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Big Government Killed Alton Sterling

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

Big Government Killed Alton Sterling

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

Alton Sterling was known as the “CD man” in his neighborhood where Abdullah Muflahi allowed the 37-year-old black man to sell tunes and DVDs outside his convenience store.

SterlingThe owner of Triple S Food Mart told CNN he had known Sterling for six years. “Alton was out there selling CDs,” Edmond Jordan, an attorney representing Sterling’s family said, “trying to make a living.” According to the attorney, “he was doing it with the permission of the store owner, so he wasn’t trespassing or anything like that. He wasn’t involved in any criminal conduct,” yet earlier this week, two police officers pinned Sterling down then shot him as he lay on the ground, defenseless.

The incident sparked outrage online after the video depicting the altercation between Baton Rouge police officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II and the victim went viral. The footage, which was captured by a driver and his passenger, is hard to watch.

(UPDATE: Second video of Alton Sterling shooting by Baton Rouge police available here.)

It begins with the camera facing the dashboard but once you hear a pop, someone yells “get on the ground!” Once a second pop is heard, the camera pans up to the two officers confronting Sterling, who’s wearing a red shirt. That’s when one of the officers pulls Sterling over the hood then pins him to the ground. Once he’s down, both officers combine forces to keep the man restrained. Moments later, a voice shouts “he’s got a gun!” The video then shows the officer pulling something from his waist then yelling at the man on the ground while pointing at him. After some more yelling, two bangs are heard, which prompts the witnesses inside of the car to yell. After three more bangs follow, the woman in the vehicle begins to cry.

While it’s not yet clear why Sterling was targeted by the officers, the Baton Rouge police say they were called to the scene after an anonymous 911 caller reported being threatened by a man with a gun. But when CNN asked the shop owner about the incident, he said Sterling was a peaceful man. “They told him not to move,” Muflahi said, but once Sterling “[asked] them what he did wrong,” officers pulled a stun gun and used it on Sterling before the shots were fired.

According to Muflahi, one of the officers pulled out a gun from Sterling’s pockets after the shooting. Nevertheless, Muflahi told CNN, he wasn’t sure why the police were called since he hadn’t seen any confrontation involving Sterling before his death. “Just five minutes before,” Muflahi explained, “he walked into the store getting something to drink, joking around, (and we were) calling each other names.”

After the killing, the president of the NAACP’s local branch called for the mayor and police chief to resign. And while Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards says the US Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is the leading agency behind this investigation, the state police, the FBI, and the US attorney’s office in Baton Rouge are also involved.

As local authorities are pressed to act, Baton Rouge police claim detectives are reviewing the cell phone video, but footage captured by the store’s cameras is yet to be released. According to Muflahi, officers took the video before the store owner had a chance to see it. The police also claim officers had body cameras at the time of the incident, but that during the altercation, the cameras fell off, failing to capture the shooting.

In current day America, we often hear about the death of due process, but we’re not completely aware of what that means until an incident like this happens.

Owning and carrying a gun shouldn’t be a crime. After all, the individual’s right to keep and bear arms is guaranteed by the US Constitution. Whether Sterling had a gun or not, he appears to have been confronted before having had a chance to know why he was being targeted, giving us reason to believe officers never told him why he was being stopped or asked not to move.

As bureaucrats and progressive politicians on both sides of the isle work together to add more crimes to the criminal code—making criminals out of us all—law enforcement agents are pressed to enforce these laws by any means necessary.

Instead of admitting government is inherently inefficient and acting accordingly, lawmakers add insult to injury by creating an environment ripe for conflict, not peace.

If we, as a nation, are serious about keeping communities and individuals safe, we must be ready to get back to the basics, looking at the Constitution for an example of how we must restrict rulers and enforcers—not ourselves.

The Silver Lining

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

The Silver Lining

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

You may have seen a story about one of the presumptive nominees for President and her recent interactions with the FBI.

CuffedThe outcome is one that we can now point to, with regard to intent, when discussing the justice system.

Regardless of what happened and happens with this particular case, the FBI and the Department of Justice did not pursue charges due their view that the actions leading to the investigation did not include criminal intent.

THAT is our silver lining. Both FBI Director Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch pointed to a lack of intent to violate laws governing the handling of classified information.

In a common law jurisdictions like the United States, a general test of guilt is one that requires proof of fault, both in thought and action. The former requires mens rea, or “a guilty mind,” while the latter requires actus reus, or “a guilty act.” This principle is stated best by Edward Coke, who is considered to be the greatest jurist of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras in England who said, “an act does not make a person guilty unless (their) mind is also guilty.”

Today, far too many Americans find themselves arrested, in court, or behind bars lacking the “guilty mind,” the intention or knowledge of wrongdoing that constitutes part of a crime, despite having acted in a way deemed unlawful.

We also see a vocal group perpetuating a popular notion that once arrested or encounters police, a person is already viewed as guilty, the antithesis of justice.

Further, this instance amplifies the difference between the political class and the rest of us. Did we really think that someone who has lived in the White House, served in the US Senate, and been appointed to serve in the Presidential cabinet would encounter justice in a similar manner as would happen if you or I were in the same situation?

Putting aside our personal feelings about the person in question, justice cannot be served without observing that some may “get off.” If we use this high-profile investigation to exemplify why many more should not be locked in a cage for an act in which they held no “guilty mind,” we can win many hearts and minds over to a sense of justice.

Libertarians hold justice in high regard. It’s the tiered system where some are “more equal than others” that we despise.

 

Jailing Journalists Over FOIA Requests Makes Government Less Accountable

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

Jailing Journalists Over FOIA Requests Makes Government Less Accountable

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

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests are often treated like a cancer within federal government agencies. For obvious reasons.

