Category Archives: Politicians

Senator James Risch on Drugs

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1015_steve-mcqueen-dead-celebs_485x340Perhaps the above title is ambiguous. Today’s post involves an email I received from Senator Risch regarding the Drug War. Personally, I find the War on Drugs to be an extremely bad policy. Drug criminalization, along with “Get Tough on Crime” measures such as mandatory minimum sentencing and three strikes laws, can explain over 90% of the explosive increase in US incarceration rates over the last four decades (please contact me if you are interested in getting a copy of the research paper I wrote on this).

This is very expensive, and I feel comfortable guaranteeing that people would be far more willing to end the Drug War if they knew how much it cost them, or at least reduce it by a dramatic extent. It costs around $20,000 per year to incarcerate a man (a figure provided to me by a criminal justice professor of corrections), and more for women (because there are fewer incarcerated women, economies of scale don’t apply as much). This is in addition to the money spent by the DEA and other law enforcement on actually catching drug users (rather than solving or preventing crimes with identifiable victims), as well as the court costs of prosecuting the huge numbers of drug offenders.

Also important to consider are the extreme costs to our civil liberties. Even though I have never used drugs, I consider myself a victim of the Drug War because of the fact that my car has twice been searched by the police using a drug sniffing dog. (It is my belief that the dog was not faulty, but that these officers lied about the dog alerting; there is no way I can prove that the dog didn’t alert, and there is no penalty to them for finding nothing. Thus, they are able to illegally search any vehicle at will.) Other than the War on Terror, nothing has eroded our civil liberties to the extent that the Drug War has.

And, ultimately, I don’t think it’s any business of the government what adults choose to put in their own bodies. As long as they are not harming anyone else, they should be left alone. There is a lot more one could say about the evils of the War on Drugs, but we’ll get into what James Risch has to say:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding drug legalization.  I really appreciate hearing from you.

I oppose the legalization of illicit drugs.  Legalization could encourage experimentation among those who currently do not use illegal substances and could lead to addiction and criminal activity.

It is ironic that Risch believes legalization could lead to criminal activity, as it is the nature of black markets that encourages criminal activity to surround drugs. We can see this in several ways:

  • It is because they are illegal that the prices of drugs are so high. Without these high prices, drug users would have less of an incentive to engage in criminal activity to support their habits.
  • Generally, businesses in competition with one another will tend to provide lower prices or higher quality of service. Due to the black market in drugs, cartels have a greater incentive to engage in violence to increase market share and less of an ability to resolve disputes peaceably (you can’t take a dealer to court for ripping you off).
  • The threat of imprisonment, all else equal, incentivizes violence against law enforcement where there would otherwise be none.

I generally support a reduction in government authority, but in the case of drug legalization it is important dangerous drugs are prohibited or regulated to ensure their safe use for the intended purposes for which they were developed as well as for general public safety.

Again, it is ironic that Risch would point to prohibition as a measure that would ensure safe use. It is because of alcohol prohibition that we have such unsavory terms such as “rot gut.” Again, if there is no tort system available, the costs of selling unsafe substances decreases because of lower accountability.

Drunken driving is a serious problem in this country.

His fellow senator from Idaho should know!

If more illicit drugs were legalized, the problem of impaired motorists would increase significantly—which can have devastating impacts far beyond just the individual who used the drug.

Of course, this is a bald assertion rather than a rigorously supported claim. But even if this is accurate, how could it possibly be the case that public safety would be decreased on net? It is highly doubtful that drug-related violence (how many have died in Mexico’s civil war?) would be outweighed by any increase in impaired driving.

The economic benefit that could be derived from additional drug-related taxes cannot justify the risks associated with legalizing dangerous substances.

The economic ignorance of James Risch is concerning. If he thinks the only economic benefit of drug legalization is more tax revenue, he is grossly misinformed. As mentioned above, a huge amount of money spent on law enforcement is spent in pursuit of the Drug War. Furthermore, it is quite a statist notion to think of increased tax revenue as being an economic benefit. Indeed, in many situations it would be far better if tax revenues were burned rather than allowed to distort the economy as they do (examples include farm subsidies, student loans, bank bailouts, the military-industrial complex, etc.).

