“Drugs minus two” is not good enough

President Obama recently made headlines for commuting the sentences of 46 federal drug offenders. That represents less than one half of one percent of the total number of drug offenders in federal prison. During the ceremony Obama said, “in some cases, the punishment required by law far exceeded the offense.”

However, a little known policy change may end up releasing nearly 46,000 federal offenders before their sentences are complete. The Marshall Project reports the change known as “drugs minus two,” was an amendment to the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s guidelines adopted last year. “Federal drug sentences are computed with a dizzying arithmetic. Judges assign the defendant an ‘offense level’ based on the quantity of drugs sold. The judge then places that person in a ‘criminal history category,’ based on his criminal record, and plugs both data points into a table to arrive at a final sentence… This year’s ‘drugs minus two’ amendment lowers all drug crimes by another two offense levels. So far, the average sentencing reductions are modest: just under two years.”

Even with this policy change, not everyone will be eligible for a sentence reduction, “including those serving mandatory minimum sentences and those convicted of a ‘third strike’ — even if all three strikes were nonviolent drug convictions.”

One of the first people to be released early under this new policy was David Mosby. In 1991, Mosby was sentenced to 40 years in prison for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamines. He began using methamphetamines to stay awake during his night shift, and started selling to fund his habit. With good time credit, he was initially slated to a 2025 release date. The new “drugs minus two” policy reduced 10 years off his sentence, and Mosby was released in March of this year.

An appellate judge reviewing Mosby’s case wrote, “Under the sentencing guidelines scheme now in vogue, a judge can exercise little, if any, judgment on these matters.” Adding, “While I am obligated to affirm the sentences, I need not and will not put my stamp of approval upon them. These sentences defy reason, but as I have already noted–such is our system.”

I could not say it any better, “These sentences defy reason”! These sentences determined by charts not judicial discretion date back to 1984 when the U.S. Sentencing Commission designed tables to help eliminate sentencing disparities that were then commonplace. Not only did sentences become more uniform, the prison population boomed. Even with the “drugs minus two” policy, the Drug War will continue to be waged, and non-violent offenders will still be incarcerated for decades. The only real way to reduce the prison population is to end the insane War on Drugs, and get rid of mandatory minimum sentencing laws.

Source: FPP

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Will Iran nuclear deal prevent future war?

After what the Washington Post reports as “nearly two years of intense, and largely secret, negotiations,” a deal from the P5+1 was reached last week. Congress now has 60 days to review the deal. Since the negotiations were secret, and details are scant, there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding or outright misinformation about the deal. In saying the deal is the best proposal on the table, Reason.com reports, “[security hawks will] say that [the deal] won’t prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon — and they’ll be right. They’ll say that it’ll help Iran build its conventional weapons program – and they’ll be right. They’ll say that Iran will never fully honor its word — even as the West lifts sanctions against it, and they’ll probably be right about that too.”

Is Reason.com correct that the deal won’t prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon? Yes and no. According to various sources:

  • Iran will give up about 14,000 of its 20,000 centrifuges.
  • Iran will give up 97% of its enriched uranium; it will hold on to only 300 kilograms’ worth.
  • Iran will be forbidden from enriching uranium beyond energy-grade fuel, or 3.67% enrichment. (Weapons-grade uranium is 90% enriched.)
  • Iran will destroy or export the core of its plutonium plant at Arak, and replace it with a new core that cannot produce weapons-grade plutonium. It will ship out all spent nuclear fuel.
  • After 15 years of restraint on its nuclear activities mandated by the agreement, Iran will no longer be subject to international inspections.
  • If Iran violates any aspect of the deal, sanctions from the US, EU & UN will be automatically re-imposed.
  • It’s theoretically possible that after fifteen years of producing 3.67% energy-grade uranium, that Iran will suddenly begin enriching uranium to 90% and produce a nuclear weapon, however, it seems unlikely. It’s also theoretically possible that a Republican President could decide that the P5+1 deal is not harsh enough on Iran and re-institute sanctions, or simply invade based on the Bush Doctrine, which seems more plausible given the fact that most of the GOP Presidential hopefuls have come out against the deal.

    Without seeing the full details of the deal, I reluctantly support it because it lifts sanctions which only serve to harm the people of a country, not the government. In regards to the claim that the deal allows Iran to build nuclear weapons, I ask: since the US is the only country to ever use a nuclear weapon in war; why should the US government get to decide who is allowed to own such a weapon?

