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America’s Real Welfare Queens: Fortune 100 Companies

in Liberator Online Archives, Welfare by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Welfare QueensEarlier this year Open the Books, a non-partisan watchdog group advocating transparency in public spending, issued a genuinely shocking report that added up all federal grants, loans, direct payments, and insurance subsidies going to private companies.

Among its findings: corporate-welfare payments from the federal government to the Fortune 100 companies, from 2000 to 2012, amounted to more than $1.2 trillion.

The bulk of this was in the form of contracts between government agencies and private firms, with the largest going to the military-industrial complex. While these provide some services to taxpayers, such spending is difficult to control because the huge sums also fund a massive lobbying industry busily working for more such spending.

But contracts aside, staggering amounts of money were just given away as outright subsidies — taxpayer-funded handouts to the biggest businesses in America.

Writing in National Review Online, economist Stephen Moore summarizes: “$21.3 billion… was doled out in the form of outright income-transfer subsidies to corporate America. On average, each Fortune 100 company received about $200 million in such [taxpayer-funded] handouts.

“So who are the major corporate-welfare queens? The biggest grant recipients were General Electric ($380 million), followed by General Motors ($370 million), Boeing ($264 million), Archer Daniels Midland ($174 million), and United Technologies ($160 million).

“About $8.5 billion of this largesse came in the form of taxpayer-subsidized loans. The big winners here were Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Ford Motor Company, and other multibillion-dollar corporations whose franchisees received Small Business Administration loans.

“Archer Daniels Midland got just under $1 billion for USDA farm-program loans, and this doesn’t include ethanol subsidies. Another $10 billion was doled out through federal insurance…”

And the problem goes beyond even these staggering sums. Says Moore:

“That $1.2 trillion number does not include the hundreds of billions of dollars in housing, bank, and auto-company bailouts in 2008 and 2009, because those payments are kept mostly invisible in the federal-agency books. It also doesn’t include the asset purchases of the Federal Reserve, indirect subsidies such as the ethanol mandate that enriches large agribusinesses like Archer Daniels Midland…

“Amazingly, all but one of the Fortune 100 stood in the federal soup line to take at least some form of corporate-welfare benefit.”

Sums up Moore: “Imagine for a moment that you are sitting on your couch watching TV and there is a knock on the door. There in a corporate suit is an employee of General Dynamics with a tin cup and he asks if you would contribute a dollar for a research project. You would slam the door in his face. But somehow when the government collects a dollar from each of us and gives the money to General Dynamics, this is considered in Washington a wise ‘investment.’”

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Are You on the Fed’s Terrorist Watchlist?

in Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

You can be pulled into the NSA’s database, put on a terrorist watchlist, and receive discriminatory treatment from local, state, and national law enforcement agents — without warning or notice, and for something as innocent as a Facebook or Twitter post.

So reports journalist Arjun Sethi in a shocking story in The Guardian, August 30, entitled, appropriately enough, “The US government can brand you a terrorist based on a Facebook post.”

“Through ICREACH, a Google-style search engine created for the intelligence community, the NSA provides data on private communications to 23 government agencies. More than 1,000 analysts had access to that information. …

“It was confirmed earlier this month that the FBI shares its master watchlist, the Terrorist Screening Database, with at least 22 foreign governments, countless federal agencies, state and local law enforcement, plus private contractors…

“The Terrorist Screening Database watchlist tracks ‘known’ and ‘suspected’ terrorists and includes both foreigners and Americans. It’s also based on loose standards and secret evidence, which ensnares innocent people. Indeed, the standards are so low that the U.S. government’s guidelines specifically allow for a single, uncorroborated source of information — including a Facebook or Twitter post — to serve as the basis for placing you on its master watchlist.”

Indeed, according to the investigative journalism website The Intercept, the Terrorist Screening Database has about 680,000 people on it — and more than 40 percent are described by the government itself as having “no recognized terrorist group affiliation.” That’s a whopping 280,000 people.

Continues the Guardian: “These eye-popping numbers are largely the result of the US government’s use of a loose standard — so-called ‘reasonable suspicion’ — in determining who, exactly, can be watchlisted.

“Reasonable suspicion is such a low standard because it requires neither ‘concrete evidence’ nor ‘irrefutable evidence.’ Instead, an official is permitted to consider ‘reasonable inferences’ and ‘to draw from the facts in light of his/her experience.’”

