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381 Million Taxpayer Dollars Turned to Sludge

in Environment and Energy, Issues, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Chloe Anagnos Comments are off

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

On Aug. 5, a team of workers contracted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spilled 3 million gallons of orange-colored waste from the Gold King Mine into the Animas River in Colorado. The pollutants flowed into New Mexico where it merged into the San Juan River, a critical source of water for Navajo communities.

Local citizens and lawmakers alike are outraged by the lack of transparency from the EPA for the spill and now, the amount of tax dollars given to the firm responsible.

Colorado and New Mexico are now in a state of emergency because of the accident.

RiverNew Mexico governor Susana Martinez said in a press release that she is “concerned about the EPA’s lack of communication and inability to provide accurate information.” Stating that, “one day the spill is 1 million gallons, the next day, 3 million.”

Part of the frustration is the EPA’s failure to disclose the name of the contractor responsible to law makers and media outlets.

However, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that a Missouri-based firm, Environmental Restoration LLC (ER), was the “contractor whose work caused a mine spill in Colorado that released an estimated 3 million gallons of toxic sludge into a major river system.”

According to a WSJ review of data, ER received $381 million in government contracts since October 2007, approximately $364 million from the EPA and $37 million from work performed in Colorado.

That $381 million is a large chunk of change for taxpayers to spend to have pollutants that were carried to the Shiprock community on the Navajo reservation.

Despite preliminary tests showing minimum adverse health effects, Shiprock Chapter President Duane “Chili” Yazzie told CNN that he is waiting for a definitive all-clear before using river water on crops.

“Our community here, the very critical nature of our predicament is that we are a river-based community and we’re a strong agricultural community and the impact is very, very tremendous,” Yazzie said.

Around 750 families rely on the river to grow melons, corn and other crops.

According to CNN, the Navajo Nation is the first to announce legal action against the federal government. Yazzie said the EPA didn’t alert them about the spill until 24 hours after the incident, placing tribe members’ health at risk.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye told CNN that the spill will have a “destructive impact on the ecosystems…that the Navajo culture depends on.” Begaye also said that the Navajo Nation intends to “recover every dollar it spends on cleaning up up this mess and every dollar it loses as a result of injuries to our natural resources.”

Beyond the obvious economic impact, it is the cultural and traditional impact on the community that is the most agonizing.

The river represents a spiritual element that is the basis of the tradition of the Navajo religion and for it to be harmed is spiritually, emotionally and psychologically very difficult, Yazzie said.

Supposedly Sick Coast Guard Members Took Taxpayer-Funded Trips to Vacation Hot Spots

in Economic Liberty, Issues, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Taxes by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Every fall, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) publishes an annual report, known as the Wastebook, highlighting dozens of the worst examples of wasteful spending by federal agencies.

Some of the items in the report may sound unbelievable, but this is the federal government, and one should never underestimate bureaucrats with tax dollars at their disposal. More ridiculous examples from the 2014 version of the report include the $387,000 the National Institutes of Health spent on Swedish massages for rabbits (yes, seriously) and the $200,000 the Department of Agriculture spent to help a New York-based brewer build a beer farm.

Coburn, who earned a reputation as a hardcore fiscal hawk, resigned from Congress last year after a second cancer diagnosis, leaving a need for transparency in federal spending. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is stepping up to fill the void left by Coburn’s departure.

On Wednesday, Paul rolled out a new feature on his official Senate homepage, dubbed The Waste Report. According to a press statement, the periodical report “will identify egregious examples of wasteful spending throughout the U.S. government.”

The inaugural edition of The Waste Report focuses on medical waste, specifically a little-known U.S. Coast Guard program that costs taxpayers $1.2 million each year. The Travel to Obtain Health Care Program pays for Coast Guard members stationed in locations where there are no providers to seek medical care elsewhere. The program is available to members in Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, though the latter two account for 7 percent of cases.

The Inspector General (IG) of the Department of Homeland Security released an audit in February detailing the inefficiency and lack of oversight in the Travel to Obtain Health Care Program, which costs taxpayers $1.2 million annually.

“[T]he IG uncovered trips from Alaska to Vail, Colorado; Orlando, FL; Scottsdale, AZ; and Savannah, GA,” Paul’s report notes.

“Though a doctor’s referral is supposed to be required before travel is approved, only twelve percent of records had such notes. “

“In total, 94 percent of all records were missing key elements including travel requests, approval forms, cost estimates, and/or doctor’s notes,” the report continues. “This lack of basic documentation prevented the IG from substantiating whistleblower claims that trips – even to Anchorage – were more for shopping than medical care, while also preventing the IG from affirming the need for accompanying spouses (who also traveled at taxpayer expense) to assist patients.”

