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By Carlos Miller
Knowing that his actions were being recorded, Steven Jackson of the Prince George’s County Police Department grabbed a 24-year-old man out of his car and punched him twice before tackling him to the ground.
But that didn’t stop Jackson from claiming on his report that it was the man who struck him first, then tackled him into traffic.
Jackson not only proved to be a boldface liar, but a dimwitted idiot as well.
After all, he specifically told Shawn Leake that he was being “visually recorded” during the May 25, 2008 traffic stop.
Didn’t he think a defense attorney would subpoena the tape?
After watching the tape, prosecutors dropped all charges against Leake, including assault on a police officer, reckless conduct and failure to obey a lawful order.
Jackson obviously doesn’t think about the consequences of his overly aggressive actions because three months after this incident, he shot and killed an unarmed man for carrying an open container of beer.
In that incident, Jackson claimed that he “feared for his life” - which has become such a cliche in these unjust killings.
But three witnesses, including Espina’s son, say he was not resisting when he was beaten and shot. An autopsy revealed that Espina suffered blunt force injuries to his face and arms.
Jackson is still on paid administrative leave for the August 16, 2008 shooting, suggesting that the Prince George’s County Police Department is a lot more thorough in its investigations than the Miami Beach Police Department, which allowed an officer to return to duty just four days after shooting an unarmed man - only to kill again.
Or perhaps the Prince George’s County Police Department was just hoping people would forget about the controversial shooting.
Little did they know that Jackson would make the news again for the incident in which he pulled Leake over for having illegal tints.
During the traffic stop, Jackson had some type of issue with Leake’s insurance documents and ordered him to step out of the car.
Leake inquired why he needed to step out of the car, which infuriated Jackson.
“Step out of the car now, or I’ll have you out of the car,” Jackson can be heard saying.
“You yelling, but you have to give me a reason to step out of the car,” Leake replied.
When Jackson grabs and starts yanking him out the car, you can hear Leake saying something about his leg being stuck on the steering wheel.
Jackson punches him twice, then grabs him by his neck and tackles him down where they fall out of frame.
However, Jackson claimed in his report that Leake “immediately took a combative stance and struck me with a closed fist uppercut to my face.”
He also said that Leake “continued to fight me and even tackled me to the ground into the next lane of oncoming traffic.”
Jackson was in such a state of denial that after he handcuffed Leake, he accused him of hitting him.
“You hit me in my [expletive] lip,” Jackson says.”I did not hit you, man,” Leake replies. ‘
“I was trying to get out of the car. My leg was stuck to the thing.”
“Dude, it’s all on tape,” Jackson said.
Leake replies, “You hit yourself when you tried to knock me out.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, though, has this notion that federalizing criminal statutes somehow will send a message that criminals had better not commit hate-related crimes - or else.
What is the or else?
Tougher sentences in meaner prisons?
States, such as Texas, have plenty of laws on the books that compel the harshest penalties possible for a whole array of crimes. Federalization of these crimes makes an important political statement - which plays well with many key constituent groups.
But what is the point?
Holder told the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee that Congress should approve the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, named after a young Wyoming man who was tortured and killed in 1998 because he was gay.
Shepard's death brought horror to the nation, given the manner in which he died. No, he shouldn't have died because of his sexual orientation.
What does a federal statute do that a state law doesn't do?
Shepard's killers would be put to death in Texas and in most of the states. Isn't that sufficient punishment for such a crime?
One would think so.
Most recently, Holder asserted, the killer of a security guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington was motivated by hate for Jews. The suspect is an 88-year-old white supremacist. What should happen to him if he is convicted of the crime for which he is charged? He would receive a harsh sentence - and without the presence of a hate crimes law.
No one should condone hate crimes. But do these categories of crime deserve a new federal law dedicated exclusively to those who commit them?
No. Existing state statutes are quite sufficient.
President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2010 budget request for $2.775 billion in military aid to Israel is proceeding smoothly through the Congress. On June 17 the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs held a “markup” session on the budget. The subcommittee came under pressure from an antiwar group that sought to suspend or condition foreign aid over Israel’s use of U.S. weapons that left 3,000 Palestinians dead during the Bush administration. The subcommittee held its session in a tiny Capitol room, denying activists and members of the press access to determine whether there was any discussion on aid to Israel. The budget quickly passed and is now before the full House Appropriations committee.
Israel enjoys “unusually wide latitude in spending the [military assistance] funds,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Unlike other recipients that must go through the Pentagon, Israel deals directly with U.S. military contractors for almost all of its purchases. This gives the U.S.-based Israel lobby, particularly the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), increased influence on Capitol Hill. Large contractors proactively segment many military contracts across key congressional districts to make them harder to oppose. The military contractor fight for Israel’s favor frees up AIPAC from shepherding the massive aid package to dedicate its considerable resources toward Iran sanctions.
Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.) sponsored an amendment to the foreign operations bill that would prevent the Export-Import Bank of the United States from providing loan guarantees to companies selling refined petroleum to Iran. According to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Kirk is the top 2008 recipient of pro-Israel political action committee (PAC) contributions [.pdf]. Kirk received $91,200 in the 2008 election cycle, bringing his career total thus far to more than $221,000. Kirk’s AIPAC-sponsored sanctions legislation passed the House Appropriations Committee on June 23. While tactically positioned as a rebuke to the crackdown on Iranian election protesters, the measure is only the most recent of a raft of long-term AIPAC-sponsored sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program. Israel contends Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons under the auspices of a civilian program, though no hard evidence has emerged. Yet one illicit nuclear arsenal in the region has been positively identified.
