Steve G.

Posts Tagged ‘Crime’

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@…

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Man who gave Christine Smith her “Outstanding American Award” arrested for fraud. Again.

In Christine Smith, Courts and Justice System, Crime, Fraud, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Politics, Presidential Candidates on June 28, 2008 at 4:27 pm

Last year, I warned that the “awards” touted on Christine Smith’s presidential campaign website were not authentic, and in fact were laughable given where she got them.  I also warned that her “Outstanding American Award” came from Alex Merklinger, a New Age charlatan previously incarcerated for a $39 million fraud scheme.

In that scheme, Merklinger falsely claimed to be a surety for private companies bidding on government projects.  When he was asked to pay claims under the surety contract and could not do so (since he wasn’t really a surety company, and allegedly had only had $13,000 in assets despite having taken $885,000 in surety fees), he filed bankruptcy, leaving the private companies holding the bag for millions.  He also was convicted of multiple counts related to that fraud, and sentenced to federal prison.

I also warned that additional fraud charges were pending against Merklinger, due to a con in which he convinced an older gentleman that he was an Investment Banker, then pocketed $125,000 of the man’s money.  Previously on El Paso County’s “Most Wanted” list, Merklinger was finally arrested on Wednesday, and charged with Securities Fraud in connection with the fraudulent Investment Banker scheme.

It is a very good thing that the delegates declined Christine’s candidacy, given how embarrassing this situation would be to the Libertarian Party.

Click here to read ENM’s previous article about Merklinger’s frauds on Adventures In Frickintardistan

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.

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

Cirino “Reno” Gonzalez faces retrial on both acquitted counts

In Activism, Courts and Justice System, Crime, Law, Law Enforcement, People in the news, Politics, Shine on you crazy diamond, Taxation, US Government on April 22, 2008 at 11:57 pm

From Bombs, Taxes, and Red Crayons:

Earlier this month, the jury in New Hampshire found Reno guilty on two counts, but could not reach an agreement on two other counts, resulting in a mistrial on those two undecided charges.

The government will retry those two unresolved counts on June 23, 2008, according to a recent filing in the Bob Wollfe’s docket.  The prosecutors have asked the judge to delay Wolffe’s sentencing until Reno’s trial is over, because Wolffe is expected to testify against Reno as a condition of his plea agreement.

In case anyone has forgotten, Reno provided security for Ed and Elaine Brown during their standoff against the US Marshals.  He was found guilty of two counts, and his two co-defendants were found guilty on all counts.  To catch up on the case, merely search for “Reno” on this blog.

Another viewpoint on FLDS case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sickos: What’s a free-market solution?

In Children, Crime, Human Rights Abuses on April 22, 2008 at 12:08 am

FLDS approvesThe creeps of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints are receiving renewed attention after one of their members (currently on probation in Arizona) was accused of raping a 16-year-old girl and impregnating her. Over the last few days, Texas CPS bureaucrats have been removing hundreds of women and children from their new compound outside Eldorado.

While I’m happy that women and children who by all accounts have likely been abused or coerced in some way are being taken out of that situation, as a libertarian, I’d rather the wasteful and often abusive Texas CPS wasn’t involved.

So what’s a libertarian way of dealing with people like this, or animal abusers, or others who are so disturbed upstairs that they harm those incapable of recourse? I can think of three ways of dealing with them:

  1. Ignore them. People like this will exist anyways, and trying to stop them won’t solve the problem.
  2. Ostracize them. Don’t sell them food or land and don’t buy anything from them, forcing them to be entirely self-sufficient to survive.
  3. When there’s credible evidence of a crime being committed, make the necessary arrests and ask members of the outside community to adopt kids potentially at risk.

None of these options is perfect. All three allow the standard-level abuse to continue. The second stops being effective once the group reaches a certain size, and the third requires somebody from inside to call for help, which groups like this make very difficult.

Please discuss how to deal with these people in the comments.

Jury finishes deliberating in Brown supporter case

In Courts and Justice System, Crime, Law, Taxation on April 11, 2008 at 2:00 am

According to Bombs, Taxes, and Red Crayons, it’s been quite a day at the trial of the Brown supporters, but the jury has finally delivered its final verdict.

Earlier in the day, there was an outburst in the courtroom.

