Author Archives: Nicholas Sarwark

About Nicholas Sarwark

Mr. Sarwark lives in Colorado and keeps poor people out of cages for a living. His views are his own, not his employer's, his wife's, or his dog's. They are also awesome and always right.

Not being drone murdered is an individual right

We, the members of the Libertarian Party, challenge the cult of the omnipotent state and defend the rights of the individual.

- Statement of Principles, Libertarian Party

That line, especially the bit about the “cult of the omnipotent state,” has been the subject of many internal battles within the party at conventions. There is a group within the party and the broader libertarian movement that believe that language prevents us from growing as a party. After all, the two legacy parties don’t have that kind of language and they win elections.

I come from the libertarian wing of the Libertarian Party. I’ve been a Libertarian since I was 10 or 11 years old and my father would take me to meetings of the Maricopa County Libertarian Party. I vote for Ernie Hancock when he runs for Chair because I’ve known him longer than anyone else in the party. I’ve never been anything other than a big-L Libertarian.

You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places which are undefended.You can ensure the safety of your defense if you only hold positions that cannot be attacked.

- Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Lee Wrights once said, “We can make a difference by being different.” I believe that. The Libertarian Party is still much smaller than the two legacy parties. We cannot beat them by playing the game on their terms and by their rules.

This is not to say that our candidates should not be professional in appearance, nor that we can ignore the mechanics of running political campaigns. But it is to say that we can’t just be “Republicans who mean it,” or “Democrats who really believe in civil liberties.” If all we offer is a slightly better version of a legacy party, most voters won’t risk their vote for something slightly better when the legacy party candidate could, you know, win.

We can win by being the only party that supports actual freedom. Social freedom. Economic freedom. All of your freedoms. All of the time. Without exception.

These strikes are legal, they are ethical and they are wise.

- White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney

According to a memo (PDF) obtained by NBC, the Obama Administration has decided that they can kill anyone overseas with a drone strike, including American citizens, with no trial, charge, or any due process protections at all. The Democrats don’t have a problem with this, since it’s a Democrat making this unilateral decision to kill people. Oddly, the Republicans don’t have a problem with it either, possibly because they want to have that power in 2016.

Libertarians are the only ones who have a problem with it. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution clearly states, “nor shall any person be…deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” There is no more stark and frightening example of “the cult of the omnipotent state,” than the idea that it’s okay to murder people drone missiles as long as it’s the President doing it and he’s pretty sure you’re a bad guy.

I’m a Libertarian and I challenge the cult of the omnipotent state and defend the rights of the individual, and that most certainly includes the right to not be murdered by the government with no due process at all.

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Submarine Vet Trying to “Swift Boat” Kinky

Kinky Friedman has a posse Last month, the story was that he was racist. Then his Democratic opponent asked him to drop out of the race (Friedman’s reply: “We don’t negotiate with terrorists.”). Now the personal attacks on Kinky Friedman are about what the lapel pins he wears. KXAN reports:

“It took me almost nine months to earn the right to wear these dolphins,” Texas Commander for U.S. Submarine Veterans Ray Wilgeroth said.

Wilgeroth says he’s gotten calls from all over the state asking him why Kinky is wearing their medal while he campaigns.

“We do not feel it’s appropriate for him to wear it and imply that the submarine veterans are supporting him for governor because we’re not. We don’t support anyone,” Wilgeroth said.

Thankfully, KXAN reporter Jenny Hoff is a lot more responsible than certain national news organizations and got answers from Kinky about why he’s wearing the medals. His replies show why this attack, like the others, is going to backfire.

“The airborne was given to me by a man in Fort Worth before the primaries who told me I would have to work through my A hole to get on the ballot,” Friedman said.

He says the dolphins were given to him by a submarine widow.

Hoff asks: “And, she wanted you to wear it?”
Friedman says: “Absolutely, she’s been working very hard for our campaign in East Texas.”

Like I said about the “racist” attacks, this is what desperation looks like. People don’t spend the time on personal attacks or appeals to leave the race if your candidacy is a “joke.” Despite his unpolished debate performance, Kinky still has momentum and I still predict that he will be the next Governor of the Lone Star State.

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Texas Elections Still Too Confusing For National News Organizations

As we’ve mentioned before, some websites seem to have trouble keeping up with who is running for office in Texas. These errors and omissions seem particularly common when it involves forgetting to list a Libertarian, even when the Republican challenger is not even on the ballot. For example:

If you’d like to bring these errors to the attention of the media organizations who made them, you can write to politics@nytimes.com, GeneralComments@feedback.msnbc.com, and service@nationaljournal.com.

Update by Stephen VanDyke: I actually did some in-depth investigating into this today and called several national media organizations to find out if there was even a lame explanation for this oversight. If you look at their election coverage, you’ll notice with the exception of a stray independent campaign (notably in TX and CT), there’s only the two major parties represented in any race… period.

Washington Post (feedback form): Republican & Democrat only, did not call back.
New York Times (politics@nytimes.com) Republican & Democrat only,
RealClearPolitics (feedback@realclearpolitics.com) powers FoxNews (foxnewsonline@foxnews.com): Republican & Democrat only, claims technical formatting reasons, yet they list 4 in TX Gov
CNN (feedback form): Republican & Democrat only, refused comment
Wall Street Journal House, Gubernatorial & Senate (wsjcontact@dowjones.com): Republican & Democrat only, did not call

Are third party voters on our way to becoming unpersons?