LawInstead of handling them directly, federal agencies often stonewall or send them bills they cannot afford, all so that they may avoid releasing what requesters are after. Regardless of how they act, the law requires that federal agencies respond to the requests within 20 days, unless “unusual circumstances” arise.

Recently, federal agents went somewhat further, sending a requester from Georgia to jail.

According to Tech Dirt, Fannin Focus publisher Mark Thomason and his attorney, Russell Stookey, were arrested and charged with attempted identity fraud and identity fraud after filing a records request. The arrest was questioned after news reports claimed the pair had been going after a local judge and members of the court staff prior to the request, questioning the use of racial slur in the courtroom tracing back to Judge Brenda Weaver’s predecessor.

Thomason had acquired the copy of a transcript hoping it would show the district attorney and court deputies attaching the racial slur to the defendant’s name. To his surprise, the transcript had been modified. Once he asked for the audio recording of the hearing, his request was rejected, prompting him to write an article that questioned the court stenographer’s professionalism. That’s when things turned sour.

Once the article was published, the stenographer sued Thomason for defamation, but the suit was dropped, prompting the court employee to motion to recover legal fees, even after having received a check for $16,000 to cover her legal fees from then-Judge Roger Bradley. In order to show the current judge the stenographer had already recovered her legal fees, Thomason filed more requests, but the action backfired when Judge Weaver and the district attorney brought charges against the journalist and his lawyer, claiming that the information should not be made available so the pair wouldn’t “use the banking information on those checks for himself.”

According to Tech Dirt, the judge’s response was to accuse Thomason of seeking to take funds from the judge’s bank account without being able to prove intent. But while in two of the counts of the indictment Thomason and his lawyer are accused of identity fraud and attempted identity fraud, the third count is what causing free speech advocates to lose their minds.

“In short,” Tech Dirt writes, “Judge Weaver claims the requesters lied on their request,” hoping to shield courtroom employees from “what she apparently views as harassing behavior.” If this charge stands and Thomason and his lawyers lose this legal battle, Tech Dirt argues, other journalists might have a hard time seeking public records in the future.

Video Game Shows the Economic Benefits of Legalizing Marijuana

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

Video Game Shows the Economic Benefits of Legalizing Marijuana

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

In a truly free society, individuals would be able to provide the products consumers are after without having to deal with the restrictions imposed by bureaucrats.

Hemp IncWhen analyzed closely, private regulatory practices promoted within the marketplace are often much more efficient than regulations imposed by government officials who often are responding to potential threats instead of responding to legitimate market demands, putting a strain on job creators and consumers, who end up paying more—sometimes with their lives—for the product they want or need.

But as states begin to accelerate the process to legalize marijuana, the debate is finally shifting. Now, we’re finally talking more about the health and financial benefits of marijuana legalization than the legalization’s downside.

That’s why Hemp Inc. matters.

According to VICE News, the video game produced by HKA Digital Studios allows users to grow and sell weed while interacting with smokers, who sometimes happen to be celebrities. As a result of their economic ventures, these pot entrepreneurs are able to build marijuana empires. Unfortunately, that’s only currently—and legally—possible in real life if you move to states like Colorado and Washington.

The app was launched on April 26, but few news outlets covered the story.

Regardless of how popular the app becomes, the message it conveys is a powerful one. Despite the drug war, demands will always be met, no matter how many laws Congressmen pass. Once you lift barriers, however, industries flourish—including health industries—and consumer safety becomes a priority. Instead of assaulting people’s freedoms under the guise of safety, lawmakers are being increasingly reminded that they don’t know what is best for everyone. And that’s OK. Leaving it up to the individual is the only moral alternative.

So instead of logical arguments alone, anti-drug war advocates now have a new tool that demonstrates just how easily individuals are able to benefit themselves while benefitting others once marijuana is legal.

Instead of violent, bloody wars between gangs over street territory, the relationship between marijuana producers, sellers, and consumers is slowly becoming more like the relationship between the farmer, grocer, and the consumer—and that’s a positive development.

Unlike a real war, the drug war is an effort that targets a behavior seen as immoral, not a real enemy. But we have a modern historical example of how that type of war doesn’t lead us anywhere. Why are we still hesitant to put an end to this madness?

What do libertarians think about government banning medical marijuana and gun violence research?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues, Libertarianism, Philosophy by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

What do libertarians think about government banning medical marijuana and gun violence research?

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Dr. Ruwart’s website

The only way that research on gun violence can be “banned” is to have government use guns—and gun violence, if necessary—to stop it. Libertarians Researchrecognize the inherent contradiction in letting government use gun violence to ban research on it!

Research on medical marijuana is banned for fear that the results wouldn’t support the Schedule I rating (high potential for abuse, no medical utility) on cannabis. This ban is reminiscent of the Catholic Church’s persecution of Galileo for pointing out that the earth revolves around the sun!

Libertarians don’t support bans, which stop people—at gunpoint, if necessary—from doing enlightening research. Banning the growth of knowledge is a form of thought control.

There Is Hope! – How to Safeguard Free Speech On Campus

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

There Is Hope! – How to Safeguard Free Speech On Campus

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

For the last year, I’ve written more than a dozen articles about free speech on college campuses. From safe spaces, to microaggression reporting systems, and multiple campus protests that received national attention, it is clear that our nation’s universities are doing its students a disservice when administrators create nonsensical consequences for forms of speech that they don’t like.

UCAlthough it seems like the First Amendment is a fading part of campus life, there is hope, and a few simple ways to safeguard free speech at colleges and universities.

On Tuesday, a professor at the University of Chicago wrote an opinion piece for RealClearPolitics, outlining a five-point plan for reversing the trend of restricting potentially offensive speech.

In it, Charles Lipson argues that free speech on college campuses is on the verge of becoming extinct, and that administrators are largely to blame for the increased censorship.

“Today, dean-of-students offices are devoted to comforting delicate snowflakes and soothing their feelings. If that means stamping out others’ speech, too bad.”

