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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.

How will libertarians help those who are disadvantaged?

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

How will libertarians help those who are disadvantaged?

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

Question

In every human endeavor that has been measured, humanity shows a distribution of talent, ability, error, height, weight, intellectual capacity, etc. that follows the traditional bell-shaped curve. That is, unless it is skewed by local factors of education, various selected populations, and so on. In other words, half the people of the world are on the ‘left’ side and half the people are on the ‘right’ side of this curve.

libertarians

So, then, my question: How do libertarians, with their ‘pull yourself up by your boot straps’ outlook, propose to deal with those on the left side of the curve? To blithely say that ‘privatization of welfare,’ private charity, and so on will take care of these more unfortunate folks is simply ‘pie in the sky’ thinking.

Answer

Libertarian societies are wealthier than other countries because the poor are given the opportunity to work. European immigrants, for example, came to the US to escape the guilds and trade restrictions that kept them out of the labor market. Thus, the first thing a libertarian society does to help the ‘left side’ is to shift as many people as possible further into the middle. Because almost everyone is better off in a libertarian society, more charity is available for the few who cannot support themselves. When help is given privately, approximately 80% of each charitable dollar gets to a worthy recipient. Only 20% of each tax welfare dollar reaches the poor; most of the money goes to pay the salaries of the social workers. In addition, welfare harms the poor by discouraging them from entering the work force. After ten years of personally working with welfare recipients, I can attest that the system does the poor more harm than good.

Bad Sheriff Stripped Of Immunity After Trying To Silence A Critic

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

Bad Sheriff Stripped Of Immunity After Trying To Silence A Critic


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

If it seems as if there’s a relatively low turnout of stories involving bad law enforcement agents paying for the crimes they commit, it’s because that’s the reality. But according to Tech Dirt, a story fresh from Louisiana may give us all some hope that, sometimes, bad cops get caught.

sheriff

During summer 2016, Sheriff Jerry Larpenter decided to go after a local blogger who had been critical of the sheriff’s parish and its insurance company. Since Larpenter’s wife was an employee of said company, the man got fed up with the blogger’s investigation and subsequent publishing of very public reports concerning the town’s sheriff and how he conducted his professional relationships.

Using an arcane criminal libel law that has long been considered unconstitutional but that is still on the books, the sheriff found an opportunity to seek a warrant against said blogger. But instead of going to the on-duty judge, he went to an off-duty judge, proving he might as well have another very close relationship with a high-ranking member of the local judicial community.

With the warrant in hands, Larpenter knocked on the blogger’s door and confiscated her and her children’s computers as well as five phones. “Sweet revenge,” he may have thought to himself.

Fast-forward to July 2017.

After having the warrant declared unconstitutional by a Louisiana appeals court, the blogger then took the case to a federal court in Louisiana. In his decision, federal Judge Lance M. Africk explained that the law that Larpenter had used to frame the blogger was not only arcane but also toothless. Better yet, the judge decided to strip Larpenter of his immunity.

In his decision, the judge said that the message the sheriff was sending was that “if you speak ill of the sheriff of your parish, then the sheriff will direct his law enforcement resources toward forcibly entering your home and taking your belongings under the guise of a criminal investigation.” And that message, Africk continued, would “certainly chill anyone of ordinary firmness from engaging in similar constitutionally protected speech in the future.”

Thanks to this ruling, the sheriff is no longer protected from being the target of a civil liability case. Additionally, the ruling also put Larpenter in greater trouble as he will have to respond to First Amendment retaliation claims.

As the blogger is now free to seek damages, the sheriff is cornered and with only one way out: Settle now or watch the bills start piling up. After all, the case against the Louisiana sheriff is pretty strong.

While we cannot hope that all cases involving crony capitalism and legal retaliation over negative media reports will have similar endings, it’s good for the soul to know that, sometimes, the bad guy gets what he deserves, too.

Decentralization Or Death: Texas Has A Chance To Legalize Medical Marijuana

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

Decentralization Or Death: Texas Has A Chance To Legalize Medical Marijuana

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

The fight for liberty in current-day America may look somewhat confusing to an outsider looking in. After all, what do libertarians want? More freedom. But how do they go about that? Well, that may depend on whom you ask.