The Inspector General made three recommendations aimed at improving accountability and oversight in the program, including greater documentation requirements and training. But as The Waste Report explains, “one should not need special training to know that taxpayer funded medical travel should not be approved without a doctor’s note, especially if that travel is for couples’ trips to vacation hot spots.”

Libertarian Chinese Immigrant Opens Eyes on Gun Control

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 6 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Lily WilliamsLily Tang Williams immigrated to the United States when she was 24 to escape communist rule in China. Having grown up under Mao Zedong’s tyrannical communist regime, she doesn’t take her rights for granted — including the right to keep and bear arms.

Today she’s a U.S. citizen, a Libertarian Party member, Colorado Director of 2012 Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson’s Our America Initiative, and all-around liberty activist.

On February 2 she testified before the Colorado State Legislature, urging the repeal of gun control laws passed in 2013. Her powerful testimony is spreading around the web.

Here’s what she said.

I was born and grew up in People’s Republic of China, where the Communist Party rules everything. Chinese citizens are not allowed to have any guns ever since the Communist Party took over in 1949. So, Chinese people are left helpless when they need to defend themselves. I grew up with fear like millions of other children. Fear police will pound our doors at night for no good reason (search warrant is not necessary for them to do that), fear bad guys will come to rob us (there were crimes in our poor neighborhood), fear my parents and brothers would get hurt and taken away. I have seen local people who defend themselves with kitchen knives, rocks, glass bottles and sticks against criminals. But when it comes to dealing with the Chinese government and police brutality, there is nothing we could do.

Remember June 4th Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989? Our own soldiers, ordered by the top leaders in Beijing, killed thousands of students. Even though the local residents were supporting students, they had no ways to help them. Some Beijing residents begged for the tanks to stop but they did not. What if the residents and students had guns? What if there was militia in China that time? What if the citizens had unlimited magazines? The history might have been different.

Why do you limit our firearms to only 15-round magazines? Do the criminals limit theirs? Does the government limit theirs? If we use our guns primarily for self defense, I need as many magazines as needed to defend my family and myself because I am a bad shot. It seems not fair at all to limit law abiding citizens’ ability for self defense. What if the shop owners only could fire 15 times during the famous LA riot? What if the home owners ran out of bullets during the looting after Hurricane Katrina? What happens if the ranchers near the border have to face a big group of drug cartels who threaten them? How about the famous cases of our government gone wild: Ruby Ridge, Waco, Texas, Athens, Tennessee — a small town in the U.S.A at the end of the World War II, where the local dictators wanted to highjack the election results with their guns, [but] local residents organized and armed themselves to take their town back?

I came to the U.S. for freedom, including the freedom granted by the Second Amendment: the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. When I held my own gun for the first time in my life in this country, I felt empowered and for the first time, I felt free.

If the Communist government took my gun rights away, why are you limiting my gun rights in Colorado? Are you becoming communists? I hope not. I lived under tyranny for 24 years, I do not want to ever live under it again.

Please vote as if the Constitution actually means something, because it does! Didn’t you swear that you would uphold the U.S. Constitution and Colorado constitution when you became a House representative? I urge you to vote yes on HB15-1009, Repeal Large Ammo Magazine Ban, making our beautiful state free again. Thank you.

Marijuana Re-Legalization: Its Effects on Teens

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 2 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

One of the most often-heard arguments against marijuana re-legalization is fear it will encourage marijuana use by teens.

Marijuana Use By Colorado TeenagersHowever, reports Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), several recent significant studies indicate that hasn’t been the case thus far. Studies indicate no connection between legalization of medical marijuana and teen use. Studies also find a recent decrease in teen use nationwide — including Colorado, which legalized marijuana in 2012.

Finally, a new article in Rolling Stone makes the controversial argument that decriminalization in California has brought enormous benefits to teens and to the state as a whole, by removing teen offenders from the criminal justice system.

Armentano first points to the University of Michigan’s highly regarded Monitoring the Future study, which tracks trends in substance use among students in 8th, 10th and 12th grades. Each year the national study, now in its 40th year, surveys 40,000 to 50,000 students in about 400 secondary schools throughout the United States.

This year Monitoring the Future found that marijuana use among teens declined slightly in 2014, with use in the prior 12 months declining from 26 percent to 24 percent. This small but significant decline follows five years of increasing use.

Armentano also reports on Colorado, which re-legalized marijuana in 2012: “Separate data published earlier this year by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment similarly found that fewer high-school students are consuming cannabis, despite voters’ decision in 2012 to legalize the possession, production, and sale of the plant to adults.