Gonzalez’s outburst

Lawyers for Gonzalez and the government met in a room adjoining the courtroom for more than half an hour following the reading of the verdicts. After their conference, they met with Singal in his chambers. The judge later instructed the jury to keep deliberating.

Just before the jury left the room, Gonzalez yelled a message to them.

“Jury nullification is your right,” he said. A second statement was difficult to hear.

Singal called the parties back into his chambers after the outburst.

There was another outburst when a supporter, Joe Haas, yelled “point of order”, and the judge had him removed from the courtroom.  According to the Concord Monitor, Chief Deputy Marshal Gary Dimartino said later that Haas was merely escorted from the building, and he was not arrested.

The jury later returned with guilty verdicts against Cirino “Reno” Gonzalez on the aiding and abetting and conspiracy charges, but they were unable to reach a verdict on the other charges.

It is unknown whether the government will retry Reno Gonzalez on the charges not resolved.

Brown supporters’ trial ended today

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

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

Here are some excerpts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prosecutor:  Did you tell Jason to arm himself?

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

Prosecutor:  Jason Gerhard is a pacifist?

Reno: Jason Gerhard is a good man.

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

The most amusing part of today’s blog:

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

From an email Jason sent:

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

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

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

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

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

Bush sings “Sunday Bloody Sunday”

In Activism, Big Brother, Courts and Justice System, Crime, George Bush, Law, Politics, Presidential Candidates, Protest, War on April 5, 2008 at 9:00 pm

Old Buck feared Ed Brown would murder Elaine

In Courts and Justice System, Crime, Law, Law Enforcement, People in the news, Personal Responsibility, Taxation, US Government on April 3, 2008 at 1:10 am

As previously stated on this blog, the trial of the Ed and Elaine Brown supporters – Cirino “Reno” Gonzalez, Robert Wolffe, and Jason Gerhard – is being covered by a friend of mine, JJ MacNab, who is actually at the trial. I’ve been watching the comments on her trial blog, Bombs, Taxes, and Red Crayons, and it’s quite Illuminati illuminating.

What follows is the conversation in question. Jim Hobbs is “Old Buck”, who stayed at the Brown home in his RV for months. Bob “woffle” (Wolffe) is one of the men currently on trial. “Admin” is JJ.

ADMIN: You ever hear Ed’s plan to kill Elaine and blame the evil feds, Old Buck?

BUCK: Not quite like that but yes I feared he may do such a thing as kill elaine and I told the marshals that the night I left.

BUCK: I also told Bob woffle in an email I had that concern.

ADMIN: Can you describe what you heard of Ed’s plan in an email, if you don’t mind. I have four different versions now and there are odd discrepancies with what we’re seeing in trial (the bunker set up, for example.)

BUCK: No I will not as there is nothing to that whole story as it was all smoke and mirrors. while I did not agree with alot of what ed said and did, I believe the tax laws are being misapplied and ed and elaine were railroad. These men are being charged because the marshals were made to look like fool for 9mts. Its shameful how our stystem works.

ADMIN: If there’s nothing to the story, why did you call the Marshals and warn Wolffe?

BUCK: I called and left a message with the marshals telling them of my concern also warned woffle about ed and my concerns for elaines saftey. ed and I had been going round and round for a few days and I was very concerned . The bunker and tunnels wer the made up part. the hit list is ed bullshit.

BUCK: I came to believe ed got himself in so deep the only out he saw was sucide by cop. I sincerly believed that and Bob wolfe agreed 100%. The problem was what the hell could I do about it. so I got out.

So, according to someone who was undeniably very close to Ed Brown and Elaine Brown, and actually lived on the Browns’ property for a prolonged period of time during the standoff, Ed was possibly planning to murder Elaine; and this supporter was concerned enough for Elaine’s life at Ed’s hands that he actually broke away, and alerted the US Marshals that she was in danger.

WOW.

I wonder if Elaine, or her children, realized that she was in far more danger from Ed, than from the government?

Would Ed have murdered Elaine? I have to take Buck’s words and actions for that, and say yes. I honestly do not believe that this man, who stood by Ed and Elaine’s side for so long, staying on the property to protect them, would ever have gone out of his way to call the Marshals and give them that information, unless he absolutely believed that Elaine was in serious danger of being murdered by Ed. It’s a good thing the Marshals came in when they did. They may actually have saved Elaine’s life. Old Buck may have saved Elaine’s life, by alerting the Marshals.

