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VA Property Owners Win Eminent Domain, Freedom of Speech Cases

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

VA Property Owners Win Eminent Domain, Freedom of Speech Cases

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

fight between a Virginia public university and a private radio station has ignited an impromptu debate on eminent domain abuse. And while eminent domain laws and their consequences are seldom discussed by the mainstream media, people start to pay attention when both private property and freedom of speech are threatened.

Recently, a Virginia court sided with property owners who had been threatened with eminent domain laws in Norfolk, VA.

Eminent Domain

A local radio station known as Central Radio Company was targeted by the city in what appears to be an effort to expand Old Dominion (ODU), a public university. But the radio station wasn’t the only business on the hit list. A privately-owned apartment building was also under threat.

It all started in 1998, when the Norfolk City Council approved the Hampton Boulevard Redevelopment Project, which gave ODU the legal means to expand eastward. Up until when the plan was approved, the area was a mix of commercial and industrial properties, but it also counted with a few privately owned student apartments. But since the land wasn’t being used for educational purposes only, ODU pushed local housing authorities to resort to eminent domain laws.

At the time, Virginia’s law allowed authorities to take properties away from its rightful owners for economic development purposes as long as most targeted properties had been deemed condemned due to decay. Since then, local housing authorities acquired more than 160 properties, which were all turned over to the university’s real estate foundation. The spot is now home to ODU’s Ted Constant Convocation Center, a research park, and a cluster of apartment buildings and businesses for students.

But as the university moved to push Central Radio Company and two other companies out of their land, they fought back.

In 2011, PKO Ventures, the owner of apartment buildings under threat, Central Radio, and Norva Plastics took the battle against the university to a Circuit Court, but the effort was unsuccessful.

In June, PKO appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court. The company argued that recent changes to the state eminent domain law prohibited ODU from pushing property owners out of the area.

In 2007, the General Assembly adopted changes to the state law that limited the authority’s use of eminent domain. After the changes, local authorities were prohibited from taking land for economic development.

But the changes also affected how authorities were expected to target properties that had been condemned for blight, making the condemnation of entire areas illegal. Only specific properties were allowed to be taken, and only if they had been deemed condemned over decay. While the changes were adopted in July of 2007, the assembly added a provision that allowed agencies in the middle of projects to continue to acquire land. The provision had an expiration date: July 2010.

While the housing authority argued that resorting to eminent domain against PKO and others was legal because proceedings started prior to the deadline, landowners claimed their plots hadn’t been formally acquired until later.

As this legal fight continued, another one had just started to brew.

Central Radio had had a large sign placed on the side of its building promoting its opposition to eminent domain abuse. In light of the ongoing legal battle, the city eventually decided to go after Central Radio by claiming that the company was in violation of city advertising statuses.

A second lawsuit was filed by the radio company, arguing that the city’s claims hoped to undermine the company’s First Amendment rights. The 4th Circuit Appeals Court first sided with the city, but once Central Radio petitioned the case to the Supreme Court, the 4th Circuit Appeals Court was forced to take the case back.

Before booting the case back to the appeals court, the Supreme Court ordered it to take Reed v. Town of Gilbert into account. The Supreme Court had recently ruled in favor of the private party in the case, reaffirming that government entities have no right to impose content-based restrictions on speech.

The appeals court finally sided with Norfolk’s Central Radio.

With both of these decisions, the region’s property owners have finally won their long battle against eminent domain abuse in the region, while also fighting for freedom of speech.

 

Hope Is Not Lost

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

Hope Is Not Lost

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

The most liberty-minded candidate for President from the old parties, Rand Paul, may have suspended his campaign, yet all hope is not lost.

The likely nominees on both sides of the authoritarian coin become clearer by the contest, but there are still some torchbearers keeping Liberty at the forefront.

Third parties who don’t participate in the primary process will be nominating their candidates for the office in the coming months, but the most exciting prospect comes from a recent Gallup poll. That poll suggests that libertarians currently make up the largest single faction in the American electorate, compared to conservatives, liberals, and populists.

Quiz resultsThe Gallup results aren’t that different from the data we see in the results of the World’s Smallest Political Quiz.

While candidates like Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, Virgil Goode, and Rocky Anderson didn’t cause any major upsets in 2012, their efforts pushed the non-Democrat/non-Republican vote totals higher. They grew their respective parties’ vote totals and bases of support.

Outside of electoral politics, we are seeing free market solutions that disrupt stagnant industries like ride-sharing has with transportation, in-home hosting has with travel accommodations, and crypto-currency has with the monetary system.

On top of the free market innovations, we see great things happening with the Free State Project, who just “triggered the move” with the 20,000 signers of their Statement of Intent. Later this month, I’ll be speaking in the Live Free or Die state at The New Hampshire Liberty Forum. I’m excited about their recent milestone, and I look forward to what they accomplish with their new Free Staters.

Also this month is the International Students for Liberty Conference, who hosted 1600 students from around the globe last year. We’ll have a booth there for any readers who would like to stop by.

Even in the political sphere, we’ll still have Reps. Justin Amash, Thomas Massie, and Tom McClintock, as well as Sen. Rand Paul, who look to have a fairly easy path to re-election in Congress, so things in Washington DC aren’t likely to get worse than they currently stand.

What Happens When Demand Increases?

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

What Happens When Demand Increases?

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

How will I explain the phenomenon of rising prices after a disaster to my seven-year-old son? I’ll say something like this.

You know there was a big storm in the Northeast. We saw it on television. There was flooding, there was a big fire, trees were down, and now there’s no electricity in a lot of places. It’s pretty miserable.

Supply And Demand Analysis Concept

People want clean water, food, and gasoline. They want to be able to clear away the trees that fell and they want to be able to run their generators if they’re without power. Normally, they could get these things, but because of the storm not only do they need more, but it’s hard for these things to get in. The normal supply lines are cut. So they want more and there’s less than usual around.

We’ve talked about scarcity before. It’s when there is a limited amount of the things we want. Right now, the things that they want are scarce. Demand has increased.

We’ve also talked about what happens when demand increases. When demand increases, prices go up. Prices just tell us how much of this thing is available. It’s information. Like when there’s a bad drought, the price of tomatoes goes up because there are fewer tomatoes to sell. The opposite is also true. When there is a lot of something, the price goes down. If I have a tomato farm and I have twice as many tomatoes one really good year, the price of tomatoes will go down. You can tell how much of something there is by its price.

