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Sure… That’ll Fix It!

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

Sure… That’ll Fix It!

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

As summer travel kicked off, the news media reminded us of long security lines at TSA checkpoints at airports throughout the country. For some, this was actual news.

After a whirlwind of coverage, the Transportation Security Administration revealed that WE are the reason for longer lines at airports. Apparently, the summer travel season and a lack of screeners (both of which are foreseeable), along with our inability to meet their projections for Pre-Check applications are the reason we stand in longer lines this summer.

This news, combined with their recent failure rate of 95 percent in the Homeland Security Inspector General’s office testing of their procedures and staff led to the announcement that the head of security operations at the Transportation Security Administration has been replaced.

While this replacement may briefly satisfy the masses looking for blame this summer, it does not address the underlying issues with TSA.

Kelly Hoggan’s removal from his post, is a quick, “DO SOMETHING!” measure to show action in the midst of congressional hearings and increased scrutiny for the agency. It doesn’t even address accountability, as Hoggan is simply being reassigned.

fixAs with so many “reforms” offered by politicians and bureaucrats to address the issues of the day, removing Mr. Hoggan from his post is simply a band-aid on the many problems with the agency.

As my friend Lawrence Reed at The Foundation for Economic Education is quoted as saying, “Have you ever noticed how statists are constantly ‘reforming’ their own handiwork? Education reform. Health-care reform. Welfare reform. Tax reform. The very fact they’re always busy ‘reforming’ is an implicit admission that they didn’t get it right the first 50 times.”

As with many other aspects of government and central planning, there is no desire to fix the actual problems. Rather, band-aids and half-hearted efforts rule the day. Even in the face of complete failure, simply reassigning the head of TSA security after rewarding him with lavish bonuses just two years ago passes for a satisfactory response.

Can you imagine how this would play in the real world? What would happen if the department you ran screwed up 19 out of 20 times? Unless you’re an inventor, your pink slip would have already been served.

The response in the world of the obese government central planning is to blame those using the service for not meeting expectations and offer another reform.

I’m shocked. You?

Pennsylvania School Bus Waste Story Nothing New

in Economic Liberty, Education, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Taxes by Advocates HQ Comments are off

Pennsylvania School Bus Waste Story Nothing New

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

Another day, another story of government waste.

School BusEach year, Watchdog.org reports, Pennsylvania school districts spend over $54 million of taxpayer money on transportation services provided by contractors who do not have to compete for exclusive contracts with the state and local education agencies. Due to the state’s lack of rules regarding competitive bids, many are calling for an audit and a change of rules.

But would opening up the districts to a competitive bidding process alone do the trick?

According to late free market economist Milton Friedman, there are at least 4 ways money can be spent. “You can spend your own money” on things and services you consider important to yourself, trying to “get the most for your money.” You may also spend your money on somebody else, forcing yourself to look for something that will be meaningful or useful to the recipient while remaining mindful “about the cost.” Or you can either spend somebody else’s money on yourself or others.

According to Friedman, when you spend money earned by somebody else on other people, you’re not “concerned about how much it is,” and that, he concluded, is what government does.

While the waste promoted by Pennsylvania school districts is nothing unheard of, media outlets seldom discuss the lack of incentives in keeping a budget among government officials, whether they are local, state, or federal employees.

If bureaucrats are not concerned about the source of resources, they won’t be concerned with how much they spend. Opening the state’s districts to a competitive process might be of help, but it still won’t solve the government’s money spending problem.

In an article for the Mises Institute, Ryan McMaken makes the case that government is never able to allocate tax money efficiently.

He justifies his argument by claiming that once money is taken from an owner through taxation, the coercive nature of the transaction keeps those allocating it from learning just how valuable roads, law enforcement, and even public education truly are to those paying for them. He also argues that, when government spending is not limited by tax revenues alone, government officials have an endless source of revenue, either in the form of cheap money coming from a central bank or a federal government grant. And that alone is enough incentive to keep government employees from acting responsibly.

Without a free and unrestricted market in business transactions between service providers and consumers, transactions are imposed by the government, not sought after by the individual. Therefore, government cannot assess just how much those services are worth if they do not have a way to gauge demand.

If lawmakers and officials want what’s best for Pennsylvania’s children and their taxpaying parents, the only way to give them what they need—and want—is to remove perverse incentives from the equation, allowing parents to act on their ability to choose what’s best, and most valuable, to their children.

US ‘Fights al Qaeda’ in Yemen, But Refuses to Do the Same in Syria

in Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, Middle East, Military, National Defense, News You Can Use, War by Advocates HQ Comments are off

US ‘Fights al Qaeda’ in Yemen, But Refuses to Do the Same in Syria

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

Earlier this month, the Pentagon acknowledged sending American troops to Yemen for the first time since the beginning of the Yemeni civil war. According to Navy spokesman Captain Jeff Davis, a “very small number” of American military personnel has joined Yemeni and Arab coalition forces to “release” the port city of Mukalla from the hands of Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

MarineBut while the US military justifies this move with claims that having “a terrorist organization in charge of a port city” in a foreign land is not “of great interest to us,” it continues to refuse to go along Russia’s call to join them in an air strike campaign against al Qaeda’s Nusra Front militants in Syria.

According to Captain Davis, the United States does “not collaborate or coordinate with the Russians on any operations in Syria,” but are willing to not only provide weaponry and intelligence to Saudi Arabia, but also send in troops to help the oil rich kingdom as well as the United Arab Emirates carry out one of the most disastrous military campaigns in the Middle East in recent history.

In March of 2015, the Saudi Arabia, UAE coalition launched a military campaign attacking the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, a group that had taken control over portions of the country. As the country became even more deeply embattled by war, a report from UNICEF claims, an estimated 14.1 million people, including about 7 million children, were left in need of health assistance. The Saudi Arabia-led blockade in the region has been tied to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the region, but the United States seems oblivious of the consequences of its involvement.

