Steve G.

Archive for the ‘Nanny State’ Category

LEE WRIGHTS FOR PRESIDENT 2012 EXPLORATORY COMMITTEE

In Activism, Austrian Economics, Constitutional Rights, Corruption, Drug War, Iran, Iraq War, Libertarian Party-US, Media, Middle East, Minorities, Music, Nanny State, Police Brutality, Presidential Candidates, War on December 4, 2010 at 4:37 pm

For more information:
Brian Irving, press secretary
Phone: 919.538.4548
E-mail: press@libertypoint.org

Wrights pledges a ‘wise and frugal’ principled campaign
BURNET, Texas (Dec. 4) – In the four months since R. Lee Wrights began exploring the idea of seeking the Libertarian presidential nomination he has become even more convinced how critical it is for the Libertarian Party to be the anti-war party in 2012.

“The Democrats have not just completely failed to stop the ever expanding cycle of war, they continue to enlarge the cycle,” he said. “When the Republicans take control of the U.S. House, there will be no one left to speak for peace, no one but Libertarians,” Wrights said.

“When I announced formation of an exploratory committee on July 4, I said the Libertarian message in 2012 must be a loud, clear and unequivocal call to stop all war.” Wrights said. “Since then many Libertarians have told me they agree, and some have signed on to the campaign to help make it so.”

Thomas Hill, of Charlotte, N.C. has known Wrights for 10 years. He agreed to chair the exploratory committee because he said Wrights has proven to be a consistent and principled libertarian.

“He has never been afraid or ashamed of the axiom of non-aggression,” Hill said. “A true patriot through and through, Lee loves our great country and sincerely wishes to not only restore our once great Republic but to guarantee all men and women are truly free to live their lives and pursue their peaceful and honest dreams.”
“You cannot lead a nation into peace and prosperity while constantly initiating aggression against other nations,” said Norman Horn, who signed on as webmaster. “War is the ultimate evil and must be vigorously opposed by all true libertarians.”

Other members of the committee include: Brian Irving, press secretary; Robert Butler, treasurer; Julie Fox, assistant treasurer; Sean Haugh, events coordinator; Zachary Smith, campus coordinator, and; Katie Brewer, social media coordinator.

Wrights said he intends to run a campaign that will mirror the way a Libertarian president would govern. “I plan on running what Thomas Jefferson would probably call a ‘wise and frugal’ campaign,” he said. “It will be professional and well-run, a campaign all Libertarians can be proud of, but we won’t waste money on frills and we will rely heavily on grassroots activists.”

He said he is determined that whoever wins the 2012 nomination is totally committed to proclaiming the message to stop all war. To that end, Wrights has pledged to commit ten percent of all donations to his campaign to gain ballot access in all 50 states.

The committee also wants to ensure the 2012 nominee is equally committed to running on an unequivocal libertarian platform. “We need a candidate who is not ashamed nor afraid to proclaim the true libertarian message of individual liberty and personal responsibility, without compromise, without watering down and without pandering to those who are afraid of freedom,” said Irving.

Wrights, a Winston-Salem native, is a writer and political activist living in Texas. He is the co-founder and editor of the free speech online magazine Liberty For All.
-30-

The Two Lefts

In Austrian Economics, Big Brother, Guantanamo, Immigration, Iraq War, Libertarian, Nanny State, Politics, Torture, War on September 11, 2009 at 6:50 am

I have some running thoughts that I’d like to share on the nature of the left-wing.  This post shan’t be well-formulated, I must warn the reader.  It will not constitute good writing.  It won’t even be well-argued, since my intention is not to prove that I am right, but rather merely to quickly and effortlessly convey the thoughts swimming through my head at the moment.  Let us begin.

We learn from Rothbard in 1965 that libertarians and classical liberals are members of the true, radical left.  Richman, in 2007, makes the point that “[o]ne could say that the Left itself had left and right wings, with the laissez-fairists on the left-left and the state socialists on the right-left.”

McElroy, in 1982, points out that libertarianism has grown thanks to the introduction of Austrian economic thought, particularly the introduction of the subjective theory of value.  It’s essentially the same libertarianism that existed in the nineteenth century, and it’s just as individualistic today as it’s ever been, but it now has a better foundation in understanding the nature of value.

I often make the point, particularly when I’m speaking to conservatives, that there are two rights and two lefts, an anti-establishment right exemplified by the likes of Ron Paul and a pro-establishment right exemplified by the likes of G. W. Bush.  On the left, I would say there is an anti-establishment left exemplified by the likes of Mike Gravel and a pro-establishment left exemplified by the likes of Barack Obama.

But really I’m being disingenuous.  Ron Paul and Mike Gravel both occupy the same place on the spectrum: the left.  Neither are on the absolute left, where I am and where Rothbard, McElroy, and Richman more or less are, but they are both certainly on the left.  Likewise, both Bush and Obama occupy the same place on the spectrum: the right.  Neither are as far right as Mussolini or Mao, but both are certainly on the right.

So we find ourselves with two lefts, an anti-establishment left (the libertarians) and a pro-establishment “left” (the pseudo-“liberals”).

Enter John Markley, who recently wrote on his blog: “I expected most of the American Left to lose interest in the war issue once Obama was in office, and especially once Obama started to escalate American military efforts in Afghanistan.  Similarly, I expected them to start finding torture, attacks on civil liberties, and unrestrained executive power much less bothersome once they were wielding those weapons themselves.  Perhaps above all else, I expected their whole ‘dissent is patriotic’ shtick to fade away as well.  However, I really didn’t expect the change to be quite so abrupt.  It’s a demonstration of an important lesson libertarians need to keep in mind—neither liberals nor conservatives are actually very good on the issues they’re supposedly on the right side of.”

Liberals, with whom do you want to associate?  The establishment “left” that tells us we must “respect the office of the presidency”?  The pro-war “liberals”?  The so-called “left” that want you to believe it is unpatriotic to question the government or to yell at politicians (whether at townhall meetings or elsewhere)?  The so-called “liberals” who are only outraged at oppressive government when the red team is at the helm, not also when it is the blue team at the helm?

Or would you rather associate with us radicals, we who fail to see the difference between Obama’s statism and Bush’s statism, we who still believe that dissent is patriotic, we who mourn the deaths in Afghanistan, we who demand that Guantánamo be shut down this week instead of a year from now, we who refuse to support a man who voted in favour of illegal wiretapping and renewing the USA PATRIOT Act, we who believe that this administration doesn’t care about homosexuals?  Sure, by siding with us, you will be siding with people who reject Obamacare, but at least we don’t reject it for the same reasons as the right.  We don’t reject it out of some irrational fear of immigrants being treated as equals in our society, we oppose it because we reject the underlying tenets of imperialism and statism.  We reject it because we are consistent.

Liberals, you have every reason to join us libertarians on the radical left.  After all, unlike the establishment “left,” we’ll never ask you to pledge your loyalty and servitude to the president, regardless of to which party she belonged.  All we ask is that you never initiate force or fraud against your fellow human, that you never hire some gang to initiate force or fraud against your fellow human, and that you never ask a government to initiate force or fraud against your fellow human.

Hopefully you will join us because—that other “left”?—they are looking more and more like the right every day.

—Alexander S. Peak

Creative Commons License

Yesterday’s Townhall Meeting With Ben Cardin: Part III

In Activism, Health, Libertarian, Live-blogging, Media, Nanny State, Protest, US Government on August 13, 2009 at 4:43 pm

The event having ended, the crowd stands up and many file to exit.  Some stand around to talk with one another.  One gentleman comes to me to inquire about the meetings of the College Libertarians of Towson while many others, at least twenty, comment to me that I asked a great question.

As I exit the building, I see night has arrived.  I also see what I had not expected: hundreds of people outside with signs and flags.

One woman is holding a Gadsden flag, and I enquire as to where she got it, hoping to perhaps be able to purchase one of my own.  She informs me that she had gotten it at a Tea Party protest.

Although posters and signs had been banned inside the building, they were on full display outside.  There were also persons handing out flyers with information regarding a petition they wished for attendees to sign, a petition declaring their objection to the government’s new plan.

Walking from the building to the road, virtually every protestor there was against the government’s plan, many holding signs declaring government involvement in healthcare to be socialist.  I saw virtually no counter-protestors in favour of the statist plan until I reached the road itself, where the pro-statism counter-protestors stood on one side of the road and the anti-statism protestors on the other.  A quick glance at the two sides confirmed what one might suspect: the anti-statism side, which was chanting “No Obama care, no Obama care!” was larger than the pro-statism side.

One protestor, on the anti-statism side, yelled to me as I was crossing the street, “Did he answer your question?”  I wasn’t exactly sure how to respond.  After all, Cardin indeed had responded to my question, but not in any satisfactory way.

Still receiving compliments for my question, I made my way to my truck.  Traffic was slow, but I eventually escaped, driving past both groups of protestors.