Further, the loose rules allow watchlisting without even the minimum standard of  reasonable suspicion. Non-citizens can be watchlisted just for being associated with a watchlisted person, even if the relationship is totally innocent. If a source or tipster describes a non-citizen as an “extremist,” a “militant,” or some similar term, and the FBI can make some vague connection, this could be enough to watchlist a person. The watchlist designation is secret, so no one is able to challenge these allegations.

But being on the watchlist can bring terrible consequences, notes the Guardian:

“Life on the master watchlist can trigger enhanced screening at borders and airports; being on the No Fly List, which is a subset of the larger terrorist watchlist, can prevent airline travel altogether. The watchlist can separate family members for months or years, isolate individuals from friends and associates, and ruin employment prospects.

“Being branded a terrorism suspect also has far-reaching privacy implications. The watchlist is widely accessible, and government officials routinely collect the biometric data of watchlisted individuals, including their fingerprints and DNA strands. Law enforcement has likewise been directed to gather any and all available evidence when encountering watchlisted individuals, including receipts, business cards, health information and bank statements. …

“A watchlist based on poor standards and secret processes raises major constitutional concerns, including the right to travel freely and not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law.”

Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, agrees: “We’re getting into Minority Report territory when being friends with the wrong person can mean the government puts you in a database and adds DMV photos, iris scans, and face recognition technology to track you secretly and without your knowledge. The fact that this information can be shared with agencies from the CIA to the NYPD, which are not known for protecting civil liberties, brings us closer to an invasive and rights-violating government surveillance society at home and abroad.”

The Guardian concludes with a question you’re probably already asking yourself:

“Indeed, you can’t help but wonder: are you already on the watchlist?”

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VIDEO: Fire Sale on U.S. Military Tanks — Get One for Your Town Today!

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives, Military, National Defense by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Millions of Americans were shocked to see protestors in Ferguson, Missouri met with a militarized police force decked out in Kevlar vests, helmets, and camouflage, armed with pistols, shotguns, automatic rifles, and tear gas, and riding in armored military vehicles.

Though the weapons came from a variety of sources, such scenes brought public attention to the Pentagon’s 1033 program, which supplies military-grade equipment to local police departments, often for free.

Now the crack investigative journalists at Reason TV have unearthed a Pentagon commercial advertising the program to law enforcement. (Or so Reason TV says…)

Watch “Pentagon Has ‘Everything Must Go’ Sale.” Laugh, cringe… and laugh again. Then share with friends!

Approximately 1:37 in length. Performed by Will Neff. Written and produced by Neff and Paul Detrick.

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Burger King: “Bye” to U.S. High Taxes

in Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

Burger King(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

This popular meme floating around the web pretty much says it all:

Statists: If you don’t like the laws, then leave!

Burger King: K, bye.

Statists: OMG NO, YOU CAN’T DO THAT, YOU UN-AMERICAN, TRAITOR, GREEDY PEOPLE! WE WANT TO STEAL MORE FROM YOU!

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Rand Paul, Others: Demilitarize the Police

in Criminal Justice, Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“We Must Demilitarize the Police” is the title of a bold article by Sen. Cartoon Militarized Police OfficerRand Paul at TIME.com.

Written as the troubles in riot-torn Ferguson, Missouri were escalating, Paul says:

“The outrage in Ferguson is understandable — though there is never an excuse for rioting or looting. There is a legitimate role for the police to keep the peace, but there should be a difference between a police response and a military response.

“The images and scenes we continue to see in Ferguson resemble war more than traditional police action. …

“There is a systemic problem with today’s law enforcement. Not surprisingly, big government has been at the heart of the problem. Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies — where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement.

“This is usually done in the name of fighting the War on Drugs or terrorism. …

“When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury — national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture — we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands.

“Given these developments, it is almost impossible for many Americans not to feel like their government is targeting them. Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them.”

Paul quoted others who share these concerns:

Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit): “Soldiers and police are supposed to be different. … But nowadays, police are looking, and acting, more like soldiers than cops, with bad consequences. And those who suffer the consequences are usually innocent civilians.”

Walter Olson (Cato Institute): “Why armored vehicles in a Midwestern inner suburb? Why would cops wear camouflage gear against a terrain patterned by convenience stores and beauty parlors? Why are the authorities in Ferguson, Mo. so given to quasi-martial crowd control methods (such as bans on walking on the street) and, per the reporting of Riverfront Times, the firing of tear gas at people in their own yards? … Why would someone identifying himself as an 82nd Airborne Army veteran, observing the Ferguson police scene, comment that ‘We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone’?”

