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The Death Penalty: The Ultimate Corrupt, Big-Government Program PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by Ron Paul   
Wednesday, 01 July 2015 05:00

Nebraska’s legislature recently made headlines when it ended the state’s death penalty. Many found it odd that a conservatives-dominated legislature would support ending capital punishment, since conservative politicians have traditionally supported the death penalty. However, an increasing number of conservatives are realizing that the death penalty is inconsistent with both fiscal and social conservatism. These conservatives are joining with libertarians and liberals in a growing anti-death-penalty coalition.

It is hard to find a more wasteful and inefficient government program than the death penalty. New Hampshire recently spent more than $4 million prosecuting just two death penalty cases, while Jasper County in Texas raised property taxes by 7 percent to pay for one death-penalty case! A Duke University study found that replacing North Carolina’s death penalty would save taxpayers approximately $22 million in just two years.

Death-penalty cases are expensive because sentencing someone to death requires two trials. The first trial determines the accused person’s guilt, while the second trial determines if the convicted individual “deserves” the death penalty. A death sentence is typically followed by years of appeals, and sometimes the entire case is retried.

Despite all the time and money spent to ensure that no one is wrongly executed, the system is hardly foolproof. Since 1973, one out of every 10 individuals sentenced to death has been released from death row because of evidence discovered after conviction.

 
In 2016, Let’s Have Real Presidential Debates PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by Thomas L. Knapp   
Tuesday, 30 June 2015 08:50

Every four years, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) puts on a series of campaign commercials disguised as presidential and vice-presidential debates.

The CPD is, in theory, a not-for-profit organization “established in 1987 to ensure that debates, as a permanent part of every general election, provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners.”

But the CPD is really just a scam the Republican and Democratic parties use to funnel illegally large “in kind” campaign donations, in the form of tens of millions of dollars’ worth of free media exposure, exclusively to their own candidates.

A real nonpartisan, not-for-profit debate organization would use objective criteria for deciding which candidates may participate in debates. The CPD continuously refines its criteria with an eye toward ensuring that no third party or independent candidates qualifies for a microphone at a CPD “debate.”

 
Free Speech, Facebook, and the NSA: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by John W. Whitehead   
Thursday, 18 June 2015 08:55
“A person under surveillance is no longer free; a society under surveillance is no longer a democracy.” – Writers Against Mass Surveillance

The good news: Americans have a right to freely express themselves on the Internet, including making threatening – even violent – statements on Facebook, provided that they don’t intend to actually inflict harm.

The Supreme Court’s June 1 ruling in Elonis V. United States threw out the conviction of a Pennsylvania man who was charged with making unlawful threats (it was never proven that he intended to threaten anyone) and sentenced to 44 months in jail after he posted allusions to popular rap lyrics and comedy routines on his Facebook page. It’s a ruling that has First Amendment implications for where the government can draw the line when it comes to provocative and controversial speech that is protected and permissible versus speech that could be interpreted as connoting a criminal intent.

That same day, Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the legal justification allowing the National Security Agency (NSA) to carry out warrant-less surveillance on Americans, officially expired. Over the course of nearly a decade, if not more, the NSA had covertly spied on millions of Americans, many of whom were guilty of nothing more than using a telephone, and stored their records in government databases. For those who have been fighting the uphill battle against the NSA’s domestic-spying program, it was a small but symbolic victory.

The bad news: Congress’ legislative “fix,” intended to mollify critics of the NSA, will ensure that the agency is not in any way hindered in its ability to keep spying on Americans’ communications.

The USA FREEDOM Act could do more damage than good by creating a false impression that Congress has taken steps to prevent the government from spying on the telephone calls of citizens, while in fact ensuring the NSA’s ability to continue invading the privacy and security of Americans.

For instance, the USA FREEDOM Act not only reauthorizes Section 215 of the Patriot Act for a period of time, but it also delegates to telecommunications companies the responsibility of carrying out phone surveillance on American citizens.

And now for the downright ugly news: Nothing is going to change.

 
Slave or Rebel? Ten Principles for Escaping the Matrix and Standing Up to Tyranny PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by John W. Whitehead   
Wednesday, 10 June 2015 14:14

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

It’s a shell game intended to keep us focused on and distracted by all of the politically expedient things that are being said – about militarized police, surveillance, and government corruption – while the government continues to frogmarch us down the road toward outright tyranny.

Unarmed citizens are still getting shot by militarized police trained to view them as the enemy and treated as if we have no rights. Despite President Obama’s warning that the nation needs to do some “soul searching” about issues such as race, poverty, and the strained relationship between law enforcement and the minority communities they serve, police killings and racial tensions are at an all-time high. Just recently, in Texas, a white police officer was suspended after video footage showed him “manhandling, arresting, and drawing his gun on a group of black children outside a pool party.”

Americans’ private communications and data are still being sucked up by government spy agencies. The USA Freedom Act was just a placebo intended to make us feel better without bringing about any real change. As Bill Blunden, a cybersecurity researcher and surveillance critic, points out, “The theater we’ve just witnessed allows decision-makers to boast to their constituents about reforming mass surveillance while spies understand that what’s actually transpired is hardly major change.”

 
Iowa Should Abandon Its Level Playing Field for Education Funding PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 28 May 2015 12:25

When Davenport Community Schools Superintendent Art Tate announced in March that he planned to violate state law by spending more money per pupil than the state allowed, it highlighted the strangeness of Iowa’s rarely questioned status quo: There’s no mechanism for school districts to consistently exceed the base-funding level.

It’s not quite as simple as saying that Davenport’s school district can’t spend more than $6,366 per student this year. But in the name of funding equality across Iowa, the state is unusually restrictive – meaning that even if citizens in a community would support higher taxes for educational operations, there’s no way to make that happen.

At heart, Iowa’s system takes the admirable goal of adequate education funding and turns it into a straitjacket.

 
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