All in all, it was a rather good event.  It was an absolute pleasure to see the masses verbally tearing down a member of the political class, instead of treating the politician like some holy cow not to be touched or demeaned.  There is nothing magical about politicians, after all—they are humans, just like us; they are flawed, just like us; and, in the state of nature, they are our equals, not our glorious, unquestionable superiors.

This is not to say that all of the sentiments of those who attended should be applauded.  Rather, it’s to say, as Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1787 to Abigail Adams, that the “spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive.  It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all.  I like a little rebellion now and then.  It is like a storm in the Atmosphere.”

Those wishing to contact their representatives to encourage them to adopt a separation of healthcare and state are encouraged to visit DownsizeDC.org.

—Alexander S. Peak

Creative Commons License

Yesterday’s Townhall Meeting With Ben Cardin: Part II

In Activism, Health, Libertarian, Live-blogging, Media, Nanny State on August 12, 2009 at 5:01 pm

The first four questions were selected from among the blue cards submitted earlier in the night, and were read by the administrator in the green tie.

The first question, read at 7:34, asked whether “illegal” immigrants would be included in the healthcare system, to which Mr. Cardin responded that they would not.

The second question, read at 7:35, concerned small business.  Cardin responded by claiming deep concern for small business, and noted that he was on a committee dealing with small business for this exact reason.

At 7:36, the question read asked how these new proposals did not constitute socialised healthcare.  Not surprisingly, Mr. Cardin tried to assure us that it was not; the audience, however, was not buying it.

Finally, at 7:37, the question read asked how these new proposals could possibly save us money.  More on money, later.

At 7:38, the floor was finally opened to direct questions from the audience, unfiltered by the man in the green tie.  A few minutes were taken up in setting up the microphones, which the administrators wanted to set up no closer to the stage than aisle eight.  Thus, the lines that had quickly formed had to keep stepping back.  I shan’t list all of the questions asked, nor Cardin’s response to each—I will, however, list the more interesting or popular ones.

At 7:43, a gentleman asked about tort reform, and why it has not been included in any of the proposals.  This question received huge applause from the audience.  When the applause dwindled, he added, “Is it because most members of Congress are lawyers?”

A gentleman at 7:45 asked whether Congress would be included in any plans that are adopted, to which Cardin said they would.

At 7:47, an audience member asked Mr. Cardin to cite the specific clause, section, and article of the Constitution that grants to the federal state the authority to get itself involved in matters of health.  This question, to the best of my memory, received a standing ovation.  A woman behind me yelled to Cardin, “I have a copy [of the U.S. Constitution] here if you want to see it!” but I am sure she was heard only by those in her general vicinity, given the loud nature of the applause.

Around 7:53, I had the opportunity to ask my question.  I had been working on it all day.  My original draft was three-and-a-half note-card pages long, and included discussion of anarchism.  And had the majority in the audience appeared in favour of the statist policy suggestions, I probably would have risked reading the whole thing.  But because 90% of the audience was already opposed to the “healthcare” schemes Congress is brewing, I figured it would be more reasonable to present a truncated question.

And thus I began by stating my affiliation with the College Libertarians of Towson, which I’m happy to say received some moderate applause.

Following my affiliation statement, I began:  “Harry Browne often said, ‘Government is good at one thing:  It knows how to break your legs, hand you crutches, and say, “See, if it weren’t for the government, you wouldn’t be able to walk!”’”  This comment received both laughter and applause, so I waited until the applause ended before continuing.  “According to Dr. Mary Ruwart, best-selling author of Healing Our World in An Age of Aggression, we can cut the cost of healthcare by 80% by getting government out of healthcare.  Why is it—”  I had to stop speaking, for at this point I again received applause. I continued, “Why is it, then, that we are moving in the direction of bigger government rather than smaller government?”

After I finished my question, I headed to my seat and listened to Mr. Cardin’s reply.  He essentially said that he didn’t see the 80% figure as realistic.

Had I instead asked him my longer question, it would have listed ways in which healthcare really would become cheaper without government.  For one thing, if we have complete free trade with Canada (and all other countries), then we can freely purchase drugs from these other countries, and thus we can shop around for better deals than we might otherwise be able to get.  For another, without the government-created patent system which gives an unnatural monopoly to big business, then drug companies would have to compete on a truly free market, and they would not be able to charge customers exorbitant costs.  Without the evil FDA, which costs tens of thousand (if not hundreds of thousands) of lives every year, drug companies would not have to go through years and years of bureaucratic red tape, and could instead submit their drugs to private companies similiar to Underwriters Laboratories for testing.  But because drugs cannot be sold in the U.S. without FDA approval, and because it costs so much to get this government monopoly to approve any drug, the costs are passed along to the consumers who thus suffer.  We can also cut costs by alleviating doctors of their onerous government paperwork if we were to turn Medicare and Medicaid into private charities.  And if we were to eliminate government mandates on insurance companies, then insurance companies could tailor their plans to fit what customers want, instead of forcing us to conform to whatever it is that the politicians and bureaucrats think is best for us.

The elimination of government involvement in healthcare would have very liberating effects for consumers of healthcare.  But Cardin doesn’t see the savings as realistic.

At 7:59, I noticed that Mr. Cardin once again looked tiffed.  At no point did he cuss at his audience or stamp his foot, but he made it perfectly clear that he was in stark disagreement with the majority of his audience.

Someone, pointing out that Congress rarely reads the bills it signs, asked if Mr. Cardin would promise to read the bill prior to voting for it.  He promised he would, although I have to wonder how fully he aimed to keep this promise.  Would he read it verbatim himself, or would he get his aids to read it and then summarise it for him?

A person at 8:09 asked about interstate commerce in health insurance, asking why Congress hasn’t made it legal for consumers to shop around.

Another person, at 8:11, pointed out that there were ultimately not very many slides employed by Mr. Cardin, and then asked why it is therefore necessary to have 1,000-page bills.  This question definitely received applause, but the person was not done with questions.  “Can you name even one thing that the private sector was doing that the government took over and made more efficient?” this person asked, and received a standing ovation.  Mr. Cardin ignored the first half of the question and focused on the second half for his response.  I do not at this time recall his responses, but I do recall that he received laughs.

The gentleman who spoke at 8:26 said that if the Founders were there, they would be horrified, and would be looking for ways to get government out of healthcare, to which he received a standing ovation.  He continued by asking, “So why is it that instead, we’re handing over healthcare to a monopoly?: the government!”

The last person to speak pointed out that government rationing of healthcare seemed more similar to some sort of Hitlerian scheme than something we ought to champion as American.  Finally, the event ended at 8:30.

—Alexander S. Peak

Creative Commons License

Yesterday’s Townhall Meeting With Ben Cardin: Part I

In Activism, Health, Immigration, Libertarian, Live-blogging, Media, Nanny State, Police State, Protest, US Government on August 11, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Yesterday, I attended Ben Cardin’s Townhall meeting at Towson University.  The purpose of the meeting was to discuss healthcare in America.  Ben Cardin currently serves as one of Maryland’s U.S. senators.

I arrived at 4:11, even though the event was not sceduled to begin until 7:00 PM.  Nevertheless, there was already a line.

This line grew quickly, and by 5:30, the Towson University administration began turning people away.

When they finally let us into the auditorium, they inspected bags and purses to ensure an absence of weapons and food.  Walking through the auditorium door, we were each handed blue cards on which we would write down a question for Mr. Cardin along with our contact information.  Inside the auditorium, classical music played.

I sat toward the front.  At 6:57, a gentleman in the corner of the room holding a small camera was asked to be seated.  It was difficult to hear their conversation, but the man appeared to ask the administrator if it was okay for him to stand where he was for the simple purpose of recording the event and the audience, to which the administrator clearly told him it was not.  The man submitted to the administrator.

I commented to the woman sitting to the right of me, “That guy wasn’t harming anyone,” to which she responded, “Yeah, none of us [audience members] had a problem with him.”

About a minute later, Cardin and a few others walk out.  I had not been paying attention to the stage as I was reading my book, but the audience reaction told me all I needed to know, and so I closed the book.  An administrator in a green tie makes some brief opening remarks.  All three persons and on the stage in front of the audience, and two projection screens stand on either side of the three persons.  Behind the podium are three nice-looking chairs, and above the chairs is a banner—probably paid for with your tax dollars—that said, “Every American Deserves Healthcare.”

The administrator lists a bunch of people who were there that night, most of the names being unfamiliar to me.  I presume a number were state delegates.  Although our other senator, Ms. Barbara Mikulski, was not present, her name was mentioned for some reason—perhaps her aids were in the audience.  Although most of the names mentioned received applause, her name received boos from the audience.

I became immediately aware of how lively this audience was going to be.  Clapping and booing were both highly-valued means of communication throughout the night.