Evan Bernick (Heritage Foundation): “The Department of Homeland Security has handed out anti-terrorism grants to cities and towns across the country, enabling them to buy armored vehicles, guns, armor, aircraft, and other equipment. … federal agencies of all stripes, as well as local police departments in towns with populations less than 14,000, come equipped with SWAT teams and heavy artillery. …

“Bossier Parish, Louisiana, has a .50 caliber gun mounted on an armored vehicle. The Pentagon gives away millions of pieces of military equipment to police departments across the country — tanks included.”

Concludes Sen. Paul: “The militarization of our law enforcement is due to an unprecedented expansion of government power in this realm. … Americans must never sacrifice their liberty for an illusive and dangerous, or false, security. This has been a cause I have championed for years, and one that is at a near-crisis point in our country.”

For more libertarian critiques on Ferguson, see “Where Are the Libertarians on Ferguson? Here, LMGTFY,” by Elizabeth Nolan Brown, The Dish, Aug. 14, 2014.

Radley Balko, a libertarian journalist who writes for the Washington Post, has a great recent book on the dangers of U.S. police militarization, Rise of the Warrior Cop. You can read a lengthy excerpt from it here.

VIDEO: Remy’s Tips for Improving the TSA

in Liberator Online Archives, National Defense by James W. Harris Comments are off

The Transportation Molestation Administration — oops, we mean the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) — recently announced they were seeking suggestions from their victims — oops, we mean the public — for how to improve airport security lines. They even offered $15,000 in prizes for the best tips.

And that inspired the great liberty-minded comedian Remy to offer his suggestions — in the form of a song, no less.

Check out the video and see what Remy came up with. Let’s hope he wins!

Share with friends. Thanks once again to ReasonTV for a great video! Approximately 1:45 minutes.

“A Masterwork”: Rave Review for Libertarianism in One Lesson

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

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Libertarianism In One LessonDavid Bergland’s classic introduction to libertarianism, Libertarianism in One Lesson (published by the Advocates), has been given a rave review by longtime libertarian activist and writer Charlie Burris at LewRockwell.com.

Burris begins by complimenting “the brilliant strategic insight of 1984 Libertarian Party presidential candidate David Bergland which has guided all libertarian realists for three decades in adhering to the Non-Aggression Principle and the refusal to compromise that principle  — ‘Utopia Is Not One of the Options.’

“David wrote and elucidated upon this key concept in his wonderful volume, Libertarianism in One Lesson.”

Continues Burris:  “In 1984, I had the distinct honor and privilege of reading the manuscript copy of the first edition of this brilliantly executed work. In each subsequent edition, David has finely crafted and honed this masterwork into the most concise, understandable work of its kind.”

You can order single or multiple copies at a discount of Libertarianism in One Lesson from the Advocates.

“This brief book remains the best place to begin your exploration of the ideas of libertarianism,” Burris concludes.

New York Times: End the Federal War on Marijuana

in Criminal Justice, Drugs, Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Stances on Issues by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

In a major and historic breakthrough for libertarians and other advocates of marijuana re-"Repeal Prohibition, Again" in the New York Timeslegalization, the New York Times editorial board has called for ending the federal war on marijuana.

Here are excerpts from the July 27 editorial, entitled “Repeal Prohibition, Again”:

“It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end [alcohol] Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.

“The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana. …

“There are no perfect answers to people’s legitimate concerns about marijuana use. But neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we believe that on every level — health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order issues — the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization. That will put decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs — at the state level. …

“The social costs of the marijuana laws are vast. There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, according to F.B.I. figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives. Even worse, the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals.

“There is honest debate among scientists about the health effects of marijuana, but we believe that the evidence is overwhelming that addiction and dependence are relatively minor problems, especially compared with alcohol and tobacco. Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults. Claims that marijuana is a gateway to more dangerous drugs are as fanciful as the ‘Reefer Madness’ images of murder, rape and suicide. …

“Creating systems for regulating manufacture, sale and marketing will be complex. But those problems are solvable, and would have long been dealt with had we as a nation not clung to the decision to make marijuana production and use a federal crime. …

“We recognize that this Congress is as unlikely to take action on marijuana as it has been on other big issues. But it is long past time to repeal this version of Prohibition.”

The Times followed with a six-part series on marijuana legalization, which can be found under the text of their editorial.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance,commented on the groundbreaking editorial:

“This is of historic consequence — far bigger than most people assume. Some people in the country may perceive the Times editorial page as a liberal organ, but they should know that on this issue they’ve been cautious to a fault, even conservative. So for them to write what they did, at this juncture, demonstrated intellectual and moral clarity as well as courage.”

It should also be noted that what the New York Times is calling for is what the Libertarian Party and Ron Paul in his presidential campaigns called for — many years earlier.

