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New Maine Law Shields Locals From Federal Gun Registries

in Gun Rights, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

New Maine Law Shields Locals From Federal Gun Registries

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

A new Maine law has just made the nullification of any future effort by the federal government to create countrywide gun databases more difficult to take full effect.

The Tenth Amendment Center has reported that a state law sponsored by Rep. Patrick Corey, a Republican from Windham, Maine, prohibits state officials from establishing any firearms registry. Without the collection of local gun owners’ information for any purpose, the federal government is no longer capable of putting any large-scale registry of gun owners across the country together, shielding Americans from Washington, D.C.’s efforts to restrict their 2nd Amendment rights.

gun

House Bill 9 wasn’t just supported by the state legislature in Maine by Republican lawmakers. According to TAC, the effort was put forward by a bipartisan coalition, showing that, sometimes, when we act locally we are able to put traps in place that will render the federal government’s war on personal freedom and choices useless.

The bill was cleared by the House Joint Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety by a 122-24 margin and the Senate later passed it unanimously.

As the bill was enacted, Gov. Paul LePage signed it into law on June 12. Now, in full effect, the bill prohibits state and local officials from working in any capacity to develop a registry of gun owners in the state of Maine.

As we all know, the federal government relies on information collected by local law enforcement to develop its own tracking databases. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), for instance, has a license plate tracking database that is only available because state and local law enforcement bodies collect this information. By using personal details gathered locally, the DEA is then able to have easy access to personal information from across the country without much of an effort.

By passing legislation statewide that forces officials to say no to the feds, state lawmakers are able to, one by one, nullify federal regulations that might not even be in the books yet but that could be enacted by a future administration. As a means to maximize individual freedom, this type of activism is, perhaps, one of the most effective ways of introducing libertarian principles into local politics — and one of the most effective ways of being active in politics without losing focus on what matters.

NFL Outrage: If You’re Bothered, Get The Gov’t Out Of The Sports Business

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

NFL Outrage: If You’re Bothered, Get The Gov’t Out Of The Sports Business


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

If you haven’t been completely disconnected from the world in the past few days, you may have noticed that everyone is either condemning or praising President Donald Trump for telling a crowd in Alabama that it would be nice to see an NFL owner fire any player who kneels in protest during the national anthem.

Regardless of where you stand on this subject, the reality is that the heart of this debate lies in sports and how they have become highly politicized. But this trait is anything but new. It might feel that way because the media has, for the most part, been much quicker to use anything Trump says to boost the ratings. Still, sports have been used by those making politics in America to boost the war spirit since World War I. Over time, the tradition of tying the anthem with sports in times of war expanded into a regular reminder that pride in government efforts and sports went hand in hand, at least in America.

NFL

So it’s no wonder those who feel betrayed by what the anthem represents, regardless of motives, will use such a high-profile event as a football game to show their discontent. And when a highly powerful elected official such as the president makes a strong statement against people who often embody the most American of sports, it’s also easy to see how his comments may cause divisiveness.

Still, the outrage is here because we have always allowed the U.S. government to latch its own agenda to what happens in the sports arena.

Now that the U.S. government openly invests in “paid patriotism,” spending millions of taxpayer dollars in pro-government campaigns during sports events run by the NFL — itself one of the most successful government-subsidized organizations in U.S. history — how can we claim ignorance and act as if football had, all of a sudden, become immune to government influence?

The president complains about players demonstrating against their government because football is as American as apple pie and as entangled with politics as it gets. So the solution to the outrage of the day isn’t to condemn players who refuse to stand for the anthem. The solution isn’t to complain about the president either. After all, he’s simply standing for that to which a man in his position is expected. No. The solution is to look at sports once again as a private business matter and forever untangle it from the political machine in Washington.

Unless we’re able to successfully do just that, the outrage will always be there — and the future will continue to look bleak for those of us who simply think that a game is a game and politicians should have the decency to at least handle that back to the people.

Could non-profit co-ops and “mutual aid societies” help make basic health care available for all?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Economic Liberty, Healthcare, Liberator Online by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

Could non-profit co-ops and “mutual aid societies” help make basic health care available for all?

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

Question:

I think part of the problem with today’s health care system is the over-reliance on insurance companies. They are (rightfully) in the business of making money, and as a result they keep raising premiums.

care

What about the idea of competing with them by fostering the creation of non-profit insurance and/or medical co-ops? In a co-op, any profits would stay in the co-op to offset the additional cost of helping those currently lacking basic care.

Answer:

You’ve pretty much described the “mutual aid societies” that once protected Americans against medical disasters — before government regulated them out of business for the benefit of the doctors and insurance companies.

David Beito’s wonderful book From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State describes them in detail.

The AMA condemned doctors that worked for a flat fee for these societies. Since the AMA controlled the licensing boards, physicians didn’t want to incur their wrath.

Even though the mutual aid societies served their members well during the Depression, insurance companies successfully lobbied for regulations requiring that mutual aid societies have large amounts of financial reserves on hand.

Thus, these effective co-op-like groups were essentially regulated out of business, putting us at the mercy of the often less efficient and less compassionate insurance companies.

The free market and human ingenuity creates amazing protection for us, but government intervention destroys it!

How could society function without government-issued IDs?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Liberator Online, Libertarianism, Philosophy by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

How could society function without government-issued IDs?

