Sunday, July 30, 2006

Capital punishment is draconian, un-American, and counterproductive...

The following is a message from New Whig Chairman, Paul Linnenburger.

It is extremely difficult for someone without personal experience with the criminal justice system, especially death penalty cases, to fully understand the circumstances. I used to be an advocate of capital punishment...until I informed myself and had to deal with the system. While I could go on for days about the idiocy of capital punishment, I will try to be somewhat brief.

When people claim that life imprisonment is less expensive than the death penalty they are ignoring the cost of trial to even get to the point of the years and years of appeals (that your tax dollars end up paying for since capital punishment is sought much more often against the poor, not to mention minorities...and I will not debate that with you, it is a fact that is easily verified by Department of Justice statistics. So look it up and save your breath). For instance, the federal system actually requires three trials to even get to the point where a sentence of death may be imposed. The first is a hearing system put in place before the criminal trial which is used to determine whether a particular defendant will be eligible for the death penalty. For this hearing the government must do extensive investigation, and the defense must do extensive investigation (and remember, the defense must be provided to indigent defendants, which means your tax dollars are being used...if you have no humanity, you most likely have greed and do not like your money wasted). This takes months and a lot of manpower hours that could be used by law enforcement to solve otherwise unsolved crimes. That is right, even at this early stage, capital punishment means less time and money devoted to solving other crimes, thereby leaving more dangerous criminals out on the streets. Then, if the Department of Justice decides the US Attorney for a particular district is authorized to seek the death penalty a criminal trial is the next step. Criminal trials of capital crimes are intense and extremely expensive. They constitutionally require qualified attorneys (two for each defendant in federal cases), which costs the government even more money (for instance, here in New Mexico, there are only a handful of capital qualified defense attorneys...the government has to pay them to represent indigent defendants at a premium according to the requirements of the Constitution and the Criminal Justice Act, along with investigators, mitigation specialists, etc.). Furthermore, they take much more time in the courtroom, and for every day a case is in court, the government loses thousands and thousands of dollars and hours of manpower (federal Marshals must be present in the courtroom, taking them off the streets, not to mention all the investigators who will be witnesses that are then pulled from their jobs). Then, if a guilty verdict is reached, after already having spent a few million tax payer dollars, a third trial occurs, the sentencing trial. The sentencing phase requires hundreds of hours of preparation and investigation on both sides, the defense looking for mitigatory factors, the government looking for aggravating factors. This results in another big bill to taxpayers. Finally, there just might be a sentence of death, which will automatically require years of appeal in accordance with due process guarantees of the Constitution, which means even more money and manpower down the drain. When you focus on the cost of capital punishment only from sentencing to carrying out that sentence, you miss millions of dollars that otherwise would not be spent.

The Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. Whether a punishment falls within this category is based upon evolving standards of decency. Standards of decency have most definitely evolved since the time of this Nations founding, thereby discounting any argument that capital punishment was plentiful at the time the Constitution was signed. No other industrialized democracy in the world utilizes this draconian punishment. Its use does, however, give us a bond to countries like Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan under the Taliban, Iraq under Saddam. Not exactly the best company for a country that claims it is the home of freedom and justice.

Capital punishment's only value as a deterrent to further crime is through specific deterrence. This means that the particular individual will not commit further crime. However, this is accomplished by life imprisonment without parole, without the expense of a capital trial and the other problems associated with capital punishment. Any argument that a convicted person sentenced to life without parole still has the opportunity to escape and commit further crime is ludicrous. With a sentence as serious as that, they will be placed in prisons that do not afford for such opportunity, and any escape will be an insanely rare exception that proves the rule. Any argument that escape is somehow a realistic possibility for prisoners sentenced to LWOP is laughable, and I find tends to come from people that have never had experience with prisons in this country.