His solution? It starts with communication at all levels. Step one, he says, is to make sure that the board of trustees “demands to know if free speech is protected on their campuses, in principle and in practice.” Then, he says that university presidents and top administrators should be held accountable for those results.

Second, he says that college acceptance letters should stress that, “our school believes in free speech, open debate, and diverse opinions. You will hear different views on controversial topics. You are urged to read, write, and develop your own views, but you may not suppress others.”

Lipson points out that students who are afraid of intellectual challenges should go to school elsewhere.

Third, he argues that one administrator should be appointed strictly to monitor free speech activities and to make sure that open debate happens on campus. Next, he demands that, “student affairs offices stop suppressing basic academic freedoms and start supporting them.” Lipson mentions that the office of student affairs shouldn’t exist to shield students from uncomfortable ideas or to suppress their speech.

Finally, Lipson wants students to know that they have every right to protest peacefully, but they have no right to disrupt others, and they will be punished if they do. He expresses that administrators who “coddle rabble-rousers” often ignore their corrosive effects.

Similarly, administrators at Gettysburg College created a new speech policy in April, which stresses the college’s commitment to free expression – even when forms of expression are seen as offensive. This comes after some student groups became upset about pro-life posters on campus.

The policy reads in part:

“Any effort by members of the College community to limit openness in this academic community is a matter of serious concern and militates against the freedom of expression and the discovery of truth. Each member of the community is therefore free to express their point of view on, or opposition to, any issue of public interest within reasonable restrictions of time, place and manner. Each member of the community is also expected to help guarantee the ability of other community members to express themselves freely. No group or individual has the right to interfere with the legitimate activity of other authorized persons and groups as interference with expression compromises the College’s goal of creating an environment where issues can be openly discussed.”

Although some of the steps proposed may seem small, they could do wonders for free speech on college campuses if implemented by administrators.

Bill Targeting Climate Change Skepticism Withdrawn, But Fight Against Dissent Continues

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

Bill Targeting Climate Change Skepticism Withdrawn, But Fight Against Dissent Continues

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

Due to what many call California’s state religion, a Senate bill scheduled for floor action this past week could have put Golden State businesses in legal trouble for questioning climate change. Thankfully, the ill-conceived piece of legislation has been scrubbed. For now.

Polar BearSenate Bill 1161, also known as California Climate Science Truth and Accountability Act of 2016, hoped to undermine Californians’ 1st Amendment protections by allowing state and local prosecutors to pursue claims against groups expressing skepticism when it comes to climate change. According to the state Senate Rules Committee, the bill would have given district attorneys and the Attorney General the power to pursue Unfair Competition Law claims against businesses or organizations that have “directly or indirectly engaged in unfair competition with respect to scientific evidence regarding the existence, extent, or current or future impacts of anthropogenic induced climate change.”

To Sacramento Bee’s Ben Boychuck, if the bill had turned into law, it “would have been demolished on First Amendment grounds,” prompting many to believe that Senators behind this bill withdrew SB 1161 from consideration out of fear for the long term ramifications.

Fairly recently, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch claimed she was considering the possibility of pursuing civil actions against climate change skepticism, by saying that she had referred to the FBI to “consider whether or not it meets the criteria for which we could take action.” Former congressman Dr. Ron Paul responded to her comments shortly after, saying that “Defending speech we do not agree with is necessary to effectively protect the speech we support.”

But logic has no place in emotional discussions.

To many who consider themselves progressives, chanting “science” to any dissenting argument may suffice. But once the issue begins prompting legislation that protects one group from the other, however, things get messy.

While SB 1161 has been withdrawn for now, nothing keeps climate change advocates from pushing for similar laws in different states or at the federal level. But believing that an argument has been proven correct isn’t enough to silence an individual.

While commenting on the possibility of having the FBI pursuing civil actions against climate change skeptics, Paul asked the audience if it would be OK to silence Keynesian economist Paul Krugman because Austrian economists believe “the argument over whether we should audit, and then end, the Federal Reserve is settled.”

The obvious answer is no.

But the Democratic Party is still convinced that the best line of action is to continue to call for more government action when it comes to energy, releasing the final draft of the organization’s official platform pushing for a petroleum-free America by mid-century.

While assuming that the government has a say in how the energy market should organize itself, politicians line up behind the climate change cause. Often ignoring the fact oil-rich nations with terrible humanitarian records such as Saudi Arabia often fund efforts to undermine competing industries in America.

Maybe over time, we will be able to learn whether there’s a link between the explosion of the popularity of the climate change cause and the increasing involvement of Middle East nations in US politics.

Better Economic Prospects, Not Incarceration, Behind US Crime Decline

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

Better Economic Prospects, Not Incarceration, Behind US Crime Decline

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

For the past two decades, crime in the United States has declined considerably. Compared to the crime rate of the early 1990s, US crime rates have fallen about half while violent crime has fallen by 51 percent. Between 1991 and now, property crime has fallen by 43 percent.

Sign But while many understand that better economic prospects tend to help keep the crime rate low, many tend to attribute the considerable reduction to a series of factors that, when closely reviewed, have little to do with safety.

Some of the most common arguments brought up by experts include the expansion of enforcement agencies, “tough on crime” policies, and increasing incarceration rates. Some have even gone as far as claiming that legalized abortions had helped to boost safety, ignoring the fact that abortion rates have declined over the past decades.

But according to research on the subject by New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, socio-economic factors, not mass incarceration, has helped reduce the crime rates across the country.

According to the paper, increasing incarceration has had no effect on the drop in crime rates since 2000. When it comes to violent crime, the rate is also close to zero. States like Texas, California, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York have all seen a drop in crime as incarceration rates have also dropped.