While the US military justifies its involvement by claiming to be fighting al Qaeda in the region, the current administration showed no signs of regret for having had armed rebel groups in Syria that pledged allegiance to al Qaeda in the past.

While the current administration seems out of step with the realities of the Middle East’s embattled nations and the taxpayers who foot the bill of its destructive campaigns abroad, it continues to claim to be fighting a war on terror while aiding groups responsible for mass hunger and deaths.

As Congress works on passing legislation that would enable the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to sue Saudi Arabia, one question is left unanswered: Will the victims of US-led and backed military campaigns abroad ever be able to sue the United States officials who have led preemptive and intrusive campaigns abroad in the name of homelands security?

I think you know the answer to that question.

How would the NC restroom law be handled in a libertarian society?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Business and Economy, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, Property Rights by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

How would the NC restroom law be handled in a libertarian society?

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

Question:

Considering the recent flap regarding the restroom law passed in North Carolina (and being considered elsewhere), how would this be handled in a libertarian society?

restroom Answer:

In a libertarian society, most—if not all—bathrooms would be privately owned, since government would be very limited. Owners could decide who could use them and who could not.

If some business owners decided to discriminate on the basis of color, gender, or religion, their competitors would likely advertise their willingness to serve everyone, gaining the loyalty of the groups discriminated against. Profits would go up for those who were willing to serve all, while they’d go down for those who discriminated. Business owners would have to choose between their pocketbooks and their prejudices. Historically, most choose their pocketbook.

Indeed, segregation became law in the post-Civil War south precisely because businesses were serving the ex-slaves to an extent that caused resentment. Business owners who wanted to discriminate didn’t like losing their profits to their more open-minded competition. They, along with whites who wanted separate facilities, lobbied government to force businesses to segregate their facilities.

A government strong enough to ban discrimination is powerful enough to implement it as well. Those who wish to discriminate and those who don’t will lobby against each other for control. When private service providers decide who can and can’t use their facilities, people vote with their dollars to support the businesses that express their own viewpoint. No lobbying is necessary!

FBI Refuses to Disclose Details on Software Security Flaw; What Does the Gov’t Have to Hide?

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FBI Refuses to Disclose Details on Software Security Flaw; What Does the Gov’t Have to Hide?

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

The fight ignited by Apple continues, as the feud between the tech industry and the US government warms up because Mozilla, the software company behind the popular browser Firefox, is now pressing the feds to disclose information pertaining to a potential security flaw.

FBIMozilla filed a motion with the US district court requesting information on potential Firefox vulnerabilities that could expose users and their data to major privacy infringement risks. The info was unearthed during a criminal investigation carried out by the FBI in which officials hacked into a Dark Web child pornography website in February 2015. During some time, the website was run by FBI officers from inside of a government facility in Virginia. But once the investigation was finalized, vulnerabilities that allowed for this hack were kept secret.

According to Mozilla, if the issues unearthed aren’t addressed by the tech companies, users’ privacy could be under attack. Since the Tor Browser is “built on the same base code as the open-source Firefox browser,” Mozilla believes the vulnerabilities should be shared with the group.

In Mozilla’s motion, the group claims that the government has “refused to tell Mozilla whether the vulnerability at issue in this case involves a Mozilla product,” prompting the company to inquire further in order to protect its users.

The fact the government used an exploit that hasn’t been unveiled makes government officials more likely to use the same artifice to “compromise users and systems running the browser,” a reality Mozilla seems to refuse to accept. According to Mozilla Corporation’s chief legal and business officer Denelle Dixon-Thayer, even the “judge in this case ordered the government to disclose the vulnerability to the defense team but not to any of the entities that could actually fix the vulnerability.” To the company, the judge’s decision makes no sense “because it doesn’t allow the vulnerability to be fixed before it is more widely disclosed.”

But as Tech Dirt has reported, once the judge ordered the FBI to turn over information on the hacking tool to the defense team, the feds refused. Instead of standing his ground, Judge Robert J. Bryan reversed course, allowing the FBI to keep the information under wraps.

According to Motherboard, the judge met with the government in order to learn more about the FBI’s reasoning in this case after the ruling, which prompted his decision to reverse his position. While Bryan “still thinks the defense has a reason to see that code,” he cannot ensure this will actually happen.

Tech Dirt believes there’s “a 0% chance of the FBI voluntarily turning this information over to the defense,” but Mozilla is pressing on anyway. Whether the FBI will be successful in keeping this information from the public is a matter of time.

What’s left to ask is: Why is the FBI so invested in keeping important information on data security from those who develop software that protect us from hackers?

City Uses Pot Taxes to Help the Homeless

in Business and Economy, Drugs, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty, Taxes by Advocates HQ Comments are off

City Uses Pot Taxes to Help the Homeless

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

Drug legalization continues to be an important topic. And as local governments look to marijuana taxes as a reliable way to boost their revenue, more Americans now see a greater number of practical reasons to lobby their states to liberate access to cannabis and other prohibited substances.

HomelessIn Colorado, where sales and consumption of recreational marijuana is legal, legalization of pot helped to boost the economy, injecting about $2 million into the local economy during the first month of legalization alone. Over time, the flood of cash coming from pot sales also helped the state’s education system. Now, the Colorado city of Aurora is also putting the legal cannabis money to what many believe to be a top priority project.

According to the Huffington Post, Aurora has recently announced that it will be allocating $1.5 million in recreational marijuana tax revenue for programs that focus on the city’s homeless population.

Due to this program, a local nonprofit group known as the Colfax Community Network should receive $200,000 from this special fund, while other organizations will be provided with vans to be used for homeless outreach. All paid by taxes tied to marijuana sales.

Toward the end of the year, the city of Aurora is projected to raise $5.4 million in marijuana tax revenue, a figure that could prompt legislators across the country to take the idea of the legalization of recreational marijuana seriously.

