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Will Republicans Allow an Obamacare Bailout?

in Healthcare, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Will Republicans Allow an Obamacare Bailout?

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

One of the few bright spots in the government-funding bill passed last December was the inclusion of a provision that barred the Obama administration from using taxpayer dollars to bailout a little-known Obamacare program. Known as “risk corridors,” the program receives contributions from health insurance companies that make money from plans sold on the exchanges required by the law and redistributes it to those that experience losses.

Health Care

Congressional Republicans had targeted the program for repeal. In November 2013, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced legislation, the Obamacare Bailout Prevention Act, to do just that. “The American people are sick of Washington picking winners and losers, especially since the chosen losers often end up being taxpayers who foot the bills for Washington’s mistakes,” Rubio said at the time. “Washington’s bailout culture must end, and eliminating Obamacare’s blank check for a bailout of insurance companies is a common sense step to protect taxpayers when Obamacare fails.”

Lobbyists for insurance companies worried about congressional action against the program, which, according to the administration’s propaganda, is supposed to be deficit-neutral. Without the program, insurers’ lobbyists said, premiums would rise and drive consumers away from the exchanges, possibly leading to a dreaded “death spiral.” While the bill didn’t see any action in the Senate, Rubio reintroduced it in January at the beginning of the new Congress.

The language prohibiting the use of taxpayer funds for the risk corridors program that was included in the government-funding bill applied only to fiscal year 2015. It would have to be inserted into the bill for fiscal year 2016 for it to continue to apply. This is where it gets interesting. Insurers have filed more in claims than money that’s available in the program.

“On October 1, 2015, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced the total of collections and payouts under the risk corridor premium stabilization program for 2014. CMS announced that insurers have submitted $2.87 billion in risk corridor claims for 2014. Insurers only owe, however, $362 million in risk corridor contributions,” Health Affairs reported in October. “Thus payments in 2015 for 2014 will be paid out at 12.6 percent of claims, assuming full collections of contributions owed.”

In other words, the risk corridors program faces a more than a $2.5 billion shortfall. The only way to fill the gap is to transfer funds – i.e., taxpayer money – to cover the payments owed to insurers.

The House of Representatives is in the midst of working on the government-funding bill for fiscal year 2016. The current funding agreement expires on Friday, though lawmakers will likely pass an extension to give themselves more time to hammer out a framework. But without a specific language prohibiting the administration from using taxpayer money to make the risk corridors payments, taxpayers could be on the hook for what is, ostensibly, a $2.5 billion Obamacare bailout.

Life is About People

in From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

Life is About People

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

“Life is about people, not rings. Rings collect dust.” – Coach Mark Richt

In the context that he was quoted, at his final meeting with the football players at the University of Georgia, he meant that the developing those he coached into fine young men was a greater accomplishment than the rings he won with those young men on the field of play.

peopleLife is about people.

The first part of his quote is something that I observe many omit as they live their lives. I also observe that many libertarians omit this when they work to win hearts and minds to the principles, the ideals, the philosophy, and the lifestyle of libertarianism.

When it comes to Liberty, I don’t want it just for myself. I want it for everyone. I want it for the person struggling to ends meet that has the entrepreneurial spirit to be prosperous and to add value to the lives of others. I want it for the child with a learning disability that is getting left behind in school who is an amazingly talented musician. I want it for the international student here on a student visa that will cure cancer.

Too often, we get caught up in the latest news story, political issues, and the rhetoric when having a “political” conversation, but our efforts are for naught if we forget that the people we live among are what our lives are all about. Other times, we project our desires onto others. Sometimes, we just don’t listen to their concerns. 

When we stop getting caught up in those hurdles, we can connect to the people around us and have a real conversation. That conversation will help us to see how to address their concerns and desires and discuss our love of freedom to help open hearts and minds to Liberty.

Looking In the Mirror

in From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

Looking In the Mirror

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

Nearly every government official or candidate for office has a governmental solution for issues we face, regardless of the nature of that issue.

Poverty? Let’s adjust the minimum wage.

Education? Let’s tweak this or implement that new and shiny idea in government schools.

Jobs? We need the government efforts to lure businesses to a certain area with special favors.

What these “solutions” fail to address is the largest problem, the government itself. They seek to reform a reform of a reform that needed to change.

We’re told that these solutions are “outside the box” thinking, yet they simply make a small adjustment thought to “fix” the problem they’ve now uncovered.

looking in the mirrorLet’s think “outside the box” for just minute here…

What if we looked in the mirror for a moment and asked, “How can I solve this? Who would I ask for advice about [X]?” without the baggage of what currently exists and the bias toward the status quo? Obviously, our varied expertise and experience, as well as our areas of passion will drive our focus to the areas of greatest interest.

Would you want a brickmason determining healthcare policy? What does a realtor know about which math curriculum works best for students on the autism spectrum? How can a single person be enough of an expert in all that government involves themselves in to accurately determine the best outcomes in each and every case? What we see occur is that an agenda drives the decision-making to a “one size fits all” solution for over 300 million Americans.

What if we decided not to outsource all of this to a few people with a vested interest in keeping things as they are. After all, if they solved the problems we face, why would we need them? Further, if they had the solutions, wouldn’t they have already fixed everything?