Texas

Perhaps, we can all agree on at least one thing: The more centralized the power is, the less free the individual will become. By the same token, if power is decentralized, then people will become more free, even if gradually so.

The nullification movement ignited by the Tenth Amendment Center has helped to give countless of libertarians and non-libertarians tools to decentralize power, taking it from the hands of the feds by forcing state legislatures to say no to Washington, D.C. Thanks to this movement, several states have taken great steps to fight Washington’s violation of 2nd Amendment rights, to fight for more freedom in education, and to undo the great damage created by the war on drugs by weakening prohibition locally.

Now, it’s Texas’ turn.

House Bill 85, introduced by Rep. Eddie Lucio and 12 other lawmakers would legalize medical marijuana by expanding a cannabis oil law already on the books, giving medical marijuana a new status.

If the bill passes, people suffering from certain conditions would have legal access to cannabis while dispensaries would be allowed to operate in the state.

To many pro-marijuana advocates across the country, the most recent attempt to legalize medical marijuana in Texas is far from exciting. After all, the bill still limits the number of patients with access to the substance considerably. However, many other attempts to legalize marijuana in Texas ended up nowhere. This is yet another opportunity for anti-drug war advocates working hard to promote their ideas in the Lone Star state.

If HB 85 passes through the house and the Senate and makes it to the governor’s desk, Texas could be part of a growing movement that has already helped anti-drug war advocates in California, Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Nevada, and others. As more states refuse to aid the feds by not going after marijuana users, federal agencies become powerless and their prohibitionist laws become toothless.

But until then, HB 85 must first pass the House Public Health Committee before moving forward. Here’s hoping the decentralization fever spreads well across the red state.

UCF “Cyberbullying” Dismissal A Win For Free Speech

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

UCF “Cyberbullying” Dismissal A Win For Free Speech

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

The University of Central Florida student whose viral “graded” breakup letter to his ex-girlfriend got him suspended for two semesters was cleared of all charges.

Nick Lutz, 21, posted pictures of his ex-girlfriend’s apology letter which was retweeted more than 122,000 times. He gave the four pages of vulnerable, emotional prose a 61 out of 100 — a D minus.

speech

“Long intro, short conclusion, strong hypothesis but nothing to back it up,” he wrote. “While the gesture is appreciated, I would prefer details over statements. Revision for half credit will be accepted.”

That tweet, his university ruled five months after it was posted, was grounds for suspension after his ex-girlfriend went to her hometown sheriff and the university with a complaint that she was cyber bullied.

UCF suspended Lutz for two semesters on charges of breaking the school’s honor code.

His lawyer, Jacob Stuart, called the punishment a violation of his client’s First Amendment rights and after an appeal, the school reversed its decision and dismissed the case entirely.

Stuart said that “Mr. Lutz and his family applaud UCF for recognizing that a student’s right to enjoy the freedom of expression is protected from ill-founded and abusive supervising by a public university.”

The ex-girlfriend was not a UCF student when the snarky tweet was posted, nor has she ever spoken publically about the case. It’s downright perplexing to think that a university would attempt to suspend a student over a petty breakup letter.

Had the suspension held up, it would have set a very dangerous precedent to any student who trolls a social media post. In an age of microaggressions and safe spaces, would publicly funded schools hire administrators just to monitor students’ social media accounts?

Thankfully, this dismissal is a win for free speech for all college campuses and students.

The Military Wastes Your Money On NASCAR And It Isn’t Working

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

The Military Wastes Your Money On NASCAR And It Isn’t Working


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

If you read our articles regularly, you may know the U.S. military is prone to wasting money on things that simply don’t work.

Not only because a lot of the programs they implement end up backfiring, putting weapons and tools purchased with U.S. taxpayer money in the hands of terrorists, but also because they often spend money on superfluous materials that have no real purpose.

NASCAR

But perhaps what you may not have known until now is that the U.S. military also spends millions sponsoring sports teams and athletes. Well, that is, until the House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment that bans military sponsorship of sports. Perhaps now that the bill is going to the House floor for a vote, things might end up changing soon.

Over the past five years, the National Guard has spent $136 million on Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR’s most popular driver. And what for? To get people to become engaged enough that they would enlist. The problem is that the advertising effort is simply not paying off.

