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Do You Think for Yourself?

in Liberator Online by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

Do You Think for Yourself?

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

Me: What time did you wake up this morning?
The Young Statesman (13): 5:30
Me: People are going to be interested in knowing what it is that causes a thirteen-year-old to wake at 5:30 in the morning. Can you tell me about that?
YS: If I get up that early I can go to the gym and I can practice the organ. Those are two things I want to do every day and we do that every day. It’s done and I don’t have to worry about it. When I wake up early I can get that done early.
Me: You didn’t just wake yourself up, did you?
BubbleYS: I woke The Baby Anarchist (8).
Me: How did you do that?
YS: I tuned on the light and woke him and gave him his clothes. While he brushed his teeth I made his bed. Then I went to my room, made my bed, tidied up, put away my laundry, brushed my teeth, and went downstairs. I let the dog out, I fed her, I filled up the water bottles for the gym, I got the breakfast cooler together, and we went to the gym.
Me: Did your brother need help with his shoes?
YS: Yeah. The shoe laces aren’t that good so I helped him.
Me: Why do you help your brother?
YS: One day I’m going to want his help. I’d might as well be nice to him.
Me: Did I tell you to do these things?
YS: No. You said you were going to the gym at 6 in the morning and if I got up early I could join you. Then you asked BA if he wanted to come so now all of us go.
Me: You’re a pretty independent kid, aren’t you?
YS: I don’t like to be told what to do.
Me: If I started pestering you to do things, what would be your reaction?
YS: I’d wonder if you’d been hit in the head.
Me: If I were insisting that you do these things would you be as willing as you are?
YS: Nope.
Me: Why not?
YS: Because when I’m being told to do things that puts me in a passive frame of mind. And it makes me not like you if you’re bossing me around.
Me: Tell me about being passive.
YS: If I try to take the initiative, I’m going to end up butting up against you. I’m living off of you and what you’re telling me to do. I stop thinking.
Me: At that point you’re just being directed.
YS: I stop thinking. I’m just in brainless mode. I’m like a dog.
Me: How long can you stand to be in that mode?
YS: Not very long. If you’re in that mode for very long, you rebel.
Me: So you act rebelliously?
YS: Yes. In response to not being allowed to think for yourself you make stupid decisions. You don’t even think before you act.
Me: So your actions aren’t so much your own decisions as they are reactions against authority. I don’t think that’s just what adolescents do. Anyone who is being dominated and doesn’t think it’s legitimate is going to do that.
YS: You’ve taught me to think. Not to obey. You don’t tell me what to do. You give advice. I can take it or not.
Me: Would there be a problem if you didn’t take my advice?
YS: No.
Me: You’d just have a different experience. I notice that you take my advice more often than not. Why?
YS: Because when I haven’t taken your advice I’ve gotten hurt. Remember when you told me not to run in flip flops and I didn’t listen and I scraped my face across the road?
Me: That was so awful.
YS: I was trying to take something back to a neighbor. It really hurt. I’ve never run in flip flops since. Do you remember when you told me not to shriek and cry about everything because you wouldn’t know when I was really hurt? And then when we were at the swamp and I broke my arm and I was screaming and crying and you didn’t come because I screamed and cried at everything. That was a learning experience. And when dad told me not to run the chisel towards my hand and I did it anyway and we ended up in the ER for five hours. Or when he told me not to shove sharp things and I was in the ER again. I’m learning. Slowly. And painfully. But if you had stopped me, I wouldn’t have learned to listen.
Me: We would have stopped you from getting hurt if we could have. Do you think the injuries were worth it?
YS: I do.

More Members of the Law Enforcement Community Join the Fight Against Tough Marijuana Laws

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

More Members of the Law Enforcement Community Join the Fight Against Tough Marijuana Laws

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

Ever since the state of Colorado decided to set an example to the nation by practically nullifying the federal ban on the commerce of marijuana, legislators in many other states also acted on the marijuana ban locally. But as more and more lawmakers embrace a more humane approach to marijuana laws, and several states show signs that the times are changing, it’s even more interesting to see that members of the law enforcement community are also giving in to the “trend.”

PoliceWith the help of organizations like the Drug Policy Alliance and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), two groups working alongside free marketers, marijuana researchers, freedom advocates, and Tenth Amendment champions, a greater number of states now have policies that lessen the consequences of the nationwide drug war, granting marijuana users and sellers the guarantee that their transactions won’t be targeted by law enforcement under certain circumstances.

According to PennLive.com, Harrisburg Police Chief Thomas Carter has shown signs that he supports some pro-marijuana advocates in Pennsylvania by urging local policymakers to reduce the penalties for marijuana possession. While Carter believes young people should avoid marijuana, he also believes that individuals caught using marijuana should not go to jail. Instead, Carter wants to treat the offense as a traffic ticket.

“We can turn our heads and deny we have a marijuana problem among our youth or we can proactively take action,” Carter told reporters. Instead of putting these kids in jail and ruining their lives, “I want to give kids a chance, an opportunity to make something better of their lives.”

The comment may have shocked many who were expecting to hear a tough on crime approach to what Carter calls a “marijuana problem,” only to be pleasantly surprised.

Last Tuesday, Carter appeared with other Harrisburg officials at a news conference to discuss the city’s efforts to lower the number of marijuana possession charges. This meeting follows the introduction of a proposal sponsored by Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse, who hopes to reduce the level of crime for possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana to a summary offense. As it stands, possession is handled as a misdemeanor locally.

But to critics of Papenfuse’s proposal, the new policy would force poor residents to pay steep fines. Currently, residents in the cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburg pay a $25 fine for a first marijuana possession offense. But in Harrisburg, residents caught with pot would have to pay $100 for their first offense if the proposal becomes an ordinance.

Regardless of whether the proposal becomes an ordinance, the fact the law enforcement community in various areas across the country are joining anti-drug war advocates is important, and shouldn’t be ignored.

No, the FBI Does Not Want to Simply Break Into a Terrorist’s Phone

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

No, the FBI Does Not Want to Simply Break Into a Terrorist’s Phone

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

The case involving the FBI and Apple continues to draw immense media attention. But what many outlets have chosen to mostly ignore is the fact that one of the most important claims made by the FBI is actually fraudulent.

At least that’s what the American Civil Liberties Union is claiming.

Phone In the FBI’s court order handed to Apple, the federal agency claims that it requires Apple’s assistance to unlock the iPhone 5c that belonged to the San Bernardino shooter. Syed Rizwan Farook is tied to the December terrorist attack against government workers in San Bernardino, California that left 14 people dead, and the FBI has his phone in their possession for investigative purposes.

