Steve G.

Posts Tagged ‘Civil Liberties’

Bob Barr on privacy

In Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Libertarian Politics, Media, Politics on October 1, 2008 at 9:35 pm

Posted at Bob Barr blog

Bob goes into how our liberties have been put at stake by the Bush Administration and Congress, under both Republicans and Democrats. He blasts the recent FISA law and say, “When government grows so large that it knows virtually everything a person is doing, then you have no freedom.”

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that allowing gays to serve doesn’t really cause any problems with unit cohesion and good order, he thinks it should be repealed and they should be allowed to serve openly.

Technically legal signs for libraries

In Activism, Big Brother, Censorship, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, First Amendment, Human Rights Abuses, Law Enforcement, Police State, Protest, Terrorism on July 27, 2008 at 1:57 am

From librarian.net

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@…

The Surreal Discontents of the War on Drugs

In Civil Liberties on July 11, 2008 at 12:00 am

An 18-year old MADD activist was recently arrested and charged with delivering cookies to police departments that one department alleged “smelled like” they contained marijuana and LSD.

Turns out that testing has shown the cookies were, well, just cookies:

Christian Phillips, 18, was arrested after field tests suggested cookies delivered to two police departments contained LSD and marijuana. However, a medical examiner’s test of the cookies showed no signs of drugs.

Phillips has denied the cookies contained drugs. More sensitive tests are underway – results are expected this afternoon.

Welcome to the New America.

No good deed goes unpunished. Nobody is above suspicion. No charge or suspicion made by “authority,” no matter how implausible, goes unquestioned. And taxpayers get to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on each individual situation.

In the mean time, the big lesson appears to be “avoid providing food to police officers.” You could end up in prison.

Libertarians for Obama

In Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights on June 28, 2008 at 7:57 pm

Libertarians For Obama (not the same as libertariansforobama.com) argues, among other things, that Barack Obama is more libertarian than Bob Barr. Here are a couple of excerpts from their site:

From Five Reasons This Libertarian Prefers Barack Obama Over Bob Barr:

1. Obama is consistent. I believe Barr when he says that he’s against the war, but Barr voted for the war in 2002, and continued to support it for several years, even when it became clear that there were no weapons of mass destruction and that the Iraqis didn’t consider the war a “liberation.” As far as I can tell, Barr didn’t start denouncing the war until earlier this year (if there’s an earlier citation of him speaking out against the war, please let me know). He’s also switched positions on the Patriot Act, war on drugs, gay marriage and several other issues. This change of heart would be easier to accept if it hadn’t come less than two years before Barr launched his presidential campaign. Obama has always been against the war and the Patriot Act.

From More Wayne Allyn Root Nuttiness:

And please check out this great Las Vegas Sun profile, in which Root shares his opinions on kids who are bullied (“You get bullied day and night if you’re weak.” – I am not taking this out of context. Root really does appear to look down on kids who are bullied), takes a seemingly un-libertarian position on campaign contributions (calling them “bribes”), insinuates that Barack Obama did not graduate from college (there are records confirming that he did) and insults New Orleans hurricane victims for good measure (“Their mouths were open and their hands were out and they were praying for Mama Bird to throw something in there.”)

Surprise — your privacy is even more compromised than you thought

In Civil Liberties on June 25, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Apparently, one may still travel by air without ID, if the TSA is convinced that the ID is lost, and you’re willing to undergo egregious privacy violations.  Consumerist reports on one traveler’s experience:

After filling out the affidavit, Laurie called a service to verify my address. The service needed me to then correctly answer three questions about myself, which Laurie relayed to me. The first was my date of birth, the second was a previous address (which I only got right on my second try), and the third was “You are registered to vote. Which political party have you registered with?” I got all three right, and only then did Laurie clear me to go through security.

