Steve G.

Archive for the ‘Second Amendment’ Category

HOW I THINK THE CONSTITUTION CAN BE FIXED (Part I: The Problem)

In Activism, Civil Liberties, Congress, Constitutional Rights, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, Democracy, Democrats, First Amendment, Human Rights Abuses, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Politics, Republican, Second Amendment, US Government on May 20, 2009 at 7:12 am

I have said many times over many years that I think that The Constitution of The United States is broken.  I have recently been asked to give specific examples of what I mean when I say that.  This is, of course, a very fair question to ask.  To answer it, however, I will both give some background information to help explain WHY I feel the way I do on this subject (which is the topic of this first part of this article) and, as I don’t think that it is helpful when people say what they think is wrong with something without actually offering any possible solutions to the problems that they see, I will also provide specific examples of WHAT I would specifically suggest to fix these perceived problems (which will be the topic of the second part of this article). I will do this by primarily suggesting how I think specific aspects or parts of The Constitution can be improved to better accomplish the goals of the founders.  Now, with my suggested changes, I will not be offering specific wordings for those changes.  I believe it would be pre-mature and a poor process to do so within the scope of this article.  I think that that there needs to be some agreement first about what changes should be made, then establish specific goals and objectives for those changes, as well as agreement on why a specific change should be made and what its purpose would be, and THEN, work on the actual wording to be forever enshrined in The Constitution.  For me, then, to actually propose specific wording changes at this stage in the process would be pre-mature.  In addition, I am rather… verbose… and I personally think that such wording needs to be as concise as possible.

Let me start by telling my readers why this topic interests me and why I feel I am qualified to write an article on this subject.  When I was a 16-year old kid in high school, I was able to get involved in several college student organizations at Texas A&M University.  This was a very unique period at A&M in the mid-1970s, which is what made this possible.  As a high school kid, I was still an outsider in those groups.  This allowed me to be an observer of the organizational group dynamics.  In one of the organizations, after I had been in it for a couple of years, there was a huge internal crisis which literally tore the organization apart.  This was the first time I ever got to experience what I came to call the ‘second generation effect’.

It was for this group that I wrote my first constitution, a 25-page thing that no one ever got to see because when I had completed it, it was stolen before I could present it.  In retrospect, it probably wasn’t very a very good constitution, although I do not have a copy I can read to verify that.  What writing it began for me, however, was hobby of designing fictional organizations and writing constitutions for them that lasted well over a decade.  I would do this in the same way that some people do crosswords or jigsaw puzzles and, to me, the process was, and is, very much a logic puzzle.   Along the way I have written five to seven actual constitutions for real organizations and, because of what I watched happen in those groups I was part of while I was in high school discovered a desire to help other people create better organizations themselves. I eventually earned a Master’s degree that would allow me to work as a student activities / college union professional, which also provided me with the means to collect constitutions from all kinds of organizations from many different locations to study.  This has allowed me to see many commonalities, both good and bad, among those documents and helped me to formulate a guiding philosophy for designing and writing constitutions for ANY organization.  That philosophy is:

You can NOT, by definition, plan for the unexpected… but you are a damn fool if you do not prepare for the predictable.

In case anyone is interested, by the way, I think that my next project along this line will be to try to incorporate a city in the unincorporated area in which I live and try to create an actual ‘laboratory of democracy’.

The second generation effect is when an organization which has been created by people with a common understanding of why they created the organization themselves begins to have people who were NOT part of the organizational creation process reach a level where they begin to have a greater controlling influence on the organization than those who did create it.

When an organization is created, those who created it usually have a common understanding of the principles and processes they expect the organization to operate by.  Because of this mutual understanding, they are generally very minimalist about what they put into the organization’s founding document(s) or constitution because they think that more is unnecessary for the very fact that all of the original members have a consensus about those principles and procedures.  As a result, they leave those principles and procedures unspecified in the organization’s founding document(s).  Even where these people have differences with each other, they are actually bound together by their mutual understandings about the organization.  They simply don’t see how others who will come along later will not share those bonds and will not view the organization in the same way that they do.  This is what results in constitutions and founding documents which are what I classify as the ‘we create this group, and we will do things and we will be friends’ category of constitutions and founding documents.  This is also what I call the ‘first generation effect’.

So, why are the ‘first generation’ and ‘second generation’ effects important concepts when talking about our Constitution?  It is very simple.  I think that the founding fathers operated under the first generation effect when they wrote The Constitution.  Their common experiences with the separation from Britain, The Revolutionary War, and The Articles of Confederation created a common bond which unified them on a subconscious level.  Even with their many disagreements and differences, they were still bound to each other by what they had experienced in common with each other.

This period saw one of the most remarkable collections of great men and great minds in one place and one period of time in all of human history.  I still can’t figure out if history gave us this moment and gathering of mental giants, or if the moment and gathering of mental giants gave us history.  Which one is responsible for the other, I frequently wonder?  The result of their gathering in Philadelphia in 1787, The Constitution of The United States, is an amazing and awe-inspiring document.  In fact, I think that it has single-handedly shaped where the world has moved since it was created more than any other single document, philosophy, event, or person since then.  The downside of what they did in Philadelphia is that they had no other real historical examples which they could study, other than their experiences under The Articles, to see what would work and what wouldn’t.  They pretty much only had theories and ideas to use.  They also came up with a minimalist document that left much more unwritten and which would rely on their common understandings with which to fill in the gaps than it actually specified about the operation of the new government which they were creating.

In 1991, I was hired for my first job as a Director of Student Activities at a small, private liberal arts college in Illinois.  At this time, the Student Activities Board was an unconstituted committee of the school’s Student Forum.  I decided that the SAB needed to be a separate organization with its own constitution and I created a committee of students, faculty and staff to help design the organization and help write it’s constitution.  The Forum’s advisor was also the school’s government teacher and ‘expert’ on the U.S. Constitution.  One day, in passing, she stopped me and asked why the document I was trying to create needed to be as long as it was.  After all, she pointed out, the U. S. Constitution was only 4,543 words long (honestly, I remember it with her saying it was only 1,458 words long, which is the length of The Declaration of Independence and not of The Constitution but I will give her the benefit of the doubt by assuming she said the correct total).  I responded by telling her “Yes, and it isn’t a very well written document.  She got very angry and, without allowing me to explain to her what I meant, she stormed off.  She never again spoke to me civilly and I was terminated at the end of the school year WITHOUT getting my SAB constitution ever publically discussed or voted on, much less passed.

When I said that The Constitution was not a very well written document, I meant no insult to it or to the great men who wrote it.  I meant simply that they didn’t have the advantages of history which we have upon which to base their document.  NOTHING is ever as good as it can be on a first attempt (look at how much better The Constitution was than The Articles were), and distance is needed to see how things work (or don’t work) as desired, and what can be done to improve it.  I think that this is a necessary evolutionary process in any long standing organization.  I also never got to explain to her my theory of the second generation effect or how I think it illustrated the fundamental flaws in the document.

I think that there are many reasons that more things were not spelled out better in The Constitution.  One of them was the first generation effect of common understanding and fellowship.  Another was that the Federalists, under the leadership of Alexander Hamilton, did not WANT things to be spelled out better so that they could use the ambiguities of the document to argue that it said and meant things that it clearly didn’t.  As is common in history, those of a more liberal ideology will concede things to their political opponents in order to create a consensus while those of a more extreme conservative ideology will simply take those concessions as wins for their side and an indication of weakness for the other side, and will then proceed to try to use that point as a baseline from which to further advance their cause at the expense of those they oppose.  A defining characteristic of a liberal personally is individualism and efforts to strive for common agreement and consensus, while a conservative personality is more commonly seen as wanting unification among those who agree with them for the advancement of their agendas, suppression of individual internal disagreement and accumulation of power for their group.  (Please look for a future article to be written by me on the subject of groupthink, conformity and shame theory to further explain this claim.)