Following the administrator, a woman spoke. She explained the troubles her family is facing, and how difficult it’s been caring for her children, the youngest of whom has some serious ailments.  Needless to say, the entire audience—regardless of what its individual members thought about the healthcare crisis—felt sympathy for this woman, the husband of whom currently works two jobs to make ends meet in our turbulent economy.  She ended her brief presentation by saying that she did not know what the best solution to our nation’s problems is, but that she hoped that events such as this townhall meeting would help to flesh out some of the problems and their solutions.

I could not help, when listening to her presentation, but to think that many of the problems she faced were the fault of statist intervention into the healthcare system and into the economy as a whole.

The audience was, for the most part, respectful to this woman.  This audience did not hold the same respect for the man who spoke next—the politician.

Cardin began speaking at 7:09, and he faced many hecklers.  It was really a beautiful sight: people, refusing to place politicians on some godlike pedistal, but instead speaking their mind, challenging the establishmen man, and, in so doing, challenging the entire elitist system!

This isn’t to say I loved every utterance that this audience made.  I was extremely annoyed to hear some audience members whining, “What about the illegals!?”  Such narrow-minded rhetoric was, in my opinion, a detriment to the otherwise-glorious anti-government arguments and sentiments of the crowd.  I half-wanted to pull these anti-immigrationists off to the side and chastise them for their wrongheaded focus, but decided against it.

Cardin had various slides he wanted to show the audience, but the audience was getting wrestless.  “We want to ask you questions!”  “Let us ask questions!”  Still, Cardin continued.

One of his slides, unvailed at 7:18, showed the increasing cost of health insurance over the past ten years.  Looking at the slide, I couldn’t help but to suspect that it was not adjusted for inflation.  Rising costs of health insurance is certainly not a positive thing, of course, but no evidence was presented to indicate that the cause was anything other than the declining value of the dollar.  What is inflation?  Inflation is any increase in the money supply, and it causes the value of each unit of the money supply to drop.  Thus, when the government inflates the dollar by creating new money and credit out of thin air, the purchasing power of the average user of that currency falls.  The solution, therefore, to this problem is not new government mandates and higher taxes; the solution is to abolish the fraudulent institution responsible for inflation the money supply—in the case of America, that institution is the Federal Reserve.

Still facing heckles, Cardin becomes visibly became tiffed a couple minutes later.  He says to his audience at this time something to the effect of, “I know you don’t care about the facts, but…”  The audience responded, unsurprisingly, with further heckles.  Listening to the audience and our guest speaker, I couldn’t help but to feel like I was sitting in the British parliament.

At 7:22, cops walk from the back of the audience down to the front, and stand in the corners of the room.  I didn’t make precise count, but I estimate that about ten cops made this trek, presumably to intimidate speakers by showcasing the might of the state apparatus.  I do not believe anyone actually allowed themselves to be intimidated, but it was an interesting sight nevertheless.  Where has America gone?

At 7:25, in response to calls from the audience to begin the Q&A session, he pleads with the audience to just let him get through the last few slides.  The administrator in the green tie also kept insisting that the audience stay quiet while Cardin finishes his presentation—repeatedly, and to no avail.

Finally, Mr. Cardin finished his presentation at 3:33, and announces that he will now answer questions.  To this, the audience applauded.

—Alexander S. Peak

Creative Commons License

GM plans to invest $1 billion of US bailout money in Brazil

In Congress, Economics, George Bush, Media, Nanny State, People in the news, Politics, US Government on November 21, 2008 at 3:38 am

From Latin American Herald Tribune:

By Russ Dallen
Latin American Herald Tribune staff

General Motors plans to invest $1 billion in Brazil to avoid the kind of problems the U.S. automaker is facing in its home market, said the beleaguered car maker.

According to the president of GM Brazil-Mercosur, Jaime Ardila, the funding will come from the package of financial aid that the manufacturer will receive from the U.S. government and will be used to “complete the renovation of the line of products up to 2012.”

“It wouldn’t be logical to withdraw the investment from where we’re growing, and our goal is to protect investments in emerging markets,” he said in a statement published by the business daily Gazeta Mercantil.

Meanwhile, he cut the company’s revenue forecast for this year by 14% to $9.5 billion from $11 billion, as the economic crisis began to cause rapid slowdowns in sales. 

GM already announced three programs of paid leave, and Ardila added that GM Brazil “is going to wait and see how the market behaves in order to know what decision to take” with regard to possible layoffs.

For Ardila, the injection in Brazil’s automobile sector of 8 billion reais ($3.51 billion) recently announced by the federal and state governments of Sao Paulo “has already begun to revive sales,” which fell by 12% in October.

The executive said that the company will operate a “conservative” scenario in 2009 with an estimated production of 2.6 million units, and another more “optimistic” that contemplates sales of 2.9 million.

This year sales will reach 2.85 million vehicles, which represents a growth of 15% over last year.

Russ Dallen with EFE in Sao Paulo

Hat tip Brad Spangler

What Would Happen?

In Constitutional Rights, Corruption, Economics, Fraud, Nanny State, Politics, US Government on September 27, 2008 at 11:45 pm

What would happen if the United States assumed so much debt, it could no longer function?  Would we be free at last or would we be taken over by another country?

George Phillies Blasts Debt Takeover

In Libertarian, Nanny State, Politics, Protest, US Government on September 20, 2008 at 3:13 pm

The following was written by George Phillies.

Phillies Blasts Fed Debt Takeover

“It’s the biggest rip-off in the history of the world,” said Libertarian Presidential candidate George Phillies. Phillies is on the November ballot in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. “Treasury Secretary Paulsen wants prudent Americans to be billed trillions of dollars to pay debts of their spendthrift neighbors. Trillions? Yes, trillions. Nine hundred billion to date. Far more in the future.

“Do you want to stop with paying your own bills?” Phillies asked. “Or do you want to be stuck paying the bills of every neighborhood wastrel who took a HELOC loan they couldn’t afford? Do you want to save the Lexus SUV of the billionaire banker dimwit who approved that HELOC loan? If you want to keep the money you worked so hard to earn, you have only one choice: Vote Libertarian! Throw Republican rascals and their Democratic toadies out on their ears.

“The Republicans?” Phillies wondered. “You don’t have to ask if Republicans choose competent candidates. Republicans nominated George Bush, whose gave us trillions in debt, secret wiretaps of your phone, a pointless War in Iraq, and the worst financial crisis since 1932. Democrats are no better. Senators Biden and Obama rolled over on Republican issue after Republican issue. For real change, vote Libertarian.”

–30–

George Phillies is on the ballot in New Hampshire and Massachusetts as the Libertarian Party candidate for President.

Paulsen says
http://treasury.gov/press/releases/hp1149.htm

Trillions? 900 billion so far, as totaled by CNBC
http://www.cnbc.com/id/26751385

Another 1.2 trillion, give or take?
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/2008/09/us-taxpayer-giant-dumpster-for-illiquid.html

Press Release: LEAP becomes latest victim of government censorship

In Activism, Big Brother, Censorship, Corruption, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Drug War, First Amendment, Law, Law Enforcement, Nanny State, Politics, Press Release on August 29, 2008 at 9:21 pm

LEAP Becomes Latest Victim of Government Censorship

DATELINE: 8.26.2008

Arlington: Virginia – Retired police detective, Howard Wooldridge, representing Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) was ousted from the National Asian Peace Officers Association (NAPOA) Conference in Crystal City because he was representing a view contrary U.S. government policy.

LEAP is a 10,000-member organization of police, judges, prosecutors, DEA & FBI agents, and others who know ending drug prohibition will reduce death, disease, crime, and addiction, while saving billions of our tax dollars each year.

On Tuesday (8.26.2008) acting under pressure from unnamed federal officials, Reagan Fong, President of the NAPOA, insisted on the immediate removal of LEAP from the conference vendor roster. It appears that some of the event’s other exhibitors took exception to the LEAP message and put pressure on the event organizer to expel LEAP from the event. While the incident was civil and took place prior to the second day’s session it represents a serious violation of Constitutional rights as cited within the First Amendment.

Federal agency representatives manning booths at the conference included DEA, Federal Air Marshals, NCIS, and Coast Guard. The prior day LEAP’s spokesperson had visited the DEA booth and described the agent as “decidedly unhappy” with an opposing viewpoint. In sharp contrast at 37 national and international law enforcement Conferences where LEAP has been allowed to exhibit, 80% of booth visitors agreed with LEAP’s stance for ending this failed drug war.

As for the Crystal City NAPOA incident, the appearance of impropriety is almost as bad as the real thing. LEAP has attempted to establish contact with Mr. Fong, NAPOA President, to confirm the details of the incident but we have received no response so we can only conclude it is blatant censorship originating from a judgmental “Big Brother” mentality. LEAP believes that this group owes us an apology. We ask that Mr. Fong identify the individual, agency or group that lobbied for our eviction from the event.

If this was an independent effort then he or she was acting outside the scope of authority and should receive administrative punishment for unprofessional actions. If this action was sanctioned by upper level management then the managers need to explain their behavior in an open forum. If this was sanctioned official action by the U.S. Government it is a serious matter which requires serious and immediate attention.