In another update, Ed and Elaine have taken the Fifth Amendment, refusing to testify on behalf of the men who are on trial for trying to protect them. They’ve hung these men out to dry.

While this may come as a surprise to some, it’s not a surprise to me. As previously stated on LFV, I have never trusted Ed Brown. Too bad his supporters didn’t listen to me. If they had, they’d be at home with their families right now, instead of on trial and looking at spending decades in prison.

The moral of the story: It does no good to protect someone based upon principle, when you are protecting someone who is completely unprincipled.

Angry ex-boyfriend, or casualty of war?

In Courts and Justice System, Crime, Law, Military, Obituaries, Personal Responsibility, US Government, War on April 2, 2008 at 2:05 am

Acevedo After returning from his third tour of duty in Iraq in three years, Lance Cpl. Eric Acevedo just wasn’t the same, his relatives said.The previously athletic teen, who had enlisted in the Marines just after graduating from high school a few months after the war began in 2003, suffered from nightmares, fought with his girlfriend and gained weight. The 22-year-old, whose breaks between deployments were less than a year, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, said his father, Andres Acevedo.

Early Saturday morning, 13 months after returning from his last tour, he went to his ex-girlfriend’s townhouse, broke through a ground-floor window and stabbed her repeatedly with a kitchen knife, police said. A blood-covered Acevedo then paced in the parking lot as officers rushed to the tan wood-and-brick townhouse complex and arrested him, neighbors said.

Eric Acevedo, 22, is charged with capital murder, which carries the death penalty, and remained jailed Wednesday on $1 million bond. Acevedo’s court-appointed attorney, Lex Johnston, said he had not spent much time talking to his client.

“I gave him to the government nice and healthy, and the government returned somebody who is capable of doing something like that,” Andres Acevedo told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

______________________

Read the rest of this article here. 

Man foregoes snake oil, sells snake vodka instead

In Courts and Justice System, Crime, Drug War, Entertainment, Health, Humor, Law, Law Enforcement, People in the news, Politics, Science, Shine on you crazy diamond on April 1, 2008 at 11:44 pm

Snake vodkaI couldn’t help but chuckle a bit when I read this. This is such a novelty that I’m quite sure that many people would pay top dollar for it, but not as an ancient Asian elixir. They’d buy it because it’s a bottle of vodka with a doggone rattlesnake in it, LOL.

Still, I don’t see the harm, as long as the snake’s venom doesn’t poison people who drink the beverage (though I will also note that later in the story, Bayou Bob admits that “I’ve honestly never seen a person drink it”). The state doesn’t say anything about it possibly poisoning anyone though; they’re just upset because he doesn’t have a liquor license. So it appears that the state is just worried about getting their cut.

A rattlesnake rancher who calls himself Bayou Bob found a new way to make money: Stick a rattler inside a bottle of vodka and market the concoction as an “ancient Asian elixir.” But Bayou Bob Popplewell’s bright idea appears to have landed him on the wrong side of the law, because he has no liquor license.

Popplewell, who has raised rattlesnakes and turtles at Bayou Bob’s Brazos River Rattlesnake Ranch for more than two decades, surrendered to authorities Monday. He spent about 10 minutes in jail after the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission obtained arrest warrants on misdemeanor charges of selling alcohol without a license and possessing alcohol with intent to sell.

If convicted, he faces up to a year in jail and $1,000 in fines.

Popplewell said he will fight the charges. His intent, he said, is not to sell an alcoholic beverage but a healing tonic. He said he has customers of Asian descent who believe the concoction has medicinal properties.

“It’s almost a spiritual thing,” said Popplewell, 63.

But alcohol commission agent Scott Jones pointed out that investigators confiscated 429 bottles of snake vodka and one bottle of snake tequila. At $23 a bottle, that’s almost $10,000 worth of reptilian booze.

Even if Popplewell intended his drink be used as a healing tonic — an assertion the alcohol commission disputes — his use of vodka requires a state permit, authorities said.

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

“It’s sold for beverage purposes, and he knows what he’s doing,” commission Sgt. Charlie Cloud said.

You can read the rest of this interesting article here.

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.”

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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.