But what about other recreational drugs?

In March of 2016, a group of 22 top medical experts called for the decriminalization of all nonviolent drug use and possession. According to the group of doctors brought together by Johns Hopkins University and The Lancet, the global war on drugs was and still is a failure. Instead of maintaining these failed policies in place, these experts urged countries to “move gradually toward regulated drug markets and apply the scientific method to their assessment.”

Mentioning torture, abuse, and a dramatic downward change in life expectancy in Mexico since the country’s government decided to militarize its response to the drug trade in 2006, these doctors also cited use of incarceration as a drug control measure, which has destroyed the lives of many nonviolent drug users. Resorting to incarceration as opposed to treatment, these experts concluded, is the “biggest contribution” to the HIV and Hepatitis C epidemics among drug users.

When discussing domestic policy, the same group also concluded that prohibitionist laws in the United States have contributed to “stark racial disparities” when it comes to drug law enforcement.

While the debate surrounding drug use and commerce may naturally lead to a taxation debate, current laws keeping consumers from having access to their drug of choice continue to hurt more than help. Especially in poor areas of the country.

As libertarians all know, the free trade of goods and services is all consumers need to have access to so they may prosper and self-regulate, but if the pot taxation argument helps us bring more drug warriors to our side, we shouldn’t be ashamed of using it.

The damage done by the drug war calls for a drastic change.

Bloomberg Reports: The Gold Standard Is Popular Again

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Bloomberg Reports: The Gold Standard Is Popular Again

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

Bloomberg has published an article recently discussing the gold standard, its critics, and its backers. And according to the media company’s assessment, “one of the oldest ideas about money” appears to be finally making a comeback.

GoldAssociating the idea of sound money to a “fringe movement,” mainstream economists and former White House officials are quoted in the article as saying that while they do not like the idea of establishing the gold standard, that’s what “we’ll increasingly talk about” in the future.

According to Tony Fratto, who worked as a Treasury and White House official during the George W. Bush administration, the gold standard “let to some of the worst economic downturns and bouts of deflation in history.”

But the kind of deflation he is talking about isn’t a bad thing.

When discussing economics, many believe that both deflation and inflation are all about the drop and rise in prices. Once you look into the definition of these terms, you’re given an opportunity to understand why Fratto is wrong.

When “Austrian economists talk about inflation or deflation,” the Executive Director at the Carl Menger Center for the Study of Money and Banking Paul-Martin Foss once wrote, “they mean an increase or decrease in the money supply.” Therefore deflation, which is a contraction of money supply is, in fact, dangerous. But when mainstream economics use the term, they use it in reference to a fall in prices, not in money supply.

So what Fratto appears to be particularly afraid of isn’t the contraction in supply of cash, but a fall in prices.

He must really hate competition!

As Foss explained in another article, “the gold standard did not fall away because it was inefficient or counterproductive; it was actively destroyed by governments which did not want to continue to be bound by its strictures.” I

f the gold standard is in place, governments are restricted, and their creative methods of expanding power and reach are, as a result, also restricted. What brought the gold standard to an end wasn’t a drop in prices. Instead, governments sought more control and influence. Getting rid of the gold standard gave them power over the currency and over those who use it.

While the Bloomberg piece claims the idea of restoring the gold standard “is almost inconceivable,” the monetary theory’s growing popularity may be a sign that times are, indeed, changing. Take Russia and China for instance. While neither one of those nations are currently serious about instating the gold standard, they are leading the central bank gold buying spree.

As the price of gold increases, more and more individuals begin to wonder whether they too should get into the practice, exchanging failed, inflated, and worthless fiat currency for a commodity whose value has stood the test of time.

Perhaps Bloomberg’s Michelle Jamrisko is right and the gold standard is, indeed, making a comeback. We just hope it sticks this time.

Memes Are Today’s Pamphlets

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

Memes Are Today’s Pamphlets

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

With each passing day, it seems that attention spans get shorter. As libertarians trying to win hearts and minds, knowing our audience’s preferences is an important part of planning and marketing our message.

There are no shortage of libertarian books, many of which you can find available for sale here, to spread the libertarian philosophy and message. For many people just beginning to look at our philosophy, a book may be too large of a commitment right away.

As the American Revolution began, pamphleteers like James Otis, Stephen Hopkins, and John Dickinson used that medium to quickly and cheaply get their positions on taxation to the masses, who appreciated the brevity and style. One of the most famous pamphlets of the era was Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. Paine authored and distributed one of the strongest and most effective arguments for independence, and it was read widely throughout the colonies.

This trend continued as the Constitution debate raged, with Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay writing 85 essays distributed in this format to defend their views for its adoption, while Richard Henry Lee, Samuel Bryan, Robert Yates and others debated the other side. The authorship of the latter essays remains debated today, yet these men are currently seen as the most likely writers, along with a few others.

As media grew with innovation, radio helped reach an even wider audience in a shorter amount of time, with television surpassing it as a medium for sharing ideas with the masses. These formats offered a variety of options to market products and ideas, often allowing producers to reach the critical mass necessary for success.

Today, we see the internet shaping innovation, especially with social media. Facebook is the largest destination on the Web, besting Google’s sites and YouTube (also owned by Google) by wider margins every day.

While you and I may appreciate a wall of text filled with information and links to the studies behind the facts and figures within it, that format may not sway others. What I have found to be all the rage on social media as an engaging post is a witty combination of words and images to get a point across. They are easily shareable and can convey a message in an easily digestible format for mass consumption.

Here are some of the more popular internet memes we’ve shared on our Facebook page:drivers license meme government too big memefree markets meme

While we could have written treatises outlining the infringements of licensing on our liberties, the litany of ways government intrudes into our lives, and the effectiveness of free markets over central planning, we opted to speak to our audience with memes.

When are you going to start using them to share your libertarian thoughts?