By the 1820s, the first generation of those who created our American constitutional government was mostly gone from the scene and the second generation was in control.  As I have personally seen in all too many smaller organizations, the second generation, not having had a hand in giving ‘birth’ to an organization does not feel limited by the voluntary constraints by which the members of the first generation operated.  A key aspect of the second generation effect is the rise of members who are more interested in their personal power than in the greater good of the organization.  These power-seeking second generation members will also look for weaknesses, flaws, loopholes, omissions and ambiguities within the governing procedures and document(s) of an organization to see how they can be utilized to advance their personal power or parochial interests at the expense of the greater good of the entire organization.  I also do not know how to test it, but I theorize that it is the very weakness and flaws in an organization’s founding documents which ALLOW the second generation effect to occur.  The better that things are clarified, and potential problems identified and provided for, the longer an organization can go on with unity and consensus.  I believe that it is the failures of the first generation to study more closely when they create their organization and better provide for potential problems in the future within their founding documents that is the cause of the second generation effect, and not the fault of those in the second generation.

In American constitutional government, this was seen in the rise of a professional political class; party politics holding dominance in the elected branches of government; party and regional (state) concerns being held as being more important by those elected officials than the greater good of the entire nation; and a desire for gaining and using personal power bases in order to control the functions of government at the expense of those who do not help the person wielding that power.

One last aspect of the generation effects is a blurring of the lines between and the convergence of common misunderstandings of the differences between and meanings of both ‘power’ and ‘authority’.  Contrary to common belief, the two ideas do not have the same meanings and, in fact, are completely separate concepts from each other. This is why they are both used together… power AND authority, like assault AND battery.  Authority is the RIGHT to do something.  Power is the ABILITY to do something.  While power and authority might reside together in some cases, it is much more common to have an exercise of POWER by a person or group who do not have the AUTHORITY to do what has been done, or a group or person who has the AUTHORITY to do something but does not have the POWER to accomplish the desired action (much like when the Supreme Court ruled against Andrew Jackson regarding the Cherokee Indian treaties with The United States and Jackson, supposedly, commenting in response that “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.”)  Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay and John Calhoun are all classic examples of second generation personalities.

Part II of this article will deal with the actual flaws, weaknesses and omissions which I see in our Constitution and my personal suggestions for correcting them.

 

Rhys M. Blavier

Romayor, Texas

Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all, Honor

© copyright 2009 by Rhys M.  Blavier
________________________________________________________________________________________

Thank you for reading this article.  Please read my other articles and let me know what you think.  I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our government and how we can build upon and improve it based on what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.

Sarah Palin: competent? libertarian?

In Humor, Iraq War, John McCain, Media, Republican, Sarah Palin, Second Amendment, Terrorism, War on September 29, 2008 at 7:49 pm

Let’s get the libertarian thing out of the way.

The answer is no

.

Lisa Nova presents a couple of humorous portrayals, giving different views of Palin’s competence level.

In Clip #1, Palin is portrayed as very competent (and ruthless).

In this one…not so much

85-year-old woman grabs gun, forces burglar to call 911 on himself

In Constitutional Rights, Courts and Justice System, Crime, Law, People in the news, Personal Responsibility, Second Amendment on August 21, 2008 at 1:19 pm

From CNN:

POINT MARION, Pennsylvania (AP) — An 85-year-old woman boldly went for her gun and busted a would-be burglar inside her home, then forced him to call police while she kept him in her sights, police said.

“I just walked right on past him to the bedroom and got my gun,” Leda Smith said.

Smith heard someone break into her home Sunday afternoon and grabbed the .22-caliber revolver she had been keeping by her bed since a neighbor’s home was burglarized a few weeks ago.

“I said ‘What are you doing in my house?’ He just kept saying he didn’t do it,” Smith said.

After the 17-year-old boy called 911, Smith kept holding the gun on him until state police arrived at her home in Springhill Township, about 45 miles south of Pittsburgh.

CNN: Texas school district to allow teachers and staff to carry concealed firearms

In Children, Constitutional Rights, Law, Libertarian, People in the news, Personal Responsibility, Politics, Second Amendment on August 16, 2008 at 12:35 pm

From CNN:

HARROLD, Texas (AP) — A tiny Texas school district will allow teachers and staff members to carry concealed firearms to protect against school shootings, provided the gun-toting employees follow certain requirements.

The small community of Harrold in north Texas is a 30-minute drive from the Wilbarger County Sheriff’s Office, leaving students and teachers without protection, said David Thweatt, superintendent of the Harrold Independent School District. The lone campus of the 110-student district sits near a heavily traveled highway, which could make it a target, he argued.

“When the federal government started making schools gun-free zones, that’s when all of these shootings started. Why would you put it out there that a group of people can’t defend themselves? That’s like saying ‘sic ’em’ to a dog,” Thweatt said in a story published Friday on the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Web site.

Barbara Williams, a spokeswoman for the Texas Association of School Boards, said her organization did not know of another district with such a policy. Ken Trump, a Cleveland, Ohio-based school security expert who advises districts nationwide, said Harrold is the first district with such a policy.

Trustees approved the policy change last year, and it takes effect when classes begin this month. For employees to carry a pistol, they must have a Texas license to carry a concealed handgun, must be authorized to carry by the district, must receive training in crisis management and hostile situations and must use ammunition designed to minimize the risk of ricocheting bullets.

Officials researched the policy and considered other options for about a year before approving the policy change, Thweatt said. The district also has other measures in place to prevent a school shooting, he said.

“The naysayers think [a shooting] won’t happen here. If something were to happen here, I’d much rather be calling a parent to tell them that their child is OK because we were able to protect them,” Thweatt said.

Texas law outlaws firearms at schools unless specific institutions allow them.

It isn’t clear how many of the 50 or so teachers and staff members will be armed this fall, because Thweatt did not disclose that information, to keep it from students or potential attackers.

Landham: back on the LP ballot line?

In Celebrities, Crazy Claims, First Amendment, Immigration, Iran, Iraq War, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Middle East, Military, Minorities, People in the news, Politics, Second Amendment, Terrorism, War on July 30, 2008 at 5:48 pm


PolitickerKY
reports

The Libertarian Party of Kentucky will reconsider its endorsement of Senate candidate Sonny Landham Wednesday evening, just days after initially disassociating their party from his bid. This news comes after the office of Kentucky’s secretary of state announced yesterday that Landham would need 5,000 new petition signatures to secure ballot access to run as an independent.

“We’re really stuck,” said Libertarian Party chair Ken Moellman. “We don’t necessarily want to kick him off the ballot.”

The requisite signatures for Landham’s ballot access were already reportedly obtained by Libertarian canvassers, but – without the Libertarian endorsement – Landham would need original signatures for an independent candidacy.

With an August 12 deadline for petition submissions, Moellman has said obtaining 5,000 new signatures in that window would be “impossible.”

Landham was initially stripped of the Libertarian Party’s endorsement in a unanimous 9-0 vote of their executive committee on Monday night. That vote came after Landham made a series of anti-Arab comments that culminated in his advocacy for a potential Arab genocide.

“When you are in a war, you kill every thing that moves,” responded Landham, when asked if he supported such a dramatic position.

Libertarian Party leaders initially sought to distance themselves from Landham’s comments, with Moellman noting they were not in line with the Party’s philosophy.

With his candidacy in the balance now, Moellman says Kentucky’s difficult ballot access process has the Party reevaluating its decision.

“Now, he will have one of two options,” said Moellman. “A – he runs as a Libertarian or, B he doesn’t run.”

“Our goal was not to kick him out,” added Moellman. “We are in a tough spot.”

Moellman said the ten-person state Libertarian Party Executive Committee will use an “online” voting system tonight to determine whether to reinstate Landham’s endorsement.

“We’re trying to work it out,” added Moellman.

Moellman said their dilemma would not exist if Kentucky’s ballot access procedures did not require 5,000 signatures for “third-party” candidates.