Of course, I still had to submit to secondary screening, including a full-body pat-down and total luggage search. Brenda and Laurie stayed with me to make sure the process went as quickly as possible, and were again incredibly helpful and nice. They kept explaining over and over how necessary it was to “verify” who I was, and how times have changed, and how these new regulations must have been as a result of someone trying to get away with something, because there’s always a reason for these thing but they don’t always know what those reasons are. They were so nice and considerate that I waited until the very end before I finally said that I do not agree with the new regulations, but that I was thankful that the two of them acted so professionally and considerately to me. Laurie actually seemed a little dejected when I said this, because I had been playing along the entire time out of fear that I would not appear cooperative otherwise.

I can only imagine what the reaction would be if one answered “Libertarian” or “Green” — especially in states where those parties aren’t “officially recognized.”

One also has to marvel at the amount of sophisticated data that the so-called “service” has collected about travelers.  More than likely, the information is gleaned from credit records — a situation where one in four individuals has serious errors on “their” file.

This makes the cozy relationship between government and data collection companies a lot clearer.  The next time you make a purchase, buy a car, apply for a loan, or go on vacation, your transaction will be reported — possibly inaccurately — into the government’s database.  And if you seek to sue the big corporate credit bureaus for torts such as libel (inaccurately publishing damaging information), you’ll run head-long into federal laws protecting those bureaus from liability.

This cozy corporate-government privacy-busting superstate reminds me of a quote from Italian dictator Benito Mussolini: “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”

In the new American Security State, you are always under suspicion.  Your innocence is never accepted, your guilt, if asserted, never need be proven.  And both big government and big business are working together to ensure your liberties get traded in for their profit.

Present Your Papers, Comrade!

In Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Libertarian on June 20, 2008 at 11:34 am

One of the old-fashioned expectations that most Americans had was absolute freedom of movement within the country, without government checkpoints, “paper checks,” or other such nonsense.

Alas, in the era of the New Security State, the “internal passport” once mocked by Americans as a Soviet abomination is becoming a reality for numerous Americans.

For example, if you fly domestically, you used to be able to fly without presenting a government-approved form of ID — albeit with the caveat that you’d be subjected to “more extensive searches.” That option ends this Saturday, when a government-issued REAL ID-style driver’s license or other “official ID” will be required to travel domestically by air.

That’s right — without your government-issued mandatory ID (which often involves the taking of fingerprints, as in Texas, and may soon require biometric information as well), you may not travel long distances domestically.

Lest some Ron Paul states’ “rights” advocates step in, it’s important to note that local government is getting even more draconian than the feds. In numerous cities across the country, including theoretically federally-administered Washington DC, entire neighborhoods are being closed up and blocked — with all traffic being directed through a central checkpoint. Individuals must present a form of ID to “prove” they “belong” there, and their entry and exit is left to the sole discretion of the police. Don’t have your “papers?” You’re not getting in (or out).

These situations beg a few questions to be asked of the security statists:

1) The federal government has instituted a massive, draconian entry and exit requirement for all foreign nationals, requiring photographs and fingerprints to be taken at entry. These new requirements, we’re told, “keep us safe from terrorists and criminals.” So if no terrorists or criminals may enter the country due to this incredible system, why are individuals *already in the USA* subject to these internal passport controls? Didn’t the magical draconian border controls already shut all dangerous people out of the United States?

2) How does an ID check “enhance security?” If one has a piece of plastic with a name and photo on it, how does that ensure that he/she isn’t going to attempt violent behavior? Conversely, who are individuals who value their privacy in terms of movement and activities suddenly “suspicious?”

3) Why should we trust local, state or federal government to protect our privacy rights, when you’re already using these internal passports to violate our constitutional right to freedom of movement between states — not to mention our Fourth Amendment rights to freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures? What form of “probable cause” can be invoked to shut off entire sections of a city, or the country, unless an individual undergoes a draconian search and interrogation?

Barr vs. Paul On The Issues: Barr Comes Out Ahead

In Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Personal Responsibility, Politics on June 16, 2008 at 4:29 am

After reading a great hue and cry about my comments supporting our Party’s ticket in 2008, many people compared Bob Barr unfavorably to other Libertarians (as well as Ron Paul) on a whole host of issues, including DOMA and immigration.  So let’s look at the individual candidates and see who is closer, today, to the Libertarian Party platform on two issues often invoked by self-described “principled purists” when attacking the Libertarian nominee.

