Steve G.

Posts Tagged ‘Corruption’

Why Redistricting is the Most Important Issue for Texas in the 2010 Elections

In Activism, Congress, Corruption, Democracy, Democrats, Fraud, Green Party, History, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Libertarian Politics, Local Politics, Politics, Republican, US Government on January 20, 2010 at 9:31 am

What good does it do a man to have the vote if he has only one person that he can vote for?

All political power is inherent in the people and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their benefit. The faith of the people of Texas stands pledged to the preservation of a republican form of government, and, subject to this limitation only, they have at all times the inalienable right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think expedient.
Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution of the State of Texas

In 2011, the next Texas legislative session will tackle the subject of redistricting for the first time since Tom Delay and his partners in political crime forced the people of Texas to live with our incredibly gerrymandered map. Its purpose was to benefit the Texas Republican Party, harm the Texas Democratic Party and, as much as possible, remove the niggling little possibility that Texas voters might actually have the power to affect or influence the results of major elections here. Even the Democratic districts that were left were pretty much safe seats. Delay, Dick Armey and the rest of their merry little band of Machiavellis stuck their grubby little fingers into the mix and, like gods manipulating their computer game minions, succeeded in putting every voter in Texas into “political reservations”. No longer would the simple voter be allowed to mess up control of our state by dominant political machines. In short, what we have in Texas is Party-controlled government. In practical terms, the state of Texas and the two major Parties (preferably the Republican Party) would be (and are) the same thing.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that political machines haven’t always been in charge of Texas (anyone remember Archer or George Parr, “The Duke of Duval County”?). It is simply that before the 1990s, they weren’t as obvious, and they didn’t really care about national influence. It was corruption by Texans, of Texans, for Texans. Any influence that could shovel federal money to us courtesy of our Congressional leaders like John Nance Garner, Sam Rayburn, LBJ, Jim Wright and all of the rest was still corruption by, of and for Texans. There was no intention or desire to tear the rest of the nation down or rip it apart as it seems like is happening now. The thing is, for corruption to flourish, the politicians must be able to promise that they will continue to hold power and maintain the corrupt systems. That is what we have now; entrenched Party corruption. This is why I believe that, regardless of the economic crisis, the healthcare crisis, the ethical crisis, the war crisis, and every other of the many crises faced by Americans, as a whole, and Texans specifically, the single most important issue for Texas voters in 2010 is: “What the Hell will our political districts look like now?

I love Texas. I really do. It is the land of my birth and, no matter how many times I leave it, it’s the land I always return to. Unfortunately, Texas politics often embarrass me. I am not alone in this. There is an old saying here that goes: “Lock up your house and barn; watch your wife and children. The Texas Legislature is in session and nothing is safe.” There are too many things in Texas politics about which to be embarrassed (if not to laugh out loud about in their ridiculousness), too many to list, or even count. Our state constitution, itself, is probably the main one; a document so badly written that the only thing which keeps it from being the single worst one in The United States is the fact that Alabama’s state constitution might actually be the worst one on the entire planet. It is easily the worst one in The United States (http://blavier.newsvine.com/_news/2009/04/06/2646073-we-must-amend-the-constitution-now-), but having the 50th worst constitution out of 51 contenders is nothing to be proud of. A close second to the embarrassment which is the Texas Constitution is arguably our propensity to re-elect incumbents to pretty much any office that they run for.

Texas is a land whose people pride themselves for their fiercely independent spirit. Texas is also a state which avows its hatred of the very idea of a professional political class so much that the annual “salaries” for all legislative offices (including that of the Lt. Governor) is only $7,200 (http://www.laits.utexas.edu/txp_media/html/leg/features/0205_01/compensation.html, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/TT/mkt2.html). Keep in mind that it wasn’t until 1975 that Texas voters voted to raise those salaries from $4,800 up to $7,200… an increase of 50% (it was also at this time when members of our legislature were given a per diem AND could get mileage reimbursement at the same rate that state employees do). Texas government was designed to discourage the rise of a professional political class. Of course, in reality, it also keeps people without other sources of income (i.e. – the poor and the lower middle class) from being practically able to hold such offices. Thus, our fondness for keeping people in elected office is not only an embarrassment, it is rank hypocrisy on a statewide level. Now, I have so far basically said that we here in Texas have a “tendency” to re-elect the same people into government offices time and time again but, at this point, it is merely undocumented hyperbole. Fair enough. Go to the restroom, get yourself a nice beverage and make yourself comfortable because this is going to take awhile. Ready? Good.

(NOTE: If you are not interested in reading through the statistical information I have compiled, please feel free to skip the paragraphs between the two lines below and the two lines after the statistical paragraphs. The information in those paragraphs is included in this article (1) for those who, like me, find such information interesting, and (2) to cut off the need for comments such as “how do you know”, “what are you basing you opinions on”, and “prove it”. Thank you for your understanding on this.)

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To start with, here are some statistics about state level elections in Texas from the 2008 General Election:

The Executive and Judicial offices up for election that year were Railroad Commissioner, three places on the Texas Supreme Court (and yes, we actually elect our Supreme Count members which, of course, makes them political creatures who need to raise election funds instead of allowing them to neutral arbiters of the law) and two places on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (in fact, we elect ALL of our judges here). All seven of them were retained by the incumbents. For those of you who want to keep track, that is seven for seven, so far, or 100%.

For the Texas Congressional delegation, we had one U.S. Senatorial and thirty-two U.S. House seats up for grabs. It shouldn’t surprise you to know that for those seats, all thirty-three incumbents ran for re-election. Want to know how many of them won re-election? Thirty-two of them were sent back to Washington. One of the incumbent Representatives (a Democrat in his first term, if you want to know) was voted out. The score now is thirty-nine out of forty, which comes out to 97.5%.

In the Texas legislature, there were fifteen seats in the Texas Senate and all one hundred and fifty seats in the Texas House up for election. For the Senate seats, all fifteen incumbents ran. Five were re-elected and one was defeated. If you wonder about the other nine seats, don’t worry. For those seats, the incumbents were completely unopposed and, under Texas law, didn’t even need to show up to the actual elections because they are automatically declared the victors (Texas does not have a “none of the above” option for our ballots). Score, fifty-three out of fifty-five now, giving us an incumbent ratio of 96.4%.

For the Texas House seats, one hundred and forty-tw0 out of one hundred and fifty incumbents ran for re-election. After the primary results were in, nine incumbents had been defeated for nomination by their party. Five more were voted out of office in the General Election. One hundred and twenty-eight incumbents were then returned to the Texas House and, out of those one hundred and twenty-eight, seventy-four of those “won” their elections without facing any challenges by their major opposition party, which means that 49.3% of the total seats in the Texas House were filed by people who simply walked into the House unobstructed. This makes our incumbent win record one hundred and eighty-one out of a possible one hundred and ninety-seven (91.9%). With all of these Texas races, out of two-hundred and five elections, one hundred and eighty-one continued to be held by the person who held them before the election, which is a total ratio of 88.3%. (http://www.bipac.net/page.asp?content=texas_elections&g=TEXAS)

Now, let’s take a look at our candidate line-ups for the 2010 election cycle, shall we? Before we even start, I want to point out that, out of 219 races I have analyzed, only two, yes TWO, will have primary contests from all three parties (Democratic, Libertarian and Republican). Only 0.9% of the highest offices in Texas will have the nominees for each race selected from more than one contender in each party. Those two races are for the nominees of each party for Governor and for District 5 on the State Board of Education. Really! Take a moment to think about that. Out of all of the state’s Executive, Judicial and Legislative offices, only one will have three nominees who will actually be determined by the people. (NOTE: For the sake of accuracy, I want to point out that the Texas Libertarian Party selects its nominees by convention but, for simplicity’s sake, I will use the term primary through this article to indicate the need of any party to select its nominees from a slate of several contenders.)