What does this have to with liberty? If we took it upon ourselves to examine these issues and used our tendency to consider outcomes rather than intent and to seek out experts for their perspective, we can offer some pretty solid solutions that lean toward liberty and away from Big Government’s further growth.

Real solutions begin with us.

 

Run This Up the Flagpole…

in Liberator Online, One Minute Liberty Tip by Sharon Harris Comments are off

Run This Up the Flagpole…

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

I have always loved the Gadsden Flag – the bold yellow banner featuring a rattlesnake and the defiant words “Don’t Tread on Me.”

Gadsen Flag

One of the first flags of the United States, it was designed by American general and statesman Christopher Gadsden in 1775 and was a renowned war flag during the American Revolution.

Because of its history, it connotes a deep patriotism. And “Don’t Tread on Me” powerfully conveys the fundamental libertarian message of nonaggression.

The Gadsden Flag truly is a classic symbol. But lately, I’ve come to much prefer a new evolution of this famous flag.

While “Don’t Tread on Me” is a great notion, it has a defensiveness and war-like nature (appropriately, since after all, it was originally a war flag). And to many viewers, it only speaks for the person carrying it: “Don’t tread on ME.” Do what you want, but don’t bother ME. This unfortunately can reinforce the false negative stereotype often used against libertarians: that libertarians are selfish, don’t care about others, etc.

Also, in recent years, the Gadsden flag has come to stand for political movements that don’t represent the kind of peaceful non-aggression and tolerance that libertarians stand for.

The main thing that makes libertarianism different from any other political philosophy is the fact that everything we advocate applies to EVERYONE. We want individual liberty – not just for ourselves, but for everyone. The Nonaggression Principle applies to all human beings – not just libertarians, not just Americans. Everyone.

That’s why I’ve fallen in love with the newer expression: “Don’t tread on ANYONE.” It looks great on the Gadsden Flag!

Porcupine

And it is especially powerful when the Gadsden Flag’s snake is replaced by a porcupine, as some clever libertarians have done. The porcupine is certainly very well equipped to defend itself, yet it does not aggress against other animals. (And besides, it’s cute!)

Another bonus: Turning an icon on its head, as this new meme does, creates an element of surprise. It makes people stop and think. It gives them an “ah-ha!” experience. As Chip and Dan Heath point out in their landmark book “Made to Stick,” ideas that are “sticky” (ideas that last, go viral, etc.) have some things in common, and one of those things is that those ideas are “unexpected, counter-intuitive, with surprise implications.”

(And hey, what’s more “sticky” than a porcupine?)

You can find variations of this new icon on T-shirts, bumper stickers, flags, and more online.

I hope more and more libertarians will begin to use this new reworking of a classic American symbol of independence. What a great way to present our glorious philosophy of liberty, peace, harmony, and goodwill toward ALL!

Address Security Concerns But Let Syrian Refugees Come to the U.S.

in Foreign Policy, Immigration, Liberator Online, Middle East, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Address Security Concerns But Let Syrian Refugees Come to the U.S.

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

America’s governors are playing right into the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. In reaction to the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday, the governors of 30 states have called on the Obama administration to delay its plans to allow refugees from Syria to be placed in their states.

The concerns aren’t without merit. One of the Islamic radicals who participated in the terrorist attacks had a passport, using a phony name, showing that he entered Europe from Syria. This revelation has raised concerns about holes in the security screenings of the refugees who may enter the United States as the flee from a bloody civil war that has ravaged their country and left tens of thousands dead.

syrian-refugee-crisis

Similarly, congressional Republicans are poised to push legislation to “pause” the program. Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., in the first major test of his nascent speakership, said, “This is a moment where it’s better to be safe than to be sorry.” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., introduced a bill of his own to temporarily halt the resettlement of Syrian refugees.

“The time has come to stop terrorists from walking in our front door,” Paul said in a statement. “The Boston Marathon bombers were refugees, and numerous refugees from Iraq, including some living in my hometown, have attempted to commit terrorist attacks.”

“The terrorist attacks in Paris underscore this concern that I have been working to address for the past several years. My bill will press pause on new refugee entrants from high-risk countries until stringent new screening procedures are in place,” he added.

Prohibiting Syrian refugees from entering the United States, which is what some seem to want, may not be at all like the retaliatory attacks being carried out against mosques and Muslim-owed businesses in France in the aftermath of the attacks, but the anti-Islam sentiment is what ISIS thrives upon in its twisted eschatology.

“This is precisely what ISIS was aiming for — to provoke communities to commit actions against Muslims,” University of Maryland professor Arie Kruglanski told the Washington Post. “Then ISIS will be able to say, ‘I told you so. These are your enemies, and the enemies of Islam.”

Governors and lawmakers must tread carefully and keep in mind that history shows that refugees are overwhelming unlikely to be terrorists. A temporarily halt to the Syrian refugee program is understandable until security concerns are addressed, but we shouldn’t shut the door to people who are seeking safety by conflating it with the other hot-button issues, such as immigration.

