Saturday, September 26, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Day the SWAT Team Came Crashing Through My Door

I remember thinking, as I kneeled at gunpoint with my hands bound on my living room floor, that there had been a terrible, terrible mistake.

An errant Prince George's County SWAT team had just forced its way into our home, shot dead our two black Labradors, Payton and Chase, and started ransacking our belongings as part of what would become a four-hour ordeal.

The police found nothing, of course, to connect my family and me to a box of drugs that they had been tracking and had delivered to our front door. The community -- of which I am mayor -- rallied to our side. A FedEx driver and accomplice were arrested in a drug trafficking scheme. Ultimately, we were cleared of any wrongdoing, but not before the incident drew international outrage.

This was 14 months ago. We have since filed suit, and I am confident that we will find justice more quickly than most.

Yet, I remain captured by the broader implications of the incident. Namely, that my initial take was wrong: It was no accident but rather business as usual that brought the police to -- and through -- our front door.

In the words of Prince George's County Sheriff Michael Jackson, whose deputies carried out the assault, "the guys did what they were supposed to do" -- acknowledging, almost as an afterthought, that terrorizing innocent citizens in Prince George's is standard fare. The only difference this time seems to be that the victim was a clean-cut white mayor with community support, resources and a story to tell the media.

What confounds me is the unmitigated refusal of county leaders to challenge law enforcement and to demand better -- as if civil rights are somehow rendered secondary by the war on drugs.

Let me give you three specific concerns underscored by our case.

First, the Prince George's Police Department's internal affairs function is broken. When the Justice Department released the county police from federal supervision in February, internal affairs was the one area that was not cleared. Internal affairs division (IAD) investigations were required to take no longer than 90 days. More than a year after our ordeal, my family awaits the IAD report on what happened at our home. The statute of limitations for officer misconduct is 12 months, which means that any wrongdoers are off the hook.

Next, there is significant evidence that the county is broadly violating the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure. After initially claiming that they had a "no-knock" warrant to forcibly enter our home, county police acknowledged that they did not have one. But they went on to contend that there is no such thing as a "no-knock" warrant in Maryland. But this isn't true. A statewide "no-knock" warrant statute was passed in 2005. Effectively, the county is denying the existence of state law. We can't get the county to say whether it has ever followed the law or, at a minimum, even acknowledges it.

Finally, and perhaps most disturbing of all, county police may be lying to cover up their civil rights violations. A county officer on the scene told Berwyn Heights police a fabricated tale to justify the warrantless entry into our home. The lie disappeared after police learned that I was the mayor. Charges of a police coverup are hardly unusual, but there is significant evidence that county law enforcement engaged in a conspiracy on our lawn to justify an illegal entry. Nothing strikes at the heart of police credibility like creative report writing and false testimony to cover up a lie or even put innocent people behind bars. Swift and serious consequences are the best deterrent.

In fairness, some good has come from the incident. State leaders have passed legislation that will provide statewide oversight of SWAT teams -- a first-in-the-nation law that will shine a light on the troubling trend of paramilitary policing.

Yet, the wagons have circled in Upper Marlboro. The response is textbook: Law enforcement stands its ground and concedes no wrongdoing -- and elected officials bury their heads in the sand.

As an imperfect elected official myself, I can understand a mistake -- even a terrible one. But a pattern and practice of police abuse treated with utter indifference rips at the fabric of our social compact and virtually guarantees more of the same.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Real Astroturf

click on each arm to see what hand they play in the whole net neutrality issue.

Freedom Watch

Friday, September 11, 2009

Anne Wortham

Fellow Americans,

Please know: I am Black; I grew up in the segregated South. I did not vote for Barack Obama; I wrote in Ron Paul's name as my choice for president. Most importantly, I am not race conscious. I do not require a Black president to know that I am a person of worth, and that life is worth living. I do not require a Black president to love the ideal of America.