A Rough Week for Free Speech – Fraternity Edition

in First Amendment, Freedom On Campus, Liberator Online by Advocates HQ Comments are off

A Rough Week for Free Speech – Fraternity Edition

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

It’s been a rough few weeks for free speech on college campuses with regard to Greek Life. In two separate instances at Illinois colleges, fraternities came under fire for…hurting feelings.

PaintMembers of the Millikan University chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon will no longer be allowed to wear face and body paint at recruitment events according to Nicki Rowlett, Assistant Director of Inclusion and Student Engagement.

Face paint is “cultural appropriation,” according to a student complaint last year.

In her email to the TKE president, Rowlett states:

“Members of [Tau Kappa Epsilon] are prohibited from wearing black and red paint, wigs/and or clothing items that mimic or depict an ethnicity or culture. Failure to comply with the expectation will result in immediate removal from the event, and additional student conduct sanctions.”

At Northwestern University, fraternities apologized for hanging anti-sexual assault banners on their houses after feminists on campus got offended.

Northwestern’s Interfraternity Council (IFC) soon “faced criticism over the banners,” with some students saying they were “in poor taste due to the pervasiveness of sexual assault in fraternities,” while others argued that simply putting up banners was not enough to stop sexual assault and doing so was offensive.

Banners featuring statements like, “This is everyone’s problem” and “(fraternity name) supports survivors,” had been hung on the houses for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which was in April. Students were so upset with these banners that the IFC issued a public apology:

“We recognize now how this campaign may have been emotionally triggering for survivors, and we want to make a deep, genuine apology for anyone that may have been affected,” the board said in the statement. “This was not our intent, but it is our fault for not being cognizant enough and not considering how it might affect others in our community.”

Because of these criticisms, the IFC announced plans to create a four-year sexual assault education program.

Both universities involved are private and should do what they want, of course. But, where will the “harsh consequences for feelings sake,” end?

No one at Millikan owns the colors blue, red, or black. And the only “appropriation” they were doing was of themselves – it’s the fraternity’s tradition. Will administrators start banning face paint at school sporting events, pep rallies, and activity fairs?

And why are students at Northwestern so upset about fraternities showing their support for victims of sexual assault during Sexual Assault Awareness Month?

Outraged students claim that these banners were in poor taste, but according to the Northwestern Annual Security Report, there were only three rapes reported on the Evanston campus in 2014. (And the report doesn’t say if those crimes were committed by fraternity members or not.)

Regardless of a student’s’ affiliation in Greek Life or not, ALL students are done a disservice when administrators and others create these nonsensical consequences when they are faced with forms of speech they don’t like.

Hamilton: An American Musical – A New Audience

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

Hamilton: An American Musical – A New Audience

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

In August 2015, Hamilton: An American Musical took Broadway by storm just six months after its off-Broadway debut. The show continues to perform to sold out crowds at the Richard Rogers Theatre, with no tickets currently available outside of “lottery” seats and ticket re-sellers. In addition to its commercial successes, Hamilton received 16 nominations for the upcoming Tony Awards, including a nomination for Best Musical.

Cast members appear frequently on late night talk shows, pieces from the show have been performed at the White House, and other aspects of the show cross over into popular culture like few, if any, musicals before it. The show’s writer and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, even appeared on Amy Schumer’s show on Comedy Central as Schumer parodied the show’s style for a sketch.

Since its introduction to Spotify, my phone and computer have played little else. In fact, it’s playing as I write this.

A unique blend of hip hop with musical theatre story-telling broadens the show’s audience beyond those who traditionally visit Broadway. As the popular culture appeal grows, the show exposes an entirely new audience to a story telling America’s founding and several of that period’s prominent figures.

If they take an interest in the Founders and America’s founding, they, like me, will take a closer look at the Founders and their roles. Personally, I am fascinated by the Hamilton-Burr relationship that concludes with Hamilton’s death following the duel in Weehawken, New Jersey.

As we discussed a few months ago about Netflix’s series Making a Murderer, opportunities like this are more frequent these days as libertarianism permeates popular culture.

Broadway has rarely tread here, aside from 1776, which had the exact effect discussed above on this aspiring historian. Hamilton has the potential to pique the interest of many theatre-goers, especially after the Tonys and as it begins a tour this September in Chicago, followed by San Francisco and Los Angeles next year.

For some, books are the path to libertarian philosophy. For others, South Park leads them. In this case, Broadway may be the catalyst that changes some hearts and minds. The biography that Miranda used as the basis for the musical is a best seller on Amazon.

Will you be there to help shepherd them?

Vermont Legislature Sends Sweeping Privacy Bill to Governor’s Desk

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

Vermont Legislature Sends Sweeping Privacy Bill to Governor’s Desk

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

In Vermont, legislators are beginning to fight the federal government’s power grab by passing legislation that would hinder federal surveillance programs.

DronesIf the Tenth Amendment Center is correct, the activism sprung from the growing anti-surveillance spirit sparked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden may have helped to push the Vermont legislature to pass a bill that would boost the state’s privacy protections in the state.

As it now stands, the bill’s text bans the warrantless use of stingray technology to track phone location, restricts the police’s use of surveillance drones, and keeps law enforcement from having warrantless access to user data from service providers.

Senate Bill 155, which was filed in December by Sens. Tim Ashe, Joe Benning, and Dick Sears originally addressed the state’s law enforcement’s use of drones by stipulating certain restrictions concerning the law enforcement’s data sharing and storage policies gathered through the use of Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) technologies. While in review, however, both the Senate and the House added amendments to S.155, limiting warrantless collection of electronic data and warrantless use of stingray devices. With the bill as it now is written, the ALPR law in the state could change significantly.

According to TAC’s Mike Maharrey, stingray programs are vastly funded by the US federal government, giving state and local law enforcement agencies extra incentives to make use of the intrusive technology, considering states don’t have to squeeze any extra funding to cover the use of these systems locally. But for agencies to have access to the technologies, the federal government requires agencies to sign non-disclosure agreements. As a result, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and even judges are kept out of the loop.