This is the situation in the Northeast right now. Demand for gas, clean water, generators, and things like that has increased. What happens to prices when demand increases? Right. Prices go up.

You’ve seen this happen in daddy’s ebay business. When he’s down to the last ten of an item, he hikes up the price. It’s still available if someone really wants it, but those last ten are really really valuable. When he gets more in stock, he lowers the price again.

Remember how your brother asked you what you would do if you only had one cup of water each day? You said you’d drink that water. And if you only had two cups, you would use the second cup for keeping clean. And if you had three cups you would use the third cup for growing plants. And if you had four cups you might use the fourth cup for playing in the sprinkler or something. You understand when things are scarce, you use them differently. You economize. They are more valuable when there is less. Everyone understands that.

Anyway, back to the storm. Let’s say daddy sold things that would be important in an emergency. He has a store that sells gas, water, ice, and flashlights. He knows that as a storm approaches the demand for these things will increase and that perhaps his supply line will be severed for many days. He won’t be able to get more for a while. He will have a limited supply–like when you only have three cups of water. When demand increases, he’s going to raise prices. People won’t be able to buy as much. They’ll have to think about how they use what they buy. This keeps things on the shelves longer and when someone desperately needs a thing, it is more likely to be there for them. That’s really important during an emergency. It can even save people’s lives. Now, some people would say that it’s mean of daddy to raise prices when demand increases. But that’s not true. He’s simply letting people know that it’s time to economize. They need to think hard about how they want to use things. He’s just passing along information. And there’s good reason for him to do it. He’ll make more money if he’s doing the right thing. It also makes it worth his while to go to the store and keep it open for the one guy who really, really needs something. When the prices go up, he’s not going to sell as much, but he still has to be there. If he keeps his prices low, he’ll sell out and close his store.

So, what we know is that when demand increases, prices go up. When demand decreases, prices go down. Those are just laws. Like inertia. We just have to know that they’re laws and that they’re always in effect. We shouldn’t be surprised by them.

Some people try to suspend law and make it so store owners can’t increase their prices as demand increases. That’s really bad. It doesn’t work and it leads to more shortages because people won’t economize on their use of the scarce goods and services. If they aren’t properly priced, the consumer doesn’t know how valuable it is. They might buy the last flashlight to entertain their children in the dark when a guy two blocks over needed that flashlight to find something really important–like maybe the gas shut off–in the night. When things cost more or when we have less of a thing we really think about how we use it. If the prices don’t give us that information, that causes more problems in an already bad situation.

Chicago Police ‘Intentionally Destroying’ Police Car Dashcams, Microphones

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

Chicago Police ‘Intentionally Destroying’ Police Car Dashcams, Microphones

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

Chicago is notorious for gun-related violence. With some of the toughest anti-gun rights on its books, the city struggles to keep its residents safe. With pro gun control advocates making the case that the town’s gun-related violence is due to the fact most people purchase their guns illegally, it’s hard not to see how enacting more restrictive laws won’t make a difference.

But gun violence alone is not the only issue in Chicago.

Chicago

According to Washington Post’s Radley Balko, corruption among Chicago Police Department officers continues to expose countless of innocent residents to unconstitutional abuses.

DNA Info Chicago reviewed over 1,800 police maintenance logs of the city’s many police cars to learn why 80 percent of the footage captured by squad car dashboard cameras in the city is often silent.

Last month, Chicago officials blamed the absence of audio on two factors, error and “intentional destruction.” With the help of the maintenance records, researchers found that, in many cases, officers pulled out batteries of their microphones, stashed full microphones in their glove boxes, and even destroyed microphone antennas. Microphones have also disappeared in several occasions.

But the research team also wanted to discover why footage of a particular 2014 incident involving a Chicago officer and a teenager did not contain any audio. What DNA Info learned is nothing short of horrifying.

On October 20, 2014, 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was killed by officer Jason Van Dyke. The encounter’s footage was widely shared online. But while the video went viral, none of the patrol cars’ cameras present at the scene were able to capture any audio.

The dashcam attached to the patrol car used by Van Dyke had been sent to repair at least twice prior to the killing. According to DNA Info, police technicians reported on June 17, 2014 that a dashcam wiring issue had been fixed three months after the camera had been brought in for repair. But just one day later, the same dashcam was sent back to technicians.

According to the records obtained by DNA Info, technicians claimed that the issues presented the second time were due to “intentional damage.”

Twelve days after the camera came back from the technician’s desk, McDonald was killed.

Van Dyke’s patrol car camera did not register any audio of the incident. The video that went viral was recorded by another patrol car.

As the nation debates criminal justice reform, incidents like the one involving McDonald and officer Van Dyke should be part of the discussion.

Overcriminalization is a real issue. To Tim Lynch, the director of the Cato Institute’s Project on Criminal Justice, “too many officer-involved shootings receive little scrutiny.” Setting emotions aside and bringing these issues to light may give the public a better idea of what the solution is. But simply standing idly by as law enforcement, state officials, and lawmakers push for more laws, more restrictions, and more penalties won’t do.

New Jersey’s Takeover of Camden Proves Freedom is Better Than Taxpayer-Backed Revitalization Projects

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

New Jersey’s Takeover of Camden Proves Freedom is Better Than Taxpayer-Backed Revitalization Projects

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

Governor Chris Christie has recently announced that the state will take control of Atlantic City’s finances. As the city’s huge debt looms over its residents and the state vows to take over, critics and experts take a closer look at a previous major takeover of the city of Camden. And since many argue that state intervention ended up failing some of Camden’s most vulnerable residents, the promise of a better Atlantic City after intervention seems somewhat unrealistic.

In 2002, the state of New Jersey poured millions of taxpayer dollars into one of the largest takeover projects in US history. At least one law school, an aquarium, and a hospital were updated. But despite the taxpayer-backed incentives, the lives of residents did not improve. Instead, poverty and crime rates in the city remain high.

Camden

Despite the interventionist failures since 2002, the state announced in 2013 that it had decided to take over the education in Camden. As you will see, the results were equally disappointing.