Again, I really value your effort to get in touch with me to share your thoughts, as many Idahoans do.  Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future on this or other issues.
Very Truly Yours

James E. Risch
United States Senator

Website: Risch.senate.gov

My offices:

Boise – 208.342.7985
Coeur d’Alene – 208.667.6130
Idaho Falls – 208.523.5541
Lewiston – 208.743.0792
Pocatello – 208.236.6817
Twin Falls – 208.734.6780
Washington, D.C. – 202.224.2752

Senator Jim Risch Approves of the NSA Spying on You

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Senator Jim RischOnce again, I’m sharing correspondence I received from US Senator Jim Risch. After sending a him a letter asking that he stop the NSA from spying on us, this is what I got back:

Dear Tate:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.  I appreciate hearing from you.

I strongly support individual freedoms and the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which reads: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…”

At the same time, the number one priority of the federal government is to protect the people of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Really? I thought that Risch swore to uphold the Constitution, not “I swear to uphold the Constitution as long as it strikes the proper balance with the other objectives I might have.” And what if it is the case that it is the federal government itself that is the greatest harm to the people of the United States? It is beyond unlikely that Jim Risch will do anything to protect us from it. Read the rest of this entry

Why Doesn’t the Left Dislike Obama More?

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In modern American political discourse, one of the mysteries that continues to baffle me is the overwhelming cognitive dissonance of the mainstream Left in regards to their loyalty to Obama. In case you missed it, here is a video I posted about a while back that featured Obama supporters being told about Romney’s planned policies. None of the people being interviewed liked them. However, the interviewer reveals at the end that all of these measures were in fact already implemented by Obama. Many of these people then refused to believe it or became defensive.

Why is this the case? Why are so many ready to rush to the defense of Obama when there is no way they would do the same thing for someone with an “R” after their name?

To be fair to all those who hold political parties in higher regard than principles, I suppose I could ask the same thing regarding W. Bush’s supporters. Many of them expressed support for economic freedom and smaller government, yet by large held their tongue when these ideals were being disregarded by Bush.

Though it is open to debate, I think the hypocrisy is greater on the part of the mainstream Left. As a whole, those of the mainstream Right don’t hold economic liberty as nearly as high of a priority as they do the military and social legislation. In this sense, Bush gave them what they wanted (mostly; even with Republican-controlled legislative and executive branches, Planned Parenthood still received federal funding). But it seems that Obama has betrayed nearly everything the mainstream Left holds as ideal.

Civil Liberties

Without question, Obama has one of the worst records on civil liberties. He has welched on several campaign promises in this matter, not the least of which is his failure to close Guantanamo Bay, where people whom no one has charged with any crime are kept, some of whom are force fed.

Revelations about the NSA just confirmed what many of us already believed what was going on: mass spying on the American people. Why else would the NSA have been building a gigantic data center in Utah?

Watch NSA Collects ‘Word for Word’ Every Domestic Communication on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

And who can forget the Constitution-free zones we call airports? Apparently, the frog has been boiled and the only ones still making a peep about the TSA are us who actually care about freedom.

He also kills Americans without trial.

Transparency

Any rational person can see that Obama’s promise to be the most transparent regime in US history is a joke. Just look at the treatments of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden. Indeed, Obama’s website deleted its promise to protect whistleblowers. As well, there has been spying on journalists, along with pressure to get them to reveal their confidential sources.

Foreign Wars

The Peace Prize-winning president escalated a war in Afghanistan, conducts drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan, started a war in Libya, gives weapons to Syrian rebels who have beheaded Christians and used child soldiers, etc., yet I can’t remember the last time I saw an anti-war protest.

Domestic Wars

Of course, there is no end to the federal drug war in sight. The DHS continues to encourage the militarization of local police forces.