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

Question:

Without a national ID (for example, Social Security numbers or driver’s licenses) how would banks and other institutions verify your identity for their services? How could they prove, for example, your claim to ownership of a piece of property or a car? How could they know you didn’t just steal or forge a deed or title?

ID

Answer:

A government-issued ID can always be forged. Already today, a thriving underground black market exists in forged Social Security cards, passports, and driver’s licenses.

Indeed, banks are losing so much money on forged ID and identity theft that many have started fingerprinting customers. With identification information, as in so many other areas, government does a very poor job.

As you have observed, identification — proving that someone actually is who he says he is, or has the qualifications he claims — is a vital need in a market economy. Private institutions have an enormous stake in being able to quickly and accurately insure the identities of customers who, in today’s global economy, may engage in transactions around the world.

In a libertarian society, banks and other financial institutions would establish the level of identity verification they needed to protect their interests, as has been the case in the past. Such institutions would have a strong interest in creating ways of identification that would appeal to — not offend or burden or harm — their customers.

Competition would quickly create new and innovative ways to meet this demand. We would expect to see the kind of constant innovation, low cost, ease-of-use, and concern for pleasing customers that we today see in other significantly unregulated areas of our economy, such as telecommunications, computers and the Internet.

People would be free to decide for themselves if they wanted to provide information in order to work with these institutions. Governments couldn’t force individuals to carry IDs. The most innovative and customer-pleasing solutions would be the most successful.

Finally, in a libertarian society there would be no danger of governments collecting vast databases of such information, a threat to our liberty.

There is a great need for identification services that aid consumers while protecting their privacy. Only the market — not government — can provide this.

Trump Never Stopped Arming Syrian Rebels

in Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, Middle East, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Trump Never Stopped Arming Syrian Rebels


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

In July, it was reported that President Donald Trump had put an end to the U.S. program providing weaponry to Syrian rebel groups hoping to oust President Bashar al-Assad. But just a few months later, a groundbreaking report showing that the U.S. Department of Defense under Trump’s watch was still funneling billions of dollars’ worth of weaponry to certain groups in Syria hit the news.

Syrian

According to the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), the Pentagon has, so far, provided groups like the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units $2.2 billion worth of weapons.

Because of the lack of oversight, the report claims, the arms trafficking is helping to fuel an already chaotic and shadowy Eastern European arms trade, allowing these weapons to fall into the hands of pretty much anyone.

According to one of the report’s authors, Ivan Angelovski, the Pentagon “is removing any evidence in their procurement records that weapons are actually going to the Syrian opposition.”

If the report is correct then this program has stepped into the effort that had allegedly been brought to an end by Trump, equipping the so-called “moderate rebels” in Syria who want Assad out.

While on paper weapon shipments such as the ones being run by the Pentagon must include information regarding who is the end-user, the Defense Department has decided to have the equipment transfer take place without any vetting, giving any militarized group or militia access to these weapons. That includes Syrian rebels.

So in essence, the announcement that the Trump administration actually brought the program providing the Syrian opposition with arms and supplies was nothing but an empty promise.

Still, the Pentagon disputes these claims, saying that the usage of the equipment is closely monitored and that the program’s main goal is to help forces to secure territory taken from the Islamic State. But as we know from recent history, weapons and other supporting material meant for “moderate” rebels quickly fell into the hands of Islamic State militants. As a result, U.S. taxpayer-backed programs like these not only helped to fuel the Syrian war but they also helped to create the type of humanitarian crisis that is now responsible for the massive flow of refugees running away from conflict in the Middle East.

This illustrates just how little a massive government bureaucracy like the one we have in gear truly knows about the long-term consequences of their actions. And who pays for their irresponsible efforts in the end? We do.

Bill Protecting Californians’ Personal Data Headed To Governor’s Desk

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Bill Protecting Californians’ Personal Data Headed To Governor’s Desk

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

The state of California has just passed a bill that essentially nullifies any effort from the federal government that would force the state to collect data concerning an individual’s religion, national origin, or ethnicity.

Senate Bill 31 was authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara and it was written to prevent local or state agencies from collecting any information that could later be placed in a federal database targeting people for their religious beliefs or ethnicity. This bill was supported by local nullification activists who do not want information from California residents ending up in a national database.

data

Since the federal government often relies on states to collect this type of information for later use, this bill could help protect people who may be targeted by rogue executive administrations. In President Donald Trump’s era, this means that people who subscribe to Islam or who are from particular countries targeted by his travel ban wouldn’t be forced to share that information with any state agency. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and other organizations supported the bill at the time it was introduced by saying that it served as means to create a database firewall.

But to libertarian-leaning individuals who have been working with organizations such as the Tenth Amendment Center (TAC), SB 31 also serves as a perfect example of why the nullification of federal rules within a city or state government is a battle worth fighting for.

To Brian Gonzalez, a nullification activist who has worked closely with TAC and other coalitions, the passage of SB 31 was an important step toward shielding Californians from the federal government’s power grab. Now that the bill is on its way to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, he told The Advocates for Self-Government he’s hopeful that the bill will protect Californians from participating in the federal government’s paranoia.

“Over the years, we’ve witnessed a peeling away of our civil liberties here at home,” Gonzalez said. “Indefinite detention, mass surveillance, civil asset forfeiture, etc. [The creation of a] database or registration is just another step into mass paranoia and injustice.”