The U.S. Army [.pdf], former president Jimmy Carter, and Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller have all recently confirmed that the only country in the Middle East that has deployed nuclear weapons is Israel. The Symington and Glenn amendments to foreign aid law specifically prohibit U.S. aid to nuclear states outside the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Iran has signed the NPT. Israel hasn’t.
Congress can’t have it both ways on taxpayer-funded sanctions and rewards. If gasoline imports indirectly support Iran’s nuclear ambitions, then $2.775 billion in cash for conventional U.S. weapons and military technology clearly allows Israel to focus on development and deployment of its illicit nuclear arsenal. Recently released CIA files long ago forecast that such an arsenal would not only make Israel more “assertive” but also more reluctant to engage in bona fide peace initiatives. Cutting the massive indirect U.S. subsidization of Israel’s nukes and insisting that Israel sign the NPT would go further in averting a nuclear arms race and conflicts in the region than targeting hapless Iranians at the gas pump. It would also demonstrate to the American public that the president and Congress, even under the pressure of AIPAC, won’t blatantly violate U.S. foreign aid laws by publicly pretending Iran – rather than Israel – is the region’s nuclear hegemon.
By Sherwood Ross
The Central Intelligence Agency crucified a prisoner in Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, according to a report published in The New Yorker magazine.
“A forensic examiner found that he (the prisoner) had essentially been crucified; he died from asphyxiation after having been hung by his arms, in a hood, and suffering broken ribs,” the magazine’s Jane Mayer writes in the magazine’s June 22nd issue. “Military pathologists classified the case a homicide.” The date of the murder was not given.
“No criminal charges have ever been brought against any C.I.A. officer involved in the torture program, despite the fact that at least three prisoners interrogated by agency personnel died as a result of mistreatment,” Mayer notes.
An earlier report, by John Hendren in The Los Angeles Times indicted other torture killings. And Human Rights First says nearly 100 detainees have died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Hendren reported that one Manadel Jamadi died “of blunt-force injuries” complicated by “compromised respiration” at Abu Ghraib prison “while he was with Navy SEALs and other special operations troops.” Another victim, Abdul Jaleel, died while gagged and shackled to a cell door with his hands over his head.” Yet another prisoner, Maj. Gen. Abid Mowhosh, former commander of Iraq’s air defenses, “died of asphyxiation due to smothering and chest compression” in Qaim, Iraq.
"There is no question that U.S. interrogations have resulted in deaths," says Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU. "High-ranking officials who knew about the torture and sat on their hands and those who created and endorsed these policies must be held accountable. America must stop putting its head in the sand and deal with the torture scandal." At least scores of detainees in U.S. custody have died and homicide is suspected. As far back as May, 2004, the Pentagon conceded at least 37 deaths of prisoners in its custody in Iraq and Afghanistan had prompted investigations.
Nathaniel Raymond, of Physicians for Human Rights, told The New Yorker, “We still don’t know how many detainees were in the black sites, or who they were. We don’t fully know the White House’s role, or the C.I.A.’s role. We need a full accounting, especially as it relates to health professionals.”
Recently released Justice memos, he noted, contain numerous references to CIA medical personnel participating in coercive interrogation sessions. “They were the designers, the legitimizers, and the implementers,” Raymond said. “This is arguably the single greatest medical-ethics scandal in American history. We need answers.”
The ACLU obtained its information from the Pentagon through a Freedom of Information suit. Documents received included 44 autopsies and death reports as well as a summary of autopsy reports of people seized in Iraq and Afghanistan. An ACLU statement noted, “This covers just a fraction of the total number of Iraqis and Afghanis who have died while in U.S. custody.” (Italics added).
Torture by the CIA has been facilitated by the Agency’s ability to hide prisoners in “black sites” kept secret from the Red Cross, to hold prisoners off the books, and to detain them for years without bringing charges or providing them with lawyers.
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, denounced the Obama administration for considering “prevention detention,” The New Yorker’s Mayer wrote. Roth said this tactic “mimics the Bush Administration’s abusive approach.”
From all indications, CIA Director Panetta has no intention of bringing to justice CIA officials involved in the systematic torture of prisoners. Panetta told Mayer, “I’m going to give people the benefit of the doubt…If they do the job that they’re paid to do, I can’t ask for a hell of a lot more.”
Such sentiments differ markedly from those Panetta wrote in an article published last year in the January Washington Monthly: “We either believe in the dignity of the individual, the rule of law, and the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, or we don’t. There is no middle ground.”
One way to discern who really runs a country is to look to see which individuals, if any, are above the law. In the Obama administration, like its predecessors, they include the employees of the CIA. Crucifixions they execute in the Middle East differ from those reported in the New Testament in at least one important respect: Jesus Christ had a trial.
CIA Torturers Should Be Held Accountable
U.S. Cannot Move Forward Without Facing the Full Truth of What the Country Has Done
Washington, DC -- A report published in the June 22nd issue of The New Yorker magazine that a prisoner had been crucified by the CIA at the Abu Ghraib prison highlighted the need to apply the rule of law to the U.S. torture program. This issue will be discussed at a press conference at 9:30 on Monday morning at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
Kevin Zeese, who is filing complaints on Monday against three CIA lawyers who facilitated torture said: "The United States must face the reality of the extent of the torture program under the Bush-Cheney administration. War crimes were committed. The toxic poison of torture will not be removed from the body politic unless the rule of law is applied." Zeese said "the filing of complaints against CIA torture lawyers is a first step in ensuring an independent legal review of the U.S. torture program."
