War on Drugs

This is insane: A Texas man is facing the death penalty for defending his home with deadly force

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In the great state of Texas, it is legal, almost mandatory, to defend your home with deadly force from armed intruders. If someone attempts to climb into your window in the deep, pre-dawn darkness at 5:30 am, you would be justified in shooting them, right? In almost all conceivable cases, yes. Especially in Texas.

But what if the intruder turns out to be a member of a SWAT team attempting a no-knock drug raid on a search warrant? We’re about to find out, but it could mean the death penalty.

Marvin Louis Guy of Killeen, Texas and a female companion opened fire on several men entering their home through windows and doors, killing one and injuring another. The intruders turned out to be members of a SWAT team composed of Killeen police and state organized crime investigative officers who were serving a warrant based on tips from an informant that there was drug trafficking going on in the residence.

Given that it was a “no-knock” raid, the residents did not know that it was law enforcement officers entering their home. No-knock raids are often conducted on search warrants for drug trafficking suspicion to prevent hardened criminals from attacking the cops when they are announced. It didn’t quite turn out that way this time.

Militarized police supporters in Congress such as Nancy Pelosi get big bucks from defense contractors

The recent stories coming from Ferguson, Missouri have stirred the police militarization debate by putting the spotlight on the police’s use of “surplus” war gear to contain a mass of protestors in the suburbs of St. Louis.

The protests followed the killing of Michael Brown, and while most are peaceful, local police — and now the National Guard — have proceeded to use rubber bullets, tear gas and other aggressive methods such as curfews to fight locals and even journalists covering the events.

Without proper coverage, it’s nearly impossible to know what is truly going on in Ferguson, especially because the Federal Aviation Administration banned helicopters to fly below 3,000 feet over the region as soon as the unrest began. News crews often use helicopters to cover live events, but with the ban, law enforcement agents on the ground have a free pass to act according to their understanding of the situation.

No accountability.

One essential piece of this equation, however, is missing from the public debate; lawmakers who support the government’s program allowing the distribution of leftover war gear and weapons to local police departments are also the same lawmakers who receive a considerable amount of financial support from defense contractors.

Legalize Marijuana, Don’t Socialize It

The campaign to end the War on Drugs has gained momentum in recent years with state ballot initiatives legalizing recreational marijuana use in Colorado and Washington, and a similar referendum coming to Washington, DC on this year’s general election ballot. Along with the push to reform sentencing laws, even retroactively, for nonviolent drug offenses, it appears that huge strides are being made in allowing free citizens the right to enjoy relatively harmless substances as they choose. But as with any government effort, the reality is far from the idealized campaign promise.

In Washington state, which decriminalized small amounts of marijuana possession and consumption on the 2012 ballot, state-sanctioned retail sales just began in July. However, as this is still deep blue Washington we’re talking about, there is far from a free market for the stuff. The state has a strict licensing program that only allows certain retailers to sell marijuana legally, from only certain licensed producers, resulting in only one place to buy in all of Seattle on opening day. This isn’t exactly Starbucks for weed.

Why Republicans should follow Rand Paul’s lead

The Republican Party seems poised for a successful mid-term election. There has even been talk of a building “Republican wave,” should voter dissatisfaction intensify and solidify, though its far too early to say for sure what will happen.

But if a “Republican wave” does indeed happen this fall and the party takes control of the Senate, a goal that has proved to be out of reach in the past two cycles, GOP leaders and talking heads should be cautious in overstating what it means.

Yes, President Barack Obama is plagued by low approval ratings and rejection of Obamacare, his signature domestic achievement. Voters aren’t too thrilled about the state of the economy or his handling of foreign policy.

But Republicans must realize that electoral success this doesn’t mean that voters have embraced the party, as polls almost universally show. In a two-party system at a time of malaise, the party not in control is the beneficiary of voter anger. This was true in 2006 when Democrats won control of Congress. It was true in 2010 when Republicans gained 63 seats on their way to winning the House of Representatives.

There is no denying that the Republican Party has a very real messaging problem, and party leaders realize it. That’s why the Republican National Committee released a report, The Growth and Opportunity Project, to try to figure out what went wrong in the 2012 election as well as try to find solutions to expand its reach.

Though that “autopsy,” so to speak, raised some excellent points, it alienated many of the grassroots activists that compromise part of the Republican base.

Obama on Weed: Hope and Same

President Obama gave an interview to The New Yorker, you know the same interview where he said racism was probably to blame for his falling approval numbers. He was asked about marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington and he answered:

he said of the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington that “it’s important for it to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished.”

That appears to indicate the Obama Administration is supportive of allowing states to set their own policies on marijuana legalization. Although the Obama Administration has began to walk back those comments we should assume the Obama Administration is willing to consider a sane, rational approach to marijuana.

In 2010, nearly 790,000 Americans were arrested on marijuana related offenses and African-Americans and other minorities were disproportionately targeted. While marijuana is a dangerous drug and I would not encourage anyone to use it under any circumstances, the effects appear to be no more dangerous than alcohol or tobacco, both of which are legal.

Rand Paul testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee about mandatory sentencing

Rand Paul on mandatory minimums

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) had the opportunity to testify yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee about mandatory minimum sentences. Sen. Paul offered an array of examples that illustrate the brutal impact of both mandatory sentencing and the failed war on drugs.