“I wish ballot access was a heck of a lot easier,” said Moellman, who said the number of signatures required for Democratic and Republican candidates was two – a far easier number for Landham to obtain as an independent candidate.

At
Delaware Libertarian
, Steve Newton explains why this is of national significance:

A Secondhand Conjecture is not a Libertarian blog, although it certainly displays some pretty consistent libertarian leanings.

As I read this post analyzing the Sonny Landham flap and the Libertarian Party of Kentucky, I think Lee hits it right on the money:

Looks like the Libertarian Party of Kentucky has dumped Sonny Landham, previously their clinically insane pick for US Senate. Good for them. Even if given the psychopathic nature of Landham’s views, I feel a little like I’m congratulating them for breathing.

While the Obama campaign might like to think that the LP could pose a serious threat to John McCain in Georgia, the Landham misadventure only reminds me yet again of the extraordinary amateurishness that seems to characterize almost all Libertarian Party political campaigns. There’s simply no excuse for failing to properly vet a candidate you intend to challenge for the seat held by the Senate Minority Leader.

As a former Hollywood actor and convicted criminal, it wouldn’t have been particularly difficult to uncover Landham’s violent imagination or deplorable associations with rightwing hate groups. A simple YouTube and Google search might have sufficed in fact.

I recently quoted a representative of the Libertarian Party of Texas noting that we need fewer paper candidates, and more people out there actually campaigning. True. But we also have to stop feeling so needy that we open our arms to accept people who are not only not Libertarians, but whose calls for bombing other countries over trade issues make us look like total losers.

Reminder: there’s still a
petition
for the LPKY to not give its ballot line to Sonny Landham.

Animal in Man

In Activism, Big Brother, Civil Liberties, Congress, Constitutional Rights, Corruption, Economics, Entertainment, First Amendment, Fraud, George Bush, History, Human Rights Abuses, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Convention, Libertarian Party-US, Libertarian Politics, Libertarian Politics 2008, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Music, Personal Responsibility, Police State, Politics, Protest, Republican, Second Amendment, Terrorism, US Government, War on July 25, 2008 at 1:42 pm

By Dead Prez

DC 2nd Amendment plaintiff Dick Heller running for US House Delegate as a Libertarian

In Activism, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Local Politics, Media, People in the news, Politics, Second Amendment on July 24, 2008 at 10:20 pm

Posted at
Ballot Access News

Dick Anthony Heller, the plaintiff in last month’s famous U.S. Supreme Court decision that said the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a gun, is petitioning as the Libertarian nominee for Delegate to the U.S. House from the District of Columbia. He needs 3,000 signatures.

If he gets 7,500 votes (or if Bob Barr gets 7,500 votes for president within D.C.), the D.C. Libertarian Party will be a ballot-qualified party for the first time. The last time the D.C. Libertarian Party made a push to win 7,500 votes for any partisan office (other than just president) was in 2000. In that year, it ran Robert Kampia for Delegate. He polled 4,594 votes.

The advantages of being a qualified party include obtaining a tally of how many registered members that party has, as well as a presidential primary, plus a primary for other office. The only other nationally-organized minor parties that have ever been qualified in the District are the Statehood Green Party currently, and the Socialist Workers Party, and the U.S. Labor Party, which had that status 1976 through 1978.

US Supreme Court upholds right to possess and carry a gun

In Constitutional Rights, Courts and Justice System, Law, Libertarian, Second Amendment on June 26, 2008 at 8:13 pm

From ScotusBlog:

The opinion can be downloaded here. Relevant quotes from the majority opinion can be found here, and a replay of our LiveBlog can be found here. Tom’s commentary is here.

Answering a 217-year old constitutional question, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to have a gun, at least in one’s home. The Court, splitting 5-4, struck down a District of Columbia ban on handgun possession. Although times have changed since 1791, Justice Antonin Scalia said for the majority, “it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.”

Examining the words of the Amendment, the Court concluded “we find they guarantee the individual right to possess and carry weaons in case of confrontation” — in other words, for self-defense. “The inherent right of self-defense has been central to the Second Amendment right,” it added.

The individual right interpretation, the Court said, “is strongly confirmed by the historical background of the Second Amendment,” going back to 17th Century England, as well as by gun rights laws in the states before and immediately after the Amendment was put into the U.S. Constitution.

What Congress did in drafting the Amendment, the Court said, was “to codify a pre-existing right, rather than to fashion a new one.”

Justice Scalia’s opinion stressed that the Court was not casting doubt on long-standing bans on carrying a concealed gun or on gun possession by felons or the mentally retarded, on laws barring guns from schools or government buildings, and laws putting conditions on gun sales.

Read the rest of this article on ScotusBlog.

Brown supporters’ trial ended today

In Courts and Justice System, Crime, Law, People in the news, Second Amendment, Taxation, US Government on April 5, 2008 at 11:46 pm

Bombs, Taxes and Red Crayons has covered today’s cross-examination of Reno Gonzalez, as well as the closing statements in the trial of the Brown supporters.

Here are some excerpts:

When Reno first heard about the Ed Brown standoff, he says he didn’t know it was about tax issues.  All he knew is that Ed had holed himself up his home.  Reno had been “researching” the incidents at Ruby Ridge and Waco at the time.

Reno:  I didn’t think [the standoff] would last too long.  They would just go in and kill them.

Reno (later): The US Marshals don’t ask questions … I thought this would be another Ruby Ridge.

According to Reno, all three defendants were there to take advantage of Ed’s press.  Jason went to the Browns “because there was a cruise missile that hit the Pentagon” and “he was there to defend the Browns … the only thing else he did was drink beer.”  Riley was there “because he took a military oath” to defend the Constitution and his research had told him that the income tax laws were unlawful.

Prosecutor:  Don’t you care about Ed and Elaine Brown?

Reno:  Ed Brown is kind of a jerk… I’m a realist, not a hero.

Prosecutor:  Did you tell Jason to arm himself?

Reno:  No, I wouldn’t tell a pacifist to buy a gun.

Prosecutor:  Jason Gerhard is a pacifist?

Reno: Jason Gerhard is a good man.

When Ed brought him a sample zip gun and asked if he could make more, Reno said that he was “for firearms, but against mines.  The spring gun had the capability of being used as a mine.”

The most amusing part of today’s blog:

He [the prosecutor] described Jason as someone who was spoiling for a fight and who was very … interested … in his gun.

From an email Jason sent:

I choose to enjoy porn while fondling my gun at Ed Brown’s house.  Try it one day.  It’s the best of all possible worlds.

Is “my gun” what he calls Little Jason, or is he literally fondling a gun while watching porn?  Forget I asked that, I really don’t want to know.  LOL

Jason Gerhard and Danny Riley are not going to testify in their own defense.  Except for the jury’s instructions and deliberations, which will start Monday morning, the trial is over.

What I find sad is that the Brown supporters, and even Ed and Elaine themselves, have abandoned these men when they most need the support.  Their defense witnesses either took the Fifth or else failed to materialize.  Even Elaine took the Fifth, rather than testify on behalf of the men who gave up their own lives to protect hers.  None of the Brown supporters even attended the trial as a spectator, according to JJ; the only spectators were Jason’s mother and (usually) Danny’s brother.

I can’t help but wonder …. had these three men realized that Ed and Elaine would leave them hanging like this,  would they have still made the decision to become involved?

A Conversation With Mike Gravel

In Civil Liberties, Congress, Constitutional Rights, Courts and Justice System, Crime, Democracy, Democrats, Drug War, Global Warming, History, Iraq War, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Convention, Libertarian Party-US, Medical Marijuana, Politics, Presidential Candidates, Second Amendment, Taxation, US Government on March 28, 2008 at 1:21 am

Mike GravelEarlier today, I had an opportunity to speak by telephone with Senator Mike Gravel, a presidential candidate who has switched from the Democratic Party to the Libertarian Party. Senator Gravel welcomed my questions, and I had a very positive impression of him. He is extremely well spoken, and quite passionate about many of the issues near and dear to the Libertarian Party.