I cannot join you in your celebration. I feel no elation. There is no smile on my face. I am not jumping with joy. There are no tears of triumph in my eyes. For such emotions and behavior to come from me, I would have to deny all that I know about the requirements of human flourishing and survival - all that I know about the history of the United States of America, all that I know about American race relations, and all that I know about Barack Obama as a politician.

I would have to deny the nature of the "change" that Obama asserts has come to America.

Most importantly, I would have to abnegate my certain understanding that you have chosen to sprint down the road to serfdom that we have been on for over a century. I would have to pretend that individual liberty has no value for the success of a human life. I would have to evade your rejection of the slender reed of capitalism on which your success and mine depend. I would have to think it somehow rational that 94 percent of the 12 million Blacks in this country voted for a man because he looks like them (that Blacks are permitted to play the race card), and that they were joined by self-declared "progressive" whites who voted for him because he doesn't look like them.

I would have to wipe my mind clean of all that I know about the kind of people who have advised and taught Barack Obama and will fill posts in his administration - political intellectuals like my former colleagues at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

I would have to believe that "fairness" is the equivalent of justice. I would have to believe that man who asks me to "go forward in a new spirit of service, in a new service of sacrifice" is speaking in my interest.. I would have to accept the premise of a man that economic prosperity comes from the "bottom up," and who arrogantly believes that he can will it into existence by the use of government force. I would have to admire a man who thinks the standard of living of the masses can be improved by destroying the most productive and the generators of wealth.

Finally, Americans, I would have to erase from my consciousness the scene of 125,000 screaming, crying, cheering people in Grant Park, Chicago irrationally chanting "Yes We Can!" Finally, I would have to wipe all memory of all the times I have heard politicians, pundits, journalists, editorialists, bloggers and intellectuals declare that capitalism is dead - and no one, including, and, especially Alan Greenspan, objected to their assumption that the particular version of the anti-capitalistic mentality that they want to replace with their own version of anti-capitalism is anything remotely equivalent to capitalism.

So you have made history, Americans. You and your children have elected a Black man to the office of the president of the United States , the wounded giant of the world. The battle between John Wayne and Jane Fonda is over - and that Fonda won. Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern must be very happy men. Jimmie Carter, too. And the Kennedys have at last gotten their Kennedy look-a-like. The self-righteous welfare statists in the suburbs can feel warm moments of satisfaction for having elected a Black person.

So, toast yourselves: 60s countercultural radicals, 80s yuppies and 90s bourgeois bohemians. Toast yourselves, Black America . Shout your glee Harvard, Princeton , Yale, Duke, Stanford, and Berkeley. You have elected, not an individual who is qualified to be president, but a Black man who, like the pragmatist Franklin Roosevelt, promises to - Do Something! You now have someone who has picked up the baton of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. But you have also foolishly traded your freedom and mine - what little there is left - for the chance to feel good.

There is nothing in me that can share your happy obliviousness.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Why Obama’s Address to Schoolchildren Is Objectionable

As I read the many editorial columns and articles in support of Obama’s speech, I can see that many writers are very upset and emotional over criticism of Obama’s action. They also are clueless concerning the reasons why his address is unwelcome. They are name-calling. They are not bothering to mention, much less rebut, the reasoned objections of people like me.

I can at least articulate my reasons for objecting.

Such a speech blurs or crosses several boundaries that I believe there are good reasons to have in place.

The President’s constitutional powers are explicit. They include the "executive Power." They include being "Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States" and a few more listed in the Constitution, including preserving and protecting the Constitution. They do not include addressing schoolchildren.

If the President were to live up to his oath to preserve and protect the Constitution, he would request that Congress repeal all its laws regarding education. Section 8 of Article I lists the powers of Congress. Education is not on that list. So when the President addresses schoolchildren, he breaks his oath in several ways. He does not have that power, and he affirms and solidifies a power assumed by Congress that Congress does not have. The President is failing in his sworn duty. Those who think that the President’s speech is helpfully teaching civics are mistaken. His speech is conveying and confirming anti-civics and anti-Constitutional lessons.