Terry L. Nelson 817-573-6927
Jack A. Cole 617-792-3877
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

Rep Barney Frank (D-Mass) wants marijuana possession legalized

In Activism, Big Brother, Congress, Courts and Justice System, Crime, Democrats, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Drug War, Law, Media, Medical Marijuana, Nanny State, People in the news, Politics, US Government on July 31, 2008 at 1:06 pm

From CNN:

(CNN) — The U.S. should stop arresting responsible marijuana users, Rep. Barney Frank said Wednesday, announcing a proposal to end federal penalties for Americans carrying fewer than 100 grams, almost a quarter-pound, of the substance.

Current laws targeting marijuana users place undue burdens on law enforcement resources, punish ill Americans whose doctors have prescribed the substance and unfairly affect African-Americans, said Frank, flanked by legislators and representatives from advocacy groups.

“The vast amount of human activity ought to be none of the government’s business,” Frank said on Capitol Hill. “I don’t think it is the government’s business to tell you how to spend your leisure time.”

The Massachusetts Democrat and his supporters emphasized that only the use — and not the abuse — of marijuana would be decriminalized if the resolution resulted in legislation.

The Drug Enforcement Administration says people charged with simple possession are rarely incarcerated. The agency and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy have long opposed marijuana legalization, for medical purposes or otherwise.

Marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, according to the drug control office.

“Smoked marijuana has not withstood the rigors of science — it is not medicine and it is not safe,” the DEA states on its Web site. “Legalization of marijuana, no matter how it begins, will come at the expense of our children and public safety. It will create dependency and treatment issues, and open the door to use of other drugs, impaired health, delinquent behavior, and drugged drivers.”

Allen St. Pierre, spokesman for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, likened Frank’s proposal — co-sponsored by Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas — to current laws dealing with alcohol consumption. Alcohol use is permitted, and the government focuses its law enforcement efforts on those who abuse alcohol or drive under its influence, he said.

“We do not arrest and jail responsible alcohol drinkers,” he said.

St. Pierre said there are tens of millions of marijuana smokers in the United States, including himself, and hundreds of thousands are arrested each year for medical or personal use. iReport.com: Is it time to legalize pot?

There have been 20 million marijuana-related arrests since 1965, he said, and 11 million since 1990, and “every 38 seconds, a marijuana smoker is arrested.”

Rob Kampia, director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said marijuana arrests outnumber arrests for “all violent crimes combined,” meaning police are spending inordinate amounts of time chasing nonviolent criminals.

“Ending arrests is the key to marijuana policy reform,” he said.

If HR 5843 were passed, the House would support marijuana smokers possessing up to 100 grams — about 3½ ounces — of cannabis without being arrested. It would also give its blessing to the “nonprofit transfer” of up to an ounce of marijuana.

The resolution would not address laws forbidding growing, importing or exporting marijuana, or selling it for profit. The resolution also would not speak to state laws regarding marijuana use.

Read the entire article on CNN.

Bob Barr recants position on Wiccans in the military

In Big Brother, Censorship, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, First Amendment, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Libertarian Politics, Military, Minorities, Nanny State, Politics on July 30, 2008 at 1:41 am

From Nate Uncensored (excerpt):

Apparently someone did get around to asking Bob Barr some substantive questions when he made an appearance at Netroots Nation. Ed Brayton (Dispatches from the Culture Wars) asked Barr if he would now, as Libertarian candidate, repudiate his 1999 attempt to prohibit the practice of Wicca, a neo-Pagan religion, on military bases. Barr said that he has changed his mind, citing “reports” that the practice of Wicca was causing problems that are apparently not an issue now. Brayton writes:

I did ask him for any specific problems that were reported to him back in 1999 by these military leaders, but he said he didn’t want to get into specifics. I’m sure that’s because there are no specific incidents and those military leaders who complained to him did so out of bigotry, or because the problems it caused were really caused by bigotry against Wiccans. He likened it to his stance on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell for gays, which he previously supported but now that it’s clear that allowing gays to serve doesn’t really cause any problems with unit cohesion and good order, he thinks it should be repealed and they should be allowed to serve openly.

Starchild instrumental in putting prostitution decriminalization on the ballot

In Activism, Big Brother, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Courts and Justice System, Crime, Economics, Entertainment, First Amendment, Law, Law Enforcement, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Local Politics, Nanny State, People in the news, Personal Responsibility, Police State, Politics on July 19, 2008 at 4:11 pm

Press release posted on the LP Radicals yahoo group. Starchild has had various offices in the San Francisco and California LP, and is one of the spokespeople for this initiative.

The San Francisco Department of Elections announced today that the measure prohibiting city officials from spending money arresting and prosecuting people for prostitution, and mandating equal legal protection for sex workers, has qualified for the November ballot. Of 500 signatures randomly sampled and checked by department personnel, 80 percent were found to be valid. “This is a happy day for San Franciscans who want government to focus on fighting real crimes like homicides and robberies, and are tired of seeing resources wasted in a futile effort to police consensual sex between adults,” said Starchild, a sex worker activist and spokesperson for the campaign. “We’ve cleared the first hurdle.” By the Elections Department’s tally, supporters had turned in 12,745 signatures of registered San Francisco voters on July 7.

The campaign to decriminalize prostitution will hold a kickoff rally and press conference to formally announce the results on Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. in front of the Polk Street entrance of City Hall, with
speakers to likely include Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, who was a signer of the petition to put the measure on the ballot along with two of his board colleagues. “It is way past time that the
recommendations of the Board of Supervisors 1996 Prostitution Task Force were implemented,” said the measure’s proponent, Maxine Doogan. “Criminalizing sex workers has been putting workers at risk of violence and discrimination for far too long.”

The prostitution reform measure joins two other voter-submitted measures on the local Nov. 4 ballot, along with eight measures put on the ballot by the mayor or members of the Board of Supervisors, with many others expected to be added in the next several weeks.

Starchild – (415) 621-7932 / (415) 368-8657 / RealReform@…
Maxine Doogan – (415) 265-3302 / MistressMax@…

FLDS finally getting their children back today

In Big Brother, Children, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, First Amendment, Human Rights Abuses, Law, Libertarian, Media, Minorities, Nanny State, People in the news, Police State on June 2, 2008 at 7:15 pm

Two months after their children were taken by state social service agencies, the parents of the Yearning For Zion polygamist sect have been granted permission by the court to pick up their children from foster care starting at 10:00 am CDT today.  This latest development comes after the Texas Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the state lacked probable cause to remove their children from their families, because they could not show that any of the children were in immediate danger.

The order does have some serious restrictions, however.  The families have been ordered to cooperate with state officials, including unannounced home visits and physical and psychiatric testing; they are also not permitted to leave the state of Texas, and the parents must take parenting classes.  The families are also not allowed to travel more than 100 miles without notifying Child Protective Services.

The return of the children is being hailed as a victory by civil libertarians, who viewed the raid as a violation of the sect’s constitutional rights.  However, many still question the restrictions placed upon the families by the court.

Yearning For Zion is a Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints sect.  FLDS members believe in the original teachings of Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, who taught that polygamy is the way to glorification in heaven.  The mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints banned polygamy over a hundred years ago.

The state of Texas had taken over 400 children into custody, following a hoax call from a woman falsely claiming to be a pregnant FLDS teenager being beaten by her much older husband.  That woman, Rozita Swinson of Colorado, has been arrested; and it has come to light that this is not the first time she has perpetrated a hoax of this type.

It is expected that the YFZ families whose children were removed, as well as the young women who were taken against their will and assumed to be underage even though they are legal adults (at least one is in her mid-twenties), will sue the state of Texas and the state’s Child Protective Services agency.  If that occurs, due to the number of people involved, the damages could be in the billions.

Previous LFV entries on this subject (listed in chronological order):

“Sickos: What’s a free market solution?” by Nigel Watt, 4/22/08

“Another viewpoint on FLDS case” by ElfNinosMom, 4/22/08

“Texas Supreme Court orders polygamist children returned to parents” by ElfNinosMom, 05/29/08

Another viewpoint on FLDS case

In Activism, Big Brother, Children, Constitutional Rights, Courts and Justice System, Crime, First Amendment, Fraud, Human Rights Abuses, Law, Law Enforcement, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Media, Nanny State, People in the news, Police State on April 22, 2008 at 7:04 pm

Polygamists outside courtThe judge hearing the case of 400+ children removed from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), Judge Barbara Walther, has ordered DNA tests of the children from the Yearning For Zion (YFZ) compound. The tests began yesterday via cheek swab, and it is taking an extraordinarily long time to do each one (about 30 minutes) due to the convoluted relationships between the adherents, which brings with it fear of contamination of the samples. Many polygamist children living in a sect of this type have no idea which woman is their biological mother, or which man is their biological father. Prosecutors have also requested psychiatric examinations of the children, while the attorneys for the children objected vehemently to both.