According to the New Yorker report authored by Jane Mayer "A forensic examiner found that he (the prisoner) had essentially been crucified; he died from asphyxiation after having been hung by his arms, in a hood, and suffering broken ribs. Military pathologists classified the case a homicide." Mayer further reports "No criminal charges have ever been brought against any C.I.A. officer involved in the torture program, despite the fact that at least three prisoners interrogated by agency personnel died as a result of mistreatment."
One of the lawyers whom Zeese is filing a complaint against is Jonathan Feldman, who is now an attorney in the Obama administration, said "If the detainee dies, you’re doing it wrong." Indeed prisoners have been killed as a result of U.S. torture. Human Rights Watch reports nearly 100 detainees have died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan and many more are unaccounted for.
John Hendren reported in the Los Angeles Times that one Manadel Jamadi died "of blunt-force injuries" complicated by "compromised respiration" at Abu Ghraib prison. Another, Abdul Jaleel, "died while gagged and shackled to a cell door with his hands over his head." Yet another prisoner, Maj. Gen. Abid Mowhosh, former commander of Iraq’s air defenses, "died of asphyxiation due to smothering and chest compression" in Qaim, Iraq.
"The American people do not know the worst of what occurred to people in detention in Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba and other detention centers around the world. The United States needs to face what is has done and can only put torture behind us by holding those responsible accountable for their actions," said Zeese, who is executive director of VotersForPeace.US and on the board of Velvet Revolution. Under the auspices Velvet Revolution Zeese filed one dozen complaints against lawyers who facilitated torture. On Monday he is filing complaints against three CIA lawyers. See www.DisbarTortureLawyers.com for more information.
DETAILS OF PRESS CONFERENCE
WHAT: Press Conference at the National Press Club (NPC) with former Associate Deputy Attorney under President Reagan, Bruce Fein, Shahid Buttar, Director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, a national grassroots organization defending civil liberties eroded by the War on Terror and Velvet Revolution Boardmember and Executive Director of VotersForPeace.US, Kevin Zeese.
WHEN: 9:30AM – 11:00AM, June 29, 2009
WHERE: National Press Club, Murrow Room, 529 14th Street NW; 13th floor, corner of 14th and ‘F’ St.
*National “Disbar Torture Lawyers” Coalition to File Formal Disciplinary Complaints and Call For Dismissal Of ‘Torture Architects’ Top CIA Lawyer, John Rizzo, and DNI lawyer Jonathan Fredman*
Washington, D.C. – On Monday, June 29th at 9:30AM in the Murrow Room of the National Press Club , three prominent D.C. lawyers, including a former Associate Deputy Attorney General under President Reagan, will discuss the legal case against the lawyer architects of a program of torture and cruel and inhumane treatment of detainees held in the custody of the U.S. Government.
The sponsoring coalition, Velvet Revolution, has called for the disbarment of over a dozen lawyers filing formal complaints in five states as part of a national campaign at www.disbartorturelawyers.com.
“On Monday we’ll call for dismissal of two torture architects still working in the Obama administration,” says board member Kevin Zeese, “and we will be calling for the President to keep his campaign commitment to accountability and transparency. Documents and photographs related to the torture program should be de-classified, lawyers who implemented the program still working in government should be dismissed, and a Special Prosecutor should be appointed. The President must uphold the rule of law and State disciplinary committees and courts should disbar these torture lawyers”
As part of a growing international movement demanding accountability for an unlawful program of “enhanced interrogation,” the coalition will be announcing the filing of three additional complaints against current and former CIA lawyers. Two of the lawyers continue to work within the intelligence community under President Obama; John Rizzo is acting General Counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency and Jonathan Fredman is Counsel in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
“These lawyers have no business practicing law, especially under salary in the Federal Government given their involvement in furthering the torture of detainees,” insists Zeese.
Bruce Fein, a former Reagan administration lawyer, and Shahid Buttar, Director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, will join Zeese. They will make introductory remarks outlining applicable U.S. and international law, and mounting evidence of an unlawful conspiracy to commit torture and other inhumane treatment of detainees held by U.S. authorities in detention facilities.
The three additional complaints will be filed next week with the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in New York State and with the District of Columbia Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.
The report on the controversial death of the anti-racist campaigner Blair Peach should finally be published more than 30 years after he died in a demonstration in west London. The commissioner of the Metropolitan police, Sir Paul Stephenson, agreed today that it should be made public after an unanimous call to do so by the Metropolitan Police Authority.
The decision was welcomed by Peach's family and partner, although no date has been set for the release of the report, which looked into allegations that Peach died at the hands of the police. The organisation Inquest, which has campaigned on the issue, expressed concerns that key details might be redacted.
Celia Stubbs, who was Peach's partner, said: "I'm totally bowled over, I was really cynical about it and I really didn't expect a result like this today." She said she felt that recent publicity given to the case by the Guardian, in which it was likened to the death of Ian Tomlinson during the G20 demonstrations on 1 April, had been a factor in the decision.
Jenny Jones, an MPA member, proposed a motion calling on the police to publish the full report, written by the former commander John Cass, before the end of the year. The report has remained secret despite requests for disclosure by Blair's family and friends, and an attempt by them last year to have access to it under freedom of information laws. Inquest has also written to Stephenson supporting the family's call for disclosure of the report, but had no response until today.
Jones told a meeting of the MPA, chaired by London's mayor, Boris Johnson, and with Stephenson in attendance, that the Met had declined to publish the report, suggesting that this was partly for the sake of the family. "It is embarrassing keeping it secret," said Jones. After other members voiced their support for publication, the mayor said it was clear that everyone was in favour of such a move.
"My starting point is a desire to publish," said Stephenson, saying that he aimed to do so "as soon as I possibly can". He said legal advice would have to be taken, but he was committed to such a course. "The reasons [not to publish] would have to be overwhelming not to do so."