Buckley for Senate

in Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Party by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

John BuckleyOne of the most famous family names in American political history is once again on the ballot and in the national news.

John Buckley — cousin of the renowned late conservative icon William F. Buckley and former U.S. Senator James L. Buckley — is running an active campaign as Libertarian Party candidate for U.S. Senate in West Virginia.

And he’s already drawing significant national attention. The Washington Post recently described his campaign as one of seven U.S. senate races in which a Libertarian Party candidate could win enough votes to affect the outcome of the election, thus forcing the campaigns of both older party candidates to seriously consider supporting libertarian positions if they want to win.

Said the Washington Post: “John Buckley knows something about winning political races. He’s a former state legislator in Virginia, and a former employee at the American Conservative Union, the Cato Institute and the Law and Economics Center at George Mason University.” He’s also a past National Chairman of Young Americans for Freedom and has worked for the Institute for Humane Studies and the National Tax Limitation Committee.

At his campaign website he sums this up: “All through my life, I’ve worked to promote freedom and prosperity.” His lifetime of political experience, he says, soured him on the Republican Party as a vehicle for liberty and led him to the Libertarian Party.

Buckley tells more about his background and beliefs at his Facebook page:

“I turned 60 in 2013 and, with what I see happening under the presidency of Barack Obama (and even the astonishing growth of government under President George Bush), I want to do my part to try to turn America around. We need less government, not more!

“I have also realized that principles of limited government should be applied across the board, not just as to taxes, spending, and economic regulation, but to personal, ‘lifestyle’ decisions as well. Thus, I favor drastically lowering the level of federal government taxes and spending, embracing Second Amendment gun ownership rights, and respecting private property;

“I also support the legalization of marijuana (common sense tells us it’s time to end the ruinously expensive, counterproductive, and failed ‘War on Drugs’), same-sex marriage, and ending Big Brother’s snooping and spying on American citizens.

“Most Americans don’t like being told what to do and don’t relish telling others what to do, either. The American way is ‘live and let live.’ We may not like the decisions our friends and neighbors make, but we express our moral suasion voluntarily (through churches and family and other peaceful expressions of community standards), not through laws and dictates.

“We certainly don’t like politicians, and especially not Congress or whoever is president, telling us what to do. Whether it’s fluorescent light bulbs, ‘Big Gulp’ sodas, how we run our businesses, how we choose to meet the moral obligation to help our neighbors in need, the curriculum of our children’s schools, our right to keep and bear arms, what we smoke or drink, who we can love or the terms of our health-care.

“I am in favor of liberty — that’s what ‘Libertarian’ means, favoring liberty. It’s the American way of life, but I’m afraid the principles of liberty have been largely abandoned under mainstream Republicans and Democrats. Let’s reclaim the greatness of the American system of limited government. I’ll hope you’ll join me in this campaign.”

VIDEO: Remy’s “What are the Chances? (An IRS Love Song)”

in Liberator Online Archives, Taxes by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

A new video by the great liberty-minded comic Remy is always a cause for celebration.

Here’s his latest: “What are the Chances? (An IRS Love Song)“.

Remy, decked out handsomely in country music duds, croons a country-flavored ode to the IRS scandal concerning alleged unjust and biased targeting of conservative and free market organizations — and the suspiciously convenient IRS hard-drive crashes and loss of electronic correspondence relevant to the case. Remy’s expressions and voice in the last 30 seconds or so are particularly hilarious.

It’s about two minutes long. Written and performed by Remy, via ReasonTV.

Watch, laugh… then share with friends.

But… Who Will Build the Roads?

in Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Yeah, we’ve all heard that one ad nauseam. Now a British grandfather has pretty much Private toll roadsettled it.

From “Rolling in money: Man makes toll road to get around roadworks“, Yahoo! Finance UK and Ireland:

“A grandfather sick of roadworks [road construction] near his home defied his council and built his own toll road [in just ten days] allowing people to circumvent the disrupted section.

“Opened on Friday, it’s the first private toll road built since cars became a familiar sight on British roads 100 years ago. Motorists pay £2 to travel each way and bypass the 14 miles diversion.

“Mike Watts, 62, hired a crew of workmen and ploughed £150,000 of his own cash into building a 365m long bypass road in a field next to the closed A431. He reckons it will cost another £150,000 in upkeep costs and to pay for two 24 hour a day toll booth operators.

“Speaking from the road in Kelston, Somerset, Mike said: ‘Too many people are displaced by the road closure, their daily lives have been so disrupted by this.’”

