.

(…)

if the GOP takes the mid-term election as a mandate to pass a Federal Marriage Amendment or to find some other social boogeyman to go after, they’re going to wind right back up in the minority

Yep

Mike Huckabee: The Benedict Arnold of Today’s Tea Party Movement

“If a libertarian thinks he’s a better Republican and calls people like me a RINO or a liberal, I have a real problem with that.” – former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee in a recent television interview.

Of all of the politicians likely to become presidential candidates in 2012, it’s probably former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee who scares me the most. He’s got a unique ability to praise small-government types in one breath then dis them with the next. People, especially in the Tea Party movement, either aren’t aware of how he REALLY feels about them or tend to forget such important details as his actual quotes and voting record.

Because of this, I find it important to remind people of Huckabee’s past whenever his name pops up on the electoral horizon. In my latest attempt at statist Whack-a-Mole, I tried to remind folks of the Huckster’s true record. As a refresher course for folks visiting this site, here’s what he told HuffPo not so very long ago:

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

Lest anyone think this is merely some random quote taken out of context, let’s see what Time does in an interview with Huckabee about his book:

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

It seems that my rant caught the attention of Judge Andrew Napolitano’s producer Austin Peterson. Over the weekend, Napolitano interviewed the former governor on Fox’s Freedom Watch.

“But you don’t believe that the federal government should be concerned with people blowing smoke in other people’s faces?” asked Napolitano.

Huckabee’s responses blew smoke — not in people’s faces — but up a totally different orifice. He avoided answering a question about Constitutional authority, then came out sounding a bit more libertarian on privacy issues.

When Great Britain’s King George III raised taxes and caused other grievous injustices to the colonists, we knew who the enemy was. For the last two years, President Obama, House Speaker Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and others have played a similar role.  During the Revolutionary War, the enemy was easy to spot and distinguish: They wore red coats. The traitors were more problematic, though. By squeaking out small-government noises lately, Mike Huckabee has become the Benedict Arnold of today’s Tea Party movement.

In the interview, Huckabee didn’t provide us with a shermanesque statement about his 2012 presidential ambitions. I’ve called out Huckabee’s record on countless blogs and media interviews, and even suggested to Rachel Maddow that Tax Hike Mike can’t tell if his tea bags swing to the left or to the right. Because Huckabee dons new uniforms like Benedict Arnold, it’s imperative that we all continue to tag Tax Hike Mike with “a RINO or a liberal” label as often as possible unless we wish to see the GOP nominate another John McCain as their presidential candidate.

Here’s the “Huckabee & Libertarians” segment on Fox:

UPDATE: Jason Pye pointed to the post which started this all off and a commenter notes:

I think part of that is because people still haven’t dug very deep into his record. Huckabee’s populism is I think as bad as it gets. Take the bad parts of both parties and put them into one dude, and you’ve got an ever-refattening Huckabee.

WaPo’s “Who Runs Gov” blog notes: Trouble on the right? [Mike Huckabee] is christened “The Benedict Arnold of Today’s Tea Party Movement” by the Liberty Papers.

UPDATE II: Over at Liberty Pundits, Melissa Clouthier scribed:

Dear Christian Conservatives intoxicated by the Jesus talk: It’s not Christian to steal from one person and give it to someone else. Mike Huckabee is a Big Government populist who wants to use government programs for Christian ends. The problem with that is it is inherently wrong. You cannot take the liberty of one person and increase the liberty of another. Period.

Doug Mataconis adds: “Hey Huckster, it’s on.”

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.

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

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

Sullivan notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Police Kill Seventeen Year Old: How Much Is Enough?

Reason’s Radley Balko reveals another disturbing story of America’s increasing police force gone awry:

Last Sunday night, police in Morganton, North Carolina shot and killed 17-year-old Michael Sipes. The officers were responding to a noise complaint called in by a neighbor in the mobile home park where Sipes lived. His mother says there were three children in the home on the night Sipes was killed, and were likely he source of the complaint.