Between 2000 and 2013, the study concludes, growth in income and decreased alcohol consumption have been the top factors responsible for the drop in crime, along with a boost in consumer confidence. Between 1990 and 1999, factors that helped to push crime rates down included decreased unemployment, growth in income, decreased alcohol consumption, and increased incarceration and police numbers.

But as the number of police officers increases, the number of low-level offenders behind bars shoots up. According to Brennan Center for Justice, the fact we have more low-level offenders in jail now than before impacts the crime reduction effect.

From the study:

“The incarceration rate jumped by more than 60 percent from 1990 to 1999, while the rate of violent crime dropped by 28 percent. In the next decade, the rate of incarceration increased by just 1 percent, while the violent crime rate fell by 27 percent.”

During a recent justice reform event organized by the grassroots organization FreedomWorks, Molly M. Gill, a former prosecutor who’s now the Director of Federal Legislative Affairs for Families Against Mandatory Minimums Foundation (FAMM), pointed out that “very few violent offenders end up in federal prisons.” Instead of violent criminals, federal prisons hold a great number of non-violent drug offenders, who account for more than 25 percent of the federal budget every year. Instead of rehabilitating them once they are inside the system, U.S. Justice Action Network Deputy Director Jenna Moll told attendees, prisons are often seen as the easy way out. During the FreedomWorks event, Moll also talked to attendees. She pointed out that a “national survey found prisoners prefer one year in prison versus five years probation,” adding that “if even prisoners know” prison is “the easy way out,” it proves that the system is not working.

In a 2000 article for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), economics professor Bruce Benson explained that, while few studies on the matter have been carried out, “Private security employment has accelerated since 1970,” leading him to believe that the “private security market … the second fastest growing industry in the United States” may have something to do with the drop in crime rates. To the economist, private-sector responses to crime should be studied as a major factor behind crime decline.

After Brexit, Is Amexit Next? This ​Libertarian Congressman Says Yes

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

After Brexit, Is Amexit Next? This Libertarian Congressman Says Yes

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

After Britons voted to leave the European Union on June 23, libertarian-leaning Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) decided to lead the charge to get the United States out of the United Nations, attaching the term “Amexit” to the endeavor.

ThomasMassieIn a post on his official Facebook page, Massie shared the full text of HR 1205, the American Sovereignty Restoration Act, which was introduced in 2013 but died in the previous Congress.

The bill was cosponsored by Massie, and according to the congressman, it would effectively keep the United States from spending taxpayer money on the organization, prevent US Armed Forces from serving under UN command, put an end to diplomatic immunity for foreign UN members in the country, close the UN headquarters in New York, and terminate the country’s membership with other organizations such as UNESCO and WHO. The bill would also repeal the United Nations Environment Program Participation Act.

​Mentioning the fact many of the countries involved with the UN are run by dictators, Massie said that binding US citizens to decisions made by tyrants goes against the US Constitution, which is the “supreme law” of the land.

Massie went on to say that the UN gives “cover to corrupt governments” while preventing “citizens from owning guns.” In the “best case,” Massie responded in a comment, “the UN is a bureaucratic waste of American taxpayers’ money.”

Dr. Ron Paul has recently written a column for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity calling for a US exit from NATO.

According to the former congressman, NATO is a “Cold War relic” that “survives only by stirring up conflict and then selling itself as the only option to confront the conflict it churned up.”

Shortly after the Brexit vote, the head of the Texas Nationalist Movement used Twitter to call on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott asking him to schedule a statewide referendum on the independence of the Lone Star state.

Last year, the Texas Republican Party rejected an initiative that would give voters the opportunity to vote to leave the union. If the measure had become a non-binding ballot initiative, it would have stated that the state of Texas would “reassert the prior status as an independent nation” if “the federal government continues to disregard the Constitution.”

When talking secession in his book Omnipotent Government, economist and philosopher Ludwig von Mises said that a nation doesn’t have the right to tell a province that it belongs to a large body of power. “A province consists of its inhabitants. If anybody has a right to be heard in this case it is these inhabitants,” he added. “Boundary disputes should be settled by plebiscite.”

In the book Liberalism, Mises goes further, stating that if there’s a way to grant the individual with the right of self-determination, “it would have to be done.”

What Do Libertarians Stand For?

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

What Do Libertarians Stand For?

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

As a fellow libertarian, that question is rhetorical. We stand for individuality – we believe that individuals can make the best decisions for themselves, governing their own lives.

It is, however, something I hear from many who are not yet libertarian in their thinking. They assume that politics and philosophy only revolve around what they hear and see taking place in Washington DC and state capitals across the country. When viewed through that lens, the perception is that libertarians are opposed to everything.

againstYou and I know that the opposition “to everything” is due to the actions of the body in question, likely increasing the size and scope of government and infringing on the life, liberty, or property of the individual. Unfortunately, the aforementioned lens prevents much more than the support/oppose lever on the issue discussed.

How can we best refocus the lens toward our views and away from being “against everything”?

Three ways:

  1. Rather than fall into the trap of the issue du jour and the lever imposed on us by others, we can divert the conversation away from the support/oppose lever and focus on why a freedom-focused solution is the actual answer. Your success will lie in listening to find the desired outcome of your conversation partner and offering how the libertarian solution is the best way to arrive there. 
  2. Use your voice to promote libertarian ideas without being influenced by the issue of the day. Rather than being driven by the news cycle, your focus should be all the great things that are and can be possible in a libertarian society. If you choose 3-5 issues, you can rotate your focus, so as not to burn yourself (and those you communicate with) out.
  3. Re-frame questions that lead others to see that when you make decisions for yourself, the outcomes are better than the “one size fits all,” centrally-planned government solutions. Rather than jump straight into a dialogue that pits one side against each other, you can attract people to the ideas you support by offering questions that cause them to think beyond the either/or lens. Recently, a friend asked me about whether or not I thought it was OK for a parent to misrepresent their address to allow their child access to a better education in a district other than the one in which they were drawn. I responded with, “is it OK allow your child to go to a sub-par school when your tax dollars are funding one that meets your child’s needs better than the one ‘the powers that be’ deem appropriate for him/her based on their address?”