A recent trial demonstrated how these non-disclosure agreements hurt investigations.

According to an article on the Baltimore Sun, Detective Emmanuel Cabreja refused to answer questions when pressed to give information on the device used during the investigation. After the local detective cited a non-disclosure agreement, the judge threatened to hold him in contempt if the information wasn’t unveiled. Instead of caving in, prosecutors withdrew the evidence, which is what the feds instruct prosecutors to do in similar cases.

According to privacysos.org, the FBI often allows criminals to go unpunished rather than having to face “a possible scenario where a defendant brings a Fourth Amendment challenge to warrantless stingray spying.”

While the federal government allows states to make use of these technologies under the guise of the war on terror, the technology is used primarily for routine criminal investigations, a fact that has been revealed by the Tacoma Police Department.

Maharrey argues that the federal government’s network of drones, which are funded by the American taxpayer, is increasingly cornering innocent individuals, infringing on their right to privacy, which is guaranteed by the US Constitution. With pieces of legislation like S.155, states may stand a chance at fighting the federal government’s overreach.

Both chambers have passed S.155, and the bill now awaits to be sent to the governor’s desk. ​

Social Security Administration Continues With Its Tradition of Punishing Whistleblowers

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Social Security Administration Continues With Its Tradition of Punishing Whistleblowers

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

Recently, Watchdog.org published a report claiming that Ronald Klym, a long-time federal employee is paying a hefty price for blowing the whistle on the waste and abuse taking place in the Social Security Administration.

SSAAfter blowing the whistle to the media, Klym was put on administrative leave as he was forced out of the Milwaukee building he worked for years.

Klym who had been with the SSA for 16 years, was accused of violating the public trust by discussing issues within the administration with the press. But during the years he has been working for administrative judges who decide Social Security disability benefits cases, he started paying attention to what Daily Caller calls serious management problems within SSA. Among some of the issues raised by Klym, Daily Caller highlights some of the problems with the Milwaukee SSA office regularly transferring claims for disability benefits from its original offices to other SSA addresses around the country in order to make it look like the local administration was reducing the backlog. This move, Klym contends, made Milwaukee’s SSA office appear to be making major progress. While Klym tried to discuss some of these problems with his legislators for years, nothing was done to put an end to the abuse, forcing him to go to the media.

As Klym waits to learn more about his future with the government agency, others who, like Klym, have spent years in SSA’s bureaucratic hell attempting to make waste and abuse within government agencies public share their personal stories of censorship and persecution.

Sarah Carver, a former senior case technician at the Huntington, West Virginia Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, claims she now suffers the consequences of her actions by having to deal with the ostracism and trauma related to how the agency penalized her for reporting on waste and fraud within the system.

Along with whistleblower and colleague Jennifer Griffith, Carver stood up to the SSA’s pressure.

After reporting on corruption problems within the federal agency that later led to the indictment of an administrative law judge, a psychologist, and an attorney over their participation in a scheme to defraud taxpayers of $600 million, Griffith paid the price for speaking out.

During an entire year after attempting to get attention to her reports, Griffith claims to have been placed in “solitary confinement” within her own office. Instead of being allowed to do her job, Griffith was put in “a room that had no windows, and there were no other coworkers.” According to the whistleblower, she wasn’t able to even take part in staff meetings.

What Watchdog.org claims is that the SSA has a history of punishing whistleblowers who see abuse, fraud, and corruption and speak out.

As another governmental agency encourages individuals to step up and alert potential security problems to the authority, government workers who put the concerns of taxpayers first are punished.

As NSA whistleblower famously pointed out: If the whisteblower is a traitor, who are they betraying? Not the American people.

What Mainstream News Sources Get Wrong About Economic Recovery

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

What Mainstream News Sources Get Wrong About Economic Recovery

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

The press, author and philosopher Edmund Burke once argued during a parliamentary debate in 1787, is the “Fourth State,” a “societal force” whose powerful influence makes it the perfect tool of the powerful men. All too often, you see this powerful tool being used to shift the blame from government’s intrusive, unproductive policies to taxpayers, in an attempt to make the idea that government always acts with our best interest in mind popular again.

WaPoIn a recent Washington Post article, Robert J. Samuelson takes American consumers to task for not allowing President Barack Obama administration’s economic recovery plan to work. A comment Zero Hedge’s sassy Tyler Durden does not seem to be very happy about.

In a piece exposing the problems with Samuelson’s article, Zero Hedge claims that Washington Post, or what the author calls an “administration mouthpiece,” goes to the extreme of indirectly accusing Americans of being “stingy” when Samuelson argues that the only drag on the economy is “us.”

Since Americans refuse to go out and buy more stuff, WaPo’s Samuelson claims, “American consumers aren’t what they used to be … and that helps explain the plodding economic recovery.”

But according to Zero Hedge’s author, America’s current economic issues may be traced back to other culprits, such as increasing health insurance premiums and the high cost of property and rentals. Zero Hedge also argues that even when looking at the jobs created over the past few years, it’s easy to see that what has risen recently is the rate of part-time or minimum wage jobs, not full-time work. Should the current administration take pride in that?

Once we look deeper into the issues Americans are currently facing, we become more aware of the roots of the economic problems we, as a nation, have experienced in the past decade, making Samuelson’s claims sound shallow.

Soaring national debt and money printing are two problems that directly affect consumers nowadays, whether they are rich or poor. Both of these problems have been devaluing our dollar, inflating prices, and crushing our money’s overall purchasing power. And both of these issues have been the policies of most of US presidents over the past decades.

While economic intervention is a real problem, it’s not the only thing keeping Americans down. Big government’s overpowering regulations are also adding more fuel to the fire by raising a greater amount of barriers to businesses.