According to a report from 2009, the initial revitalization campaign in the city counted with $175 million in bonds and loans and a one-time $7.5 million appropriation from the state budget. Shortly after, the then-Governor Jim McGreevey appointed a chief operating officer to take over the local government and the school board. The plan was to create jobs, bring in new businesses, fix the schools and the sewers, and demolish unsafe vacant businesses.

But as the takeover came to an end in 2010, Camden remained one of the most dangerous cities in New Jersey. And despite the state’s repeating efforts to reform the education system in the city, Camden school districts remain problematic.

The New Jersey government has been responsible for running the Paterson, Newark, and Jersey City school districts for more than 20 years. In 2013, it took over Camden’s as well. During the first years under state control, Camden failed to meet performance requirements in at least five areas.

While Paterson, Newark, and Jersey City report that their graduation rates had improved, local educational leaders claim that the improvement is due to the work members of the community have been doing in partnership with educational groups.

According to Paterson Education Fund’s executive director Rosie Grant, the state takeover meant little to the community.

“The gains that we have made,” she told The Record, “have been for the most part despite the state takeover.” Instead, Grant believes that the city’s decision to break the region’s largest high schools to form smaller academies is what made Paterson great.

But not all is lost in Camden.

When it comes to education, the real revolution arrived in the form of school choice.

According to a 2015 video by Jim Epstein, school choice gave local families in Camden the ability to choose. Instead of relying solely on state-run schools that continue to fail Camden’s children to this day, the implementation of charter schools has given residents the opportunity to enroll their children in institutions where children actually learn, despite their economic background.

If the state’s intervention in Camden has anything to teach other cities across the country is that pouring taxpayer money into an issue won’t make it better. Boosting choice—and freedom—on the other hand, usually works.

If the current administration is serious about saving Atlantic City, it will avoid pouring money into the problems the city is facing. Opening its doors for businesses and competition, however, may just do the trick.

Without a Clear War Strategy, White House Wants to Increase Spending to Fight ISIS, Boost Surveillance State

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

Without a Clear War Strategy, White House Wants to Increase Spending to Fight ISIS, Boost Surveillance State

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

As the country focused on Iowa, the email server scandal, and Kanye West’s last Twitter feud, the Barack Obama administration geared up for a significant defense budget request.

The factor behind pushing the country further into debt? ISIS.

ISIS

According to Reuters, the current administration wants to add over $7 billion to its 2017 defense budget. The additional funding would provide support to this administration’s military campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL/Daesh). The additional request represents a 35 percent increase from past year’s defense budget.

While Reuters broke the story early Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter had already planned on discussing the current spending priorities publicly during an address to the Economic Club of Washington. The White House will only release the full budget proposal on February 9th.

If approved by Congress, the 2017 defense budget would cost taxpayers $583 billion.

Since 9/11, military spending has risen sharply. But in 2013, military spending declined, going from $671 in 2013 to $619 in 2014.

To critics, the current administration has done everything in its power to “gut” military spending. These critics often suggest that the lack of an inflated military budget will leave America vulnerable, increasing the risk of terrorist attacks on US soil. But in reality, this administration is everything but fiscally conservative when it comes to the defense budget. Despite its strategical shortcomings.

According to Reuters, the current request to increase defense spending by $7 billion is mostly due to the administration’s campaign against ISIS. Despite the lack of details concerning the administration’s strategy to defeat the Islamic State, experts like former US ambassador to Syria Robert Ford have been vocal in their opposition to one of this administration’s most questionable strategies: to arm and train rebels in Syria.

To Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) who was also against the strategy to arm Syrian rebels, the current administration’s efforts against ISIS are insufficient. Mostly because the so-called war against the militant group was never authorized by Congress. Putting the issue up for discussion first could have helped the administration find a different approach to its campaign in Syria and Iraq.

To Russian President Vladimir Putin, the focus in Syria should have always been to target ISIS. Instead of telling the Syrian people who their leader should be, Putin told CBS’s “60 Minutes,” world powers should come together to eliminate ISIS. But for most of the past year, the Obama administration reassured the media that the only way to make Syria safe was to make sure President Bassar al-Assad was out of the picture.

While the White House’s most pressing concern is ISIS, the militant organization is not the only issue listed as a priority in the 2017 defense budget proposal. According to Reuters, the administration also hopes to increase spending to “reassure European allies following Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.” Former Republican congressman Ron Paul has been warning against further intervention in the region since the first signs of turmoil in Ukraine hit the news.

The 2017 defense budget proposal also includes a request to fund a new Air Force bomber, which has replaced the Ohio-class submarines used to carry nuclear weapons. If Congress approves the proposal, the Obama administration is also hoping to use the extra funding to increase cybersecurity, electronic warfare, and US satellite security.

Could that mean that the surveillance state will get a boost?

Effective Outreach Is Practiced Outreach

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

Effective Outreach Is Practiced Outreach

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

Recently, I’ve been asked to appear on a weekly(ish) podcast called We Are Libertarians on a rather regular basis.

We’ve discussed a variety of topics, including Making A Murderer, homeschooling, gun control, and the Paris attacks.

Late last summer, we also sat down to discuss effective outreach, and they were gracious enough to cut down a lengthy discussion to under an hour.

practiceI wish I’d brought this up for those who are new to libertarianism and unsure about outreach. No one is good the first time. No one is a natural talent. Like everything else, outreach takes practice.

For me, the key was finding someone that I thought does a great job communicating the ideas of liberty and picking their brain about their thought process.

Once I had a foundation for effective communication, most of which I based on Michael Cloud’s Libertarian Persuasion books (both available in the Advocates Online Store) and audio, I needed practice.

Trying different techniques, like The Magic “If” or Conversation Judo, as well as the Ransberger Pivot,  where you find common ground with the person you are trying to persuade, I found what worked for me.

Next, I needed to practice. While I didn’t hit the 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell references in Outliers: The Story of Success, I practiced A LOT. Getting out there to discuss political issues is the best way to become better at doing so. I started with family and friends (the people I knew would love me no matter what), and found what worked and what didn’t.

As I noted here, I’ve personally given The World’s Smallest Political Quiz more than 3,500 times. That is A LOT of conversations with strangers about libertarian ideas.

Conversation #1 was probably not as effective as #3,498 or even #212.

The best part about each of those conversations?

I learned something to bring to a future discussion about libertarian philosophy.