My purpose, of course, was to ascertain why he decided to switch parties, and whether he truly holds Libertarian views as opposed to only conveniently holding libertarian views in order to get the LP nomination. I quickly discovered that his most basic belief, which he has provably held for over 30 years, is thoroughly libertarian: the right of the American people to bypass and even overturn Congress and the President, when those elected officials act in contradiction to the will of the people.

Senator Gravel believes that “the American people are not empowered to do anything, and this is wrong.” He therefore believes Americans should have the ability to directly make laws through federal ballot initiatives. At present, many states allow citizens to present laws directly through initiatives which, if supported widely enough, will be placed on the ballot to potentially become law; an example of this is Proposition 215, which legalized medical marijuana in California. Senator Gravel believes citizens should be able to do the same thing on the federal level, under his National Initiative For Democracy.

The government is a tool, the people can use it. But if the people have the direct power to use it, then you’re going to see the government as a real tool, not the tool you have when the special interests determine how the tool of government is handled, by the lobbyists, who pay for the campaigns, who manipulate you to vote for them. That’s the process that has to change.

When he says that the government has the duty to release information to the public, so they can make sound decisions, he is not blowing smoke, nor is he promoting something he hasn’t already done himself. During the Vietnam War, Senator Gravel released the Pentagon Papers, reading thousands of pages into the Congressional Record, so that Americans would finally know the truth behind that war; and his defiance, by informing Americans of information which was previously viewed as classified, was a pivotal moment in American history.

Under his National Initiative For Democracy we, as citizens, could end the war, end the federal income tax, or pass a federal law allowing Americans to carry guns openly; we could make any law we want, as long as there is sufficient citizen support for it. Senator Gravel says that “the real power in this country does not lie with the leadership, with Congress or with the President; it lies with you, the American citizen”. This program would in fact become an important part of the checks and balances system, which Senator Gravel believes should have been in force from the beginning, so citizens could more easily keep Congress and the President in check.

Of course, when he was running for President in the Democratic Party, the Democrats weren’t very happy with that idea. I asked the Senator whether they oppose it because it threatens their power, or if they oppose it because they believe the average American is unable to make sound legislative decisions. He immediately replied, “Both.” He went on to explain that “the average person in Congress believes they are more intelligent than the average American, and there are a few in Congress who are very intelligent; but at the same time the average American is smarter than the average Congressman, and perfectly capable of making sound decisions.”

His suspicion of the leading presidential candidates was made clear when he said, “Don’t trust anyone who says they have all the answers. Nobody has all the answers; I don’t have all the answers. But the American public knows what is best for them, and I trust them to make those decisions.”

Talking war with Senator Gravel, for someone my age who lived during Vietnam, is like getting into a time machine, and going back to the last destructive war this country faced, when he forced a filibuster to end the draft, and thus end the Vietnam war. Senator Gravel was a maverick, and he defied Congress again and again.

As you may recall, even before we sent troops to Iraq, he warned the American public that there were no WMDs in Iraq. I asked him why, in his opinion, President Bush lied about the presence of WMDs. “Oil. He wanted to get control of the oil, and it’s all just more American imperialism and the military-industrial complex.” He went a step further, and agreed that Bush and Cheney should not only be impeached, but that they should face trial for war crimes. “Americans must stop thinking we’re above the law,” he stated. He believes that the United States should stop getting involved in foreign conflicts altogether, and “stop being the world’s policeman”.

Senator Gravel is completely against the War on Drugs, which he categorizes as a failure. “We spend 50 to 85 billion dollars a year on a drug war that does no good to anybody other than criminalizing people who shouldn’t be criminals. We have 2.3 million people in jail right now, and half of them shouldn’t even be in jail …. if you want marijuana, why not go to a package store? A fifth of gin will do more damage to you, to your health, than will a pack of marijuana. As for the rest of the drugs, why not legalize them and regulate them? We put addicts in jail when they aren’t criminals, but there they learn to be better criminals, to steal and commit crime to feed their habit. It’s a public health problem, and we need to solve it as a public health problem, and save all this money we’re spending to keep people in jail for drugs, $30,000 a year for each of them.”

He is therefore in support of decriminalizing and regulating all drugs. “If you need to get some coke, go to a doctor and get a prescription. If you’re an addict, you’ll have to register so we can help you. But the way we do it now, we catch you with drugs, we throw you in jail, and you don’t get any help.”

With regard to whether legalizing all drugs would increase addiction, he states, “That’s what they told us about alcohol, during Prohibition. Alcohol is more addictive than marijuana. Should you go to jail for having marijuana, when you don’t go to jail for having whiskey and alcohol? It’s a stupid policy, it’s gutless, and it’s damaging our inner cities. Seventy percent of the people in jail are African-Americans, and most of it is for drugs. It’s gutless on the part of our leaders to not solve this, to not treat it as a public health problem rather than a criminal problem ….. For those who say we have a drug problem, yeah, we have a problem, and it’s with stupidity at the highest levels of our government.”

As for those in prison for drug offenses, he would educate nonviolent drug offenders – whether it’s a college degree or technical training – then grant them a full pardon so they can not only be released from prison, but also have the tools they need to immediately become fully productive members of society.

He is for Second Amendment rights, saying “I have a weapon, and I’ll fight to keep it.” Insofar as how openly Americans should be able to carry weapons, he referred me back to the federal ballot initiative, saying that the American people should decide that issue.

When I asked him about reducing the size of government as well as its spending, he agreed that it has gotten completely out of hand, and that severe cutbacks should be made. The first steps would be dismantling the IRS (which would no longer be needed with his national sales tax program), and the “War On Drugs” arm of the DEA (since all drugs would be legalized). He also believes that “if we empower the people to make laws, they will shrink the government.”

I could actually hear the thrill in his voice when one question pointed out that libertarians are, by and large, for open borders. He believes that we have so many illegal immigrants here because our own laws caused them to not have work available in their own country; he states that 1.3 million farming jobs were lost in Mexico when NAFTA was passed. For that reason, he believes repealing NAFTA would cure most of the illegal immigration, as more jobs are created in their home countries. As for those who are already here and don’t want to leave, he wants to simply “put them on the path to citizenship.” He believes that we should create completely open borders, similar to what is in place in Europe, whereby citizens could cross into or from Canada or Mexico, with no questions asked.

It is undeniable that the federal government is deeply in debt, and must raise revenue. Senator Gravel, however, is opposed to the income tax, since it over-taxes the poor and middle-class, and grossly undertaxes the wealthy. He therefore proposes dismantling the IRS altogether. He would replace the income tax with a 23% sales tax, and give a rebate each month to every American family to pay for necessities. Senator Gravel believes that this would allow the poor and middle class, who spend mostly on necessities such as food and housing, to have far more disposable income. He believes this program will create the same amount of federal revenue, but in a manner which is far more fair to the poor and working class.

“I don’t know whether it’s a step to end taxation, but at this point it is a good way to fund needed revenue. Right now we tax income and investments, and investment income is taxed at a lower rate than income. We don’t tax the wealthy, and that’s what’s wrong with our system.” He again reiterated that the American people could make the final decision regarding whether federal taxation should eventually end, through his ballot initiative program.

Senator Gravel believes that Social Security funds should be left alone, rather than used by the government for other purposes as is now the norm. At this point, most Americans have already paid into Social Security. He wants everyone’s Social Security funds invested in the free market, and he wants everyone to get an accounting of their money and interest earned, just as if they had invested it with a bank; and if they die before spending what they have invested and earned, he believes that the surplus in their Social Security account should go to their heirs.

As for private investments, he believes his sales tax program with refunds for necessities will give the average American the additional funds needed to save in an IRA or other investment vehicle, as additional retirement savings to supplement what they have already put into Social Security.