One of the most pressing demands made by the FBI involved Apple disabling the iPhone’s “auto-erase” security feature, an action that would render Apple’s security features vulnerable to future attacks.

The auto-erase system works by protecting user data from hackers, not destroying it. By wiping the key to the phone data after ten failed passcode attempts, the system keeps would-be snoopers from having immediate access to the phone’s information. And the FBI claimed it was afraid of losing the information contained in the San Bernardino shooter’s phone in case Apple chose not to comply.

According to ACLU’s Daniel Kahn Gillmor, however, the FBI’s concern isn’t warranted. Instead of referring to Apple for assistance, Gillmor explains, the FBI should simply back up part of the phone before attempting to guess the passcode. Instead of taking that step, however, the FBI decided to press Apple, urging the tech giant to “bypass or disable the auto-erase function whether or not it has been enabled.”

In his post for ACLU’s website, Gillmor claims the FBI already knows how to bypass the security system. He also claims that a close look at how the FBI claims the auto-erase feature works may offer important clues as to what the agency actually wants with this request.

Before Apple’s Tim Cook issued a formal statement explaining why he refused to comply with the FBI’s requests and just a few days before the court order was issued, the government issued a strongly worded motion to compel. In this motion, the FBI explains what the auto-erase feature does.

The document reads:

“The FBI has been unable to make attempts to determine the passcode to access the SUBJECT DEVICE because Apple has written, or ‘coded,’ its operating systems with a user-enabled ‘auto-erase function’ that would, if enabled, result in the permanent destruction of the required encryption key material after 10 failed attempts at the [sic] entering the correct passcode (meaning that, after 10 failed attempts, the information on the device becomes permanently inaccessible)…”

By using the “permanently inaccessible” term, Gillmor explains, the FBI may be attempting to add urgency to its request, causing Apple to panic before the order. But there’s a problem with how the government explains how the feature works, which means that the FBI may not be disclosing its intentions.

Instead of making the data “permanently inaccessible,” Gillmor explains, the system built into the iPhone to protect the user’s data works by protecting the data from immediate access when a hacker or snooper attempts to guess the passcode ten times. Instead of destroying the data, the system actually destroys one of the keys that protects the data, making that particular data unreadable. What is erased is the “file system key,” which is stored in what Apple calls “Effaceable Storage,” a part of the phone’s flash memory. But the destruction is not exactly a serious issue. According to Apple’s iOS Security Guide, the key is designed to be “erased on demand (by the user, with the ‘Erase all content and settings’ option, or by a user or administrator issuing a remote wipe command…” So what the feature concerning the FBI really protects is a key, not the actual data.

According to Gillmor, the FBI is scared of losing access to the system key, not the data, and yet its officials wrote a request that made a very different claim.

“All the FBI needs to do to avoid any irreversible auto erase,” Gillmor explains, “is simply to copy that flash memory (which includes the Effaceable Storage) before it tries 10 passcode attempts.”

Then, officials will have the ability to re-try guessing the passcode as many times as it is necessary for them to break the code. Once they have access, they can restore the data from its backup copy.

Gillmor closes his article by claiming that what the FBI wants to do is to “weaken the ecosystem we all depend on for maintenance of our all-too-vulnerable devices.” So if the federal agents are so concerned about our security, how come they are so invested in rendering the systems that protect us useless?

Suffocating Regulations Keep the Poor Out of the Housing Market

in Liberator Online by Alice Salles Comments are off

Suffocating Regulations Keep the Poor Out of the Housing Market

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

When discussing the lack of affordable housing, many are quick to refer to the government to ask for help.

Housing Affordable home advocates often urge officials to take on more projects—and create more laws—in order to aid those who cannot afford their own homes, but often ignore the root of the problem altogether.

A recent piece of research carried out by Mercatus Center’s Sanford Ikeda and Emily Washington shows that instead of urging officials to take on new projects, what is truly needed to make housing more affordable across the board is to simply remove regulatory obstacles.

Across the United States, land use and development is mostly regulated by local government bodies. These regulations include zoning rules, density restrictions, and even policies known as “smart growth” initiatives, which are often designed to limit urban sprawl.

Researchers claim that while on the surface these rules appear to promote positive outcomes, they often add restrictions to the mix that hurt the housing supply. The result is the inflation of housing prices, and a great deal of individuals who are locked out of the housing market simply because their income is too modest.

The creation of the first zoning regulations in 1916 in New York City made the regulatory model popular, and in no time municipalities across the country were passing similar zoning rules. In many cases, zoning rules price particular demographics out of certain neighborhoods, making said areas inaccessible to low- or middle-income consumers. According to the Mercatus Center research, “Well-intentioned regulation often represents the preferences of the wealthy by regulating otherwise negligible risks.” By artificially driving the cost of living in a certain neighborhood up, government regulations have “disproportionately negative or regressive effects on the poor.”

The research paper explains that these regulations often focus on risk-reduction strategies that target low risks. Just the kind of low risk that many people in the low- and middle-income brackets would accept handling on their own if it wasn’t for government’s interference.

Over time, constructors and companies in the housing industry are forced to handle the costly burden tied to the mitigation of low risks, and the prices tied to housing go up. Dramatically.

Here’s an example from Mercatus Center’s research:

“For example, a sales tax on staple goods has regressive effects because people with low incomes spend a greater proportion of their incomes on such goods. …

Compared to potential private risk-reduction strategies, regulation tends to target low risks that are extremely expensive to mitigate. Such regulations, therefore, represent the preferences of the wealthy and come at the expense of low-income households.”

As housing becomes inaccessible to a greater number of people as a result of older policies, local governments adopt new policies requiring builders to develop a portion of new constructions for low income residents, forcing companies to sell or rent these units below the market price. While the “inclusionary zoning” policies are often adopted with good intentions in mind, researchers found that they also restrict the supply of housing.

The result of these policies is similar to the result of the implementation of rent-controlled rules, meaning that the “price-controlled portion of such developments” will lead to shortages and even “discouragement of production.”

If companies aren’t willing to build because they will lose money in the long run, there will be an even more scarce supply of houses in the market, and the poor are the first ones to suffer.

To fix this issue, many experts mentioned in the research paper claim, policymakers must remove obstacles, which would eventually offer builders the extra incentive to develop more affordable houses. With a greater supply, the market will be able to provide a greater number of lower-cost housing units, and the regressive effects of restrictive policies will be finally reduced over time.