Since capital punishment made a comeback in this country, violent crime has risen. It is obvious that there is no general deterrent value to capital punishment. Expanding the use of capital punishment may have the opposite effect, creating an environment where criminals no longer have anything left to lose, thereby increasing their dangerousness.

The jury system is not perfect. Awhile ago I did two blogs on men executed in Texas on questionable evidence. Furthermore, a criminal trial has the deck severely stacked against a defendant from the outset, and if you have never been through the process, this is something that is extremely difficult to understand. Trust me on that. This combination is too dangerous to accept the outcome. I tend to believe that it is better to let 10 guilty men go free (or in this case, not so much go free as sit in prison for the remainder of their natural lives without hope of parole) then to sentence one innocent man to death.

Also, the process of capital trials and the subsequent appeals has a devastating psychological affect on those involved. Court personnel have noted the anguish they suffer as a result of these cases. I recently heard the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court speak of the mental problems he has had associated with being informed that "the order of the court has been carried out" upon the death of an inmate. Even jurors have noted the anguish they go through knowing they sent someone to their death. Perhaps most poignantly, the process is drawn out and compartmentalized in such a way that it actually prohibits victims from gaining closure. They must endure three trials, a process that will likely take years. After that, they must then endure years of appeal, and the possibility of yet another three-phase trial. The process keeps these wounds open for years and years. It is a system where everybody loses, and it is an embarrassment to our society.

Friday, July 28, 2006

More on immigration...

While advancing the policies outlined in previous blogs and below, it is important that business are provided with the means to realistically decipher whether or not their workers are legally in the United States. Currently our government seeks to hold employers responsible for hiring illegal workers. Yet when these same employers ask the government for assistance in determining the status of their workers, they are stonewalled. If we are serious about retaining jobs for American workers, it is lunacy to deprive businesses of the means with which to accomplish this.

It is vital that we provide a quicker and easier path to citizenship for people that are established in this country. No good can come out tearing families apart and forcing good, otherwise law-abiding, people into prison and back across the border. Some of the major talking points of those proclaiming the evils of illegal immigration is that these people do not pay taxes and they work jobs for lower pay, pricing Americans out of the labor market. If we fast track those that are established here already into citizenship they will then begin paying taxes on the income earned (which is more than can be said for numerous large corporations) and force companies to pay them the legal minimum wage, thereby alleviating these concerns.

We stand at a crossroads when it comes to those people that have come here through illegal channels in order to establish a better life for themselves and their families. We can either turn them into felons, necessitating a huge expenditure of money to round them up and house them in already overcrowded federal prisons bloated with some 2,000,000 nonviolent offenders, and forcing them further into the shadows of society, a placement that only leads to further problems for society as a whole. Such an approach is baffling when one realizes that immigrants, even those here illegally, are less likely to commit violent crime that American citizens. Or, we can accept that they can be productive members of society, that these families and communities are a positive influence on our culture, and that they become unabashedly American by the second or third generation. We can force them into becoming a drain on society as a prisoner, or we can place them in a position to contribute fully to society. We reject the first option and choose the later. We choose to accept the humanity of my neighbor that has risked everything for the hope that accompanies a promise of freedom and opportunity.

It is this choice that guides our belief that it would be horribly counterproductive to deny education and medicine to immigrants, regardless their status. Some espouse the need for individual responsibility, yet propose to hold children accountable for the actions of their parents. They decry the lack of desire of immigrants to "assimilate" and become productive members of society, and then attempt to deny them the means with which to accomplish these goals. If we truly want immigrant populations to become a strength of this country, we must provide them with the tools to better their position. Not only will this create a better situation for those wishing to gain a foothold in America, but it will lead to a betterment of the whole of our society in the long-term and create strong bonds between newcomers and their new home.

The idea of building a fence on the border is a gross perversion of the ideals with which this nation was founded. One cannot help but remember a time when a wall was erected to prevent people from escaping to freedom, prosperity and a better life. As children we watched as the German people danced on the remains of that wall. I never imagined members of the United States Congress would propose the turning back the clock and utilizing tactics of oppression which it struggled so long to topple. This country should be embracing freedom seeking peoples of the world, not erect concrete and barbed wire in their path.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Beginning to deal with immigration...

