Jun 252015
 

My exclusive interview with Dr. Andrew Bernstein who holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the Graduate School of the City University of New York. He is the author of The Capitalist Manifesto: The Historic, Economic, and Philosophic Case for Laissez-Faire (University Press of America, 2005), Objectivism in One Lesson: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Ayn Rand (Hamilton Books, 2008), Capitalism Unbound: The Incontestable Moral Case for Individual Rights (University Press of America, 2010), and Capitalist Solutions: A Philosophy of American Moral Dilemmas (Transaction Publishers, 2011).

On June 25, 2015 he was in Toronto to speak on the case for ending drug prohibition, an event sponsored by The Toronto Objectivist Committee and The Freedom Party of Ontario.

Dec 082011
 

Cristian Fernandez 168x100There is an increasingly alarming trend in society today and that is the practice of punishment which is excessive to the crime.

The Canadian government’s Omnibus Crime Bill has passed third reading in the House and has moved onto the Senate for its rubber stamp approval.  One of the more disturbing elements of the Bill is the provision for mandatory minimum sentences to be meted out to cannabis users and growers; sentences which are longer in some cases than those given to child rapists.

Mandatory minimum sentences have the effect of rendering a judge impotent in his furnishing a sentence fitting to the crime and its circumstances.  With mandatory minimums in place a judge can basically only pass judgment on whether or not a person is guilty or innocent.  The punishment for many will be prescribed by law regardless of any mitigating circumstances which legislators cannot be privy to. They have determined that regardless of circumstance a criminal must serve a certain amount of time for a certain crime.

These mandatory minimums are a reaction to past lenient sentences handed out be liberal judges to hardened criminals.  On that face of it alone one could somewhat agree with the reaction.  But that is only one facet of the problem.  The particular offences our government has chosen to apply mandatory minimums to are non-violent offences such as growing, or possessing a plant, cannabis.

As offensive as these changes are to our criminal justice system it could be much worse.  Marc Emery, the Prince of Pot, a Canadian citizen turned over by the Canadian government to a foreign power, the United States, for selling cannabis seeds by mail to Americans, a crime punishable by a fine in this country, is serving five years in an American prison for his actions.  From his prison cell in the Yazoo City Correctional Institution in Mississippi Marc has posted to his blog several  examples of outrageously excessive sentences given to some prison-mates, most of whom, like Marc, are in jail for non-violent drug related offences.

Christopher Norman – sentenced to 21 years, 10 months for conspiracy to distribute five kilograms of cocaine.

First time offender, Jacob Esquibel – 21 years, 3 months for ‘Possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.’

Travis Rogers – 21 years for conspiracy to distribute 500+ grams of methamphetamine.

Antonio Andrews – 48 years – Convicted of being a felon in possession of firearms.  The guns were not used in any way and no one was harmed.

Cedric Jones – Conspiracy to possess and distribute crack cocaine. – Mandatory life sentence.  No drugs were ever found on his person nor were any amount specified in his indictment.

Nathan Carter – Possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine – Life without parole.

Bryan Jones – Conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine – sentenced to life without parole PLUS FIVE YEARS!

Billy Wheelock – life without parole for possession of 99.64 grams of crack cocaine.

Curtis Bell – Conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine – Life without parole.

Marc concludes his blog post with this warning:

“In Canada, the cruel mandatory minimums for cannabis and drugs soon coming into law will be augmented by the on-going appointment of Conservative judges to the courts.  This situation will produce much longer and harsher sentences, fill the jails, increase the debt, expand police powers, reduce the safety and freedom of the citizens, escalate the drug war, raise drug prices, increase the lucrative nature of the drug trade, and drain the taxpayers.”

One further and chilling example of an excessive punishment is the case of twelve year old Cristian Fernandez of Jacksonville, Florida.

This young boy, just into puberty, pushed his toddler brother.  The two and a half year old suffered a head injury which was ignored by his mother who only reported the injury after several hours.  The boy died two days later but doctors claim that he could have been saved had the mother acted quicker instead of taking time to download music on her computer.

While the mother is being tried for her negligence what is tragic is that young Cristian is being tried as an adult for murder.  If he is found guilty the mandatory sentence is life with no chance of parole for 75 years.  Did I mention that Cristian is only 12 years old?

My reaction to these sentences is in no way a comment on the serious nature of some of the crimes, nor on the fact that some of these people deserve to be punished for their crimes.  My reaction is strictly to the excessive and barbaric treatment these individuals are experiencing.

We often pass proper moral judgment on the behaviour of the governments of uncivilized countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or North Korea.  The stonings, beheadings, public amputations, and torture that so-called “criminals” receive in these countries go beyond the pale.  But given the current trend in Canada and the United States to increase sentencing for non-violent crimes and putting 12 year old children in jail for life we are not far behind these medieval countries and catching up.