Who will build the roads? Enterprising entrepreneurs like these — if the government will simply get out of the way.

Best Libertarian Science Fiction/Fantasy of the Year Announced

in Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 11 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Cory Doctorow's Homeland

Want some great libertarian-oriented reading? The Libertarian Futurist Society has some new recommendations for you.

For more than three decades, the Libertarian Futurist Society has given its coveted annual Prometheus Awards, which celebrate outstanding current and classic works of science fiction and fantasy that stress the importance of liberty as the foundation for civilization, peace, prosperity, progress and justice.

This year’s Best Novel Award was a tie: Homeland by Cory Doctorow and Nexus by Ramez Naam.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Cory Doctorow has generously allowed readers to download Homeland — and some of his other works — for free here.

Homeland, the sequel to Doctorow’s 2009 Prometheus winner Little Brother, follows the continuing adventures of a government-brutalized young leader of a movement of tech-savvy hackers — who must decide whether to release an incendiary Wikileaks-style exposé of massive government abuse and corruption as part of a struggle against the invasive national-security state.

This is Doctorow’s third Prometheus Award for Best Novel. He won last year for his Pirate Cinema. All three are young-adult novels with strong libertarian themes.

Nexus by Ramez Naam is described as “a gripping exploration of politics and new extremes of both freedom and tyranny in a near future where emerging technology opens up unprecedented possibilities for mind control or personal liberation and interpersonal connection.”

The other finalists:

* A Few Good Men by Sarah Hoyt
* Crux by Ramez Naam (sequel to his Best Novel-winning Nexus)
* Brilliance by Marcus Sakey

The Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) winner is Falling Free, a 1988 novel by Lois McMaster Bujold that explores free will and self-ownership by considering the legal and ethical implications of human genetic engineering.

The other 2014 Hall of Fame finalists: “As Easy as A.B.C.,” a 1912 short story by Rudyard Kipling; “Sam Hall,” a 1953 short story by Poul Anderson; “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman,” a 1965 short story by Harlan Ellison; and Courtship Rite, a 1982 novel by Donald M. Kingsbury.

In a separate awards ceremony, four-time-Prometheus Award-winning author Vernor Vinge will receive a Special Prometheus Lifetime Achievement Award.

Author-filksinger Leslie Fish — according to Prometheus “perhaps the most popular filk song writer of the past three decades and one who often includes pro-freedom themes in her songs” — will receive a Special Prometheus Award in 2014 for the combination of her 2013 libertarian-themed novella “Tower of Horses” and her related filk song, “The Horsetamer’s Daughter.” (No, that’s not a misspelling. Filk songs are songs created from within science fiction and fantasy fandom, usually dealing with related subject matter.)

The Prometheus Award will be presented in a ceremony during the 2014 World Science Fiction Convention, to be held in London, England August 14-18, 2014.

For further great libertarian fiction reading recommendations, see the list of past Prometheus Award winners and nominees.

VIDEO: Reporters Openly Laugh at State Department Defense of Obama

in Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 11 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“One horse-laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms,” declared the great libertarian H.L. Mencken.

So when mainstream reporters start snickering publicly at the president, that’s a very good sign.

Enjoy, then, this very short (one minute 36 seconds) video clip from a State Department press conference in late May, in which amused reporters openly mock State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki’s claim that Obama’s foreign policy record is worthy.

Psaki says to the assembled reporters, “I would argue the president doesn’t give himself enough credit for what he’s done around the world, and that’s how the Secretary feels too…”

“Credit for what?” asks one bemused reporter, clearly astounded at the idea. Others join in, eventually laughing aloud at the idea that Obama has done anything deserving credit in recent foreign policy.

We could use far more such skepticism, but this is a great start.

(Thanks to Reason.com and Hotair.com)

SWAT Teams: We’re Above the Law

in Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 11 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

From a recent Washington Post column by libertarian Randy Balko, entitled “Massachusetts SWAT teams claim they’re private corporations, immune from open records laws”:

SWAT Raid

“[A] number of SWAT teams in the Bay State are operated by what are called law enforcement councils, or LECs. These LECs are funded by several police agencies in a given geographic area and overseen by an executive board ….

“Some of these LECs have also apparently incorporated as 501(c)(3) organizations. And it’s here that we run into problems. According to the ACLU, the LECs are claiming that the 501(c)(3) status means that they’re private corporations, not government agencies. And therefore, they say they’re immune from open records requests.

“Let’s be clear. These agencies oversee police activities. They employ cops who carry guns, wear badges, collect paychecks provided by taxpayers and have the power to detain, arrest, injure and kill. They operate SWAT teams, which conduct raids on private residences.