    Source: FPP

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    Officials want to close your access to open records

    Government officials often tout the line “if you’ve nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear” in response to news about one government spy program or another. However, many of these same officials will do everything in their power, including filing lawsuits, to prevent you from knowing what the government is doing. The Columbia Journalism Review reports in March of this year “Harry Scheeler Jr. sent a request to Hamilton Township [NJ] for surveillance footage of the town-hall and police-department buildings, making the request under the state Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and the state common law right of access to public records. A few weeks later, instead of responding to the request, the township sued Scheeler and asked a local court for relief from any obligation to respond, then or in the future. The township also asked for attorney’s fees.”

    Scheeler narrowed his request, however the lawsuit wasn’t dropped. CJR adds “a judge did, temporarily, relieve the township from any obligation to respond. Scheeler countered that only the requester, not the government, could initiate a public-records lawsuit.” The case moved to a different judge who ruled, “A government … lawsuit against … requestors [sic] subjects them to involuntary litigation with all of its.. financial, temporal, and emotional trimmings. A public policy that gives a government agency the right to sue a person who asks for a government document is the antithesis of the [public records law providing] citizens with a means of access to public information to keep government activities open and hold the government accountable.” Scheeler was also encouraged by the court to seek attorney’s fees, though the court did not specifically order the municipality to respond to Scheeler’s public records request.

    Meanwhile in Sacremento, Mayor Kevin Johnson – who apparently failed to get the memo from New Jersey that it’s not proper to file a lawsuit against a public records requester – has filed a lawsuit against not only the journalists who filed the request but also his own city. News10 in Sacremento reports, “Johnson said that the emails he sent while he was involved with the National Conference of Black Mayors (NCBM) were private. According to news reports, while Johnson was president of the NCBM, members challenged whether his election was valid, some claimed he used his position to promote a business operated by his wife Michelle Rhee. Johnson wants to keep emails between him and the NCBM’s attorneys private.”

    TechDirt reports that Johnson is claiming the emails are not public record “and maintains it has nothing to do with his highly-disputed, exceedingly brief tenure as the president of the [NCBM]. This assertion would carry a bit more weight if (a) his time at the helm of the NCBM wasn’t marked by allegations of abuse of his position to support his wife’s business and career, and (b) if he hadn’t previously admitted – on record – that he had destroyed documents subject to public records requests.”

    Another more high profile government official caught using a private email account was Hillary Clinton. The House Judiciary Committee sent a subpoena for the emails, she claims she never received it, and now all of her emails are being released in batches. I have no desire to read any of her emails, or most government records, however I find it interesting that many government officials make it difficult to obtain the public records I do want to read. When one government agency hinders or denies access to public records, you go to another government agency (the courts) to ask for relief. It should not be difficult to request, find, or obtain government records especially in the “information age.”

    The people who have done the most to provide public records and information on government activity (eg. Private Manning, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden) have been attacked and punished for doing so, yet people like Hillary Clinton do not see the irony of saying “So the government knows who you phone, email and tweet. So what, as long as you’re not doing anything wrong why should you care?”

    Source: FPP

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    Probate Judges and County Clerks respond to SCOTUS ruling on marriage rights

    When the Supreme Court recently ruled that marriage was a fundamental right that could not be denied, I doubt the five Justice majority imagined the fall-out that would occur. Just three days after the ruling, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion stating “the Court weakened itself and weakened the rule of law, but did nothing to weaken our resolve to protect religious liberty and return to democratic self-government in the face of judicial activists attempting to tell us how to live.” Adding, “County clerks and their employees retain religious freedoms that may allow accommodation of their religious objections to issuing same-sex marriage licenses. The strength of any such claim depends on the particular facts of each case.”

    Paxton also warned clerks that refusing to issue marriage licenses may get them sued. That is exactly what happened to a Kentucky County Clerk who is refusing to issue any marriage license. The lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of 4 couples cites the policy of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis to not issue any marriage licenses. The lawsuit states “Davis declared that the policy was adopted because of ‘deep religious convictions’ which would not ‘allow’ her to issue same-sex marriage licenses.” However, unlike Texas, all “executive branch agencies” in Kentucky were instructed “to make operational changes that will be necessary to implement the Supreme Court decision.”

    By contrast, in Alabama, one Probate Judge is citing not only deep religious belief but also state law as justification for refusing to issue any marriage licenses. Pike County Probate Judge Wes Allen says State law says Probate Judges “may” issue such licenses, and are not required to do so.

