Sunday, June 28, 2009

Freedom Rally

My wife, Becky, and I attended the Freedom Rally yesterday outside of the Arizona House of Representatives in Phoenix. I felt dwarfed by the horrors that people told of the masses of people incarcerated wrongfully. Parents, grandparents, and people who had spent years in prison--wrongfully convicted--spoke of their loved ones and "the others" (innocent people their loved ones had met in prison). We took pictures and I'm going to put together a short video slideshow of the day.

What struck me the most was not that the error happened, but the attempts to force the error to be true in spite of overwhelming facts that a wrong had been committed. Gloria Killian works tirelessly to help the "victims of justice" after spending 16 years in prison despite overwhelming evidence that she committed no crime. She was abused by the justice system even after her conviction was overturned with prejudice for the injustice caused her. Mary Ellen DiGiacom spoke there as well. Another woman victimized by the relentless War On Americans launched as part of America's need to provide service sector jobs.

The parents of Courtney Bisbee spoke about their tireless efforts to free their daughter from County Attorney Andrew Thomas' blood-lust. Like Dracul The Impaler (Dracula), Thomas' flaunts his victims. Abusing Mandatory Minimum Sentencing laws, he routinely strips local residents (ordinary people who have never been arrested) of their identity, their freedom, and even their lives. On a quest to build a political resume, he shows no sign of mercy for those he is elected to protect. I listened to others who spoke of Thomas' House of Horror that Maricopa County has become.

The parents of Mike Lubas did not speak at the microphone because of their terror that anything they said could return as retaliation on their son. They too are a family that has given their life's savings to lawyers able to charge exorbitant fees in this malignant guilty until proven innocent system of justice. I wish I could have told them they were wrong. I wish I could have reassured them of the fairness that exists, re-affirmed their 1st Amendment rights, and told them that they live in a country that does not oppress those who speak for freedom. But, I just looked on, nodding my head in agreement at their pain and disillusionment.

I spoke about how greed, corruption, and special interests control much of America's justice system. I talked about the number of things all of us, ordinary citizens with no prior history with the law, shared in common. I want to share those thoughts with you.

1. Every one believed in our system the justice system and its ability to do the right thing.
2. No one realized that predatory prosecutors can control the courts by using mandatory minimum sentencing as a weapon against ordinary citizens.
3. None of us realized that mandatory minimum sentencing was to be used against ordinary citizens who had never been arrested.
4. All of us were shocked to discover defense attorneys matched their fees to the fear of defendants, rather than the fair and reasonable fees of other professionals.
5. All of us were shocked at the illicit lengths that those in the justice system would go to prove they acted correctly. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence, even after a higher court overturned a lower court, and even after the real guilty parties were caught, the nightmare continued.
6. All of us are in shock, almost speechless, now that we are awake to the truth. After a lifetime of believing the America’s Justice System, to see it for what it truly has become overwhelms our every thought. This isn’t the America we learned about in school. We live in a different place.

Having once been asleep, maybe like you are now, we scream for others to awaken. It’s a long, tough battle, but you are worth it. Those at the Freedom Rally ask you to look. Be skeptical by all means, but just take a long hard look. Read some books written by people who are not victims of the system, but are sickened by it. Those experts love their country too, and they wrote those books to help you see how at risk you are at this moment. The Internet is a fabulous tool and websites will guide you to articles a plenty. My website has a page of links. Attend a trial or two.

After millions of wrongs in the name of expediency and greed, a critical mass of victims now exists. They are a network that can help you awaken too. Walk away from the television set. It is lulling you into a hypnotic daze. Drugged, you can’t see that our precious system of laws and justice so many have died to protect is not just broken, it has become predatory.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Economics of Alcohol-laced Liquids

Mother’s Against Drunk Driving spent $80,000 to lobby Congress in 2004. Less than 10 percent of the over $10.5 million in government grants they received that year and less then 1 percent of their total contributions. As a matter of fact, MADD’s spending on lobbying against drunk driving between 1998 through 2004 was a paltry $372,500. During that same period, they received government grants in excess of $43,000,000. There is a war on the American public, but to a different purpose. Restaurants, bars, media, attorneys, and most assuredly the government are transferring billions of your dollars to their pockets with the licensing and sale of on-premises alcohol-laced liquid.