“According to the survey, the percentage of Colorado high schoolers reporting having consumed marijuana within the past 30 days fell from 22 percent in 2011 to 20 percent in 2013. High school students’ lifetime use of cannabis declined from 39 percent to 37 percent during the same two years.”

(For an excellent analysis of this report, see “Despite Legalization, Colorado Teenagers Stubbornly Refuse to Smoke More Pot” by Jacob Sullum of Reason magazine.)

What about states that legalized marijuana for medical use? Armentano reports on a July 2014 paper by the nonpartisan National Bureau of Economic Research that examined federal data on youth marijuana use and treatment episodes for the years 1993 to 2011 — a time period when 16 states authorized medical cannabis use.

The study concluded: “Our results are not consistent with the hypothesis that the legalization of medical marijuana caused an increase in the use of marijuana among high school students.”

As Jacob Sullum of Reason points out, these studies are consistent with earlier data from the Center for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveys from 1993 through 2011, which show little evidence of any connection between legalizing marijuana for medical use and the use of marijuana by high school students.

“Study: Legalizing medical marijuana has not increased teen pot use” was a headline in the April 24, 2014 Washington Post. According to the article: “the first comprehensive study of teen drug use in the states where marijuana is available for medical uses shows that [increased teen use] just hasn’t happened.”

The Washington Post was reporting on a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health. The authors of the study conclude: “Our study suggests that — at least thus far — the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes has not increased adolescent marijuana use, a finding supported by a growing body of literature.”

Decriminalization has also had major benefits for youth in California, reports Rolling Stone magazine in an article entitled “The War on Drugs Is Burning Out” by Tim Dickinson, January 8, 2015.

In late 2010 California decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Possession of up to an ounce of marijuana became an infraction, like a parking ticket, with a maximum $100 fine.

Importantly, notes Rolling Stone, the law applied to users of any age — not just those 21 and over.

The result?

“The impact of this tweak has been remarkable,” Rolling Stone says.

“By removing low-level youth pot offenses from the criminal-justice system, overall youth crime has plummeted by nearly 30 percent in California — to levels not seen since the Eisenhower administration.

“And decriminalization didn’t lead to any of the harms foretold by prohibitionists. Quite the opposite: Since the law passed in 2010, the rate of both high school dropouts and youth drug overdoses are down by 20 percent, according to a new research report from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. Non-marijuana drug arrests for California youth, meanwhile, are also down 23 percent — fully debunking the gateway theory.

“Decriminalization in California, the report [from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice] concludes, has reduced the harms of prohibition for thousands of California teens. ‘Fewer young people, its authors write, ‘are suffering the damages and costs of criminal arrest, prosecution, incarceration, fines, loss of federal aid and other punishments.’”

The authors also point out that perhaps the most important result of decimalization is that it gives police “one less pretext to disrupt the lives” of young blacks.

They Said It… Ann Coulter, Jacob Sollum, Milton Friedman and More

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 19, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

ANN COULTER WANTS TO DROWN LIBERTARIAN VOTERS: 

Ann Coulter“The biggest current danger for Republicans is that idiots will vote for Libertarian candidates in do-or-die Senate elections… If you are considering voting for the Libertarian candidate in any Senate election, please send me your name and address so I can track you down and drown you.” — Ann Coulter, “Your ‘To-Do’ List to Save America,” syndicated column, September 17, 2014.

OBAMA VS. THE CONSTITUTION: “[President Obama] is acting on the Bruce Ackermanproposition that the president, in his capacity as commander in chief, has unilateral authority to declare war. In taking this step, Mr. Obama is not only betraying the electoral majorities who twice voted him into office on his promise to end Bush-era abuses of executive authority. He is also betraying the Constitution he swore to uphold.” — Bruce Ackerman, professor of law and politics at Yale, “Obama’s Betrayal of the Constitution,” New York Times, Sept. 11, 2014.

 

U.S. GENERAL ADMITS “WE HELPED BUILD ISIS”: 
Tom McInerney“In Syria we backed… some of the wrong people and not in the right part of the Free Syrian Army. … I’ve always maintained… that we were backing the wrong types. … Some of those weapons from Benghazi ended up in the hands of ISIS. So we helped build ISIS.” — retired U.S. Air Force General Tom McInerney, FOX News, early September.