They Want Hate Between You

in Conversations With My Boys, Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, Middle East by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

They Want Hate Between You

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

BA(10): I wish I knew why those terrorist did that.
Me: Would it comfort you to know why?
BA: It would help me if I understood why.
HateMe: Well, they murdered those people so you would hate Muslims. Like Al (a friend who is Muslim). They want you to hate Al.
BA: I would never hate Al. Why do they want me to hate him?
Me: They want you to make Al feel hated and attacked. They want you to work for them and make Al feel attacked. Like you are his enemy. They want you to hate Al and attack him so he has to defend himself from you.
BA: Why would they want that?
Me: They want Al to feel persecuted by you and they can’t do that job. They have to make you do that. They want hate between you. They want Al to hate you and they want Al to join them.
BA: I would never hate Al.
Me: It doesn’t begin as hate. It begins as fear and distrust. When you fear and distrust your friends and neighbors you are doing the work the terrorists want you to do. You are working for them.
BA: If I hate anyone I hate the terrorists.
Me: That also serves them. Hate is like a little pile of burning matches. You can not put out that little burning pile of matches by adding your own burning match to it. You must quench hate and more hate does not quench hate. Do you see?
BA: Yes.
Me: When there is great hatred like there was last night in Paris we are being called to great love and compassion. We are called to love the people who have died and the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, and friends who are heartbroken with grief. Love quenches hate. Do you see?
BA: They want me to hate and be afraid.
Me: Yes. Do you remember those people who came to our church to frighten people?
BA: It’s like that. It’s the same thing. Only they didn’t kill us they just tried to scare us.
Me: Yes. It’s hate. They want you to hate. When you hate, you are on the side of those who hate.

How do You Defeat Hydra?

in Conversations With My Boys, Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, Middle East, War by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

How do You Defeat Hydra?

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

Me: YS, do you know what a Hydra is?
BA (10): It’s a monster. Every time you chop off one of its heads, two grow in its place.
Me: How do you know this?
Hydra 2BA: Minecraft. In the Twilight Forest there’s a Hydra.
Me: Do you know why I’m asking about the Hydra?
YS (15): Terrorism? It’s like we’re fighting Hydra. The more we fight, the more heads it makes.
Me: So how do you defeat an enemy like that?
YS: First you need to stop cutting off the heads.
Me: But that doesn’t make it go away. How do you destroy a thing you can’t destroy with an attack?
YS: Stop fueling it.
Me: What is this Hydra’s fuel?
YS: We’ve been giving this Hydra literal weapons, literal training, literal financing.
Me: Why did we do this?
YS: We thought we could control it so we grew it. Then it spun out of control. Now it’s attacking us.
Me: Who are the teeth of the Hydra?
YS: Terrorists who carry out the attacks.
Me: And what can you tell me about them?
YS: They’re mad. They’ve had something done to them.
Me: They are called Injustice Collectors and they are easily radicalized. You’re describing something called radicalization. Sometimes what happens is citizens of a country will become radicalized and carry out acts of terror in their own country. People are afraid of immigrants and refugees when actually it’s just as likely to be radicalized citizens who carry out terrorism in their own countries. If someone is running away from terrorism in their own country are they going to become radicalized in their new home?
YS: No. They want nothing to do with it. Refugees from ISIS are the anti-ISIS. They have experienced it.
Me: What kind of effect will an influx of refugees fleeing ISIS violence have on a population?
YS: Those people are not likely to be recruited. They’re going to tell people who could potentially be radicalized that they shouldn’t. They’ve lived it.
Me: What else feeds the Hydra?
YS: Hatred.
Me: When you are hateful to a person they are more willing to be the teeth. How do we make them unwilling to be the teeth?
YS: Those people around us that ISIS is targeting for recruitment, we need to show them kindness.
Me: That’s what starves Hydra.
YS: The state has murdered their people in our name, just like ISIS has murdered people in the name of all Muslims. We have to be kind and think logically. We have to not want to be afraid of these terrorists. Emotional responses don’t get people anywhere.
Me: We kind of enjoy being afraid, don’t we?
YS: Right. Like gun control. Emotional, irrational responses. There’s a mass shooting and people get scared and the start yelling for gun control. It’s like that. It doesn’t work. Gun control doesn’t stop violent people. It just makes it easier for violent people to be violent. It’s an emotional response. We need to think but emotional responses are a lot of fun for the majority of people.

Charles Koch Blasts Corporate Welfare

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

Charles Koch Blasts Corporate Welfare

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

It’s amazing how Charles and David Koch have become the boogeymen of progressives. Democratic politicians, in their class warfare messaging, often reference the multi-billionaire brothers, who frequently contribute to free market causes and Republican candidates.

In reality, the Koch brothers, both of whom are libertarians, hold views that are overlap with progressive thought. They’re skeptical of the United States’ foreign policy, support same-sex marriage, and are critical of corporate welfare.

Free-Market

Writing in Time on Wednesday, Charles Koch repeated his criticism of corporate welfare. “According to a New York Times poll released earlier this year, most Americans believe only the wealthy and well-connected can get ahead these days, leaving everyone else to fall farther behind,” Koch wrote. “I find this very disturbing – because they are right.”

The difference between Koch and progressives is that he doesn’t see government regulation and mandates as the answer to this problem; he sees the government as the problem.