    Sam Marcosson, a constitutional law professor at the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville, said officials who refuse to issue marriage licenses have two options: resign or go to jail. “If it means that you simply cannot fulfill your duties because of your religious beliefs, what is required of you is that you can no longer hold that office.” Adding that clerks or judge who refuses to issue a license to a two-person couple could be jailed for contempt.

    One man in Montana however is attempting to remove the two person restriction. Nathan Collier applied for a marriage license for his polygamous relationship with his two wives. Collier says the dissenting opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts, which states that the legal argument used to justify same-sex marriage could be used by polygamist couples, inspired him to apply for his marriage license to his second wife. USA Today reports, “County clerk officials took Collier’s application and are consulting with the county’s attorney’s office.” Collier says “We don’t know if we’re going to have a wedding, a civil lawsuit or a criminal defense.”

    With all of the litigation surrounding who is and who is not allowed to exercise a fundamental right, which had limited governmental involvement until approximately 160 years ago, I’m hoping it’s only a matter of time before governments are once again not involved in personal relationships. Though I’m not going to hold my breath.

    Source: FPP

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    SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality raises new question

    Many people are celebrating the ruling from the US Supreme Court which makes same-sex marriage legal across the country. Some people, like Ted Cruz, say the ruling marks “one of the darkest hours of our nation.”

    There are many sound bites from supporters and opponents of the issue. However the ruling itself recognizes marriage as a fundamental right. The majority opinion states, “The challenged laws burden the liberty of same-sex couples, and they abridge central precepts of equality. The marriage laws at issue are in essence unequal: Same-sex couples are denied benefits afforded opposite-sex couples and are barred from exercising a fundamental right.” Adding, “The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty. Same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry.”

    Fundamental rights are not something that should be regulated or licensed. But what exactly are fundamental rights? It could be argued that the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness are the fundamental rights, and they are the ones specified in the Declaration of Independence. I would expound to say that anything that is does not cause a real victim is a fundamental right. I say real victim to differentiate between the imagined victim of “society” as the victim if x is allowed to happen unhindered.

    Supporters of freedom believe that no person or group has more rights than any other person or group. Meaning that if I have a fundamental right to do a certain thing, everyone else has that same right. There is, however a difference between someone being able to exercise a right – which governments often prevent – and the person actually having the right. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples can exercise their fundamental right to get married. Jesse Kline of the National Post wrote, “the central question… is whether the state should be dictating the domestic arrangements of consenting adults.” I say: “NO!” If two consenting adults can get married, then any number of consenting adults should be allowed to do so, as long as the relationship remains consensual. If a man and woman wish to get married, and either partner wishes to bring another person into the relationship, they should legally be allowed to do so, as long as the relationship remains consensual.

    The Supreme Court ruling which allows same-sex couples to legally marry may be a small step forward in equal protection under the law for a small group, though it is two steps back in removing government interference in people’s lives and relationships. One can only hope that at some point, governments begin removing licensing and regulations over personal matters.

    Source: FPP

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    SCOTUS rules on free speech

    The US Supreme Court recently issued two seemingly conflicting rulings on free speech. Scotusblog reports the Supreme Court “gave state governments sweeping new control over the messages that can be put on auto and truck license plates but restricted governments at all levels from using differing rules to control the messages put on billboards and other outdoor signs.
    As a combined result of two new rulings, government both gained added power to speak for itself but faced the loss of some of its power to control what others may say in public displays. And the meaning of the First Amendment, in general, became somewhat more confusing.”

    The ruling involving signs involved a church in Gilbert, AZ. The church did not have a physical building, and relied on signs to notify people where they would meet. The city had an ordinance regulating the size and duration of signs depending on the message. Signs expressing a philosophical message were only required to be under 20 square feet. Whereas a sign informing people of an event were prohibited from being over 6 square feet, and could not be place more than 12 hours before the event or remain for more than 2 hours after the event.

    Richard Winger of Ballot Access News reports, “The key sentence in the decision is ‘Thus, a speech regulation targeted at specific subject matter is content based even if it does not discriminate among viewpoints within that subject matter.’”

    In a seemingly conflicting ruling, the high court “cut back motorists’ right to choose the messages they wanted to convey on their state-issued plates,” however Scotusblog added, “The First Amendment was not the decisive factor in the license plate controversy. The Court, dividing five to four, ruled that the messages on those plates are ‘government speech,’ and, as such, the First Amendment imposes no direct curb on the content of that message.”