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Libertarian Latham Could Be “Kingmaker” in Salt Lake District Attorney Race

Rob Latham, a former prosecutor in Big Water, UT, is running for the position of Salt Lake District Attorney against a Republican and a Democrat. After an impressive performance at a debate held at the University of Utah, a recent poll puts him at 4%, well more than the margin between his Republican (37%) and Democrat (38%) opponents.

As Latham puts it, “I’m realistic about my prospects in this race, but it appears as though I have a good chance to play the role of kingmaker.” This race is especially interesting, since the incumbent is not seeking reelection, though both of Latham’s challengers are members of the District Attorney’s office staff Sim Gill is a deputy prosecutor in the District Attorney’s office.

UPDATE: Apparently this news report was inaccurate in describing both of Latham’s opponents as working for the incumbent District Attorney.

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Frist Bans Online Gambling Transactions; Millions of Americans Angry

Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) pushed through a last-minute addition to the port security bill in the wee hours of Saturday morning that would ban financial transactions that fund “illegal Internet gambling.” By attaching it to a must-pass Port Security bill and holding a voice vote (so none of us can find out where our Senators stand), he was able to pass a law he had tried to ram through twice before.

According to the Washington Post story, the Democrats thought about growing a spine, but didn’t.

Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), whose home-state casinos are split over the Internet gambling measure, briefly weighed scuttling the bill over the provision before agreeing to go along, aides said.

Now why would the House and Senate support a bill like this? Hint: Bill Frist in 2008. Another theory: being tough on gambling will wash away the sins of Abramoff.

House and Senate Republican leaders pushed hard to secure the Internet gambling measure, which some Republicans viewed as a chance to clear their names after they allowed disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff to scuttle a similar measure six years ago.

This is a body blow for online poker, a game enjoyed by 20 million Americans. Party Poker, the largest operator, announced that they will stop accepting U.S. customers as soon as the President signs the law, something expected over the next two weeks.

There is an excellent FAQ on the new legislation in the 2+2 forums. If you want to continue the fight to save this American pastime, check out the Poker Players Alliance.

UPDATE: The Libertarian Party has a press release on the issue.

“This goes beyond the absurd,” exclaimed Shane Cory, executive director of the Libertarian National Committee. “Using the supposed War on Terror in defense of this legislation designed to legislate morality is sickening. Using this same reasoning, Congress should close Vegas as 9/11 Hijacker Mohamed Atta made a least two trips to the ‘City of Sin’ before setting out to murder thousands of Americans.”

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Kinky Friedman Used a Bad Word When I Was in Diapers

Kinky Friedman has a posseNews Flash: Kinky Friedman said the word “nigger” in a stand-up act in 1980. He used an offensive word, 26 years ago, while poking fun at racists. That’s what passes for news in the Texas gubernatorial circus race.

Dear reader, this is what desperation looks like. College kids in Texas carrying the water for a Democratic candidate who has nothing to recommend him to the Texas voter but inanities about “thinking big,” and is polling neck-and-neck with Kinky. Maybe they should have listened to one of his songs (count the ethnic slurs) before coming up with this attack.

Thankfully, Texas voters are pretty damn smart. As the Houston Chronicle story on the brouhaha notes, Kinky came out swinging.

Gary L. Bledsoe, president of the Texas State Conference of NAACP Branches, asked Friedman to apologize in a Friday letter. Friedman said he would “absolutely never” apologize.

“The NAACP, I don’t even want to talk about them. They’re offended about just about everything,” Friedman said.

Friedman spokeswoman Laura Stromberg said sales of his merchandise skyrocketed Thursday and Friday compared with an average day.

John McCall of Uvalde, Friedman’s campaign treasurer, said, “I’ll vote for him anyway. If everything I did in 1980 was on television, it wouldn’t be a pretty picture. Kinky isn’t a racist. … Kinky didn’t go to PC school. If he knew he was going to run for governor, there’s a lot of things he would have done differently.”

Friedman’s currently touring the state with former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, trying to convince college kids to vote for him. Sounds like it’s working:

“I like his ideas,” James McNiff, 18, of Austin, a freshman at Trinity, said. “I think Kinky is definitely what we need. He’s got my vote.”

“I have issues with him,” Kaitlyn Allen, 21, of Houston, a Trinity junior said, criticizing Friedman’s ever-present cigar and language peppered with occasional curse words. “But I think I will vote for him, if nothing else as a statement against the Republicans and Democrats.”

Gratuitous link to a campaign commercial of Kinky getting licked by a cute rescue dog.

Previous Hammer of Truth coverage of the Kinky Friedman campaign here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Someone should check with James Werner about what he was saying in 1980. Probably nothing offensive.

The current governor and the lady with a million last names are also running.

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Bush to Hold White House Talks on Borat

Borat Not talks on Iran or Lebanon or domestic spying or terrorism.

No. Our President is going to hold White House talks on Borat. Because, you know, nothing important is going on in the world.

US President George Bush is to host White House talks on British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen.

Cohen, 35, creator of Ali G, has infuriated the Kazakhstan government with his portrayal of Borat, a bumbling Kazakh TV presenter.

And now a movie of Borat’s adventures in the US has caused a diplomatic incident.