Judges Gone Wild: “Learn English or go to jail”

In Courts and Justice System, Crime, Law, People in the news on April 1, 2008 at 10:11 pm

A judge known for creative sentencing, often ordering defendants to get a job or finish school, has taken his outside-the-box sentencing to another level.

A judge known for creative sentencing has ordered three Spanish-speaking men to learn English or go to jail.

The men, who faced prison for criminal conspiracy to commit robbery, can remain on parole if they learn to read and write English, earn their GEDs and get full-time jobs, Luzerne County Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. said.

The men, Luis Reyes, Ricardo Dominguez and Rafael Guzman-Mateo, plus a fourth defendant, Kelvin Reyes-Rosario, all needed translators when they pleaded guilty Tuesday.

“Do you think we are going to supply you with a translator all of your life?” the judge asked them.

The four, ranging in age from 17 to 22, were in a group that police said accosted two men on a street in May. The two said they were asked if they had marijuana, told to empty their pockets, struck on the head, threatened with a gun and told to stay off the block.

I’m guessing the victims of this violent assault are none too happy with this development.

You can read the rest of this article here.

What is the government’s proper function in child death caused by religious belief?

In Constitutional Rights, Courts and Justice System, Crime, First Amendment, Health, Law, Obituaries, People in the news, Personal Responsibility, Science on April 1, 2008 at 9:17 pm

Madeline Kara Neumann, Leilani and Dale NeumannOn Sunday, 11-year-old Madeline Kara Neumann, known as “Kara”, died due to diabetic ketoacidosis. While diabetes is a treatable disease, the girl had not seen a doctor, so she had not been diagnosed with diabetes.

Her parents, Leilani and Dale Neumann of Wisconsin, believe that healing is received only through faith, and not through medicine. They therefore did not take Kara to a doctor even though she had been severely ill for days, possibly a week. Instead, they prayed for her.

Authorities were first contacted by the child’s aunt in California, who had asked them to check on the child. From ABC News:

“My sister-in-law is, her daughter’s severely, severely sick and she believes her daughter is in a coma,” [Ariel] Gomez is heard telling the dispatcher in one of the 911 calls released by the sheriff’s office. “And, she’s very religious, so she’s refusing to take [Kara] to the hospital, so I was hoping maybe somebody could go over there.”

Gomez asks authorities to send an ambulance, and warns the dispatcher that Leilani Neumann will fight attempts to intervene. “We’ve been trying to get her to take [Kara] to the hospital for a week, a few days now,” Gomez tells the dispatcher.

Before police got to the house, they received a medical emergency call from the Neumanns.

The parents post on the website of a congregation which refuses medical treatment, but the minister said they are not members of that congregation. The parents seem to have their own prayer group, comprised of about eight people. Authorities believe the girl, who was being homeschooled at the time of her death, had been very ill for several days, possibly a week, before her death; and the mother had reported to family members that the girl had slipped into a coma, but they were still refusing to take her to a hospital, believing prayer would heal her.

In an interview with The Associated Press, the girl’s parents confirmed that they believe healing comes from God, but said they did not want their child to die, they are not zealots and they do not have anything against doctors.

Dale Neumann, a former police officer, told the AP that he started to perform CPR on his daughter “as soon as the breath of life left.”

In the interview, Leilani Neumann said that she is not worried about the police investigation because her family’s lives are “in God’s hands” and they know that they did the best thing for their daughter that they knew how to do.

You can read the entire ABC News article here.

Carl and Raylene WorthingtonA similar case occurred earlier this month, when 15-month-old baby Ava Worthington died of bronchial pneumonia and a blood infection, after Carl and Raylene Worthington, her faith healing parents, failed to obtain any medical care for the infant; the illness was exacerbated by a benign cyst on the child’s neck which had never been medically treated. The state medical examiner said the infant could have been saved with a simple prescription for antibiotics. The Worthingtons have been criminally charged with manslaughter and criminal mistreatment.

You can read the entire ABC News article here.

Should parents who believe in faith healing be charged criminally in the death of their child, or should they be protected by the First Amendment? Should the government intervene and take away their other children in such situations, for their safety and protection? Or are these parents within their First Amendment rights to not seek medical care for their children, relying instead on prayer alone, even if their child is obviously dying?

Ed & Elaine Brown supporters on trial

In Courts and Justice System, Crime, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Taxation, US Government on April 1, 2008 at 4:49 pm

Cirino The trial of the Ed and Elaine Brown supporters is being covered by my friend JJ MacNab, who is attending the trial; her daily blogs on the trial can be seen at Bombs, Taxes, and Red Crayons.