By keeping the state shielded from having to comply “with federal requests for information based on race, religion, ethnicity for the purpose of creating a database/registry,” Gonzalez added, the bill doesn’t just protect Californians from the Trump administration’s plans but also other administrations that may want to target individuals over different characteristics in the future.

If anything, nullification is the most practical tool we have at our disposal to make sure the states are not cooperating with the federal government when its goal is to violate our rights. And with SB 31, this becomes even clearer.

Now, Gonzalez is alerting his friends and fellow advocates on social media that is time to contact Gov. Brown to let him know the bill has a great following and that he must sign it into law as soon as possible.

How can I make a difference in the world without money?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Liberator Online, Libertarianism by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

How can I make a difference in the world without money?

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

Question:

I’m a college student. I want to support libertarian and/or charitable organizations to make the world a better place. But I don’t have the money. I can barely afford to get by now. Yet I can’t just sit back and continue reading about atrocities any more. I want to make a difference. What can I do?

money

Answer:

Money is useful in trying to change the world, but by far activism is the key ingredient. Activists can show others the importance of setting things right. Those who have money instead of time will take care of the finances.

First, educate yourself on the principles of liberty. The Advocates site Libertarianism.com is a great place to start.

Second, learn how to effectively communicate those ideas. (This is a specialty of the Advocates. Each issue of the Liberator Online has communication information, and there is a wealth of similar material on powerful libertarian communication at the Advocates Web site .)

Third, find other people who share your interests. You can do this online. For instance, there are (at least) three U.S. national libertarian-oriented campus organizations:

* Students for Liberty
* Young Americans for Liberty
* Libertarian Party list of campus libertarian organizations

And there are plenty of other libertarian organizations that do local activism:

* The Libertarian Party has many local chapters across the U.S.
* The Republican Liberty Caucus is for liberty activists working in the GOP.
* Campaign for Liberty was formed after the Ron Paul presidential campaign to encourage grassroots activism.
* The International Society for Individual Liberty has links to many organizations in America and around the world that offer opportunities local activism. Click on their “Freedom Network” button at their home page.

That’s just a sampling. There are many other fine activist organizations out there, too. And there are also numerous organizations that focus on specific issues, such as the War on Drugs, gun rights, tax reduction, and so on.

(Please note, this list is for informational purposes. The Advocates is a non-profit educational organization, and does not endorse political campaigns or lobby to pass legislation.)

The people who attend these meetings can tell you what’s happening in your area. Get involved. Donate your time if you don’t have the money.

(And tell ‘em the Advocates sent you!)

Learn. Get active. Spend two or three hours a week making the world a better place instead of watching TV. You’ll feel much better afterwards!

Why Are People So Oblivious To Government’s Fiscal Follies?

in Liberator Online, Libertarianism, News You Can Use, Philosophy by Alice Salles Comments are off

Why Are People So Oblivious To Government’s Fiscal Follies?


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

Two years ago, I worked on an article that looked into a California coalition attempting to raise taxes on the wealthy without offering a justification for their efforts.

oblivious

At the time, I wasn’t just trying to understand why common Californians weren’t as concerned about the budget and the gloomy state of the local government’s finances, I was also trying to understand why anybody would simply ignore budgetary concerns anywhere in the country. After all, if the state notices it has run out of your money to pay its bills, the only way it has to make ends meet is to take more from taxpayers. Shouldn’t people be worried about that?

In order to find an answer to my question, I talked to Truth in Accounting (TIA)’s Founder and President Sheila Weinberg. And while I wasn’t surprised she was as smart as I would have imagined, I was in awe of the simple answer she gave me when discussing the importance of talking about balancing the budget before trying to raise taxes.

“The way it is now,” she calmly explained, “taxpayers can’t hold their elected officials accountable because they are getting more government than they are paying taxes for.”

As simple as it may sound, I thought, the fact that people are getting “more government than they are paying for” is exactly why they are not paying attention.

If the taxpayer isn’t bothered by the amount of taxes he pays, that might be because, perhaps, he isn’t paying for as many of the agencies, programs, and regulations as he is being told. Instead, governments (both local and federal) often run on creditsborrowingfederal grants, and yes, on taxes, but mostly they are always in the red, borrowing from future generations in order to pay for yesterday’s debt.

Taxpayers don’t notice their future is in jeopardy because they believe their taxes are covering it all — except they aren’t. So when higher taxes are announced or when local officials begin to talk about bankruptcy, individuals are often oblivious to how they got there.

As the tax burden grows, under those circumstances, taxpayers who are targeted and forced through legislation to give more end up fleeing to find greener pastures elsewhere, where they get to keep more of their money. As a result, the number of taxes being collected drops and entire cities (and sometimes states) break.

And it’s precisely because the overwhelming majority of locals simply get more government than they are paying for that they often ignore the warning signs that doomsday is just around the corner.

As Maine Fights For Food Sovereignty, The Federal Government Closes In

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

As Maine Fights For Food Sovereignty, The Federal Government Closes In


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

Decentralization continues to be an important goal for many practical libertarians, and for good reason. After all, when you take the power away from a big, overbearing government body and brings it back to the hands of small communities, you allow individuals to make decisions for themselves along with their neighbors. You give autonomy back to small groups of people, keeping powerful politicians and lobbyists from having the last say on how people run their lives.