The opening scene, which shows Borat lustily kissing his sister goodbye and setting off for America in a car pulled by a horse, had audiences in stitches when it was first shown last week.

But the film, which has just premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, has prompted a swift reaction from the Kazakhstan government, which is launching a PR blitz in the States.

Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev is to fly to the US to meet President Bush in the coming weeks and on the agenda will be his country’s image.

With his grasp of government priorities, maybe Bush has a future as a Chicago alderman after he leaves office. The only bright side to this is that time spent soothing ruffled Kazakh feathers will be time out from curtailing civil liberties and planning expanded military operations abroad.

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Stop the War on Poker Before it Starts

I play poker on the Internet. It’s a great American game that combines skill, math, and psychology. Unfortunately, scaremongers like Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) are trying to ban this pastime with bills like H.R. 4411, the Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act, which passed the House in July by a 317-93 margin. The Senate bill will be coming up for a vote soon and it’s vital that you let your Senator know that you’re opposed to yet another prohibition on having fun.

The Poker Players Alliance is sponsoring a “phone march on Washington” today that makes it easy for you to contact your Senator. Their news alert:

Your urgent action is needed! On September 12th the Poker Players Alliance with the support of leading poker blogs and forums, PocketFives.com, Wicked Chops Poker and others are organizing a “Phone March” on Capitol Hill. From 9:00 AM Eastern Time, until 5:30 PM Eastern Time on Tuesday, September 12th, we are asking all PPA members and anyone interested in defending poker to call this toll free number, 800-289-1136 and be patched through to one of your two U.S. Senators in Washington D.C. When you call the 800 number you will hear a recording from fellow PPA member Greg “Fossilman” Raymer and then you will be prompted to enter your five digit zip code so you can be directed, free of charge, to your Senator’s office.

Note: The 800 number will only be active between 9:00 AM EST and 5:30 PM EST on Tuesday September 12.

Key points you should make:

* I am voter in your state.
* I strongly oppose any legislation that would prohibit online poker, and urge the Senator to vote against such legislation.
* Poker is a skill game enjoyed by 70 Million Americans.
* The Senator should seek to regulate online poker much like the government regulates other forms of gaming, like lotteries.
* Prohibitions don’t work. Any legislation that tries to ban online poker will only drive those players underground.
* Again, I urge the Senator to oppose any attempts to prohibit me from playing the great American game of poker on the Internet.

The threat to poker is real. Please forward this information to everyone you know who cares about poker and an American’s freedom to use the Internet. We need everyone possible to make their voice heard on September 12th!

Sincerely,

Michael Bolcerek
President
Poker Players Alliance

It takes less than three minutes to call (I just did it). Together we can win a small battle to keep one of the freedoms we still enjoy before mean Mr. Government spoils the fun.

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Ohio Libertarians Beat Blackwell in Court

The Libertarian Party of Ohio has won its lawsuit against Secretary of State Ken Blackwell. Ohio requires that minor political parties (1) file a petition with the Secretary of State 120 days in advance of the general election and (2) nominate their candidates by primary election. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the requirements are unconstitutional together. Congratulations to the Libertarian Party of Ohio on their victory.

Moving the filing deadline closer to the date of the primary or allowing parties to choose their candidates in another manner may impose some additional costs on the state, but this is the price imposed by the First Amendment. Ohio is well within its authority to mandate primary elections, to limit all parties to one primary date, or to require filing a petition in advance of the primary for administrative purposes. Viewed individually, each of these requirements may only impose a reasonable burden on constitutional rights. In practice, however, the combination of these laws imposes a severe burden on the associational rights of the LPO, its members, and its potential voter-supporters. As the State has not shown that these laws are narrowly tailored to protect a compelling state interest, we find that the Ohio system for minor party qualification violates the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Read the full decision here (PDF). (Hat tip: Jonathan Adler)

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Ohio Moves to Register “Sex Offenders” Without Trial

In a bold (and probably unconstitutional) move, a committee from Ohio’s legislature moved forward with a plan to place people in a sex offender registry without being criminally convicted of a sex offense. (Hat tip: Peter B.)

A recently enacted law allows county prosecutors, the state attorney general, or, as a last resort, alleged victims to ask judges to civilly declare someone to be a sex offender even when there has been no criminal verdict or successful lawsuit.

The rules spell out how the untried process would work. It would largely treat a person placed on the civil registry the same way a convicted sex offender is treated under Ohio’s so-called Megan’s Law.

The person’s name, address, and photograph would be placed on a new Internet database and the person would be subjected to the same registration and community notification requirements and restrictions on where he could live.

Hey, nobody likes sex offenders, but that’s why we have a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard for criminal convictions in this country. the stigma of being a convict is so high that it’s better that “better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer“. This Ohio proposal considers sex offenses so heinous that people ought to be punished for them even if the state can’t prove they actually committed them.

Since the new registry would be civil, it’s subject to the same lower burden of proof that lost Emiliano Gomez Gonzolez his $124,700 in U.S. Currency.

I guess Ohio is following the Federal lead in taking due process protections from Americans. No updates on that from the mainstream media, though Daniel Pipes says that barring Jaber and Muhammad Ismail (both U.S. citizens) from returning home is A-OK, claimiing that denying them the right to return “suggest[s] a possible conceptual breakthrough, signaling that the American government sees the “nationality” of radical Islam to be incompatible with American citizenship.”