Bottom Line: Find an effective communicator, find what works for you, and PRACTICE!

 

Mizzou Professor Faces Assault Charge, Suspended

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

Mizzou Professor Faces Assault Charge, Suspended

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

On Nov. 9, 2015, the nation paid close attention to massive protests on the University of Missouri’s campus following the resignation of President Tim Wolfe for his failure to adequately address a series of racial incidents on campus.

Later that afternoon, assistant communications professor, Melissa Click, was filmed by student journalist Mark Schierbecker, in a video that has since gone viral. In the video, Click is seen having a verbal and physical altercation with another student journalist, Tim Tai, who was trying to photograph student protesters who had formed a large circle in the middle of campus.

Click

Claiming that it was a “safe space” for protesters, Click is seen trying to push Schierbecker and Tai away. At one point, Click calls for “some muscle” to remove them both from the protest area. Then, she appears to grab Schierbecker’s camera.

This week, the Columbia, Mo. city prosecutor’s office announced it had filed a Class C misdemeanor assault charge against the professor, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 days in jail. Two days later, the University of Missouri Board of Curators formally suspended her of her teaching duties.

“MU Professor Melissa Click is suspended pending further investigation,” said Pam Henrickson, chairwoman of the University of Missouri Board of Curators. “The Board of Curators directs the General Counsel, or outside counsel selected by General Counsel, to immediately conduct an investigation and collaborate with the city attorney and promptly report back to the Board so it may determine whether additional discipline is appropriate.”

This suspension is appropriate because Click was overly driven to squash the First Amendment rights of the student journalists. As Tai said in the video, he and his colleague had just as much of a right to be there reporting as did the protesters. It is alarming that Click did not seem to understand the basic principle of free speech that she, and members of her former department, were entrusted to teach to budding journalists.

Aluminum Industry Wants Tax Deal, but Nobody Wants to Cut the Red Tape

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

Aluminum Industry Wants Tax Deal, but Nobody Wants to Cut the Red Tape

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

Many think of crony capitalism as the source of all problems we face as a nation. They are not entirely wrong.

Take the domestic aluminum industry for instance. Despite the taxpayer investment, producers are losing their share of the market. Without freedom to compete, members of the industry take part in political games, using their influence with state governments and Washington politicians to beg for privileges that no other aluminum producers enjoy. The result? Major trouble for the consumer, employer, and worker.

Aluminum

In America, there are three companies that produce primary aluminum. Alcoa is the largest producer, operating multiple primary plants in New York, Washington, Indiana, and Texas.

In early November 2015, Alcoa announced that it would have to permanently close its Massena West smelter in New York. At the time, town supervisor Joe Gray said that the jobs Alcoa would take away if the smelter closed would be “next to impossible to replace,” considering the aluminum giant has been the major employer in the region for quite some time.

By late November, however, a deal was reached and the upstate New York smelting plant was saved. What happened? New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled a $69 million incentive package that benefited Alcoa. At least 600 jobs were saved.

The plan was backed by Cuomo and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), who made the announcement at the Alcoa plant in Massena. As union bosses celebrated the special relationship between the New York government and industry leaders, the incentives weren’t widely criticized, mainly because tax incentives aren’t seen as handouts by many. Instead, people often believe that tax incentives are good.

During the announcement event, Cuomo claimed that the incentives plan “is the state’s way of stepping up.” Yet none of those present were able to criticize the existing red tape that makes it so hard for companies to function in America in the first place.

If the cost of doing business in the country was not an obstacle, more competitors would fill up the gap, and cheap aluminum coming from China would have a hard time staying relevant. Instead of working to remove red tape and help all entrepreneurs and existing businesses to flourish, the state decided to give one group access to privileges that others in the same industry simply do not enjoy.

But as Alcoa enjoys the $30 million it got from the New York incentive package, things continue to look bad for the aluminum producers and its employees. Except now, the issue is not New York, it’s Indiana.

According to IndyStar.com, southwestern Indiana residents are now concerned that the Alcoa smelter in their state will shut down, shedding 600 jobs in the process. Early in January 2016, Alcoa announced it would be closing its Warrick Operations smelter by the end of March. This is a “major economic event,” said Warrick County Chamber of Commerce director Shari Sherman. But to Alcoa, the shutdown makes sense because the Indiana facility is not “competitive.” Meaning the cost of keeping it open is a burden.

The facility has been operating in Indiana for the past 55 years. As the smelter closes, multiple families brace for the impact. As workers struggle, so do companies that are finding it much harder to compete. The issue? They have a hard time covering the costs of doing business in America.

If workers and consumers are serious about seeing fewer job losses in their states and more prosperity, they’d be urging lawmakers to cut the red tape, not backroom deals.

Instagrammers Beware: Your Pot Photo May Land You In Jail

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

Instagrammers Beware: Your Pot Photo May Land You In Jail

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

The US drug war initiated during the Nixon administration has been responsible for skyrocketing incarceration rates, the destruction of the black family, and increase in racial disparities in criminal justice. Now, it’s also responsible for a new wave of fear revolving marijuana users’ Instagram accounts.

That’s right.

According to a retired Drug Enforcement Administration agent, posting images of recreational use of marijuana on social media may result in a fine up to $150,000. The individual at fault could also spend 18 months in jail.

Pot

“Even though 23 states have legalized medical marijuana and four states have legalized recreational marijuana,” former DEA agent Patricia D’Orsa-Dijamco said, “marijuana remains illegal federally.”

In an interview for Fox News, the former DEA agent said that nobody should “be posting pictures of themselves smoking pot and using pot-themed hashtags to attract fans and ‘likes’ in any state. People who post pictures of themselves could potentially face criminal charges.”

According to Instagram’s own list of restrictions, users are not allowed to upload “unlawful” content to its site. Images of marijuana use fall under this category.

Despite the potential risks, there has been a rise in images of individuals making use of recreational marijuana on social media. But Instagram users will​ ​continue to be ​targeted by law enforcement if they do not slow down—unless the law changes.

Popular Instagram users like Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, and Wiz Khalifa haven’t suffered any restrictions after posting photos of recreational marijuana use to Instagram. But New Jersey 20-year-old marijuana user Connor Kennedy has.

In July of 2015, Kennedy was arrested by the Winslow Township Police Department after posting photos online of his marijuana use. He was allegedly growing seven marijuana plants in an abandoned backyard down the street from his house at the time.