    It is unclear if the restriction of license plate content will extend to the text of vanity plates, or if it will only allow states to prohibit the issuance of specialty plates. It also leads to the question of how expansive Reed (the sign case) should be applied. Justices Breyer, Kagan & Ginsburg said in their concurrent opinion that the ruling, written by Justice Thomas, was so sweeping that very few public sign laws were likely to survive that analysis. Should Reed be applied to all sign ordinances? Will Reed help political parties that can show they’re being discriminated against?

    Winger adds, “The [Reed] decision may also help the Libertarian and Green Parties to win their pending lawsuit against Arizona voter registration forms, which make it more difficult for voters to register into those parties (even though they are ballot-qualified) than into the Republican and Democratic Parties. The decision may also be useful for lawsuits filed against ballot formats that make it more difficult for voters to vote for independent candidates than for Republican and Democratic nominees.”

    Only time will tell if Winger is correct in his assessment, though it’s possible a court will claim that political affiliations and ballots are “government speech” that can be more strictly regulated than other forms of speech.

    Source: FPP

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    Announcing the coming publication of A Rebel’s Journey, and fundraiser

    CONTACT: Darryl W. Perry, Owner/Managing Editor
    Phone: 202-709-4377                   NEWS RELEASE
    Email: editor@fpp.cc                   FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    Web: FPP.cc

    Announcing the coming publication of, and fundraiser for, A Rebel’s Journey
    Free Press Publications is pleased to announce the upcoming publication of A Rebel’s Journey, which details Presidential candidate Darryl W. Perry’s the path to the ideas of liberty. Perry says his path to the ideas of liberty began as a search for traditional values.

    Perry, who has written and published several book, is opting for a less traditional publication of A Rebel’s Journey. He is holding a fundraiser to to offset the profits that he would have earned through a more traditional publication of the book, and will then make the book available as cheaply as possible. He said, “The funds raised will allow me to get the book into the hands of more people, and promote the book to a wider audience.”

    Perry said, “Donors can get the e-book and the audio book for free, as well as bonus audio content (including interviews with Jeffrey Tucker, Lynn Ulbricht, Ben Stone and more) OR a signed copy of the paperback book and more!”

    Additionally, if the goal is surpassed then donors can get additional perks. The fundraiser is running through August 7, and the book will be published this fall after donors receive their perks.

    The fundraiser can be found at http://igg.me/at/a-rebels-journey
    A video explaining the fundraiser is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMsXhhK9W6s
    Bitcoin donations are being accepted at http://ArebelsJourney.com

    ###Free Press Publications is an independent alternative media and publishig company, founded in June 2009, with the mission of “ensuring a FREE PRESS for the FREEDOM MOVEMENT” and is committed to spreading the message of peace, freedom, love and liberty.
    FPP also gives new authors an avenue for publishing freedom oriented material.

    Source: FPP

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    Facebook, Reason.com and free speech on the internet

    If you thought you still had free speech on the internet, you might be in for a surprise. A couple of weeks ago the US Supreme Court issued an opinion reversing a lower court’s conviction of a man, Anthony Elonis, who posted violent messages on Facebook. Forbes reports, the majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, raised the level of criminality required for conviction of online threatening, “ruling that prosecutors must offer some proof that a defendant made a ‘true threat’ with the intent to hurt a specific individual.” In other words when it comes to online threats, intent matters! Bloomber adds, “The justices didn’t decide whether Elonis’s First Amendment rights were violated, instead interpreting the federal threat statute in a way that averted potential constitutional problems.”

    Apparently no one told Judge Katherine Forrest or US Attorney Preet Bahara. Bahara sent a subpoena to Reason.com demanding information about users who posted comments that were perceived as threatening, but may lack the intent required by the US Supreme Court to justify a conviction. The messages read:
    “Its judges like these that should be taken out back and shot.”
    “It’s judges like these that will be taken out back and shot.”
    “Why waste ammunition? Wood chippers get the message across clearly. Especially if you feed them in feet first.”
    “Why do it out back? Shoot them out front, on the steps of the courthouse.”
    “I hope there is a special place in hell reserved for that horrible woman.”
    “There is.”
    “I’d prefer a hellish place on Earth be reserved for her as well.”
    “F*** that. I don’t want to pay [sic] for that c***’s food, housing, and medical. Send her through the wood chipper.”

    Judge Forrest, you may recall, is the federal judge who sentenced Ross Ulbricht to life in prison; Preet Bahara is the man who prosecuted Ulbricht in the Silk Road case. That case seems to have set the bad precedent that some expected: that a website operator can be held liable for the actions of their users, at the discretion of the prosecuting attorney of course.