In 2004, then candidate for the U.S. Senate Barack Obama criticized the ongoing war on drugs as “an utter failure.” While running for president, Obama advocated for a less repressive national drug policy but once he took office, President Obama changed his tune.

According to Sen. Paul’s statement and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one third of African-American males are not allowed to vote today and that’s due to the U.S. war on drugs and its disproportionate impact on minorities. Reports published by the Huffington Post show that African-Americans represent 62 percent of drug offenders while they constitute 12 percent of the country’s population.

 

Punk rock is still politically dead

Back in November, Mark Judge wrote an interesting piece at Acculturated entitled, “Punk Rock’s Moment,” that explained how the punk rock genre and cultural has an opportunity to “become relevant once again” after President Barack Obama’s re-election.

“Punk is often considered an anarchic or at least liberal art form, but politically it has been all over the map. Most famously there was Johnny Ramone, the right-wing guitarist for the Ramones,” noted Judge. “And while the famous Washington, D.C., harDCore scene, once lead by Fugazi, was–is?–full of left-wing activism, the ‘straight edge’ philosophy of some of the band–no booze no drugs–could almost be considered monastic. The Replacements was always more about parties and poetry than elections.”

Judge explained that the Dead Kennedy was one of the “great satirical punk bands of all time,” pointing to the band’s ability to question their own beliefs, which is something he says is sorely missing in today’s punk scene. Instead, he explains, punk bands of today are “afraid to touch [their] messiah,” President Obama.

“Satirical art has collapsed under Obama. The left is afraid to touch its messiah, and the right is reduced to silly gestures like doing ‘freedom raps’ and other ham-fisted foolishness,” wrote Judge. “When I was coming up in the 1980s, punk groups like Fugazi, Husker Du, the Replacements and the Dead Kennedys meant energy, passion, and, sometimes, political activism. But they also meant self-reflection and aiming the lance at even your own sacred cows.”

NAACP Chief: GOP Needs To Become Party of Civil Rights

Ben Jealous

A couple of weeks ago, Senator Rand Paul did a courageous and unusual thing by visiting Howard University in DC. Howard is what is known as a “historically black university,” founded in the wake of the Civil War to provide opportunities for higher education to African-Americans. It’s not exactly home turf for Republicans, but that’s precisely why Paul went, in order to bridge a massive gap that is hurting the GOP.

Response to his visit was mixed, but yesterday, NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous wrote a generally supportive op-ed on CNN. Although noting that Paul missed his target in most areas, there is one area that has promise:

Paul struck out when he tried to equate today’s Republican Party with the party of Abraham Lincoln, while ignoring much of the 150 years in between. (He even acknowledged his mistakes shortly after). But his willingness to step up to the plate can provide a lesson for a GOP struggling to get on top.

Republicans will not win black votes by paying lip service to party history while attacking social programs and voting rights. But they can make inroads by showing a commitment to civil rights, something Paul managed to do briefly in his remarks.

Gun control talk is heating up

Second Amendment

After last week’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, politicians have made loud calls for increased gun control measures, including a reinstatement of the Assault Weapons Ban — nevermind that the .223 Bushmaster rifle used by Adam Lanza wouldn’t have been covered under that law.

Politico notes this morning that President Barack Obama, who has previously called for more gun control measures, has announced that he will form a “guns task force” to presumably look at gun control policies that the White House could pursue. Of course, pro-Second Amendment advocates see this tragedy being politicized by policitians who have long clamored for increased gun control measures.

We’ve hear gun control advocates talk about how these mass shootings are on the rise. Despite the rhetoric, the facts just don’t bear that out. In an article published the day after the shooting at Shady Hook, the Associated Press explained:

“There is no pattern, there is no increase,” says criminologist James Allen Fox of Boston’s Northeastern University, who has been studying the subject since the 1980s, spurred by a rash of mass shootings in post offices.

The random mass shootings that get the most media attention are the rarest, Fox says. Most people who die of bullet wounds knew the identity of their killer.

Three reasons why conservatives should support ending the War on Drugs

By any reasonable standard, the War on Drugs has been a total disaster   It has not shown any results in terms of reducing drug usage.  The cost in money, resources, and lives has been immense.  It’s no shock, then, that a whopping 82% of the American public believes it has been a failure.  Yet in our political realm, it is the name that cannot be spoken.  Political leaders who seriously question it are largely on the fringes, with coverage of the issue mainly relegated to places like Reason and other libertarian sources (as well as some liberal publications).  In my experience, it’s rare to even see it discussed in conservative circles - and that’s a great shame.  If conservatives could educate themselves on it, I think it could be a great issue.  There are numerous reasons why, but here are just three.

First of all, the War on Drugs destroys families, especially within minority communities.  Conservatives like to talk about how important the family is, yet seem to be not bothered by the fact that the United States incarcerates 2.3 million people, more than any other nation (except perhaps China).  Many of these inmates are fathers, sons, mothers and daughters who are in prison for non-violent drug-related offenses.  They are doing hard time alongside violent criminals because our laws are so strict.  Instead of getting clean and being able to make something of their lives, they are in prison with felonies on their record, making it near impossible to recover.  I can’t see for a second how society and the family unit are bettered by this.  Why destroy someone’s life for using drugs?


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