According to Sipes’ mother and others in the house, the police repeatedly knocked on the door to the home, but never identified themselves. They say both Sipes and his mother asked more than once who was outside. A neighbor who heard the gunshots also says he never heard the police identify themselves. Police officials say the officers did identify themselves.

According to those in the trailer at the time, as the knocks continued, Sipes retrieved a rifle, opened the door, and stepped outside. That’s when Morganton Public Safety Officer Johnny David Cooper II shot Sipes in the stomach “four or five times.”

More here and here. Profile of Sipes here. The story is still fresh, but at first blush he certainly doesn’t seem like the kind of kid who would knowingly confront police officers with his rifle.

Of course, beyond this story we saw the Oakland murder of Oscar Grant, the shooting death by police of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnson in Atlanta and the terrorizing of a Missouri family and the killing of their dog during a drug raid (a crime which was replicated several times). This is really unacceptable.

Why is this not becoming an electoral issue? Police have various means at their disposal to nullify suspects and yet story after story of unnecessary lethal force seems to pop up. Republican, Democrat or any party, the candidate who runs on restoring the Fourth Amendment and focussing on law enforcement that prioritizes enforcing laws over terrorizing citizens will get my vote.

Thoughts On The Libertarian/Conservative “Alliance”

Over at Liberty Pundits, Melissa Clouthier argues that libertarians and conservatives are natural allies:

Libertarians want the government to bug out. Conservatives want the individual to empower himself. Libertarians believe in rational self-interest. Conservatives believe help and charity come from a giving heart–not from the government’s pointed gun.

Their motivations might be different, but their desired outcomes are the same. When Big Government Republicans talked about compassionate conservatism, they implied that conservatism is mean and harsh. They believed that they cared because they wanted to give people something for nothing.

They cared with other people’s money. I can be very generous when I’m writing checks off of someone else’s checking account. And boy do they all feel generous. But we are all paying the bill. And maybe some of us would pay for some of these things anyway. Americans are a very generous people. But many things are useless or worse, actively harmful and the government has no business being in that arena.

Conservatives and libertarians have much in common. Libertarians need to get over their God issue and actually see their friends in the conservative movement. They need to see the Restoring Honor rally for what it is: a call for personal responsibility and living free as an individual (which means being free to live with consequences and not expect someone else to bail them out).

And conservatives need to ignore the libertarian drug and sex obsession and see the small government, fiscally responsible desires in the libertarian movement.

(…)

The small government strains coming from these two groups naturally work together. Both true conservatives and libertarians distrust big government in all its forms whether the party is Republican or Democrat.

While I don’t doubt Melissa’s sincerity, I think what she misses here are the facts which seem to establish that that the conservative/libertarian “alliance” is really just a marriage of temporary convenience.

For better or worse, victory for conservatives means victory for Republicans. You can make distinctions between small-government fiscal conservatives and “Big Government Republicans” all you want, but the truth of the matter is that conservatives cannot succeed unless the Republican Party as a whole succeeds, and that means allying with and often voting with “Big Government Republicans.” Now, personally, that doesn’t bother me on some level. I”m willing to take an Olympia Snowe or a Mike Castle if it means Rand Paul is part of a Senate Majority. However, if you look at the history of the GOP as a whole, it’s hard to find any example from recent where the party was truly responsible for a reduction in the size, scope, and power of the Federal Government. It happened during the Reagan Administration, but even those modest gains have been reversed over the past decade, thanks mostly to a Republican President and Congress. So, on some level, libertarians and conservatives who hitch their star to the GOP are selling their souls and accepting the reality of short-term, temporary gains rather than long-term change.