Immigration

The LP platform says that “Economic freedom demands the unrestricted movement of human as well as financial capital across national borders.”  Where do Bob Barr and Ron Paul stand on this?

Barr says that “we must be aggressive in securing our borders while at the same time, vigilantly fighting the nanny state that seeks to coddle even those capable of providing for their own personal prosperity.”  He proposes an approach identical to the LP platform — maintaining control over the borders to allow peaceful people in, while denying entry to criminals.

Ron Paul, in contrast, favors the imposition of visas, including demanding that federal bureaucrats “track visa holders and deport anyone who overstays their visa.”  He also complains that open borders will “allow up to 60 million more immigrants into our country, according to the [arch-conservative] Heritage Foundation.  This is insanity.”  He advocates an end to citizenship by birth, a concept of American law since the beginning of the Republic.  He also ran one of the most anti-immigrant television advertisements in the Republican primary.

Most Libertarian candidate of the two on immigration: Bob Barr.

The Defense of Marriage Act, Marriage Equality, and Sexual Freedom

Bob Barr co-sponsored and authored the Defense of Marriage Act.  Ron Paul supports DOMA and declares that he would vote for it in its entirety.

The Libertarian Party platform says that “Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the rights of individuals by government, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service laws. Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships. Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships.”

Barr has advocated a repeal of the DOMA provisions that force the federal government not to recognize same-sex marriages performed by states that do recognize them.  In his nomination speech at the Libertarian National Convention, he declared that “The Defense of Marriage Act, insofar as it provided the federal government a club to club down the rights of law abiding citizens has been abused, misused and should be repealed. And I will work to repeal that.”  This position moves the federal stance on this issue significantly closer to the Libertarian Party platform.

Ron Paul, in contrast, has declared that “I would have voted for the Defense of Marriage Act… to ensure that no state would be forced to recognize a ‘same sex’ marriage license.”  That’s directly opposed to the Libertarian Platform.

On the California same-sex marriage ruling, Barr released a press release applauding the California Supreme Court’s ruling, stating that “The decision in California is an illustration of how this principle of states’ powers should work.”

In contrast, Ron Paul has declared his undying opposition to same-sex marriage in his own state (in opposition to the LP platform), stating that “If I were a member of the Texas legislature, I would do all I could to oppose any attempt by rogue judges to impose a new definition of marriage,” effectively nullifying the equal protection clauses of the state and federal constitutions.

Worse still, Paul strongly supports state governments as sex police, declaring on the floor of the House that “the State of Texas has the right to decide for itself how to regulate social matters like sex, using its own local standards” — a position that no serious libertarian could possibly take.

Most Libertarian candidate of the two on these issues: Bob Barr.  By far.

Now, you may be wondering why I am focusing on these two issues.  It’s mostly because so many purists for Paul have attacked the LP (and Barr) on the basis of his positions on immigration and DOMA, while ignoring their own preferred candidate’s positions.

Many have lectured me, declaring that “conservatism isn’t libertarianism” and other 50 cent cliches, while ignoring the fact that their own ideal candidate is more conservative on these issues — to the point of citing conservative groups like Heritage on hot-button social issues.

I could continue comparing the records of the two candidates in this regard on many more issues, and on most of them, Barr will not come out waving the white flag based on the Libertarian Party platform.

In short, if you’re proposing that Ron Paul is the antidote to conservatism as represented by Bob Barr, you need a remedial course in the positions of the two candidates.  It’s time for Ron Paul partisans to drop their “revolution” pipe dream and take an honest look at the Libertarian Party’s candidate and positions — while also honestly acknowledging their own tone-deafness on many areas of personal liberty crucial not only to American libertarians, but all American citizens.

Where does Bob Barr stand on DOMA?

In Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Libertarian Party-US, Politics on June 3, 2008 at 11:26 pm

Ah, my first blogpost on LFV! A quick hello to all and sundry.

One of the more controversial issues regarding the Barr candidacy was his stance on the ill-named Defense of Marriage Act (or DOMA). I had the opportunity to sit down with Bob Barr last year and discuss, in detail, the impact of DOMA on Americans as well as the Libertarian Party platform on the issue.

Barr had been a primary author of the law, and was initially resistant to calls to renounce the law. By the time I’d spoken with Barr at the Conservative Leadership Conference in Reno in 2007, he agreed to a position identical to that of Hillary Clinton — amending the law to eliminate the federal definition of marriage, while preserving the portion allowing states to ignore other states’ marriages.

While this was suboptimal from a Libertarian Party perspective, it did represent significant evolution, and I encouraged Barr to make his position known. He seemed a bit hesitant to do so up until declaring his presidential candidacy, at which point the issue sprang out of the closet.

Jumping forward to May 2008, during his Sunday morning nomination speech at the 2008 convention, Barr appeared to call for the repeal of the law altogether. A number of delegates to the convention expressed surprise at this apparent evolution, and Outright Libertarians was only too happy to publicize Barr’s apparent change of heart. It received extensive coverage in the gay press, from local and national periodicals as well as radio and television. Dozens of undecided delegates, during the voting process, told Outright members that Barr’s apparent Sunday-morning conversion led to them making him their first or second choice.

However, we’re now getting mixed signals from the Barr campaign and Barr supporters regarding just what his position is on DOMA. Some are telling voters that Barr favors a repeal of DOMA, others are claiming his position hasn’t changed. The latter appear to be closer to the truth, if details from Barr’s recent interview with his local gay paper are to be believed.

While this represents evolution from Mr. Barr, it’s important to note that the LP platform, as implemented and amended at convention, rejects *all* government efforts to regulate or restrict personal relationships between consenting adults — including same-sex ones. It’s also disappointing to those of us on the floor who, after watching Barr’s “last word” on the issue on the convention floor, had been led to believe that he had come around to a position of full repeal.

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

Police brutality in Philadelphia last night caught on tape

In Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Cops Gone Wild, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, Crime, Human Rights Abuses, Law, Law Enforcement, Media, Minorities, People in the news, Police Brutality, Police State on May 7, 2008 at 5:03 pm

“The Little Party That Could”

In Civil Liberties, Democrats, George Bush, Green Party, Libertarian, Libertarian Convention, Libertarian Party-US, Libertarian Politics, Media, People in the news, Politics, Presidential Candidates, Republican on April 20, 2008 at 5:47 pm

From TownHall.com:

I like alluding to the classics. When I’m not referencing the great poets and novelists, I try to sneak in books I’m certain actually to have read. Like “The Little Engine That Could.”

Great story. Inspiring. A lesson for all time. Can a day go by when one does not think of that engine chugging “I think I can I think I can I think I can”?



U.S. Presidential Democratic Party candidate Mike Gravel smiles during remarks to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute public policy conference in Washington October 3, 2007. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES)

I especially think of that story when the subject of the Libertarian Party comes up.

No political organization in America persists against all odds and all principalities and powers to . . . survive.

The party never quite gets up that hill, chugging as it does (note: allude to Sisyphus’s rock), but it never gives up.

You might think that a political party is there to elect people to office. And the Libertarian Party has elected a few people here and there. But, well, though in general LPers are not exactly the most “spiritual” of folk — they are not as apt as an incense salesman is to spout homilies like “it’s the journey that counts” — they do keep running candidates that, for the most part, get no more than 3 percent, 5 percent, or (occasionally) 10 percent of the vote.

The Democrats and Republicans, on the other hand, elect candidates every election day. Since the LP was formed in 1972, Republicans re-elected their glorious contender (Nixon) and elected three more: Reagan, Bush the Elder, and Bush the Younger. After LP candidate Prof. John Hospers (heavy-duty philosopher) and Mrs. Tonie Nathan (professional media person) received one renegade Electoral College vote for their first-time-out effort, the Democrats have elected two presidents: Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. The Libertarians, however, have never even garnered a million votes for one of their candidates.