Even including illegal immigration, immigration rates are a fraction of what they were a century ago, a time when the influx of immigrants, all of whom would be considered "illegal" under today's laws, spurred the rise of American economic power. At the time it was believed that the growing American population of Irish, German and Italian peoples would destroy the fabric of our society. Now, those boogeymen have proved not to be awaiting in the our nation's closet, our leaders have turned to Mexicans as a scape goat for their failed policies.

We question why the debate is centered solely on the southern border. The northern border is longer and easier to cross. Those with family on either side travel relatively painlessly between the two countries. Traffic across the Canadian border by foreign terrorists would not raise much alarm given the subsantial immigrant population in Canada. Yet our leaders avert our eyes to the southern border and point to the false boogeyman of the Mexican infiltration.

It may suprise many to learn that illegal immigrants in this country are actually far less likely to commit violent crime than American citizens. They also largely become "American" by the second and third generation. They live in close-knit communities and have strong extended family networks. All in all, they are putting together the type of communities and families that America should celebrate.

We ask why we feel it is necessary to severely limit immigration when immigration is part of what makes this nation and furthers the economic growth and well-being of the United States. As long as this country remains the land of opportunity, as long as we proclaim ourselves the land of the free, people will continue to flock here. Why then, do we not embrace these self-proclaimed monikers and truly deliver freedom and opportunity to our neighbors? It is time to live up the words engraved on the tablet held by the Statue of Liberty..."Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door." It is this dream of an America, a nation that opens it's doors of opportunity to the world and shares the dream of freedom and prosperity with all that seek it, that drives my views on immigration.

Thus, our perspective on immigration issues is shaped by a realization that lifting up our neighbor will benefit ourselves in the long term. Accordingly, we point to the example of post-World War II Europe and Japan and the policy commonly referred to as the Marshall Plan. The economies of these countries were in tatters after years of war, and this posed a problem for the growing American economy. This country spent billions rebuilding the economies of war torn countries. The result was a growing market for American manufacturers and a number of trading partners which served to promote prosperity in each of the nations. By sharing it's own prosperity, America ensured continued prosperity for years to come.

By contrast, agreements such as NAFTA are destroying the viability of the Mexican economy while increasingly sending capital abroad with not much to show for it here. The result is a people desperate, a people willing to risk everything to cross the border for the hope of a better life for their children and themselves. Until the Mexican economy is prosperous in it's own right, these people will continue to cross our borders. Thus, if one's concern is truly to end the migration of peoples north, a strengthening of the Mexican economy must be the first priority.

Not only will aid to Mexico in a Marshall Plan type program assist in curbing illegal immigration, it will provide an opportunity for economic growth here in the United States. Just as the rebuilding of Europe and Japan led to trading partners and markets for American products that can afford to pay for them. This can be part of a program to rebuild the infrastructure of American manufacturing, the key to economic power in an industrialized world and an area where this nation is in serious relative decline. Furthermore, a viable trading partner to the south carries with it the possibility to create a boon for the border states, including New Mexico.

A stronger friend to the south economically tied in a prosperous way with the United States will, in the long-term, increase the security of this nation, much the same way stronger friends in Western Europe and Japan assisted in previous years.

An intelligent approach to comprehensive immigration policies has the possibility to create a safer, more prosperous America.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Essence of New Whig...

Politics in this country have become removed from reality. The folks in Washington are so far removed from the rest of us that they have completely lost touch with America. Look around, the most successful politicians are those that can bring in the most dollars. Unfortunately, to raise barrels of money politicians then begin to vote according to the wishes of those that pay for their campaigns. The vast majority of American's cannot afford to give "meaningful" monetary contributions to political campaigns and, as a result, they are turned away by the political machine, even when they reach out unselfishly. This was the final straw, the last push throwing us into the coliseum, the launching of a new movement.