To get a reading on the feds’ legal basis, I turned to a former chief of the national security section for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Miami, William West. “It is a rare decision, but within the legal pale,” he explained to me.

Section 215 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 USC 1185 allows for the “˜travel control’ of the entry and departure of citizens. U.S. citizens use their passports only within the rules, regulations, and proscriptions as issued and decided by the president. Travel restrictions on U.S. citizens are seldom utilized (and usually to keep criminal or national-security suspects from fleeing). The law, however, does also allow for entry control.”

Funny thing, I’ve read that section of the code (linked above) and it doesn’t say anything about excluding U.S. citizens holding valid passports. Maybe William West has a different copy.

Doesn’t it make you feel better to know that Ohio is harshly punishing alleged sex offenders, the Feds can seize a large chunk of cash for no reason, and the Department of Homeland Security can keep you from coming home based on your religion?

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FBI Bars U.S. Citizens From Coming Home

According to the New York Times:

Federal authorities have prevented two relatives of a father and son convicted recently in a terrorism-related case from returning home to California from Pakistan unless they agree to be interviewed by the F.B.I.

It is unclear whether the men, Muhammad Ismail, 45, and his son Jaber, 18, have a direct connection to the terrorism case or if they have been caught up in circumstance.

“They’ve been given the opportunity to meet with the F.B.I. over there and answer a few questions, and they’ve declined to do that,” Mr. Scott said through a spokeswoman, Mary Wenger.

While the men are relatives of a person convicted of terrorism, they have been charged with no crime and are being forced to waive their Constitutional rights or be denied entry back into their country. Imagine, you’re on vacation overseas and your cousin blows up a building somewhere. You don’t know this cousin well, but the FBI thinks you might know more, so they tell you that you can’t come home until you talk with them, without a lawyer and still overseas. How would you feel about that?

Maybe these guys are bad people. Maybe they’re terrorists. However, they’re also American citizens and cannot have their rights taken without due process of law. Charge them, indict them, subpoena them, but don’t make them into refugees.

See the San Francisco Chronicle story (thanks Carl H.), and Eugene Volokh’s post on the story for more coverage.

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Lieberman Invokes Godwin’s Law

Lieberman - libertarian rumorsJoe “Rove Lover” Lieberman made his first campaign appearance as candidate for the Connecticut for Lieberman party (“in Soviet Russia, the Democratic Party Connecticut works for you!”) today and immediately invoked Godwin’s Law. From the Boston Herald story:

U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, in his first campaign appearance since launching his independent re-election campaign, likened terrorists to Nazis and called for Republicans and Democrats to work together to combat them.

Not at all shy of making political hay out of an averted tragedy that was all over the news, Lieberman asked,

How the heck can we be in a battle in which we are fighting as Democrats and Republicans against each other when these terrorists certainly don’t distinguish based on party affiliation? They want to kill any and all of us.”

Gosh, I wonder if Senator Lieberman’s disdain for party affiliations has something to do with him having been rejected by the two major parties and forming his own party (so he could get a better ballot position) ? Sour grapes? Nah.

He moves on to question why Ned “The Netroots Millionaire” Lamont wants to strengthen terrorists:

“If we just pick up like Ned Lamont wants us to do, get out by a date certain, it will be taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England. It will strengthen them and they will strike again.”

I haven’t seen a more clumsy attempt to connect an unrelated person to a terrorist plot than…let me see…Joe’s kissing partner‘s ham-handed attempt to connect Saddam Hussein with 9/11. With talking points like these, it sounds like Karl Rove’s already running his campaign.

For those who enjoy train wrecks, it might not be too late to support Libertarians for Lieberman.

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New York’s Out of Touch With Texas

Texas FlagOr at least the New York Times interactive 2006 Election Guide is. While the Flash-based tool has some great navigation and layout features, it’s a little bit lacking in one area: accurate poll numbers and candidate listings.

Now it’s no secret that I’m pretty interested in politics and I’m very interested in the Texas gubernatorial race. We’ve been covering the insurgent campaign of Kinky Friedman and the drive for Libertarian candidate James Werner to get some respect from the establishment. So naturally, I checked the Texas governor page in the handy-dandy interactive map. You know what it said?

Recent polls

Blum and Weprin (Feb. 9-15)
Perry: 36%
Bell: 19%
Strayhorn: 16%

See it for yourself here . No mention of either Friedman or Werner. No mention of all the other polls taken since February.

The New York Times welcomes feedback at webmedia@nytimes.com, but have yet to correct the page after two emails from me. Perhaps they need some more feedback from our readers.

Update by Nicholas Sarwark: I just received a reply from the New York Times, excerpted below.

Thanks for your notes. I meant to write back before but the reason we don’t feature those other polls is that the Times has very stringent requirements for which polls that we use and Rasmussen doesn’t measure up because its methodology is unreliable. I’ll keep watching for other polls as they come out.

Good to know they listen to feedback, but I’m surprised that nobody has done a poll they consider “reliable” since February.

Update 2 by Nicholas Sarwark:
Ben Werschkul emailed me to clarify:

the reason we don’t use Rasmussen is that they use “interactive voice response” polls, also known as “robo-polls,” which employ an automated, recorded voice to call respondents who are asked to answer questions by punching telephone keys. Anyone who can answer the phone and hit the buttons on the keypad can respond to the survey.