He is aware that many libertarians are against Universal Health Care, but believes his plan will meet libertarian standards. He came up with the idea of a Healthcare Security System 30 years ago. Senator Gravel pointed out that he knows the healthcare system “up front and personal”. One year, he ended up with over $150,000 in healthcare costs, and went bankrupt as a result.

He believes the Democratic health care plan, wherein businesses are forced to provide health insurance for their employees, is “the wrong way to go, because it is not the responsibility of businesses to provide healthcare; their job is to be competitive in the global marketplace.” So instead, he wants to enact a Universal Single Payor Voucher plan, similar to the plan which the Veterans Administration has in place. Every American would be given a health care voucher. The vouchers would have a very modest co-pay, and a very modest deductible. Americans would have their choice of hospitals, their choice of doctors, and a choice of five or six plans. There would be no exclusions for preexisting conditions.

He doesn’t think we need to raise taxes in order to provide health care for all Americans; we just need to make our healthcare system considerably more efficient than it is at present. He believes that if we computerize healthcare records, it will streamline the system, because he says 30% of healthcare cost is in paperwork. He intends to provide every American with basic healthcare services, and if they want more or different coverage, they can choose to buy additional or supplemental plans in the free market.

He is aware of Ron Paul’s belief that the Federal Reserve is responsible for the inflationary effects which are harmful to poor and middle-class Americans. Senator Gravel wants to reexamine the Federal Reserve, and study the gold standard with an eye toward a global monetary system, which will better protect the value of our money in a global marketplace.

Senator Gravel was pivotal in shepherding the Alaska Pipeline though Congress, but at this point he would oppose any effort to drill for oil in the Alaskan Wildlife Preserve. He states that instead, he wants us to end our dependence upon oil within five years. His goal would be to replace oil with alternative energy sources.

I asked Senator Gravel if there was any one moment – a light bulb moment, if you will – in which he realized that he was a libertarian. He stated, “Not really. It’s an awareness that goes back 30, 40 years, that the best way to to change things was from inside, within the power structure. Now, it’s time for a change. I am joining the Libertarian Party to become its presidential nominee. I can take the Libertarian Party to a level they’ve never been before. I am against war, I am against taxing income, I am against the war on drugs. I am for smaller government, open borders, and the ability of the American people to self-govern. I am a libertarian. I scored seven out of seven on Reason’s “Seven Ways To Win Votes” – I am for internet gambling, for medical marijuana (but I go much further than that, by decriminalizing all drugs) …. so I’m more libertarian than Ron Paul, because he scored lower. And I will work very hard as the Libertarian Party’s candidate, I will get the libertarians the national playing field they need to grow. And not just libertarians, either. I will raise the playing field for all third parties.”

All in all, Senator Gravel impressed me as sincere, intelligent, and passionate about libertarian issues. I did not at all get the impression that he is a pseudo-libertarian; I think he’s the real deal, because his actions even decades ago indicated that he is a libertarian. He left the Democratic Party because he realized that they are not receptive to his ballot initiative plan, and are not in agreement with his healthcare plan, his opposition to the War on Drugs, and many other issues. He has the presence, he has the speaking ability and dynamic personality, and he has the name recognition and contacts to place us on a more even playing field.

The Democrats’ loss may very well be our gain.

Senator Gravel suggested that those interested in more information about his views read his book “Citizen Power: A Mandate For Change”, which can be ordered online here. It is also available on Amazon.com, but their new book price is actually several dollars higher than the price on his website. Amazon’s description of the book is as follows.

As author of Citizen Power in 1971, Senator Mike Gravel determined that much of what he wrote then is apropos in America today; hence, the release of Citizen Power: A Mandate for Change that reflects the accuracy of his evaluation of problems then, his current position on a number of issues facing America now, and the process that Americans can undertake to become empowered as lawmakers in partnership with their elected officials. Most chapters of Citizen Power: A Mandate for Change present material from the original book, as well as new information and revised positions. The exceptions are Chapter 2: The National Initiative, and Chapter 7: The War on Drugs. All other chapters cover similar topics in both books, but with the senator’s fresh insights for today’s world. Each chapter ends with how the National Initiative, once enacted, could help solve the problems presented in that chapter. The Table of Contents is as follows: Chapter 1 – Now It’s the Citizen’s Turn Chapter 2 – The National Initiative Chapter 3 – America’s Failure in Education Chapter 4 – Tax Reform – The Fair Tax Chapter 5 – The Health Security System Chapter 6 – National Environmental & Energy Policy Chapter 7 – The War on Drugs Chapter 8 – Crime & Punishment Chapter 9 – The Shroud of Secrecy Chapter 10 – American Imperialism Chapter 11 – Global Governance Chapter 12 – Who Stole the American Dream?

All three customer reviews give the book five stars. There is a “look inside the book” feature, and based on that material and given that it was originally written in 1971, then updated recently, I don’t think there is any real question whether Senator Gravel is a libertarian. Based upon his statements in that book, it appears that he was a libertarian even before there was a Libertarian Party.

Here are the reviews:

It’s all about lawmaking!,

February 25, 2008
By Goodrich (Dearborn, MI USA) – See all my reviews

Those who still want Mike Gravel’s original Citizen Power, but can’t afford to pay over $200 for the few rare copies that are available, will be pleased with the new Citizen Power: A Mandate for Change. In some chapters, Senator Gravel has incorporated substantial excerpts from his original book and then updated his thoughts on each issue, often admitting that his position on a certain issue in the 1970s was naive and that he now views that issue with a mature mind. This is a refreshingly candid look at a presidential candidate’s positions on key issues facing the American people today. Most importantly, however, is Chapter 2 and supplemental appendices about the National Initiative, which Senator Gravel and some of the nation’s top constitutional scholars crafted to empower citizens as lawmakers; after all, lawmaking is the cornerstone of democracy. All subsequent chapters address how the National Initiative for Democracy (NI4D)would work to alleviate problems, such as healthcare and education.

From ending the war on drugs to restructuring the UN,

March 8, 2008

Senator Gravel has produced an engaging book! He presents complex and difficult issues facing the US and the world in understandable prose and proposes solutions that call for transformational change. In response to a legislative process controlled by corporations and special interests Gravel proposes the National Initiative on Democracy that would empower the people to legislate through direct democracy in national referendums on issues. In response to ineffective global governance Gravel calls for a restructuring of the UN including an end to veto powers for the permanent members of the Security Council. I was delighted to see his position on American exceptionalism. Granted that we are #1 in the world in the numbers of people in our prisons, on many key measures such as education, healthcare we are far from being the best in the world. I was most pleased by the optimism of Mike Gravel’s vision for the future of America in the world. He sees solutions to problems such as global warming, energy, and national security through greater cooperation with other countries. The beginning of his space policy statement on page 59 is particularly encouraging: “SPACE REPRESENTS A LIMITLESS FRONTIER for humankind. Laws modeled on the Law of the Sea need to be agreed upon to make energy, natural resources, and knowledge available in a manner that fosters greater cooperation, rather than greater competition, among all nations. In keeping with this spirit, space must not be militarized.”

Gravel’s Populist Manifesto,

March 19, 2008
By D. Douglas (California) – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)

An eloquent and lucid political manifesto by an increasingly refreshing, honest and prudent politician.
Citizen Power showcases a myriad of power-to-the-people proposals, and sways from your politics as usual demagoguery, while Gravel’s prose is filled with solemnity and earnestness, contrary to his political opponents.
The book’s motif is the National Initiative for Democracy, a populist program that will enable ordinary citizens to become legislatures, moreover eliminating large bureaucracies and big government lapdogs.
An emphasis is brought upon the military-industrial complex and its draconian, unproductive results. Suggesting the ultimate disintegration of the latter, if not grave consequences will ensue
Gravel’s proposals on education is most interesting, and offer an ingenious subsidiary, if utilized in orthodoxy, to our failing educational system.
The War on Drugs chapter was dismaying at least, and produced a sharp contempt for the activities our government continues to perpetuate.