Philip Peach, Blair's brother, who was at the meeting, welcomed the decision but said it would now be necessary to see how much of it was released. "I could never understand why it wasn't disclosed originally," he said.
Deborah Coles, co-director of Inquest, said: "The whole basis on which the Cass report has been withheld from the Peach family for 30 years has been widely discredited and yet the secrecy continues. Ian Tomlinson's death at the G20 protest and the similarities between the two cases makes the need to disclose this report even more urgent, and is in both the family and public interest." She said a key issue would be whether the report was published in its entirety.
It was partly as a result of the response to Peach's death and the way it was investigated that Inquest was set up in 1981. "Sadly, the need for the organisation remains as urgent today," said Coles. "Non-disclosure of evidence has been one of the most problematic issues following deaths in custody and has seriously undermined family and public confidence in the police complaints system."
Peach, a teacher and an anti-racist campaigner from New Zealand, died from a blow to the head at a demonstration against the National Front in Southall, west London, in April 1979. Cass was reported to have recommended the prosecution of police officers, but no charges were ever brought.
• This article was amended on 26 June 2009. The original reported the commissioner of the Metropolitan police, Sir Paul Stephenson, as saying that the case for publication of the report on Blair Peach's death was "overwhelming". This has been corrected.
It's official, even though we knew this already: Safford (AZ) Middle School assistant principal Kerry Wilson, administrative assistant Helen Romero, and school nurse Peggy Schwallier are not reasonable people. They will now have to live with the hard-to-expunge infamy that comes with strip-searching a 13-year-old female student on the (unfounded) suspicion that she possessed a few ibuprofen pills, a mild and legal painkiller. I wrote about it here.
The search would have been a sexual assault under almost any other imaginable circumstances; as Popehat noted at the time, "If this had happened anywhere but school, they'd be all be in jail."
In a rare 8-1 Supreme Court decision, the school authorities have finally been slapped upside the head for violating Savana Redding's rights. Justice John Paul Stevens opined
It does not, and it clearly is. In fact, a 13-year-old middle schooler knew it was wrong. We owe Savana Redding a debt of gratitude for seeing this through till the end. With students like her, the future of liberty appears to be in good hands. There's a fine video interview with Savana here. I like the slight smile of her mom. I'd be proud of her too. In fact, I am.
MPs have warned Britain's police chiefs that they must rethink the controversial tactic of "kettling" participants of mass demonstrations.
Members of Parliament's home affairs committee said that it was not acceptable to impose a blanket ban on movement and that peaceful protesters should be allowed to leave.
The findings were contained in a report published by the committee into the G20 protests in the City of London.
More than 35,000 people took to the streets as world leaders met over two days at the beginning of April.
The police have endured a barrage of criticism in the aftermath of the death of newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson, who was hit and pushed to the ground by officers during clashes.
Independent investigators have launched several inquiries after footage of officers lashing out at protesters was caught on camera.
MPs said that images of so-called distraction tactics - shows of controlled violence against hostile individuals - shocked many and could undermine public trust.
They added that "urgent action" was required to ensure officers display identification at all times. Those who do not must face the "strongest possible" disciplinary measures, they said.
Members said that they were also concerned that untrained and inexperienced officers were left in a "highly combustible atmosphere" at the front line of the protests.
The committee added that police should not spend money on water cannons and other equipment to create distance between them and protesters. They said that the money could be better spent on training and planning, adding that police organisers must also work harder to communicate with protest organisers and the media.
Stop The War Coalition convener Lindsey German said: "Kettling is clearly unacceptable and, if it is not already illegal, it should be. The police are treating people like criminals when they have not committed any offence," she said.
Committee chairman Labour MP Keith Vaz said that the basic principle that the police must remember is that protesters are not criminals. The police doctrine must remain focused on allowing protest to happen peacefully, he said.
"In many ways, this was a large protest which passed off remarkably well. But it is clear that concerns about the policing of the G20 protests have damaged the public's confidence in the police and that is a great shame.
"The ability of the public and the media to monitor every single action of the police through CCTV, mobile phones and video equipment should mean they take even greater care to ensure that all their actions are justifiable.
"It is unacceptable for officers not to wear identification numbers at such events and any officers found to be deliberately removing their identification should face the strongest possible disciplinary measures."
The much-anticipated judgment will mean that only three out of the EU's 27 member states will still have to complete formal ratification of the treaty - Poland, the Czech Republic and Ireland.
The former two countries merely need their presidents' signatures on the legislation to finalise the process. Ireland, where voters rejected the Treaty last year, will stage a new referendum in October - with the government increasingly confident of a "Yes" vote this time round after the EU assured Ireland of its independence over taxation, security, defence, abortion, and workers' rights.
Politicians across Europe are now looking forward to a day when the controversial treaty gives the EU more streamlined institutions - with greater central power and, for the first time, a new "President of Europe" to represent all the member states around the world.
In Britain, the government has refused demands for a referendum - despite a pledge in Labour's 2005 general election manifesto to hold a public vote on the Lisbon Treaty's predecessor, the European Constitutional Treaty, which collapsed after being voted down in France and the Netherlands.
Recently, however, it has been the Conservatives who have faced difficulties on the treaty. Both David Cameron and William Hague, the Eurosceptic shadow foreign secretary, have publicly pledged that, even if the treaty completes its ratification process in October with an Irish "Yes" vote, they "will not let matters rest."
Kenneth Clarke, the pro-Brussels shadow business secretary, stirred up a hornets' nest by claiming that his party's "settled policy" was not to reopen the treaty once it became law. His comments led to Mr Cameron privately reassuring Tory backbenchers that the party was not softening its tough line on Europe, as revealed by The Sunday Telegraph last week.