In 2009 alone, Earnhardt earned $27.35 million in taxpayer dollars due to the National Guard’s sponsorship. However, only 343 guardsmen were recruited during that year. That means that the National Guard spent $80,000 to recruit each guardsman.

In 2012, something even worse happened.

When surveying new guardsmen who enlisted that year, not one said that NASCAR had been the reason they joined. Still, more than $26 million was spent that year on Earnhardt.

In the past, the military was harshly criticized for spending millions of taxpayer dollars on “patriotic displays” at sporting events, prompting many to wonder whether the advertising even made sense.

If other governments did the same, wouldn’t we call them propagandists? Why is it OK when the U.S. military does it?

When it comes to taxpayer dollars, it’s common to think of the funds as “free” money, but the revenue comes from individuals who have part of their hard-earned pay taken by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regularly so programs such as the ones run by the military can be funded. Technically speaking, these people are entitled to feel horrified, if not flat-out offended, whenever they learn their money is used on something they would never spend on themselves.

But they are also entitled to simply feel cheated out of their tax dollars by learning that the money they are earning is going toward programs that simply do not produce any tangible or positive results.

Whatever reason you may have to disagree with the military or any other government agency spending your money, we can all agree that the mindless waste has gone too far.

Drugs Keep Blue Collar Workers From Finding Jobs: Time To End The Drug War

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

Drugs Keep Blue Collar Workers From Finding Jobs: Time To End The Drug War


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

The opioid crisis in America is real and it has been putting thousands of people in grave danger yearly with 33,000 dying of overdoses in 2015 alone. But despite the high rates of drug abuse in certain states, others have been reaping the benefits of pot legalization. In states where cannabis is legal either for medical, recreational purposes or both, the rate of opioid abuse is actually lower.

drug

Now, reports claim that employers have been having a hard time finding skilled blue collar workers because a high rate of them simply cannot pass random drug tests.

According to the latest Fed’s regular Beige Book surveys, employers in the manufacturing and hospitality industries have been unable to find enough workers who pass drug screenings.

Employees and potential employees who are subjected to these screenings are often tested for marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine, methamphetamines, nicotine, and alcohol. And in places like Ohio, where the opioid crisis hit locals especially harder, manufacturing companies such as Warren Fabricating & Machining have been experiencing the worst crisis in their history, with two out of every five qualified applicants failing routine drug tests.

To Edmond O’Neal, who is with the education and skills-training non-profit Northeast Indiana Works, the problem is that many employees or potential employees simply do not view pot as a drug.

“I’ve heard kids say pot isn’t a drug. It may not be, but pot will prevent you from getting a job,” he told reporters.

But because weed and many other substances are still seen as illicit drugs under federal law, these companies are compelled to be rigorous in their screening process. After all, having employees making use of illicit drugs is a liability and an insurance problem.

While performing any job under the influence of drugs has its consequences, individuals who use certain substances for medical or recreational purposes such as cannabis in their time off may find it hard to maintain a job.

In many cases, employees in fields where they are expected to go under great physical stress feel the pressure to let go of their cannabis use, a relatively safe way to obtain relief for muscle and other types of pain, just to stay employed. In no time, these same workers may end up turning to prescription drugs for relief, stepping into the never-ending cycle of legal opioid use triggered by doctors who are more than happy to prescribe highly addictive opioids but whose hands are still tied when it comes to medical marijuana.

While we don’t know exactly what percentage of employees fail drug tests over cannabis use, we can only assume that many are failing, especially in these fields, because they are directly affected by the work they do and turning to marijuana as a way to relieve stress and pain actually works. But thanks to the federal government’s continued effort to fight a failed war against drugs, both blue collar workers and their potential employers are the ones paying for these failed policies.

Afghan Soldier Uniforms That Didn’t Match The Terrain Cost Taxpayers $28 Million

in Liberator Online, Military, News You Can Use, Taxes by Alice Salles Comments are off

Afghan Soldier Uniforms That Didn’t Match The Terrain Cost Taxpayers $28 Million

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

Recently, Defense Secretary James Mattis was in the news for complaining about the Pentagon’s offhand spending habits.

While this may sound somewhat contradictory thanks to Mattis’ earlier claims indicating he would, indeed, love if defense had access to even more taxpayer money, his complaint brought light to yet another issue we often see happening with government.

uniforms

According to a recent Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report, the agency spent $28 million on camouflage uniforms for Afghan soldiers that, unfortunately, do not work well with Afghanistan’s terrain. This means that, the $28 million that was used to purchase forest-patterned uniforms should have never been spent this way.