“And yet they say that because they’ve incorporated, they’re immune to Massachusetts open records laws. The state’s residents aren’t permitted to know how often the SWAT teams are used, what they’re used for, what sort of training they get or who they’re primarily used against.”

Harvard Study: Young Americans Want Far Less Interventionist Foreign Policy

in Forign Policy, Liberator Online Archives, Military, War by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Young Americans want a far less interventionist foreign policy, and they don’t trust the United Nations or the federal government in general. And they have strong libertarian leanings on other key issues.

Harvard UniversityThat’s according to the latest Harvard Public Opinion Project, a highly-respected national poll of America’s “Millennials”(18- to 29- year-olds) by Harvard’s Institute of Politics that has been conducted biannually since 2000.

The numbers are startlingly anti-interventionist. Fully 74 percent agreed with this statement: “The United States should let other countries and the United Nations take the lead in solving international crises and conflicts.” Only a fourth believed that the United States “should take the lead in solving international crises and conflicts.”

Fully 39 percent disagreed with the statement “it is sometimes necessary to attack potentially hostile countries, rather than waiting until we are attacked to respond.” Only a tiny 16 percent agreed with that statement.

Concerning specific recent foreign policy crises, 62 percent disapproved of the president’s handling of the Syria crisis, and 59 percent disapproved of the government’s policies towards Iran and Ukraine.

The same skepticism applies to international bodies. Fully two-thirds said they trusted the UN only “some of the time” or “never.” Only about a third of respondents said they trusted the United Nations all or most of the time.

This radical rejection of interventionism among the young is accompanied by other libertarian-friendly positions and a strong degree of skepticism towards government in general. Just three percent of Millennials reported trusting the federal government “all of the time,” while 80 percent said that they trusted it either only “some of the time” or “never.” Similarly, eighty-four percent of participants felt that they could trust Congress only “some of the time” or “never.” Just one-third trust the president “most” or “all of the time.”

On the re-legalization of marijuana, 25- to 29- year-olds support re-legalization by a large margin of 50 percent to 28 percent (21 percent unsure); among 18- to- 24- year-olds, 38 percent support, 39 percent oppose (22 percent unsure). Overall, 66 percent support re-legalizing marijuana for medical purposes.

On sexual tolerance, 61 percent say that “a friend’s sexual orientation is not important to me.”

Finally, Millennials are moving away from identifying with either of the two older parties, with increasing numbers identifying as Independents (38 percent) rather than Republicans (25 percent) or Democrats (37 percent).

Hey, Media: “Isolationist” Is an Insult and a Lie

in Forign Policy, Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Stances on Issues, War by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“When tea party or libertarian Republicans oppose U.S. military intervention or aid in Ukraine, Syria or any other hot spot, they are regularly labeled ‘isolationist’ by mainstream media outlets. The same term is now commonly used to describe the growing number of war-weary Americans who believe the U.S. tries to do too much around the world militarily.”

So writes Jack Hunter, contributing editor at Rare.US, in a commentary entitled “Hey insult, pejorative termmedia, ‘isolationist’ is not an acceptable term.”

Hunter notes that the biggest hawks in America — liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican — immediately label as “isolationist” anyone who even dares suggest that the U.S. shouldn’t get involved in every local squabble around the world.

They’re deliberately using that term as a smear, Hunter points out. Which is wrong, but predictable.

But it’s far worse for the media to use such an inaccurate, pejorative and partisan term, he argues. Yet they’re doing it.

Hunter quotes conservative pundit and National Review editor-at-large Jonah Goldberg — who is definitely NOT a non-interventionist — from a perceptive piece Goldberg wrote last September:

“Some reporters say that they’re using ‘isolationist’ as a descriptive label, not as a pejorative term. This is nonsense. First of all, it simply is a pejorative term. But, if it’s not a pejorative term, how come nobody ever uses it to describe liberals who often want to intervene far less than conservatives do?”

Goldberg further notes that, all in all, libertarians are far less “isolationist” than most Americans:

“Why is isolationism only about military strikes? What about trade? Immigration? If you throw that stuff into the mix, libertarians are far less isolationist than most Americans, and yet libertarians are supposedly the heart of this new isolationism. How strange.”

Goldberg quotes Timothy Carney’s wonderful sarcastic Ambrose Bierce-ish definition: “Isolationist: n. Someone who, on occasion, opposes bombing foreigners.”

Then Goldberg reworks that a bit: “I’d phrase it slightly different. An isolationist is someone who doesn’t want to bomb foreigners when I do.”