“I have devoted most of my life to this cause. For more than 50 years, I have sought to understand the principles that make free societies the most successful at enabling widespread well-being for everyone – especially the least advantaged. These principles include dignity, respect, tolerance, equality before the law, free speech and free markets, and individual rights,” Koch explained. “If we want to create greater well-being and opportunity for all Americans, we must re-establish these principles. The benefits will be incalculable, flowing to people at every level of society – not just the politically connected.”

“To achieve this vision,” he continued, “we must undo decades of misguided policies that tend to fall into two broad categories: barriers to opportunity for the many and special treatment for the few.”

Koch said, “[T]he role of business is to provide products and services that make people’s lives better.” But, he notes, businesses often bring “harm” on people by taking handouts from the government. What Koch said may shock some.

“The tax code alone contains $1.5 trillion in exemptions and special-interest carve-outs. The federal government also uses direct subsidies, grants, loans, mandates, bailouts, loan guarantees, no-bid contracts and more to help the lucky few with the most lobbyists,” he wrote. “Overall, according to George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, corporate welfare in Washington, D.C. costs more than $11,000 per person in lost gross domestic product every year—$3.6 trillion lost to special favors for special interests.” He added that this doesn’t include regulations promulgated to benefit certain special interests.

Whether progressives like it or not, the Koch brothers are much more than they’ve been made out to be. Of course, as noted, they don’t believe government is the answer and, let’s be honest, it’s not. The problem is, far too few in Washington, including many self-identified progressives, aren’t interested in taking on special interests, largely because they’ve been bought and paid for by them.

What is a Libertarian Win? Part 2

in From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

What is a Libertarian Win? Part 2

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

**Note: This is the second part of an article focused on wins for libertarians. You can find the first part, focused on electoral politics, here.**

Outside of winning your election as a candidate or some of the other wins we shared in Part 1, libertarians can win in other ways as well.

  • winWinning a voter referendum. Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon re-legalized the possession and use of marijuana recreationally. About half of the states that legalized marijuana for medical use did so through ballot measures. These popular votes increased freedom for everyone in their respective states and pressured nearby states to “keep up with the Joneses.” These referendums gave libertarians an opportunity to share a message about the freedom to choose what goes into your body. Statewide ballot measures are not the only opportunities to share a freedom-oriented position on an issue. Local tax referendums take place across the country, and are a great opportunity for a win for libertarians. We can highlight wasteful spending, cronyism, and the proper role of government in opposition to the proposed tax. Who votes to tax themselves? 
  • Lobbying for legislative action. Referendums are not the only avenue for libertarian legislative wins. Strong working relationships with legislators and their staff can yield positive results for liberty if you work with them to pass freedom-oriented bills. This can be a difficult route, even if you have legislators friendly to the issue you’re working on. This will also require some coalescing with other groups with a similar interest and potentially compromising to get some of what you seek. This is easier with the more populist beliefs we hold.
  • Disruptive innovation. Almost entirely outside of politics, free market innovations that revolutionize industries and change the way we do things disrupt the status quo and offer another win for libertarians. Innovations like Uber, Airbnb, and Amazon transformed transportation, travel lodging, and retail sales. Until your innovation affects Big Government and their cronies, this won’t become a political issue. As Uber, Airbnb, and Amazon can tell you, the politicization of innovation will get you interested in politics, no matter the level of interest you held before.

Can you think of any other ways a libertarian can win?

Unrest at Mizzou: A Timeline

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

Unrest at Mizzou: A Timeline

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

**Editor’s Note: Tim Wolfe’s resignation as president of the University of Missouri prompted us to take a look at the events surrounding his resignation. We have complied them in a timeline here. 

September 12: Student Government President Payton Head posts on Facebook his frustrations after people riding in the back of a pickup truck screamed racial slurs at him. “For those of you who wonder why I’m always talking about the importance of inclusion and respect, it’s because I’ve experienced moments like this multiple times at THIS university, making me not feel included here,” he wrote in the widely shared post.

September 17: Missouri Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, the top resident official on the Missouri campus, issues a statement deploring “recent incidents of bias and discrimination.” He calls them “totally unacceptable.”

Mizzou

October 1: A “Racism Lives Here rally” is held on campus. “White silence is violence, no justice no peace,” protesters chanted, according to a report by the Columbia Missourian newspaper.

October 4: A drunken white student disrupts an African American student group, the Legion of Black Collegians, preparing for homecoming activities and uses a racial slur when they asked him to leave. “Not only did this individual disrupt our rehearsal, but we were also made victims of blatant racism in a space that we should be made to feel safe,” the group said. Loftin issues a statement the next day, saying “racism is clearly alive at Mizzou.” “What we have done is not enough. Every member of our community must help us change our culture,” he said.

October 8: Loftin orders diversity and inclusion training for students and faculty in 2016. “This training will inform all of us about the diversity of our campus and the organizations present on campus and make us conscious of how to be inclusive in our words and behaviors,” he wrote.

In an open letter to Loftin in the campus newspaper, student leader Jonathan Butler welcomes the announcement as “a step in the right direction,” but criticizes the chancellor for not acknowledging the work of African American students in developing diversity programs and for failing to acknowledge the breadth of racial issues on the campus.