    Ken White wrote on PopeHat.com, “The ‘threats’ do not specify who is going to use violence, or when. They do not offer a plan, other than juvenile mouth-breathing about ‘wood chippers’ and revolutionary firing squads. They do not contain any indication that any of the mouthy commenters has the ability to carry out a threat. Nobody in the thread reacts to them as if they are serious. They are not directed to the judge by email or on a forum she is known to frequent.
    Therefore, even the one that is closest to a threat… lacks any of the factors that have led other courts to find that ill-wishes can be threats.”

    If someone is making a credible threat it shouldn’t matter whether the threat comes in written or spoken word. However comments that are off-hand remarks from keyboard warriors should not lead to the prosecution of the person trying to act tough from the comfort of his home, nor should the operator of the website be called to court to hand over information they may not even possess.

    Source: FPP

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    TSA failures expose security theater

    At the beginning of the month, Homeland Security Director Jeh Johnson announced that acting-TSA chief Melvin Carraway would be reassigned after a report was released showing that the TSA failed 95% of their own tests to detect mock explosives and weapons. These results are dismal but not unexpected, at least to those who have paid attention to previous reports of TSA failures. CNN reports, “ The TSA has been failing these sorts of tests since its inception: failures in 2003, a 91% failure rate at Newark Liberty International in 2006, a 75% failure rate at Los Angeles International in 2007, more failures in 2008. And those are just the public test results.” However, the TSA had attempted to excuse those previous results as not being accurate, because they were tests in a single airport, or “not realistic simulations of terrorist behavior.”

    There’s no excuses this time, right? The test was conducted in dozens of airports, and Reuters reports agents “did not detect banned weapons in 67 of 70 tests.” Reason reports, “TSA officials have complained in the past that undercover security testers—known as the Red Team—have an unfair advantage. The testers know the agency’s policies and procedures, and can design tests specifically to evade them… This wasn’t some brilliantly designed plot based on secret inside knowledge of how the TSA’s system works: The Red Team tester taped a fake bomb to his body and then walked through the bomb scanner, which went off.” The fake bomb which set off an alarm was not detected by the agent conducting a patdown.

    After the results went public, Johnson said, “The numbers in these reports never look good out of context but they are a critical element in the continual evolution of our aviation security. We take these findings very seriously in our continued effort to test, measure and enhance our capabilities and techniques as threats evolve.”

    I’m trying to imagine a context, outside of begging for more money to improve, in which a failure rate of 95% looks good. I’m also trying to comprehend why Melvin Carraway and the TSA agents who actually failed the tests are still employed. Lastly, I’m trying to figure out why some people don’t see that the TSA is not actual security, but just security theater. That term actually comes from security expert Bruce Schneier, who coined the phrase “for security measures that look good, but don’t actually do anything.”

    Absent the TSA and other federal regulations each airline would be responsible for its own safety and security. Some airlines might choose to have more lax security, while others may choose more stringent security. In the end, it would be up to the passengers to decide the level of security they’re comfortable with, and the market would determine which airlines succeed and which ones fail.

    Source: FPP

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    A pardon for Ross Ulbricht

    In 2013 Ross Ulbricht was arrested for allegedly operating the black market website Silk Road. In early 2015 he was found convicted in what was essentially a kangaroo trial, where his attorney was prevented from presenting evidence of government corruption in the case, because of an ongoing investigation. Two of the federal agents investigating the case have since been arrested for fraud and money laundering.

    Ulbricht’s lead defense attorney Joshua Dratel wrote in a court filing, “In contrast to the government’s portrayal of the Silk Road web site as a more dangerous version of a traditional drug marketplace, in fact the Silk Road web site was in many respects the most responsible such marketplace in history, and consciously and deliberately included recognized harm reduction measures, including access to physician counseling. In addition, transactions on the Silk Road web site were significantly safer than traditional illegal drug purchases, and included quality control and accountability features that made purchasers substantially safer than they were when purchasing drugs in a conventional manner.”

    Meghan Ralston, a former harm reduction manager for the Drug Policy Alliance says Silk Road was “a peaceable alternative to the often deadly violence so commonly associated with the global drug war, and street drug transactions, in particular.”

    Despite the improprieties in the investigation and the trial, and despite the fact that Ross Ulbricht actually made the black market safer, he will be in prison for a minimum of 20 years. The Ulbricht family has said they plan to appeal the conviction, however they shouldn’t need to do so. Ross Ulbricht should be pardoned, as should all non-violent drug offenders!

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