The decision to purchase these uniforms was made after a former Afghan defense minister saw the model online and “liked” them. However, only two percent of the country’s terrain is woodland.

And who picked up the bill? The U.S. taxpayer.

In his response to the Department after this discovery was made, Mattis criticized officials who allowed this “cavalier” expenditure to take place, adding that this decision wasted taxpayer dollars “in an ineffective and wasteful manner.”

Claiming that this careless spending is an indicator of an “attitude that can affect any of us at the Pentagon or across the Department of Defense,” Mattis rightly pointed out that this makes the department lose focus on what matters.

But what Mattis may have missed is that government waste exists and is part of how government operates. It’s a feature, not a bug.

The Defense Department isn’t more or less likely to be wasteful than the Education Department or the Health and Human Services department. What makes any — and all — government agencies prone to waste is the very fact that these organizations aren’t worried about how they spend this money.

When you spend other people’s money, you’re more likely to abuse it. After all, only you know how better spend your own money.

But that’s not all.

Agencies often make huge mistakes when judging policies or particular approaches simply because they do not have the knowledge necessary to know what will work. Real-world consequences are often ignored because bureaucrats and officials make all the decisions, often basing their assessment on faulty or incomplete information.

Because knowledge is dispersed and difficult to access, governments are naturally incapable of acting with all variables in mind. As a result, they cannot ensure that the service in question will meet the demand.

Whether it’s Afghanistan, Iraq, or Syria, government officials have repeatedly claimed to have the answer, leading the country into military campaigns that not only backfired but that will also cost several generations of Americans.

While Mattis is right to be worried, it would serve him and others in similar positions to remember that there’s little one can do to put an end to waste within the government that doesn’t involve stripping government from free, easy, and endless sources of revenue.

How can we solve America’s economic woes?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online, Social Security by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

How can we solve America’s economic woes?

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

Question:

How can you balance the budget, pay off the debt, and slash spending without doing away with entitlements, like Social Security and Medicare, that people have paid into for decades?

economic

Answer:

We can only balance the budget by privatizing entitlements like Social Security and Medicare and ending foreign wars. The ONLY way we can keep the promises made to our seniors without massive inflation is to increase our rate of wealth creation. One way to do that is by deregulating business. Each regulator destroys about 150 private sector jobs each year, so each one fired is true economic stimulus.

Another way to increase wealth creation is to cut the tax rate and end tariffs and other barriers to importation. This drives domestic capital into efficient businesses, stimulating the economy further. Even at lower tax rates, a robust economy means more tax dollars collected to offset the entitlement programs, which should be privatized ASAP so that young people aren’t forced into these Ponzi schemes.

In New York, You Can’t Pet Sit Without The State’s Permission

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

In New York, You Can’t Pet Sit Without The State’s Permission

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

For pet owners and dog lovers, the app Rover is a gift sent from the heavens. It helps users find affordable, convenient, and accessible help with their pets when and where they need it the most, no matter how last minute the emergency may be. Like Uber or Airbnb, Rover allows people willing to take care of your dog to do so freely, making it also affordable for the pet owner. But in places like New York, people making cash by providing a service and users looking for reliable help with their pets through Rover are under attack.

pet

Recently, the New York Health Department announced that pet sitters using the Rover app are breaking the law across the state and that’s because in New York, you are not legally allowed to take care of pets unless you’re associated with a licensed kennel.

Back in October, the department reached out to DogVacay.com, the app now known as Rover, telling the company to require its users to get licenses. Siding with app users, the company refused to comply.

As the news broke that the health department was cracking down on illegal pet sitters, many started speaking out against the state’s rules.

Twenty-nine-year-old Chad Bacon is one of them. The Brooklyn pet sitter told NY Daily News the fact he’s considered a criminal is absurd.

“The laws are antiquated. If you’re qualified and able to provide a service, I don’t think you should be penalized,” he said. After all, if his customers are happy, why would he be targeted by officials?

Using the app, Bacon told reporters, helps him when he’s between jobs, making it easier for him to be able to pay bills. Now that he’s been working full time by only using the app, he’s afraid this could put him in a sticky situation.