October 10: Protesters block university President Tim Wolfe’s car during the Missouri homecoming parade to voice their concerns. Wolfe doesn’t respond to their complaints, something he later apologizes for, and his car taps a protester, which angered the group. No one was hurt, but protesters later accused police of using excessive force to clear the street.

October 20: The student group Concerned Student 1950, named for the year African-American students were first admitted to the university, issues a list of demands: an apology from Wolfe, his removal from office and a more comprehensive racial awareness and inclusion curriculum overseen by minority students and faculty. There is no immediate response from administration.

October 24: Another incident roils the campus. Someone uses feces to draw a swastika on the wall of a residence hall. A similar incident had occurred in April, but with ashes, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune.

October 26: Wolfe meets privately with Concerned Student 1950 members, but doesn’t agree to meet their demands, according to the Missourian.

November 3: Butler launches a hunger strike, saying “Mr. Wolfe had ample opportunity to create policies and reform that could shift the culture of Mizzou in a positive direction but in each scenario he failed to do so.”

November 4: A student boycott in support of Concerned Student 1950 begins.

November 6: Wolfe issues an apology to Concerned Student 1950. “Racism does exist at our university and it is unacceptable. It is a long-standing, systemic problem which daily affects our family of students, faculty and staff,” he says.

November 8: Black football players announce they won’t practice or play until Wolfe is removed. The Athletic Department, Coach Gary Pinkel and many white players announce their support for the protest.

November 9: The Missouri Students Association’s executive cabinet calls for Wolfe’s ouster, saying the system’s administration “has undeniably failed us.” Soon afterwards, Wolfe announces his resignation.

November 10: Threats begin to circulate online towards the safety of minority students. The author of the posts on the anonymous location-based messaging app YikYak and other social media, threatened to “shoot every black person I see.”

November 11: Hunter M. Park, a 19-year-old sophomore studying computer science at a sister campus in Rolla, was arrested shortly before 2 a.m. at a residence hall for the anonymous social media posts. Some professors cancel classes, others do not, which sparks outrage from students and in one instance, resignation.

 

Who Has the Right to Marry Whom?

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

Who Has the Right to Marry Whom?

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

polygamyQuestion: Libertarians are quick to defend the rights of people of different races and/or religions to marry, and quick to defend the right of people of the same sex to do so. How do they feel about the right of people being married to more than one person?

Short Answer: Marrying more than one person is fine as long as everyone in the marriage is aware of it and in agreement.  However, from what I can see of the case you’ve cited, the second “wife” was deceived into believing she was marrying a single man.  That’s fraudulent and actionable by most libertarians’ standards.

Editor’s Note: Relationships that are polygamous in nature should include knowledge and consent of all involved. As Dr. Ruwart notes, anything else would be committing fraud with one or more parties, as the link in the original question alluded to. It should be noted that the Overton window with regard to the discussion of marriage may not be open enough to include polygamy yet. After all, a majority of Americans came to support same-sex marriage within the last decade.

During the prolonged public debate regarding marriage equality, many who opposed same-sex unions argued about the “slippery slope” that such unions would lead to other legal forms of “marriage disaster.”

In 2013, Slate published a very positive article in support for the legalization of polygamy. From that piece:

For decades, the prevailing logic has been that polygamy hurts women and children. That makes sense, since in contemporary American practice that is often the case. In many Fundamentalist Latter-day Saints  polygamous communities, for example,women and underage girls are forced into polygamous unions against their will. Some boys, who represent the surplus of males, are brutally thrown out of their homes and driven into homelessness and poverty at very young ages. All of these stories are tragic, and the criminals involved should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
[...] It’s also hard to argue with the constitutional freedom of religious expression that legalized polygamy would preserve. Most polygamous families are motivated by religious faith, such as fundamentalist Mormonism or Islam, and as long as all parties involved are adults, legally able to sign marriage contracts, there is no constitutional reason why they shouldn’t be able to express that faith in their marriages.

What is a Libertarian Win? Part 1

in From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

What is a Libertarian Win? Part 1

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

On Tuesday, many libertarians appeared on the ballot as candidates for office. Like them, when I ran for office both times, winning was pretty easy to define. It came down to whether we earned enough votes to serve in office. Unfortunately, there are not many wins for libertarians when you only use this metric.

Aside from winning the election, some smaller “wins” are possible:

  • winSeeing libertarian policy positions adopted by another candidate. Often, the biggest impact a candidate can have on an election they do not win at the polls is to have another candidate recognize the principled or popular position held by the libertarian candidate and adopt it as part of their platform or vision for the office they intend to hold. While not as big of a win for Liberty, it is a step toward a more libertarian society.
  • Awakening a desire for transparency. Many voters are unaware of the dealings of government, especially at the local level. There are times when a motivated candidate opens the electorate’s eyes about the cronyism and “shady” deals of their elected officials. Engaging voters and other community stakeholders in the political process to prevent the “business as usual” backroom deals that barely get an iota of public input or discussion in the board room.
  • Awareness of the existence of a differing opinion. We often recognize the similarities between candidates and parties that are supposedly so diametrically opposed to one another, yet find so much consensus when it comes to growing government and restricting liberty. Because of the posturing and theatrics, that is not the case for many Americans who applaud “crossing the aisle” to reach a bipartisan deal. With so many elected officials out of touch with the people they represent, their constituents are looking for something else. We often offer the common sense solution that promotes freedom and limits government power that they are looking for.