The Texas Executive offices up for grabs this year are those of Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Comptroller, Land Commissioner, Agriculture Commissioner and Railroad Commissioner. Now, not only is the race for Governor the only Executive office in which there will be three nominees chosen by primary elections, the incumbent in the office of Comptroller (the State’s only financial officer after our elimination of the office of State Treasurer) is only going to be challenged because a Libertarian (our own Mary Ruwart) has filed to challenge the incumbent. The Democratic Party is not running ANYONE for the office. This means that if it wasn’t for the Libertarian Party, the person who is responsible for all financial duties for the entire state of Texas would be the guy who turned in his notarized form; that would have been all it would have taken.

On the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, two of the incumbents are also only being challenged by Libertarians. For the eight seats on the Texas Board of Education, only three of the races have candidates from all three parties. Three of seats only have the incumbent party challenged by Libertarians, although the incumbents in all three of those seats do face primary challenges from within their own Party. The District 4 seat is only being sought by the incumbent… no challenges by either the Democratic or Libertarian Parties and no primary challenge, so he gets to simply walk in.

Neither of our two US Senate seats is up for election this year and, out of out thirty-two seats in the US House, all of the incumbents (20 Republicans and 12 Democrats) are seeking re-election. Of those thirty-two races, only the Republican and Libertarian Parties have candidates for all thirty-two. The Democratic Party only has candidates in twenty-four of those races (which means that one out of every four of these races, the Democratic Party isn’t even showing up for), and in one race, the Constitution Party also has one candidate running.

Of the thirty-two Congressional races, only twelve of the incumbents will face primary challenges from their own party (38%), nine Republicans out of twenty (45%) and three Democrats out of twelve (25%). Of the combined thirty-two races, the only challenges to seven of the Incumbents or the Incumbent’s Party are from Libertarians (22%), and one is from the Libertarians and the single Constitution Party candidate (03%), for a combined eight of the thirty-two seats… again, one out of every four. For all of the Parties, there are eleven Republican Party primaries (34%), five Democratic Party primaries (16%) and twenty Libertarian Party primaries (63%). Thus, out of a total of ninety-six possible primaries, there are thirty-six (38%) and, if you only count the sixty-four possible primaries for the Republican and Democratic Parties, there are only sixteen…which is, yet again, only one out of four. Out of THESE, there are only two races which will have primary challenges for all three parties (2.1%).

For the Texas State Senate, out of sixteen races, fifteen incumbents are seeking re-election (eleven Republicans and four Democrats). Of the sixteen races, the Republican Party has at least one candidate in all of the races, while the Democratic Party is only competing in eight of them, which (for those of us who can count) is only one out of two (50%). The Libertarian Party has candidates in nine of the races for a 56% presence. Of the incumbents running for re-election, only six out of fifteen (40%) face Primary challenges in their own party; four Republicans out of eleven (36%) and one Democrat out of four (25%… again).

In none of these races is there more than one candidate from any of three Parties facing a primary election… which is exactly 00%. In only one of the races (06%) are there two parties which will have primary contests. Out of a total of forty-eight possible primary contests there are only eleven (23%). This means that of sixteen possible primaries for each Party, the Republican Party has six (38%), the Democratic Party has two (13%) and the Libertarian Party has three (19%). For the General Election, only two of the races (13%) will have candidates from all three Parties, six (38%) will have only Republican and Democratic candidates, seven (42%) will have only one of the two major Parties (Republican or Democrat) running against a Libertarian candidate, and one (06%) will have a completely uncontested incumbent.

Finally we get to the Texas State House of Representatives with its one hundred and fifty seats at stake. 94% of the incumbents (one hundred and forty-one out of one hundred and fifty) are running for re-election. There are seventy Republicans and seventy-one Democratic incumbents running, which means that only nine of the seats are guaranteed to have a new person in them. The Republican Party is fielding candidates in one hundred and twelve of the races (75%), the Democratic Party is running in ninety-three of the races (62%) and Libertarians are contesting sixty-four of the races (43%).

Out of the one hundred and forty-one incumbents running, only twenty-three (16%) face primary races…sixteen Republicans (23% of seventy) and seven Democrats (10% out of seventy-one). Of the potential four hundred and fifty possible primary elections, there are only fifty-nine (13%), which is thirty-nine Republican primaries (26% of one hundred and fifty), ten Democratic primaries (07% of one hundred and fifty) and ten Libertarian primaries (again, 07% out of one hundred and fifty).

From all of the one hundred and fifty races, only twenty-seven (18%) have at least one candidate from all three parties. Twenty-nine of the races (19%) have only candidates from both the Republican and the Democratic Parties. Thirty-seven of the races (25%) only have one or more candidate from the Libertarian Party opposing one of the two major Parties. Of the one hundred and forty incumbents running, forty-six of them (33%) of them are completely unopposed (twenty-one Republicans out of seventy for a 30% ratio and twenty-five Democrats out of seventy-one for a 35% ratio). Out of the one hundred and forty-one incumbents running, eleven of the races have the incumbent’s party unopposed by candidates from either of the other two parties 08%). This includes six Republican contests out of seventy (09%) and five Democratic races out of seventy-one (07%).

Now, can you figure out what is the most horrifying statistic which can be made from the above paragraph? I’ll give you a couple of minutes to re-read it. {da da da da da dum} Have you figured it out yet? If it wasn’t for the Libertarian party, ninety-four out of the one hundred and fifty races for seats in the Texas House (63%) would have either the Incumbent or the Incumbent’s Party with no, let me repeat that, with NO opposition. Out of all of the two-hundred and nineteen total races in 2010 that I have broken down, that comes to one hundred and fifteen races (53%) in which there is only a challenge to an incumbent or an incumbent’s Party because of candidates from the Libertarian Party. Do you, like me, think that percentage is WAY too high?

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So, why have I written almost 2,000 words in eighteen paragraphs taking up most of three pages to numb you with statistics that barely a handful of people would even think about? Why have I spent most of my waking hours over two full days making myself blind(er) and giving myself a migraine to have these statistics to write about? It is very simple. Political districts in Texas are so frighteningly gerrymandered (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerrymandering , http://www.thefreedictionary.com/gerrymander) that almost every seat for every state office in Texas (by which I mean, every elected office which has a specific political district that is smaller than the entire state… US House, Texas Senate and Texas House) is basically considered a safe seat for either a particular candidate or a particular political Party (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safe_seat) . They are considered so safe that few of them are challenged for and MANY fewer of them still are lost. That should be unacceptable to any person who believes in a democratic form of government.

Both the Republican and the Democratic Parties (especially the Republican Party over the last decade) have worked and legislated to not only make it infinitely easier to stay in office than it would be in a system in which voters have the true power over our government, they make it almost impossible for any new parties to challenge their political hegemony. Even if the two major parties hate each other, it is still in the best interest of both of them to keep the playground closed to other kids, as it were.

The Texas state Constitution makes these requirements for legislative districts (Article III, sections 25 and 26):

(25) “The State shall be divided into senatorial districts of contiguous territory according to the number of qualified electors, as nearly as may be, and each district shall be entitled to elect one senator, and no single county shall be entitled to more than one senator.

(26) “The members of the House of Representatives shall be apportioned among the several counties, according to the number of population in each, as nearly as may be, on a ratio obtained by dividing the population of the State, as ascertained by the most recent United States census, by the number of members of which the house is composed; provided, that, whenever a single county has sufficient population to be entitled to a representative, such county shall be formed into a separate representative district, and when two or more counties are required to make up the ration of representation such counties shall be contiguous to each other; and when any one county has more than sufficient population to be entitled to one or more representatives, such representative or representatives shall be apportioned to such county, and for any surplus of population it may be joined in a representative district with any other contiguous county or counties.