Idaho Legislators Defy the FDA, Houses Passes Right to Try Legislation

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

Idaho Legislators Defy the FDA, Houses Passes Right to Try Legislation

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

The US Food and Drug Administration and its very foundation have been on the receiving end of heavy criticism for quite some time, and yet the agency’s power appears to never be brought into question in a significant way.

IdahoFrustration, however, is often the best incentive. With that in mind, a group of Idaho lawmakers decided to join several other states by defying the FDA’s powers by proposing a piece of legislation that would practically nullify some of the agency’s rules prohibiting terminally ill patients from having access to experimental treatments. The bill would allow Idaho residents to have access to these experimental treatments, regardless of what the FDA has to say on the matter.

According to the Tenth Amendment Center, the House of Delegates Health and Welfare Committee introduced House Bill 481 on February 12. On February 29, the bill passed the House by an overwhelming margin.

Access to experimental drugs and treatments is restricted under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. While the law keeps the general public from having access to experimental drugs and treatments, a provision known as 21 U.S.C. 360bbb gives patients with serious or life-threatening diseases access to experimental drugs that have been approved by the FDA. Drugs that haven’t been approved by the agency, however, remain out of reach.

If HB 481 passes, the FDA’s rules would not apply to Idaho residents seeking access to experimental drugs. Instead, state laws would protect manufacturers and physicians involved in aiding the terminally ill. By protecting all parties involved from liabilities for their participation, the state may effectively nullify the FDA’s rules locally.

The bill states that eligible patients may “request, and a manufacturer may make available to an eligible patient under the supervision of the patient’s treating physician, the manufacturer’s investigational drug … which shall be clearly labeled as investigational; provided however, that this chapter does not require that a manufacturer make available an investigational drug to … an eligible patient.” With this piece of legislation in place, health care providers that agree to participate, whether by administering the treatment or by giving the patient the resources necessary to carry on with the experimental treatment, will be protected from possible legal actions. By protecting providers and physicians from sanctions, license troubles, or lawsuits, the state of Idaho joins other 24 states that have passed the “Right to Try” legislation in their states.

To the Tenth Amendment Center, this rapid evolution indicates that Americans of all walks of life are coming together to put an end to rules that put individuals in danger and that undermine their liberties.

HB 481 should move to the Idaho Senate for further consideration before the piece of legislation heads to the desk of Governor Butch Otter.

Apple Wins Court Battle Against FBI, and the Immorality of the Surveillance State is Exposed

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

 Apple Wins Court Battle Against FBI, and the Immorality of the Surveillance State is Exposed

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

As privacy advocates urge the federal government to stop pressuring Apple to create a backdoor to its iPhone, a move that would essentially undermine the company’s own encryption software, the company has just won big in a federal court.

iPhoneAccording to The Intercept, the ongoing battle between the tech company and the surveillance state could turn out bitter for the federal agency since a New York federal magistrate judge has just rejected one of the US government’s requests.

The criminal case involves an iPhone whose encrypted system has put its data out of the reach of the FBI. Apple was asked to aid investigators, but Magistrate Judge James Orenstein ruled against the government’s request.

The iPhone in question belongs to Jun Feng. Back in October, he pleaded guilty to drug charges. While the Drug Enforcement Administration seized Feng’s phone, it claimed it was unable to access its data. As both the DEA and the FBI tried to break the code, they also claimed they were unable to overcome Apple’s security measures.

As a result, a motion was filed, and the company was ordered to assist the investigation “under the authority of the All Writs Act,” a piece of legislation that is also being used by the FBI to force Apple to help investigators with the phone belonging to the San Bernardino killers.

Apple rejected the request on both cases. According to The Intercept, the government has requested the company to aid investigators in at least nine other occasions.

Using previous decisions pertaining to the interpretation of the All Writs Act, Judge Orenstein concluded that “imposing on Apple the obligation to assist the government’s investigation against its will” was not justified by the law. The question raised by the government’s requests, Judge Orenstein added, is whether the All Writs Act gives a court the power to compel Apple to perform work that goes against its will. Apple, the private party in the matter, has no alleged involvement with the criminal activity involving Feng, therefore the federal government has no legal means to compel Apple to create a backdoor to its product.

To Glenn Greenwald, the privacy advocate and journalist involved with the dissemination of information leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, Orenstein’s ruling clarifies that the purpose of the request put forth by the FBI is not directly tied to the data evidence. Instead, Greenwald argues, FBI wants to broaden its authority, giving the federal government precedential authority to force other tech companies to undermine their own security systems in future investigations.

To privacy—and liberty—advocates, Apple’s decision makes sense.

In an article for the Foundation for Economic Education, Andrea Castillo explains that Apple has decided to put its consumers first. A move that goes against the attitude embraced by many corporations that “serve as quiet collaborators for the surveillance state to avoid retribution from the government.”

To Dr. Ron Paul, the former congressman and founder of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, the United States is not East Germany. Complying with the FBI’s order would represent a major threat to liberty.

If Greenwald is right, the recent court ruling could help privacy advocates in their fight against the federal government’s overreach. But is the over reliance on the courts the best move?

Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI) and Thomas Massie (R-KY) have both claimed that the FBI’s request is unconstitutional. The recent court ruling may confirm the fact the FBI wanted more than a simple aid in their investigations, but the fact the requests were unconstitutional—and immoral—should be enough to give anyone enough reasons to say no to the surveillance state.

The Future of the Libertarian Movement is Bright

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

The Future of the Libertarian Movement is Bright

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

Last weekend, The Advocates participated in the International Students for Liberty Conference in Washington DC with nearly 2,000 attendees from around the world.

Interacting with students from campus groups throughout the country, as well as those from abroad, gave us a glimpse at the future of the libertarian movement. WOW! It is encouraging to see the knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm from these students as they glowingly share libertarian thought and embrace libertarian philosophy.

Whether they heard from a North Korean dissident about her experiences and vision for a freer world in Yeonmi Park, a former governor known for his use of veto and line-item veto powers in Gary Johnson, or witnessed a debate about the cultural and political change liberty brings between Jack Hunter and Jeffrey Tucker, these students and alumni who love liberty joined together to share their experiences and learn about all the libertarian movement has to offer.

Brett with Vermin SupremeWe even visited with Vermin Supreme, whose documentary “Vote for Jesus” screened on Sunday morning, throughout the conference. He even dropped his satirical bid for the Oval Office as a Democrat to seek the Libertarian Party nomination, as he saw the welcoming community that libertarians represent.