 

As is often shared by libertarians, there is more to color than black and white, and there is more to politics than left or right.

Let’s focus on opening eyes to color and thoughts beyond the left and right.

Should Women Be Drafted?

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

Should Women Be Drafted?

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Dr. Ruwart’s website

My short answer is that no one should be drafted. After all, our Constitution prohibits involuntary servitude, which is exactly what the draft is. Our young men—and possibly women—will be forced—at gunpoint, if necessary—to take up arms and kill other people.

DraftExcept for a few psychopaths, taking up arms with the intention to kill others day after day is difficult, even when our nation is truly threatened. It’s a rare individual who remains unscathed by killing others and being a target, which is why so many return home with post-traumatic stress disorder or serious mental illnesses. Going to war should always be the last resort, since the cost in lives, money, and disabilities is so high. In recent times, however, sending troops overseas seems to be a knee-jerk response to any provocation.

When our young people perceive that a war is not just or not warranted, they become unwilling to risk their lives or kill for it. In Vietnam, a war I remember well, this is exactly what happened. Although young men enlisted early in the war, they soon concluded that Vietnam was not a threat to the United States, and resisted the draft overtly or covertly.

Today, not enough of our young men are enlisting to sustain the conflicts in the Middle East. Our troops look forward to going home after their tours are up, only to be forcibly reenlisted under the stop-loss fine print in their contracts. We claim to have a volunteer army, but in fact those who enlist can be drafted for another deployment. This discourages further enlistment, as new recruits start to understand that they are actually signing an open-ended contract.
Clearly, the government believes it will need a draft in the not-so-distant future to maintain its chosen military action. We are told that without a draft, our young people will not step forward when our country is threatened. This is patently false. After 9/11, volunteers flooded to sign up for the anticipated military action. Now they no longer do, as they perceive their government is embarked on never-ending wars.

If our nation is truly threatened, our young people step forward willingly; if it isn’t truly threatened, why should they risk life and limb? We can’t keep killing people overseas because maybe, someday, they might try to harm us. There are simply too many people who “might” try to hurt us. A better strategy is to make sure our domestic security is strong enough that those who would do us harm will be thwarted in their attempt.

If we engage in overseas wars that are not truly defensive ones, and may even be primarily in the service of special interests, our young people should refuse to go. These young adults become the canaries in the coal mine, warning us that the war we wish to fight might not be so right.
Killing is difficult enough when it is perceived as a necessary evil, but it’s even more difficult without the motivation to protect our homes and loved ones. The draft isn’t only involuntary servitude; its slavery of the worst kind as it asks the draftees to do things they find morally repugnant. How are we to spread freedom abroad by taking it away from our young people at home?

Women have a major role to play in discussions about the draft. They should indeed talk about equal rights—for both men and women. Self-determination, the decision whether or not we are willing to go out and kill others, is a right that belongs to both sexes. Instead of insisting that their own rights should be violated, as the rights of men are today, women should be lobbying for an end of the draft. Our great, great-grandmothers fought to end the slavery of black people; today, we honor their memories by fighting to end the slavery of the draft.

As Use of Pot Drops, Prohibitionists Must Look Elsewhere for Pro-Drug War Arguments

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

As Use of Pot Drops, Prohibitionists Must Look Elsewhere for Pro-Drug War Arguments

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

The Washington Post has recently reported that rates of marijuana use among teens who reside in Colorado are unchanged when compared to data gathered before state voters legalized marijuana in 2012.

WeedIn 2009, a survey showed that 25 percent of Colorado youths had used marijuana in the past 30 days but in 2015, only 21 percent of youths did the same. The survey was carried out among random middle and high school students across the state.

According to the Colorado health department, the agency behind this survey, the use of marijuana among teens has not increased since legalization. A fact many drug warriors did not predict before voters decided to make the recreational use of the plant legal across the state.

In the past, opponents of legalization made the case that lifting restrictions on access to weed would push the number of teen smokers up, but as the number of marijuana use nationwide is falling considerably, prohibitionists begin to panic.

According to Mason Tvert, the Marijuana Policy Project’s director of communications, the theory that “making marijuana legal for adults will result in more teen use” has been clearly debunked with the help of these surveys. “Levels of teen use in Colorado have not increased since it ended marijuana prohibition,” Tvert added, “and they are lower than the national average. Elected officials and voters in states that are considering similar proposals should be wary of claims that it will hurt teens.”

But the fight against prohibition continues to win new supporters, even as prohibitionist politicians continue to put failed policies before real progress.

Most recently, a group known as Arkansans for Compassionate Care submitted 117,649 signatures to the secretary of state urging the state to place a proposal on the ballot that would legalize medical marijuana.

The proposal would help people with certain medical conditions have access to marijuana products with the help of a doctor’s recommendation. While the signatures haven’t been confirmed, the group needed 69,000 signatures from registered voters to have the initiative added to the ballot. Two other groups in the state of Arkansas are also gathering signatures for other proposals, one that would legalize medical marijuana and a second that would legalize recreational weed.

At least 25 states and Washington D.C. currently have laws legalizing marijuana in some form, with Ohio being the latest state to allow residents suffering from chronic pain, epilepsy, or side effects of cancer treatments to be treated with the help of cannabis.

As more states where the use of cannabis is legal investigate the use of its residents, it becomes clearer that freedom—not the government’s micromanagement skills—works.

Remember: the FBI Is Still Trying to Have Full Access to NSA’s ‘Unfiltered’ Data

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

Remember: the FBI Is Still Trying to Have Full Access to NSA’s ‘Unfiltered’ Data

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

As the country follows the cries of politicians in Washington doing their best to undermine our security and freedom in the name of the war on terror, don’t forget that, just a few months before the deadly Orlando shooting, the Obama administration was reportedly looking into allowing the National Security Agency (NSA) to share data on private communications with other intelligence agencies without the benefit of privacy protections.