Maine

In Maine, Governor Paul LePage has just signed a Food Sovereignty Bill into law. The piece of legislation works by giving Maine towns the power to regulate local food production on their own. With this new bill, the state has essentially nullified the federal government’s monopoly on food regulations.

The first town to have enacted this type of legislation was Sedgwick, which is located in Hancock County in Maine. After passing its own law giving locals the right to produce and consume whatever food item they wish, such as meats from local plants or even raw milk (the horror!), the rest of the state followed suit. Now that the nullification fever spread across the state, others are hoping it spreads across the country.

In other states like Wyoming, similar laws also strip the federal government from its monopoly over food regulation. Unfortunately, they do not go as far as Maine’s new law.

With a law protecting the citizen’s right to sell homemade food without a license, Wyoming is one of the states that have fought for food sovereignty recently. Still, it’s only when we see states going as far as Maine that we’re reminded that battles fought locally are more likely to succeed. For libertarians, this is a message worth embracing as we often look for ways to ensure that individuals are the freest they can be regardless of who’s sent to oversee the executive branch in Washington, D.C., every four years.

Still, we must keep in mind that the federal government doesn’t let go of its powers that easily.

Unfortunately for Maine residents, the new law protecting their food rights is already being attacked by the feds.

Scheduled to go into effect in early November, the governor has urged the state government to hold a special session so they may listen to the federal government’s objections before allowing the bill to run its course.

This follows the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s threats regarding the state’s meat and poultry industries. If the law goes into effect as is, the USDA threatened the state’s meat to be transferred to the federal government’s inspection program. This would then defeat the bill’s purpose, giving the federal government its power to have the last word when it comes to meat and poultry products back.

Hopefully, the state will stand strong in the face of a threatening almighty federal government attempting to keep locals from making their own food-related decisions. And if that is the case, then Maine will serve as a real example of what courage looks like.

Gov’t Allows National Guard To Confiscate Locals’ Guns In Light Of Irma

in Gun Rights, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Gov’t Allows National Guard To Confiscate Locals’ Guns In Light Of Irma


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

Following the destruction and horror caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas, government officials and locals started bracing for the potential destruction that Hurricane Irma is about to bring the southeast coast. But in at least one place in particular, government officials seem to be using the hurricane as an excuse to expand the U.S. civil asset forfeiture powers.

Irma In the U.S. Virgin Islands, Gov. Kenneth Mapp gave the National Guard the OK to confiscate locals’ guns, ammunitions, explosives, and any other material that is seen as needed to respond to Irma. This move shocked conservatives nationwide. Now, many are asking since when does the seizure of private property give response teams advantages in fighting a national disaster?

If anything, those who own weapons and ammunition would feel less safe if the government were to take them away from them, especially in light of reports involving house break-ins and violence in Texas following Harvey.

Unfortunately, the practice of giving law enforcement the power to seize private property has now become so common, with one of its most staunch defenders of civil asset forfeiture serving as President Donald Trump’s Attorney General, that when this report hit the news few mainstream, left-leaning news organizations bothered to cover it.

Still, civil asset forfeiture-related practices should concern any American, regardless of political affiliations, as such actions are nothing but transfers of wealth from citizens to governments. And unlike what is going on now in the U.S. Virgin Islands, civil asset forfeiture doesn’t only hurt pro-gun rights advocates who are rightly upset at this order. The practice hurts the poor, minorities, and even students who dare to own any property.

As countless people see their money or their cars being taken away without being able to fight in court due to the prohibitive costs of such legal cases, we see few civil rights activists worried about criticizing the government now for allowing the use of a natural disaster to confiscate private property. Perhaps, that’s because many believe that guns and ammunition shouldn’t be seen as prized personal possessions, especially if they are owned by the civil population.

After all, what good could such personal items do in case something like what happened in 2005 in New Orleans happened now or if houses in the U.S. Virgin Islands were attacked like houses in Texas were? One can only wonder.

Why Government Is Responsible For Harvey

in Business and Economy, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Why Government Is Responsible For Harvey

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

Whenever a major natural disaster like Hurricane Harvey hits the United States, many of us often wonder why is it that so many people still live in areas that are at risk of being greatly impacted. After all, why would people continue to build homes and buildings in areas that are more likely to be hit by a hurricane than others?

As you can imagine, the answer lies with the government.

Harvey

As Politico reports that the powerful home builders’ lobby was successful in killing new legislation that would have brought government-backed insurance coverage for new constructions in high-risk areas to an end prior to Harvey, it fails to explain why we have a National Flood Insurance Program in the first place. It also seems to ignore that the very existence of government-backed insurance is what created the problems we are experiencing now in Texas.

In 1968, when the NFIP was created, the program was sold as an answer to the high costs of federal disaster assistance.

But this issue could have easily been addressed if disaster relief had been allowed to be provided mainly by charities and local governments, just as it used to all across the country up to 1917.

Instead of scaling the federal government’s involvement down and giving the taxpayer a well-earned break, politicians decided to go the other way, making sure that new construction plans for risk areas would only be put into action if they were covered by the insurance program first.

But as the always insightful James Bovard wrote in 2006, the only thing this bloated U.S. government program achieved was to serve as a perverse incentive that pushed more and more companies to build in “river flood plains and coastal areas long favored by hurricanes.”

In an old ad showcasing NFIP to average Americans, FEMA told viewers then they couldn’t “replace your memories,” but they would “help you build new ones.” Instead, Bovard wrote, all that FEMA and the NFIP did was to “[induce] people to build homes in areas where their memories get swept away.”