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RLC Founder Urges Libertarians to Board “Joementum” Train Wreck

Lieberman - libertarian rumorsAccording to the latest polls, Joe “Kissy Face” Lieberman is running over 10 points behind Ned “Kos-Approved” Lamont in the Connecticut Democratic primary race for Senate. Barring a miracle, Joe Lieberman will not be the Democratic nominee. However, the taller half of “Sore/Loserman 2000” has indicated that he will run as an independent for the seat after a trouncing by his own party.

Now, why should Lieberman’s sour grapes independent run, which may have cost him the primary in the first place, matter to libertarians? According to Eric “Master Shake” Dondero Rittberg, liberventionist gadfly and founder of the Republican Liberty Caucus (their motto: “he promised to stop beating us if we stay and work it out”), Lieberman is “one of the ONLY decent Democrats in the Nation” and deserves libertarian support. Not only that, he’s pimping Libertarians for Lieberman on various email lists and encouraging people to call him on his cell phone to help.

Leaving aside for a second that Lieberman is pro-war, pro-censorship, and pro-government intervention (especially since the last Presidential candidate Rittberg endorsed was all of those things), haven’t we libertarians learned a painful lesson about endorsing defectors from the major parties? Not only is Lieberman not a libertarian, I’m predicting that after the polls close in Connecticut tonight, he’s also going to be a loser.

While some rightly criticize our willingness to lose while clinging to our principles, Rittberg would have us abandon our principles to lose with a loser who’s abandoned his.

Update by Stephen VanDyke: RLC Secretary Thomas Sewell commented:

I can tell you categorically that Rittberg is not an officer, spokesman or otherwise entitled to speak on behalf of the RLC. Please attribute his views solely to him, not to the RLC.

Ouch…

Update by Nicholas Sarwark: As predicted, Lieberman lost and he’s gonna pick up his sour grapes and try to run as an Independent. It’s a gutsy move, but all of the bigtime Dems he got to stump for him in the primary are very unlikely to support him now that Ned Lamont has been selected as the Democratic nominee.

Update by Nicholas Sarwark: Looks like Rittberg is in good company in backing Lieberman’s bid.

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Chicago Aldermen: Banning Is “Hard Work”

Reader Mike Gallagher tipped us to an article that notes that in their rush to ban foie gras, smoking, trans-fats, and pretty much anything else fun, the Chicago aldermen didn’t forget to give themselves a raise.

A number of aldermen Monday stressed that their jobs are not simple 9-to-5, five-day-a-week gigs.

“I had to work every day this weekend, and I’m working in the evening,” said Ald. Freddrenna Lyle (6th), defending the pay raise to reporters after the vote. “A constituent called me at 11:48 last night. I can’t speak for all 50 aldermen, but as a general proposition, I know that I work very, very hard.

“It is an all-encompassing job,” Lyle added. “I live in my job…. My neighbors can knock on my door any time of the day–and they do.”

“We work very hard,” said Ald. Isaac Carothers (29th). “I work very hard. I work six, seven days a week. Look at the 29th Ward. The 29th Ward looks better than it ever has since I’ve been alderman. We give very good service here.”

Looks like they’re taking their cues from another public servant who likes to stress that his job is “hard work”. Hell, if John Ashcroft’s speaker’s fee can get bumped for the amount of damage he did to the Constitution, the Chicago Aldermen probably should get a raise for the number of fun things they can ban. Number of bans must be the measure of their performance, since the Aldermen are already overpaid compared to other big cities.

On average, Chicagoans per capita are paying nearly three times what residents of New York and Los Angeles are for the salaries of their public servants, noted Lise Valentine, vice president and director of research for the Civic Federation, a local budget watchdog.

“It begs the question, are the Chicago ward constituents getting three times better representation, three times better services and more efficiencies?” Valentine said. “I don’t have the answer to that, but I think it’s important for residents to ask those questions, particularly in an election year.”

If I lived in Chicago, I’d be offering them a raise to do less hard work and more to protect my freedoms.

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Trans-Fats or Torture?

fat kidsAlderman Edward M. Burke wants to ban trans-fats from all Chicago restaurants, having already succeeded in banning smoking indoors (though he would like to ban it in cars and at the beach, too) and foie gras.

“If it were just about adults, I would say, “O.K., we should butt out,’” Mr. Burke said in an interview. “But youngsters are assuming diets that are unhealthy.”

And if the City Council had agreed to simply steer clear of peoples’ bad habits, said Mr. Burke, an influential alderman who long pushed to ban smoking in indoor public spaces, Chicago might never have passed the smoking ban that went into effect this year (it gives taverns and restaurants with bars until 2008 to comply). “We may be the last civilized city in the world to ban it,” he said.

Ah yes, it’s for the children. Of course, that makes everything okay.

Also in the news, investigators have confirmed that Chicago cops tortured and abused suspects in custody, but they can’t be held criminally liable because the statute of limitations has run out.

Prosecutors Robert D. Boyle and Edward J. Egan said they found evidence that police abused at least half of the 148 suspects whose cases were reviewed. Nearly all of the suspects were black.

The suspects said that police beat them, played mock Russian roulette, administered electric shocks with a cattle prod-like device and a crank-operated “black box.”

I think we can salvage this lack of clear priorities. Maybe the officers that did the torturing can do some community service by visiting a certain busybody alderman and asking him to stop meddling in Chicagoans personal lives.