Yes, there is a conspiracy. No, it’s not an illusion. The alcohol producers tell their shareholders that business is booming. Government licenses the majority of alcohol retailers in the manner most profitable to them, a point of sale that requires driving afterwards. The Food Services industry employs a million more people to handle on premises alcohol consumption ($43 billion retail sales in 2002) than they would were alcohol not served. “To Go” alcohol outlets by contrast employ a fraction of that number of employees. Of course, the restaurants and bars could argue that a smaller fraction of restaurant and bar employment is related to alcohol sales. Between 1998 and 2004, the National Restaurant Association contributed $4 million to political candidates and spent another $6 million in lobbying. Was this for more liberal food preparation?

For the past thirty years 1.5 million drivers have been arrested each year. Doing a bit of math, let’s figure about $10,000 per case attorney fees and we’ve got $15 billion in lawyer income. Estimate about 20 percent of that as pretax profit to the firm and its worth $3 billion in IRS receipts. That’s not including the 80 percent that went to wages, all of which is taxed too.

Alcohol and crime, or rather the pursuit of criminals, creates the movement of money and that creates income for government. If the income received from alcohol and the pursuit of criminals creates more government receipts than it costs, then the government benefits from these activities in proportion to their growth. While it’s doubtful that Congress consciously writes laws to prey upon our citizens, you’ve seen how they directly benefit from special interest money when these laws exist. There is a direct “incentive” for their existence, and a “disincentive” for their elimination.

In 2002, the federal government’s income included $858.3 billion from individual tax returns, $148 billion from corporation tax returns and $7.8 billion from excise tax on the sale of alcohol . The cost for the Federal Bureau of Prisons that year was $4.6 billion. To pay for the entire prison system required only 40 percent of the excise tax money collected from the sale of alcohol.

The crimes legislated from alcohol and illegal drugs are some portion of the individual and corporate tax receipts. While we can’t know exactly the economic benefit to government and industry from alcohol sales and crime in 2002. We can make an quick estimate that it in excess of $63 billion dollars, more money than the gross domestic product of one-forth the states in America.

The real eye-opener is that as large as $63 billion is, it likely counts for less than 50 percent of the full impact. This only accounts for the money made from beer, wine, liquor sales, and DUI crime. It doesn’t account for the billions of dollars (with another 50 percent returning to government) spent within the medical and pharmaceutical industries on the larger problem of alcohol-created disease.

Looked at from an even wider perspective, excise taxes on alcohol sales, paid over half (57 percent) of the operating costs of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Federal Prison System, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Attorneys, and Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Forces combined.

This single excise tax was over four tenths of one percent of the total income for the federal government that year. Do you truly think anyone in power wants to end that? All that money changing hands from the sale of beer, wine, liquor and DUI. Well, they don’t. Moreover, they can’t!

If DUI ended—just went away—it would be a crippling jolt to the economy and to the government’s ability to govern us. This explains, in monetary terms, the lack of ‘don’t drink and drive’ messages relative to the abundance of ‘do drink’ messages from profiteering industries.

Well, what about prohibition? If alcohol is so dangerous that it has a negative effect on the lives of tens of millions of Americans, why not make it illegal again. Even without the organized crime argument, the table above illustrates that it would raise unemployment 1.2 percent within weeks and the loss of the excise tax income would be compounded by paying out unemployment benefits to all the laid off workers.

There is no tax income earned by government for the mere ownership of money. If you own twenty million dollars, have no taxable property, and consume nothing that is taxed in America, you would have a tax free lifestyle. For the government to receive benefit, there has to be some economic velocity to money. If you have five thousand dollars in a savings account and earn three percent simple interest on it, the federal government receives income of $23 that year, assuming a 15% tax bracket. If you remove that money from your savings account and pay it to an attorney to defend you, the government earns money from:

a. The portion of the money retained as end of year profits to the firm, estimating 20% of five thousand dollars taxed 20% federal income tax would pay Uncle Sam $200.
b. The portion of the money distributed as wages to the firm’s employees would be the remaining 80% of five thousand dollars taxed at an average 20% federal income tax and 15.63% FICA tax for a tax contribution of $1,425.