Still, many alerted both Americans and the federal government that the program was nothing but a sham.

In 1997, a report by Idaho Statesman revealed that NFIP “[brought] more people into harm’s way” by making dangerous development “look not only possible, but attractive.”

Scott Faber, the former Senior Director for Public Policy for American Rivers and current Vice President of Government Affairs at the Environmental Working Group, once said that the NFIP had essentially become a tool in the hands of powerful construction overlords against the environment.

“Prior to the 1960s, you didn’t have much development in flood-prone areas because you couldn’t find any insurer crazy enough to underwrite it,” Faber told Bovard. “But the federal government came along and said it is okay — we are going to make it financially possible for you to live in a flood plain. The effect of this has been much more dramatic in coastal areas, where we have seen a huge boom in coastal development in the last 30 years.”

Thanks to government’s involvement, we now have many more damaged properties, people being displaced, and some even being killed thanks to floods than if insurance hadn’t been subsidized by the taxpayer. And we have nobody but government to thank for it.

So when time to rebuild comes and people call for more federal government involvement, how about reminding our fellow Americans why Hurricane Harvey had such great impact in Houston, Texas, in the first place?

Freedom Of the Press at Lowest Point in 12 Years

in First Amendment, Freedom On Campus, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty by Chloe Anagnos Comments are off

Freedom Of the Press at Lowest Point in 12 Years

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

According to a report from Freedom House, an independent organization that promotes freedom around the world, in 2015, press freedom has declined to its lowest point in 12 years, as political, criminal and terrorist forces worked to silence the media.

press

Only 13 percent of the world’s population experiences a free press, meaning that coverage of political events is prevalent, the government minimally interferes in media happenings, and the safety of journalists is guaranteed.

These declines are attributed to the partisanship of a country’s media and the amount of intimidation and violence journalists experience world-wide.

This data is best visualized in the Newseum’s world press freedom map located in the Time Warner World News Gallery in Washington, D.C.

This giant map shows which countries have the greatest amount of press freedom. A green-colored country means the most, yellow is somewhat, and red is least to none at all.

The majority of these problems for the press happen in the Middle East where governments, militias and extremists groups pressure journalists and media outlets to push alternate narratives. Often times, these groups distribute news through their own networks without needing to rely on traditional journalists or other outlets.

And recently, extremist groups have attempted to silence or eliminate news organizations that they don’t agree with, have taken journalists hostage, or have had them killed.

Only two countries improved their practices against journalists in 2015. Burkino Faso and Sri Lanka removed prison sentences for libel and saw a change in government that lead to fewer physical threats against journalists.

More than 15 countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and others declined in their practices against freedom of the press. For example, the majority of these countries declined to provide protections for journalists against violence and censored websites and other medium. North Korea, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan lead the list in countries with the worst press freedom scores.

Freedom House lists China, Poland and India as some of the countries to watch in the next year as they may be moving towards important changes in their press freedom conditions.

The United States has a “free” press freedom status, however, since the terrorist attacks of 2001, journalists have had difficulties in gaining access to proceedings and facilities related to counterterrorism. These include reporting on the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, where more than 100 detainees continue to be held.

Sorry Mr. Trump, But Militarized Cops Act Like Soldiers In A Warzone

in Criminal Justice, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Sorry Mr. Trump, But Militarized Cops Act Like Soldiers In A Warzone

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

President Donald Trump signed an executive order lifting a ban on the 1033 Pentagon program, allowing the federal government to exert greater influence on local and state law enforcement agencies by transferring expensive, military-grade equipment to their ranks so they may be used in our streets.

warzoneBut local police forces aren’t supposed to act like the military. As a matter of fact, the very Founders of the United States had a deep suspicion of standing armies, placing the Third and Fourth Amendments strategically in the Bill of Rights so that the individual was treated as the mighty owner of his house and anything he occupies, shielding him from prosecution for acting in defense of his “castle.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) denounced the president’s plan, saying that, on top of “[subsidizing] militarization,” this move would make minorities across the country feel that police are targeting them. After all, he added, “[a]nyone who thinks that race does not still, even if inadvertently, skew the application of criminal justice isn’t paying close enough attention.”

But perhaps what’s also at stake but seldom discussed when it comes to policing in America is the driving forces behind these policy changes. And what’s worse, how incentives play a major role in how these policies are applied.

Long before Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Trump would be reinstating the 1033 Pentagon program, the country’s largest police union had already lobbied hard to make sure the president was listening. They see advantages to being given so much power despite having sworn an oath to act as peace officers, not soldiers in times of war.

What they fail to realize (or perhaps do realize but don’t care about) is that when officers who are supposed to act as local law enforcers are given military toys, they go from men and women of the community who exist as a force to keep the peace, to acting as if they were in a warzone.

With the extra military-grade toys in hand, these men and women fall prey to the tricks their minds play on them, and they forget that they must act responsibly in order to boost public safety — not instill fear.

When the Founders realized that standing armies were being quartered in the houses of local Americans during the American Revolution, they looked at Rome for yet another example of power-thirsty military men destroying a Republic. They knew that the individual was meant to be powerful and soberan in his home, strong, willing, and capable to defend himself and his loved ones, and that the policing of local laws are meant to be enforced by the community.