Nicely, of course, and without any beatings or electric shocks.

If you feel the need to ask Alderman Edward Burke to stay the hell out of Chicagoans personal affairs, his contact information is here

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Portland: Looking Back and Looking Forward

It’s been almost a week since my red-eye flight back from Portland following the Libertarian National Convention. I wanted to take the time to see the various reactions before writing again about the convention.

Congratulations to Chuck Moulton on his election to Vice Chair of the LNC. I’m sure he’ll do a good job for the entire Party over the next two years. Thank you to all of the Party members and activists who made it out to Portland; I know it’s a long flight and a busy time and I appreciate the dedication of those who made the sacrifice.

Now, this next is going to seem a little harsh. To all of you who are either bitching about how the platform was gutted, or about how you weren’t able to eliminate the pledge, or other complaints about how much stuff got screwed up in Portland: Please shut up. Most of the loudest complaints are coming from those who couldn’t be bothered to attend; watching Monday morning quarterbacks interpret the goings on halfway across the country from blog entries and news stories is kind of entertaining, or would be if it wasn’t so damn destructive.

While I’m on the topic of asking people to shut up, everyone who’s been starting their comments with “We’ll never be politically successful until we _______,” please stop. While scrapping the pledge/watering down a plank/cleaning up our candidates/raising dues/dropping dues/being radical/being moderate may all be necessary conditions (or not), I assure you that not a single one of them are sufficient conditions for political success. Political success comes from credible, charismatic candidates speaking to the voters about issues that matter to them and doing so in a way that resonates better than their opponents. I would argue that that can be done no matter what’s in the platform or the pledge or any of this other wonkery that seems to fascinate “Internet libertarians” so much.

Here’s my take on the convention, as one of the most active participants in the floor debate: It was neither a victory for the “reformers,” nor a victory for the “purists.” Rather, it was a victory for the Libertarian Party. The delegates who came together in Portland were able to share their sometimes conflicting viewpoints and make the decisions they thought would be best for the Libertarian Party and for the people of this country. While there was conflict, it was mostly civil. I saw little gloating or personal attacks, something I wish I could say about the blogosphere in the days after Portland.

Someone pointed out that we should always remember when at Libertarian conventions or meetings that “the enemies of liberty are outside the room.” That was taken to heart in Portland, but has been forgotten by a lot of “libertarians” in the psedonymity of the Internet. As I said above, I wish those people would shut up.

I am not a “reformer.” I believe in the Arizona model, where principled libertarianism can yield real-world political results. That said, I think that the modifications to the platform are good ones. The revised planks speak the same message in much better words. As to the “gutting,” we’ve had few (if any) deletions of platform planks in the 35 years of the Libertarian Party’s existence. While I might not have deleted as many planks as the convention chose to do, it’s good to clean house once in a while. We still have our statement of principles and we’re still able to form libertarian positions on any issue for a campaign or a candidate. As long as we don’t lose sight of that core belief, that individuals have a right to be free, I think we’ll do just fine.

I’m not a “purist.” I believe that it’s more important to make progress towards Liberty than continually rant about how great things would be in a mythical “pure Libertarian society.” I don’t think that the LRC is a bunch of neo-con Republicans trying to infiltrate the LP to destroy it from the inside. While the “purists” have some incredible rhetoriticians, they should save their verbal barbs for the people “outside the room,” rather than using their energy on intra-Party warfare.

In summation, we’re all Libertarians and we all have value to the Party. We all want to do what we think is best for advancing the cause of liberty, and sometimes we disagree about what that is. However, the real Libertarians don’t take their ball and go home, they stick with the Party and the cause despite losing one convention battle, because they care about liberty above all else. If you care more about “winning control” of the Party than winning liberty for America, I’d like to ask you a favor: Please leave and join one of our enemies. Real Libertarians don’t have time for that bullshit.

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LP Convention: The Pledge Lives, Dues Return for “Sustaining Members”

A quick recap of Saturday and a preview of Sunday.

The motion to scrap the current membership pledge and replace it with less stringent language failed to get the 2/3 majority required for adoption. A substitute motion that would have required members to support lower taxes, greater liberty, and smaller government recieved support from about half the delegates, but still not the required 2/3 for adoption.

A motion was offered that would have significantly lowered the threshold for bringing a decision of the LNC to the Judicial Committee for review. The proposal from the bylaws committee would have allowed for an appeal to be brought by: 5% of the delegates to the last convention or 10% of the state party chairs, or 20% of the current LNC. This threshold would have given the Judical Committee an effective veto over any vote of the LNC if just 4 LNC members wanted it. The debate on this was postponed until after we dealt with the dues issue.

The convention adopted language that creates “sustaining members,” with those being people who have donated over $25 in the last year. Close observers will note that that definition is similar to dues-paying members. This gives us the big tent of zero dues while still requiring some tangible commitment before someone can actually run the party. A sensible compromise.

Returning to the judicial committee change, after a lot of floor debate, the appeal process was changed to require 3% of the “sustaining members” to request an appeal of an LNC decision by the judicial committee. A slightly lower threshold than before, but still high enough to keep it from being a political body.

Most of the platform committee recommendations were adopted, resulting in significantly better language for the planks that were worked on. After a late tabulation of the platform retention ballots, it appears that 44 planks were rejected and will have to be voted on this morning (a platform plank has to be rejected twice for elimination). Should make for an interesting morning.