We have this vision...a vision of a nation where elections are decided on ideas rather than money, catchy phrases, and straight party line votes. A nation where the people relish their freedom to vote and their freedom to choose because that choice is there. A nation where we reject the notion of voting for the lesser evil, because it only takes us farther from the common good. A nation where leaders are respected for looking past the next quarter or even the next election. A nation with a government that serves the people rather than oversees them.

Hence our vision of a campaign without connection to a party or to monied interests. A campaign based on the lost realization that if you avoid the politics of fear and hatred, that if you give them ideas, if you give them a vision of hope, if you give them a reason, the American people will respond and the greatness of this nation will shine.

Thus, we will share with you our ideas. Some are polished, some are rough, some are practical, some are idealistic, none of them are an attempt to pander. There may even be times when our vision shifts, when our ideas are updated, or when new ideas are brought to our attention. This is called "flip-flopping" by some, but those of us who remain connected to the world outside Washington know it to be growth. While you peruse our thoughts, our suggestions, our solutions, we ask that you share with us your own thoughts, your own suggestions, your own solutions.

Spread the word, make some waves, help us in awaking the sleeping giant that is the American electorate.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

What Might Have Been...

Almost four decades ago Robert F. Kennedy was assasinated. He may have been America's last chance to fight off the forces of greed, corruption and imperialism which now hold this country down and keep it from reaching it's potential for greatness. RFK should be a model for us all...when he started his career in law and politics he participated in such atrocities as the House Unamerican Activities Committee and prosecuted labor leaders. However he also took on civil rights cases, and after his brother was assasinated, a new RFK emerged, one which united the country and showed the potential for a populist movement to reclaim American greatness. We can only imagine how the world may be a better place had RFK lived to change the face of American politics before it was too late. Here is a brief collection of a few of my personal favorite RFK-isms.

"Too much, and for too long we seem to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product is now over $800 billion a year [in 1968]. But that gross national product, if we judge the United States of America by that, counts air pollution, and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors, and the jails for people who break them. It counts the destruction of redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and it counts nuclear warheads, and Witman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

Yet the gross national pruduct does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our passion nor our devotion to our country.

It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America...except why we are proud that we are Americans."

And now our children are without proper medical care, with schools that are failing them and pollution that is slowly killing them. It seems every level of government is poisoned with corruption, and our public debate has been stifled by those in power and by the monied interests they represent. The last forty years could have made America great, instead they have made her a global bully that ignores the needs of even it's own citizens.

"There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not."

This is the problem with politics today, neither side is willing to strive to achieve what this country is capable of achieving. Instead they are content with blaming the state of affairs on the other. We do not get solutions, or even valid attempts at them, we get the same stale, failed propositions under a different name. We refuse to accept that there are those in this country that go to bed hungry, that there are children world wide that know the pain of hunger so that the economic engine of globalization can continue to roll along, that the human race is incapable of dealing with itself without resorting to bloodletting, that we can build a weapon that can instantly anhiliate millions but are unable to lift the impoverished from their dreary lives, that criminal sanctions are the solution to all our problems, that we can spend trillions on death and destruction yet not find a way to power our economy with a resource that would not require the use of our military forces in areas of the world rich in hydrocarbons, that there is anyone in this country that is denied a quality education simply because they cannot afford the tuition, that people must pick themselves up out of poverty without the community providing the means with which to accomplish it, that for so many of our poor the way out is either turning to crime or turning to the military. How can we not do better than this?

"On this generation of Americans falls the burden of proving to the world that we really mean it when we say all men are created free and are equal before the law. All of us might wish at times that we lived in a more tranquil world, but we don't. And if our times are difficult and perplexing, so are they challenging and filled with opportunity."