All kidding aside, the students I met this weekend ARE the future of libertarianism, and I’m impressed by them. I honestly wish I’d had a similar outlet when I was on campus at the University of Georgia to better prepare me for what the future held.

We are happy to be working with student groups across the country to assist them in spreading the ideals of freedom and liberty by offering FREE Operation Politically Homeless kits to campus groups, working with them to hone their message as they provide “on the ground” outreach to their fellow students and to the people at large, and support their efforts to be exemplify libertarianism.

Energy, enthusiasm, professionalism, and knowledge make the future of our movement bright, and I’m glad we’re doing everything we can to support that.

Can you help?

12-Year-Old Arrested Over Instagram Post Showing Guns, Bombs

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

12-Year-Old Arrested Over Instagram Post Showing Guns, Bombs

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

In a world where everything happens online, Americans struggle to identify what is and what is not a credible threat. But while doing so, liberty advocates suggest, authorities should go above and beyond to avoid trampling people’s freedom of speech rights.

Instagram In the state of Virginia, a middle school student is currently facing charges over an online post in which she used “emojis” of guns and bombs. According to the Washington Post, the 12-year-old from Fairfax, VA was accused of threatening Sidney Lanier Middle School, which led to legal charges. Police justified the legal move by claiming that the girl had posted a message on her Instagram account in December that features a gun, a bomb, and a knife, all in the “emoji” formats.

The message read in part:

Killing (gun emoji)

“meet me in the library Tuesday” (gun, knife and bomb emoji)

After the post went live, authorities launched an investigation that led to the IP used by the 12-year-old. With a search warrant in hand, police officers learned that the girl had crafted the post, but had used another student’s name to publish it. After admitting to being the author of the post, police charged her with threatening the school and computer harassment.

While police often try to judge how serious the threat is in order to assess whether they should get involved, attorneys often argue that emoji should not be used as evidence. According to experts, it’s difficult to determine in court what the defendant means to express by the emoji he or she uses. The confusion often leads to mistakes, and police investigators often target individuals who are just being playful.

The case is now on track for juvenile court, which should happen later this month. According to the child’s mother, who still hasn’t been identified publicly, the post was created to “bully” another student. The mother also told the Washington Post that charges against her daughter were unwarranted.

According to RT.com, many other cases involving school children or older social media users and emojis ended up resulting in legal troubles for the individuals involved.

At least one case involved the use of the “:-P” emoji, which represents a face sticking a tongue out.

Anthony Elonis from Pennsylvania was arrested over allegedly threatening his estranged wife via Facebook posts. The man argued his conviction should be overturned considering he had posted the alleged threats as his rapper persona, and that the posts in question, which included graphically violent lyrics about killing his wife, were all fictitious. To him, the lyrics were art or therapy. Since many of the posts were followed by the “:-P” emoji, Elonis says he assumed people would understand those posts were jests.

During the Elonis trial, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts quoted Eminem lyrics during his oral arguments, claiming that the lyrics he had read to the court weren’t much different from the words posted online by Elonis. Using the Eminem lyrics, Justice Roberts wanted to make others think about the posts and when a piece of communication crosses the line into being a threat.  

While the justices ultimately sided with Elonis, the law enforcement community has yet to refrain from taking emojis into account when assessing threats online.

Helping Others See Your Vision of Liberty

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

Helping Others See Your Vision of Liberty

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

Most of us were brought up to accept the need for government control of almost everything. And that idea is reinforced every day by journalists, educators and politicians.

SunriseHow, then, do we persuade people to open their minds enough to explore our vision of liberty?

One way is to share something like the following. It starts with a bold idea, elaborates on that idea with familiar examples everyone agrees with, and then invites your listeners to consider expanding the principle to issues they haven’t yet considered.

The history of the progress of the human race is largely the history of removing government control of our personal and economic lives.

When we separated church and state, both institutions became far more humane, and life became happier, safer, more peaceful.

When we lessened government control over the economy and began to embrace the ideas of economic freedom, the result was an incredible and unprecedented rise in living standards and a cornucopia of innovative new products and services.

When we ended the terrible experiment of alcohol Prohibition we ended the crime, the loss of civil liberties, and the terrible health threats that were created by that misguided policy.

When we ended literary and artistic censorship in America we saw a new flourishing of the arts.

Freeing a big chunk of telecommunications from government control led us in a few short years from a world where almost no one owned portable phones to today, when even children carry phones that can take photos and post them online, shoot and edit movies, play (and even record and mix) music, send texts — and even, when necessary, make phone calls.

The same principle holds true for innumerable smaller, more mundane but important services as well. To take just one example, replacing government-monopoly garbage pick-up with competition has resulted in huge savings and better service for millions of Americans.

Over and over again, allowing more personal and economic liberty by ending government control in a particular area of human endeavor has brought us new, wonderful harmony and abundance.

History shows us that liberty works, and the more liberty we have, the better off we will be. On every issue, big or small. Every time.

Why aren’t free markets dominating in countries with weak or failed governments?

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

Why aren’t free markets dominating in countries with weak or failed governments?

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

Question: If a free market with no government oversight and protections for the People is a successful model, then how come countries with failed/weak governments are not mopping up all the worlds’ business?

Free Market

Short Answer: If by “failed/weak” governments you are referring to the Third World, some “mopping up” is indeed occurring. Since governments that exploit their people the most usually have the lowest wages, U.S. and European manufacturers are utilizing the “cheap labor” there. If by “failed/weak” governments you mean something else, please give me more detail and I’ll try to answer you.

By the way, a free market is not one without “protections for the People.” Truly free markets usually require those who defraud or harm others to compensate their victims; this usually keeps them more honest than government oversight does. Indeed, the penalties for violating government regulations usually do little or nothing to restore victims and may even cost them more. For example, those polluting river water were usually successfully sued by those downstream for damages in both Great Britain and the western territories of the U.S. before they became states). Once the U.S. government took over the waterways, however, downstream landowners rarely got compensation, even from the fines imposed by government. They not only had to put up with the pollution, they had to pay taxes for the government oversight.

Makes you wonder who is being protected from whom, doesn’t it?

White House Sacks the Treasury in the Name of Corporate Welfare

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

White House Sacks the Treasury in the Name of Corporate Welfare

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

Friday, one day before the President’s day holiday weekend, the Barack Obama Administration announced that $7.7 billion of taxpayer dollars would be allocated to Affordable Care Act insurers through the law’s reinsurance program.

