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The Future of the Libertarian Movement is Bright

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

The Future of the Libertarian Movement is Bright

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you help?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The message read in part:

Killing (gun emoji)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helping Others See Your Vision of Liberty

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

Helping Others See Your Vision of Liberty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Free Market

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

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

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

White House Sacks the Treasury in the Name of Corporate Welfare

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

White House Sacks the Treasury in the Name of Corporate Welfare

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

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

From the Americans for Tax Reform website:

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the New York Post:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Private Initiative Ignites Flame of Real Change in Flint, Michigan

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

Private Initiative Ignites Flame of Real Change in Flint, Michigan

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Tale of Two Petitions

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

A Tale of Two Petitions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I guess it pays to have friends in high places.

With New Nullification Effort, Mississippi Challenges Federal Gun Control Measures

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

With New Nullification Effort, Mississippi Challenges Federal Gun Control Measures

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Microaggression After Another

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

One Microaggression After Another

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Libertarian Law Firm Fights Eminent Domain Abuse in North Carolina

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

Libertarian Law Firm Fights Eminent Domain Abuse in North Carolina

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

Property rights just won big in North Carolina.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Politics Can Wait!

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

Politics Can Wait!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which one are you?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Show Before Tell

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

Show Before Tell

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

Show and tellIn my elementary school years, we participated in Show & Tell, an opportunity to share with the class something neat or unique and lead a discussion about it. The concept was a simple, yet effective way to prepare young people to speak in front of groups.

Even as adults, this provides us with a lesson in effective outreach to non-libertarians. We need to show that libertarians live their lives in a peaceful, voluntary way…The libertarian lifestyle.

What makes this outreach effective is that, when you live your life like you would in a libertarian society, it never turns off. There are no booths to shut down. There are no hours of operation. It’s a constant, effective outreach that can easily attract others to libertarianism.

How can you do it?

  1. Before you speak about Liberty, show it with how you live your life.
    Are you using force or fraud as a means to an end? Or are you someone who offers only honest, voluntary cooperation in your dealings in business and relationships? The latter is very libertarian, while the former is the antithesis of libertarian thought. In a situation where force or fraud is used, it’s unlikely that all parties will be better off. When every interaction is agreed to by all parties, everyone benefits. <– That’s a libertarian interaction. Let’s strive to live that way.
  2. Before you tell me how much libertarianism means to you, show me that you understand what it means.
    Are you constantly dictating to others how they “should” do things or live their life? Or are you setting a positive example and persuading those who seek your counsel? A positive example goes much further than unsolicited advice on a single area of concern. It also brings you to the forefront of those to ask when advice is necessary.
  3. Before you preach the principles of Liberty, teach me about it with your actions.
    Being a shining example of what a libertarian is gives those who have little to no exposure to libertarians a very positive impression of who we are. I know libertarians to be very caring, friendly, and generous, despite the societal meme depicting us as selfish, heartless loners. Let’s break that meme!


Are you ready to show what it means to be a libertarian? Once you’ve committed to that, your words about libertarianism will carry far more weight, and you will attract more people to the beauty that is Liberty.

Is American Entrepreneurship Dead?

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

Is American Entrepreneurship Dead?

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

Promises of a better future post the 2008-2009 recession injected new confidence in the American economy. With the President Barack Obama administration’s push to use public money to stimulate the economy back to recovery, many believed that a full comeback was in order.

But years after the implementation of the stimulus plan, corporate debt continues to increase due to the federal reserve’s meddling, and the participation rate in the labor force continues to fall.


As the current administration claims falling unemployment rates prove the stimulus worked, it’s easy to see why so many believe that things are “back to normal.”

But according to Yonathan Amselem, an asset protection attorney in Washington, D.C., things are far from “normal.”

In an article published by the Mises Institute, Amselem explains that after a market crash, the unemployment rate eventually drops, naturally. He also reminds us that the Obama administration took over after the market crash. And that the so-called “recovery” may have just been a sign of a process that would have happened with or without the stimulus.

He also argues that a review of the type of industries that have been growing since the stimulus plan was put into action prove that the creation of jobs alone has nothing to do with economic recovery.

“We are pumping out an army of waiters, social workers, and associate professors with worthless six-figure degrees they have no hope of paying off in this life or the next,” Amselem argued. Instead of “high value, goods-producing workers,” America is producing workers who do not rely on innovation.

Individuals, Amselem argues, are not being encouraged to start businesses. Instead, they seem to believe that they are perfectly capable of turning “a six-year sociology degree into a job that doesn’t involve bringing people mimosas for brunch.”

But the workforce is not to blame for this shift in leading industries.

Instead, Amselen argues that the lack of incentives tied to entrepreneurship is forcing countless Americans to keep their dreams and aspirations locked away. As businesses now fail at a greater rate than they start, free market advocates like Amselen remind us that people are discouraged to try out on their own.

To the D.C. attorney, America’s structure of production has been disrupted by the political class in a dramatic way, making workers less competitive and forcing the entire nation to carry a very heavy debt burden while keeping the entrepreneurial spirit stuck under a mountain of bureaucracy.

As free market advocates continue to make the case against overwhelming regulations, urging the public to look at government intervention as a means to hinder economic development, media outlets and influencers often accuse them of being against the poor.

But economic growth can only be accomplished when competition and freedom are reinstated. Being against the poor means being pro-government intervention in the economy, which forces those with pauper means to resort to the black market for their needs.

VA Property Owners Win Eminent Domain, Freedom of Speech Cases

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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

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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?

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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.


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.

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