The President is a political leader. He is not in office to be an educator. His duties are clearly laid out, and they do not include educating children. By the same token, the President is not the parent of all these children. He is not their teacher. He is not their religious leader. The reason for these boundaries is so that political figures do not use their power and influence to dominate our social lives.

It is a special danger to liberty and society when national powers are developed. These are powers in which the national leadership directly controls or influences individual citizens, while bypassing or circumventing other local sources of governance and influence such as parents, families, churches, schools, and local governments.

An Obama address to schoolchildren is an instance of the further development of national power and influence. It breaks new ground in the influence of State over society. Public education already is under the influence of objectionable forces, but this establishes a new precedent that can be extended. If one political leader addresses youth, other leaders are more likely to address youth. The content of their speeches can be enlarged. Their influence can be enlarged. Government will be given more play and support than it already has. Such a speech is inescapably political. Such a precedent can eventually lead to further dangerous developments, such as a Presidential Youth or an Obama Youth.

The President is a politician. Any address he might make, no matter how nonpartisan it may seem, is bound to be political. It cannot be neutral. The very fact that he is President and making such a speech will be taken in by school children. He will be conveying his authority to these children, with the blessings of their parents and school teachers. They will be taught by the speech itself, regardless of its content, to look to the national government in matters relating to their lives. After all, is he not addressing them about very personal and civic matters? His speech is necessarily a political act.

The President is the leader of a particular political party, so that the very fact that he is a Democrat who is President and making such a speech influences his listeners. Children grow up to be voting adults.

In any speech, what the President says lies beyond the control of those who allow that speech to enter the classroom. The teachers have control over the subsequent discussion, if they choose to have it. But the President will already have made his impact. Children do not fully possess the capacities to judge political matters.

Will the opposition party demand equal time? Do we want politicians routinely competing with one another for the attention of and influence over children?

The President commands the airwaves. This is a dangerous and influential power when used with adults. Allowing this power to be extended to communication with every child in the country is even more dangerous.

School districts can opt out of the speech. In some districts, children may be allowed to opt out of the speech. These options are good ones. But they do not alter the reasons outlined above for objecting to a president making speeches in schools.

I’d like to add that I have seldom read stronger words in newspapers directed against those who object to Obama’s speechmaking to children. They are being called crackpots. They are being accused of demonizing the President. They are being accused of McCarthyism. They are being accused of being racist, completely insane, and members of the right-wing lunatic fringe.

These attacks are not called for. There are very good reasons to object to Obama’s speech. I’ll sum up the ones that bother me. There are no doubt others, but I have made no attempt to research them and find out what others are thinking on this matter.

1. The speech is beyond the President’s constitutional powers.
2. The President is supporting a national role in education, which also is unconstitutional.
3. The President is not supporting his oath of office, so he is conveying an anti-constitutional message to children.
4. The President is crossing a boundary between the political and social spheres. That boundary is in place in order to control government power and maintain a healthy free society.
5. The President is augmenting national power and influence.
6. The President is starting a new precedent that has dangerous implications.
7. The President’s speech cannot possibly be non-political. The very act itself is politically in furtherance of government and an enhanced government role.
8. The President also leads his party, and that fact may influence children.
9. The President may have an undue influence over children due to his position and power.
10. Will fairness considerations lead to equal time for opposition leaders?
11. Presidential access to communications is dangerous enough without extending it to youth.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Federal Reserve