The LNC Chair race is pretty tight. George Phillies wants to institute the plans he’s been proposing for the past six years and showed a sneak peek of a libertarian community site a la Daily Kos that Seth Cohn built for him. Ernest Hancock wants to shake up the party by supporting lots of activism and standing proud of our libertarian beliefs instead of running from them. Bill Redpath wants to do politics and fix the ballot access and electoral reform problems that sap our energy. Bill appears to be the front runner, but after the Badnarik nomination, I’m not calling anything early. I’m confident that any one of the three would do a fine job at the helm (it’s not like we have much place to go but up).

In an hour, we’re going to vote on whether to ditch those 44 platform planks and elect LNC officers, so I’m gonna get some more coffee and get down to the floor to continue saving/smashing (depending on your view) our Party.

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Libertarian National Convention Update

The Libertarian National Convention is starting this morning in Portland, Oregon at the Hilton. The past two days have held platform and bylaws committee meetings as well as the last meeting of the outgoing Libertarian National Committee (LNC) and various informal caucuses.

Current LNC Chair Michael Dixon has withdrawn his candidacy for re-election, leaving Ernest Hancock, George Phillies, and Bill Redpath in the race. The Vice Chair race is being fought by M Carling and Chuck Moulton, with rumors of a third candidate entering late.

The Libertarian Reform Caucus held yesterday afternoon had a significant number of attendees, though it’s not clear how many people in the room were supporters and how many were just interested in seeing what the fuss was about. Rumors about the LRC plans include abolishing between 35 and 39 planks of the platform outright and repealing the pledge.

Bob Barr gave a stirring breakfast speech in which he challenged the Libertarian Party to fight for issues that are at the core of freedom, rather than “nibbling at the edges.” When I asked him afterwards whether he felt that the actions of the current President were sufficient to justify articles of impeachment, he said he had not taken a position in this debate, but clearly the actions of President Bush would justify impeachment.

Attendence looks to be in the 350-500 range, with a broad range of exhibitors and speakers. The combination of an off-year and Portland’s location account for the reduction in attendence from the immediate past convention in Atlanta, which attracted closer to 1000 attendees.

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Ehrlich Appoints Gay, Fires Gay Basher

gay, gay, gayRobert Ehrlich (R), governor of Maryland, has been reaching out to the gays (and their friends, the Democrats) in advance of his race against Martin O’Malley in November.

First, he fired Robert J. Smith from the Washington Metropolitan Transit Agency for criticizing homosexuals living lives of “sexual deviancy” on cable TV.

“Robert Smith’s comments were highly inappropriate, insensitive and unacceptable,” the Republican governor said in a statement released by his office.

“They are in direct conflict to my administration’s commitment to inclusiveness, tolerance and opportunity,” the governor said.

Then this week, he made the Baltimore District Court a little more fabulous.

Ehrlich appointed Christopher Panos, 47, a special master in the city Circuit Court family division, to a fill a court vacancy. Panos and his partner of 17 years, Dennis Cashen, are raising a young daughter, Cate.

“This is indicative of social progress within the form of a judicial nomination,” Panos said last night in an interview.

Ehrlich – who says his politics are shaped by a libertarian bent – has tread carefully around gay issues since being elected governor with strong crossover support from Democrats.

I’m sure fellow Marylanders will start going down the litany of things that Ehrlich has done that make him “not a libertarian,” but he’s a hell of a lot more libertarian than this frothy mix of lube and fecal matter (R-PA) who thought a Constitutional gay marriage amendment was the most important thing for the Senate to work on.

“Republican Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania said senators were facing “potentially the greatest moral issue of our time” – the “integrity of the family in America.”

Old conventional wisdom: Libertarians are Republicans who want to smoke pot.
New conventional wisdom: Libertarians are Republicans who don’t hate gays.

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Michigan High Court Should Put Down the Bong

After reading the opinion handed down by the Michigan Supreme Court yesterday holding that people can be prosecuted for driving a vehicle with any amount of 11-carboxy-THC in their bloodstream, I think they’ve got to be high. On second thought, even potheads wouldn’t have written a judicial opinion this bad. With a tortured reading of dictionaries for definitions that agree with their conclusions and a blatant disregard for any sense of equity or justice, they’ve just made anyone who smoked marijuana weeks or months ago into a criminal just for driving a car.pot

Which argument do you find more convincing? Justice Corrigan writing for the four-judge majority?

First, the dissent claims that our interpretation of the statute does not provide an ordinary person with notice of prohibited conduct. To the contrary, the plain language of the statute is clear and unambiguous. MCL 257.625(8) prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle with any amount of a schedule 1 controlled substance in the body. In essence, the statute prohibits a person from driving after smoking marijuana. It is irrelevant that an “ordinary” marijuana smoker allegedly does not know that 11-carboxy-THC could last in his or her body for weeks. It is also irrelevant that a person might not be able to drive long after any possible impairment from ingesting marijuana has worn off. The use of marijuana is classified as a misdemeanor under current law, MCL 333.7404(1) and (2)(d). The Legislature’s prohibition of the operation of a motor vehicle with any amount of marijuana, which explicitly includes derivatives of marijuana, in the body provides more than adequate notice regarding the prohibited conduct. The corollary of this prohibition is that once the schedule 1 substance is no longer in the body, one can resume driving. It is irrelevant that the “ordinary person” cannot determine, without drug testing, when the schedule 1 substance is no longer detectible in the body.

or Justice Cavanagh writing for the dissent?