Internal Tory troubles over Europe were also heightened last week when the party announced details of its new allies in a new "anti-federalist" group in the European parliament which sees the Tories sitting alongside politicians from a range of parties - mainly from Eastern Europe - some of which have uncomfortable views on homosexual rights and immigration.
The group represents eight countries - above the seven-nation threshold required to receive funding and staffing from the parliament.
The announcement was made on the same day as the election of the new Speaker of the House of Commons - attracting criticism that Mr Cameron was seeking to divert attention away from his new alliance in Strasbourg.
Last week a Finnish Euro-MP pulled out of the 55-strong grouping, which includes 26 Tories and is expected to be the fourth biggest alliance in the newly elected parliament, because some of its members were "too extreme."
Hannu Takkula told The Sunday Telegraph that his British colleagues were not the problem and added: "Some other groups have policies that are too extreme and policies that are too much against Europe."
Two of the parliamentary grouping's members used to belong to the far-right League of Polish Families, which supports capital punishment, and whose youth wing has been accused of attacking gay rights marches. Another MEP in the group, from Latvia, belongs to a party which supports an annual march commemorating former Latvian members of the Waffen-SS.
While the Tories ponder their uncomfortable new European bedfellows, leaders of some of Europe's separatist movements are celebrating the progress of the treaty towards full ratification. They are convinced that the more powerful the EU's own institutions become, the weaker the nation state - and the stronger the case for granting breakaway regions their independence.
The European Union has always had a strong hold over regional policy - including supplying funding - and regional leaders across the continent sense a fresh shift towards breakaways. Regions will have, for example, powers to challenge decisions at the European Court of Justice for the first time, rights which have so far been the preserve of national parliaments. Some 300 different regions already have offices in Brussels.
As well as these greater powers, the proliferation of even smaller states among some of the EU's newer members - including Slovakia and Slovenia - is encouraging those fighting for local independence elsewhere.
The Sunday Express has an editorial praising Antony Worrall Thompson's support for our new campaign to amend the smoking ban:
It's great news that Antony Worrall Thompson is making a stand for common sense on cigarettes. The Government ban on smoking is forcing the closure of six pubs a day. Clubs and restaurants are also suffering while the number of smokers shows no decline and the health of the nation is unchanged.
Thompson’s campaign has backing from MPs from the three main parties and the group is ﬁghting for reform when the law is reviewed next year. They’re asking for rooms in pubs and clubs to be set aside for smokers. It is a simple, sensible voluntary move that would improve our right to choose without damaging the health of others.
In a separate article, the paper reports:
Mr Worrall Thompson, who smokes 20 cigarettes a day, is one of Britain’s most prominent smoking campaigners. Though he admits that it is not a habit he is proud of, he says the issue is about liberty and free choice.
He claims that the Labour government chose to implement the most draconian smoking ban available, despite warnings about the dire economic and social consequences such a move could have.
“Why is it that on the Continent, governments gave bar owners a choice? In Spain, premises which are smaller than 100m square can choose whether they allow smoking or not but if they are bigger than this, they must provide clearly divided and ventilated smoking sections. That’s the model we want here,” he said.
Full report HERE.
However, I wanted to post this by the regular commentator, IanB, as it was too good to leave at the bottom of a very long thread about the flawed idea that land, qua land, is special, and must be singled out for tax because of its supposed uniqueness, as distinct from say, income or consumption:"Liberty is based on a different presumption which has the virtue of making sense, which is that people should own property and do with it as they wish, because it is their property. And, honestly, if I save up and buy some land and plant a big garden on it for my retirement, I don't care whether you think it would be better used for a glue factory because that would return you some externality that you can double charge for via your tax."
"This is why liberty and georgism are incompatible; you keep making claims on behalf of the community. Screw this "community" of yours. It has no rights or claims on me beyond the right to freely interact with me. The LVT is a crude social engineering plan. It attempts to maximise productivity of land. Liberty is not about maximising any statistical value- it is simply the principle that the person may do with themself and what is theirs what they wish. So long as they produce enough by whatever means to survive, there are no other demands upon their economic activity."
Exactly. Suffice to say, I doubt the LVT enthusiasts will give up (they are persistent, a bit like cockroaches that can apparently survive a nuclear blast). Question: why does this issue come up a lot on this site? Are we masochists? Well, libertarians obviously are against taxation, period, but there are grounds for debate on the least-worst form of tax; for what it is worth, some form of consumption tax is probably best in my view, not least because they tend to be fairly easy to collect, although there are still issues here.
I don't know why Georgists should, for some reason, not give more weight to foolish central bank policy in causing asset price bubbles, or assume that property bubbles are bad, but other bubbles - like say, the dotcom one of the 1990s, are less so. One Georgist likes to raise the example of Hong Kong, which has a LVT. But that example won't fly as there have been big gyrations in the price of accomodation, which hardly suggests LVT did much to alleviate the situation, or by much. In fact I would say that proves pretty conclusively that LVT, on its own, cannot fix this sort of problem if monetary policy is deranged by Keynesian demand-management or other economic quackery.
There is another, even more fundamental problem with the Georgist position about land. The problem is that it does not distinguish between the fact that while land is, by definition, fixed, available land is not. This is why the likes of John Bates Clark, an economist of the late 19th Century, demolished the land value tax movement's arguments as did Murray Rothbard half a century later. Both men pointed out that the LVT argument ignores the fact that the price of land is driven by its marginal productivity, and in that sense is no different from labour or physical or human capital. To single out land for special tax treatment will lead to a misallocation of resources, encouraging more building density than is rational, etc. The total amount of land is fixed—obviously–but the total amount of sellable land is determined by the amount of marginal buyers and sellers, a very different thing. If demand is heavy enough, new land comes onstream. Just ask the Dutch.