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Chickens & Cows

The House of Representatives recently passed funding for a new federal mandate that threatens to put thousands of small farmers and ranchers out of business. The National Animal Identification System, known as NAIS, is an expensive and unnecessary federal program that requires owners of livestock – cattle, dairy, poultry, and even horses – to tag animals with electronic tracking devices. The intrusive monitoring system amounts to nothing more than a tax on livestock owners, allowing the federal government access to detailed information about their private property.
In typical Washington-speak, NAIS is “voluntary” – provided USDA bureaucrats are satisfied with the level of cooperation. Trust me, NAIS will be mandatory within a few years. When was the last time a new federal program did not expand once implemented?
As usual, Congress is spending millions of dollars creating a complex non-solution to a very simple problem. NAIS will cost taxpayers at least $33 million for starters.
Agribusiness giants support NAIS, because they want the federal government to create a livestock database and provide free industry data. But small and independent livestock owners face a costly mandate if NAIS becomes law.
Larger livestock operations will be able to tag whole groups of animals with one ID device. Smaller ranchers and farmers, however, will be forced to tag each individual animal, at a cost of anywhere from $3 to $20 per head. And NAIS applies to anyone with a single horse, pig, chicken, or goat in the backyard – no exceptions. NAIS applies to children in 4-H or FFA. Once NAIS becomes mandatory, any failure to report and tag an animal subjects the owner to $1,000 per day fines.
NAIS also forces livestock owners to comply with new paperwork and monitoring regulations. These farmers and ranchers literally will be paying for an assault on their property and privacy rights, as NAIS empowers federal agents to enter and seize property without a warrant – a blatant violation of the 4th amendment.
NAIS is not about preventing mad cow or other diseases. States already have animal identification systems in place, and virtually all stockyards issue health certificates. Since most contamination happens after animals have been sold, tracing them back to the farm or ranch that sold them won’t help find the sources of disease.
More than anything, NAIS places our family farmers and ranchers at an economic disadvantage against agribusiness and overseas competition. As dairy farmer and rancher Bob Parker stated, NAIS is “too intrusive, too costly, and will be devastating to small farmers and ranchers.”
NAIS means more government, more regulations, more fees, more federal spending, less privacy, and diminished property rights. It’s exactly the kind of federal program every conservative, civil libertarian, animal lover, businessman, farmer, and rancher should oppose. The House has already acted, but there’s still time to tell the Senate to dump NAIS. Please call your Senators and tell them you oppose spending even one dime on the NAIS program in the 2007 agriculture appropriations bill.
May 30, 2006
Dr. Ron Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.

I’ll Give Up My Chicken When They Pry It From My Cold Dead Hands

Brush off your philosphy hat and ponder this

The Pathetic Argument for Prohibiting Drunk Driving
by Mark R. Crovelliby Mark R. CrovelliRecently by Mark R. Crovelli: What This Country Needs Is a 'Cash for Clunkers' Program for the Housing Sector