Helping the Poor

I’m surprised one doesn’t hear about this more, but do you think someone actually cares about the poor when he attempts repeatedly to limit the tax deductions for charitable giving? To me, this sounds like someone who would rather have the poor dependent on government than out of poverty.

And so…

I suppose I could go on, especially regarding how corporatist Obama is, how fascist his health care plan is, whatever. I’ve heard many on the Left say, “Obama isn’t liberal.” According to modern definitions of the term, I would agree. But then, why do so many people who call themselves “liberals” support him?

Note: Even though it was a bit cumbersome, I took care to make it distinct that, in the context of this post, I am talking about the “mainstream” Left and Right. I would like to acknowledge that there are those who consider themselves Leftists who are vocally opposed to the Obama administration’s assault on civil liberties and continued warfare state.

Does Senator Jim Risch Care About Iranians?

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As I’ve stated in the past, I send letters to the Idaho representatives in the Senate and US Congress using DownsizeDC.org‘s letter-writing software (which makes it extremely convenient). I don’t do this because I expect it to make an actual difference in their policies, but because I desire to express my dissent and it doesn’t cost but a few moments. I also sometimes get a canned response back, which often is meaningless because it tells me what I already know and that they will keep my thoughts in mind without telling me what their position is. But, once in a while, they express an actual stance, and then I copy it onto my blog to let the world know what criminal activities they are up to.

A recent response has to do with sanctions against Iran. Here is what Senator Jim Risch said:

Senator Jim Risch

Senator Jim Risch

Dear Mr. Fegley:

Thank you for contacting me regarding sanctions on Iran. I appreciate hearing from you.

While Iran has elected a new president, Iran has not elected a new leader. The supreme leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, handpicked the six people he would accept to serve as president. One of these people, the new president Hassan Rouhani, was also the chief Iranian negotiator for two years and was instrumental in helping cloak Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program.

I find this statement interesting, based on the fact that the US government has interfered with democratically elected politicians in Iran in the past. There is no way most Americans would accept Iranian intelligence forces messing with American elections, so I want to ask, does the Golden Rule apply here?

Also relevant is the fact that the US government possesses a number of nuclear weapons and also has the status of being the only government to use them on civilian targets. Is it hypocritical to then interfere with other countries obtaining them, or is it necessary for survival, as some might have you believe?

Despite the recent political changes, Iran must demonstrate its willingness to pursue a new path before sanctions should be lifted. As a member of the Committee on Foreign Relations, I closely monitor Iran. If legislation is introduced to repeal sanctions I will give it careful consideration.

What really bothers me about sanctions is that the people in power, the ones whose minds or actions these sanctions are intended to change, are the ones most insulated from the pain of sanctions. Millions of Iranians will starve to death before any heads of state have to skip a meal. We’re told by the government that sanctions are effective, but are they? Decades of sanctions haven’t changed Cuban policies. Sanctions on Iraq were reported to have killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, but this didn’t change Sadaam’s demeanor enough for Western powers to not go to war against him.

Rather, it seems, sanctions don’t do anything to improve relations. All they do is put up barriers to trade and make the living standards of poor Iranians (or whomever) much worse.

I really value your effort to get in touch with me to share your thoughts, as many Idahoans do. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future on this or other issues.

Very Truly Yours

James E. Risch
United States Senator

Senator Jim Risch is Begging Me for Money

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risch

Jim Risch

For whatever reason, I somehow ended up on Jim Risch’s mailing list. Now, don’t get me wrong about the title of this post. Begging for money is far more honorable than stealing it through taxation. All the same, it’s a fat chance that I’ll hand Risch anything voluntarily.

As you may know, I’m no fan of Jim Risch. I’ve written in the past about his support of the drone assassination program. When I wrote to him saying that the president should be impeached (as killing Americans without trial, I would think, be an impeachable offense), he responded that

The Constitution describes the crimes for which a president may be impeached as “high crimes and misdemeanors.”  Mere political policy disagreements do not reach those standards.  At the current time, the president has not been accused of any such misdeeds or charged by the House of Representatives.