To those behind Rover, this type of policy hurts the poor and disadvantaged by forcing them to go through an expensive and laborious process in order to be allowed to offer pet-sitting services. The crackdown also hurts middle class and low-income pet owners who simply cannot afford to put their pets under the care of licensed professionals.

“You [are telling] the middle class you can’t own dogs unless you can pop in your Range Rover and drive to Connecticut for a boarding facility,” Rover’s general counsel John Lapham said.

Still, the department refuses to let go of the fear mongering rhetoric, claiming that without a license, pet owners are putting their beloved furry best friends in danger.

The same rhetoric all U.S. regulatory agencies employ whenever their credibility — and efficacy — is questioned.

Stories like this help to illustrate just how indefensible government interference in the market is. And yet, many well-meaning people who sometimes do agree that cases similar to this are absurd will still advocate for more government involvement in other fields.

It’s time to admit that government officials know little about the big wide world out there. Time to stop giving them the power to dictate how we should live our lives.

How do you define a victimless crime?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Criminal Justice, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty, Victimless Crime by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

How do you define a victimless crime?

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

Question

I’m a Libertarian candidate for prosecuting attorney, and I’m seeking to craft short answers for my campaign. One of my campaign promises is that I will not seek to imprison persons accused of a victimless crime.

crime

How would you define ‘victimless crime’ when asked? Specifically, does that include negligent conduct that involves a risk of harming others? For example: driving through a red light, driving while intoxicated, and firing shots into the air.

Many types of negligent criminal conduct involve some risk of harming others. But often the risk is trivial. What is the dividing line between trivial risk and significant risk? There are no statistics on the risk of harm I know of.

Answer

A victim (by libertarian standards) is someone who is threatened with physical force, fraud, or theft. If there is no threat, there is no crime. A victimless crime, therefore, is one in which no one has been threatened with physical force, fraud, or theft.

After Obamacare, Let’s Repeal All Government Involvement In Health Care

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

After Obamacare, Let’s Repeal All Government Involvement In Health Care

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

Everyone is talking about health care.

If you consider yourself a conservative, you might have felt a spark of excitement when Congress motioned to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, only to be let down once you learned lawmakers fell short of putting an end to President Barack Obama’s signature law.

obamacare

But to those who are serious about free market principles, the entire debate revolving around the end of of ACA is somewhat frustrating. That’s why health care in the United States hasn’t been good for decades, and Obamacare just made it a tad worse.

By the mid-1960s, the United States started to experience what heavy-handed intervention in the market does to supply and demand of services, and how it inflates the costs of such services.

With the passage of Medicare and Medicaid and new regulations that artificially trimmed the supply of doctors and hospitals, Americans noticed an increase in health care prices that, according to Mike Holly, “responded at twice the rate of inflation.”

Over time, medical special interests continued to lobby government for more regulations, further restricting competition and making it harder for members of the medical profession to make their services available at a lower cost.

With government’s involvement, demand for medical services increased thanks to subsidies, but with the restrictive regulatory monster only growing stronger with each passing decade, the supply of physicians, clinics, hospitals, and pharmaceuticals was further restricted.

As consumers began reporting hardships having access to care thanks to government’s overbearing involvement, government decided to act once again, targeting high costs by “partnering,” once again, with well-connected service providers and offering even more subsidies.

ACA, or Obamacare, is what happens when government tries to fix the problem by repeating its past mistakes.

With the passage of Obama’s signature health care law, the government ramped up subsidies, causing demand to continue to grow artificially while the supply was reduced thanks to the greater number of restrictions imposed on the market. As a result, powerful health care industry leaders grew into more powerful monopolies while entrepreneurs and independent physicians and clinics became overwhelmed and were forced to succumb to the system or get out of it completely.

So when Congress talks about repealing Obamacare as the only measure necessary to put an end to the incredibly maddening situation we find ourselves in today, don’t believe them.

For America to have a true free market system that will guarantee lower prices and increased supply of health care services to everyone, we must look beyond Obamacare. Or, as Mises Institute’s Ryan McMaken put it, we must “focus on repealing and undermining the edifice on which Obamacare was built: the highly regulated, subsidized, and manipulated healthcare markets that dominate today.”

Is Congress listening?

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