Sep 222011
 

CannabisOn Sun News Network this week Brian Lilly lamented the fact that the country has no truly conservative politicians.  Not to let that one go, several people e-mailed Mr. Lilly and reminded him that the Freedom Party of Ontario has one of the most fiscally conservative platforms ever heard of in this province.  Subsequently Mr. Lilly had the Leader of the Freedom Party on his show and he was forced to rescind his previous notion that a truly fiscal conservative party doesn’t exist.

There is, however another kind of conservatism in Canada, social conservatism.  This has come to be embodied in the Conservative Party of Canada under its Leader Stephen Harper.  Mr. Harper’s Conservatives are certainly not fiscally conservative judging by their past two terms in power, albeit with a minority.  The next five years with a majority I fear will only reinforce the country’s opinion of them as foolhardy tax and spend liberals.

While we can fault them for their overtaxing and overspending we certainly cannot fault them not being socially conservative.  Although I wish we could.

This week Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, the same man personally responsible for incarcerating Marc Emery in the United States for selling cannabis seeds to Americans, introduced an Omnibus Crime Bill.  Some of the provisions of the crime bill (Bill C-10).  I actually support, coming down harder on youths who commit violent crime, increasing jail time for certain offence involving children and ending house-arrest for perpetrators of violent crimes, and allowing terrorism victims to sue terrorists and their supporters.  I have often thought that our criminal justice system was soft when it came to sentencing violent criminals.

But there are provisions in this new bill which can only be described as chilling.

I have written before about the nature of conservatism and its desire to control people based on a conservative’s unnatural sense of morality.  A morality based primarily on mysticism, religion and superstition.  I have previously identified conservatives as being intrinsicists, people who believe that things are bad in and of themselves with little consideration given to reason, or an individual’s right to decide what is good for them without interference from Big Brother.

Part of the Crime Bill calls for draconian prison terms for people who grow cannabis plants.  If you have 6 – 200 plants you are to be given an automatic 6-month sentence, with an extra three months if it’s done in a rental property or is deemed a public-safety hazard.  If you grow from 201 to 500 plants you get a minimum one year sentence or 1 ½ years if it in a rental or poses a safety risk.  The maximum sentence for growing any marijuana at all would double from seven to 14 years.

These sentences are something I might expect coming from Saudi Arabia or Pakistan where individual rights don’t exist and the state dictates what it considers to be moral.

Compare these sentences to the new sentences being proposed for child sex crimes.  According to The Province, a British Columbia newspaper, the pot grower who is caught growing 201 pot plants would receive a longer mandatory sentence…

than someone who rapes a toddler or forces a five-year-old to have sex with an animal.

A pedophile who gets a child to watch pornography with him, or a pervert exposing himself to kids at a playground, would receive a minimum 90-day sentence, half the term of a man convicted of growing six pot plants in his own home.

The 14 year maximum sentence for growing pot is…

the same maximum applied to someone using a weapon during a child rape and four years more than for someone sexually assaulting a kid without using a weapon.

The contempt Stephen Harper and his socially conservative Neanderthals have for the pot plant and for the literally millions of Canadians who have or do smoke pot is enormous.  Stephen Harper would obviously prefer you rape a child than grow a pot plant.  A little harsh you think?  I don’t.  As we speak Marc Emery has three years to go on a five year prison term in the United States after the Harper government turned him over to the DEA who came to Canada and arrested him on Canadian soil for selling pot seeds, something which is punishable by a only a small fine in this country.

Also in the Crime Bill are provisions which tug at that very fine thread of justice that has protected the innocent from an overpowering state.

The Bill proposes to allow the police to detain terrorism suspects for up to three days without charges.  It will also allow judges to jail witnesses who won’t testify about terrorism.  Now what can be so bad about these new powers we give to the police and the courts?  The problem is that giving the police and courts more power for one cause opens the door to giving them power for any cause.  Today you may be jailed for failing to testify what you know about your neighbour’s possible terrorist activities and tomorrow you will be jailed for not testifying about what you know about your neighbour’s pot growing activities.  It will only require a slight change of wording in the legislation.

It is a slippery slope Mr. Harper will create when he seeks to curtail our rights no matter how noble he believes the reason to be.  Catching terrorists by eroding our right not to be arbitrarily detained by the police or our right not to be compelled to testify only proves that the terrorists are winning with Stephen Harper’s help.  If their goal is to destabilize our freedoms and change this country into one they are familiar with, a despotic autocracy and if Prime Minister Harper gives into their demands and strips away our rights and freedoms then he will be hailed as a hero by the terrorists and a villain by peace-loving Canadians.

Originally aired on Just Right #218, September 22, 2011.