I realize this is a rough cut of an income statement, but it illustrates the point accurately. If you have an accident drinking and driving that costs five thousand dollars for a defense to save you from the government’s ire, the government earns $1,625 of your wealth in tax income. If that money stays in your savings account, they earn $23. If you are government — alcohol crime pays.

All of the rhetoric about “Costs of crime” are necessarily limited to a slice of data that supports a single point of view. Looking at the whole, alcohol, and alcohol crime, is a moneymaker for both its industry and the government.

Between 1998 and 2004, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America spent $22 million lobbying Congress and contributed another $14 million to politicians. Much of that money was spent to prevent legal reform that would in effect cut their payday considerably. While this liberal spending is not about alcohol or drugs per se, the point of fact doesn’t change, attorneys win from harsher laws related to drinking and driving. The employees in a lawyer’s office will take the money they received from your savings account as wages to them and spend most of it, yet more transactions that create tax revenues.

Money must flow to earn a living for the government and a cash poor government like ours is heavily incentivized to do all it can to maximize the inflow of cash from all sources.

My point isn’t that the government is trying to trick you into committing an alcohol-related crime, but rather that they have no incentive to protect you so that you don’t. In fact, they are highly incentivized to promote, create, and allow you to drink liquids laced with alcohol, which is notorious for making people do stupid things, and then stand by to cash in when you do something stupid. This explains the explosive expansion of on-premises drinking establishments over the past thirty years better than any other logic!

Upsetting as it might be, DUI crime is an important part of America’s economy if you are the government. Moving back to a common sense theory of economics for a moment, if DUI crime wasn’t profitable, why would our government manufacture so much of it with more liberal on premises drinking laws combined with more severe alcohol-related crime legislation? If it cost more to have alcohol-related crime, then alcohol-related crime would be a source of the nation’s deficit, but if you look at the nation’s income statement, it’s a cash cow!

Now you know that if you visit Happy Hour, consume a liquid containing a government supported drug that makes you stupid, and then do something stupid afterward. You’re not a victim — you’re prey.

Political Fiction: War On DUI

We're all outraged by DUI accidents. We believe we know the source of our outrage, but few of us can articulate that source to another person. For the vast majority of people, their angst at DUI is just something they know they should be angry about—end of story.

Well, the facts about DUI may surprise you. Let’s take the government’s position (which in reality is the most common source for our outrage):

1. Government exists to protect the people.
2. Alcohol-related accidents kill people. Thousands of people die each year.
3. DUI is the scourge of society and an epidemic that must be stopped.

Is that a fair enough description of your viewpoint as well? It is for most people.

Oh, if only it were true, but there are no facts to support such a protest. In fact, the facts say that the opposite is true. The facts clearly show that government:

1. Government preys on the people they are chartered to protect.
2. Happy Hour kills people more than any other alcohol-related activity
3. DUI is encouraged, created, promoted, and protected by government.

Outrageous? Unbelievable? Read on…

These facts are supported by the government, as a matter of fact, they come from the government. You see, alcohol-related deaths are the collateral damage of a campaign to create and promote as much DUI as possible.
Absurd!! No, unfortunately not.

Fact 1: On average 1.5 million people are arrested for DUI and 17,000 people die in alcohol-related accidents. In 30 years these numbers have varied only a few percentage points around these historical averages. Despite improvements in automobile safety, despite laws that are draconian in their harshness, and despite publicly shaming these criminals, nothing changes. Except once.
These numbers did begin to trend downward at the turn of the century, but the law was changed in 2001, lowering the threshold of intoxication from .10 to .08, and the numbers of arrests and deaths returned to their historical norms.

Fact 2: For every family that buries a loved one innocently killed in a DUI auto accident, three to four families bury a loved one killed in a single-car DUI accident. Sixty to eighty percent of people who die in an alcohol-related accident have alcohol in their blood. This is another 30 year historical norm.

Fact 3: Government has grown the number of licensed establishments that dispense alcohol-laced liquids exponentially in the past 30 years. There are even 130 gas stations in America that are licensed by government to have a bar in them.