More importantly, though, there are fundamental differences between libertarians and conservatives that make any kind of an alliance one of mere convenience rather than anything permanent. The great Frederich von Hayek outlined some of those differences in his 1960 essay Why I Am Not A Conservative (note that when Hayek uses the word “liberal” he is referring to it in it’s classical, principally British, sense of a belief in free markets and individual liberty, not the modern sense):

Let me now state what seems to me the decisive objection to any conservatism which deserves to be called such. It is that by its very nature it cannot offer an alternative to the direction in which we are moving. It may succeed by its resistance to current tendencies in slowing down undesirable developments, but, since it does not indicate another direction, it cannot prevent their continuance. It has, for this reason, invariably been the fate of conservatism to be dragged along a path not of its own choosing. The tug of war between conservatives and progressives can only affect the speed, not the direction, of contemporary developments. But, though there is a need for a “brake on the vehicle of progress,”[3] I personally cannot be content with simply helping to apply the brake. What the liberal must ask, first of all, is not how fast or how far we should move, but where we should move. In fact, he differs much more from the collectivist radical of today than does the conservative. While the last generally holds merely a mild and moderate version of the prejudices of his time, the liberal today must more positively oppose some of the basic conceptions which most conservatives share with the socialists.

(…)

The position which can be rightly described as conservative at any time depends, therefore, on the direction of existing tendencies. Since the development during the last decades has been generally in a socialist direction, it may seem that both conservatives and liberals have been mainly intent on retarding that movement. But the main point about liberalism is that it wants to go elsewhere, not to stand still. Though today the contrary impression may sometimes be caused by the fact that there was a time when liberalism was more widely accepted and some of its objectives closer to being achieved, it has never been a backward-looking doctrine. There has never been a time when liberal ideals were fully realized and when liberalism did not look forward to further improvement of institutions. Liberalism is not averse to evolution and change; and where spontaneous change has been smothered by government control, it wants a great deal of change of policy. So far as much of current governmental action is concerned, there is in the present world very little reason for the liberal to wish to preserve things as they are. It would seem to the liberal, indeed, that what is most urgently needed in most parts of the world is a thorough sweeping away of the obstacles to free growth.

This difference between liberalism and conservatism must not be obscured by the fact that in the United States it is still possible to defend individual liberty by defending long-established institutions. To the liberal they are valuable not mainly because they are long established or because they are American but because they correspond to the ideals which he cherishes.

The truth of Hayek’s observation can, I think, be found in the history that has passed since he wrote those passages fifty years ago. Except on the margin’s the march of the state has continued unabated regardless of which party was in power and regardless of whether the President was a (modern) liberal or a conservative. Ronald Reagan, as I noted, did little to reverse either the New Deal or the Great Society and Republicans, who campaigned on eliminating the Department of Education in 1980, turned around made it even more powerful when they finally achieved long-sought-after goal of a Republican President and Republican Congress.

Moreover, when it comes to certain aspects of government, conservatives have proved themselves as willing to increase the power of the state as their liberal opponents. The National Security State is largely a creature created by Republicans, and the PATRIOT Act, passed without even being read in the panic that ensued after the September 11th attacks, is now being used by law enforcement to go after people who have no connection to terrorism at all. Privacy from government surveillance and intelligence gathering is fast becoming a myth, and neither conservatives nor liberals seem willing to do anything about it.

And then there’s the issue of the social conservatism aspect of modern American conservatism. Whether it’s same-sex marriage, sexual privacy, or individual automony there are fundamental philosophical differences between libertarians and conservatives that become more apparent once you look past the agreements on fiscal policy.

So, yes, on a temporary basis, libertarians and conservatives have common ground at the moment. But it’s very small common ground and I don’t expect any “alliance” to last very long given past history.

Ron Paul Breaks With Son Over Mosque

This is one of the Texas congressman’s best appearances since the heyday of his presidential run. I’ll admit my enthusiasm for him has waned mostly due to his son and a lot of the people who have associated themselves with Paul. Paul himself, however, is consistently a voice of reason over the irrationality and hatred of both political “sides.”

Point: The ACLU Is A Friend of Liberty

It takes considerable skill to be able to write from both ends of a political issue, and I’m happy to say that that is the task I am going about with the ACLU. For my critique of the ACLU, click here.