I guess thinking that murder is wrong is a “mere political policy disagreement.”
Read the rest of this entry

Mike Crapo Engages in Newspeak

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Mike Crapo, post-DUI arrest

Mike Crapo, post-DUI arrest

Mike Crapo is a Republican Senator from Idaho. I sent him an email telling him to not support the Orwellian-named “Marketplace Fairness Act.” Here is the form letter sent back, along with my commentary.

Dear Tate:
 
Thank you for contacting me regarding the Marketplace Fairness Act.  I appreciate hearing from you and welcome the opportunity to respond.
The Marketplace Fairness Act, S. 743, was introduced by Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming) on April 16, 2013.  In 2009, 18.6 percent of all retail and wholesale transactions were conducted over the Internet.  S. 743 would give individual states, rather than the federal government, the discretion to collect sales and use taxes on all purchases, regardless of whether they are made over the Internet or at a local retail store.  On April 22, 2013, the Senate voted 74-20 to proceed to debate and consideration of the bill.  As a strong proponent of states’ rights, I voted in favor of proceeding to consideration of S. 743.
Crapo doesn’t seem to understand the concept of states’ rights. “States’ rights” is used to denote states retaining powers not delegated to the federal government under the US Constitution, not the federal government making it so that state governments can further rob people. What he’s doing is using the popular buzzword (or phrase) of “states’ rights” to endorse something that is anti-freedom.

Read the rest of this entry

Sheriff Joe Arpaio Makes No Sense

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Joe Arpaio

Sheriff Joe Arpaio

For some reason unknown to me, I received a letter in the mail from Joe Arpaio, the Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. I’m not sure how I got on his mailing list. I don’t live in Arizona, I’ve never contributed to any sheriff’s campaign funds, and I’ve never voted for sheriff.

If you don’t know Joe, he is apparently one of the most controversial sheriffs in the Union. I was surprised at the number of controversies listed on his Wikipedia page.

He is particularly well known for his “Tent City,” an addition to the Maricopa County jail where inmates have to live in tents out in the AZ heat. Arpaio betrays his own taste for sadism when he openly describes it as a “concentration camp.” In his defense of it, he compared it to the plight soldiers in Iraq who had to bear the heat and wear body armor yet have committed no crime. But there’s a problem, Joe: a large percentage of people in jail haven’t been convicted and are awaiting trial (let alone the fact that many of them are there for victimless crimes). Thus, he fails to live up to his own standards.

So how about this letter? Here is the gist of it:

Read the rest of this entry

Senator James Risch Won’t Stop Obama From Killing Americans and Children

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Some will say that writing letters to senators and congressmen is a waste of time. As far as stopping state violence goes, I can’t say I have any evidence to the contrary. And yet, for some reason, I keep doing it. A big reason is that it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort; the time and cost of writing an email are relatively low (especially when using a service like DownsizeDC.org). Another reason is that I want them to know that I am aware of what they’re doing (and not doing). Their iniquities are not a secret. Thirdly, I suppose if enough people do it they might start to change their behavior. I don’t really depend on this as a primary method for change, but I don’t want to leave any stone unturned. And unlike voting, which many will argue is an aggressive act or endorsement of the regime, letter writing has no such stigma.

Within the past few days, I have written a bit about the drone war and how upsetting it is to me. If you have the time, I would highly encourage skimming through some of the sections of the Living Under Drones paper, which states the following:

  • Those who order the drone strikes often don’t know who they are killing. The government reports very few civilian casualties partially because they count any male of military age as a “combatant” unless proven otherwise.
  • The US government uses a “double-striking” tactic, where they will bomb one spot and bomb that same spot again later. This has led to the deaths of rescue workers trying to save people who were bombed in the first attack.
  • The number of high-level targets killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low—estimated at just 2%.
  • Many families have pulled their children out of school, fearing for their safety. As well, Pakistanis are afraid to attend funerals because they have been targeted by drone strikes in the past. Able to hear the drones overhead, they live in a constant state of fear. Read the rest of this entry