So, yeah, isolationist is a smear, and that’s why the biggest Congressional interventionists use it. But the media shouldn’t let them get away with it.

It’s time to stop labeling opposition to 24-7 global warfare as “isolationism.” And it’s highly irresponsible of the media to use that term themselves, or to let hawks toss it around without challenge or comment.

Libertarians should constantly point this out. Advocates President Sharon Harris wrote a Liberty Minute column in 2011 on how to do this persuasively and effectively, and that column can be found in this issue.

Great News! The World Is Getting Better: HumanProgress.org

in Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

HumanProgress.orgThere is a large and growing body of evidence showing dramatic and remarkable improvements in human well-being in recent decades, especially in the developing world.

Unfortunately, this evidence is little-known and often overlooked. Bad news and predictions of doom and gloom are disproportionately reported. Many people, including the highly educated, simply have no idea of the great and ongoing progress in many crucial areas of human life around the world.

This exciting and uplifting news deserves far more attention. HumanProgress.org, a new website and research tool from the Cato Institute, hopes to accomplish that.

Many visitors who take the time to explore the site will be genuinely surprised by the well-documented major advances in world peace, living standards, environmental cleanliness, life spans, and much more. Crimes such as rape, hate crimes, deadly riots, and child abuse are all substantially down from the past. Around 5.1 billion people live in countries where incomes have more than doubled since 1960, and well over half the human race lives in countries where average incomes have tripled or more. Technologies unimaginable just a few years ago are now commonplace even among the world’s poor.

HumanProgress.org provides tools that let users see the many documented ways in which the world has become a far better place. Over 500 data sets of human development indicators from a variety of reliable sources allow visitors to compare indicators with one another, create and share graphics, and calculate differences in human well-being between different countries over time. Visitors can explore progress in categories including: Communications, Education, Energy, Environment, Food, Gender Equality, Happiness, Health, Housing, Transportation, Violence, and Wealth.

By putting together this comprehensive data in an accessible way, HumanProgress.org provides a fantastic documented resource for scholars, journalists, students, and the general public.

For a good graph-free overview of what it’s all about, go to the introductory essay “What is Human Progress?” which presents some downright startling figures and arguments and puts them in context.

And for an easy way to keep up with breaking good news about human progress — and to get a regular booster shot of reasons for rational optimism — you can like HumanProgress.org’s Facebook page.

Cato hopes that HumanProgress.org will lead to a greater appreciation of the improving state of the world. Things are getting better in many areas, to a remarkable degree, and largely due to progress in markets, civil liberties and peace. That’s great news! Let’s spread the word.

New Poll: Americans Want A More Libertarian Foreign Policy

in Forign Policy, Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 8 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Nearly half of the public, and a strong plurality, say the United States government should intervene less in the internal affairs of other nations, as libertarians have long urged.

That’s the finding of a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll conducted April 23 to 27 and released May 1.

Fully forty-seven percent said the U.S. should “become less active in world affairs.” Only 19 percent — less than one in five — said it should be more active, and just 30 percent said it should remain at the current level.

This is consistent with a Pew Research Center poll we reported on last year, which found a record 52 percent of Americans agreeing that the United States “should mind its own business internationally.” That figure is a 40-year low.

Notes the political newspaper The Hill: “The latest numbers are a stark contrast from public opinion WSJ and NBC News recorded just after 9/11, when 40 percent of people wanted the U.S. to engage more of the world and only 14 percent wanted it to be less active.”

The WSJ/NBC poll also found support for President Obama’s interventionist foreign policy extremely low. Only a bit over a third approved of his handling of foreign policy. Just 37 percent said they approve of Obama’s handling of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.

The entire poll can be seen here.

Online Liberty Campaign: “Reset The Net” on June 5, 2014

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(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 8 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Sick of government surveillance spoiling the freedom and fun of the Internet?

Reset The NetYou’re not alone. And now there’s something you can do about it.

On June 5th, 2014 — the anniversary of the first NSA surveillance story revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden — a worldwide coalition of tens of thousands of Internet users, companies and organizations is pledging to “Reset The Net.”

Reset The Net is a day of global action to secure and encrypt the web to shut out the government’s mass surveillance capabilities. Tens of thousands of Internet activists, companies and organizations — from across the political spectrum and across the technology industry — have committed to preserve free speech and basic rights on the Internet by taking simple steps to shut off the government’s mass surveillance capabilities. And you can join them.