Plainly, there is no rational reason to charge a person who passively inhaled marijuana smoke at a rock concert a month ago and who now decides to drive to work. There is no rational reason to charge a person who inhaled marijuana two weeks ago and who now decides to drive to the store to pick up a gallon of milk. While I certainly agree with the Legislature’s position that a person should be punished for driving while under the influence of a controlled substance because of the potential for tragic outcomes, the majority’s interpretation of the statute is arbitrary and wholly unrelated in a rational way to the objective of the statute. To say that driving while a person’s system contains any amount of a substance that has no pharmacological effect is a crime””given that under the most conservative estimates offered by the prosecution, the current scientific testing can find evidence of the substance for at least four weeks””is not permissible under the Constitution.

Can you impeach judges in Michigan? At the least, I recommend that every citizen of Michigan call their legislators and get them to amend this statute to undo this mess that Justices Maura D. Corrigan, Clifford W. Taylor, Robert P. Young, Jr., and Stephen J. Markmanthe have created. Is Michigan trying to catch up with Georgia in making stupid laws?

Hat tip: Jacob Sullum at Hit & Run.

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Bang Bang Bang, on the Door Baby!

SWAT raid - file photoFor 90 years, the Supreme Court has upheld the B-52s’ dictum when it comes to searches conducted by police. Today, they decided that it’s okay for cops to just bust it down, especially if protecting your civil liberties might let bad folks stay out of jail. Let me explain how we all get to bend over and take one for the team.

The knock and announce rule basically requires that police offices knock and announce themselves when executing a search warrant, unless there’s probable cause to believe that doing so would result in the destruction of evidence, e.g. people flushing drugs or bookies destroying records. Failure to do so may be unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment, and trigger the exclusion of the evidence.

At the time of the framing, the common law of search and seizure recognized a law enforcement officer’s authority to break open the doors of a dwelling, but generally indicated that he first ought to announce his presence and authority. In this case, we hold that this common-law “knock and announce” principle forms a part of the reasonableness inquiry under the Fourth Amendment. – Wilson v. Arkansas, 514 U.S. 927 (1995)

Today’s ruling technically doesn’t change any of that. Cops still have to knock and announce. All today’s ruling does is say that the cops don’t lose the evidence if they break the rules. The upshot of the court’s reasoning is (a) the cops would have found the gun and drugs if they had executed the warrant properly and (b) police misconduct shouldn’t prevent the government from using evidence obtained by busting a door down. As to the person who’s had his door busted down, Justices Kennedy and Scalia say that he can go pound sand file a civil claim against the police.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, a moderate, joined the conservatives in most of the ruling. He wrote his own opinion, however, to say “it bears repeating that it is a serious matter if law enforcement officers violate the sanctity of the home by ignoring the requisites of lawful entry.”

Kennedy said that legislatures can intervene if police officers do not “act competently and lawfully.” He also said that people whose homes are wrongly searched can file a civil rights lawsuit.

And Scalia wrote that there are public-interest law firms and attorneys who specialize in civil rights grievances.

I love how Kennedy joins an opinion that eviscerates the knock-and-announce rule, but writes a concurrence to say that he doesn’t mean to do that. The majority ruling is what makes the law, his mealy-mouthed concurrence is just so much hand-washing to assuage his conscience.

The cops still have to knock and announce, but now they’re on their honor (or the very weak threat of a successful civil rights action). Maybe this decision won’t lead to an increase in the number of doors busted down by police, but I think the smarter bet is to buy some stock in Home Depot and the company that makes those cool SWAT team battering rams.

UPDATE by Stephen Gordon: Associate Justice Stephen Breyer cited (see page 10) Radley Balko in his dissent.

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Bush Should Heed Reagan’s Advice

President Bush is in some serious hot water over the NSA spying programs, so much so that his approval rating is down to 29-35% (depending on which poll you look at). Now I’m no fan of this lawless Administration, but it would do the President good to take the advice of a previous Oval Office occupant.

I expect a covert policy that, if Americans saw it on the front page of their newspaper, they’d say, “That makes sense.” -Ronald Reagan, March 4th, 1987

That sums up everything that’s wrong with these NSA programs. You can write thousands of words debating the legality of the program, and Orin Kerr has done just that, but it still won’t make sense.

When the NSA refuses to seek a FISA warrant or an opinion from the Department of Justice about the legality of a program, that sure as hell sounds like it’s illegal. Hiding behind the “voluntary” turning over of millions of call records may mean something in court (if this ever gets to court), but what it means to me is that this Administration is willfully breaking laws that they don’t like.

Millions of Americans want to be safer from terrorism and a large majority are willing to give up their civil liberties to do so. All the President has to do is make the case for what powers he should have to fight terrorism, propose laws that allow him those powers, and get Congress to pass them. Look at the overwhelming support for the PATRIOT Act, it’s not that hard. When the President fails to do something that easy, it makes me suspect that there is no persuasive case for him having these powers, any more than there was for a previous President.

Now, instead of coming clean with America, the President has a new strategy to bring those poll numbers up: Sending thousands of national guard troops to the Mexican border, waving a magic wand and declaring Libya to no longer be a state sponsor of terrorism (not like bad old Iran), and sending his wife out to defend him.

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