Now, take a look at (1) the current c0ngressional districting map for Texas (http://congdistdata.tamu.edu/USCongressionalDistricts.pdf), (2) The current Texas Senate districting map (http://www.laits.utexas.edu/txp_media/html/leg/features/0400_04/plans01188.html), and (3) the current Texas House districting map (http://www.laits.utexas.edu/txp_media/html/leg/features/0400_02/planh01369.html). You tell me whether or not you think that these districts are gerrymandered or if they meet the requirements of the Texas Constitution.*

[*By the way, when I was doing my Google searches for the Texas state government district maps, two of the results that popped up were “Dante’s Inferno – Circle 8 – Subcircles 1-6 – Cantos 18-23” and “Dante’s Purgatorio – Terrace 5: Avarice And Prodigality”. Do any of my readers find that as unbelievably funny as I do? Just curious.]

To have a functioning democracy, it isn’t enough to have the right to vote. We must also have both a selection of candidates from which to chose AND the power to determine who WE want in office rather than who the Parties want. Right now, for all practical purposes to be a candidate for any of the offices which I have covered, you must have all of your paperwork in the hands of the Texas Secretary of State on the first business day of January. This allows candidates to be listed on the ballots in time for the state primary elections. Parties like the Libertarian Party have to use conventions to determine their nominees which use a slightly different schedule than the primary schedule, but the filing deadline is the same.

So, what is it about our elections, as described by me up to this point, which rob voters of power over our elections? First, there is no opportunity for citizens to see which races do not have any competition and then work to raise more candidates. This means that even the two major Parties are stuck with whoever met the filing deadline. Second, while minor Parties (Libertarian, Green, etc.) have to use a convention method to choose their candidates, those candidates STILL have to have their paperwork filed by the January filing deadline. This means that the convention delegates can ONLY “choose” candidates who met the filing deadline. They have no opportunity to control the process and, except in elections when they have more than one member of their party to choose from, are stuck with whoever had their paperwork in on time. There are processes to declare a write-in candidacy or to get on the ballot as an unaffiliated / Independent candidate, but are not practical means in the state of Texas to give the voters more choices or options besides those who handed in a notarized form by the first business day after New Year’s.

To truly be in control of who represents them in their governments, the process has to be designed to remove the power of the Parties over the process. We need districts which are completely non-partisan and politically neutral. We need to make it easier for more candidates to get on the ballots. We need enough candidates running for every office that all of the Parties will need to actively campaign to win their Party’s nomination in the primaries and conventions before they campaign for the actual office. We need to examine different methods of voting which put control of the outcomes in the hands of the electorate. (http://blavier.newsvine.com/_news/2009/04/21/2714028-the-laboratory-of-democracy-alternative-voting-methods-approval-voting-re-edited) We need to reduce the costs of filing for office by independents and others who do not have the backing of a Party which has ballot access, and of running a campaign for office. We also need to remove the bureaucratic barriers which make it difficult to even be on the ballot.

The thing is, if we were to solve all of the issues which I have raised, we will end up with better people in office. While many people complain about the lengths and costs of campaigns by candidates for the office of President, there is one good benefit of the process, which is that it hones a candidate’s skills and message, AND gives the press time to learn more about the candidates than the candidates might want us to know. Winning an election to become the President of The United States does not make a candidate a victor, it makes them a survivor. The other main benefit to the voters making changes to our election process is that we will end up with officeholders with a wide range of beliefs, skills, and knowledge. Diversity is not found in the color of someone’s skin, their gender or their sexual orientation; it is found when you have people with differing beliefs working together to create our laws and operate our governments. Homogeneity of ideas is the worst enemy of true diversity.

As much as people of any particular ideology might think that having people holding the same ideological beliefs as they do in every office would create a perfect government, they are wrong. Good decisions are not made when everyone agrees; they are made when people with differing beliefs can work together and challenge each other to make the best decisions. (http://blavier.newsvine.com/_news/2009/06/11/2918292-groupthink-as-a-political-mental-illness-part-i, http://blavier.newsvine.com/_news/2009/06/15/2933680-groupthink-as-a-political-mental-illness-part-ii) I recently ran across a blog, called ‘Divided We Stand, United We Fall’, which has apparently been around since 2007. It has some very good stuff in it but I want to point my readers to a particular article on that site (http://westanddivided.blogspot.com/2007/07/curing-libertarian-political-impotence.html).

This is why I say that the SINGLE most important issue for the Libertarians in the 2010 election is the redistricting which will be done by Texas (and the other states) in 2011. Unless we can literally change the political map next year, we will simply spend another decade as a fringe party which has no REAL impact on our laws or on the operation of our government. This is the case that the Libertarian Party needs to be making to the citizens of Texas, as well as to voters all across The United States. We need to make sure that the voters in every district know that, while they have no power to determine who gets elected by voters in other districts, they can still have an impact by choosing to send Libertarians, in those districts which have Libertarian candidates, or people of differing ideologies that the current prevailing ones as their representatives in Austin and in all of the other state capitals. NONE of many problems can be fixed if we don’t have the best people in office to work on them. If we cannot make them understand the importance of redistricting as a way for THEM to have more power over those in political office, then we will fail them. Voters may get the “government that they deserve” but, if we can’t give them real choices about who they can vote into office, they will never have to opportunity to deserve a better government.

For more information, please see http://texaspolitics.laits.utexas.edu/6_printable.html.

Rhys M. Blavier
Romayor, Texas

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

© Copyright 2010 by Rhys M. Blavier

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

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How I Think The Constitution Can Be Fixed (Part III [a]: Article I – The Legislative Branch)

In Congress, Corruption, Democracy, Democrats, History, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Politics, Republican, US Government on June 1, 2009 at 1:35 am

Congress, The Legislative Branch of The United States of America was, as ‘the people’s house‘, intended to be the most powerful of the three branches of government created by The Constitution… a ‘first among equals‘, as it were.  Of the 4,543 words of The Constitution, the 2,312 words of Article I constitute just over half of the total (50.89%).  Unlike Article II (The Executive Branch) and Article III (The Judicial Brach), Article I deals very much with the actual workings, duties, powers and authorities of Congress.  A primary reason for this, I assume, is that the founders had a long history of experience with operating a working, functioning Congress or Legislature.  They also had more trust of a strong legislative branch than they did of a strong executive branch.

The first representative legislative body established in the American Colonies, in fact, in ANY of the British Colonies, was Virginia’s House of Burgesses, which was created in 1619… 170 years before the creation of Congress under The Constitution.  Before and during the Revolutionary Period, ALL of the American Colonies had functioning state legislatures and, at the national-level, the first Continental Congress had been called in 1765.  Under the Articles of Confederation, Congress ran the nation with a VERY weak Executive, who was appointed by Congress itself to preside over ‘A Committee of The States‘.  The delegates to the Constitutional Convention well understood what a legislative branch could do, although, prior to The Constitution, members of Congress for any state were appointed by the legislatures of that state.  As such, apportionment by census and direct elections of the members of The House of Representatives was their great experiment with a representative legislature.  Members of The Senate, of course, continued to be appointed by each state’s own legislature until the passage of Amendment XVII, which was ratified in 1913 (although some states had been providing for the direct election of their Senators by the people of those states as early as 1907).

It was never the intention of the founders to create a permanently ruling political class.  They envisioned men, who would, for a short period of time, leave their private lives, take up the burden of public service for the good of the nation and then go back to their private lives.  This idea was only one of many visions of theirs that did not survive our national transition from our ‘first generation‘ to our ‘second generation‘ [see ‘Part I‘ of this article for an explanation of my theory of the first and second generational effects].  Many Americans have the mistaken belief that the founders created a two-party system.  This is patently false, but still many of our children are taught it.  The founders tried to create a NO-party system, with the idea that individual members of Congress would band together is short-lived coalitions for each separate issue that came before them.  This is another idea which not only did not survive our nation’s first generation; it did not survive the Washington administration.  This is probably the biggest reason that party politics dominates our government, because The Constitution did not provide any guidelines for or controls / limitations upon them.