The Left and Right political labels are pretty useless at a certain point, but for the sake of convenience, I’ll use the Left wing label in order to defend the ACLU.

The political Left has at its core both a democratic and an authoritarian side. George Orwell, Lionel Trilling and Christopher Hitchens are among some of the most prominent intellectuals to have split with the Left on occasion in order to speak out against tyranny. This dichotomy is one I like to call the “Napoleon-Snowball dichotomy,” after the characters from Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Napoleons don’t simply show up in third world countries like North Korea or Venezuela – they also have their place in the United States. Despite his coming to the mainstream fore speaking of the need to defend civil liberties, Barack Obama has accelerated the authority of the government to new heights. Obama has grabbed the authority to kill American citizens anywhere in the world. He has put closing Guantanamo on the back burner. Obama’s civil liberties problem was made clear as well by his firing of Shirley Sherrod on the grounds of a sloppy hit job by Andrew Breitbart. Any administration that would fire a public servant so quickly on such shaky grounds must have some sort of anxiety about its power.

For Obama’s Napoleonism, the ACLU has acted as a modern day Snowball, defending against the frightening precedent of a president being able to eliminate Americans by executive order.  In a suit filed against the government, the ACLU argued that the Obama administration had “asserted authority to use lethal force against US citizens located far from any battlefield without charge, trial, or judicial process of any kind.”

The ACLU is also victim to a lot of misinformation, including the urban legend that they had filed suit to have crosses removed from graveyards. In fact, in 1999, they did precisely the opposite:

WEST PALM BEACH, FL — In the first case to be filed under Florida’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida goes to trial today on behalf of seven families seeking to prevent the removal and destruction of religious symbols placed at the gravesites of their loved ones.

At issue is the City of Boca Raton’s threat to remove various vertical memorials, including Christian crosses, Stars of David and other religious symbols, from cemetery plots at the Boca Raton Community Cemetery. The ACLU will argue that under the new law, passed in 1998, removal of religious items from grave sites would constitute a substantial burden on religion.

The brilliance of the American constitution is not anarcho-libertarianism – it’s a balance of power through checks and balances. The ACLU is a great bulwart against granted authority becoming too powerful.

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.

Wayne Allyn Root: Religious Freedom And Property Rights ? Not For Them Muslims !

bill_of_rights_cropped1-570x3881

I’ve written before about the questionable libertarian allegiances of Wayne Allyn Root, the LP’s 2008 Vice-President nominee and currently an At-Large member of the Libertarian National Committee. Now, Root is out with a blog post about the so-called “Ground Zero” Mosque that is anything but libertarian in it’s sentiments and it’s conclusions, and it should be of concern to anyone who thinks that Root represents the direction the Libertarian Party should take in the future.

Root starts out with the same sort of milquetoast paeans toward religious liberty and property rights that we saw in his book, but he quickly goes off in a direction that makes it clear that, on this issue, he is more in line with Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich than any Libertarian (or libertarian):

This proposed building of a mosque on hallowed ground is an ATROSITY towards America. To build a celebration of Islam within steps of 9/11 does nothing to increase religious freedom…it inspires hatred, divides our cultures, and increases the odds of violence and hate crimes. Common sense suggests this mosque, being built in this specific location, is NOT being built as a sign of friendship between Muslims and Americans…but rather as a sign of the lack of respect…a belief in our weakness…and an attempt to embarrass and belittle us. The financial district of Manhattan is not a residential area with a large number of Muslim residents for the mosque to serve. Therefore common sense suggests that the only possible reason to build it there (rather than in Brooklyn or Queens where there are large Muslim populations) is to show Muslim contempt for Americans by building a monument to Islam in the shadow of the site of their greatest triumph over America.

It is an offense to build a mosque in that location- an offense to all Americans (including Muslim Americans), all Christians and Jews, all relatives of 3000 dead heroes at the World Trade Center.