Senator Marv Hagedorn the Bootlicker

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In the same way one might write to the neighbor who lives above them to request that they would kindly turn their TV down and put their kids to bed at a reasonable hour and cease doing other annoying things, I wrote to those people who have this fallacious idea that they represent me. As evidence to how silly this idea is, I haven’t even heard of these people that I’m contacting, much less actively decided that they can make ANY decisions in my name. The particular crime that I want them to not commit in this instance was that of implementing some type of government health exchange. Reprinted below is the response I received from Marv Hegedorn, who is such a sycophant to the federal government that I had to consult a thesaurus to find a less offensive term of what he is. What I found most interesting about it wasn’t the cowardice, the non sequiturs, or the grammatical errors. It was the, most likely unintentional, admonition that representative government is a joke. Idahoans, according to him, would have no control of a federal exchange, which is correct. But don’t Idahoans, along with all other Americans, control the federal government? Obviously not! So, instead of doing what we are (falsely) told is the purpose of the State (to protect persons and property), Hagedorn kowtows to the feds, quite willing to be their tool. I hope this post shows up whenever somebody puts this pansy’s name into a search engine. 
Thanks for taking the time to drop me a note, I do appreciate hearing from my neighbors about what they think about our options on the Healthcare Exchange.
 
We have before us 2 options, have some sort of State Exchange or a Federally run Exchange.  Some will debate that we have a third choice, but that’s not what our choices are.  
 
I have never been a fan of Obamacare, I would much prefer free market solutions, so we sued over it’s constitutionality in 2010.  All 26 states that stood along side of us lost that argument and now we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Our choices are clear on S1042, we either vote “No” which clears the way for the Federal Exchange in Idaho with zero oversight by Idahoans, or a “Yes” vote that will allow us some input on implementation and allowance of local Idaho businesses to have access to sell on the Exchange.
 
It also allows us to ride herd on the feds forcing them to at least answer our mail with questions and concerns we have about regulations and direction of the federal requirements.  We would not have this option should we support the Federal exchange option instead.
 
I am open to debate and discussion, however, everything that I have studied thus far, makes me lean to supporting a “non-profit type” exchange with State oversight, while not expending ANY State General Fund Tax Dollars.  I do not want to see a new agency built or General Funds used in the creation of operation of the State Exchange.  I have found data that shows it can be done without State Dollars and can be self sustaining at a cost lower than any Federal Exchange can be… and that will mean a less expensive solution for those Idahoan’s that will be using it. 
 
The past behavior of the Federal government in overspending and printing their own funds to make ends meet has not and will not change until we elect a responsible Congress and President.  Those who believe the Feds won’t print more money to create their exchange if given a chance is disregarding the history and behavior of this current federal government.  I have not and will not underestimate their ability to put us farther in debt for things like this.  I will not support giving free access to our state to create another bloated organization to operate something that’s not likely to meet Idahoan’s needs.
 
To this date, I am leaning in support of a State Exchange for the reasons I’ve stated above.
 
Cheers,

Marv

Senator Marv Hagedorn

Idaho State Senate

208-867-5643

Sheriff Gary Raney Doesn’t Understand the Constitution

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Sheriff Gary Raney

Sheriff Gary Raney

On Friday in the Idaho Statesman, Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney made a statement that was printed in the Opinion section. It was called, “I uphold all of the Constitution, not just part of it.”