Several of my suggested changes will be attempts show how I think that we can restore the founders’ original concept of public service to our government, and show a way to end or, at least, make it more difficult for the continuation of our professional and permanently ruling political class.  These suggestions will be made to try to minimize the amount of time elected officials have to spend in their continuous cycle of staying elected, to maximize their learning curve and effectiveness in office, and to reduce their susceptibility to the corrupting effects of long-term office holding.  They will also have a goal of wanting to breaking the stranglehold which the two major parties have on our government, at all levels, as well as minimizing the power and effect which those at the extreme ends of any political spectrum have on our government.  This is crucial if we are to return our government to a rational level of moderation.

As a general change for ALL elected offices, no one would be allowed to campaign for one office while they are holding another.  If people think that such an allowance is necessary, they could be allowed to run for as MANY offices at one time as they want, but they have to be campaigning on their own time (they, of course, could only accept election to one office if they should win more than one election at the same time… if they do win more than one, though, maybe they should have to pay for any special elections which they necessitate by winning an office they have intention of serving in).  Since all elected officials are elected to serve their constituents by doing a specific job, and not to spend their time on that job trying to keep their current job or trying to get a new one at our expense, once a public office holder is officially a candidate for any national office (the point at which they start raising funds or operating a campaign), they will be REQUIRED to immediately resign any elected office, at ANY level, that they might hold at that time.  This would also help keep the lengths of campaigns down to more reasonable amounts of time as elected officials would be less likely to give up an office in their hand too long before they run for the office in the bush that they want to seek.

Section 2 of Article I lays the groundwork for the composition of The House of Representatives.  Paragraph 1 of Section 2 sets the term of office for members of the House of Representatives at 2 years.  I would change this to 6 year terms, with one third of The House being elected every three years and a one term limit.  This would allow an on-going House with regular turnover and without the turmoil of having to elect ever member of The House and recreating itself every election cycle.  Former Representatives could be elected to additional terms by the people of any particular state that they have served when they have been out of The House for the length of a full term between each term.

Paragraph 2 sets the minimum age for eligibility for election as a Representative at 25.  I would lower this to 20, although with the requirement that being a Representative is a full time job (i.e.  – if someone is a student and is elected, they would have to leave their studies for the duration of their term of office).  We allow citizens to vote at age 18, we let them serve in our military, we require them to pay taxes (which they have to do at ANY age when they earn any money), etc., there is no reason that citizens of that age should not be allowed to elect Representatives of their own age range if they are able to.

Paragraph 3 of Section 2 deals with apportionment of Representatives among the various states.  As we have seen all too frequently, the abilities of modern computing to pinpoint every voter has given the supposedly forbidden practice of gerrymandering an even more frightening and insidious power than it has had in a long time.  That same computing power can allow us to create congressional districts that are of the most compact size and even shape as possible without ANY regard to the politics, or any other discriminating factor, of the citizens of any particular district.  Every state has corners and edges.  All that would have to be done is to program the same computers to start at each corner and create evenly shaped and compact districts as they work in towards the middle of each state.  Alternatively, the first district could start in the middle of a state and work outward.  This would still allow for differing proposals, depending on starting points and merging points, but the test would still be which proposal presents the most precise and evenly shaped districts possible.  Basically, if districts can be created within a smaller or more compact area of a state, you go for the most compact districts possible.  This would not only prevent the parties from manipulating districts in the way that is most advantageous to them, it will prevent them from creating both ‘safe‘ districts (which protect members of either party), and ‘reservation‘ districts (which isolate and limit ethnic voting power overall to specific limited areas).

Paragraph 3 also provides for the total number of Representatives the House.  Its original provision of “The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative;” has been modified by legislation passed in 1911, which capped the total number of Representatives in The House at 435.  One man, one vote‘ was NEVER an intention of the founders (as seen by their plan of equal apportionment of Senators, the guarantee of at least one Representative from each state, and the fact that Congressional districts must be fully contained within their home state) because it was never their desire to allow high population areas to dominate the government at the expense of the rural areas by the simple fact of having more people.  However, it was also not their intention to let rural areas have excessive power by limiting the numbers of Representatives to be divided among the more populous states.  As was seen when Alaska and Hawaii entered the union (the total number of members in Congress was temporarily increased by one for each state UNTIL the next apportionment, at which time it was returned to the 435 Representatives level), the current total is seen as a hard and fast one which is not increased by the admission of additional states.  As a result, with each shift in population and a theoretical continuous expansion of the numbers of states in the Union, the single Representative for the states with the smallest population increase in their own proportional power within Congress.  To counter this, I would propose that the total number of Representatives be equal to ten times the total number of states.  This would mean that every time a new state is admitted, ten Representatives will be added to the total number of Representatives in The House.  Right now, that would result in a total of 500 Representatives, with 50 being taken by guaranteed representation for each state and the other 450 apportioned according to state population sizes.

Paragraph 4 deals with vacancies within The House while Paragraph 5 creates the office of Speaker and allows for The House to create and choose its other officers.  The only change I would make here is that ANY officer of The House (or The Senate) has a responsibility to the nation, as a whole, as well as to their own district’s constituency.  As such, ALL officers of The House or The Senate, from any party, must equally accept feedback, requests, petitions, etc.  from anyone within the nation as they do from anyone within their district.

Section 3 of Article I deals with The Senate.  Paragraph 1 sets the length of term for a Senator at six years.  As with the House, I would increase the lengths of their terms of office to twelve years, with a limit of one term and the passage of a length of time equal to one full term before they can be eligible to run again within their state.  For those of my readers who have caught some of my specific wordings, by the way, these limits would only apply to a candidate in a single particular state if they want to run again in that state.  If someone thinks that they can just pack up and move to another state to get elected again, they would be welcome to try it.  I would love to see the spectacle of hordes of former Congressmen moving constantly between states while trying to convince the voters of their ‘new‘ home states that they are not carpetbaggers who are only looking out for themselves rather than for the citizens that they purport to serve.

Paragraph I also sets the numbers of Senators from each state at two.  I would increase this to three for each state so that every state will have an election turnover of one Senator for every equal third of a term (i.e.  – every four years), which is what is dealt with in Paragraph 2.  Paragraph 3 sets the minimum age of a Senator at 35.  As with The House, I would lower this age by five years to 25 in order to increase the chances for better representation of the younger population of the nation.

Paragraph 4 of Section 3 deals with the role of The Vice President as the President of The Senate.  While I will deal with the larger issue of the office of Vice President when I discuss The Executive Branch, the primary constitutional duty of a Vice President is to be President of The Senate.  This office needs to be a functional part of our government.  [Please see my article on ‘The American Vice Presidency…  Graveyard of the Constitution’.]  While I would still give The Vice President no vote in The Senate except in cases of ties, I would give the office political power in The Senate equal to that of The Speaker in The House.  I would also give The Vice President the freedom to address The Senate under the same rules as any Senator, but with the provision that they must temporarily give up the Presidency of The Senate while speaking on the floor, and maybe with the additional restriction that they must ask the permission of The Senate to be allowed to speak to it from the floor.

Paragraph 5 of Section 3 provides for the creation and selection of other officers for The Senate, including The President pro tempore.  My biggest issue with how Section 5 is fulfilled is that The President pro tempore, the third person in line to the office of President of The United States, has become a meaningless ego job which is simply given to the oldest, most senile member of the majority party.  This Constitutional office needs to be held by the person elected by the whole Senate to be its Floor Leader.  Tell me, honestly, would you have wanted to see a 99 year-old Strom Thurmond succeeding to The Presidency?  What about an 84 year-old Ted Stevens?  Or a 92 year-old Robert Byrd?  The President pro tempore should be the Senator who is leading the legislative agenda on the floor of The Senate, not the one singing ‘I’m a Little Teapot‘ with the Spectre of Death.