First of all, Root is just completely wrong on the facts here. The Cordoba House isn’t at all what he and the project’s critics have represented it to be:

The building’s planners, the American Society for Muslim Advancement and the Cordoba Initiative, have said it’s modeled on religious and community centers such as the YMCA, and that the 13-story, $100 million building would also include an arts center, gym and a swimming pool, as well as a mosque. It would be two blocks away from Ground Zero.

Two blocks away and nowhere within line of sight of the area where the attacks actually occurred.

The attempt by Root, Palin, Gingrich, and other opponents of this project to call this a “Ground Zero” mosque are therefore a complete misrepresentation of the location of the project. A misrepresentation obviously intended to lead people to think that a mosque is being built on the location of the World Trade Center rather than being constructed inside an already-existing decades old building as part of a larger project that would be open to the public as a whole. For that reason alone, Root’s appeals to emotionalism and the supposed “atrocity” that this project represents should be rejected as silly and, quite frankly, dishonest.

Root goes on:

Yes, private individuals and organizations have the right to build houses of worship with their own funds. But one has to wonder where the money is coming from to build a 15-story building on some of the most expensive real estate in the country. We Americans believe in the separation of Church and State. If it turns out that this project is sponsored by a foreign government — either directly or through a state-sponsored organization that engages in terrorism — than the idea of this being an issue of religious freedom is a sham and an argument can be made that our Constitution would actually prohibit this mosque from being built.

Except, of course, for the fact that there is no evidence that this is the case. More importantly, there is no connection between the organization that wants to establish the center and anyone associated with the September 11th attacks.

In the end, Root falls into the same anti-Muslim hole that Palin, Gingrich, and others have. All he’s really saying is that we can’t let them scary Muslims build what they want to in a building they own. While he doesn’t go as far as Gingrich and Palin in calling for government action to stop the project, he adopts the same attitude of religious intolerance and, for any libertarian, that’s just unacceptable.

Let’s contrast Root’s paean to fear-of-Muslims with something published this past weekend by Libertarian National Committee Interns Marissa Giannotta and Josh Roll:

The attacks on 9/11 and its victims should not be ignored, however, we cannot lay blame on the entire Islamic community for the terrible acts that occurred on that day. The Islamic cultural center would be a great way for others to learn about Islam and ultimately build bridges between the United States and the Muslim World. Islam by principle is not an extremist religion and not all Muslims should be portrayed in such way.

More importantly, those who have ownership of the site should have the freedom and the right to build what they wish. Property rights should be respected as a right for all citizens, not just a few. Our platform clearly states, “The owners of property have the full right to control, use, dispose of, or in any manner enjoy, their property without interference, until and unless the exercise of their control infringes the valid rights of others.” The Islamic cultural center does not infringe on the rights of others.

As Steven Chapman describes in his article at Reason, “Palin is not a slave to intellectual consistency. Change the church to a mosque, and put it a couple of blocks from the site of the World Trade Center, and she suddenly loses all patience with the rights of religious believers.”

Libertarian Party candidate for New York State Governor, Warren Redlich, also weighed in on the issue stating, “…I have asked some people if they would object if it was a synagogue, church, Jewish community center, or YMCA. All of them say that wouldn’t bother them. So the reason for opposing this facility is because it’s associated with the Muslim religion. That violates freedom of religion under the First Amendment.”

As Thomas Knapp notes, this is a litmus test for all libertarians (Big-L, or small-l):

If you don’t support private property rights and freedom of religion, you aren’t a libertarian.

Period.

Cordoba House, the project being fraudulently referred to as a “mosque” by those attempting to prevent its construction, is planned for construction on private property and with private funds.

The opponents of Cordoba House are attempting to stop its construction by persuading a government board to declare the building currenly standing at the project’s prospective location “historic” so that the owners can be forced to “preserve” it and forbidden to demolish it and build a structure more to their liking there.