​ “Concerned citizens” contacted​​ the police​ ​about Kennedy’s behavior​, which prompted the police to​​ catch the young man tending to the plants ​with a hidden​ camera. After this incident, investigators looked him up online. That’s when they found his incriminating photos.

He’s not the only one to have been arrested after posting photos of marijuana on Instagram.

Toward the end of 2015, there was a wave of hope among anti-drug war advocates when reports claiming that Congress had lifted the ban on medical marijuana hit the news. Unfortunately, they were not accurate.

In December of 2014, Congress passed an omnibus spending bill that included a provision keeping the Justice Department from using funds appropriated by that particular bill to fight against states pushing their own marijuana laws. That means that agencies like the DEA would not be able to use the omnibus bill’s funds to prevent states from passing their own marijuana legislation. This same provision was part of the 2015 omnibus bill.

Despite the bill’s wording, the Justice Department has largely ignored the law by prosecuting and seizing the property of countless medical marijuana suppliers. Officials often argue that these actions don’t “prevent” states from passing their own drug laws.

If the Justice Department is given a free pass and officials continue to ignore the laws written by Congress, it’s not hard to see how Americans’ freedom of speech will continue to suffer.

Until Congress tackles the issue directly by putting an end to the drug war and reforming the criminal justice system, Instagram users and marijuana suppliers will remain vulnerable.

What Are Your Other Interests?

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

What Are Your Other Interests?

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

Football. Movies. Music. Food. Technology. Family. Cars. Family. Friends.

hobbies word cloud There’s more to life than policy, meetings, and debate. As libertarians, we tend to be hyper-focused on those things. As people living in the real world, we need to have a well-rounded life. Freedom is of utmost importance, yet a life focused solely on Big Government, its growth, and its encroachment in our everyday lives can burn you out and bring down your morale.

Personally, I’m involved in politics so that I don’t have to be. I’d much rather spend time with my family and friends, engaging in things I find fulfilling. If freedom were standard, I would invest more time and treasure in my interests of college football, auto racing, Broadway shows, movies, concerts, and rescuing dogs.

I would also spend more time traveling and visiting with friends and family around the country and throughout the world. It is a defensive move on my part to prevent my time, treasure, and talents from being used in ways I do not approve. If you don’t have something to escape to, how can you rest your mind, body, and soul from the crushing concern that is politics?

By balancing life and politics, we open our networks (and opportunities for persuasion) beyond the “echo chamber,” while simultaneously providing a refuge to prevent burnout. Burnout is probably the biggest hurdle I see to the spread of libertarian principles and ideas, as our best and brightest activists and communicators become consumed and overwhelmed with the grind of constantly battling authoritarianism. I’ve been at the brink of burning out myself. Between elections, outreach, media relations, and managing volunteers, exhaustion sets in. Had I not retreated to “rest” in some of the interests noted above, I may not be writing to you today.

What interests you?

Does the Bill of Rights Guarantee the Right to…Own a Pet?

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

Does the Bill of Rights Guarantee the Right to…Own a Pet?

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

Thomas Jefferson once said, “If a nation expects to be ignorant & free… it expects what never was and never will be.”

One can only imagine Jefferson’s reaction to a recent national survey by the respected Annenberg Public Policy Center.

The Annenberg survey found that a terrifying large number of Americans are unfamiliar with even the most basic and most fundamental facts about the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the structure of the U.S. government.

Rights And, in their ignorance, many are ready to toss out essential liberties and safeguards. Among the findings:

  • Only one in three Americans (31 percent) could name all three branches of the U.S. government. Thirty-two percent could not identify even one.
  • More than one in four Americans (28 percent) incorrectly thinks a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling is sent back either to Congress for reconsideration or to the lower courts for a decision.
  • Fully 12 percent say the Bill of Rights includes… the right to own a pet.
  • One American in four thinks the Bill of Rights guarantees “equal pay for equal work.”

 
This ignorance, alas, is nothing new. Many surveys over the years have reported similarly depressing findings.

Perhaps this partially explains why the Annenberg survey also found that significant percentages of Americans support getting rid of some of our most fundamental liberties:

  • Thirty-one percent say the government should have the power to outlaw a religion if a majority of voters believe it holds “un-American views.” Another 13 percent don’t care one way or another. Less than half (46 percent) oppose this.
  • Twenty-seven percent say the government should be able to prohibit a peaceful march down a main street if the marchers’ views are offensive to the majority of a town’s residents. Another 15 percent don’t care. A little more than half (54 percent) oppose.
  • Twelve percent support giving the government the power to stop the press from publishing articles critical of the government (prior restraint). Another 9 percent don’t care one way or the other.
  • Nearly half (46 percent) oppose current prohibitions on “double jeopardy,” the practice of retrying a person for the same crime twice if new evidence emerges after a not-guilty verdict.
  • One-quarter of those surveyed (26 percent) favor requiring a person to testify against himself in court. Another 17 percent don’t care either way.
  • A quarter of the respondents (25 percent) agreed that “it might be better to do away with the Supreme Court altogether” if it starts making a lot of rulings most Americans disagreed with.

 
Whatever your beliefs about government, the Constitution — and especially the Bill of Rights — has historically been the greatest resource for the day-to-day peaceful protection of American liberties. Thoughtful people of all political persuasions — liberals, conservatives and libertarians alike — find much common ground in these documents.

The lack of knowledge the Annenberg survey found constitutes nothing less than a civil liberties emergency.

Can anything be done to change this? Can you personally do anything?

Yes. We have many tools available to us, and many opportunities.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Share with your inner circle. Most of us have our greatest influence over those closest to us: children, grandchildren, other family members, close friends, neighbors, business associates, and so on. Share with them the importance of understanding how the government is structured and why our Bill of Rights freedoms are so vital. Encourage them to share them with others, creating a ripple effect. If your children attend a school, ask what is being done to teach these issues.
  • Use social media. Most of us are in contact with a great variety of people through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and other social media. Share this crucial information via videos, memes, links to news stories and articles. (The Annenberg poll press release, linked at the start of this article, will shock and amaze many of your friends and followers.)
  • Use holidays.Bill of Rights Day, (December 15), Constitution Day (September 17), and Independence Day (July 4) offer especially good opportunities to discuss these issues with family, friends, social media followers, and so on. They are great times for letters to the editor discussing the vital importance of our Bill of Rights freedoms and the need to understand them. Such letters can reach thousands or even tens of thousands or more people. Just a few letters in large newspapers can reach millions. Put these holidays on your calendar!