When federal governments grow powerful, they are also capable of “bribing” local law men to fall in line. So when you centralize power in the hands of a few, expect the powerful in your midst to tag along. Who loses? The individual, who suddenly sees his freedom being diluted in the name of “security.”

Your Tax Dollars Are Helping Local Law Enforcement To Spy On You

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Your Tax Dollars Are Helping Local Law Enforcement To Spy On You


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

The fight for a more libertarian society begins with the identification of policies that make us less free precisely because they are enacted by a centralized power. As we learn about these restrictive rules and programs, we also learn about how the federal government uses any tool at its disposal to ensure smaller, more local government organizations fall in line.

spy

As expected, these smaller entities end up becoming effective arms of the federal government in its fight against personal freedoms, mostly due to the fact federal government agencies and regulatory bodies often have special influence over state agencies.

This is the case with surveillance policies.

In a December 2016 report released by the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reforms, lawmakers confirmed that federal agencies give state and local law enforcement extra funding so they may purchase stingray devices.

The stingrays, as they are known, are cell site simulators that spoof cell phone towers, capturing data from devices within their range. As the phones targeted get tricked into connecting directly to the stingray, officials are able to primarily track and locate targeted devices. But depending on the technology in use, systems may be modified to also gather data from these phones such as text messages.

As these stingrays are used without a warrant, targeting any cell phone within range, the use of this technology is a blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment. Still, feds provide the incentives that push local law enforcement to ignore the Constitution.

What’s worse is that you and I as taxpayers are paying the federal government to spy on us illegally.

According to the report, the bulk of funding for this program comes from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), but the grant programs are administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA.)

Up until 2016, this program had officially cost taxpayers $1.8 million, but the real number could be much higher as the DHS “does not maintain a separate accounting of grant funds used to purchase cell site-simulators,” the report concludes.

If local or state officials want to participate and get the extra dough from the feds, they may obtain grants through a variety of programs such as the Citizen Corps Program, the State Homeland Security Program, the Emergency Management Performance Grants, the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program, the Urban Areas Security Initiative, the Transit Security Program, the Intercity Passenger Rail Program, and the Buffer Zone Protection Program.

Still, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has denied that it funds local stingray purchases, despite claiming there were a “handful of instances” where the DOJ knows grant money was used to purchase stingrays — not to our surprise. As it turns out, the Tenth Amendment reports, the congressional report does not go deep enough as state and local agencies that purchase stingrays often sign non-disclosure agreements with both the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the company behind the device As such, both the feds and the companies that produce these towers end up shrouding the exchange in secrecy.

With clauses in place that guarantee law enforcement won’t make it clear that data or records obtained in a criminal investigation were gathered via stingray use, local law enforcement agencies have nothing to lose.

Due to the secrecy surrounding these programs, the public is left in the dark, completely oblivious that, perhaps, their local law enforcement bodies might be gathering their personal information even if they were never formally accused of any crime.

Despite being told that stingrays should not be authorized, the federal government still acts exactly as you would expect: It tells you to relax because the government has it all under control.

Unfortunately, this isn’t  anywhere close to what the Founding Fathers envisioned, as any program that is used to violate our privacy should be under great scrutiny, especially as the data collected by local and state law enforcement is sent to state and local governments.

How can we have fire protection and other services without taxes?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, Taxes by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

How can we have fire protection and other services without taxes?

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

Question:

If there were no taxes, how would we pay for hospitals, military defense and rescue workers? It would stink if a privatized fire fighter let your house burn because you didn’t pay for them. And what if a small town had only one station, and it begins over-pricing because they’re the only one in town?

taxes

Answer:

Actually, many small towns today, including my own, utilize private fire fighters who are primarily volunteers.  Each year, a community-support organization collects donations from bake sales, garage sales, barbeques and other fund-raising events to pay for their equipment. Almost everyone contributes as a customer, donor, volunteer, or organizer. Smaller communities would probably continue to utilize such strategies in a libertarian society.

In larger communities, homeowners could subscribe to one of multiple fire-fighting services.  Mortgage companies and insurers would likely require such a subscription as part of their contract, as many do today. Thus, most people would carry such subscriptions, which would probably be about half of what we pay in taxes today.

Someone without a subscription could still call a fire-fighting service and get immediate service; they would simply pay more than a person with a subscription. In some cases, a service might put out a fire gratis simply as good-will advertising to other neighbors, who might decide to switch their subscription to a group they’ve seen in action.

You can find more examples of how fire protection and other important services would be paid for in a libertarian society in my short articles here and here.

I go into more detail in my book “Healing Our World,” available from the Advocates [latest 2003 edition] or as a free download [older 1992 edition] at my website.

Tech Entrepreneurs Now Betting On Unrestricted Freedom Of Speech

in First Amendment, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

 Tech Entrepreneurs Now Betting On Unrestricted Freedom Of Speech


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

In an era where cultural wars are fought online first and then aggressively taken to the streets by relatively small groups of people that fail to represent the majority of the population, the social media market has shown us that relying solely on popular, mainstream online hubs such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter for their communication needs does not pay off.

speech

In the past, privacy advocates demanding more freedom and less collaboration between mainstream organizations and government were able to obtain small victories as apps and email services that put their customers first started popping up.

But now that the fight for better communication tools hit a wall with white nationalist groups taking to the streets in a rally that unfortunately turned out deadly, tech giants are targeting anyone who may hold any idea that resembles white supremacy.