I have probably forgotten important topics of this book, and my review is ultimately asymmetrical and lackluster. I can only recommend this fine book, so you can make your own judgments and discoveries.

Senator Gravel was kind enough to state that, if any of our readers have additional questions, I can phone him again to get those answers. Therefore, if you have any questions which aren’t answered here, post them and in about a week I will give him another call to get your answers for you.

Candidate Endorsement: Chris Bennett for Vice President

In Activism, Candidate Endorsement, Chris Bennett, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Drug War, Economics, First Amendment, George Phillies, Iraq War, Libertarian, Libertarian Convention, Libertarian Party-US, Media, Minorities, Politics, Second Amendment, Steve Kubby, Taxation, US Government, War on March 26, 2008 at 10:10 pm

Chris BennettAs you are hopefully all by now aware, longtime LFV contributor Chris Bennett is seeking the LP’s Vice Presidential nomination. While he would have my support simply for being an LFV contributor and a great guy, there is so much more to his candidacy that I have decided to formally endorse his bid for the LP Vice Presidential nomination.

Chris is 35 years old (will be 36 on August 30th) and lives in Springfield, Illinois. He graduated from Heritage High School in Littleton, Colorado. As an interesting aside, Chris was classmates with Matt Stone, co-creator of “South Park”.

Chris has been married to Evonne Bennett for eight years, and they have two children, Brandon (age 7) and Charity (age 9). He will graduate in May from the University of Illinois at Springfield, with a degree in Political Studies, and a minor in Economics. As such, there should be no question that he has the education to back up his candidacy, especially when compared with other LP candidates (including many of those seeking the LP’s Presidential nomination).

Chris also has the actual experience to back him up. As a libertarian activist for the last 16 years, he has volunteered on four presidential campaigns, three of them Libertarians. He was Scheduling Coordinator for the late Aaron Russo during his 2004 presidential campaign, and was also heavily involved in the Marrou and Badnarik presidential campaigns. He is currently the Legislative Chair for the Libertarian Party of Illinois, where he has fought for better ballot access for third parties in one of the most difficult ballot access states in the country.

Chris announced his candidacy right here on Last Free Voice last year, and his platform is as follows:

I will not make promises I can not keep. I do not have 200,000 dollars in future contributions and I am not endorsed by a famous dead person. However there are some promises I will keep:

I am strongly against the invasion and the “police action” in Iraq and will help push for an anti-war resolution at the Denver Convention.

I am against a fair tax and I will continue to fight to decrease the tax burden for all Americans.

I will continue to fight to restore our civil liberties and constitutional rights and fight to eliminate the Patriot Act, the Real ID Act, the Military Commissions Act and the North American Union.

As an African-American, I will use my candidacy to recruit more minorities and women into the libertarian movement.

As a soon-to-be college graduate, I will continue to convince younger voters and non-voters that the Libertarian Party is the future not the two “boot on your neck” parties and use my candidacy to re-energize libertarian college campus and local organizations across the country.

If I am nominated, I will help/assist state parties on getting our presidential ticket on their respective state ballots.

If I am nominated, I will assist serious Libertarian candidates running for office in all facets of their campaign across the country.

The days of a dormant Libertarian Party VP candidate are over. Our VP candidate should be as active as our Presidential candidate and I will proudly work with whoever you choose as our Presidential candidate in order to spread our message of liberty and freedom to the American people.

Chris has been working hard to spread the word about his candidacy, and in fact he is one of the few Libertarian candidates to get attention from the mainstream press. Even better, he received FRONT PAGE attention in a major newspaper, the Springfield State Journal-Register.

By BERNARD SCHOENBURG
POLITICAL WRITER

Published Monday, October 15, 2007

At 6-foot-9, Chris Bennett is hard to miss. And his political aspirations match his height.

Bennett, 35, a senior at the University of Illinois at Springfield, is hoping to become the vice presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party.

“The days of a dormant Libertarian Party VP candidate are over,” said Bennett in a news release announcing his quest last week. “Our VP candidate should be as active as our presidential candidate and I will proudly work with whoever you choose as our presidential candidate in order to spread our message of liberty and freedom to the American people.”

Bennett was soft-spoken as he explained in an interview how he realized, after working on Bill Clinton’s primary campaign in 1992, that he didn’t really believe in Clinton’s platform.

“I just didn’t like how he wanted more government in more stuff,” Bennett said. “I didn’t like government having more control over the health-care situation, as Hillary tried to do and she’s proposing to do now.”

So, Bennett said, “I went soul searching.”

“The Republicans didn’t feel right,” he said. “They never really do reach out to minorities or a lot of women. And the Democrats, it just seems like they were taking the black vote for granted. So I decided ‘I’m going to search for another party.’”

Bennett had seen a Libertarian Party convention on C-SPAN. The convention included an African-American candidate for the presidential nomination, Richard Boddie.

“He was saying stuff that I really agreed with,” said Bennett, who is black.

Bennett now has been a Libertarian activist for more than 15 years, including working as scheduling coordinator during the late Aaron Russo’s 2004 attempt to be the Libertarian nominee for president.

“For the longest time, I used to carry a Constitution in my back pocket,” Bennett said, “so if anybody wanted to get in a philosophical, constitutional argument, I could whip out my Constitution.”

Bennett doesn’t think the country’s leaders are adhering to the Constitution, including going to war in Iraq without a formal declaration of war. Among his platform planks are “restore our civil liberties and constitutional rights,” including elimination of the Patriot Act and a proposed federal “Real ID” identification card. He said both invade people’s privacy.

He’d like to see lower taxes, with eventual elimination of the Internal Revenue Service.

Bennett frequently posts on Web sites, including one called

lastfreevoice.com, often in strong language.

“Jesse Jackson has taken up the anti-gun issue only because he failed as a ‘civil rights’ leader and pushes his new agenda to re-invent himself,” Bennett claims in one entry. “Just remember Hitler forced his people to give up their guns and look what happened; millions died in concentration camps. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; I’ll defend those values with my gun to protect my right to bear arms.”

Bennett said he actually doesn’t own a gun, but believes in the right to own one.

He’s also taken off on television preachers who get rich through their appeals.

“TV evangelists are the scum of the Christian community,” he said, writing about recent allegations of misspending by Richard Roberts, son of Oral Roberts. “Isn’t it immoral to steal from your contributors for your own lavish lifestyles …? Who do they think they are — the GOVERNMENT?”

And in an essay chastising Democrats for not doing more to get U.S. troops out of Iraq, he refers to the president as “Fuhrer Bush.”

Bennett is pro-life on abortion, which goes against the Libertarian platform. But he thinks other Libertarians may be coming around. He also thinks steps should be taken to legalize drugs.

A native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Bennett moved to Littleton, Colo., at age 9. He’s been married to his wife, Evonne, for 71/2 years, and they have two children. He moved to Springfield in 2005 to attend UIS.

While he said rural or suburban Libertarians might not be keyed into the issue of race relations, those from urban areas are, and he thinks the party is good for African-Americans.

In addition to ending discriminatory drug laws, which he blames for too many blacks being in prison, the Libertarians’ anti-tax sentiment would also help, Bennett said.

“If we lower taxes, people would be more able to get the house that they want or be able to contribute to their church or their social organization a little bit more,” he said. People could also “save for a rainy day.”

“I know a lot of people who would like to start their own IRA account, but they can’t because they’re taxed so much,” Bennett said.

Clearly, Chris interacts well with the media, and is able to get across his point intelligently, but also in a way that the average person can easily understand.

For the above reasons, I endorse Chris Bennett, without reservation, for the Libertarian Party’s Vice Presidential candidacy.

This brings me to another point. Chris is in desperate need of donations, to help him get to the Libertarian Party Convention in Denver. As a family man working his way through college, with a wife and two children, he is far from wealthy. Not only will he need the funds for travel and hotel, plus incidentals such as food and beverage, he will also need the funds to print brochures, to hand out to the delegates in order to get the votes he needs.