The regulatory burden keeps entrepreneurs with little capital in hand from entering the marketplace, depriving workers and consumers from options. That, Mercatus Center’s Patrick A. McLaughlin argues, contributes to poverty.

Without government’s artificially imposed barriers, the American consumer would have a stronger currency to work with, and the unemployed would have better job opportunities.

Unlike Samuelson claims, Zero Hedge reports, the average American is now broke. Samuelson may miss what was once the “world’s most vibrant middle class,” but he does not know how to get us there.

So instead of asking broke Americans to resort to easy credit—yet another issue with today’s economy—so the current administration’s economic recovery finally “works,” how about taking the individual’s struggle to make ends meet under the thumb of government’s heavy-handed interventionism into consideration next time?

How will ending the income tax help the poor?

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

How will ending the income tax help the poor?

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

Question:

I was unable to persuade a liberal friend that the income tax is evil because it is essentially forced labor through coercion, or that we could largely pay for the elimination of the income tax simply by halting our overseas empire (it seemed best to use a liberal priority in this instance). He maintained that eliminating the income tax would benefit only the wealthy. Could you help me show that eliminating the income tax is in everyone’s best interest?

TaxesAnswer:

Ultimately, the poor are hurt most by income taxes and government spending of any kind.

When government spends, it must tax or run a deficit. Both harm the poor. Deficit spending results in inflation. People on a fixed income, low income, or no income at all are hurt most by inflation. The little money that they have buys even less than before.

When government taxes middle or upper income individuals, money is diverted from consumer spending, spending which otherwise would create jobs that might lift some of the poor out of poverty.

Instead, the tax dollars go to government spending, which delivers half the service at twice the price of the private sector. Gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of wealth creation, goes down as government spending goes up (for details, see Chapter 12 of my book, “Healing Our World,” available as a free download [1992 edition] at www.ruwart.com or [greatly expanded and footnoted 2003 edition] for purchase from The Advocates).

Less wealth creation means that goods and services are more expensive than they otherwise would be. The poor are hurt the most when prices rise or do not fall as they otherwise would.

Thus, when government spends, GDP falls and inflation grows, middle and high income individuals cut back on discretionary spending, like vacations; the poor, however, must cut back on necessities, such as food, safe housing, and preventative medicine.

On the other hand, when government spending slows, inflation slows too and jobs increase. Some of the poor move into the workforce and become more affluent.

Income taxes are bad for everyone, but the poor are hurt the most. The hidden negatives are often overlooked, and those who are trying to help the poor often hurt them out of ignorance.

TRIGGERING! – Political Correctness Gone Too Far at UMass Amherst

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

TRIGGERING! – Political Correctness Gone Too Far at UMass Amherst

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

Last week, students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst redefined mass hysteria at a discussion on political correctness hosted by the College Republicans.

The discussion titled, “The Triggering: Has Political Correctness Gone Too Far?” almost immediately turned into a screaming match as some in the audience attempted to deny the panelists a chance to speak.

UMassThe panel was moderated by Kyle Boyd, president of the UMass Amherst College Republicans, and consisted of Milo Yiannopoulos, a British journalist, Steven Crowder, Canadian comedian and political commentator, and the “Factual Feminist,” Christina Hoff Sommers.

“We have organized tonight’s event to explore a single question – has political correctness gone too far?” Boyd said over shouts of support and disgust. However, the panelists didn’t back down and purposefully made provoking opening comments.

“Feminism is cancer,” Yiannopoulos said.

Hoff Sommers was greeted with shouts of “racist!” from the audience as soon as she approached the microphone.

The full YouTube video (contains NSFW/K language) of the ordeal is confusing, and I can’t imagine how members of the audience who were there to listen could follow along.

Student protesters interrupted the panelists, accused them of being racist, and told them to get their “hate speech” off of campus. Supportive audience members did cheer while the guests talked about heightened sensitivity on college campuses and microagressions.

The most widely-viewed clip (contains NSFW/K language) from that night was of a single protester who shouted every time Yiannopoulos tried to speak.

Hoff Sommers tells her to “calm down, young lady.” Instead, the protester responds with an impassioned expletive.

Then, the woman begins loudly asserting that “hate speech is not welcome here” and demanding that the speakers “keep your hate speech off this campus,” all while insisting that she is the true embodiment of free speech.

“Stop talking to us like children!” she yelled.

“Stop acting like a child and I will,” Hoff Sommers coolly replied, who is currently a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC.

One of the organizers of the panel, senior Nicholas Pappas, said their panel had drawn more attention than any previous event they have hosted – the online videos have more than a million views. He told the Massachusetts Daily Collegian that the discussion was intended to “give other students our perspective.”

It is very discouraging to see how overtly disrespectful these students were to this panel – especially when they couldn’t go more than 20-30 seconds without interruption! The purpose of the college experience is to grow and expand beyond one’s own worldview. If these students can’t sit through a two-hour panel on ideas they may disagree with, how will they ever be expected to hold their own after graduation in the real world?

Massachusetts Lawmakers Stand Against Federal Raw Milk Ban

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

Massachusetts Lawmakers Stand Against Federal Raw Milk Ban

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

Consumers should always have access to the products and services they want and need. As long as these products and services are not used to harm others, individuals are ultimately free to make their own choices, especially when it comes to what they put in their own body. This argument holds true when it comes to drugs, but it’s also true when applied to raw milk.

CowIn the United States, consumer access to milk in its raw form was banned by the Federal government in 1987. Long before then, in 1924, “Grade A Pasteurization” had become a recommended federal policy, but consumers still were able to purchase raw milk without the fear of having to fight the government to have access to it.

In 2011, former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul made the news for his pro-raw milk stance, which was turned into an unsuccessful pro-raw milk bill. While many railed it as a victory to the establishment, the movement had just started to shape up.

Following in his footsteps, congressman Thomas Massie took the fight for milk choice to Washington a second time, dropping two bills addressing the same issues. At the time, Massie hoped to restore the farmers’ right to distribute raw milk once again, meeting the needs of their customers.