We discussed a division of labor for our efforts recently, and we’ll discuss how can we define a win for libertarianism outside of elections next week. What do you think of as a libertarian win?

Conservative Judge Defends Retroactivity of Drug Sentencing Guidelines

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Conservative Judge Defends Retroactivity of Drug Sentencing Guidelines

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

In April 2014, the U.S. Sentencing Commission issued new sentencing guidelines for drug offenders by two offense levels and, a few months later, voted to make the change retroactive. According to Families Against Mandatory Minimums, some 10,000 federal prisoners were eligible for re-sentencing under the new guidelines. Applicants were reviewed on a case-by-case basis and approximately 6,000 were released between the end of October and early November.

Drugs

For decades, bad laws passed by well-intentioned lawmakers have ravaged mostly poor and minority communities and have cost taxpayers billions while doing little to stem drug use or stop the drug trade. Several states, both red and blue, are turning to drug treatment and rehabilitation to address drug crime. The U.S. Sentencing Commission’s revision of its guidelines, known as “All Drugs Minus Two,” is just one of many that either have been adopted by the federal government or are currently under consideration in Congress to reform the criminal justice system.

Although the U.S. Sentencing Commission should be applauded for the change, some are directing fire at the Obama administration. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., for example, is making the release of the prisoners an issue against his Democratic opponent in his campaign for governor of Louisiana. Similarly, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatter, R-Va., blasted the commission in a recent piece at the conservative publication, National Review.

“The problem with the Sentencing Commission’s changes to federal drug-sentencing requirements is that they are applied without regard to the inmate’s criminal history and public safety,” Goodlatte wrote. “Consequently, criminals set to be released into our communities as a result of the Sentencing Commission’s amendment include inmates with violent criminal histories, who have committed crimes involving assault, firearms, sodomy, and even murder.”

Goodlatte may come across like a hardened drug warrior determined to punish anyone whose life got off track, but, to his credit, he recently introduced the Sentencing Reform Act. His bill would expand the safety valve for certain drug offenders so they can avoid lengthy mandatory minimum sentences.

At least one member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission says Goodlatte and others who are criticizing the retroactivity of the new guidelines. Judge William Pryor was appointed to the Eleventh District Court of Appeals in 2004 as a recess appointment. Pryor was one of the judicial appointments stalled by Senate Democrats because they were deemed “too conservative.” When Senate Republicans threatened to go nuclear on the filibuster in 2005, an agreement was reached to ensure the filibuster would remain intact and the controversial judges would receive a confirmation vote.

Pryor set the record straight about what the process and the decision to make the new guidelines retroactive.

“When the commission votes to amend the sentencing guidelines, its decision becomes effective no sooner than six months later — that is, only after Congress has had an opportunity to exercise its statutory authority to reject the proposed change. Congress, of course, did not exercise that authority last year after the commission proposed modest changes in sentencing for drug cases. Instead, several members of Congress publicly supported those changes, and few said anything in opposition,” Pryor explained. “In fact, Chairman Goodlatte did not even schedule a hearing to review our decision.”

“Chairman Goodlatte objects to making the changes in drug sentencing retroactive, but he fails to mention that Congress gave the commission that authority,” he noted. “Indeed, Congress required the commission, whenever it lowers any guideline.”

The Bureau of Prisons has been preparing for these prisoners to re-enter society for a year. In October, the Washington Post reported that “[a]bout two-thirds of [of the prisoners] will go to halfway houses and home confinement before being put on supervised release.”

While there is no guarantee that these prisoners won’t re-offend, the U.S. Sentencing Commission has taken a step in the right direction and the Bureau of Prisons has provided them with support necessary to put their lives on the right track. The rest is up to them.

But it brings up a point worth considering, perhaps at another time, what steps should Congress and the Bureau of Prisons take to ensure that prisoners, once released, won’t re-offend. Re-entry programs that help with job placement and other policies, including “ban the box,” would go a long way to reducing recidivist behavior and turning these one-time offenders into taxpaying citizens.

American Taxpayers on the Hook for $6 Million to Promote the Beautiful Albanian Countryside

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

American Taxpayers on the Hook for $6 Million to Promote the Beautiful Albanian Countryside

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

You’ve got to hand it to the federal government; they really know how to throw away taxpayers’ hard-earned money. Just last week, Congress passed a budget that increases spending by some $80 billion and raises the debt ceiling for the rest of Barack Obama’s presidency.

Albania

Of course, it’s too much to ask, apparently, that lawmakers and the Obama administration take an axe to some of the wasteful spending that could take some of the burden off of taxpayers. Take the $6 million the U.S. Agency for International Development plans to give to Albania to promote tourism in the tiny Southeastern European nation, which was recently the subject of by Sen. Rand Paul’s, R-Ky., “Waste Report.”