America had an opportunity to shape the world in a positive way following the tragedy of September 11th. America could have lived up to it's ideals by taking the moral high ground and reevaluating it's role in promoting un-American actions abroad. Instead, we chose to invade two countries, subjecting their people to further death and destruction. It may be too late to turn the tide, but we must act as though it is not. If we lead the world will follow, whether it be into further armed conflict or serious discussion.

"Democracy is no easy form of government. Few nations have been able to sustain it. For it requires that we take the chances of freedom; that the liberating play of reason be brought to bear on events filled with passion; that dissent be allowed to make its appeal for acceptance; that menchance error in their search for the truth."

Democracy is not easy, and as a nation we have become complacent in allowing it to erode. While Democrats and Republicans argue over which side is more capable of destroying the fabric of this country, the majority of citizens are so appalled they refuse to exercise their most basic and important right. We can no longer allow ourselves to play the game that politicians wish us to play, to continue choosing the lesser of two evils because we are afraid of what might happen otherwise. There is no other democratic country in the world where third parties have such a difficult time even getting to the ballot. This is unacceptable, but for it to change, we must retake control of our government as a people. No, democracy is not easy, but it is the very least of what we owe to those that came before us, those that perished to protect it, those that perished trying to obtain it, and those that longingly look to the United States for it.

"The sharpest criticism often goes hand in hand with the deepest idealism and love of country."

Do not let anyone call you un-American because you dream of an America that lives up to your hopes; that lifts her citizens out of poverty, crime and addiction, that works to do the same for peoples around the world; that acknowledges when it has been wrong, and works to correct those wrongs; that uses the power of liberty to compel change rather than the sword. We grew up with a deep love for my country, and while we know my country is not the great, benevolent actor we were taught as children, we believe it can be.

Friday, July 14, 2006

New Whig Founder Running for Congress...

The following is a message from New Whig Founder and Chairman, Paul Linnenburger.

I, for one, am no longer willing to sit idly back and watch the Republicans and the Democrats argue with each other over which is the better path to American and world decline...I refuse to vote for either of these candidates just because they are not as bad as the other...and everyone out there should do the same. For that...I offer myself, Paul is the first of a series in my effort to win your confidence.

This is what I can promise you...

I am not now, nor will I ever be, beholden to any monied interests. My staff has been directed to turn down any attempt at monetary campaign contributions. I find it disgusting that the State of New Mexico spends taxpayer money to send a lobbyist to the halls of the United States Capital. That's right, our current representatives are so inept, that we must pay someone else to roam the halls of Congress and look out for New Mexico.

I find it entirely unacceptable that each time the government is looking to cut back on military bases within the United States itself New Mexicans begin to worry that their bases will be taken, and the economy of this state will suffer. Yet the government has no problem building dozens of permanent military bases in and around the Middle East. The beneficiaries become, not the American people, not the good people of New Mexico, but a handful of contractors with ties to even fewer companies that happen to have people like the President's father on the board of directors. If we are going to spend a ridiculously high percentage of our GDP on "defense"...I propose it actually benefit the American people number one, and actually be defensive number two. Bring some of these bases home.

While the folks in Washington have been using your tax dollars for years to find a way to secure the hydrocarbon resources of the world to support our energy habits, the United States has fallen behind the leaders in researching and developing alternative energy sources. How many trillion does this country currently spend on military ventures to protect our energy interests abroad? A fraction of that money could be spent to fund research and development of alternative energy sources so that this country may be ready for the day when oil becomes too expensive to prop up our economy. A whole lot of this research could and should be done right here at the Sandia Labs, an invaluable resource that is being improperly used by the folks in power now. We built an atomic bomb in the blink of an eye...we put a man on the moon...we can figure out a way to power our lives in a more efficient manner. In fact, our livelihood will eventually depend on it. Capitalism requires energy to power growth, our current energy sources are finite and depleting quickly. If we can get ahead of the curve, not only will it mean growth for the economy in the future, but it will mean we are no longer required to send hundreds of thousands of our troops to hydrocarbon rich regions of the world.