The opponents of Cordoba House oppose private property rights. Their opposition to private property rights stems from their opposition to freedom of religion. They are, therefore, not libertarians.

That, Mr. Root, is libertarianism. Perhaps you’re in the wrong party.

Update: Jason Pye has weighed in with his own take:

Property rights and religious freedom are among the principles of a free society, basic liberties are supposed to be protected from the mob. To hear of anyone casting them aside is concerning. For a libertarian to do it is a betrayal of these core values that we are supposed to believe in.

Indeed.

From the Left and Right, Marijuana Legalization Faces Opposition

At this point in time, there is reason to be optimistic about marijuana legalization. Andrew Napalitano was able to get Sarah Palin to back the “lowest criminal priority” position on his show, while Oakland, California seems to be positioning itself into a future marijuana growth mecca with a local ordinance allowing industrial marijuana production in the city:

Oakland’s City Council passed a resolution late Tuesday night, which could make it the first city in the state to give official permission to the industrial marijuana production. The move is considered groundbreaking as it will ensure commercialization of a crop that is mainly cultivated in hidden gardens. “This is a monumental step forward,” said Dale Gieringer, an Oakland resident and the longtime head of California NORML, which backs the legalization of marijuana. “It really means moving into the era of industrial-scale operations, and Oakland means to do it big.”

Meanwhile, liberal politicians from California, predictably disappointing on this issue, such as Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, are coming out in opposition to legalization:

Democrat Dianne Feinstein, California’s senior U.S. senator, has thrown her weight behind the effort to defeat Proposition 19, the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Initiative of 2010. Apparently Feinstein believes that California’s present pot prohibition, which was initially enacted in 1913 yet has done nothing to reduce the plant’s availability or use, is worth keeping.

If the double-headed behavior of the Left weren’t enough to give marijuana legalization supporters an aneurysm, the support of Ron Paul, Andrew Napolitano and maybe even Sarah Palin isn’t enough to guarantee right-wing support to a final end to the failed drug war:

“Angry old Republicans are not our friends,” warned Dale Gieringer, executive director of the California chapter of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). He predicted “a very tough campaign” ahead for Tax Cannabis 2010, even without a right-wing rally. As libertarian and small government as they purport to be, the Tea Party-types are all-but-guaranteed conservative votes, votes that could tip the balance against Tax Cannabis 2010 — which in latest polls is scoring about “50-50,” according to Gieringer, who dropped the news Sunday during day two of the International Cannabis & Hemp Exposition at the Cow Palace on Saturday.

It’s unfortunate to see how unpredictable this initiative is. For bureaucratic educational reasons, I can’t vote while I’m here in California. I’m still registered in Washington state, so I have no voice on this issue except to urge people to go out and vote for Proposition 19. Our state already failed on same-sex marriage. We’d better not fail on this one.

Point: “State’s Rights” A Misnomer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Week In Linguistic Gymnastics

I’m not the first person to notice how important a role linguistics play in politics – George Orwell’s classic 1984 provided keen observations into the role that minimization of language plays in closing political discourse. In his essay “Politics and the English Language,” Orwell stated, “All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find — this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify — that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship.”

As a writer, first and foremost, the linguistic abuse that regularly metastasizes in politics is of particular note. Those who don’t share the passion for writing don’t tend to notice it, and so don’t get when they’re being duped. Hopefully this regular column, which I’ll publish each week, will shed light on the sort of verbal athletics that are regularly played.

“The Democrat Party” – I’m not a fan of either political party but I can’t help but notice this particular note of disrespect coming from the Republicans. It’s often said that you should call a group what they call themselves, and the phrase “Democrat Party” is a term no Democrat uses and which is obviously used to downgrade. In a tense interview with George Stephanopoulos, Rand Paul used the phrase with particular anger, demonstrating his ascendance into Republican partisanship.