From the Americans for Tax Reform website:

“For 2015 Obamacare reinsurance, the administration will pay out $6 billion raised from a fee on private health insurance and an additional $1.7 billion that under federal law belongs to the Treasury department.”

Seal According to pro-taxpayer organization, at least $1.7 billion of the $7.7 being used to cover insurers is being funneled illegally.

Doug Badger of the Galen Institute explains that ACA’s reinsurance program works by silently taxing every individual in America with health insurance. In 2015 and 2016, each individual with insurance is being allegedly taxed a total of $107. According to Badger, the program is designed to “prop up insurers that have agreed to sell Obamacare policies in the individual market.”

While the administration continues to claim that ACA is working, insurers that participate are losing money. But since the reinsurance program exists to cover the losses of the insurers, the administration seems to think keeping corporations happy with the deal is more important than following the law.

With the failure of the system, and with a growing number of consumers referring to alternative methods to have access to care, the administration is having to get creative.

According to the New York Post, not one dollar out of the $7.7 billion being promised to insurers should be taken from the Treasury under ACA law.

From the New York Post:

“The law states a fixed share ‘shall be deposited into the general fund of the Treasury of the United States and may not be used’ to offset insurance companies’ losses.

But the administration gave all of it to the insurance companies last year, and got away with that heist. So now they’re trying it again.”

While the administration projected it would be raising $12 billion for the ACA reinsurance program in 2014, it was $2 billion short. In order to handle the situation, the administration decided to keep the money from the Treasury, using it instead to hand it over to the participating companies.

The administration isn’t a stranger to this type of move. According to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, at least $8.5 billion in taxpayer money has already been illegally funneled to ACA’s corporate welfare programs.

Another initiative designed to shield insurers enshrined in ACA also seeks to secure the investment of insurers. The initiative is known as the Risk Corridor program, and it has also been tied to scandals in the past.

In 2014, insurers requested $2.87 billion in “risk corridors” payments, but the administration only offered 12.6 percent of that value.

The risk corridor program works by redistributing funds from insurers that make money with the Obamacare exchange to insurers that don’t. Not knowing how sick their customers were going to be due to the new healthcare law and its mandates, insurers were not being able to set premiums realistically, making it hard for companies to turn a profit.

Despite falling short on the risk corridor payments, the administration decided to bail out insurers that weren’t making money off the exchanges last year. ACA chief Andy Slavitt, who’s also the former Vice-President for United Health, made the announcement in December of 2015, saying the federal government was going to bail out insurers and offer them the amount they had previously asked. Later, however, Congress blocked the $2.5 billion “risk corridor” payment. The effort was championed by several conservative and libertarian organizations that came together to urge Congress to act.

If nothing is done this time around, taxpayers will have to foot the bill and cover the $7.7 billion the administration has vowed

Private Initiative Ignites Flame of Real Change in Flint, Michigan

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

Private Initiative Ignites Flame of Real Change in Flint, Michigan

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

The Flint, Michigan water scandal has been shaking up the lives of locals, putting their health in grave danger, and alerting the country to the dangers of too much government.

As private organizations like Walmart, Coke, Nestle, and Pepsi take steps to help Flint residents by delivering 6.5 million bottles of water to the city, free market advocates have been arguing that the private sector is the compassionate sector, while the state is often the originator of most of our problems.

HandSanitizer

Now, news about another private initiative in Flint is flooding social media websites, reminding us that the flame of change—and real hope—can only be ignited by the individual.

According to a GoFundMe page by the 7-year-old Isiah Britt from Virginia, kids at the Eisenhower Elementary School, a Flint facility, had become fearful of using the school water to wash their hands when they’d go to the bathroom. In order to make a real change and help the kids in Flint in a meaningful way, Britt decided to start a campaign. The goal? Buy enough hand sanitizer to everyone in his school.

Britt’s effort was celebrated by many who also helped by donating. Now, the 7-year-old has enough money to cover all schools in the city.

The GoFundMe page was created by the child and his mother on February 19 and it has raised over $10,000. On Saturday, the child announced on the page that both he and his mother had raised enough “to send hand sanitizer to every school in Flint!” He thanked the public and asked everyone to “keep going until all kids in Flint have clean hands!!”

The second-grader’s initial goal was to raise only $500 to buy twenty cases of hand sanitizer. But the campaign was so successful that a local news source in Virginia and Michigan decided to pick up the story.

The first shipment of hand sanitizer arrived at Eisenhower Elementary just a week into the fundraiser. Neithercut, Pierce, and Holmes Elementary Schools should be receiving their shipments in the near future.

During an interview with Richmond’s WTVR, Britt told the reporter he had never been happier. “That was the best day of my life,” the second-grader announced. “Trying to help a different school.”

“It doesn’t matter if you’re small. It doesn’t mean you can’t do big things.”

According to Britt’s parents, the 7-year-old now has a new goal, which is to send hand sanitizer to daycare and women’s centers across Flint.

While Britt’s story is a moving one, it hasn’t been the only one to demonstrate the importance of private initiative in the face of crisis.

In January, Humanity First USA partnered with Detroit’s Ahmadiyya Muslim Community to donate 52,400 bottles of water to Flint residents impacted by the crisis. At least 104,800 bottles of clean water were gathered and delivered to two senior citizen homes, three churches, a local YMCA, and to the general Flint public. Many of the bottles were stored at the Salem Lutheran Church. Families in need of clear water were invited to stop by.

The organization still accepts water donations in Rochester Hills, Troy, and the Detroit Metropolitan area.

A Tale of Two Petitions

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

A Tale of Two Petitions

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

Here in Indiana, election laws require candidates for statewide office to submit signature petitions from 500 registered voters from each of the state’s nine Congressional districts before they can appear on primary ballots.

Recently, Rep. Todd Young, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, saw his petition signatures challenged by the Indiana Democratic Party and his GOP competitor. The challenge centered on one district, where Rep. Young submitted a number of signatures perilously close to the minimum. An independent effort by the Indianapolis Star found only 497 valid signatures, despite the campaign’s claims of 501 valid ones and improper rejections.

As the challenge progressed, many Republicans across the state endorsed Young, while simultaneously speaking in favor of “their guy” in comments aimed at the Indiana Election Commission.

As many expected, a 4-member panel deadlocked at 2-2 along party lines, preventing any action by the commission.

The challenge prompted a bill from Young’s party, who enjoys supermajority status in both chambers of the state legislature, to reduce the hurdle from 500 to 200.