I mention all this merely to say that I prefer to think of the persistence of the Libertarian Party as charming, not pathetic. Everything is stacked against them. The two parties in charge have made sure that it is very hard for “minor parties” to challenge them. Just getting on the ballot is no picnic. The Libertarians have spent millions and millions of dollars and massive quantities of man-hours maintaining ballot status in the forty-odd states they have maintained it, over the years.

And now that persistence has paid off. In a way. The party has become a magnet — a magnet for disgruntled major-party players.

You can read this article in its entirety here.

Government Gone Wild: Extortion Edition

In Activism, Civil Liberties, Communism, Constitutional Rights, Courts and Justice System, Drug War, Fraud, Law, Law Enforcement, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Local Politics, Police State, Politics, Socialism, Taxation on April 20, 2008 at 5:16 pm

By now we are all aware that the government can seize your car, your house, your money, etc if they believe the items were purchased with the proceeds of drug transactions. However, the practice of seizing property is actually far more common than that, and far, far more sinister.

Are you aware that the government can steal your house, even if you don’t owe a dime on it, and sell it for as little as one year of back taxes? On top of that they pile on additional extortion fees, and you’ll end up either paying the taxes and fees, or being homeless. They’ll sell it for a small percentage of what the property is worth, and there are predators who actually make a living by buying houses this way, only to resell them.

Are you aware that if you are caught driving a motor vehicle with an expired registration, the government can steal it and place it in an impound, where you will be forced to also pay a high towing fee plus a shocking amount for it to just sit there (usually between $25 and $50 per day) until you pay their extortion fee? Are you aware that if you don’t pay that extortion fee (which at that point includes the fee to the towing company for towing and storage, plus the registration, plus the taxes, plus whatever ticket you got for not having an up-to-date registration) within a short period of time, sometimes as little as 30 days, they will sell your vehicle and you will no longer have any rights to it?

There are predators who actually make a living buying cars that way for resell, too, not to mention the predatory towing companies in cahoots with the government, who make all that extra money for doing nothing (in some places, the government has its own impound lot, but in most, the impound is merely the towing company’s premises).

So, what gives the government the right to take something which doesn’t belong to them, and the right to sell it and give you back nothing no matter how much it was worth, even if you owned the property free and clear?

Only the laws the government has written for its own benefit give them that right, of course. Nothing else gives them that right. There certainly is no constitutional right for the government to steal your property, nor is there a natural right for the government to do such a heinous thing. Extortion, especially on that level, is illegal for everyone except the government.

You are actually far more likely to fall prey to this government extortion scheme if you don’t owe money on your property. Of course, the government knows whether you own it free and clear or not, since they have specifically written laws stating that any lien interest must be filed with them.

Those who fall prey to these schemes are not just those who protest taxes. Instead, most victims are simply good people who fell upon hard times, and many times those hard times are directly caused by government extortion which snowballs.

Let’s say you inherited a home from your parents, and you have a car which you worked and paid for yourself. The home is bought and paid for as well, so you own both your car and your house free and clear. Then let’s say that you work too far away to get there any way except by automobile. You didn’t get your registration paperwork in the mail (not at all unusual in my experience), so you simply forgot it was due. You get stopped by the police because your registration is expired, and they ticket you and impound your vehicle.

At that point, you don’t have the money to get the vehicle out – it will cost you the towing fee, plus daily storage fees, plus personal property taxes, plus registration – and you can’t even make that kind of money because you have lost your job for missing work. You also can’t pay the fine you were levied because you didn’t have an updated registration, so your license is suspended until you pay that, plus about $50 to the DMV to reinstate your license (which in reality requires only a mouse click on a computer).