In polygamist relationships, the women assigned to a particular man refer to one another as “sister wives”, and they are all viewed as mothers to all of their husband’s children. There is a pecking order among the wives, though, with each subsequent wife bearing less power within the overall relationship. Furthermore, women and children can be taken from the fathers, and “reassigned” to another man. For this reason, it is not at all unusual for a child to not know the identity of their biological parents.

However, there is reason to fear that the DNA tests will be used for other purposes. For example, if it is proven that a child was born to an underage mother, or that the mother and father are closely related, criminal charges could ensue, and the state will already have proof of the illegal relationship. More chillingly, under the guise of scientific knowledge, the test results could be used for other purposes, since in established polygamist sects everyone is related by blood to everyone else, and incest is common. Frankly, I fear that these children will become guinea pigs.

The judge stated the reason for the testing is that the mothers have regularly changed their names, possibly lied about their ages, and have difficulty naming their relatives.

In the meantime, the children are being held as a group, inside a coliseum.

In an interview with CBS’s “The Early Show” one of the men from the polygamist sect, known only as “Rulan”, stated that the men would cooperate with DNA testing if it will help them get their children back. He also stated that the sect would reconsider allowing sex with girls under 18.

Many of us perhaps were not even aware of such a law. And we do reconsider, yes. We teach our children to abide the law.

Prosecutors claim that simply living in the compound exposes the girls to sexual abuse, or the imminent risk of abuse, due to the practice of forcing girls as young as 13 to marry men sometimes old enough to be their grandfathers or great-grandfathers. There is a pecking order among the men, just as there is among the women, and even elderly men can request that a young girl be “assigned” to them as an additional wife. The purpose of this, insofar as their religious belief, is so that the man can produce as many “superior souls” as possible. Once that man dies – or if he no longer wants the wife, or if a man higher in the patriarchy decides he wants that man’s wife – his wives and children are assigned to other men; the women have no say with regard to which man they are assigned as a wife.

Once the DNA sampling is completed, which is expected to take several days, the children will be placed in foster care, and the children younger than four – who up to this point have stayed with their mothers – will be taken away as well.

Psychologists, however, warn that placing the children in conventional foster homes can cause severe psychological damage due to overexposure; these children have lived in such a strict community that even being allowed to play with mainstream children could cause serious problems. State workers have said that they will try to keep siblings together, and keep the children in groups. For the sake of the children, they will also need to create an environment with little to no contact with the outside world, which means no television, computers, or other media. It is unclear how the children will be educated, given that sending them to public school could prove to cause lifelong emotional and psychological scars.

Furthermore, another barrier stands in the way, which is that FLDS children have been taught from the earliest age that even mere disobedience to one’s parents leads to eternal damnation, and that the world outside the compound is evil. Obviously, these children are suffering both emotionally and psychologically, not just from being separated from their parents and community, but because they fear damnation for merely being taken by the state into the outside world.

I know some foster families, but I cannot imagine changing their entire household to accommodate restrictions that severe. I fear most foster parents will not even try, thinking it is best for the children to be exposed to the outside world. I therefore fear for those children, because I honestly think the psychologists’ warnings are to be taken seriously. We’re living in the 21st Century, while those children for all intents and purposes have never known anything beyond the 19th Century, since most have never even been off the compound before now. Experiencing a typical home today would be something akin to a time machine for them, and could even alter the religious beliefs they have been taught. The state, however, has absolutely no right whatsoever to expose those children to anything which might alter the beliefs their parents hold as truth; and to do otherwise is a violation of the First Amendment.

This is a very serious problem in this situation, and personally, I think this is such an extreme case – since the state has essentially denied their religious rights as well as the right to be secure in their homes – that the Supreme Court needs to step in and make sure the constitutional rights of the children and their parents are protected, before irreparable damage is done. It may already be too late.

Rozita SwinsonIn the meantime, police have identified a 33-year-old Colorado Springs woman, Rozita Swinton, as a “person of interest” and the possible source of the phone calls which caused this situation. Swinton is currently in police custody, charged with false reporting to authorities in another, unrelated case. There has been no explanation regarding why she would make phone calls of that nature regarding this particular religious sect, as it appears that she has no ties to the group.

We should all watch this case very, very closely. What the state is doing in the YFZ case could happen to any of us, based upon a hoax call. Child Protective Services nationwide is renowned for removing children from homes on the flimsiest of evidence, while leaving children actually at risk (and sometimes obviously being abused) in the home with their abusers. The truth of the matter is that religions such as the Primitive Baptists are equally strict with their children, and the women are completely subservient to their husbands (in fact, Primitive Baptist women look very much like the FLDS women), both of which could also be misinterpreted as abuse by overzealous social workers. One attorney stated that none of the parents had ever even received a copy of the original petition for removal of the children, yet were expected to appear in court 14 days later in order to present their case to have their children returned; one mother said that removing the children from their home and community was the worst abuse the children had ever experienced, and she may very well be correct.

On the other hand, you have the question of indoctrination into a patriarchal society, where young girls are taught from a very early age to be completely subservient to men. They are then married off as young as 13 years old, with no choice in who they marry and possibly even without warning. Many boys are driven off the compound at a very young age, to eliminate competition for the young girls’ affection. It is a strange society by our standards, to be sure, and we as a society do have a responsibility to help those children.

The question is, how do we help them, while ensuring the protection of their constitutional rights, as well as the constitutional rights of the parents? Is government intervention the best decision? I’m not altogether sure that it is, unless abuse can be proven. However, abuse is defined based upon the norms of society – for example, spanking is legally defined as abuse in some countries, but here parents can spank their children and a spanking in and of itself is not considered abusive – and it is indisputable that such sects have their own society, quite apart from our own; what is defined as abuse in our society is obviously not viewed as abuse in theirs, and is instead the norm. We are also not on a moral high ground with regard to pregnant teenagers, since we see that all the time in our own society, and many teen mothers in our society were impregnated at an even younger age.

This is an extremely complex question, with no easy answers to be found. However, one thing is clear, and that is that the FLDS sects have the same constitutional rights as you or I, and those rights must be protected above anything else. At this point, I do not believe the state had any cause whatsoever to remove the young children, and I fear that doing so has violated their constitutional rights, as well as the constitutional rights of the parents. If the state’s concern is sexual abuse of teen girls as stated, they may have probable cause to remove the teens for their own protection, but not to remove the younger children. I have seen and heard nothing which would suggest that children under the age of ten are in imminent danger of abuse, except the state’s assertion that, according to their religion, they may be “spiritually married” at any age. I therefore suspect the state is trying to enforce its own standards and morality upon a religion which has existed and been practiced the same way for hundreds of years.

My biggest concern is that this is nothing more or less than religious persecution. Religious persecution absolutely cannot be tolerated in our country, so there needs to be oversight at the federal level, to ensure the rights of all the sect members are protected.

Eugenics being promoted to prevent child abuse

In Big Brother, Children, Communism, Constitutional Rights, Crazy Claims, Health, Human Rights Abuses, Law, Libertarian, Minorities, Nanny State, Personal Responsibility, US Government on March 24, 2008 at 6:24 pm

EugenicsI ran across the following comment on a newspaper’s reader comments section:

ARRRG!… I’ve said it before and I will stand by it. Some people do not deserve to have children. It should be mandatory that when a girl get her period they go on birth control and when they are ready to have a kid someone has to come and check out the living conditions and a mental exam has to be administered to both parents and they have to pass and then they grant you permission to have a child. I personally think it would save a lot of children. Being a woman myself and seeing this type of stuff I am all for it. IGNORANCE IS PREVENTABLE!!!

Why on earth would anyone living in the United States harbor the belief that the government should have total control over everyone’s life, including their most basic right, to reproduce?

While I do understand that child abuse is a very serious problem in this country, the solution is the exact opposite of what she proposes. If everyone took responsibility for their own lives, there would be no child abuse or neglect. Obviously, total personal responsibility is merely a philosophical ideal, since there will always be those who refuse to step up and take responsibility. Nevertheless, the failure of the few to take responsibility for their lives does not negate the right of the many to do so, without government interference.

The same people who harbor such beliefs would likely scream to high heaven if the mother in question – who abused her infant after losing her temper when the baby cried for days on end – had undergone an abortion rather than giving birth to a child she likely did not want, and definitely could not handle. Regardless of what the uninformed among us believe, giving a child up for adoption carries a stigma as well. Many times a pregnant woman finds herself in the position that she’s damned if she does have the child, and she’s damned if she doesn’t have the child, due to social pressures.

I don’t have the answer to this dilemma, but I do know that government control over reproduction is not the answer. After all, many otherwise completely normal mothers lose their tempers with crying infants, socioeconomic status notwithstanding, so governmental control would not stop the problem. That does not excuse the behavior, but it does prove that the suggestion made above is rather ignorant; though strangely, she attributes ignorance to those who dare disagree with her.