So far the government has told us that there is no improvement in the DUI numbers, that the majority of people killed have alcohol in their blood, and that they are growing the problem by licensing ever more restaurants and bars to serve alcohol-laced liquids. Still, there’s more—a lot more.

FACT 4: Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) spent less than two-percent of its revenue lobbying government between 1998 and 2004. As a matter of fact the Correctional Vendors Association spent more money lobbying Congress during that period than did MADD and both lawyer associations and the for-profit prison industry spent exponentially more money lobbying legislators. Source: Center For Public Integrity, Lobby Watch

FACT 5: The biggest single contributor to MADD is the government. The 2nd largest contributors is the auto industry. Which makes sense when you realize that MADD’s marketing message of fear drives people from small low-profit automobiles into larger high-profit trucks and SUVs. Source: MADD’s annual reports.

FACT 6: If all the alcohol-laced liquid consumed in 2002 were put into tanker trucks, it would make a convoy over 9,500 miles long. Source: The alcohol industry.

Now, that you know the war on DUI is an illusion. I'll tell you what purpose it serves in my next blog. If you can't wait you can read about it under the Political Fictions menu selection on the Accidental Felons Website.


PS: 2,000 to 7,000 of those 17,000 people who die each year are truly innocent victims killed by someone driving drunk. This post doesn't lessen the pain of their loved ones. Speeding, trucks and SUVs are the major killers of people in auto accidents. As sad as it is, innocent people killed by a drunk driver is 20 percent of the people killed in auto accidents. Add in the people who law would argue were not innocent, those with alcohol in their blood, and we still capture only 50 percent of the total. Speed and steel hurling down the highway at 70 mph kills the other 50 percent of people.

Arizona Betrayed

Illinois is not the only state tainted with political corruption. Arizona has a long history of politicians who are embroiled in controversy. All the way from presidential hopeful Senator John McCain down to dangerous the bowels of Sheriff Joe Arpio’s desert jail euphemistically called Tent City.

A new predator walks the streets of Arizona now. He is arguably the most dangerous man in Arizona, if not the entire United States. Were he in a third world country, our nation would brand him a criminal, but in Arizona he quietly destroys lives in wholesale fashion with a minimum of public scrutiny. He lives in the county of Maricopa, along with over 1/2 of Arizona's population. He is the 800 pound gorilla in the state's legislature.

He is Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas. This is a predatory politician with no equal. He is the man who single-handedly drained all defense resources within Arizona in 24 months by charging so many residents with capital crimes. The man who increased the rate at which Arizona residents go to prison by 33% using Mandatory Minimum Sentencing as a weapon of mass destruction to manufacture violent criminals out of ordinary citizens. And, he is a man who single-handedly thrust Arizona from the 9th most dangerous state in America to number 3 with one idea—abuse of the law.

Andrew Thomas, is a one-man wrecking machine of liberty and things American. If he isn’t in the pocket of the for-profit prison industry, then he certainly has his portrait hanging in the board room. He, more than any other factor, is responsible for the collapse of Arizona’s penal system and subsequent sale of Arizona prisoners for profit.

More details on this man and his acts of barbarism are available at the Accidental Felons website.

America's First Prison State

Senate Bill SB 1028 officially makes Arizona the first prison state in the United States. The bill sells 100% of the state's assets to the For-Profit prison industry for $495,000,000. Not since the Civil War has a state sanctioned profiteering in human flesh.

The For-Profit prison industry was launched in 1984 in response to the birth of Mandatory Minimum Sentencing's huge flood of new prisoners into America's prison system. Some of these companies are traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Their history is rightfully filled with controversy.

Having a government heavily controlled by special interest dollars make laws defining crimes and sentences in the same world as an industry that profits from these laws is beyond the pale. Until now, states have resisted the rise of these concrete and steel operations that profit from misery, but no longer. After Arizona who will fall next? Other states where the for-profit industry has had success are Alaska, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, and California.

Make no mistake about it. Any industry that is profit driven to incarcerate--and keep incarcerated--human beings to make a profit will do so with the zeal of any other for-profit enterprise facing an impatient group of shareholders.