While such companies are entirely entitled to do what they wish, it’s important to note that no matter how vile and dangerous some ideas might be, shunning people from the online world we now take for granted means certain ideas will be driven into the shadows. Without an outlet, resentment then grows into something even more dangerous.

The cure for bad speech, veteran libertarian author Wendy McElroy put years ago, is a “a good one,” so when it comes to fighting bad, collectivist ideas such as hate toward a particular group of people, the best way to go about it is to defend and fight for freedom of speech first so that those who are being loud about their awful ideas today can be debated in the open.

In order to provide a platform that allows anyone their space, the social network Gab was launched with the promise to offer a neutral, free-speech environment to anyone who wants to join. And because it does not show preferences for political groups, parties, ideologies, or affiliations, Gab seems to be bringing a great number of people to its shores as the firm is now close to reaching its crowdfunding goal.

Reminding its potential users that 50 percent of all top social networking apps are owned by Facebook, Gab seems to be doing all it can to stand in the way of a handful of Silicon Valley companies that right now have a great deal of control over online content. If successful, the small but audacious company could open up its platform and offer users a place to “hang” where philosophical and ideological debates wouldn’t be at risk of succumbing to censorship threats.

While you may agree or not with how Gab is doing business in light of the recent events in Charlottesville, the appearance of this service serves as an example of why an open and unrestricted market is able to cater to all without resorting to coercion for support or legitimacy.

And in this case, it may even help people who might be targeted by certain groups to stay safer as they know people who subscribe to any ideology are free to discuss their ideas openly somewhere online instead of being driven into the shadows. But better yet, it might even give anti-white nationalists a chance to debate collectivists in a safe manner, helping to persuade them into learning different ideologies and being open to new ideas.

As platforms like Gab grow, others such as Facebook may finally learn how it feels to have competition. Unless, of course, these mainstream tech giants lobby government to keep entrepreneurs like the ones behind Gab to operate.

Only time will tell what will happen.

Trump’s Afghanistan Strategy Jeopardizes Our Economic Future

in Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, Middle East, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Trump’s Afghanistan Strategy Jeopardizes Our Economic Future

 

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

With Donald Trump winning the 2016 presidential election, we were all told, policies would be more home-centered, with the Trump administration becoming less willing to engage in foreign intervention in the Middle East in order to save taxpayer dollars.

As it turned out, Trump hasn’t been living up to the hype.

Afghan_village_patrol

Speaking about the 16-year-old Afghanistan war this week, the president told a room full of Army soldiers we would remain in the country.

We will be there, he told the audience, to “fight terrorists,” and not to nation-build. But for that, he must escalate U.S. presence, increasing the number of troops on the ground. And that takes a lot of cash.

The same man who once said that if he was president, “the era of nation-building will be ended,” doesn’t seem to realize that regardless of our intentions in the region, what has been keeping this nearly two-decade invasion going has been nothing but bad economic policy that steals from the country’s future. On top of that, the results on the ground are nothing close to what we set ourselves to do, which is to rid the region of terrorism.

As a matter of fact, ever since the U.S. invasions of both Iraq and Afghanistan, ISIS has grown in the region.

Paraphrasing a veteran friend of mine who served in the special forces in Afghanistan years back, when the U.S. ramps up its presence in the region, locals are driven to pick sides. As a result, they either fall into the hands of terrorist organizations out of resentment or are killed for standing with the U.S., otherwise known locally as the invaders.

So as Afghans want all Westerners to leave and the Taliban reassure reporters that more U.S. presence will lead to nothing but more waste of tax dollars, we keep telling ourselves that exiting the country for good would lead to nothing but disaster. Both the left and the right support Trump in staying in the country indefinitely, apparently oblivious that this entire war has been paid for through loans and loans alone, with all its ghost soldiersbad uniform decisions, and waste of dollars on a military intervention that has helped the local poppy production.

It’s time we ask ourselves whether we are really willing to tell future U.S. generations their hard-earned money is needed to pay for a war that has helped to boost the opioid epidemic and the threat of terrorism globally. If so, are we also willing to jeopardize any chance at economic recovery anytime soon in the name of a war on terror that was never meant to be won?

Unfortunately, governments aren’t in the business of listening to people and actually putting their well-being first. This hasn’t been the case when we entered Afghanistan and is not going to be the case now. The best libertarians can continue doing is to never stop talking about the incredible waste of resources, money, and lives associated with these military interventions.

And in a practical sense, continue fighting for decentralization. Because when power is at arm’s reach, it’s easier for us to keep an eye on it.

Can we cut military spending without endangering U.S. security?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Liberator Online, Military, National Defense by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

Can we cut military spending without endangering U.S. security?

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

Question:

In a libertarian society, the U.S. military would be scaled down. By doing this, won’t the U.S. be putting itself at risk should it face a country with a larger military that is aggressive towards the U.S.?

military

Answer:

Although it’s likely that we’d have a smaller military in a libertarian society, we’d probably have a much more efficient one.

Navy Seal Commander Richard Marcinko was asked by his superiors to infiltrate key Naval bases with a handful of colleagues. Commanders of the target installations were given notice that Marcinko’s raiders were coming. Nevertheless, with only seven men, Marcinko planted dummy demolition charges on nuclear submarines, captured the women and children living on base, and even gained access to Air Force One as it was being refueled! The Commanders complained that Marcinko had cheated by coming in by water or other “back doors” that they hadn’t prepared for. (You can read more about it in Marcinko’s book, Rogue Warrior.)