Albania’s economy is experiencing turmoil because of the economic crisis that has ravaged Greece, its neighbor to the south. In May, for example, the World Bank backed a five-year, $1.2 billion loan program to try to boost the country as it tries to enter the European Union. The United States is, apparently, pitching in to boost Albania’s burgeoning tourism industry.

“To restart their economy, the Albanian government is hoping to capitalize on the country’s tourism potential, but it is the U.S. taxpayer who is footing at least part of the bill,” Paul’s office explains. “Amazingly, tourism is already a major contributor to the Albanian economy. According to the grant description, tourism (in total) currently accounts for 17 percent of the nation’s economy.”

“By comparison, The World Travel and Tourism Council reports that tourism contributes 9.5 percent to the worldwide economy and 8.4 percent to the U.S. economy. This means Albania’s tourism economy, as a percent of GDP, is already larger than the U.S,” it adds.

The problem for the United States is that much of what we’re spending in terms of foreign aid, such as the $6 million to promote tourism in Albania, is part of the increasing river of red ink that flows from Washington.

Albania may be a beautiful country worthy of a visit, but that doesn’t mean American taxpayers should be footing part of the bill to promote it. The national debt – currently north of $18.5 trillion – keeps growing while the federal government doles out goodies for other countries.

Not to come across overly nationalistic here, because there are many wasteful and unauthorized domestic programs that taxpayers are compelled to fund. The guide should be the United States Constitution. After looking it over, one will be shocked – absolutely shocked to discover – that there isn’t a “Promote Tourism in Other Countries” Clause.

Observations from Halloween

in Conversations With My Boys, Liberator Online by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

Observations from Halloween

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

(Editor’s note: This is not a direct conversation with either the Young Statesman or the Baby Anarchist, but the timeliness and insight within are the reason for publishing)

Questions Nobody Asks

halloweenWho will plan and build Halloween?

What about the free-rider problem of the neighbor who takes his kids trick-or-treating instead of staying home to give out candy?

Who will make sure that the maximum trick-or-treating age is enforced?

Do they have a license to distribute food?

What makes you think anyone will do it if it’s entirely voluntary?

Who is going to pay for all of this?

Safety in 2015

October 31st is the only day we think rightly about this being the safest time in the history of the world to raise children.

They’re out there in the dark, wearing masks and brandishing weapons, walking the streets alone, taking candy from strangers.

Halloween = Economists’ Christmas

Halloween is like Christmas for economists. It is a wild festival of human action, subjective value, and free trade. And while I am not an economist nor do I play one on TV, my children sell me their Halloween candy.

We are capitalists, Baby. We won’t tax you. We won’t confiscate your hard-earned candy causing you to give up after ninety minutes. No! None of that. We will pay you cash money for your haul.

That’s right! Stay out later, walk farther, and trick or treat longer than other children because your effort will be rewarded with cash. Mommy doesn’t want that stuff in the house so she will pay to get her hands on it and get it outta here.

What’s it worth to you? How much do you value that? What do you really want to keep? What could you do with that money? You selling by the piece, pound, type, or lot?

FIRED! SC School Resource Officer Assaults Student

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Chloe Anagnos Comments are off

FIRED! SC School Resource Officer Assaults Student

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

On Monday, Oct. 26, a video surfaced on the Internet of a South Carolina school resource officer throwing a female student across a classroom.

The incident occurred at the Spring Valley High School in Columbia, witnesses said, when the unnamed African-American student refused to put away her cell phone and then refused to leave the classroom after being asked by the teacher and school principal.

The officer was then summoned and asked her to leave again. She refused, and he told her she was under arrest.

The video then shows the officer violently knocking the student down, flipping her desk over her, and pulling her across the floor.

The incident was filmed by a fellow student and was uploaded to YouTube. The video made its way around social media, prompting the hashtag #AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott suspended Deputy Ben Fields after the incident, and fired him Wednesday.

Lott said that Senior Deputy Ben Fields “did not follow proper procedure”.

He “should not have thrown a student – he could have done a lot of things he was trained to do, he was not trained to throw a student,” Sheriff Lott said.

Lott said he had received expressions of support for the officer from some parents and school officials. Officer Fields had received a “Culture of Excellence” award last year by an elementary school where he was also assigned.

But Sheriff Lott said the officer had “lost control” and had not handled this incident correctly.

“That is not proper technique and should not be used in law enforcement. And based on that, that is a violation of our policy and approximately 20 minutes ago Officer Ben Fields was terminated from the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.”

He said complaints had been made about Officer Fields during his time at the school – some had been upheld and some had not.

Legal action has been taken three times against the officer, according to Associated Press:

  • 2013: An expelled student claims Fields targeted black students and falsely accused him of being a gang member in 2013. Fields will go to trial in January.
  • 2009: A woman filed a lawsuit, which was later dismissed, accusing Fields of battery and violating her rights during a 2006 arrest.
  • 2005: A federal jury found in Officer Fields’ favor after a black couple accused him of excessive force and battery during a noise complaint arrest.

The deputy has not been criminally charged but the Federal Bureau of Investigation and justice department have opened a civil rights investigation into the arrest.

Fellow students at the school have tweeted claims that they have seen him behaving in a similar manner in the past, but this was the first time such an incident was caught on camera.