Participating organizations, sites and companies include the Libertarian Party, Fight For The Future (who initiated the campaign), reddit, CREDO Mobile, Namecheap, Imgur, Greenpeace, FireDogLake, Thunderclap, DuckDuckGo, Disconnect.Me, Demand Progress, Access, Free Press, Restore the Fourth, AIDS Policy Project, PolitiHacks, OpenMedia, Free Software Foundation, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Code Pink, Popular Resistance, Participatory Politics Foundation, BoingBoing, Public Knowledge, Amicus, New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Student Net Alliance, and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

These and other organizations will participate by publicizing the effort and by improving their own security and/or promoting privacy tools to their followers.

Individual Internet users can act with Reset The Net in several important ways. They can get and install a free “privacy pack” of safe open-source software tools that make end-to-end encryption easy, as well as learning other ways to secure their online life against intrusive surveillance. Information on how to do this will be available from Reset The Net.

Individuals are also invited to sign a petition supporting online freedom and pledging to participate in the campaign. So far nearly 20,000 people have done so. Reset The Net hopes to have at least 50,000 signatures by the June 5 kick-off date.

Reset The Net will offer supporters a splash screen they can run at their web sites on June 5. These screens will potentially reach millions with a call for privacy and a link to the privacy tools pack.

Twitter users can join the #ResetTheNet Twitter brigade to further publicize the idea. Still more suggestions are at the Reset The Net website.

“The NSA is exploiting weak links in Internet security to spy on the entire world, twisting the Internet we love into something it was never meant to be,” says Reset The Net. “We can’t stop targeted attacks, but we can stop mass surveillance, by building proven security into the everyday Internet.”

For more information watch the short ResetTheNet.org campaign video and visit ResetTheNet.org.

“The Libertarian Party enthusiastically joins Reset the Net,” said Carla Howell, Political Director for the Libertarian National Committee. “Over thirty Libertarian candidates running for federal office this year have pledged to shut down the NSA and invite Edward Snowden to return home a free man. He should be granted an immediate presidential pardon, awarded the American Medal of Freedom, and applauded for blowing the whistle on the NSA’s abuse of the Constitution.”

“Freedom to be yourself is everything. No government can take that away from us, so we’re going to use the power we have to take it back,” said Tiffiniy Cheng, co-founder of Fight for the Future. “Now that we know how mass surveillance works, we know how to stop it. That’s why people all over the world are going to work together to use encryption everywhere and make it too hard for any government to conduct mass surveillance. There are moments in history where people and organizations must choose whether to stand on the side of freedom or tyranny. On June 5th, the Internet will show which side it’s on.”

TV and Film Star Rob Lowe: Is He a Libertarian?

in Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Celebrities by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 7 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Renowned TV and film star Rob Lowe is promoting his new Is Rob Lowe A Libertarian?autobiography Love Life. And he’s been making some very libertarian-ish statements along the way.

In an interview with the New York Times, he described his politics this way:

“My thing is personal freedoms, freedoms for the individual to love whom they want, do with what they want. In fact, I want the government out of almost everything.”

He sounded even more libertarian during an April interview with Bill O’Reilly, though he seemed determined not to let O’Reilly stick a label on his views. Here is the relevant portion:

BILL O’REILLY: You also have said in your promoting of this book that you want less government intrusion. Is that correct?

ROB LOWE: I do. Yeah.

O’REILLY: But your pinhead friends in Hollywood, they don’t want, they want equality for everyone, which takes a massive government.

LOWE: Well, I’m — equality for everybody is great. That would be amazing. I just think that individuals usually do a better job than collective big government.

O’REILLY: So you don’t want the government to be telling you how to live, that’s kind of a libertarian position.

LOWE: Well, that’s funny, does that make me a libertarian? I’m a Hollywood pinhead, Bill, I don’t know about political labels.

O’REILLY: The libertarians want less government and more personal freedom, which I think is what you are saying.

LOWE: That is what I’m saying.

O’REILLY: So now you’re a libertarian?

LOWE: So all this time shedding the dogma of political labels and you’re telling me now I have to go back to living under political labels.

O’REILLY: No, no, it’s not bad. You just have to hang out with Stossel which is very, very difficult.

LOWE: Well then I take it back.

O’REILLY: You know, I think, look, I’m not a libertarian but I don’t think that the government can solve the problems that the government purports to be able to solve.

LOWE: And just for the record we do need government for a lot of big ticket items. Not total.

Libertarian, or libertarianish, positions aren’t new to Lowe. In 2012 he defended Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged on Twitter, tweeting: “Can someone explain the vitriol whenever Ayn Rand comes up? ‘Atlas’ is the greatest motivator for the individual that I can imagine.”

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