Our military is a subsidized monopoly that has trouble protecting us on our home turf. Like most government services, it costs much and delivers little, wasting the energy and lives of our brave soldiers. This isn’t the fault of our soldiers. It’s due to politics and the inevitable inefficiency of government. Our soldiers deserve better — and so do we!

Crony Capitalism Is Why You Can’t Afford To Air Travel

in Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Crony Capitalism Is Why You Can’t Afford To Air Travel


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

Americans can’t afford to do much these days. But when it comes to traveling by air, American consumers often feel trapped. Not simply because the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is everywhere, getting to perform procedures on innocent travelers only violent prisoners should be subject to. But also because flight tickets are too expensive.

air

In an article for Reason, Mercatus Senior Research Fellow Veronique de Rugy explained that while a consumer may pay about $541 for one single plane ticket from New York to Paris, at least 74 percent of the total cost ($401) goes entirely to taxes and fees. In case you fly domestically, you might pay fewer taxes. Still, you will be paying more simply because U.S. airlines have been lobbying aggressively to make sure that international air flight companies aren’t allowed to offer more domestic flights. As a result, only American airlines have the privilege to fly consumers inside of the country. Without competition, these companies function as a monopoly, forcing consumers to have fewer options both in flights and in prices.

And what’s worse, when defending these policies both lobbyists and lawmakers claim to be in support of such protectionist measures because they protect American jobs.

Of course, because if foreign airlines offer more flights within the U.S. territory more foreigners will be employed, pushing Americans out of the workforce, correct? Absolutely not.

Even if foreign companies expand in America, that will mean more and not fewer opportunities for American workers. But it doesn’t stop there. It will also benefit American consumers, who will have more options of flights and prices. With more affordable flights they will be able to travel more often, boosting the gains to all airline companies competing openly.

Still, even if foreign airlines were to compete with American companies openly at some point in the future, the delays and additional problems caused by the government-run security lines managed by the TSA would continue to serve as a deterrent to consumers who prize their privacy and physical well-being more than their willingness to travel. Unfortunately, the TSA is also constantly lobbying to remain relevant, making its influence harder to ignore.

Still, if the current administration and Washington, D.C., lawmakers are serious about boosting the economy, they should be considering bringing the TSA to an end while also allowing free and open competition in the airline business domestically as well.

Unfortunately, something tells us that crony capitalism will remain strong, so long as there is a state and a group of lawmakers eager to enjoy the perks that come with supporting the causes that are dear to their donors.

Don’t Let Them Fool You: What Charlottesville Was Really About

in First Amendment, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Don’t Let Them Fool You: What Charlottesville Was Really About

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

News reports on the tragic incident that killed one person in Charlottesville and the events that led to this death continue to dominate the news cycle. But while media outlets leaning both right and left spin the stories to better suit their narrative, libertarians sit and watch in awe. Have we not warned our friends, colleagues, and readers enough about the dangers of seemingly competing political groups escalating against each other in the name of power?

Charlottesville

On one side, we have members of a group of individuals who usually hide their faces and yes, use violence as a tactic to instill fear and make their message heard. They are known as “antifa” and their acts of violence are well known. On the other side, we have yet another group of often young, collectivist, seemingly frustrated, and obviously angry Americans who frequently see the answer to their problems in the national socialist philosophy. On Saturday, a member of this group violently murdered a demonstrator with his car, single-handedly putting the “alt-right” group on virtually every front page in the country.

Still, to libertarians, both groups often sound and act the same. And that’s no coincidence, for when politics is at stake, individuals tend to use the weapons provided by the state to seek influence.

These groups do not resort to the free market principles of open and peaceful competitiveness or the idea that you’re free to associate with a certain individual or group or not without being forced into action. They do not wish to persuade. Instead, they use the state’s tool: coercion. And that’s what makes groups focused on gaining political influence so dangerous.

As a monopoly over the use of force, the state is capable of obtaining revenue by extortion. Subjects who refuse to pay are penalized. So it’s no wonder that those who seek political power in search for a way to impose their preferred view upon the remaining population are often so violent.

And what’s worse, political groups such as antifa or the alt-right all claim to have the solution to problems at hand. If only they had access to political power, they proudly claim, the country would have all and any maladies soon addressed and the nation would then be “healed.”

But libertarians understand that states are inefficient precisely because they claim to have the power to work on behalf of all without taking into consideration differences among individuals.

It’s because the government acts without regard for human action, or in other words, what makes individuals act the way they do, that power structures are incapable of solving problems efficiently. So if a group is seeking access to this type of power, you know they don’t understand the basics not only of human nature but of politics itself. Or perhaps, they understand it so well and are so tyrannical that they are willing to impose their will no matter how many people are directly harmed (or yes, even killed) as a result.

When such clashes occur and they take over the news cycle, we must remember that these battles aren’t about virtue-signaling, which side is “less bad,” or how libertarians should act in the aftermath. Anyone who’s dedicated to a free market-oriented philosophy that takes into consideration the sanctity of voluntary interactions understands that the fight over political power is always fruitless at best, and extremely harmful at worst.

So instead of pointing fingers and calling names, now is the time, more than ever, to embody liberty and liberty only.

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