OKLP Petition Turn InRoughly 750 miles away, the Libertarian Party of Oklahoma submitted 42,000 signatures to the state Election Board in an effort to be recognized as a political party and have candidates appear on the general election ballot this November.

Rather than risk a close call akin to Rep. Young’s, the Libertarians submitted almost double the number of the 24,745 signatures necessary to survive signature any challenges during validation.

Having been a part of ballot access petitioning in the past, I find that the latter method is preferable to the first. Doing so eliminates many angles of attack used by those in power to prevent competition in the marketplace of politics. Without friendly members of the board, it’s unlikely that things would have a rosy outcome for the Libertarian Party of Oklahoma, had they not turned in far more signatures than necessary.

While the validation in Oklahoma remains, do you expect an outcome similar to Rep. Young’s, had the Libertarians taken the riskier action with their petition turn-in?

I guess it pays to have friends in high places.

With New Nullification Effort, Mississippi Challenges Federal Gun Control Measures

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

With New Nullification Effort, Mississippi Challenges Federal Gun Control Measures

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

Last week, the Mississippi legislature took an important step against federal efforts targeting gun owners and their property.

According to the Tenth Amendment Center, the House Judiciary B committee passed House Bill 782. If this piece of legislation passes the full House, the Senate, and Governor Phil Bryant signs it into law, future executive orders or federal rules pertaining to gun control will be blocked by the state.

Mississippi

HB 782, which was introduced by Rep Mark Formby (R-Picayune), counts with 13 cosponsors. The bill prohibits state agencies, employees, and political subdivisions from participating in the enforcement of a new federal rule or executive order relating to personal firearms, accessories, or even ammunition if the federal rule in question goes against Section 12, Article 3 of the Mississippi Constitution of 1890. The state constitution reads, in part, that “The right of every citizen to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person, or property, or in aid of the civil power when thereto legally summoned, shall not be called in question, but the legislature may regulate or forbid carrying concealed weapons.”

With HB 782, legislators hope to bar the use of state assets, funds, or personnel for the enforcement of any rule that would otherwise encroach on the rights of Mississippi residents to self-defense.

According to Elaine Vechorik, the Vice-President of Mississippi for Liberty, this bill is important because the “federal government is out of control, and the states have duty to reestablish the rule of law.”

In a study on the right to keep and bear arms in state constitutions carried out by Dave Kopel, the constitutional scholar stated that restrictions on concealed carry permits “underscored that ‘the right to keep and bear arms’ includes the right to carry non-concealed firearms for personal protection.”

According to Mississippi law, residents do not have to obtain a license to own firearms. Locals are allowed to carry rifles and shotguns without a permit. But handgun owners must have a permit to conceal carry. With the Castle Doctrine enshrined in state legislation, residents are free to carry a weapon confidentially in public.

With the gun ownership rights of Mississippi residents in mind, legislators want to make sure that any executive order or new federal rule that goes against the state’s constitution will be effectively blocked locally.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms’ M855 ammo ban is an example of a federal order that could be barred from being enacted in the state of Mississippi if HB 782 is signed into law.

For the law to be effective, the Tenth Amendment Center argues, further action may be required. For the legislature to determine whether a future federal action goes against the state constitution, a mechanism will have to be created and added to the state law or amended to the Mississippi constitution.

In Federalist #46, James Madison wrote that a “refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union” is a practical step states may take in order to bring down federal measures that hope to restrict the liberties of the individual. Since federal officials rely on the sources and aid of states to have their rules enforced, refusal to cooperate makes these rules “nearly impossible” to enforce.

HB 782 should be considered by the full House before the Senate has a chance to look at the bill.

Mississippi residents are being asked to contact their legislators to urge them to stand in support of this bill.

One Microaggression After Another

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

One Microaggression After Another

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

Now more than ever, college campuses are offering training, courses and even online portals for students, faculty and staff to understand and report microaggressions. Failure to acknowledge harm caused by microaggressions on college campuses is resulting in the resignation of administrators.

Microaggression Microaggressions are small actions or word choices that seem on the surface to have no malicious intent but that are thought of as a tiny form of violence nonetheless.

For example, by some university guidelines, asking an Asian American where they are from is a microaggression because the questions implies that the person is not a real American.

Occidental College in California is instituting a microaggression reporting system, which comes as a response to recent student protests of President Jonathan Veitch, among other things.

Protests took place this past semester in support of other students of color at The University of Missouri, Yale, and Claremont McKenna College.

Although Veitch did not step down, he agreed to meet students’ demands which included: diversifying the faculty, creating a black studies program, increasing funding for diversity initiatives and training all campus staff on minority student needs, along with the microaggression reporting program.

Agreeing to student demands did not work for Ithaca College’s president, however.

In January, Ithaca College President Tom Rochon announced he would retire in 2017 which, appeased the groups of students and faculty members that called for his resignation. Rochon was accused of improperly handling racist incidents on campus, and offended student-activists and faculty wanted him out.

Really, only two incidents were reported. The first, an alumni panel discussion in which one panelist, an older white man, called another panelist, a younger black woman, a “savage” after the woman described herself as possessing “a savage hunger.” When the older man was told that his comments could be considered racial and malicious, although he did not mean them to be, he apologized. Rochon put out a statement and apologized:

On Thursday, October 8, we conducted a Blue Sky Reimagining kick-off event, featuring a conversation among four alumni followed by work in small groups brainstorming on how to make the Ithaca College educational experience more immersive.

Insensitive comments were made during the conversation. Immediately following the event, I (Tom Rochon) apologized to the alumna to whom the comments were addressed. We regret that what was intended to be a visionary moment for our community was diminished by insensitive comments.

In general, the college cannot prevent the use of hurtful language on campus. Such language, intentional or unintentional, exists in the world and will seep into our community. We can’t promise that the college will never host a speaker who could say something racist, homophobic, misogynistic, or otherwise disrespectful. Even so, we reaffirm our commitment to making our campus an inclusive and respectful community.

We recognize the concerns raised by members of the campus community about the language used during the Blue Sky event. We reiterate our commitment to the principles of respect and inclusion and to the goal of ensuring that Ithaca College is a place where all students, faculty, staff, and visitors feel safe and respected.

The other? A “Preps and Crooks” theme party that was hosted by a fraternity around Halloween. The dress of the “crooks” was racially insensitive according to some students. Ithaca’s vice president did indeed condemn the “destructive impact” of the event, but it did not satisfy Ithaca students.