For those unfamiliar with the case, on trial are Cirino “Reno” Gonzalez, Daniel Riley, and Jason Gerhard; each of the men potentially faces decades in prison if convicted. The men are accused of providing material support to Ed and Elaine Brown, providing them with, among other things, weapons and explosives. The Browns had been convicted of multiple counts including tax evasion and structuring transactions, and were fugitives when the alleged crimes occurred.

Here’s an excerpt from the latest entry, wherein former co-defendant Robert Wolffe rats them all out pursuant to the terms of his plea agreement:

Witness Robert Wolffe

Bob Wolffe was the fourth defendant in this case. He signed a proffer letter just a few days after the September 12, 2007 indictment and arrest, and signed a plea agreement in January, 2008. Wolffe was wearing an orange prison t-shirt, jacket, and pants, but otherwise looked tidy, composed, and very serious about his situation and testimony.

Wolffe lives in Randolph, VT and first heard of Ed Brown when the Browns were on trial in January 2007 for tax evasion and structuring financial transactions. Over the next eight months, he visited the Brown house roughly 25 to 30 times. He said that he understood that they had been convicted on multiple felony counts and that they were evading arrest.

Wolffe conducted counter-surveillance by following US Marshals when they were following Jim Hobbs (the man who posts comments on this blog), and provided armed security for the Browns by wearing weapons at their home. He also did some target shooting on Ed Brown’s range next to the home. He identified a number of weapons he’d seen others carrying at the home.

Wolffe has been charged with three felony counts in this case, and no counts were dropped as part of his plea agreement. He not only wasn’t promised any leniency by the prosecutors, but he was warned repeatedly that if he lied on the stand, he would be prosecuted for perjury.

Wolffe testified on a number of important issues:

1) He saw Reno and Ed carrying rifles while patrolling the property

2) On another occasion, he saw Ed, Jason, and Danny with rifles again patrolling the property

3) He saw Reno wearing a semi-automatic pistol in a holster and said that Reno told him that he was a security specialist in the military who was there to provide the Browns with security

4) Reno had brought a .50 caliber rifles to the Browns’ home

5) He first met Danny in late April, and Danny was involved in internet dealing with Shaun Kranish of www.makethestand.com

6) He saw Danny and Ed trying to detonate Tannerite using different caliber ammunition and later Ed showed Wolffe the Tannerite baggies in the trees

7) He saw the zip guns in Ed’s garage and Ed and Danny told him about their plan to place blanks in them and set them up as booby traps around the property to act as an early warning system

8 ) Wolffe met Jason in mid-June and said that Jason took care of things around the Brown house

9) Jason had been purchasing weapons for Ed Brown, but the local dealer had decided not to sell him any more

10) Jason told Wolffe that he was joining the military to learn more about military tactics and explosives

11) Wolffe is still a tax denier, but said that Ed and Elaine were convicted felons, so protecting them was a crime

12) Wolffe lied to Keith Champagne in various letters by not telling him about his proffer in September 2007

13) Wolffe was not a Constitution Ranger until the Brown standoff and didn’t know the Browns

14) One of the main reasons Wolffe pled guilty was to protect his wife from weapons charges

15) Wolffe acted as a mail center for various Brown supplies

16) Wolffe provided roughly 6 to 8 pieces of pipe that were later turned into zip guns

17) Wolffe had been in Ed Brown’s bedroom but not his closet (sometimes you have to wonder about the defense attorneys’ questions…)

18) He saw Lauren Canario at the home three or four times, but was unfamiliar with several other names

19) He said that Jim Hobbs lived at the Brown house for several weeks after Reno left

20) Wolffe said that Ed Brown had a “secret hit list” but Wolffe thought that that was between Ed and his God

21) Wolffe said that Ed had asked him to purchase a gun for Elaine, but that he’d refused. “I didn’t want to get involved in the standoff in that way.”

Wolffe didn’t spend that long on the stand but his information was quite forthright and direct. Unlike the other defendants in this case, it would appear that he has a much better grasp of the reality of the situation.

There is much, much more there, so if you are interested in this trial or the subject matter in general, you might want to check out the blog, which is updated daily.

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.

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.

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.