The only job you can get to feed yourself and your family, and be able to get there and back since you no longer have a car or a license, pays minimum wage. There is no way you will be able to afford to get your vehicle back. So you tell yourself, “that’s okay, I’ve been in hard times before. I’ll eventually I’ll get back on my feet again, and pay the fine and get another car. We’ll scrape by.” In the meantime, the government sells your car right out from under you.

A friend has an old moped they no longer use, and they let you use it so you can get back and forth to a little bit better job. There is no license plate or anything on it, so you assume you don’t have to have that. It’s slower than a bicycle, after all. You are pulled over by the cops, and hit with multiple tickets. You are ticketed for not wearing a helmet, for not having a license plate on it, for not having insurance on it, for not registering it and paying taxes on it …. the list goes on. You are fined hundreds of dollars, even though the vehicle isn’t even yours, and they impound the moped, too. To make sure it gets back the maximum return, the towing company actually sends a tow truck to transport a moped. You also go to jail for driving on a suspended license, even though no one with more than one brain cell would assume you need a drivers’ license to drive a moped, given that they are not supposed to be ridden on main roads because they are so slow.

Once you pay your bail with the little bit of money you’ve saved up to try to get back on your feet, you’re back to zero again. Chances are you’ve lost your latest job because you missed a shift and didn’t call in (since you are in jail, after all).

You get a notice for property taxes, but you can’t pay it so you figure you’ll pay them when you pay everyone else. The government can’t take your house, you think, because it’s paid for and you own it free and clear.

You get another crappy job, and start riding a bicycle to and from work. You are stopped for not having a license on your bicycle, and for not wearing a helmet. More fines ensue, and they impound your bicycle.

You start walking back and forth to work, taking the only job you can find within walking distance, and everything seems okay until a cop shows up giving you legal documents saying your home has been sold for back taxes, and you have only a short period of time (usually 30 or 60 days) to “redeem” what is yours. What’s worse, it has been sold to a stranger for only the amount of the taxes.

Where do you get the money to buy your house back from the extortion agents? At that point your credit is destroyed, so you can’t borrow it.

In many cases, you don’t get the money. The government sells your house and you end up on the streets, with no choice but to depend upon the government to feed and shelter your children, since you lost the good job when your car was impounded, lost another job when the moped was seized and sold and you were arrested, lost your bicycle because it didn’t have tags on it, and eventually ended up having to take whatever crap job you can find where you can walk to and from work. By this time you owe the government thousands in fines, you’re working and supporting a family on minimum wage, and now – as if all that isn’t bad enough – you’re homeless.

The government wants it that way. The more people depend upon it for basic necessities, the more power it has over all of us. It is nothing but communism in action: the people own nothing, because the state has the power to take anything it wants without compensation.

There are many people, every single day, who have encountered these problems, thanks to the many government extortion programs. In fact, I know people who have had these specific problems, so I know for a fact that it can happen, and that it does happen all the time. The mainstream media doesn’t cover it, because to get many stories they must have the cooperation of the politicians who enacted and support these extortion programs. However, whether we see it on the news or not, it is so common that the only thing I find surprising about it, to be quite honest, is that to my knowledge no one has yet snapped and killed someone for stealing their home. You will notice that I said “yet”. It will eventually happen, of that I have no doubt. When it does, I certainly hope libertarians will stand up loud and clear in their defense. I know I will.

As libertarians, we spend a lot of time complaining about federal income taxes. That’s all well and good, but what we should be doing as well is working to stop this kind of rampant government extortion on the state, county, and local level, which destroys the lives of hardworking American families every single day.

If they want to charge taxes, fine; if the taxes get too high, eventually no one will live there, and they will have slit their own throats. However, we should never allow the government to steal property due to nonpayment of taxes, especially when those taxes are levied simply by virtue of owning the property in question. Extortion by force is always wrong, no matter who is doing it, and it must be stopped.