 

(This article will be continued in Part III (b), which will continue discussing Article I of The Constitution.)

Rhys M.  Blavier
Romayor, Texas

 

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

 

© copyright 2009 by Rhys M.  Blavier
_________________________________________________________________

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

Bear with us: another proposed petition about the bailout

In Libertarian on September 25, 2008 at 12:08 pm

This is a proposed petition. You can suggest draft changes at Brad Spangler’s blog.

To President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin of the Russian Federation,

Thank you for the opportunity to address you in this petition.

The Russian News and Information Agency (RIA Novosti) recently published an opinion article written by British historian and political analyst John Laughland. Laughland suggested that the Russian government consider making the rouble convertible into gold. The article can be found here:

http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20080924/117072937.html

We ask that you please consider Laughland’s proposal.

All factions of the political leadership of the United States government appear determined to wreck the value of the U.S. dollar. We are not optimistic that U.S. political leaders will adopt a wise monetary policy. Not only is this bad for the people of the United States, but because the U.S. dollar is so widely used it is bad for the people of the world.

We believe the Russian government has an opportunity to provide stability for the world economy during this time of crisis created by the U.S. government. We believe potential Russian adoption of a gold standard supports such efforts.

We ask this also on behalf of our own selves and all Americans who truly wish to prosper. You will recall, gentlemen, that the U.S. dollar once served as a stable currency for the informal economy in the Soviet Union. You may recall that this so-called “black market” did perhaps more to make life bearable for the ordinary Russian than the official economy did. We ask that the Russian government now return the favor by adopting a gold standard, creating a currency that can undisputably be trusted within the U.S. informal economy that must grow as the emerging U.S. police state grows in power.

Tell Congress: Just Say No to Donkey Punch Bailout Plan!

In Activism, Congress, Corruption, Economics, Fraud, George Phillies, Libertarian, US Government on September 25, 2008 at 11:46 am

Petition from the desk of George Phillies, but don’t blame him for the headline

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/nobailouts/

petition urging Congress to reject the bailout

Let’s send Congress and the press the message. The text of the petition:

Respecting that many people have worked very hard to get a Congressional majority for their party, ‘we will vote against you’ covers the 2010 primaries as well as the general election.

Congress: Reject Paulson’s Bailout!

We call upon Congress to reject bank bailouts. We urge every Senator and Representative to vote against the plan. We urge every Senator to filibuster any bank bailout bill.

Congressmen: We mean it! If you vote for the bailout, we will vote against you, this Fall or in your next primary.

To pay for Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’ plans, Uncle Sam will borrow trillions of dollars. That’s trillions of dollars out of our pockets and into the pockets of Paulson’s cronies. Congress should reject the Paulson plan and leave our money in our pockets.

Paulson’s plan will bankrupt the American taxpayer so Paulson’s banker friends can avoid suffering. Paulson wants to save his banker buddies by throwing our money at them. Instead of throwing money at bankers, Congress should throw the Paulson plan–and Paulson himself–into the wastebasket of history.

Americans believe in personal responsibility. If your neighbor borrows more money than he can repay, the penalty should fall on him, not on prudent working men and women like us who chose to live within their means. That goes for our neighbors, and it goes double for bankers and financiers, who are supposed to know how to invest money.

Congressional regulations make sure: When you sign a mortgage, the numbers you will pay were right in front of you. The Paulson plan to buy up mortgages rewards irresponsible people at the expense of the people who believed in the American way of thrift and frugality.

The Federal government should not stop banks from failing. That’s selective Federal intervention to aid the incompetent. That is just plain backwards. Congress should insist: If a bank wants to turn its assets over to Uncle Sam and go out of business, it should turn over absolutely all its assets, not just its bad assets. That includes funds reserved for executive buy-outs.

Congress should make sure: Foreign banks should get nothing from Uncle Sam. If foreign banks are unhappy with their investments, they should ask foreign taxpayers to pay them off. American working men and women should not pay through the nose because foreign bankers are too lazy to check out their investments and too incompetent to tell their investments cannot possibly be good.

Paulson proposes that his decisions should not be subject to review by the courts. Who does he think he is, King George III against whom George Washington revolted? Paulson would give himself powers that the King of England lacked. Americans would have no protections from Paulson’s bad judgement, no matter how grievous their injuries. That’s unconstitutional and immoral.

Congress should ask itself: Should we trust Paulson’s judgement? The record is clear: Paulson and Fed Reserve Bank Chair Bernanke got us into our mess. Paulson was completely wrong then, and there’s no reason to suspect he’s gotten smarter since. Congress has trusted Paulson for far too long. It should stop doing so.

Having said that, in these economically disorderly times some Americans through no fault of their own are momentarily unable to keep current on their mortgages. A program of modest loans with paybacks that could be re-scheduled, covering part of mortgage expenses for a limited time, would be far cheaper than the Paulson plan. To protect the taxpayer, such loans should not be voided by bankruptcy.

Most urgent private message

In Children, Corruption, Crazy Claims, Economics, Fraud, Human Rights Abuses, Humor, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Media, People in the news, Personal Responsibility, Politics, Taxation, Terrorism, US Government on September 25, 2008 at 1:00 am

H/T Delaware Libertarian

Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.

I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had a crisis that has caused the need for a large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.

I am working with Mr. Franklin Raines, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. You may know him as the Chief Economic Advisor for Senator Obama’s presidential campaign, and the former head of Fannie Mae from 1999 to 2006.

Let me assure you that this transaction is 100% safe. Mr. Raines is completely trustworthy with your money. His record speaks for itself.

This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of friend so the funds can be transferred. Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to wallstreetbailout@treasury.gov so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully

Henry “Hank” Paulson

Minister of Treasury

Troy King reported to be dating Troy University homecoming king

In Corruption, Fraud, Humor, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Music, People in the news, Personal Responsibility, Politics, Republican on July 18, 2008 at 11:31 pm

Back in November, I made the following comments at
Loretta Nall Sends Troy King Appropriate Sex Toy
:

But reasonable people would not include the Alabama legislature, which in is great wisdom passed a law banning dildos, vibrators, and other weapons of mass stimulation.

Not content with the law as it stands, Alabama Attorney General Troy King wants the legislature to make the law even more draconian.

I remember Troy from college. He was always a little weird. He used to write frequent letters to the CW, which described in detail his disgust with homosexuals hooking up in public toilets (well before Larry Craig), a subject he seemed to be intimately familiar with, and exhorted readers to go eat at Cracker Barrel, which at the time was under fire for a policy of discriminating against having gay employees. Troy always seemed just a little too obsessed with homosexual perversion.

Alert readers may remember that Loretta Nall sent Troy King a blow up pig:

My suspicion now seems likely to have been confirmed.

Loretta explains

This is not about being gay. This is about being a hypocrite…of the highest order

There is an official denial of the rumor about Troy King now….so I can say what the rumor is.

According to rumors flying around for the last week Troy King, our
rabidly homophobic
, anti-sex toy, Sunday School teaching, pro-execution Republican Attorney General is GAY! And I don’t mean that as in happy either. I’d bet he is anything but happy right now. In fact, according to two sources he is about to resign. [..]

I have been sitting on this story for about a week. Truth is I am SORE from having to sit on it so long….but not as sore as Troy King is.