NSAOn paper, access to the contents of phone calls, emails, satellite transmissions, and communications between individuals abroad gathered by NSA employees is restricted, meaning that agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are not allowed to use data collected by the NSA without due process. But due to executive order 12333, an order signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 that binds US intelligence agencies to cooperate with CIA requests for information, the NSA may soon be sharing information on innocent Americans with the FBI.

According to the New York Times, the current administration is interested in expanding the NSA’s reach by giving the intelligence community access to unprocessed information pertaining to countless Americans who were never accused of any crime to begin with. But by augmenting the intelligence community’s access to more information, the haystack becomes much larger, making it harder for officials to find the needle.

According to Alexander Abdo, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, the country should not be allowing the NSA to “spread that information further in the government” if protections on people’s personal information are not being erected. But according to the spokesman for the office of the Director of National Intelligence, the final rules under consideration by the current administration would help to “ensure that they protect privacy civil liberties and constitutional rights while enabling the sharing of information that is important to protect national security.”

Despite the US government’s claims that officials are doing all in their power to protect innocent Americans from the government’s overreach, abuse exists. Giving agencies such as the NSA and the FBI blanket access to the private information of others has and will continue to backfire, allowing employees and officials to abuse their power whenever possible.

The framework under review by the current administration has been under development since when President George W. Bush triggered the change but now, the Obama administration is carrying on with the task of developing a framework to put the changes in motion. And as officials work on a way of continuing the NSA’s involvement with the country’s war on drugs while boosting the agency’s role, progressive and conservative politicians, and even presidential candidates, continue to justify their support for mass surveillance by evoking the war on terror.

Expect to hear more on this and other efforts to boost the surveillance state, especially after the tragic killing of Pulse club goers in Orlando, Florida.

Supreme Court Upholds Illegal Searches Prompted by the War on Drugs

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

Supreme Court Upholds Illegal Searches Prompted by the War on Drugs

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

When discussing the ongoing surveillance programs run by the US government’s National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013, Dr. Ron Paul said that “the Fourth Amendment is clear; it says we should be secure in our persons, houses, papers and effects, and that all warrants must have probable cause.” But while Dr. No from Texas has always been a consistent defender of liberty, few other members of any of the branches of government can say they take the task of upholding the US Constitution seriously. Recently, yet another powerful group in Washington joined Congress and the Executive branch by using its political power to ravage the 4th Amendment: the Supreme Court.

Supreme CourtIn a 5 to 3 ruling of the Utah v. Strieff case, the Supreme Court decided that police officers are allowed to stop anyone without probable cause, going against restrictions imposed by the 4th Amendment of the Constitution. What TechDirt calls “bogus traffic stops predicated on nonexistent laws” is now protected thanks to the Supreme Court, causing the reach of these same stops to be expanded to individuals on foot as well.

But while this decision is damaging because it expands the police’s unchecked powers, the factors that prompted the stop that led to this case in the first place are being widely ignored.

In 2006, the Salt Lake City policy received an anonymous tip concerning a drug activity hotspot. An officer was sent to monitor said hotspot, noticing that, for several days, the house in question received a high volume of foot traffic. One of the individuals seen entering and leaving the property was Edward Strieff, who was stopped by an officer while on his way to a convenience store.

During the so-called routine check after he encounter, police found Strieff had an outstanding “small traffic warrant,” prompting the officer to arrest him and search him. That’s when the officer found a bag of methamphetamine, as well as drug paraphernalia, in his pockets.

What prompted the unconstitutional stop, and then search, wasn’t just due to police abuse. Instead, the drug war was what prompted the anonymous caller to reach out to law enforcement, and before that, what prompted the black market to provide Salt Lake City customers with the products they wanted.

According to TechDirt, the evidence found on Strieff should have been suppressed in court since the officer stopped the individual without probable cause. The state of Utah had already conceded to that much, but once it decided the case should be appealed, Utah v. Strieff made it to the highest court in America, where the justices decided that the “fruits of the illegal search” should remain unsuppressed. To TechDirt writers, this decision gives the government precedent, giving law enforcement agencies across the land even more expanded powers than they had before.

Instead of keeping Americans safe, the war on drugs has produced yet another unintended consequence, destroying our 4th Amendment protections and putting the lives of innocent individuals in danger in the face of police abuse. Isn’t that the opposite of keeping us safe?

“Who Can You Absolutely NOT Trust?”

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

“Who Can You Absolutely NOT Trust?”

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

When it comes to elections, many voters focus on electing a “good king,” someone who would implement their worldview on others, even if that worldview is TERRIBLE for liberty. If you find yourself talking with one of those voters about libertarianism, your efforts to persuade may be more effective by asking them this question before you get into the politics or philosophy of libertarian thought, “Who can you absolutely NOT trust?”

The answer you receive does not matter, but you should definitely take note, as it will guide the rest of your interaction with them.

trustMost often, you will hear a prominent national name mentioned like Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Harry Reid, or Nancy Pelosi. These are easy targets, and most people keep their minds on the national political news.

Regardless of who they name and the issues they champion, your response should remain the same.

Once you know their top issues, you can begin to ask questions about those issues being manipulated by the person they trust least. Questions like “How would you feel about giving authority over you to [insert their untrustworthy person's name here] on the Second Amendment?” or “If [insert their untrustworthy person's name here] were in charge of who receives welfare and who doesn’t, how would you feel about that program?”

They will be taken aback by this, because they’ve not considered this before.