We all give money to other candidates, whether Ron Paul or Steve Kubby or George Phillies, or someone else. We need to start giving money for Chris’s campaign, because unless he can afford to get to Denver, he will be unable to continue his campaign. It would be a travesty if a qualified candidate such as Chris was not seriously considered for the LP’s Vice Presidential nomination, solely because he lacks the funds to attend the convention. We can do much better than that, especially with a candidate who has proven his worth. If we all pitch in, we can get Chris to Denver.

You can make donations to Chris’s campaign by clicking here, or you can click directly on the “donate” link on his website, which will take you to the same place. You can donate by credit card, debit card, or by setting up other payment arrangements via PayPal.

While I normally would never ask anyone to donate to a specific campaign, I’m making an exception in this case. Chris is “one of us”, a valuable and respected member of the blogosphere, a valuable and respected contributor to Last Free Voice, and a valuable and respected member of the libertarian movement, who has given freely not only of his time and expertise on other campaigns, but also has managed to engage in hands-on activism while in college and trying to raise a family.

Chris is not just another libertarian on the internet, waxing philosophical about libertarianism, who suddenly decides he should be nominated to represent the LP in a lofty position; nor is is a Johnny-Come-Lately to the LP who suddenly decided he should be nominated for for the Vice Presidency; he has actually made many years of sacrifices which benefit us all, and he has the experience and education to back up his campaign for the Vice Presidency.

Unlike many candidates, Chris is not looking to raise millions. He has set a goal of $3000 to attend the LP Convention, and since I used to live in Denver, I can assure you that it’s a very reasonable goal, especially since it will also cover the costs of his campaign brochures.

I have made a commitment to donate $100 to Chris’s campaign, to help him get to Denver. If only 29 more people match that commitment (and I know there are many others who can afford to do so), Chris will have met his goal. However, even if you can only spare $10, or $20, or $50 – or if you can give the legal maximum of $2300 per person, or $4600 per married couple – you can rest easy with that donation, knowing Chris is a tried and proven libertarian, and a candidate who has actually earned that donation through his many years of activism on behalf of libertarians everywhere.

Please, help spread the word. Let’s raise the funds necessary to get Chris to Denver!

Civil forfeiture robs elderly couple of life savings

In Big Brother, Civil Liberties, Communism, Constitutional Rights, Cops Gone Wild, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, Crazy Claims, Drug War, Health, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical Marijuana, Police State, Politics, Second Amendment, US Government on March 22, 2008 at 4:05 am

MoneyIf this doesn’t make you angry, I don’t know what will.

For 40 years, Meredith and Luther Ricks did everything the right way. They worked hard, saved carefully and raised a family in their modest Lima home. They were poised to enjoy their retirement years in peace. Despite their four decades of hard work, however, an absurdly unjust law has turned their hope for the American Dream into an outrageous nightmare at the hands of the Cleveland FBI.

Both of the Ricks spent their careers at the Ohio Steel Foundry, eschewing lavish spending to save for a comfortable retirement. Not trusting banks, Meredith and Luther kept their life savings in a safe inside the house.

Last summer, two violent intruders broke into the Rickses’ house. Luther and his son fought with the burglars. After his son was stabbed, Luther broke free, got his gun and saved the family by shooting one of the intruders and scaring the other off.

When Lima police arrived, the Ricks’ nightmare should have been over – but it was just beginning.

The police entered the house and discovered the family safe. Because a small amount of marijuana was inside the home – used by Luther to ease his painful arthritis, hip replacement and shingles – the officers decided to confiscate Meredith and Luther’s entire life savings, more than $400,000.

Shortly afterward, the FBI got involved – not to help the stricken family, but to claim the money for the federal government.

Such is the result of civil forfeiture laws, which represent one of the most profound assaults on our rights today.

You can read the rest of the illuminating and infuriating article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer

Supreme Court: Oral argument re Second Amendment

In Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Courts and Justice System, First Amendment, Law, Libertarian, Politics, Second Amendment, US Government on March 20, 2008 at 8:18 pm

The Supreme Court website has released an mp3 file as well as a transcript of the arguments in DC v Heller, the current Supreme Court case regarding the Second Amendment right to bear arms, and its application in Washington DC.

You can listen to the oral arguments here.

You can listen to the oral arguments, while following along with a simultaneous written transcript along with photos of the speakers, here.

You can also merely read the transcript at the second link.

What do you think of the arguments?  How do you think the Supreme Court will rule on this case?

Presidential Candidate Purity Testing

In Big Brother, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Crime, Drug War, First Amendment, George Phillies, Immigration, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Military, Personal Responsibility, Politics, Republican, Second Amendment on July 25, 2007 at 6:39 pm

While I believe that “how libertarian” a candidate is shouldn’t be the only deciding factor in determining whether to vote for them, I feel it’s important we discuss it more than “so-and-so’s position on this is not libertarian”, both with regard to their position on it and whether they address it at all. I recognize this thread will likely turn into a huge argument, and if people can provide me with information to alter my analysis, I will be happy to change it. (If I’m slow in doing so, I won’t be offended if other LFV writers do it, though I’d prefer it if those officially affiliated with certain campaigns didn’t do so, for obvious reasons.)

The three substantial candidates I consider remotely libertarian are Steve Kubby, Ron Paul, and George Phillies. (Despite others including Christine Smith as a substantial candidate, I have seen functionally no presence from her.) The standard I’ll use for “libertarian” will be the LP platform, which I recognize is by no means perfect, but it gives me a set of issues to work with. I’ll consider the candidates in alphabetical order. Read the rest of this entry »

Happy Bastille Day. We need a new one.

In Big Brother, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Corruption, George Bush, Guantanamo, History, Human Rights Abuses, Personal Responsibility, Police State, Politics, Protest, Second Amendment, Terrorism, War on July 15, 2007 at 6:40 am

Originally posted yesterday on my blog for Bastille day. Forgot to transfer it over til today. Oh well, better late than never…

According to wikipedia,

On 5 May 1789, Louis XVI convened the Estates-General to hear their grievances. The deputies of the Third Estate representing the common people (the two others were clergy and nobility) decided to break away and form a National Assembly. On 20 June the deputies of the Third Estate took the Tennis Court Oath, swearing not to separate until a Constitution had been established. They were gradually joined by delegates of the other estates; Louis started to recognize their validity on 27 June. The Assembly re-named itself the National Constituent Assembly on 9 July, and began to function as a legislature and to draft a constitution.

The blue-blooded Chimperror, Cesar Potus George Dubai-ya Bushitler II, has brung back the clergy and the nobility back to a level of undue influence in civic life. Perhaps we need a new storming of the Bastille?

In the wake of the 11 July dismissal of the royal finance minister Jacques Necker, the people of Paris, fearful that they and their representatives would be attacked by the royal military, and seeking to gain arms for the general populace, stormed the Bastille, a prison which had often held people arbitrarily jailed on the basis of lettre de cachet. Besides holding a large cache of arms, the Bastille had long been known for holding political prisoners whose writings had displeased the royal government, and was thus a symbol of the absolutism of the monarchy.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The general populace being increasingly outgunned by regime agents? Check. People jailed arbitrarily? Check. Political prisoners? Check. Absolutist, hereditary rulers? Check.

The storming of the Bastille was more important as a rallying point and symbolic act of rebellion than a practical act of defiance.

Shortly after the storming of the Bastille, on 4 August feudalism was abolished and on 26 August, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was proclaimed.

Ending feudalism and having citizens rights? Yeah, we kinda need that again. Check!

McCain: The Manchurian Candidate

In Censorship, Civil Liberties, Communism, Constitutional Rights, Corruption, Fraud, History, Iran, Iraq War, Middle East, Military, Nanny State, Personal Responsibility, Police State, Politics, Second Amendment, Terrorism, War on May 18, 2007 at 6:41 am

With all the attention we have been paying to Republican Presidential candidates Adolf Giuliani and Ron Paul lately, I thought it would be only fair to say a word or two about creepy warmonger
John McCain.