By playing into student demands, college administrators are doing students a disservice for not adequately preparing them for the real world where one won’t be protected from speech, actions, or non-verbals that they may not like or agree with.

The Sharing Economy is Challenging Labor Laws, Are Lawmakers Paying Attention?

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

The Sharing Economy is Challenging Labor Laws, Are Lawmakers Paying Attention?

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

Ride-sharing apps are revolutionizing how people across the country commute. But with the growth in popularity, companies like Lyft and Uber become easy targets for regulators and lawmakers, mostly because laws already in place protect industries that are already losing their appeal due to competition.

Last month, Lyft settled a class-action lawsuit brought by its California drivers. With the settlement, Lyft upheld the freedom of drivers locally by avoiding to classify them as employees. By allowing participating motorists to remain as contractors, Lyft gave drivers the flexibility to control when, where, and for long they work through the platform.

Lyft To many, this was a step in the right direction. But to Christopher Koopman, a research fellow with the Project for the Study of American Capitalism at the Mercatus Center, this victory is not enough.

In an article for The Hill, Koopman says the settlement fails to resolve other issues tied to worker classification laws.

Since sharing economy apps like Uber and Lyft do not easily fit within current state and federal labor laws, Koopman explained, “challenges [to] the status quo of government regulation” will continue to present a legal headache to company executives—and drivers.

In places like New York City, Uber and Lyft stood up to taxi regulations. By doing so, sharing economy apps helped to boost transportation choices for low-income households. At the federal level, Koopman explained, Uber and Lyft are now challenging an 80-year-old law known as Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which defines what an employee is. According to Koopman, the Department of Labor’s own interpretations of the 80-year-old law do nothing to clarify the issue, making the lives of individuals relying on Lyft and Uber to pay their bills much more complicated in the long-term.

If this issue is not fixed at both federal and state levels, Koopman says, Uber and Lyft will continue to battle lawsuit after lawsuit. And leaving the decision to the courts, Koopman stated, is “far from ideal.”

As labor laws remain unchallenged by lawmakers, Koopman warns that the sharing economy is not the only one that will suffer.

Using IRS data, Koopman found that the growth in non-employment working arrangements “predates the advent of the sharing economy.” In 2010, the Government Accountability Office estimated, at least 40 percent of workers in America operated under “alternative arrangements.” If their choice had been questioned legally, they would have lost their arrangements, therefore making it hard for folks to make ends meet.

To loosen the restrictions by changing legal definitions could prove beneficial to workers across the country, so why rely on the courts? If that’s the case, Koopman warns, juries, or “ordinary folks simply working with square pegs and round holes” will be tasked with the duty of choosing who should be classified as employees.

Will they choose solutions that boost freedom instead of giving government even more power?

ACA’s Bureaucratic Requirements Force Patients to Lose Access to Care

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

 ACA’s Bureaucratic Requirements Force Patients to Lose Access to Care

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

The Affordable Care Act has become a joke among conservatives and libertarians.

Since the passing of the law, mandates concerning enrollment requirements pushed the cost of health care up, forcing countless to not only find themselves uncovered, but also unable to have access to the care they had before Obamacare.

DoctorWhile the overregulation of health care in America is nothing new, ACA accelerated a process that was well under way before President Barack Obama took office. Unfortunately, officials didn’t pay attention to the market signals. What the current administration decided to do instead was to focus on pushing laws based on hopes and aspirations, ignoring the potential consequences.

The story of Walt Whitlow is the perfect example of why politicians should always consider the short and long-term consequences of their policies.

According to the Associated Press, Whitlow was under treatment for cancer when he learned that his financial assistance had gotten slashed under ACA. With a premium costing four times what it cost prior to the passing of the new health care law, his deductible went from $900 to $4,600.

Patient Ana Granado also suffered due to the bureaucratic nature of the law.

Granado had undergone a breast cancer surgery and was waiting to undergo breast reconstruction procedures when she was notified that her coverage had been canceled. Under ACA’s new rules, her immigration status became an issue, which forced her insurer to drop her. While lawyers were able to resolve the issue promptly, her financial assistance for premiums were suspended.

Under ACA, Lynn Herrin’s tax credits for premiums were also questioned by the IRS, forcing her to pay $700 to the taxman. Having issues to find a doctor, Herrin decided to cancel her plan, which left her without any assistance when she later found out she had oral and neck cancer.

As countless Americans and residents ditch their plans or pay more for their previously affordable plans because of complex paperwork requirements, many believe that the law was never written to make health care access affordable.

By adding more roadblocks and mandates, ACA forced many Americans to rely on the government for subsidies so they can afford health care. Under a free market system, they would be dealing directly with insurers and providers instead.

By making the cost of insurance an issue, the federal government created a monster that costs the taxpayers and leaves millions of patients without access to quality care when they need it the most.

Currently, 12.7 million people are covered thanks to subsidies created by ACA. But about 470,000 people had their coverage terminated through September 30, 2015 because of complex paperwork requirements. Another 1 million of households had their financial assistance “adjusted” due to what the government calls “income discrepancies.”

By making the process more bureaucratic than it should be, ACA forced countless of consumers to rely on the government for health care. Elizabeth Colvin of Foundation Communities says people have been panicking when they “get that bill for a full-price plan.” This issue is undermining ACA’s insurance markets, simply because the cost to obtain coverage through the government is too high.

As more and more Americans look for alternative ways to have access to health care, the future of ACA is uncertain. Will the next administration take these matters into account when thinking about reforming US health care law?

Libertarian Law Firm Fights Eminent Domain Abuse in North Carolina

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

Libertarian Law Firm Fights Eminent Domain Abuse in North Carolina

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

Property rights just won big in North Carolina.

With the help of Institute for Justice, a non-profit libertarian public interest law firm, property owners in Mt. Airy, NC created an organization to keep local officials from violating property owners’ rights. The Mt. Airy Property Rights Alliance (MAPRA), as they are now called, were able to put an end to the city’s plan to use privately owned property in their redevelopment effort recently. And IJ wants you to know how it all went down.

NorthCarolinaThe grassroots movement was launched when the city decided to include privately owned businesses and homes in the redevelopment plan put together by the Mt. Airy Redevelopment Commission, a committee created by the City Board of Commissioners.

The original plan was to give the new board the authority to initiate efforts to redevelop government-owned property in the city. But the newly-created commission had other plans. That’s when private properties were added to the mix.