Make no mistake. This is an anti-democratic, pernicious and malign little Bill. Consider this provision;
- An order under this section may provide .. for specified property, rights and liabilities which subsist wholly or mainly for the purposes of the House of Commons to be transferred to the IPSA by a scheme
You see, Brown's new Quango doesn't merely check MPs' claims—it pays them. Rather than Parliament owning its own pay chest and being its own master, MPs will now be employed by the government. Brown has taken Parliament's resources from them. And who decides just how much of Parliament's property, rights and liabilities are to be transferred to the government? Why, a government minister, of course! With the complicity of Brown's Speaker, Mr Bercow;
- A scheme made by virtue of subsection (8) is to be made by a Minister of the Crown with the consent of the person who chairs the House of Commons Commission.
The last thing this nation needs is an Act that would pack the chamber with vile apparatchiks and 'professional' politicians, rob the Commons of its authority, turn our parliament into just a department of government and treat our MPs—returned by us to Parliament to exercise the thunderous powers and sovereignty of that body—as mere hirelings, irrelevant juniors.
Such is the sagging morale of our MPs, and their slender grasp of constitutional and democratic principles, that they look to approving this with minimal debate and scrutiny, intent only on "restoring public confidence" in Parliament. Not for them the lesson of the Dangerous Dogs Act, the classic illustration of the principle that rushed law is always bad law.
As to The Telegraph's concerns about inhibiting high-quality people from standing for Parliament, the main deterrent is the singular fact that, progressively, this institution has been robbed of its powers (with the willing assent of its incumbents). Yet this Bill seeks to neuter Parliament even further, continuing its march towards irrelevance.
What is lost here is the very rationale for having Parliament in the first place. It does not belong to the MPs, or government. It is—or should be—our Parliament, there as a bastion against an over-powerful and oppressive executive. Anything that diminishes Parliament diminishes us.
Having lost the plot so long ago, however, our MPs are now conspiring in destroying what little authority they have left. But while they act in haste, we will be the ones to repent at leisure.
GORDON BROWN’S plans to create a legally enforceable “code of conduct” for MPs are in turmoil as MPs and peers prepare to reject the scheme.
At least four senior MPs are to table amendments to water down or remove the proposals from the Parliamentary Standards Bill, which is going through the Commons this week.
They include Sir Stuart Bell, the Labour MP on the Commons Commission; Sir George Young, who chairs the committee on standards and privileges; and Alan Duncan, the shadow leader of the Commons. The House of Lords has also threatened to throw out the scheme.
It has emerged that neither Jack Straw, the justice secretary, who is charged with pushing through the legislation, nor Harriet Harman, the leader of the Commons,who unveiled the bill last week, knew about the plans for a code of conduct until they were announced by No 10 in The Sunday Times. Whitehall officials drew up new clauses to “fit the press release”.
The wording of the proposed law leaves it open to individuals to take parliament, or MPs, to court. Malcolm Jack, the most senior Commons official, has warned of “litigants trying to make a point”.
Another key section of the bill raises the prospect that the words of MPs, evidence given by witnesses to select committees and other Commons business, could be used as evidence in criminal proceedings, which would undermine the tradition of free speech under “parliamentary privilege”.
The House of Commons is in danger of cutting its own constitutional throat, but the Clerk of the House is trying to stop them. The clerk is Malcolm Jack, a man of scholarship and courage who is the ultimate referee on all constitutional questions which affect the Commons. His core duty is to advise the House, its Speaker, the committees and MPs on the practice and procedure of the House, and its rights.
Last Friday Dr Jack sent a memorandum to the Standards Committee on the “Privilege Aspects of the Parliamentary Standards Bill”. He gives a serious warning about particular aspects of the Bill, which is expected to be rushed through both Houses of Parliament before the summer recess. The Lords is due to rise on July 21, so time would be very limited. Rushed legislation is usually a disaster, and this would be legislation in a panic.
The morale of the Commons has of course been shaken by the expenses scandal. I have never seen a comparable loss of confidence. Any healthy institution wants to extend its own authority. The Parliamentary Standards Bill is seeking to deal with a problem which is only too real. Yet the remedy which has been proposed is to reduce the existing rights and functions of the House of Commons, including self-regulation. This is a move in the wrong direction. If the Commons cannot restore its reputation by doing its job better, it will certainly not do so by demonstrating its lack of confidence in its own authority.
The new Bill proposes to create a regulator — the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority — to be called “Ipsa”, which will act as an independent authority for disciplining Parliament. No one in his or her right mind would contemplate joining such a preposterous body, which will start with no authority and is likely to be abolished as soon as anyone finds out that it has been built on sand. Quangos are always vulnerable: they have too many enemies and hardly any friends. They are appointed by politicians to suit their self-interest.
The Clerk of the House should be trusted, partly because he is the 50th in his line, of whom the first was appointed in 1363. If Ipsa is now appointed by Gordon Brown in 2009, it will be lucky to survive through 2010. Britain needs a strong and independent and new House of Commons, which would mean an early election; no one needs an ipsy-dipsy quango.
... treats us all like fools and is as insulting as a gob of spittle in the face for the voters of Britain.
Gordon Brown is to reject warnings about the scale of the public debt and press on with high levels of spending through the recession, according to the Prime Minister's closest [surely that should be "only"?—Ed.] ally Ed Balls.
Mr Brown's determination to boost spending on frontline services will be underlined with the launch of his much vaunted national plan for public services on Monday.