It’s a bit hard to digest. Let me count the ways.
“Very few occupations include the special pride that comes with the trust inherent in an oath of office, but mine does.”
Hmm…not sure what he means here by “trust inherent.” Do you inherently trust anyone, just because he or she has taken an oath of office? In my view, if history is any guide, being an elected official suggests it is more likely that one is less trustworthy.
 I swore to work within our system of law and justice to fairly enforce what you, through your elected representatives in the Legislature and Congress, have decided should be the law of our land. Those laws are set upon a foundation of checks and balances, embodied in the separation of powers between the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government.
When we forsake the law or disregard those checks and balances, we take the first step down the path towards anarchy.
Nobody I have voted for has ever won an election. Is it still the case that I, through elected “representatives”, have decided should be the law of the land? What if I did actually vote for them? Does that mean I implicitly agree to anything they might do? Gerard Casey dispels this myth of “elected representative.” Political representation is so much less representative than any other relationship deemed “representative,” so much so that to call it such is ridiculous. And he can pay all the lip service he desires to “checks and balances” but he makes a mockery of them by what he says below.
Many others have indulged that pressure and now we see Oregon sheriffs, Wyoming legislators and others making hollow promises to protect you from the intrusions of the federal government. Let me respectfully remind you that we are the federal government, the state government and the local government.
I’m not sure what he means by “we” but I assume he is talking about all of us. I have previously written about this fallacious idea that “we are the state.” It is not the case that anyone comes upon this idea independently. It has to be drilled into us through constant propaganda, like what the Sheriff is providing here. Everything the government does is by force. It is patently absurd that “we” have to elect “ourselves” to force us to do things we would rather not.
I did not swear to uphold just part of the Constitution. Our Constitution includes the right to keep and bear arms, but it also includes the “supremacy clause” that says that every state shall abide by the laws passed by our Congress.
Raney seems to have forgotten (if he indeed has ever known it) the most important clause of the Supremacy Clause, which states that the laws of the United States have to be made in pursuance of the Constitution. Obviously federal laws that infringe on constitutional rights are NOT made in pursuance of it.

So, despite the fact that I personally oppose some of the gun control measures currently under consideration, my oath requires me to uphold the laws that are passed by our federal and state representatives.

When we disagree with those laws, the checks and balances built into our government point us toward the proper remedy: changing the laws or challenging them in the judicial branch. As to whether or not the president has the power to issue executive orders limiting our Constitutional rights, that is another matter to be decided by the Supreme Court, not by 44 different sheriffs in Idaho.

For all his talk about how importantly he holds his oath to the Constitution, it seems like he has little understanding of it. The US Constitution lists the powers of the Congress in Article I, Section 8. Furthermore, the Bill of Rights spells out certain things which the federal government is prohibited from doing (though, when drafted, it was argued that they were unnecessary since Article I, Section 8 didn’t give Congress the power to make laws regarding the freedom of speech, press, etc.). If Congress were to make laws contradictory to these restrictions, they are to be null and void. Obviously, laws can’t declare themselves to be null and void, hence the attempt to construct checks and balances. Checks and balances are supposed to be endogenous to the system of government. Obviously, Raney’s first proposed method doesn’t meet this criteria. What is the point of even having constitutional restrictions if Congress can pass any law it desires and the way to change it is to get that Congress to repeal such a law? Neither does the second. I don’t know many people who have the expertise or means to successfully challenge laws before the federal courts. Either way, one has to beg the federal government to follow the Constitution. Does Raney really believe that this is the best the Framers could come up with? In addition, he outright acknowledges that the president’s executive orders limit Constitutional rights. What is the point of constitutional rights if they can be violated at will? As well, the legislative power is to rest with the Congress, not the Executive, and the Constitution does not say, “And the Supreme Court will decide what is constitutional even if federal law contradicts this Constitution.”

Hollow promises and threats will only divert people from doing the right thing — honoring the truth and being involved in a process whereby our rights and liberties are protected by a respect of the law, not by rhetoric.

If any rhetoric is hollow, it is what is written above by Sheriff Raney. What does respect of the law mean if the federal government can repeal it at any time? What is the point of even having state governments if they are simply to be like provinces ultimately run by the federal government? What is the point of electing a sheriff if he does only what the federal government wants him to, rather than what the people who elected want? When it comes down to it, what Sheriff Raney is saying totally rejects the idea of self-governance: he says people in individual counties cannot decide how they want to live; 9 people in black robes who live over a thousand miles away get to do that for them and 300 million other people.

He isn’t upholding the Constitution; he is upholding the federal government.