Tom BoggioniMILITARIZING SCHOOL DISTRICTS: “Taking advantage of U.S. Defense Department offers of free or low-cost military hardware, Texas school districts have been helping themselves to high-powered weaponry, bullet-proof vests, and armored vehicles to militarize their campus police officers. … [Ten] districts have acquired 64 M-16 rifles, 18 M-14 rifles, 25 automatic pistols, extended magazines, and 4,500 rounds of ammunition. Additionally, the schools stocked up on armored plating, tactical vests, as well as 15 surplus military vehicles.” — Tom Boggioni, “Texas school districts militarize campus cops with free surplus weapons, armored vehicles,” The Raw Story, Sept. 5, 2014.

LIFE SENTENCE FOR SELLING POT:
Jacob Sollum“Washington and Colorado have repealed all criminal penalties for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana and for production and sale by state-licensed businesses (as well as home cultivation of up to six plants in Colorado). … In Oklahoma, by contrast, possession of any amount can get you up to a year in jail, and sale of any amount less than 25 pounds triggers a sentence of two years to life.” — Jacob Sullum, “Life In Prison For Pot And Other Travesties Of Marijuana Prohibition,” Forbes.com, Sept. 4, 2014.

ME NEITHER: “Remember when war was something fought to defend the homeland from invasion? Yeah, me neither.” — tweet from Jonathan Danforth, Sept. 9, 2014.

NOTED AND RE-QUOTED
MY MOUTH, MY CHOICE:
Milton Friedman“The government has no more right to tell me what goes into my mouth than it has to tell me what comes out of my mouth.” — Milton Friedman, meme circulated by the Independent Institute.

 

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“They Said It…” is compiled by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris.

Remembering Tonie Nathan, 1923-2014: Libertarian Pioneer and Advocates Friend

in Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 6 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

In 1972 I walked into a Georgia voting booth to proudly cast my vote for the presidential ticket of my John Hospers Tonie Nathanchoice.

My candidates weren’t on the ballot, though. I had to write their names in by hand:

John Hospers, Libertarian Party, President
Tonie Nathan, Libertarian Party, Vice President

Did I feel good about that vote? You bet! And I still do. It was the start of a revolution in American politics still going on today.

Alas, both of those two political pioneers are no longer with us.

John Hospers passed away on June 12, 2011.

And on March 20, 2014 Tonie Nathan died at the age of 91.

She was a charter member of the national Libertarian Party, which was founded in 1971. At their first presidential nominating convention in 1972, the LP nominated her as Hospers’ running mate.  

Tonie achieved a unique and permanent place in American history during that 1972 race: she became the first woman in U.S. history to receive an electoral vote in the Electoral College – many years before the far more highly publicized 1984 campaign of Democrat Geraldine Ferraro.How did that remarkable event come about?The brand-new Libertarian Party was only on the ballot in two states, Colorado and Washington State, though Hospers and Nathan actively campaigned in major cities and on college campuses, taking the libertarian message to large audiences.

Enter Roger MacBride, a Republican elector in Virginia who had libertarian views. MacBride was so fed up with the statist GOP Nixon and Agnew ticket that he decided to support Hospers and Nathan instead – thus giving Nathan that historic electoral vote.

MacBride later joined the Libertarian Party and became the party’s 1976 Libertarian presidential candidate.

Tonie remained active with the Libertarian Party, running as a Libertarian for federal and state offices from the 1970s right through the 1990s. She also served as a vice chair of the Libertarian Party.

She was active in other organizations as well. She was a founding member and former president of the Association of Libertarian Feminists. In 1977, Congresswoman Bella Abzug appointed her as a delegate-at-large to the National Conference of Women.

Tonie Nathan with Dagny SmithShe was a good friend of the Advocates from the early days of our founding, as the quote at the top of this issue of the Liberator Online indicates. She understood and appreciated the importance of the Advocates’ mission of helping libertarians become successful and effective communicators of the ideas of liberty.

She was a speaker at the 2012 Libertarian National Convention, where a large crowd honored her for her many contributions to the Libertarian Party and the liberty movement. Many young people came up to her to thank her and to ask her advice. Friends of hers tell me that experience tickled her pink!

At that convention she was among the very first people inducted into the LP’s new “Hall of Liberty” program honoring “lifetime or significant achievement that has made a lasting effect on the Libertarian Party and/or libertarian movement.”

Also at that convention she presented Gary Johnson as the 2012 Libertarian Party presidential nominee.

As I’ve written before, it’s vital for our movement to remember, respect and honor our libertarian heroes, our founding fathers, those who came before us. I think the LP’s Hall of Liberty is a fantastic idea, and I urge other organizations to consider similar programs.

Forty-two years later I am still proud of my 1972 vote. I had the great honor and pleasure of meeting and talking with Tonie numerous times over the years. Hers was a life well lived, and she leaves a rich legacy well worth celebrating.