If denying the government the ability to grant or deny such a basic human right as reproduction is her definition of ignorance, I will gladly bear the title.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not excusing the mother for abusing her child; far from it, in fact, since I find the abuse of the helpless to be the most heinous crime of all. However, there is an undercurrent in this country, with its basis in extremist religious beliefs and the far right, which uses child abuse cases as an excuse to advocate that the government take total control over the reproductive lives of its citizens. These extremists do not understand that government must be controlled, and never given carte blanche to do whatever it wants. Yet they would grant the government the right to decide who can reproduce, and when they can reproduce; and as history has proven, in no time the government would turn that power into a eugenics program wherein the poor – which by necessity would include many minorities – would not be permitted to reproduce at all. That’s absolutely insane.

I fear for the future of this country, when I read such comments. Perhaps it is easier for some if they don’t have to take any responsibility whatsoever for their lives; but when they are openly and actively advocating total government control over others’ lives, they have gone too far. As libertarians we have a responsibility to speak out, loudly and clearly, against anyone who would openly advocate such bizarre government programs. We have a responsibility to educate others about the very real dangers of giving the government too much control over our lives, whether we run across the statist mindset online, or in our personal lives. As libertarians, we must spread the word of liberty, even if only to one person at a time.

Disturbing medical marijuana case involving an AIDS patient

In Activism, Big Brother, Children, Civil Liberties, Courts and Justice System, Crime, Drug War, Health, Human Rights Abuses, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical Marijuana, Nanny State, Police State, Protest, Science on March 17, 2008 at 6:44 pm

Tom FaltynowiczTom Faltynowicz, a 43-year-old gay rancher in Meade County, South Dakota, was diagnosed with Aquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in 1990, and is currently facing criminal charges for possessing and growing marijuana for medicinal usage.

For those of you unaware of the specifics of that disease, a patient infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) may or may not develop AIDS. Once infected with HIV, the disease damages the CD4 cells (T-Cells), and in fact uses those cells to replicate within the body; CD4 cells can be replaced through normal process in the early stages of the disease, but eventually the counts start to fall as the cells are overcome by the virus. A CD4 count between 700 and 1000 is considered normal in a non-HIV infected person; while a CD4 count of about 500 is considered normal when the virus is present. A CD4 count below 200 is indicative of AIDS, since it is at that point that the body loses its ability to fight off opportunistic infection.

Opportunistic infection is any infection which, under normal circumstances, the body could easily fight off. However, due to the lack of CD4 immune cells, AIDS patients are at very high risk of contracting diseases which they would never contract were it not for the virus destroying their immune system. Some diseases are so common in AIDS patients, and so uncommon in non-AIDS patients, that they are considered to be AIDS-defining diseases. Examples of AIDS-defining diseases include Pneumocystis Pneumonia (a fungal infection of the lungs) and Kaposi’s Sarcoma (once believed to be a rare form of cancer, now believed to be caused by Herpes Virus HHV8); these diseases are normally not seen in patients with a normal immune system. While there is viable treatment for many opportunistic diseases, they must be treated swiftly in an AIDS patient due to the patient’s body being unable to fight infection on its own.

Another important way of measuring HIV is by measuring the viral load. The viral load is the amount of HIV in the body. So while a CD4 count measures the amount of damage HIV has done, a viral load count will measure how much of the virus is actually in the body. In this way, doctors are able to measure whether drugs are working to halt the spread of the virus.

AIDS is a pandemic first identified in 1981 by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), due to Pneumocystis Pneumonia being identified in five homosexual men in Los Angeles. The disease did not take over worldwide as quickly as it is generally believed, though. AIDS has been identified in tissue samples of patients who died of unknown causes as early as 1959; one postmortem case identified the virus in a tissue sample from a 15-year-old boy who died in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1969, though it is still unknown how the boy may have contracted the virus. Some scientists suggest the virus could have first infected humans sometime during the end of the 19th Century, while other scientists suggest it first infected humans during the early 20th century, between 1915 and 1930. Regardless of whether it started during the late 19th Century or early 20th Century, it took many decades for it to even become prevalent enough to be noticed. Since the virus is slow to overtake its host, the window for inadvertent infection of others is years, rather than days or weeks as with most viruses.

It is unclear exactly how the virus started, but it seems clear that it crossed species from primates (which can carry a disease known as the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus) into humans, likely when humans came into contact with the bodily fluids of monkeys, possibly during consumption, hunting or butchering the animals (monkey meat is a delicacy in some areas of the world, and is regularly eaten in some areas of Africa). The virus spread due to a number of factors, including vaccines given with unclean needles in developing countries. While AIDS is now generally viewed as a disease of gay men and intravenous drug users, the truth is far more chilling, since the virus is not contained only within a particular population. Many women and children are infected with the virus, and in some areas of the world, particularly Africa where infected patients do not have access to proper health care, the number of deaths has become catastrophic.

At this time, there is no cure for HIV, or for AIDS, nor is there a vaccine to prevent transmission. However, scientists have designed a number of drugs inhibit the virus’s replication. To understand how these drugs work, a short primer on the virus is necessary.

HIV takes over CD4 cells, changing their molecular structure by inserting its own ribonucleic acid (RNA). The virus itself, which is too small to be seen except with an electron microscope, consists of an outer envelope containing the virus and the proteins and enzymes necessary for replication; the envelope has about 72 spikes on its surface. When the virus bumps into a cell coated by the CD4 protein, the spikes stick into the cell and fuse, at which time the inner contents of the HIV envelope is released into the CD4 cell.

Once inside the cell, the HIV enzyme called reverse transciptase converts the viral RNA into DNA, which is compatible with human genetic material. This DNA is transported to the cell’s nucleus, where it is spliced into the human DNA by the HIV enzyme called integrase. Once it is spliced into the human DNA, the HIV DNA is known as provirus. The provirus may lie dormant within a cell for quite some time. However, when the cell becomes activated, it treats HIV genes in almost the same way as human genes. First it uses human enzymes to convert HIV genes into messenger RNA. The messenger RNA is transported outside the cell nucleus, and is used as a blueprint for producing new HIV proteins and enzymes, much in the same way as the human body normally produce replacement cells.

Complete copies of HIV genetic material is contained among the strands of messenger RNA produced by the cell. These copies combine with newly made HIV proteins and enzymes to form new viral particles, which are then released from the cell. The enzyme protease plays a vital role of the HIV life cycle, as it chops up long strands of protein into smaller pieces, which are then used to construct mature viral cores. At that point the newly matured HIV particles are ready to infect another cell, and begin the replication process all over again. In this way the virus quickly spreads through the human body, and causes its host to become infectious. HIV is passed to others through bodily fluids; some fluids contain more of the virus than others.

Contrary to popular belief, people do not die of HIV, or of AIDS. They die of the opportunistic infections which accompany the complete loss of their immune system. Patients therefore must take a strong cocktail of medications to stop the virus from replicating and destroying their immune system. Some common drugs prescribed for AIDS patients, to stop the virus from replicating, include reverse transcriptase inhibitors, which prevent the viral RNA from being converted into human DNA; protease inhibitors, which prevent the virus from creating new mature viral cores; and integrase inhibitors, which prevent the viral DNA from being spliced into the human DNA within the cells.

Unfortunately, with those life-saving treatments for the virus come life-threatening side effects, from lethal liver damage to an overwhelming nausea which results in starvation and dehydration; when this occurs, it only worsens those same symptoms which can be caused by the virus itself. Over the years many drugs have been discovered to combat the side effects (those same side effects are found in many other medical conditions as well), and to increase the quality of life for those who are infected with the virus; some of those drugs and treatments are pharmaceutical in nature, and some are natural.

One of the non-pharmaceutical drugs, which has proven very helpful in battling the anxiety, overwhelming nausea and physical wasting which comes with the virus and its treatment, is marijuana. So effective is marijuana that scientists have even made a pharmaceutical version of the drug, used in chemotherapy patients as well as AIDS patients, which contains synthetic THC (the active ingredient in marijuana). However, many patients believe that the natural THC in marijuana works better than the synthetic version in Marinol, and science supports this belief. In studies of marijuana usage for medicinal usage, it was found that other chemicals found in marijuana have additional medicinal effects which complement the effects of THC. Furthermore Marinol is extremely expensive (Tom’s Marinol costs about $2200 per month, so severe is his nausea and gastrointestinal symptoms), and thus the drug is far beyond the financial reach of most patients; and for that reason they cultivate and smoke marijuana for medicinal purposes. While the black market cost of marijuana can be high, the plant can be cultivated at home from seeds, at very little cost to the patient.

In some states, it is legal for patients with a valid medical prescription to possess certain amounts of dried and cultivated marijuana for personal medicinal use. However, even in those states, the US Government – which has declared that marijuana is an illicit and therefore illegal drug – refuses to permit patients to use the cultivated form of THC. Patients are regularly arrested for merely possessing the substance which allows them to live a more normal life, and which in cases of extreme wasting seen in AIDS, is actually life-saving. This occurs nationwide, including in the states where marijuana is legal for medicinal use.