 
(By the way, all publicly funded educational institutions — including any schools receiving federal funds of any kind — are required to provide educational programming on the history of the American Constitution on or near Constitution Day. So on Constitution Day these matters will definitely be on the minds of many people.)

That’s just a start. Doubtless you can think of other opportunities and forums. As always, use the effective communication skills taught by the Advocates to make your communication appealing and welcome. (You’ll find lots of them in my book How to Be a Super Communicator for Liberty: Successfully Sharing Libertarian Ideas. e-book here)

It’s up to you. Government schools have failed miserably at teaching basic civics. So has the media. (The more skeptical among us might even note that government benefits enormously from having the public ignorant about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.)

As the great libertarian writer Harry Browne pointed out: “If the American people are to learn the importance of limited, Constitutional government, we have to teach them ourselves.” We have the power to reach those closest to us, and to reach — via letters, speeches, social media and many other ways — millions more Americans as well. Are you ready?

In Wisconsin, Homemade Cookies are the Victims of Big Government

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

In Wisconsin, Homemade Cookies are the Victims of Big Government

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

Things are hard out there for folks trying to make ends meat.

According to Watchdog.org, Wisconsin residents can go to jail and face steep fines if they dare to sell homemade baked goods without an OK from the government.

Under Wisconsin law, entrepreneurs selling homemade baked goods who prepare their products in home kitchens are not allowed to make a profit. After all, how will the state assure the quality of the those delicious cookies baked by grandma if she’s not following state regulations?

Cookies

According to Institute for Justice’s attorney Erica Smith, entrepreneurs in Wisconsin could face a $1,000 fine or go to jail for up to six months even if they “sell one cookie at a farmers market, to your neighbor, [or] somewhere in your community.” This practice, the attorney told Watchdog, “[is] not only unfair, it’s unconstitutional.”

In order to remedy this problem locally, three Wisconsin farmers filed a lawsuit against the state Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection with the help of IJ’s Smith. The suit hopes to put an end to the ban on homemade baked goods.

But before there was a lawsuit, a piece of legislation introduced two years ago could have made small changes to the baked goods law. Unfortunately, the bill stalled in the Assembly after passing in the Senate. According to Smith, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) is the reason why the “cookie bill” won’t hit the House floor.

“That could very well be because he owns his own commercial food business,” known as Rojos Popcorn, Smith told Watchdog.

According to the bill, current law would be modified to allow up to $7,500 in annual homemade baked goods sale. While the proposed legislation isn’t perfect, it could have helped countless Wisconsin residents to earn some extra cash on the side.

According to Dave Schmdt, the executive director of the Wisconsin Bakers Association, the commercial food industry in the state is not happy with the proposed ban lift. “If several people in a certain market or particular community are doing that, they’re eating away at a local baker that’s been there for 100 years and taking away his livelihood,” Schmidt told Wisconsin Public Radio. To Schmidt, that’s simply not fair.

But home bakers also believe that the treatment they get from their own state government isn’t fair either.

To Lisa Kivirist, one of the plaintiffs fighting for her right to bake and sell her homemade goods, the “state’s home-baked-good ban hurts farmers, homemakers and others who just want to help support their family by selling simple goods from their home oven.”

Instead of keeping consumers happy and allowing local economies to gain from the competition, the ban also “prevents customers from buying the fresh and local foods of their choice,” Kivirist stated during a press event at the Capitol.

Current law keeps bakers from selling products that aren’t produced in commercial kitchens. To small outfits, the cost of setting up a commercial kitchen is simply too high. The only exemptions currently in place protect nonprofit groups such as churches or charity organizations. These groups are currently allowed to sell homemade goods, but there’s a catch: they may not put their products up for sale more often than 12 times a year.

State of The Union Address: What this Administration Got Wrong About Obamacare

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

State of The Union Address: What this Administration Got Wrong About Obamacare

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

During President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address, this administration’s signature healthcare law was seldom brought up. As a matter of fact, little time was dedicated to healthcare overall. But the few references to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have been mostly ignored, suggesting that little to no attention is dedicated to healthcare law as the media focuses on the 2016 presidential election.

But to Brian Blase, Senior Research Fellow with the Spending and Budget Initiative at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, the administration’s claims deserve a second look.

In an article for Forbes, Blase looks at how the current programs are performing. With the hopes of helping Americans have a better understanding of ACA and its consequences, the scholar analyses the administration’s claims and reports on his findings.

cooperative

According to the current administration, ACA was designed to fill “the gaps in employer-based care so that when you lose a job, or you go back to school, or you strike out and launch that new business, you’ll still have coverage.” To Blase, however, things aren’t that simple.

If the administration had made the portability of coverage a main priority, the law would not have to be as complex as it is.

Blase also argues that portability as a main goal would have prompted a piece of legislation that would have attracted considerable bipartisan support. Why? Because most healthcare experts on the right and center have always advocated for increased portability, urging lawmakers to severe the ties between insurance and employment.

To Blase, the primary purpose of ACA couldn’t be to keep Americans covered through the several changes they experience if the law standardizes health insurance and ups the requirements concerning coverage levels. By implementing a complicated tax and subsidy system to support ACA, the Obama administration forced consumers to fall prey to distorting price controls that make insurance coverage actually less affordable.

If the administration’s main goal with ACA was to keep people covered no matter what, the law wouldn’t also have been written in a way that increases gross premiums so radically, making low-income earners less likely to get good coverage.

While Blase spent a good deal of time focusing on this particular claim, another subject also caught his eye.

During the address, president Obama claimed that ACA has helped businesses to create jobs, not eliminate them. To Blase, this particular claim is troubling mostly because it’s not necessarily wrong. It’s misleading instead.

Claiming jobs were created because of the enaction of ACA is not a fact, since job growth naturally increased after the deep economic recession the country had just been recovering from when ACA became the law of the land. During the recession, millions of people were kicked out of their jobs, but as confidence grew, more jobs were inevitably created. That’s just a natural consequence of the labor market dynamics and is not at all connected to the enactment of ACA.