Then, you can begin a discussion about how when you empower the “good guy” to enact a policy that you also empower the “bad guy” to use that authority. We’re seeing this unfold right now as Congress decides on gender equality when it comes to the draft. As it stands today, the federal government requires young men aged 18-25 to register with the Selective Service. Last week, the Senate voted for equal treatment to force young women to also register for the draft precursor. There were two outcomes that would lead to equal treatment under the law here:

  1. What happened in the US Senate.
  2. That we realize that you don’t actually own yourself if the law compels you to potentially serve in the military against your wishes. This realization would have ended the Selective Service registration for men, providing the same equality, yet with a better self-ownership outcome.


Keep in mind that you don’t need to focus on their issue so much as the idea that once you give power to one, you give that same power to all that come after, and the best solution is to govern one’s self, rather than give away that power.

Augment Your Outreach With A Follow Up Event

in Liberator Online, Walk the Walk by Brett Bittner Comments are off

Augment Your Outreach With A Follow Up Event

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

How long is your typical interaction while tabling or at an outreach event? I’m hopeful that I will have 30 seconds… Just long enough to get in an elevator pitch.

outreachOne of the biggest challenges we have as libertarians is condensing our message into easy to digest bits, while still explaining what we believe. Here’s how you get over that hurdle AND show your prospective new libertarians that your group is their best way to get involved: Schedule a follow up event after your outreach event.

Here are key elements to making sure the outreach and follow-up events work well together:

  • The follow-up event should be social in nature. No one wants to attend a boring meeting the first time they show up, so don’t make them. Newly interested people want to engage with the leaders and members of the group in one-on-one and group conversations. Think “Meet & Greet” or “Open House.” Attendees aren’t expecting champagne and caviar, yet you should have available some food and drink options. Asking the bakers and cooks among you to provide something they do well will make it cheaper than catering.
  • Schedule the event two or three weeks after your outreach event. By scheduling something this far in advance, you give potential attendees an opportunity to put it on their calendar. We are all busy, and by giving your prospective attendees an opportunity to “fit you in,” you’ll likely increase attendance. Added bonus: You will have more experience with planning and executing events that aren’t hastily thrown together at the last minute.
  • It is important that you give your prospective attendees a “take away” to remind them. There is a reason that door-to-door salespeople leave something for you when they’ve visited. They don’t want you to forget them and what they are selling. At an outreach booth, you are in a similar situation. While not going door-to-door, you will be interacting with many people (hopefully) in a short time, and you will want them to remember that you invited them to a Pizza Night/Candidate Meet & Greet/Open House with your libertarian group. In this case, something simple works, and you can print the who, what, when, and where on a small handout that fits six to a page rather inexpensively.
  • Actively promote your follow-up event in conversation. Believe it or not, you or some of your volunteers will not include the follow-up event in their “elevator pitch” with interested, soon to be libertarians. A simple “and we’d love to talk with you more about [insert the issue by which you built rapport here] at our upcoming [insert event name here] on [date] at [location] at [time]” added to the end of each interaction, accompanied by handing them your “take away” will drastically improve the attendance at your follow-up event.

 

We have an amazing opportunity before us, as we share the ideals and principles of libertarianism. Let’s not blow it by missing out on an opportunity to have a REAL discussion about libertarian ideas at a follow up event after we’ve identified some potential new libertarians.

 

ACA Health Coverage Approval Drops, Experts Blame Mandates

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Advocates HQ Comments are off

ACA Health Coverage Approval Drops, Experts Blame Mandates

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

After Goldman Sachs confirmed that the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate is leading to a rise in involuntary part-time employment, Obamacare continues to make the news nationwide, but not because the current administration has achieved its goals. Instead, Mercatus Center’s Bin Blase argues, Obamacare is in all over the news again for getting people very angry.

healthcareAccording to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s latest survey, Affordable Care Act enrollees are increasingly unhappy with their coverage. The study used data collected from 671 enrollees who purchased individual market plans compliant with the Affordable Care Act’s mandates.

In an article for Forbes, Blase explains that as insurers either announce they are leaving the market or are planning on increasing premiums next year, consumer confidence tanks.

Instead of helping the group of people it intended to help, Blase argues, the overall unhappiness with ACA shows federal policy must change dramatically if the administration is serious about helping members of the middle- and low-income classes.

Unfortunately, things might not change until Congress—or the next administration—comes up with a new policy. After all, unhappiness with ACA is nothing new.

Between 2014 and 2015, consumers noticed a sharp increase in premiums and deductibles for 2016 policies, Blase explained. But as the cost of remaining insured increased, consumer choice also suffered as available plans started covering fewer doctors and hospitals.

According to the surveys carried out by the Kaiser Family foundation over the years, the percentage of enrollees rating their coverage as “not so good” or “poor” went from 20 percent in 2015 to 31 percent in 2016. Among those who are less satisfied with their plans, a greater number of insured with high deductible policies appear less satisfied with ACA plans than those with low deductible policies. In this latest poll, at least 45 percent responded that they feel vulnerable to high medical bills while in 2015, only 38 percent felt the same way.

The survey also discovered that, in 2015, 55 percent of respondents rated their insurance as a “good” or “excellent” value while in 2016, only 45 percent claimed the same. As Mercatus Center’s Blase pointed out, a large majority of individuals with ACA coverage receive subsidies to help them pay lower premium shares and yet, even more people say their coverage provides poor value. Perhaps, Blase wrote for Forbes, that proves that the “numerous requirements placed on individual market covered by ACA” are pushing the cost of insurance up. Instead of helping, what ACA has accomplished was to make insurance less affordable.

With fewer ACA enrollees actually approving of their insurance plans and the overall quality of their coverage, it’s hard to understand comments made recently by progressive magazine Mother Jones, that claims that Obamacare “is doing great.” Maybe consumer satisfaction means nothing to them.​

​THANKYOU: Citibank Sues AT&T Over Infringement of Trademark Law

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Advocates HQ Comments are off

​ THANKYOU: Citibank Sues AT&T Over Infringement of Trademark Law

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

Chapman University law professor Tom W. Bell once told Reason magazine that copyright law goes against free speech rights protected under the US Constitution. But to Citigroup, the banking giant, copyright law is worth the breach of the law left by our visionary ancestors.