I do not advocate the casual use of marijuana (or any other drug, prescription or otherwise) to get “high”. I do strongly advocate the right of physicians and patients to determine the best course of treatment, and I believe the government has no right to interfere in the doctor/patient relationship when the patient is not being placed in untoward danger.

Enter Tom Faltynowicz. When Tom was diagnosed with AIDS in 1990, he was given “maybe a few years” to live. Eighteen years later, he is in a fight for his life, but it’s a fight of a very different kind.

In September 2007, law enforcement officials in his native Meade County received an anonymous call, stating that Tom had between 75 and 100 marijuana plants growing behind a metal building on his property. It is believed that the anonymous call came from Tom’s daughter, who was angry with him because he had recently stated his disapproval of her relationship with a particular man.

When Meade County Investigator Michael Walker and South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation Agent John Griswold arrived at Tom’s home the next day, there were not 75 to 100 plants on the property, or even anywhere near that many; in fact, there were no plants out in the open at all. However, when asked by those officers about the accusation, Tom immediately admitted to growing marijuana to treat his medical condition. He even invited the officers into his home, so they can see where he was growing it, and he was completely cooperative at all times, even according to the police report regarding the incident. All told, the officers found five plants, and about four ounces of dried marijuana. There was never an allegation that the marijuana was being used for anything but his medical condition, and never an allegation that he was selling the marijuana. It remains undisputed that Tom was using the marijuana to treat AIDS, and the side effects of the many potent medications he takes to fight the virus.

Tom takes a total of four antiretroviral drugs to combat the HIV infection: Combivir (a combination of Retrovir and Epivir), Sustiva, and Viread. Each of these drugs, by themselves, come with potentially fatal side effects. All of these drugs can cause severe nausea, and can result in extreme anxiety as an additional side effect. In addition, Tom has been prescribed Marinol, the synthetic THC drug to combat nausea and vomiting, so there is no question that he suffers the side effects which are treated by marijuana, and there is no question that his side effects are severe based upon his dosage. However, Tom says that the marijuana is far more effective than the Marinol, since Marinol makes him so tired that he cannot function; and his physician is aware of and supports his use of marijuana to treat his symptoms.

Tom, though he has no prior criminal record with the exception of two prior misdemeanor convictions for possession of small amounts of marijuana – both of which occurred after he was diagnosed with AIDS – pled guilty to felony possession of marijuana. He faces a maximum of two years in prison, and a maximum fine of $4000; he could also be given probation. His sentencing date has been set for April 21st, before the Honorable Jerome Eckrich, Circuit Judge. Tom’s Infectious Disease Specialist, Dr. Traub, will speak at the sentencing hearing. The State Attorney has already said that he will not object to anything Dr. Traub might say. It appears that no one is interested in punishing Tom Faltynowicz; at the same time, under the law, his possession of marijuana – regardless of the reason why he possessed it – is a felony in the state of South Dakota.

Tom, however, is an exception to the reason that law was written. It was written to stop people from abusing the drug to get high, and to stop them from selling or otherwise providing it to others for the same illicit purpose. It is extremely doubtful the legislature was aware of the medicinal effects of marijuana when that law was passed, and it’s extremely doubtful the legislature ever intended to punish patients with a deadly disease. It’s even possible that the medicinal effects of marijuana were unknown to them when that law was passed, since it is hardly a new law. Nevertheless, since the law exists, it will be enforced, even against people like Tom who are using marijuana strictly for medicinal purposes.

This raises a number of questions. Even if Tom is merely placed on probation, and even if he stopped smoking marijuana altogether, using Marinol to control his symptoms would result in violation of probation, since he would test positive for THC during required drug tests. If he fails a drug test while on probation, he will be incarcerated.

If he is incarcerated, he will not only not have access to the drug which he needs to survive without excessive suffering due to overwhelming nausea, vomiting, physical wasting, and extreme fatigue; but the South Dakota Department of Corrections will be forced to pay for the extremely expensive antiretroviral drugs which fight the virus as well as the Marinol, at a cost of thousands of dollars per month to the taxpayers, in addition to the increased cost of incarceration for a man with an infectious deadly disease. As you should understand after my explanation of how those drugs work, and how the virus works, missing even one dose of his antiretroviral drugs could be catastrophic for his health, since it would allow the virus to replicate until the drug was again built up to a therapeutic dosage. Yet in a prison environment there is no guarantee that he will receive his life-sustaining medications at all, much less receive them on the schedule those drugs demand.

Tom has said that he will not stop using marijuana, because it allows him to live a relatively normal life. Without it, his body is wracked with pain, nausea, and vomiting; he is unable to eat or drink, and thus his body becomes even more weakened, even more unable to fight the virus, and even more prone to the many opportunistic illnesses, any one of which could easily end his life. This is especially true if he is confined in a jail or prison facility, given that there are large numbers of inmates living in close approximation.

To incarcerate Tom Faltynowicz would therefore place his life at severe risk, and as such would clearly constitute cruel and unusual punishment, as prohibited by the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution. Furthermore, it would serve no purpose to incarcerate him, since his crime is merely possession of a drug which allows him to live with his disease and to continue take the cruel medications which literally keep him alive. He poses no threat to anyone and he is not selling or otherwise distributing the marijuana, nor has it even been suggested that he is selling or distributing the marijuana. Rehabilitation is also not a valid cause for his incarceration, since he merely uses the drug for medicinal purposes, and thus he is not in need of rehabilitation.

Society would not be served by incarcerating Tom Faltynowicz. The interests of justice would not be served by incarcerating Tom Faltynowicz.

As such, justice demands that the court show mercy by giving Tom Faltynowicz a suspended sentence, no probation, and whatever fine the court sees fit, as long as it is within Tom’s ability to pay said fine.  The courts should also order the return of Tom’s property; police seized property such as lights, and not just marijuana and implements for its use.  Those lights  should be returned.

Legislators Gone Wild: Heywood Jablome Edition

In Children, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Crazy Claims, Crime, Law, Law Enforcement, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Local Politics, Nanny State, People in the news, Personal Responsibility, Police State, Politics, Republican, Shine on you crazy diamond on March 15, 2008 at 4:02 am

Tim CouchI’m not exactly sure why someone who sits on a state legislature (where he represents about two and a half obscure rural counties out of 120 counties in the state) thinks that he can legislate what everyone in the world does, but

Kentucky Representative Tim Couch filed a bill this week to make anonymous posting online illegal.

The bill would require anyone who contributes to a website to register their real name, address and e-mail address with that site.

Their full name would be used anytime a comment is posted. If the bill becomes law, the website operator would have to pay if someone was allowed to post anonymously on their site. The fine would be five-hundred dollars for a first offense and one-thousand dollars for each offense after that.

Representative Couch says he filed the bill in hopes of cutting down on online bullying. He says that has especially been a problem in his Eastern Kentucky district.

Ah, eastern Kentucky, home of one of this blog’s all-time favorite criminals, the Duct Tape Bandit. LOL. That probably answers my original question in this thread.

Aside from the logistics, in that it is absolutely impossible for a state legislature to legislate the behavior of everyone on the internet – no matter how hard they may try – is this a good idea?

Even though I covered the Megan Meier controversy to a great degree, I think it is a horrible idea, and I’ll tell you why.

What happened to Megan Meier was an anomaly. That poor young girl was mentally ill, as evidenced by the fact that she was prescribed not just anti-depressants, but also Geodon, an anti-psychotic. Her adult neighbor Lori Drew was well aware of this, so what she did to that child is absolutely unconscionable, whether one believes she is responsible for Megan’s death or not.

While I realize there are people who have mental illnesses on the internet – and sometimes I wonder if the majority of people posting on the internet have a mental illness – the internet is not a nanny, nor should anyone expect it to be. It is also not a place for children, or the otherwise weak at heart. It is definitely rated “R”, so no one who couldn’t get into an R-rated movie shouldn’t be here in the first place, unless they have parental guidance.

Some other parts of the internet are rated NC-17, some are rated X. With some websites, you don’t even realize you are going to an X-rated site until you are already there (another problem, but responsible internet users simply don’t click on unknown links in the first place).

I can write an article as ElfNinosGreatAuntTilley, and as long as I don’t harm anyone in the process, it is not a crime for me to do that. The right to anonymity is a basic right. It is a right which I exercise everytime I log onto this blog. It is a right which I exercise in my personal life on a fairly regular basis. The fact of the matter is that no one is entitled to know my name, in real life or on the internet. I’m not doing anything wrong, and in fact I do a lot to help others in life, but I like my privacy.

Why do I think it is important for me to post under a pseudonym? There are several reasons, all of which I feel are perfectly valid.

I used to regularly bust scammers on Quatloos, cooperating with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to get these slimeballs behind bars where they belong, and in that capacity I angered some extremely dangerous people. Once I even angered a man who was a dirty ex-NYPD cop, and a former enforcer with the Colombo crime family (yes, the mafia). He had stolen millions from people in a scam wherein he pretended to be a loan company for people who can’t get conventional loans, and he would charge them a large up-front fee. He did his best to ascertain my real identity, and made multiple threats of physical violence against me, including both murder and rape.