Sheriff Lott has said the girl was unhurt in the incident aside from a carpet burn.

However, the girl’s attorney, Todd Rutherford, told ABC’s Good Morning America that she “has a cast on her arm, she has neck and back injuries” as well as a plaster on her forehead because of the carpet burn.

Sheriff Lott said he would “not describe the officer as remorseful, but he was sorry that the whole thing occurred”.

What I Learned From Back to the Future

in From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

What I Learned from Back to the Future

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

If you watched television news, engaged in social media, or weren’t living under a rock last Wednesday, you probably know that October 21, 2015 is “Back to the Future Day,” the date to which Marty McFly and Emmett “Doc” Brown travel in the 1989 sequel to the smash 1985 film. Special events across the country were held, including a coordinated showing with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra playing Alan Silvestri’s score, which I attended. I am a HUGE fan of the trilogy – I even held a Back to the Future 2-themed 10th birthday party shortly after the second film’s release.

back to the futureTo me, the most fascinating element, and subsequently, the biggest takeaway, from the film series is the significance that a single decision can make on the totality of your life and the lives of those around you. We saw these small changes affect the McFly family and parts of Hill Valley in the first film. In some cases, those decisions can have a profound reach beyond your circle, as we saw in the Alternate 1985 tangent, where Biff Tannen is incredibly rich and powerful and the Hill Valley that Marty and Doc knew was never realized.

Regardless of the size of the decision, we CAN affect change. What might have been, had the Sons of Liberty not met in those taverns in the 1760s and 1770s to fight the tyranny in the colonies?

With that in mind, how will you harness that power to affect change?

You may not have a DeLorean with a flux capacitor that facilitates time travel, but you can alter the course of events with your actions.

How could you affect change by brainstorming about market disruptions, instead of watching Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and/or How to Get Away with Murder tonight? Could you create the next Uber?

What if you chose to make phone calls for a libertarian candidate for office tonight, rather than watching the Bengals and the Browns on Thursday Night Football? Could you elect a candidate who puts liberty first to office?

Suppose you begin a recurring donation to a liberty organization (like the Advocates) this evening, forgoing your morning coffee a couple times a month? Could your support fund the efforts to move society in a more libertarian direction?

Whatever you decide, keep in mind that your decision can alter the course of history.

The Internet Privacy Conversation

in Conversations With My Boys, Liberator Online by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

The Internet Privacy Conversation

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

Baby Anarchist (BA) (10): I need to use my device upstairs because it has directions to my Lego project.
Me: Can you print the directions?
BA: It’s hundreds of pages long.
Me: Do you and your dad have an agreement about using your device upstairs?
BA: Yes.
Me: Just for the instructions?
BA: Yes.
Large Man Looking At Co-Worker With A Magnifying GlassMe: YS, do you know why no one in the house uses devices in their own private spaces?
Young Statesman (YS): It gives you the impression that there’s privacy on the Internet.
Me: Right. Is there privacy on the Internet?
YS: None.
Me: Do you know about Ashley Madison?
YS: No.
Me: People married and agreed to forsake all others and they made this agreement in front of their families and friends and the understanding was that this was their agreement. They used the Ashley Madison service to violate the terms of their agreement. They believed that to be in secret. That they had privacy on the Internet. They were publicly exposed as users of Ashley Madison.
YS: Wow.
Me: Some of them lost their families, their friends, their jobs, and some were so distraught that they killed themselves. All because they rejected reality. Reality is that there is no privacy on the Internet.
YS: They thought because they didn’t like reality it wouldn’t hurt them.
Me: Right. They weren’t oriented towards reality. They thought their ignoring reality would somehow defend them.
YS: There’s no privacy on the Internet.
Me: None. And if we allowed you to think there was privacy associated with Internet use by allowing the use of devices in private spaces we’d be allowing you think something that wasn’t true.
Me: Do you remember the story about the teenagers who were sexting and arrested for it?
YS(14): No.
Me: One of them sexted the other and was charged as an adult for distributing child pornography. That’s a crime that can include being registered as a sex offender as well as jail time.
YS: How can they be tried as adults? They’re minors.
Me: For some crimes minors are tried as adults.
YS: That doesn’t make sense. They were pictures of themselves.
Me: It’s wrong but that doesn’t matter. If a person goes to court on child pornography charges even if it’s ridiculous and dismissed…
YS: That never goes away.
Me: Right. Even if they were wronged and it’s insane…
YS: It’s going to stick.
Me: Yes. So if you receive something like that you can be charged with possession of child pornography. As an adult. Even if you didn’t want it. You can be set up.
YS: That’s unbelievable.
Me: I know. And this is awkward, but it’s too important for us not to have this conversation.
YS: Just because you don’t want to know doesn’t mean it won’t hurt you.
Me: Right. And if you find yourself in a situation where you’re holding something that can get you jail time, you have to tell us immediately. We trust you understand how dire it would be to face jail and that you would not willingly do anything that would result in jail time.
YS: Right.
Me: So if you find yourself in a dangerous situation you must tell us immediately. We know you wouldn’t put yourself there on purpose so there’s no blame. Just help. But you have to be quick.

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