If the current administration is, indeed, concerned with how its healthcare programs are performing, Blase suggests, its review of ACA would lead to its repeal. Why? Because ACA is actually a negative pull on the economy.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, ACA will actually shrink the labor market in America. If the congressional projection is correct, two million full-time jobs will be lost due to ACA alone.

Regulations Inhibit Growth, Time to Take The Negative Consequences Seriously

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

Regulations Inhibit Growth, Time to Take The Negative Consequences Seriously

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

Regulations are good, some say. They keep evil elements from hurting consumers. But are regulations doing more harm than good?

By definition, regulations are laws that seek to produce pre-designed outcomes. The way they operate is by changing individuals’ behavior. As federal regulations grow, the number of restrictions on individual consumers and businesses also grow. Over time, the increased number of restrictions may completely close the paths to innovation. Who suffers? Both the consumer and the job seeker.

Regulations

According to a 2013 study, the American regulatory system is so crowded and chaotic that economic growth has slowed by about 2 percent per year between 1949 and 2005. While that doesn’t sound as bad as you might have expected, the real impact of the US regulatory system is hard to assess given the lack of a working process that helps to review regulations and weed out what’s obsolete and harmful. Without a system that helps us identify the issues with the regulations put in place, there’s no way to determine how bad these regulations really are.

While it’s hard to assess the cost of regulation now, earlier studies have at least been able to find that the American regulatory environment has been very bad for growth and very good in stifling innovation and keeping entrepreneurs from sprouting from sea to shining sea.

Despite several administrations’ efforts to modify or cut regulations that simply don’t work, all attempts were in vain.

In order to achieve success, future administrations should not take part in the same failed attempts. According to research carried out by the Mercatus Center, the US government should embrace a series of government reforms in order to remove obstacles to economic growth in America instead.

Based on the success of the Dutch Administrative Burden Reduction Programme and the Base Realignment and Closure Commission’s efforts, the Mercatus team concluded that the American government should begin by promoting an independent review of the regulatory system in place so the burden is assessed promptly and effectively.

But the key to success in this case is true independence.

An independent look into what’s stifling innovation must not be effected by crony influences, since once the influence of particular groups or stakeholders are taken into account, review teams will have a hard time assessing what works and doesn’t. Instead, those tasked with the chore of reviewing regulations should simply focus on how effective regulations have been since they were implemented.

While other steps should also be taken if the US government is serious about trimming the burden of regulations, guaranteed independence in the review process is the most important aspect of successful reforms. If future administrations are serious about growing the economy and helping America prosper, they should prioritize this type of reform. Why? Because removing roadblocks promote the growth of businesses, giving Americans the jobs they so desperately need to live their own version of the American dream.

When You Listen

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

When You Listen

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

Markets, supply and demand, and general economic principles are not common knowledge. Those topics were barely mentioned in my single semester of economics in high school.

So, why do we fight so hard to teach them when we converse (or debate, yell and scream) about the issues in politics today?

Previously, we discussed how important listening is in our conversations with “libertarians in waiting” — those we are talking about libertarian ideas in a persuasive manner.

Recently, I discussed Uber’s “Surge Pricing” with my Uber driver. He talked about how much he despises “price gouging,” how many complaints he gets about it, and how it isn’t fair.

Because we engaged in conversation early in the ride, I know that his family owns a hotel. The conversation evolved to his experiences as a driver and came to the Surge Pricing issue.

At this point, we could “defend” the concept we know as scarcity and tried to convey an economic message against his “price gouging” view. How effective would that be?

Instead of trying to teach a strictly economic lesson, let’s focus on the fairness of the situation and the best outcomes for all involved.

So, rather than talk about scarcity, we discussed how fair it is to put a cap on prices in an emergency situation (akin to the anti-price gouging laws in many states). We talked about the hotel business and discussed what would happen if a room rate were capped at $100 per room per night vs. letting the market find a price point of $200 (or more) per room per night.

Here’s my example: If the Ventura family is escaping a natural disaster and comes upon a hotel that hasn’t raised prices, for the sake of comfort, they might take two rooms (one for the adults and one for the children) at the hotel if two are available at that price. That means “No Vacancy” for the travelers behind them. The Thomas family, who left an hour after the Venturas, has to continue on to another hotel or maybe even another town, or they might choose to sleep in their car.

no vacancy - listenIf the hotel operator instead raised the prices as his stock depletes and charges $200 per room per night, the Venturas would be more likely to squeeze together into a single room, leaving a room available for the tired Thomas family, who no longer has to search for a hotel room.

After planting that seed, we discussed the recent controversy about the Surge Pricing by Uber on New Year’s Eve.

I asked him if he was done partying at 1 AM and ready to go home, would he prefer to know that he could get his ride with Uber quickly, but for a higher than normal price, or hail a ride via the service if it can’t pay anything additional to the drivers for the holiday and heavier than normal traffic on a Thursday night. There’s no longer an incentive (higher than normal fares) for new drivers to come out to drive, so the wait might be akin to that of a cab company with a similar problem of a fixed number of drivers. In Indianapolis, I heard about New Year’s Eve revelers waiting nearly 3 hours for a taxi.

When you need a ride NOW, is it fair to have to wait hours, when you could pay more to get one in 5 minutes? Is it fair to the drivers to get paid the same rate for a holiday and much heavier than normal traffic?

When you listen. you get an opportunity to tell a story that someone else can easily grasp with no economic education, by focusing your comments on their concerns.

So, You Won This Week’s Powerball…

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

So, You Won This Week’s Powerball…

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

We all went to Chino Hills, California to purchase a Powerball ticket this week, right?

Powerball cartoonNow, it’s time to discuss the realities of having won. Assuming you chose the cash option, you’ll “earn” $930 million dollars. The IRS gets 25% off the top, before the money hits your hands, with another 14.6% due at tax time. Surprisingly, California has a personal income tax exemption for lottery winnings, stemming from a law passed in 1984.

How are you going to spend the remaining $561.72 million dollars?

Obviously, you’ll want to ensure that your family is comfortable for the rest of their lives. Let’s assume you also want to make a positive impact on the world around you. This is a path taken by many entrepreneurial philanthropists like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.

Let’s say that you have $200 million dollars for your philanthropy. How can you make the best use of those dollars?