Republican Names – It dawned on me recently – Republican politicians often seem to have either single or few syllable names: Paul Ryan, George Bush, Ron Paul, Rand Paul. While searching for the meaning of this phenomenon, I can only espouse it to a further illustration of the culture war – on one side, the Democrats, a leader with a name like Barack Hussein Obama II (whose Kenyan and Arabic names combined with American citizenship symbolize multiculturalism) and on the other, the Republicans, a leader with a name like Sarah Louise Palin, the simple charm of which matches the woman’s personality and upbringing.

“Obamacare” derogatory? – While this story is a little bit old, it’s worth bringing up simply because it will be relevant in the future. Daily Show host Jon Stewart pulled the card of saying Obamacare was “derogatory:”

Stewart immediately jumps on O’Hara’s slip, calling him out on using the “derogatory” phrase and firing back by referring to O’Hara’s book as a “tea-bagger book.” O’Hara stammers for a few seconds and tries to defend his word choice, but concedes to calling it the health-reform bill instead. (It’s a law, by the way.)

With the letter “g” used twice in the middle of “tea-bagger,” the phrase is a little too much like two very politically incorrect terms for sexual and ethnic minorities. Stewart is a comedian, of course, and such a term isn’t offensive enough to make him a bad guy. However, while not a bad guy, he is a hypocrite. How on earth is “Obamacare” derogatory while “tea-bagger” isn’t? Does Stewart prefer one sort of derogatory over another? If you go down that logical road, surely some servicemen must have found it upsetting to hear their mission in Iraq called “Mess-O-Potamia” regularly by Stewart.

Twitter – I am normally not a technophobe. I loved the Economist article critiquing Barack Obama’s rant against technology. Given that, you can’t be absolutely fundamentalist about anything, so it must be said that Twitter is not a means to a literate society. With each tweet limited to 140 letters, comments are limited in their meaning in addition to their length. A quick look at my Twitter main page found these gems of literary genius:

i wish i could just kamehameha ppl when i felt like it.

Nine-year-old boy invents better buns for bratwursts, wins admiration of world [Cool]

Shut Up You Fucking Baby! #FaveDavidCrossAlbumAndActualThoughtIAmHavingAboutMyBabyRightNow

[Jun-17]-Equities: Analysis of the Current Situation and Prospects in the Chinese CWSF Market: SHANGHAI, June 17 /… http://bit.ly/aKTMET

We already have a highly visual based reductionist talking point culture, which has enabled mental midgets like Sarah Palin to positions of influence that would have been laughable years ago. Take a look at old issues of Life Magazine and you’ll find the quality of prose more representative of today specialized digests like Lapham’s Quarterly in its quality than People magazine or Newsweek. In many ways, our society is ahead, but in terms of the average American’s language capacity, I’m afraid to say we’re falling behind.

Congratulations Mr. Chairman

I just wanted to take a minute to congratulate Mark Hinkle, for winning his election as the new chairman of the Libertarian Party of the United States.

Mark is the former chair of the California Libertarian Party, with over 30 years experience in local and state politics and activism. Outside of politics, Mark has extensive experience as an engineer and technical manager in large enterprises, and is also a long time entrepreneur and small business owner.

As it happens, Mark is also my friend of over 10 years; ever since we worked together as early employees at an ill fated bay area startup during the dot bomb.

Mark and I have had a number of great discussions about principle vs. pragmatism, finance and economics; and the practical, moral, and philosophical issues around labor, military service, the use of military power, interventionism vs. non interventionism; and of course the non-agression principle.

I know Mark to be a good manager and organizer, a good debater, a good joker (and a bad one), a good father, and a good man.

Oh and on a personal note, I’m glad Mark beat Wayne Allyn Root… but I’m no longer a party member (for many reasons) so I can’t really complain about Root being in the leadership (he was elected as committee member at large).

I realize I’m a week late in this missive, but I lost track of the election, and for some reason my normal LP email alerts didnt notify me…

Probably because my spam filter has decided that anything sent that often to that big a list of people using that language has GOT to be Spam…

…hint hint…

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

1 2 3 4 5 6 8