For people who have grown accustomed to having the government monitor, regulate and enforce every facet of their miserable lives, it can be very difficult for them to conceive of the idea of legalizing drunk driving without at the same time picturing in their heads mangled cars, dead babies, and carnage generally. They have been told year after year by the government that created and enforces these laws, that drunk driving is one of the very worst crimes a man can commit, and that, were it not for the government’s ruthless pursuit of these dangerous criminals, there would indeed be unchecked slaughter in the streets.
Any arguments to the contrary, claiming that we could reduce both the incidence and danger of drunk driving by legalizing it, appear completely absurd to these people. They dismiss these arguments out of hand because they have adopted the government’s ridiculous conception of the drunk-driving issue, which looks something like this:
A) Drunk drivers are dangerous, and can kill other drivers
B) The government has outlawed drunk driving, and punishes drunk driving ruthlessly
Ergo, C) The government’s prohibition and punishments do actually reduce the incidence and danger of drunk driving
It does not take a professor of logic, however, to see that this type of argument is fallacious. The conclusion simply does not follow from the premises. We are not entitled to conclude that the government is successfully reducing either the incidence or the danger of drunk driving, just because they have prohibited it and are mercilessly punishing violators. It could be the case that the government’s prohibitions and punishments themselves are actually exacerbating the problem rather than ameliorating it.
The preceding point is exceedingly important, and is worth emphasizing with an analogous example from the so-called "War on Drugs." The federal government takes an analogous position with regard to drug trafficking and consumption, after all. The claim has always been that all the prohibitions and brutal punishments do reduce drug production and consumption (otherwise, what would be the point of the "war"?). Spokesmen for the drug warriors periodically appear in the news claiming that they have just busted a behemoth cocaine or marijuana smuggling ring, and that the bust will be a major blow to drug pushers and consumers. We all know what happens in the real world of drug production once the government cracks down on drugs in some way, however: the market participants adjust to the increased pressure by shifting their base of operation (e.g., from peaceful Caribbean beaches to the blood-drenched calles of Mexico), switching to more concentrated and dangerous drugs to produce and sell to avoid getting caught (e.g., switching from marijuana to cocaine and heroin), and the more vicious risk-takers among the drug producers take market share away from those who fear prison and God if they, say, cut off a police chief’s head.
Needless to say, the mere fact that the government has prohibited certain drugs, and has gone so far as to wage "war" against them, is insufficient to establish that the government is truly reducing drug consumption or production. If anything, the government’s prohibition of and "war" on drugs has itself caused drugs to become more potent, has created a drug gulag system in the United States (that is, ironically, itself rife with drugs) and a mafia state in Mexico – and yet has not reduced anyone’s ability to purchase coke, pot and meth in the slightest degree.
With regard to the drug "war," and all of its obvious failures and disasters, no one with half a brain would think of making an argument claiming that the government is actually reducing drug consumption, just because they have made them illegal and ruthlessly punish offenders. No one would offer an argument, like the one above, claiming:
A) Drug addicts are dangerous, and can kill or hurt themselves and others
B) The government has outlawed consuming or selling drugs, and punishes consumers and sellers ruthlessly
Ergo, C) The government’s prohibition and punishments do actually reduce the incidence and danger of drugs
No one would make such an argument because the conclusion obviously does not follow from the premises. Some sort of further argument or evidence is necessary to establish that the prohibition is working, or else the argument is question-begging. And, once one takes even the slightest peek at the evidence (i.e., the destruction, death and incarceration that the Drug War has delivered to this continent, and the ease with which anyone can buy virtually any drug in any city, school, or prison on this continent), the argument falls apart immediately.
The same ought to be true for what might be aptly called the "War on Drunk Driving." One ought not to simply assume that the government’s prohibitions and medieval punishments actually work to reduce drunk driving – unless there exist good arguments to that effect.
When one looks at the arguments about the efficacy of the government’s war on drunk driving, however, they all point to the opposite conclusion; namely, that the government’s prohibition and punishments are actually making things worse, rather than better. For example, the government’s prohibitions have created incentives for drunk drivers to drive much more dangerously than they otherwise would. They have resulted in a massive loss of income and freedom for hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of Americans who have been arrested, fined and imprisoned for drunk driving without ever hurting anyone. They have created an interlocking structure of incentives that actually encourage drunk driving. They have created a blatantly hypocritical standard for driving on the nation’s roads – with some dangerous drivers let off with a wag of the finger, while others are arrested, fined and incarcerated for doing exactly the same thing; namely, putting other people’s lives at risk. And they have created a police state on the nation’s roads and highways; with Israeli-like random checkpoints, a massive propaganda campaign to intimidate drivers, and mandatory removal of blood from people’s bodies.
The challenge, then, for people who believe in prohibiting drunk driving is to show that these laws do actually reduce drunk driving. Like proponents of drug prohibition, they must be able to show that all of the obvious suffering these laws inflict, billions of lost dollars spent in waging the "war," loss of individual liberties, and counterproductive incentives the laws create have actually reduced drunk driving.
For decades we have been waiting for the drug prohibitionists to give us some similar proof that their favored war has given us some tangible benefits besides millions of men in prison, ever-more potent and dangerous drugs, and a police state run amok. They have failed miserably. So, too, will the proponents of drunk-driving prohibition when we look back on decades of fighting a "war" against our own people, when they have never even hurt any other people.
September 2, 2009
Mark R. Crovelli [send him mail] writes from Denver, Colorado.

What We Choose to Ignore