While his bills didn’t see the light of day, states picked up where he left off, pushing for local legalization of raw milk commerce.

Now, the Tenth Amendment Center reports, an agriculture bill drafted by the Senate Ways and Means Committee in Massachusetts is hoping to expand raw milk sales in the state, helping to nullify the federal ban on raw milk sales locally. An effort that could expand to other states.

According to the Tenth Amendment Center, Senate Bill 2258 incorporates a series of measures relating to agriculture by allowing farms to deliver raw milk to consumers via contractual arrangements. The bill states that licensed raw milk farmers “shall be allowed to deliver raw milk directly to the consumer, off-site from the farm, provided that the raw milk farmer has a direct, contractual relationship with the consumer.”

The bill even allows farmers to sell raw milk from a stand, and whether the stand is or isn’t attached to the raw milk dairy wouldn’t serve as an impediment to local farmers. To Tenth Amendment Center’s Mike Maharrey, S.2258 also “open[s] the door to raw milk sales at farmer’s markets.”

Currently, Massachusetts consumers are only allowed to purchase raw milk on the farm. Expanding sale and consuming liberties helps consumers and farmers maintain a better relationship, protecting the purchase and consumption of raw milk locally once again.

While the bill is limited, it represents a stand against the federal government’s ban.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, unpasteurized milk poses a higher risk of contamination. While the feds use the higher risk as a reason to keep consumers from having access to the product, state efforts to lift the ban could help the nation see that the criminalization of raw milk has been doing more harm than good to local economies.

It is the Tenth Amendment Center’s hope to see more states following suit, passing their own nullification bills, and helping local consumers to have greater access to the products and services they are willing to take part in, whether the federal government likes it or not.

Primaries, Caucuses, and Nominations… Oh My!

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

Primaries, Caucuses, and Nominations… Oh My!

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

Two weeks ago, we discussed The “Most Important Election of Our Lifetime” Fallacy. Today, Indiana Republicans and Democrats line up to vote for their favored candidates and delegates on Primary Day.

The pressure to “participate in our democracy,” as I heard on the radio yesterday, continues to increase. The #NeverTrump advocates want me to vote for Ted Cruz today. I have yet to #FeelTheBern, despite the numerous radio and television ads from Bernie Sanders. This election cycle, the presidential nominees for both of the old parties are not yet locked in place, giving Indiana a moment in the sun with both the media and the candidates.

On top of that, there is a contested race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate between two sitting Congressmen, Marlin Stutzman and Todd Young.

PrimariesWhile I have voted in primaries in the past, I last cast a partisan ballot in the primary in 2012 to vote for Ron Paul in the Republican Presidential Preference Primary. <– try saying that three times fast

While I supported some fine candidates in parties other than my own, I realized that the primary process is used to determine intra-party business. That business is to place the party’s best candidate forward for the general election.

Should I be able to participate in their elections? I am not a member of either Team D or Team R, nor do I donate to either. Should I have a vote in how they conduct business? After all, General Electric does not allow non-shareholders determine who sits on their board. They handle such decisions internally, and most importantly, without using resources paid for by taxpayers.

In 2012, taxpayers spent approximately $400 million to fund each state’s primary election, ranging from $1.32 to almost $4 per voter, depending on the state and their turnout.

That means that taxpayers across the country subsidized the cost of selecting Mitt Romney and Barack Obama before their conventions even occurred in Tampa and Charlotte.

By contrast, the Libertarian Party chose the Gary Johnson/Jim Gray ticket in Las Vegas at their 2012 convention whose costs were borne entirely by attendees and donors to the party.

Often, the argument used against the idea of parties funding their own intra-party business is that only party insiders will be involved in the selection process. Given the way that the rules are written, the ability of “superdelegates” to ignore their constituents’ desires, and the efforts of those looking to stop the likely nominee, aren’t those same party insiders already doing the legwork of choosing who should represent them in both of the old parties?

I guess the question to be answered is, should taxpayers fund conventions and primaries? Couldn’t we make this simpler and less expensive by having the Party bear these costs, rather than have taxpayers subsidize the cost of this selection process and provide extra paid and earned media to the parties allowed to participate?

To Resist Tyranny, We Must Celebrate and Stand By Our Whistleblowers

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

To Resist Tyranny, We Must Celebrate and Stand By Our Whistleblowers

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

The need for transparency was an important talking point during the 2008 presidential elections, but once the current administration had an opportunity to handle information leaked by whistleblowers such as former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in a constitutional manner, making sure that the National Security Agency’s disregard for privacy was investigated, the Barack Obama administration decided to, instead, start one of the most effective anti-whistleblower campaigns in the history of the United States.

SnowdenAccording to Tech Dirt, the current administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other administrations combined. And what the most recent case of official mishandling of another NSA whistleblower proves is that officials are oblivious of what due process is all about.

Recently, Foreign Policy reported, another NSA whistleblower attempted to “go through the proper channels” in order to report issues she felt that should be addressed by her superiors. Instead of investigating her complaints, the FBI raided her house.

According to Foreign Policy, the FBI suspended the whistleblower’s clearances without giving her any reason. The publication also explained that she “wasn’t allowed at work, and for two years, the NSA made her ‘call every day like a criminal, checking in every morning before 8.’”

The report continues:

“[Elham] Khorasani went to the agency only for interrogations, she says: eight or nine sessions that ran at least five hours each. She was asked about her family, her travel, and her contacts.”

According to Khorasani, the “special” treatment she received from the FBI only came after the NSA whistleblower set up a meeting with Thomas Drake, another whistleblower prosecuted by the current administration. She had decided to meet with Drake in order to learn more on how she should proceed to make an effective complaint regarding what she calls an unfair reassignment. Once she contacted Drake, he explained that too much time had already passed, and that her efforts would be fruitless from that point on.