His Building Britain's Future document includes a number of proposals which will require significant Government spending.
This will include the announcements of new funding for social housing and the recruitment of 100,000 personal tutors as part of an education White Paper.
Mr Balls, the Children's Secretary, has defied suggestions from Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England, that immediate action was required to check the levels of public borrowing.
He indicated increased spending on front line services such as schools and hospitals, and hinted for the first time that the police may also be protected from the cuts.
The disclosure that ministers have little intention of reigning back on spending in the short term came as the Centre for Economics and Business Research warned that public spending was set to rise to 50 per cent of gross domestic product by the end of the next financial year.
Alistair Darling, who narrowly avoided being replaced as Chancellor by Mr Balls in this month's reshuffle, was said to be planning to shield the true condition of the economy from the public in the run-up to the election by cancelling the Comprehensive Spending Review, the Treasury's biennial economic report card.
The last CSR was in 2007, but Mr Darling is said to feel that detailed forward-planning on the economy was impossible while the full impact and extent of the recession remained unclear. It is expected this will be after the next general election.
by Gary Reed
We're still waiting.
We're still waiting for the real economic stimulus bill from congress that will allow America to recover from the mess that our meddling megalomaniac government officiouscrats got us into.
Where is the legislation that tells politicians and bureaucrats to get the hell out of the way so that workers can work and creators can create and inventors can invent and entrepreneurs can entrep?
Where is the bill that will allow libertarians to liberate?
Government can’t create jobs, it can only create busy-work. Government can’t even create money. Not real money. It can print big president heads on paper and stamp birds and buffaloes on metal but if there is nothing to buy because farmers haven’t farmed and manufacturers haven’t manufactured and businesses haven’t busied, the stuff that government calls money is just paper and metal.
You can’t build a house of paper or make a meal of metal.
In fact, without loggers and truckers and paper mills and ink makers and miners and smelters and engravers and an entire society of industrious people to feed and clothe and house those workers and transportation systems to move those raw materials government can’t even make their fake money.
But politicians don’t want you to know that. They don’t want you to understand that they are 100% overhead. They produce nothing. Their total existence depends on coercively taking what productive people produce.
Politicians and bureaucrats want you to think that they are the producers. They want you to believe that they are the god of the machine magically appearing to solve all problems.
Politics is nothing more nor less than the process of manipuling people. And the people-manipulators can no more restrain themselves from manipulating people than a hungry hyena can force itself to stop eating carrion.
As long as you keep enabling politicians by believing in them and making heroes of them and demanding that they help you at the expense of others (which is the only possible way politicians can help you) then you will forever, knowingly or not, be the carrion for the hyenas.
So where is the economic stimulus bill that tells politicians and bureaucrats to get the hell out of our way?
Libertarians aren't holding their breath.
The truth is there will never be such a bill. There will never be a true economic stimulus bill as long as government exists. Government will only and forever create stimulus bills designed to benefit politicians and bureaucrats and the politically connected class of takers that routinely support them.
The Iron Rule of Bureaucracy states that every bureaucracy exists primarily to benefit the bureaucrats who run it.
Watch and see as government gets ever bigger while your life gets ever smaller as a consequence.
The Cap-and-Trade bill that passed the House yesterday will be a declaration of war on the American economy if it ever is enacted into law. It is ostensibly supposed to help the American economy transition from the old, carbon-based industrial economy to the broad, sunlit (and presumably unpolluted) uplands of a post-industrial one. According to an infomercial masquerading as an AP news story, the “climate bill may spur energy revolution.” Overlooked by the AP and other minions of the left is the fact that that revolution has been underway, largely without the federal government’s help, for more than a generation now. In 1970 a one-percent increase in GDP meant a one-percent increase in oil consumption. Today its means less than a third of one percent increase in oil consumption. It would be considerably less than that had the left not brought the development and exploitation of nuclear power to a screeching halt thirty years ago because too many of them went to see The China Syndrome. (The producers, to be sure, arranged, in a stroke of commercial genius, for the movie to open twelve days before the accident at Three-Mile Island occurred.)
And as Kim Strassel pointed out yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, the so-called science behind this massive bill is looking increasingly shaky.
If it’s enacted in its present form, what the cap-and-trade bill will certainly do is
1) Massively increase federal power not only over the economy but over daily life as well. Building codes have always been the province of the states, but this bill, according to one blogger, would require federally mandated energy audits before you could change a window in your home and specifies the number and location of electrical outlets to be permitted;
2) Start a trade war with India and China by slapping tariffs on goods from countries that don’t conform to US standards on carbon emissions;
3) Act like the governor on a steam engine, increasingly slowing down the economy through energy taxes whenever the economy accelerates. In other words, its virtually guarantees economic stagnation at best. And most economists who are not working for liberals think it will be far more economically pernicious than that.
This last, at least, is in the great tradition of the Democratic Party. The party’s founder, Thomas Jefferson, tried to deal with the high-handed ways of the Royal Navy and French privateers by a blockade–not of their ports, but of ours. Thomas Jefferson, in other words, went to war with the American economy. In a series of acts beginning in December, 1807, that Congress passed at Jefferson’s behest, American merchants were forbidden to trade with any other country on pain of fines of $10,000 and forfeiture of goods. The U.S. Navy was dispatched to help enforce the act by stopping vessels leaving American ports. Port cities (which at that time were all large American cities and many small ones) plunged into depression. Smuggling across the Canadian border grew so extensive that Jefferson actually declared parts of northern New England to be in a state of rebellion. The New England economy came close to collapse as it was then heavily dependent on foreign trade. (The American merchant marine at this time–mostly New England owned and built–was second in size only to Britain’s.)