Option 1: Write a check $568.28 million ($200 million beyond your “tax liability”) already taken by the bureaucrats in Washington DC to add to the Treasury to be doled out as they see fit.

Option 2: Research to find 200 charities and organizations that have similar goals that will make $1 million go a long way toward their mission.

Option 2, right?

When discussing the coercion of government to have you spend money on things you may not want to fund, this is a great exercise with those skeptical of libertarian ideas. Almost EVERYONE picks Option 2, regardless of political affiliation.

That’s because the waste and inefficiency associated with government is known far and wide.

That knowledge is another opening to build rapport to share libertarian philosophy with those who already have some libertarian leanings without even realizing it.

Supreme Court Ignores Privacy Group’s Request to Disclose DHS’s Cellphone Shutdown Policy

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

Supreme Court Ignores Privacy Group’s Request to Disclose DHS’s Cellphone Shutdown Policy

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

Do you think the Department of Homeland Security keeps us safe? What about the Supreme Court? Do you believe it upholds the Constitution as it should?

Recently, a petition from the Electronic Privacy Information Center demanding the DHS to release its plan to close mobile phone services in the wake of disasters was set aside by the Supreme Court.

With the snub, the highest court of the land refused to look at the federal appeals court’s May ruling that upholds the secrecy surrounding DHS’s plan. If the ruling remains in place, DHS officers are not required to disclose details concerning Standard Operating Procedure 303, which outlines the guidelines that private and commercial wireless networks are required to follow during the service shutdown and restoration processes in the event of what the DHS describes as a “national crisis.”

Large Man Looking At Co-Worker With A Magnifying Glass

The appeals court used the Freedom of Information Act to keep the DHS from disclosing the plan in May, claiming that allowing details from SPP 303 to become public would put the safety of Americans at risk.

The factor that prompted the privacy group to act involved a full shutdown of cellphone service in the San Francisco Bay Area subway system during what EPIC calls a peaceful protest back in 2011. At the time, EPIC demanded DHS to divulge the contents of SOP 303, but the agency refused. Later, the case was taken to a district court in Washington, D.C., where the judge ruled in favor of the privacy group. Soon after, the federal appeals court overturned the district court’s ruling, claiming the SOP 303 is a “voluntary process” designed to protect Americans during “critical emergencies such as the threat of radio-activated improvised explosive devices.”

According to the heavily redacted version of the shutdown policy obtained by EPIC, federal, state, and local law enforcement officials have access to the powers granted by SOP 303. Despite the overreach and the policy’s restrictions on individuals’ communication devices without proper warning, document details are not accessible to Americans.

If a peaceful protest is enough of a reason to shut down the phone service of countless individuals who may have not even been part of the incident, privacy groups like EPIC want to make sure the DHS opens SOP 303′s contents for discussion.

By infringing the individual’s right to privacy without due process, the DHS is acting unconstitutionally, despite the Supreme Court’s decision to ignore EPIC’s petition.

If the American people are not made aware of the Supreme Court’s decision to ignore privacy concerns and government abuse, agencies like DHS will continue to abuse its powers.

Trashing the restrictions on government imposed by the US Constitution will not make us safe.

According to the Cato Institute, DHS is responsible for increasing bureaucracy while not improving the efficacy of Department of Homeland Security’s programs. In a perfect world, the DHS’s inefficiency alone would be enough to have it slashed.

As taxpayers foot the bill, agencies like the DHS work relentlessly to keep Americans from having access to policies that impact them directly. If privacy groups like EPIC are not able to push the Supreme Court to rule on this matter, what are other ways we should go about demanding our privacy is fully restored?

What About this Administrations’ Militaristic Policies and their Victims?

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

What About this Administrations’ Militaristic Policies and their Victims?

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

During most of the day Tuesday, the day President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union Address, the Internet went ablaze with the White House’s announcements concerning empty gallery seats.

According to the White House, one seat will remain vacant during the entire address “for the victims of gun violence who no longer have a voice.” But to author James Bovard, seats should be left vacant to remind the public of the victims of the president’s militarism instead.

doctors without borders hospital bombed

The Washington Post keeps a database of incidents involving police’s deadly use of force. According to its findings, 986 people were killed in 2015 alone during encounters with police officers. While the president has been pushing for tougher, more restrictive gun control measures to curb gun violence in America, the US Justice Department has been supporting officers every time the Supreme Court agrees to hear an excessive-force case.

Recently, Bovard noted, Attorney General Loretta Lynch claimed that federally-funded police agencies should keep the number of people killed in encounters with the police under wraps.

And despite the efforts of several US states willing to put an end to the drug war at home, Obama’s policy in Mexico continues to fuel the drug war in the neighboring country, increasing the number of victims abroad.

But this administrations’ militarism is not only responsible for death and destruction in the American continent.

To Bovard, a few seats should also stay vacant to remind us of the 30 French medical staff, patients, and other victims of the US attack against a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan.

To Bovard, the twelve Yemenis killed during a US drone strike while celebrating nuptials on December 12, 2013 shouldn’t be ignored. But neither should the 30 people splattered to death during a 2012 drone strike in Afghanistan.

Prior to the deadly incident, a group of Taliban insurgents reportedly entered a house where a family was holding a wedding ceremony. As Afghan and American forces surrounded the house, firing broke out. As both sides struggled, the 18 members of a single extended family feared for their safety.

A few moments after US and Afghan troops were wounded in the fight, a jet was called to help, dropping a 500-pound bomb on the house.

At least nine of the innocent victims were children.

Other victims Bovard urges the White House to recognize include the four Americans killed in the 2012 Benghazi attack and the hundreds, or perhaps even thousands of Libyans who lost their lives during the civil war triggered by Hillary Clinton and Obama’s bombing campaign against Moammar Gadhafi.

Another seat should also remain vacant in the name of the 16-year-old Abdulrahman Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who was killed in yet another US drone strike under this administration.

Due to the White Houses’ militaristic policies here and abroad, people are losing their lives.

Unnecessary conflicts produced by bad policies should require more attention not only because they are killing people, but because of the Obama administrations’ hypocritical stances show they have never been serious about living up to the expectations raised during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Something tells me the next Commander in Chief will have to tackle the same issues. Unsuccessfully, of course, since every single US president appears to focus on implementing the same bad policies.

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