He allegedly told her that she had “the bull’s-eyes on” her. “You’re done.”

Khorasani’s story may have been covered by Foreign Policy, but countless others haven’t been pursued. Unfortunately, she’s not the only one to have suffered increased scrutiny over her decision to pursue proper channels in order to have her complaints investigated. According to Foreign Policy’s James Bamford, people under suspicion of misconduct such as Khorasani are often given a special red badge, which replaces the blue card used by employees and contractors with access to secure facilities.

This sort of scarlet letter, Foreign Policy reports, often forces employees to live in “purgatory.” During the entire process, they are never told why they are under scrutiny. And in many cases, they are given jobs inside the gardening department or at the NSA’s museum.

To Tech Dirt, the United States doesn’t have enough whistleblowers because the “proper channels” simply don’t work, which is what the Khorasani case shows us.

If more people within the US government had more incentives to speak out and more often, we would be able to hold our officials accountable. “Unrestrained power may be many things,” Edward Snowden wrote recently, “but it’s not American… We, the people, are ultimately the strongest and most reliable check on the power of government.”

If resistance to tyranny is what we’re looking for, Snowden contends, “Change has to flow from the bottom to the top.”

Nurse Practitioners Want to Help Patients, but Stifling Rules Stand in the Way

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

Nurse Practitioners Want to Help Patients, but Stifling Rules Stand in the Way

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

The fight to serve Americans freely, offering low income patients the option of having access to affordable care, has been an important battle for nurses in certain states.

According to Watchdog.org, nurse practitioners in Pennsylvania are beginning to question the straining and oftentimes useless requirements they must meet in order to help their patients.

MedicIn many states, nurses with advanced degrees and special certifications are allowed to perform several functions primarily performed by physicians. While giving these nurse practitioners the freedom to help patients without access to expensive health insurance is important, many states limit their effectiveness by forcing nurses to seek the approval from doctors before being able to help patients in need.

To the thousands of patients who benefit from having access to nurse practitioners, the process may seem confusing. But they are not alone, healthcare providers also share their frustration.

To nurse Jerry Driscoll, a nurse practitioner running Primary Homecare, doctors “are signing paperwork on patients they’ve never seen,” making their job extremely difficult. After all, nurses like Driscoll “can order their insulin, but not their shoes” he said.

In an interview with Watchdog.org, Driscoll explained that issuing prescriptions or even ordering medical devices such a simple walker or orthopedic shoes is impossible for nurse practitioners in Pennsylvania, forcing organizations such as Primary Homecare to spend thousands of dollars yearly to maintain collaborative agreements with local physicians.

If Primary Homecare didn’t have to spend $25,000 a year due to the state’s laws, Driscoll explained, he would be able to give his patients much better care. Some of the pieces of equipment Driscoll’s company would be able to afford if laws were different include mobile imaging equipment and other technologies used for blood tests. On top of that, not having to spend so much on agreements with physicians could also lower the cost of care to patients, making access to direct healthcare much more affordable.

Last year, lawmakers in the state sought to put an end to this problem by introducing legislation that would have ended the mandatory collaborative agreements between physicians and nurse practitioners.

While the last attempt had failed in the previous session, the bills introduced in the State House and Senate last year are currently languishing in legislative committees. If at least one passes, Pennsylvania would be the 22nd state to allow “full practice” models, giving nurse practitioners the freedom to practice more broadly but still within the scope of their training.

But before nurses are able to obtain the freedom they require to better care for their patients, they must fight the crony capitalists at the Pennsylvania Medical Society, who are opposing the bills currently under review.

According to the medical association, physician oversight of nurse practitioners is essential. The idea that the arrangement between physicians and nurse practitioners is just a formality is far from the truth, said Karen Rizzo, the president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society.

But according to recent studies, the notion that patients get better care from nurse practitioners in contact with physicians is nothing but a myth.

Nurse practitioners, the five studies conclude, improve patient outcomes while also reducing healthcare costs by as much as 29 percent. One of the studies has also suggested that patients who have access to nurse practitioners have lower hospital admission rates.

As Pennsylvania struggles with 155 areas in which patients have little to no access to adequate health care, loosening nurse practitioner’s requirements could help to give more patients access to quality care at a lower price.

What are lawmakers waiting for?​

Take More Pictures

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

Take More Pictures

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

“A picture is worth a thousand words.” - attributed to Frederick R. Barnard

As libertarians, we have a lot to say. Often, it is presented as a wall of text… Page after page of words pieced together in a mess without any formatting and filled with footnotes.

We assume that those we convince to read it will see how much time and effort we put into it, as well as how smart we are, and BOOM! they’ll be convinced. While that may work with our fellow libertarians who generally value substance over style and presentation, those who are not libertarian yet are unlikely to be impressed.

taking picturesSo, what does this have to do with taking more pictures?

First, taking and sharing pictures require that you do something worthwhile or interesting to memorialize. Hopefully, we snap a photo of our hard work, highlighting our best examples of living a libertarian life. By sharing them, we show that we understand not only the words, but also the actions, necessary to bring about the change we advocate.

Next, due to our increased activity, we’ll have less time to write those walls of text that inspired TL;DR (Too long; didn’t read). Can you imagine how many thousands of words on the page or screen we can replace with pictures?

Also, as social media continues to evolve, we see the impact that images have to make a “story” go viral. A picture of you speaking to a crowd at a rally or working at a soup kitchen not only exemplifies your commitment to your ideals; it can be inspiring to others to “get off the couch” and do something.

Finally, we can inspire others as we Walk the Walk. As we take and share pictures, we’ll inevitably be asked why we’re taking them. It will open the door to a conversation that we did not have to seek out, and we can share that we are looking to make a change in the world in which we live.

If you’re creating new libertarians passively by setting your example, all of those you persuade actively will have others to associate with. As we continue to grow the libertarian movement, we need more perspectives and routes to it to consider.

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