Transgender male meets discrimination due to pregnancy

In Activism, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Health on April 2, 2008 at 3:13 pm

I was always under the impression that the transgendered had to undergo sex-reassignment surgery before they could be legally recognized as the opposite sex. However, The Advocate reports that a transgender man has become pregnant though he is legally recognized as a male, looks to the rest of the world to be male, and has legally married a female. It is reported that he changed everything else to effectuate the female-to-male change, but kept his female reproductive organs intact.  Obviously, I was misinformed.

I looked around at some followups to this story, which just broke a few days ago (March 26th), to get an idea of the reaction. Even many in the transgender community are opposed to the pregnancy, on the basis that they don’t think he can claim to be male under those circumstances; others believe he should not continue to be a man if he has chosen pregnancy, because it causes negative attention toward other transgender males. The general public …. well, I don’t think I need to tell you what the public is saying, but suffice it to say that many if not most people are completely against it. Many are refusing to recognize him as male, since he has made this decision. Many are invoking God into this situation. I expect the public outcry to grow larger and louder, as the story makes it more and more into the mainstream.

Below is an excerpt of the original story from the viewpoint of the man himself, and the problems he has encountered as a result of his decision to bear a child.

While this is admittedly unusual, reproduction is undeniably a basic human right. That being the case, libertarians must fully support this man’s decision to bear a child. Our support is important, because what I suspect will happen is that the government will take ten steps backward, and start enacting discriminatory laws against the transgendered as a result of the hysteria which will undoubtedly occur, and which has already begun.

Libertarians must be the voice of reason in this situation because – since most libertarians are heterosexual and in conventional relationships, and because we have always advocated the right of everyone to live as they choose without government interference – we cannot be logically accused of bias for or against the LGBT community.

Labor of Love

To our neighbors, my wife, Nancy, and I don’t appear in the least unusual. To those in the quiet Oregon community where we live, we are viewed just as we are — a happy couple deeply in love. Our desire to work hard, buy our first home, and start a family was nothing out of the ordinary. That is, until we decided that I would carry our child.

I am transgender, legally male, and legally married to Nancy. Unlike those in same-sex marriages, domestic partnerships, or civil unions, Nancy and I are afforded the more than 1,100 federal rights of marriage. Sterilization is not a requirement for sex reassignment, so I decided to have chest reconstruction and testosterone therapy but kept my reproductive rights. Wanting to have a biological child is neither a male nor female desire, but a human desire.

Ten years ago, when Nancy and I became a couple, the idea of us having a child was more dream than plan. I always wanted to have children. However, due to severe endometriosis 20 years ago, Nancy had to undergo a hysterectomy and is unable to carry a child. But after the success of our custom screen-printing business and a move from Hawaii to the Pacific Northwest two years ago, the timing finally seemed right. I stopped taking my bimonthly testosterone injections. It had been roughly eight years since I had my last menstrual cycle, so this wasn’t a decision that I took lightly. My body regulated itself after about four months, and I didn’t have to take any exogenous estrogen, progesterone, or fertility drugs to aid my pregnancy.

Our situation sparks legal, political, and social unknowns. We have only begun experiencing opposition from people who are upset by our situation. Doctors have discriminated against us, turning us away due to their religious beliefs. Health care professionals have refused to call me by a male pronoun or recognize Nancy as my wife. Receptionists have laughed at us. Friends and family have been unsupportive; most of Nancy’s family doesn’t even know I’m transgender.

You can read the rest of this incredible article on The Advocate.

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!

TIME: Do Americans care about Big Brother?

In Big Brother, Civil Liberties, Congress, Constitutional Rights, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, Law, Libertarian, Media, Police State, Politics, US Government on March 23, 2008 at 10:15 pm

Big BrotherTIME Magazine has published an article regarding the erosion of civil liberties, and the reaction of Americans to the news that the government is warehousing vast amounts of information on innocent citizens. Here is an excerpt:

A quick tally of the record of civil liberties erosion in the United States since 9/11 suggests that the majority of Americans are ready to trade diminished privacy, and protection from search and seizure, in exchange for the promise of increased protection of their physical security. Polling consistently supports that conclusion, and Congress has largely behaved accordingly, granting increased leeway to law enforcement and the intelligence community to spy and collect data on Americans. Even when the White House, the FBI or the intelligence agencies have acted outside of laws protecting those rights — such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — the public has by and large shrugged and, through their elected representatives, suggested changing the laws to accommodate activities that may be in breach of them.