Along those same lines, the State of New Mexico should be leading the country in alternative energy to begin with. The amount of sun and wind this state sees provide an ideal testing ground for the benefits of solar and wind power. Tax incentives to develop these technologies further would provide New Mexico the opportunity to lead the world into the next age, which would, in turn, provide revenues to rival those of the oil and gas lands of the southeastern portion of the state.

Three of the most profitable businesses in this country are currently the illicit drug trade, industry connected to arming the world's armies (not just our own), and the industries connected to developing prisons. Thus, many of the biggest money makers in this country are directly connected to destroying lives or ending them. What does this say about the priorities of the people in Washington? Since the government began the "War on Drugs" illegal drugs have become easier to obtain and of better quality than ever before. Yet the solution seems to be to throw more money at solving crime, which leads to a booming prison industry that includes millions of Americans placed behind bars. If the unemployment numbers in this country were to include those in prison, the rate would climb more than a few percentage points. This is an entirely unproductive way to mobilize society, especially considering there are currently somewhere in the range of 2,000,000 people incarcerated for nonviolent offenses. All of the money spent on fighting drugs and fighting the world is highly unproductive for the overall economy. It is a large part of the reason the United States is teetering on the edge, and it can no longer be condoned.

I would never even dream of voting for a bill that hasn't even been printed for my viewing pleasure yet just because the country is scared and the title is PATRIOT. Such an abrogation of the sacred duty of a representative is repulsive.

A fair tax code, one in which those that can afford to pay more at least pay an equal percentage of their disposable income, should be re-implemented. Stratification of wealth is a serious problem in this country and one which has historically signalled an economy on it's decline. While the stock market continued to climb, your leaders told you life was better, yet you found it harder and harder to make ends meet. All of this while they and their friends fleeced the American taxpayer. Take just a small portion of that back, and our struggling schools just may be supported financially to turn around.

It is idiocy to remove funding from schools that are "failing." The logic of removing needed help from those that require it the most escapes me. No Child Left Behind, while it was at least an effort, was a horrible mistake. It was modeled after the program George Bush set up in Texas. While the test scores improved in Texas, as those students made it to colleges, they were discovering they never learned critical thinking skills and were way behind their classmates from "lesser" schools. Giving our children the ability to take a specific test is not giving them opportunity, it is robbing them of it.

Immigration is at a fraction of the rate it was at this point in the 20th Century. Yet the folks in Washington and Patsy Madrid and Bill Richardson want you to think Mexican workers coming over the border to work hard and establish families that are close-knit, largely church-going, and unequivocally American by the second or third generation, will be the end of the American dream. This is a lie that is perpetuating a racist view of an important ethnic group in this area.

The tribes and pueblos of New Mexico have been cheated by the Federal Government long enough. The fact that these peoples are forced to spend money on lobbyists is disgusting, it is a job our representatives should be doing. The established rules stifle economic growth in Indian Country, leaving them without the opportunity to decide whether or not they are interested in such growth. While the Federal Government claims to be stewards of the Indian, I am at a loss to remember one instance in which it acted as such.

I do not confuse being "soft" on crime with an intelligent approach to combating crime. I refuse to accept wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on a single criminal case seeking to kill someone who killed someone to show that killing someone is wrong. I refuse to accept that 2,000,000 nonviolent offenders could not be productive members of society. I refuse to accept that the best and cheapest way to deal with an addict is to throw them in prison rather than help them get off drugs.

I have no party affiliation, I have no affiliation but to the people who trudge to work every day in order to provide for their families. I want to hear from you...what are your concerns?

We have allowed the major parties to play with us long enough, it is time for the true citizens to stand up and take back their once again ensure that it is "of the people, by the people, and for the people."

If you want to learn more about where I stand on any given issue, just ask.