Read the rest of this entry »

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

Cop calls 911, thinks he’s dying from pot brownies

In Cops Gone Wild, Corruption, Crazy Claims, Entertainment, Humor, Media, Medical Marijuana, Obituaries, People in the news, Shine on you crazy diamond on June 1, 2008 at 7:18 pm

Dirty cop convicted in no-knock warrant death of 92-year-old woman

In Constitutional Rights, Cops Gone Wild, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, Crime, Drug War, Human Rights Abuses, Law, Law Enforcement, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Media, Obituaries, People in the news, Personal Responsibility, Police Brutality, Police State on May 21, 2008 at 4:37 pm

After two Atlanta cops (Gregg Junnier and Jason R. Smith) pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter and federal civil rights violations in the death of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston, a third cop (Arthur Bruce Tesler) has been found guilty by a jury of lying in the investigation into the woman’s death. Tesler did not fire any of the shots in the raid.

Tesler and his partners Junnier and Smith had gotten a no-knock warrant, claiming that there was a kilo of cocaine in the house, but they lied about whether they had confirmed the information from their informant. Consequently they busted into the elderly woman’s home in plainclothes, shot and killed her when she shot at them – undoubtedly in self-defense, believing them to be intruders – then planted drugs in her house to make it look like a “good” bust.

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

The jury acquitted Tesler on two charges from the illegal 2006 narcotics raid in which officers shot and killed Kathryn Johnston in her northwest Atlanta home. It found him guilty of lying in an official investigation in the cover-up of police wrongdoing that followed the shooting.

“It is not like anyone intended to hurt her, but that’s what came out of it,” Woltz said. “Right will win out.”

Tesler, 42, faces up to five years in prison when sentenced Thursday. If he had been convicted on all counts, he could have been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The verdict came shortly after the jury reviewed a transcript of Tesler’s defense testimony. He and his two partners were accused of lying to get the no-knock search warrant for Johnston’s home on the mistaken belief it was the house of a drug dealer.

The Johnston killing shocked metro Atlanta and enraged many in the African-American community, who complained that shoddy or heavy-handed police work in the war on drugs was a source of repeated abuses.

You can read the article in its entirety on The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Bob Barr bringing in ringers to manipulate the convention vote

In Corruption, Fraud, Libertarian, Libertarian Convention, Libertarian Party-US, Libertarian Politics, Libertarian Politics 2008, Politics, Presidential Candidates on May 20, 2008 at 4:31 pm

An allegation was made recently, that Bob Barr was bringing in “ringers” to vote for him at the convention. It is true, as the below message proves.

Is it even legal in the LP, to bring in ringers like this? If so, it shouldn’t be, and it is a very good example of why the major parties choose delegates well in advance of the convention.

Either way, it shows just exactly how “principled” Bob Barr really is, that he would engage in such distasteful and fraudulent practices in a blatant attempt to manipulate the Libertarian Party, its delegates, and its convention.

While normally I would redact personal information before posting, in this case – given that fraud against the convention is involved – I have decided to leave it all intact.

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard the media buzz surrounding Bob Barr and his recent announcement to run for the Libertarian nomination. Everyone, including the media, has been talking about Barr and the Libertarian Party. According to Tobin Harshaw at the New York Times, “While Paul has been a thorn in McCain’s side ever since he became the presumptive nominee, Barr seems to be the threat the G.O.P. is taking more seriously for now.”

If you’re like me, you’re getting excited about the spotlight this has brought to our party, and you’re excited about what a Bob Barr nomination would mean for the Libertarian Party. But Bob Barr has one more hurdle to overcome first…the Libertarian Party’s nominating convention this coming weekend in Denver. Remember, at the 2004 Libertarian National Convention, the top three candidates polled within 12 votes of each other on the first ballot (Russo 258, Badnarik 256, Nolan 246).

Don’t let this happen to Bob Barr! Join the campaign and be a delegate for Bob Barr. For those of us without the means to get to Denver on our own, we’re organizing a charter bus trip that will take 55 Bob Barr supporters out to Denver for the vote, and then drive straight back after the vote. No hotel fees or convention “extras” needed!

Cost per person for the bus trip: $182

Tentative Bus schedule:

Leaving Columbus, OH 11am EDT on Saturday, stopping for pickups in Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Kansas City, arriving in Denver Sunday morning for the general session (and presidential vote).
after the voting is complete (probably around 5pm), eat dinner and load the bus for the trip home, returning to Columbus, OH late Monday evening.

If you’re interested in joining the Bob Barr team out in Denver, and you live within driving distance of Columbus, Indianapolis, St. Louis or Kansas City, please email me TODAY at maguire_tj@hotmail.com. Remember, the vote is this coming Sunday, so your response is needed immediately.


Timothy J. Maguire
9166 Cinnebar Drive
Indianapolis, IN 46268
317-372-6436

Atlanta newspaper (finally) looks into Bob Barr’s PAC

In Congress, Corruption, Fraud, Libertarian, Libertarian Convention, Libertarian Party-US, Libertarian Politics, Libertarian Politics 2008, Media, People in the news, Politics, Presidential Candidates, Republican on May 19, 2008 at 4:12 pm

Barr writes (or wrote) a column for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but that didn’t stop the paper from doing a little digging into his PAC now that he has declared for president.

Here’s the story (which was previously covered by Last Free Voice):

http://www.ajc.com/news/content/news/stories/2008/05/19/barrpac_0518.html

Barr’s group is a so-called “leadership fund,” a type of political action committee used by current and aspiring party leaders to collect money and disperse it to candidates and committees. …Barr’s use of donations for fund-raising and his own expenses is unlike most leadership funds, said Sarah Dufendach, chief of legislative affairs for Common Cause, the Washington-based nonpartisan public-interest advocacy group.

“It’s not supposed to be for the benefit of that particular person,” she said. “The leadership PACs are supposed to be for the support of other candidates. He is just sustaining himself. …

In the last five years the fund has given $125,200 — about three cents of every dollar raised — to federal candidates and other campaign committees, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has found in a review of reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. Another $81,875 went to state and local campaigns.

On April 1, former Congressman Bob Barr wrote to rally conservatives across the country to stop liberals from solidifying control of Congress.“If we don’t act fast – I’m afraid conservatives may well lose out again!” he implored in a letter sent by his political action committee. …

The letter made no mention of Barr’s recent campaign for the Libertarian Party’s nomination for president, in which he has criticized many Republicans in Congress. Libertarians will choose their candidate at a convention this week in Denver.

Barr, a former federal prosecutor, defended the fund’s solicitations and expenditures in a telephone interview. He declined to answer questions about individual donations and the letter’s characterization of their importance.

“I won’t be cross-examined” about the fund’s finances, he said.

In an e-mail, the fund’s treasurer, Paul Kilgore of Athens, wrote that the letter was “in production well before the decision to form an exploratory committee was reached. … [T]here is certainly no requirement that we mention anything specifically in our letters.”

The story has also been picked up by other news outlets.

You can read LFV’s exclusives on Bob Barr at the following links:

Barr still “exploring”, with convention just 18 days away. Why?

Bob Barr’s “emotional distress”

Jim Casarjian-Perry: Bob Barr hits home

Bob Barr: An Enemy of Libertarians

How will Bob Barr spend your money?

What positions does Bob Barr support?

Bob Barr proves he’s a Republican.  Again.

______________________________

Hat tip Susan Hogarth

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

I bet the drug warriors are proud of themselves ….

In Big Brother, Children, Congress, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, Crime, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Drug War, Health, Law, Media, People in the news, US Government on April 1, 2008 at 10:39 pm

Girl dies of cancer after dying wish of seeing incarcerated fatherA man serving his final year of a five-year sentence for drugs fought for months to see his dying 10-year-old daughter. Yet it took public outcry and overwhelming media attention – plus contact from his Congressman – before he was allowed to see her, and even then for only for 20 minutes.

People are given early release from prison all the time, long before they have served 80% of their sentence. Yes, he was in the federal system where there is no parole, but there is still no reason why this man could not have been given compassionate early release.  Failing that, he could have been released until his daughter died, then returned to finish his sentence. His little girl was dying of brain cancer, for cripe’s sake, and all she wanted was her daddy. Her father was not in prison for a violent crime, and he poses no threat to society if released. He is in a minimum-security facility, after all.