Here he is singing “bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” and laughing about it.

What did the Iranians ever do? Never mind, war criminal McCain has never met a war he didn’t like.

McCain can’t help but remind me of the
Manchurian Candidate.

This illustrious member of the Keating Five Savings and Loan scandal Senators and noted gigolo is also well known for the McCain-Feingold Incumbent Protection Act.

Somewhat less well known is that he also co-sponsored the McCain/Lieberman gun show bill, which would have given the federal government the administrative power to prohibit all gun shows, and to register everyone who attends a gun show. According to wikipedia, “Since 2004, McCain has gained the unique distinction of receiving an F- rating from Gun Owners of America; and further unlike any other 2008 Republican Presidential Candidate has a dedicated section/compendium within the GOA web site, which contains numerous pages relating to John McCain’s very own anti-Second Amendment initiatives while in the Senate”.

Wikipedia also points out that he hired a board member of the Project for the New American Century, Randy Scheunemann, as his foreign-policy aide and is considering Billion Dollar Bob Riley for veep.

Oh, and his anti-torture provision? Not all it’s cracked up to be.

To sum it all up, I have to give McCain the maximum number of flushes.

Adolf Giuliani: As Far From Libertarian As Possible

In Big Brother, Censorship, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Corruption, Crazy Claims, Drug War, Economics, Fraud, History, Law Enforcement, Personal Responsibility, Police State, Politics, Second Amendment, Taxation, Terrorism, War on May 11, 2007 at 6:47 am

Despite what a certain milk shake would like you to believe, Rudolf Giuliani Mussolini is As Far From Libertarian As Possible (click on the link to read about his early history as a psychotically deranged persecutor of victimless white collar “criminals”).

Even some of Giuliani’s admirers admit he has fascist tendencies. The amazing record of corruption and perfidy simply boggles the mind. Giuliani even had the incredible temerity to
try to stay on as mayor after his term was over.

Check out the comments at Serf City. Giuliani abused his mayoral office to go after cabbies, artists, street vendors, porn,
sex-related businesses, and anyone who did business without a license. His phony tax cuts were merely deficit spending – putting the tax bill on future victims, plus interest, while ducking the responsibility for his out of control spending, a favorite ploy of scumbag Rapepublicneoconartists.

Ron Moore reports,

Let’s take the pot smokers. One study points out that under Rudy’s Broken Windows policy, public-toking arrests rose 2000% from about 2000 in 1994 to over 50,000 by 2000 ( Harcourt & Ludwig, Reefer Madness: Broken Windows Policing and Misdemeanor Marijuana Arrests in New York City, 1989-2000 http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=948753). The study also finds that this had no measurable effect on violent crime.”

Furthermore,

Unfortunately, Rudy’s broken windows policy didn’t apply to Rudy’s buddies in the New York Police Department. An April 1999 article in Crime and Delinquency (Zero Tolerance: A Case Study in Police Policies and Practices in New York City, Judith Greene) points to a 75% increase in new civil rights claims against the police for abusive conduct. The article also points to a sharp increase in the number of complaints which resulted in no arrest and no summons and where there was no suspicion of criminal activity. Um – just why were people being stopped? What was Mayor Rudy’s response to growing concern about police misconduct? According to the article the new Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) funding was cut 17% compared to the agency it replaced.

Victim disarmament? According to Mike Blessing, Giuliani said on one of the

morning empty-talk shows that “We shouldn’t just try one of these [”gun control”] plans, we should try them all.”

Giuliani libertarian?

King George Dubai-ya Dubai-ya III Bush has gone a long way towards creating a fascist Amerikkka. Rudolf the coke nosed Fascist would go all the way. No libertarians should even remotely consider being fellow travellers in helping Ayatollah Giuliani set up his gulag regime.

We look upon authority too often and focus over and over again, for 30 or 40 or 50 years, as if there is something wrong with authority. We see only the oppressive side of authority. Maybe it comes out of our history and our background. What we don’t see is that freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.

-Rudy

Kent McManigal Ends Presidential Trail

In Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Personal Responsibility, Politics, Second Amendment on May 4, 2007 at 9:34 am

Kent McManigal made the following announcement today:

Kent McManigal The End of the Trail

After a lot of thought I have decided to end my campaign. Last night while trying to delete spam comments, I accidentally deleted most of the content on the Boston Tea Party’s website. That was the last straw for me. I appreciate all the encouragement and support I have received in the past two and a half years. I apologize to anyone who is disappointed that I have withdrawn. I will probably keep blogging, and plan to change KentForLiberty into something other than a campaign site. I have come to realize that we will never get government back in line with the Constitution or with what is right by using methods approved and “allowed” by that same rogue government.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I think a part of the LP community is surprised and disappointed by Kent’s departure. When I opened my computer for the day, there were several messages on the subject.

I am not shocked by it, but I wish he had stayed. Kent made the LP race more interesting, as I think many will agree. To my mind, Kent was that dark horse who could have walked away with the nomination, had Phillies and Kubby delegates clashed, not unlike what happened at the last LP presidential convention.

Kent was the one LP candidate who defied categorization. At first, to be honest, I really wanted to put him into the nutcase category. After all, he obviously doesn’t fit into the mainstream category. Yet, the more I read, and the more I talked to him, the more I realized that Kent is an original who defies categorization.

I first discovered Kent’s candidacy through, of all people, Gene Chapman. I looked at his website, and made a smartass comment on a forum about how Kent looks like he’d kick Gene Chapman’s ass for calling him a Communist. I stand by that statement, incidentally. Kent misunderstood and thought I was making fun of the way he dresses, and we began a correspondence which has continued to this day. I’m proud to call Kent McManigal my friend. I can’t categorize him any other way.

Needless to say, I support him no matter what he decides for his own life, because that’s what friends do. I hope I am not betraying a confidence when I say that this is a question over which Kent has struggled for a while now. He has hinted at it on his blog, after all. And now ….. well, the LP world is just a little less interesting for me today. I hope you understand.

Yeah, saw this coming.

In Civil Liberties, Nanny State, Politics, Second Amendment on April 30, 2007 at 6:40 pm

Virginia caves to the black ribbon crowd.

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine on Monday closed the loophole in state law that allowed the Virginia Tech gunman to pass a federal background check and buy the weapons used in the massacre.

Kaine issued an executive order requiring that a database of people banned from buying guns include anyone who is found to be dangerous and ordered to undergo involuntary mental health treatment.

It’s not particularly annoying, but it’s still an expansion of state power, done in the name of nannystatist fearmongering. “OMG KOREAN ZERG RUSH NEVAR FORGETT!!!11eleventyone!” Yeah, this is bullshit.

The Virtue of Trust

In Constitutional Rights, Economics, Nanny State, Personal Responsibility, Politics, Second Amendment, Socialism on April 19, 2007 at 8:01 pm

Here is some mental tobacco for you to chew on – “In order to flourish and survive, we must trust our fellow humans”. A trusting and open society is also a safer, healthier and flourishing society. Despite the fact that several of us may have jobs where we deal with people of poor quality, I believe that the population, as a whole is more worthy of trust than we are led to believe. You may be thinking that I am being too optimistic here, but please consider what I have to say.

When you drive, you are placing your trust in your fellow man. You expect people to follow the rules of the road and operate their vehicles in a safe manner. When you drive, not only are you are placing trust in your fellow humans; you are also placing trust in “the great unknown”. When traveling you are placing trust in your pilot, hotel staff, taxi driver, mechanics,concierge etc. Each time you dine at a restaurant or shop at a supermarket, you are placing trust in the providers of those goods and services. Think about all of the transactions you make on just a daily basis. Unless you are a hermit and are completely self-sufficient, you must rely on the goods and services of others. Read the rest of this entry »