Civil libertarians are in a state of despair. “People don’t realize how damaging it is to a democratic society to allow the government to warehouse information about innocent Americans,” says Mike German, national security counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union.

You can read the entire TIME Magazine article here.

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

Ninth Circuit finds pre-employment drug testing unconstitutional

In Activism, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Courts and Justice System, Drug War, Law, Libertarian, Protest on March 22, 2008 at 3:39 am

ConstitutionPre-employment drug testing has become commonplace. As a result, many job seekers are forced to undergo pre-employment drug testing for even the most mundane and poorly paid positions, such as service positions in grocery stores, convenience store, and the like. Yet, there can be no valid concern that an inebriated store clerk or bag boy poses a real danger to the public safety

However, increasingly, the appellate courts are determining that drug testing as a condition of employment violates the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, except under certain circumstances. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probably cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The most recent case involves a job seeker who was offered a job as a library page, but refused to submit to the pre-employment drug test and as a result of that refusal, the offer was withdrawn. The court in that case, Lanier v Woodburn (9th Circuit) found that the requirement violated the job seeker’s Fourth Amendment rights, since it cannot reasonably be argued that the position is safety sensitive, and noted:

Jobs are considered safety-sensitive if they involve work that may pose a great danger to the public, such as the operation of railway cars, Ry. Labor, 489 U.S. at 628-29; the armed interdiction of illegal drugs, Nat’l Treasury Employees Union v. Von Raab, 489 U.S. 656, 677-78 (1989); work in a nuclear power facility, IBEW, Local 1245 v. United States NRC, 966 F.2d 521, 525-26 (9th Cir. 1992); work involving matters of national security, AFGE Local 1533 v. Cheney, 944 F.2d 503, 506 (9th Cir. 1991); work involving the operation of natural gas and liquified natural gas pipelines, IBEW, Local 1245 v. Skinner, 913 F.2d 1454, 1461-63 (9th Cir. 1990); work in the aviation industry, Bluestein v. Skinner, 908 F.2d 451, 456 (9th Cir.1990); and work involving the operation of dangerous instrumentalities, such as trucks that weigh more than 26,000 pounds, that are used to transport hazardous materials, or that carry more than fourteen passengers at a time, Int’l Bhd. of Teamsters, 932 F.2d at 1295.

Other positions for which the court cited drug testing as reasonable included teachers, and similar positions wherein the employee would work with children in a capacity which would require they act in loco parentis. In general, the courts have determined that suspicionless drug testing can only be done in light of a special need, and not simply by virtue of drug abuse being a general societal problem, which is the reason given by most employers.

The tide of the court decisions regarding pre-employment drug testing appears to be turning toward protecting the applicant from an invasive search, except when the employer can show a special need for such testing.

While it is not yet generally accepted that pre-employment drug testing is, in and of itself, a violation of the right against unreasonable search and seizure, the courts are increasingly determining much of the pre-employment drug testing we see today to be unconstitutional. Unfortunately, as with most challenges of a constitutional nature, the change will not take place overnight, but rather one case at a time, until either laws are passed against the practice, or until employers realize that a challenge to that practice would prove far too costly to render unnecessary drug testing practicable in the long run.

Hopefully there will soon be a more complete understanding that, minus the ability to demonstrate a legitimate need, pre-employment drug testing is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment, and thus unconstitutional in most cases.

A libertarian, unless they are in a position where public safety is a concern, should always refuse to undergo pre-employment drug testing, even when they are not drug users and thus sure to pass. It is only when employers begin to realize that the most valuable potential employees are refusing to undergo such testing upon constitutional grounds, will they begin to rethink whether it is profitable to their bottom line to continue this ludicrous practice.