When the city began eyeing an abandoned factory known as the Spencer’s property, a building that had once been a children’s clothing manufacturer, everyone started to pay attention.

In September of 2015, the redevelopment commission notified that the Westside Redevelopment Plan announced that at least 20 privately owned properties had been declared “blighted.” The 20 new parcels, along with the former factory, made it to the final list of properties targeted by the city’s new commission. If owners didn’t cooperate, the commission would authorize eminent domain, and properties would become officially condemned. At the time, Commissioner Steve Yokeley told The Mount Airy News that owners who weren’t “interested in developing” their property on their own would have their property taken away.

But eminent domain is designated as a public tool, which is to say, officials often make use of it to build roads and bridges, not to pick and choose which corporations or constructors get to develop a designated area for economic purposes.

In order to fight the local officials, IJ and MAPRA targeted the media without mercy.

By launching a major PR campaign and having the media focus on the eminent domain issue, the two groups forced the city commission to debate the case at every subsequent meeting. The result was eye-popping.

As the media helped grassroots organization make the inclusion of private properties in the new development plan a hot topic, the four of the five city commissioners, as well as the mayor were pressured to go against the city plan during their reelection campaigns. Once the elections were over, the Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 to dissolve the Mt. Airy Redevelopment Commission. As the board took on the responsibility of taking on the project on their own, they decided to redraw the boundaries of the redevelopment plan, and all privately owned properties remained protected.

Eminent domain is the central subject of Steven Greenhut’s book Abuse of Power: How the government misuses eminent domain. According to Greenhut, major corporations and developers often refer to local government officials whenever they see an opportunity to earn big on the expense of property they do not own. The Mt. Airy case is a great example.

With the help of a strong and aggressive PR campaign, IJ and MAPRA beat the local government officials, giving private property owners a reason to hope that the same could be done again.

Politics Can Wait!

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

Politics Can Wait!

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

Undoubtedly, you’ve heard about the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. At 79, he passed away unexpectedly on Saturday, February 13th.

Within hours, political pundits, amateur and professional alike, took to social media and the airwaves to share their thoughts on Scalia’s passing and offered their view on what should happen next with regard to the vacant seat on the bench. The typical partisan divide and political fight appeared almost immediately with Republicans pointing to a delay of the appointment, with Democrats favoring the president’s intent to fill the position during the current term.

We even saw a question at that night’s GOP Presidential debate posed to the candidates, who all agreed that the Republican-controlled Senate should delay any nomination until the 2016 election victor assumes office.

punchThrough the weekend, each “team” lined up with their talking points and punditry about the history of Supreme Court appointments that supported their view. The audience they reach became parrots for those same talking points and historical events to allow them to score political points for their “team.”

Here’s the problem: Everyone was talking past one another to “win” the imaginary debate taking place before the other “team” could.

In a few hours after a man’s death, very few took the opportunity to acknowledge it, praise the good works, lament the loss, and extend condolences to those personally affected by his passing. Instead, it became what politics brings out in people… the worst.

We also see it in the wake of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and tragedies like Sandy Hook. Rather than react to the situation to make the lives affected better, a stampede to microphones and platforms takes place to politicize what just happened.

While it may appeal to some to jump into the fray in the wake of a disaster or the loss of a prominent figure, that activity drives away those who aren’t a part of your “team.”

The divisiveness of these conversations is akin to the wedge issues used by politicians to divide the public and prevent discourse about the ACTUAL issues.

Normal people take a moment to reflect on what just happened, while the super political “never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Which one are you?

As Presidential Candidates Promise to Use Torture, Pentagon Releases Photos of Detainee Abuse

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

As Presidential Candidates Promise to Use Torture, Pentagon Releases Photos of Detainee Abuse

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

The Pentagon recently released nearly 200 photos related to its investigation into the US use—and abuse—of torture against detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to The Intercept, the released images are the most innocuous of the more than 2,000 images the government has been fighting to keep confidential.

The pictures were taken between 2003 and 2006. Most of them are close-up shots of detainees’ limbs. Some of them show scabs or bruises. Faces are covered with black bars to keep the detainees’ identities under wraps.

Torture

According to government attorneys, the release of the 2,000 photos documenting the abuse would harm national security. Admitting that the actions perpetrated by US forces against detainees are used as a recruitment tool, government attorneys have argued that the release of the bulk of images would be used as propaganda by the Islamic State or al Qaeda.

In 2004, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to force the Defense Department to release the 2,000 photographs in the agency’s possession. The request was filed after images from the prison at Abu Ghraib leaked.

According to Vice News, many of the unreleased images show soldiers posing with dead bodies, while others show soldiers punching and kicking prisoners. Many allegedly show detainees stripping naked next to female guards. None of those incidents were documented in the 198 photos released by the Pentagon in response to ACLU’s lawsuit.

To Katherine Hawkins, the senior counsel at the Constitution Project, released images “are only about 10 percent, and presumably the least graphic 10 percent, of the larger set the ACLU sued for.” Despite the lack of graphic content, Hawkins says released photos are enough to prove US forces abused their power.

While the Barack Obama administration initially promised to release the images by 2009, it changed its stance.

The change of heart is reportedly due to pressure from the top US commander in Iraq, Bush-era holdovers at the Defense Department, and the then-Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

After the change of policy, the administration reported that the publication of the images would not add “any additional benefit” to the public understanding of what happened. The administration reported that abuse was perpetrated by “a small number of individuals.” The administration also confirmed that the release of the images would “inflame anti-American opinion,” which could put troops in danger.

The Defense Department has claimed that the investigations tied to the released images were associated with 14 allegations of abuse that resulted in “some form of disciplinary action.” At least 65 service members were reprimanded in some capacity.

As presidential election debates force candidates to share their views on torture and whether US forces should make use of it in the country’s efforts to combat terrorism, many believe candidates sound somewhat desperate to please the pro-war crowd. Among conservatives, however, many have made the case against torture in the past by claiming that the policy signals that the “beacon of freedom is lowering the legal bar on what it means to be a human being.”

Senator Rand Paul, one of the few Republican presidential candidates who made anti-torture comments in the past, has recently dropped out of the race. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has had different opinions on the use of torture in the past, while Senator Bernie Sanders opposes the practice.

Despite the antiwar rhetoric, candidates like Sanders have voted to fund wars and US bombing campaigns in the past.

Without a consistent voice against torture and intervention in the election cycle, Americans lose the opportunity to hear different perspectives. With so many candidates making pro-torture comments, it’s hard to see the mainstream political discourse shifting any time soon.

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