Anyone who thinks this situation did not call for compassionate early release is truly an evil person. I’m not advocating that he should have been released for his own reasons; I’m advocating that he should have been released early for his daughter’s sake. Now this completely innocent little girl is yet another victim of the war on drugs, because she suffered and died without her beloved daddy by her side.

A 10-year-old girl died of brain cancer early this morning, shortly after receiving what her family said was her dying wish — a visit from her incarcerated father.

“She was holding on to see her father,” Ed Yaeger said of his niece Jayci Yaeger.

Jayci’s father, Jason Charles Yaeger, is serving the final year of a five-year sentence for a drug conviction in a minimum security prison camp in South Dakota, a 3½-hour drive from his daughter who was in hospice care in Lincoln, Neb.

Officials, however, had denied Jason Charles Yaeger’s repeated requests for a furlough so he could spend more time with his daughter, who suffered from terminal brain cancer.

Under the supervision of prison officials, Jason Yaeger visited Jayci Wednesday for about 20 minutes — just days before she died.

“It’s just unfortunate that the visit was cut so short,” Ed Yaeger told ABC News.

The Yaegers are upset with prison officials because Jason Yaeger was not able to be with his daughter when she died.

“He was denied the proper good-bye,” Lori Yaeger, Jayci’s aunt, wrote in an e-mail Thursday.

Jason Charles Yaeger had pleaded repeatedly with prison officials to honor the bureau’s apparent policy of allowing furloughs and transfers under “extraordinary” circumstances, but was rebuffed time and again, he told ABC News in a telephone interview from prison last week.

In a letter to Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska — dated Feb. 20 and obtained by ABC News — a regional director from the Department of Justice wrote that “although Mr. Yaeger believes his daughter’s severe medical condition constitutes ‘extraordinary justification,’ a review of his case reveals this specific request was … reviewed … and denied … because his circumstances were not deemed to rise to the level of extraordinary.”

adsonar_placementId=1280488;adsonar_pid=43749;adsonar_ps=-1;adsonar_zw=165;adsonar_zh=220;adsonar_jv=’ads.adsonar.com’;

The congressman had requested information about the denials of the furlough or transfer.

Last week, after ABCNEWS.com published a story on Jayci, the Bureau of Prisons released a statement saying that officials there “have reviewed inmate Yaeger’s request for a compassionate release and have determined his situation does not meet the criteria.”

Jayci, named for her father’s initials, had been fighting for her life since she was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 3, seven years ago. But in the last six months, she had taken a severe turn downward.

Doctors declared her condition terminal in October. Last month, they found they couldn’t transfer her to a children’s hospital closer to her Lincoln, Neb., home because they said she wouldn’t survive the trip, Lori Yaeger said.

You can read the rest of this infuriating article here.

Phillies speaks out against potential Barr presidential campaign

In Corruption, Courts and Justice System, Crime, George Phillies, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Libertarian Politics, Libertarian Politics 2008, Politics, Presidential Candidates on March 24, 2008 at 11:48 pm

An excerpt of the statement by George Phillies, from Miller Politics:

[Bob] Barr’s real positions may also be seen from the candidates his PAC supports. In 2007, Barr’s PAC supported conservatives Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and John Sununu (R-NH). This Fall, those men both have Libertarian opponents. Libertarians must ask: Whose side is Barr on? Suppose Barr were given our nomination and campaigned in Georgia or New Hampshire. Will he campaign with the candidate who carries our party’s banner, or the candidate who cashed Barr’s check?

In December, 2007, the Libertarian National Committee voted without objection to support Ron Paul with the National Committee’s ‘Ballot Base’ software program. In my opinion, using Libertarian party resources to help a Republican, in a race in which there will surely be a Libertarian opponent, was a gross breach of fiduciary responsibility by the Libertarian National Committee. Among those not objecting was Barr.

Phillies also points out that some candidates declare at the last minute, to avoid having their weaknesses exposed.  He went on to say that last year, Barr attacked Kentucky gubernatorial candidate Anne Northrup, because she did not support prayer in  schools; and instead campaigned for her opponent, Ernie Fletcher.  Phillies correctly notes that no libertarian would ever take the stance that a Christian prayer should be forced upon children legally required to attend school.

I would additionally note that Fletcher was criminally charged in 2006 with illegally rewarding political supporters with state jobs.  A grand jury report found that Fletcher had approved a “widespread and coordinated plan” to skirt hiring laws, and in response Fletcher granted a blanket pardon for everyone involved.  Barr thus showed extremely poor judgment, at best, in supporting Fletcher.

Therefore, I agree with Phillies.  It would indeed be “totally inappropriate” for Bob Barr to represent the LP as its presidential nominee.

If Bob Barr wants Libertarian support, he needs to leave the Republican Party behind, and fully embrace the Libertarian Party.  Otherwise, there is no reason for Libertarians to embrace him at all.

American death toll in Iraq reaches 4000

In Activism, Children, Congress, Corruption, George Bush, History, Human Rights Abuses, Iraq War, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Middle East, Military, Music, Obituaries, Personal Responsibility, Politics, Presidential Candidates, Protest, Republican, US Government, War on March 24, 2008 at 6:17 am

Today, the official death toll for American soldiers in Iraq hit 4000. The actual number is undoubtedly higher.

4000+ Americans are dead, because Bush lied about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction.

4000+ Americans are dead, because Bush claimed that Osama bin Laden was hiding in Iraq.

4000+ Americans are dead, because Congress blindly accepted Bush’s lies.

4000+ American are dead, because Americans reelected Bush for a second term

4000+ Americans are dead, because the American people elected a Democratic Congress to put an end to the killing, and they failed us miserably.

There are far more Iraqis dead, though. Just today, soldiers killed a 10-year-old Iraqi girl. They claim they didn’t do it on purpose, but who knows the truth of that situation. When you put soldiers in a country where their lives are constantly at risk, and you arm them with automatic weapons, it is inevitable that many innocents will be killed. Some will be killed accidentally. Some will be killed due to mistaken identity. And some will be killed because the armed soldiers snap under the pressure, and just start killing people.

Unlike many in the antiwar movement, I don’t blame the soldiers. After all, they are doing what they were trained to do, under circumstances that no human was ever intended to experience; and the vast majority of soldiers became soldiers to protect us, and not to kill innocent civilians. So no, I don’t blame our soldiers when the inevitable happens. I blame Bush and Congress for putting our soldiers in that situation.

Of course, our tax dollars will be spent for the foreseeable future treating the injuries, physical and mental, those soldiers received while fighting in the war that should never have been fought. Some of them will recover from their wounds, but many won’t. I don’t complain about spending our tax dollars on the soldiers in need of medical and psychiatric care; we owe them that. I do complain that they should never have been sent to Iraq and injured in the first place.

Let us all look forward to the day when the killing stops, and our soldiers are brought home from the Middle East once and for all. When will that happen? It’s up to the American voters. If Americans put another warmonger in the White House, the blood will be on their hands. It is already on the hands of those who voted Bush for a second term, knowing full well he was a warmonger.

When considering candidates for the Libertarian presidential nomination, especially given that there are so many candidates brand-new to libertarianism, ask them whether they voted for Bush. If they did, they have blood on their hands, and therefore can never truly represent the Libertarian Party.

My hands, I’m happy to say, are clean in this situation (though I am not running for any political office). I didn’t vote for Bush the first time, and I actively worked against his candidacy the second time. Many may think my efforts were for naught, but I disagree. The message of true freedom is spread one person at a time.

I’ve asked this before, and I’ll ask it again. Where is Osama bin Laden? We can see a dime on the sidewalk from outer space, but we can’t seem to find a strange-looking human giant hiding in the desert. I find that extremely hard to believe. I also won’t be the least bit surprised if we suddenly “find” him just in time for the presidential election. Younger readers may not be cynical enough to believe our country would play us for fools like that. To them I would simply say, history has been my lesson; let it be yours as well.