The Embargo Act was, politically and economically, an utter disaster, as anyone who understood anything about commerce, economics, and human nature could have foreseen. Indeed, Jefferson’s Secretary of the Treasury, Albert Gallatin, did understand and wrote the president, “As to the hope that it may. . . induce England to treat us better, I think is entirely groundless. . . . Government prohibitions do always more mischief than had been calculated; and it is not without much hesitation that a statesman should hazard to regulate the concerns of individuals as if he could do it better than themselves.”
Good advice from a very wise man who did this country many a good service. Too bad Thomas Jefferson didn’t take it. Nor, alas, will his present-day successor if he gets a chance to sign this utterly misbegotten bill.
There are no reparations for such heinous acts because those who were responsible and those who were injured are dead now and any hope for justice died with them. Punishing innocent people for the crimes of their grandfathers seems to me to be the opposite of justice, it seems more like a blood vendetta. When I hear people rant about societies ills I sometimes have to wonder if they think about what that truly means. Like most idealism, what sounds noble on the surface is really about control over others, the reality of the philosophy is hidden by the rhetoric even to those who preach it.
My first issue is with the term itself because society is an abstraction. The word “society” is usually used to define the group as everyone outside yourself. Because “society” is nothing more than a group of individuals that live together, the only way to protect the rights of “society” is to protect the rights of all the individuals who live within that society. It is impossible to protect the rights of everyone other than yourself or punish everyone other than yourself. There are many laws passed in the hope of achieving justice by according one group in society with special rights, however this usually comes at the expense at some other group. In fact this is the root of all injustice.
When Europeans came here and made laws that favored those males of European descent over those of women and men of other ethnicities, it created a system of special rights. This was obviously wrong, it is never an act of justice to claim rights that are not applicable to all. That is why I think repealing bad laws does more to bring equal protection to all individuals in society, regardless of who they are, without the negative of hurting others in the bargain.
This, however, is seldom the goal of activists who say they seek equal rights. In reality they seek “special” rights in the name of protection from the state. For example let’s look at The Hate Crimes Bill. Now on its face it seems benign enough and I agree that committing any act of violence against someone because they are “different”, such as gay bashing, is disgraceful and should be punished. However, the reality is that it punishes someone for their thoughts. It’s a thought crime bill in the final analysis. Now motive is always an element to a crime, but it is not a crime in itself.
The next issue is this, does it apply evenly or are some forms of hate more acceptable than others? If a woman kills a man for being male because she hates men, is she charged with a hate crime? Or is the law not applied because men are not, as a group, protected? In other words, are we ready to apply the same standards to each individual in the nation or are there unwritten limits? Political Correctness falls into this category too, are we ready to tell the gay community that the term “breeder” is derogatory? Or is it open season on heterosexuals? If we think we can ban hatred by curtailing freedom of expression, we are just fooling ourselves. Especially if we allow hatred against one group while professing to end hatred.
From what I have witnessed the activist groups in this country really are not interested in justice, what they are looking for is power. This is natural, people who have been oppressed often take on the tactics of those who oppressed them. They discount any criticism as being “racist” or “sexist” or whatever neat little label they can tag you with. This is how you silence dissent, no matter who is doing the silencing. It’s a tactic that shows their own biases usually.
Look at how many self proclaimed “feminists” slandered Monica Lewinsky because of their partisan loyalty to Clinton. People who are supposedly dedicated to the protection of the rights of women turned on her and made excuses for his behavior. They became the antithesis of what they were supposed to embody. They did this to protect their own power and in the long run set the women’s movement back about a hundred years. It’s the same with “Right to Life” groups who in their zeal to save lives advocate killing abortion doctors. Their own intentions are defeated when they endorse violence, their hypocrisy keeps real debate on the subject stifled. The fact that many of the Christian Conservatives in this country were the biggest cheerleaders for the War in Iraq further weakens their position in the public’s eye. You cannot be an advocate for life and war at the same time without some serious self delusion.
This is all a result of collectivist ideology, we versus them. Many movements start because of necessity, a grievance that must be redressed. Laws that exist that cripple one part of the citizenry should never be tolerated, however when these PAC’s and activist groups gain acceptance they start to be counterproductive and create an atmosphere of intolerance. If we want a healing of society, the same rules must to apply to everyone equally under the law. By trying to re-stack the deck the outcome is usually a backlash of resentment that ends up intensifying the problems they seek to do away with. Ideology starts to get in the way of reason and no one will listen to the other side. This is what hurts us the most, when we feel unfairly judged as part of a group or ally ourselves so heavily to one side of a debate that we cease to see others as individual human beings. We see each other simply as enemies.
Of course I know that most people who think there is such a thing as “social justice” are well meaning, I know they want what is right. However let’s look at the reality. I’m third generation American, none of my ancestors were involved in the slave trade at any level, how is it fair to lump them, and myself, into the group of Europeans who were? We didn’t victimize anyone; there is no blood on our hands, so I ask: Why should I or my family be judged for the crimes of others? Because I’m white? That seems more than a little racist to me. It’s the same story for the massacres against the Indians, my family all arrived here in the early 20th century to flee the rising tide of despotism and warfare in Europe. How are we culpable for murders perpetrated over a century before we arrived on American soil? We are not, not by any lawful standard that I can find. You cannot hold a man responsible for a murder committed by his father and you cannot hold one generation responsible for the crimes of the generations before them. This is the heart of all injustice.
For their to be justice in the world we must respect every human being as a sovereign individual and judge each on their own merits. It is the only way to peace and ultimately unity. Otherwise we will only further the cycle of hatred and injustice that we had hoped to end.