TrademarkAccording to Ars Technica, Citgroup has filed a lawsuit against technology company AT&T claiming a trademark infringement. The federal lawsuit, which was lodged this past Friday in New York federal court, contends that Citigroup has trademarked “ THANKYOU,” effectively barring AT&T and other companies from using the same sentence to, well, thank customers.

The lawsuit argues that:

“For many years, Citigroup has used trademarks consisting of and/or containing the term THANKYOU, including THANKYOU, CITI THANKYOU, CITIBUSINESS THANKYOU. THANKYOU FROM CITI, and THANKYOU YOUR WAY, in connection with a variety of customer loyalty, reward, incentive, and redemption programs (collectively, the ‘THANKYOU Marks’).”

But AT&T’s new marketing campaign, which advertises the AT&T Universal Card, a credit card backed by both AT&T and Citigoup, uses “ AT&T THANKS,”  and “ thanks”  as part of their advertising phrases, causing “consumer confusion”  and constituting “trademark infringement, false designation of origin, and unfair competition in violation of Citigroup’s rights.” The company contends that, since everybody knows that the “THANKYOU marks” are synonymous with Citigroup, the lawsuit asks the judge to block the so-called illegal marketing campaign, adding that Citigroup is entitled to unspecified damages.

To patent attorney and director of the Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom Stephan Kinsella, intellectual property is incompatible with capitalism.

In the past, as well as now, Kinsella argued during a Mises Institute event speech, intellectual property is how “sovereigns or monarchs”  issue “monopolies that [protect]  various goods and services for a limited period of time.”

When liberals, conservatives, and even some libertarians argue in favor of copyright laws and other intellectual property rules, Kinsella told the audience, they are arguing for the creation and protection of monopoly, an act that stands against the libertarian principles of free and voluntary trade.

The very roots of copyright, Kinsella also argued, is all about censorship.

When printing transformed communication, the government found a way to “control official and political thought” passing “copyright statutes to basically help limit what could be produced and said and what information people could copy and share with each other.”

In today’s world, large companies like Citigroup use copyright and trademark laws to strike deals and protect heir turf, crossing licenses to each other, just like Microsoft and Apple did, protecting their industry from giving smaller players the right to compete with them.

Again, instead of protecting the little guy, copyright laws are used to protect monopolies, making sure the industry’s giants are protected from outside competitors.

Instead of celebrating America’s free speech protections, companies like Citibank prefer to keep their influence unquestioned. Not surprising, considering the American multinational investment banking and financial services corporation is a powerful lobbying force in Washington.

More Love

in Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

More Love

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

When we woke up yesterday, the breaking news was about a senseless tragedy that took place overnight in Orlando at Pulse nightclub.

That tragedy took 49 of our families and loved ones.

moreloveAs is often the case, without full information, those seeking to politicize the great suffering caused by the event jumped in with both feet. Whether the issue is terrorism, guns, Muslims, the LGBT community, or immigration, those seeking to promote their agenda took to social media, news interviews, and any avenue they could find to spread the word.

As we noted on Facebook, our first priority is to grieve for the loss of life. Full stop.

There are 49 families who just lost their son, daughter, father, mother, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, or cousin. There are 49 families who are laying someone they love to rest. There are 49 families who will never be the same.

For the rest of us, the stunned feeling still shakes us, as we learn more about the victims, the perpetrator, and the actions that took place there. We need time to process what happened. We need time to have a full picture of what occurred.

Rather than make assumptions, based on the little bit of information that’s publicly available, let us save our voices for love. Let US share it to our families. Let US share it to our neighbors. Let US share it with our friends. Let US reach out to those affected by the tragic events in Orlando. Let US give blood. Let US be the example of how we should respond.

One of my favorite things about libertarians is how much we have to offer in times of struggle, and how much we help those in need.

Let US do that.

When the grieving wanes, we can have a conversation about what should happen.

But first, let US love.

Sometimes, It Takes Time

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

Sometimes, It Takes Time

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

“I NEED IT NOW!” – a line from one of JG Wentworth’s television commercials.

This is a terrific example of the instant gratification, limited attention, now, NOW, NOW! society we often find ourselves in. There is no time to plant a seed, nurture it,  and see it blossom if we completely succumb to that outlook.

While we may deliver the “Aha! moment” in an instant, there are often those who take a bit more time to realize that they are libertarians.

TimeToday, a friend from high school posted on my Facebook wall something that lifted me up before my day really got going. He shared that after being friends for more than twenty years, he finally realized that he is a libertarian.

While I hope that not everyone will take twenty years to realize it, there are many who are not quite ready to give up their authoritarian beliefs yet. And that’s OK!

While it feels good to get to yes almost immediately, there are times where your time and effort are better spent in tiny pieces, guiding someone to libertarian ideas. After all, isn’t reaching the destination more important than how long it took to get there? Think about leaving a trail of crumbs for those who aren’t quite ready for their first full bite.

Over the years Sharad and I have known one another, we’ve discussed how libertarian principles overlap with his already held beliefs with a bit of a challenge to look at things through a self-governing lens, rather than a “there ought to be a law” one.

While friends, it took years for us to build the rapport necessary, politically, for him to consider a libertarian perspective. My focus pointed to areas of agreement on the desired outcome. Once we established that common ground, I challenged some of his beliefs by asking questions about who will make the best decisions to reach those outcomes. We dove into discussing the best path to reach our shared desired outcomes, as well as a bit of how the political and electoral processes work.

The key, to me, is knowing when you can persuade to the point of “Aha!” quickly and when it will take time.

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