In a situation like that, I have two choices. I can either bust the guy under a pseudonym, and be able to sleep at night, or I can do so under my real name, and end up moving every few months. I choose to stay put.

As most of you are aware, I am a professional writer, and I write about true crime as well as criminology issues. However, I didn’t sign up for the publicity which comes with that. I have a unique name, and I don’t want people coming onto this blog to ask me the same questions I’ve been asked (and answered) a million times, and harassing my friends who visit this blog; yet I have every reason to believe they will do that, because that’s what they did when I had a professional website. I just want to be me when I’m here, and I want others to feel comfortable posting here as well.

Tim Couch may not think those are valid reasons for me to not use my real name on the internet, and he’s entitled to his opinion. At the same time, I didn’t elect him, and I don’t live in Kentucky, so his opinion could not possibly be more irrelevant to me.

The fact of the matter is that there are more than enough laws already on the books to handle any situation which might arise on the internet, regardless of whether the person is using their real name or a pseudonym. There are laws against stalking, harassment, obscenity, and other problems. Sure, it might not be easy to find the perpetrator, but it’s not always easy to find perpetrators in real life either.

There are laws to cover what Lori Drew did to Megan Meier, too, if the authorities would use their heads. She could be charged under child abuse laws, stalking laws, harassment laws … the list goes on and on. I don’t know why they decided to not charge her, but that doesn’t mean she couldn’t be charged if the prosecutor wanted to do so. Of course, now a federal grand jury is considering charges against her for wire fraud, since she used a false name on MySpace for the specific intention of stalking and harassing another person (though that’s a Catch-22, since Megan Meier also falsified her age with her mother’s permission, as she was otherwise too young to have a MySpace account). It’s not a problem to use a false name in and of itself. It only becomes a problem when someone uses a false name in order to commit a crime, which is something the vast majority of people on the internet will never do.

So, in a nutshell, I think Kentucky State Representative Tim Couch needs to worry about things which are actually under his control. He is not in a position to legislate the internet, since he is just a state legislator. He has, like a typical politician, grabbed onto a controversial issue to get publicity. Even if his law passes, he is only giving his constituents a false sense of security on the internet since the law would not apply to anyone outside that state; he’d do a far greater service to his constituents if he introduced a bill to fund a public information program about the internet, or requiring that children in his state be educated about the dangers of the internet. He knows or should know that he has no jurisdiction to legislate the internet. If he doesn’t know that, he isn’t smart enough to be making laws in the first place.

______________________________

Originally posted on Adventures In Frickintardistan

Missouri wants to outlaw cussing in bars

In Big Brother, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Entertainment, Law, Local Politics, Music, Nanny State on January 17, 2008 at 12:03 am

International Loud Cussing SymposiumIn St. Charles, Missouri, officials are considering a bill which would ban profanity, table dancing, drinking contests, and any other type of indecent, profane or obscene music, literature, and entertainment in bars. They claim the law is needed to keep rowdy bar crowds in the historic downtown district under control.

They don’t seem to care that the behavior they find so reprehensible is taking place on private property. They also seem to be overlooking the undeniable fact that it’s none of their fucking business what anybody does on private property, as long as the property owner doesn’t mind.

If people in that area aren’t careful, they’ll ban consuming alcohol in bars next.

Bar owners, needless to say, are opposed to the measure, saying it is a violation of their civil rights. Marc Rousseau, who owns a bar called R.T. Weilers, said, “We’re dealing with adults here once again and I don’t think it’s the city’s job or the government’s job to determine what we can and cannot play in our restaurant.”

Rousseau is absolutely correct.

St. Charles officials are obviously trying to take all the fun out of going to a bar. I’m not a big drinker at all, and while I did hit the bars regularly when I was young, I now only drink occasionally. However, the last time I went to a bar (on New Year’s Eve) people were hootin’ and hollerin’ and drinkin’ and cussin’, and a good time was had by all. I really don’t see what the problem is, except that city leaders seem to have an overly tight anal sphincter. What they really need is a good stiff drink to loosen that up.

There is no doubt that the proposed measure won’t withstand court scrutiny due to being overly broad and therefore not enforceable (not to mention being a violation of bar patrons’ and bar owners’ constitutional rights), but city officials don’t seem to mind that bar owners will be forced to spend money unnecessarily to challenge the law. Outrageous.

__________________________

Source: AP: Bill would ban swearing in bars

Originally posted by ElfNinosMom on Adventures in Frickintardistan 

Government unveils Real ID plans

In Big Brother, Civil Liberties, Congress, Fraud, Immigration, Law, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Nanny State, Police State, Terrorism, US Government on January 11, 2008 at 12:03 am

Drivers license photo at DMVIn the next six years, Americans born after December 1, 1964 will be required to get more secure driver’s licenses under the Real ID Act. Real ID was passed in 2005, and is supposed to make it harder for terrorists, illegal immigrants, and con artists to get government issued identification. Originally the new IDs were supposed to be introduced this year.

States, however, have balked at the idea, believing it to be either unnecessary or unduly expensive. The ACLU has vehemently objected to the sharing of personal data among government agencies, which will occur under Real ID. While the Department of Homeland Security claims that the only way to make sure an ID is safe is to check it against secure government information, the American Civil Liberties Union says it will only make it more likely for identities to be misused or stolen.

Furthermore, the ACLU claims REAL ID will be the “first-ever national identity card system,” which “would irreparably damage the fabric of American life.”

While I’m glad to note that I will be exempt, at least until 2017, it still bothers me. It’s just too much like asking for my “papers”, as far as I’m concerned. On the other hand, at least the government realizes that someone my age (45 now, will be 51 when the law goes into effect) is highly unlikely to be a terrorist, which is what I have been saying all along whenever I get hassled about flying or whatever. I’m one of those people whose kids are out of the house, and now I’m joyfully awaiting the day when I have grandchildren. People like me are not terrorists, except when it comes to our daughters-in-law. 😉

Under Real ID, the cards will have three layers of security but will not contain microchips; and states will be able to choose which security measures they will put in their cards. Also, the driver’s license photograph would be taken at the beginning of the application instead of at the end, in order to keep the applicant’s photo on file to check for fraud.The government expects all states to start checking the social security numbers and immigration status of license applicants.Most states already check Social Security numbers, and about half already check immigration status. Some states are already using many of the security measures of REAL ID. For example, California expects the only real change in their current procedure will be to take the photo at the beginning of the application rather than at the end.

Once the social security and immigration checks become practice nationwide, Homeland Security will move on to checking with the State Department when people use a passport to get a drivers license (why don’t they already do that?), verifying birth certificates, and checking to make sure the person doesn’t have more than one license.

As if getting a drivers license and dealing with the DMV bureaucracy isn’t already a major pain in the ass, it will get worse. And it will be easier for people to steal your identity. Hmmmm ….. this sounds like a very, very bad idea to me. Just get states to do what they should already be doing (check social security numbers, check immigration status, check to make sure they’re who they claim to be when they use a passport to get a drivers license, require that lost or stolen licenses be reported within a certain period of time) and everything should be fine.

Law-abiding American citizens should not get an even bigger hassle in dealing with government red tape, just because a few people are assholes. And I will always be wondering whether the jerk clerk at the DMV is stealing my identity more thoroughly than any thief ever could, thus encouraging widespread paranoia and the attendant reliance upon the government which comes with it.
Of course, that’s what the government wants. They want us to depend upon them for everything, because that gives them power over us. God forbid that everyone simply be responsible for themselves.

_______________________________

Source: CNN “US Unveils New Driver’s License Rules”

Originally posted by ElfNinosMom on Adventures in Frickintardistan

Fed wiretaps disconnected due to nonpayment of phone bills

In Big Brother, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Corruption, Humor, Law Enforcement, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Media, Nanny State, Police State, US Government on January 10, 2008 at 12:15 am

FBI LogoWe can’t even trust the government to pay their phone bills, so why should we trust them to not misuse wiretaps?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Telephone companies have cut off FBI wiretaps used to eavesdrop on suspected criminals because of the bureau’s repeated failures to pay phone bills on time.
One FBI office had $66,000 in unpaid telephone bills.

A Justice Department audit released Thursday blamed the lost connections on the FBI’s lax oversight of money used in undercover investigations. Poor supervision of the program also allowed one agent to steal $25,000, the audit said.

In at least one case, a wiretap used in a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act investigation “was halted due to untimely payment,” the audit found. FISA wiretaps are used in the government’s most sensitive and secretive criminal investigations, and allow eavesdropping on suspected terrorists or spies.

“We also found that late payments have resulted in telecommunications carriers actually disconnecting phone lines established to deliver surveillance results to the FBI, resulting in lost evidence,” according to the audit by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine.

Read the entire article on CNN.