To that end, I offer the song “End of the Innocence”, which was a hit song when many of our readers were but infants. It applies more today than ever.

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.

FBI posts fake hyperlinks to entrap would-be child porn viewers

In Big Brother, Children, Cops Gone Wild, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, Crime, Fraud, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Police State, US Government on March 22, 2008 at 4:21 am

From The Iconoclast:

The FBI has recently adopted a novel investigative technique: posting hyperlinks that purport to be illegal videos of minors having sex, and then raiding the homes of anyone willing to click on them.

Undercover FBI agents used this hyperlink-enticement technique, which directed Internet users to a clandestine government server, to stage armed raids of homes in Pennsylvania, New York, and Nevada last year. The supposed video files actually were gibberish and contained no illegal images.

A CNET News.com review of legal documents shows that courts have approved of this technique, even though it raises questions about entrapment, the problems of identifying who’s using an open wireless connection–and whether anyone who clicks on a FBI link that contains no child pornography should be automatically subject to a dawn raid by federal police.

Roderick Vosburgh, a doctoral student at Temple University who also taught history at La Salle University, was raided at home in February 2007 after he allegedly clicked on the FBI’s hyperlink. Federal agents knocked on the door around 7 a.m., falsely claiming they wanted to talk to Vosburgh about his car. Once he opened the door, they threw him to the ground outside his house and handcuffed him.

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

Cops Gone Wild: Corrupt Sheriff threatens to arrest members of the press

In Civil Liberties, Cops Gone Wild, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, Crazy Claims, Crime, First Amendment, Fraud, Law, Law Enforcement, Local Politics, People in the news, Police State, Politics on March 16, 2008 at 10:00 pm

Sheriff Santiago Barrera of Duval County, Texas, is none too happy with the press, specifically the Alice Echo-News Journal.

When his son’s recent arrested for public intoxication and resisting arrest hit the front page, Sheriff Barrera told the reporter, “If you guys keep interfering in my business, I’m going to have you arrested”. Apparently the Sheriff has never heard of freedom of the press.

What’s strange about this is not only that his son is 42 years old, certainly old enough that he doesn’t need to hide behind his daddy. It’s also strange that the threat was taken seriously, given the First Amendment; however, Sheriff Barrera is known to be a bit on the corrupt side. According to MSNBC, “For 20 years, Sheriff Santiago Barrera Jr. had done what he pleased. He decided who sat in his jail and when they were released. Sometimes it was before a judge got involved and other times it was after.”

His corruption is actually quite obvious. When recently the Commander of the Tri-County Drug Task Force announced that he was running against the Sheriff in this year’s election, he busted his opponent back down to patrolman. That opponent won, though, so this year appears to finally be the end of the Sheriff’s reign of terror against everyone who dares cross him.

Nicole Perez, Managing Editor of the newspaper, sent the threat of illegal arrest on to the County Attorney, Ricardo Carillo, with the following statement. “I am bringing these remarks to your attention in the hope that they will remain as such, just remarks. However, considering the volatile political atmosphere in Duval County I have no doubt that Sheriff Barrera would carry out such a threat.”

Despite all the obvious signs that Barrera should have been run out of office long ago, he still received 47% of the vote in the most recent election. According to the County Attorney, Sheriff Barrera has managed to stay in office for so long because he is “a great politician and a terrible sheriff”.

“Girls Gone Wild” founder victimized by “Judge Gone Wild”

In Celebrities, Censorship, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, Crazy Claims, Crime, Entertainment, First Amendment, Fraud, Law, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Media, People in the news, Police State, Politics, Protest, Shine on you crazy diamond, Taxation on March 16, 2008 at 7:07 pm

Joe Francis / Girls Gone WildI am not a fan of “Girls Gone Wild”. In fact, I almost vomit every night when I’m trying to watch South Park and Reno 911, since that’s when most of those commercials seem to air.

The latest is “The Wildest Bar In America”, and the commercial shows young women engaged in sex acts with one another, in public. If you purchase that one with a credit card (so they can automatically send you more in the future), you get “Finally 18” for free. The voiceover for the latter video says, “These girls have been waiting for their chance to go wild!”

I’m sorry, but after seeing that commercial – which shows young women masturbating on camera – I’d guess they went wild long before their 18th birthday.

The thought which always occurs to me when I see those commercials is, I’m glad it’s not my daughter. I’m glad I don’t even have a daughter, because then I don’t have to worry about her getting sauced on Spring Break then going wild on camera. I cannot even imagine the horror of parents across this country when they realize their daughter has appeared in “Girls Gone Wild”, and especially the parents of those girls who actually appear in the commercials.

However, as much as I hate “Girls Gone Wild”, I feel that I must speak out against what happened to the man behind the videos.

Joe Francis, the founder of “Girls Gone Wild”, has been in jail for the last year, and could not even post bail to get out. It all started when some parents accused him of filming their underage daughters. Francis claimed they had identification, so he had no way of knowing they were underage and thus he had done nothing wrong. I believe him. After all, he has filmed literally thousands of young women, has made untold millions from doing so, and I find it very hard to believe that he doesn’t check identification. In fact, Francis apparently takes a lawyer with him, to make sure he doesn’t do anything to get himself into trouble. The attorney checks IDs, and has the girls agree to participate both on video and in writing. The video statement is made so that no one can claim they were too drunk or otherwise unable to give consent. Joe Francis is much smarter than people expect him to be.

At any rate, Francis refused to negotiate in a civil suit brought by the parents of those girls, and he was thrown in jail for it.

When I first heard this I thought, surely that’s not the real reason he’s in jail. After all, it was a civil suit, not criminal charges. However, sure enough, that’s exactly why he was in jail.

Then while he was in jail for not negotiating with parents trying to shake him down for a civil suit (let’s be honest, once again, in saying that the “Girls Gone Wild” had actually gone wild long before they ever met Joe Francis) the IRS came a-knockin’. It appears that they claim Joe owes millions in unpaid taxes.

I’d hate to be Joe Francis, with all those problems.

This past week, he was finally released from jail after serving 11 months with no bail on the civil contempt charge (though the tax evasion charges are still pending, and he will go to trial on those charges at a later date) and faced a judge in Florida on criminal charges of child abuse and prostitution, related to filming the underage girls (for criminal charges, all that matters is that they were factually under 18). He struck a misdemeanor no contest plea, the judge gave him time served, no probation, no fine, he’s free to go. The only condition was that “Girls Gone Wild” not film there again for three years. That shouldn’t be a problem, given that girls are going wild all over this great nation of ours.

The problem I see with this, putting aside my personal feelings about his line of business, is that the man should never have been in jail over a civil suit in the first place. Here’s the basic scenario: he got sued by angry parents whose daughters used fake IDS to claim they were of legal age, the judge told the parties to work out a settlement, he didn’t want to work out a settlement because he thought he’d done nothing wrong since he was actually the one defrauded, so the judge threw him in jail for civil contempt. Personally, I think the judge showed his personal bias in the case, by throwing a man in jail simply because he preferred for a jury decide if he had done anything wrong. I think Francis is right, and I seriously doubt a civil jury would find against him, given all the safeguards he had taken against filming underage girls.

The problem with this is that, at the time he was originally incarcerated, no jury had ever determined that he had done anything wrong, civilly or criminally, and the criminal charges against him were not even close to being capital crimes, so he was entitled to bail. Frankly, I get the impression that they just didn’t want him in their area, documenting the fact that their little girls are going wild.. Maybe one of the girls who went wild is the niece of a friend of a friend of the judge, who knows.

Overall, while I am definitely not a fan of “Girls Gone Wild”, I am a fan of the Constitution, and under the Constitution, what happened to Joe Francis should never happen to anyone.