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Cody Wilson Develops New Metal Ghost Gun, Defying Regulators

in Gun Rights, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

 Cody Wilson Develops New Metal Ghost Gun, Defying Regulators

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

Cody Wilson, the heroic designer of the world’s first 3-D printed gun, has now created something that will surely defy any and all existing gun legislations: An entirely untraceable metal handgun.

gun

While the federal government has yet to pass a legislation against homemade firearms without serial numbers, otherwise known as ghost guns, the state of California has already passed legislation outlawing these firearms.

According to Wilson’s gun rights advocacy group, Defense Distributed, the new software designed to be used with the group’s ghost gun machine gives anybody the ability to carve out the untraceable bodies of AR-15s from unfinished pieces of aluminum. The software also allows for the production of M1911 handguns, giving anybody the chance of owning an untraceable gun.

In the near future, Wilson said, his group will be following up with software that produces Glocks — all regulation-free.

By giving individuals the ability to produce their own guns, Wilson gives them the freedom to defend themselves without having to ask government for permission.

But in times of major lethal attack, the fearmongering rhetoric spewed by politicians on both sides of the isle ignites major political and popular campaigns that call for more restrictions on gun ownership.

With access to technology like the one being made available by Wilson, Americans everywhere won’t have to fear what legislators will come up with next — and that’s what a market response looks like.

When government officials tell us that only bureaucrats have the answer to our questions and we go along with it, we are at their mercy, incapable of answering for ourselves. Whether you agree with what Wilson does or not, you must admit that he has given individuals a way out, just like competitors do the same in an open market by offering better, more efficient, and more convenient products by taking into consideration the consumer’s needs.

When looking into what we prefer, a world overly regulated by bureaucrats who function by restricting and raising roadblocks or a free market where individuals and companies work to serve one another in a better way every day, it’s clear that the latter option will always produce better results.

Are smokers infringing on your rights?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Drugs, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

Are smokers infringing on your rights?

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

Question:

I disagree with your recent column on smoking. Why is it up to the non-smoker to choose a smoke-free work environment or restaurant? Isn’t this a case where a person’s right to swing their arms (i.e., smoking) ends with the next person’s nose (potential health risks and fouling the clothing of non-smokers)? Isn’t it the smokers who are infringing on my right to be free of their smoke?

smokers

Answer:

I, too, am a non-smoker who appreciates a smoke-free environment, so I know exactly where you are coming from.

Libertarians don’t support government-mandated smoking bans in restaurants and bars, because these restaurants and bars are the property of the owners, not the patrons or the government. Only the owners of these establishments have the right to determine whether smoking will be permitted.

Similarly, libertarians wouldn’t outlaw smoking in residences so that non-smoking visitors wouldn’t have to breathe the smoke of their hosts. In both cases, the owners decide what type of environment that they will invest in; patrons and visitors are free to decide if they wish to expose themselves to that environment.

Of course, “public” (government-owned) property, like courthouses and municipal buildings, poses special problems, because the “owners” (supposedly the entire citizenry, which include smokers and non-smokers), are unlikely to agree on whether or not to ban smoking there. So settling such disagreements is almost impossible. Such dilemmas support the libertarian notion that all property (or at the very least, as much as possible) should be private, and such decisions left to the owners. Clearly-defined property rights solve many, many problems!

LAPD’s Drone Program Is A Threat To Liberty

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

LAPD’s Drone Program Is A Threat To Liberty

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

Going against privacy advocates all across the district, the Los Angeles Police Department just approved a drone program that should initially last for one year, but that could end up benefiting officials elsewhere who are looking into expanding their own surveillance programs.

drone

This move makes L.A. the largest city in the country to have embraced this type of policy and the first to openly ditch the need for a warrant while doing so.

While the LAPD swears the new program will only be used in “tactical situations, searches or natural disasters,” the use of the technology can be allowed to proceed with the OK of a “high-ranking officer,” meaning that cops may end up employing the use of drones even if they don’t fall under one of the categories mentioned previously. Without a legal framework with safeguards that allow for the persecution of officers who abuse their power, the program’s rules are sure to be broken. As a result, the privacy of Los Angeles residents is in jeopardy.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California has criticized the program, reminding the LAPD that LA residents aren’t adequately protected by the agency’s new rules. The ACLU also reminded officials that the plan to allow officers to make use of drones does not take into account public opposition to the program.

Unfortunately, the LAPD has a history of introducing enforcement programs that end up being implemented all across the country, such as the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams, which were first widely used by the LAPD in the 1960s during the racially charged Watts Riots.

By implementing military-style raids using military grade equipment and tactics, the LAPD helped to kickstart the long-lasting process that has transformed our local police departments and that is often referred to as police militarization. With the implementation of the drone program, which is run entirely by the police department and without any oversight, we can make a prediction that other local police departments will follow suit. As such, we will end up with a local police force that is both fully militarized and fully equipped for total surveillance powers that will serve as an example to others.

When Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the federal government’s use of questionable surveillance programs to spy on common Americans, many libertarians felt that for the first time, the country was truly concerned about privacy. But despite the advocacy of so many groups standing against giving the government massive surveillance powers, what we’re seeing with this new LAPD program is that a lot must still be done if we want to change policy effectively.

New Jersey Patients Wait Months For Permission To Use Cannabis

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

New Jersey Patients Wait Months For Permission To Use Cannabis

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

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. At least that’s what they say.

When it comes to bureaucrats, all they know is to further complicate matters, turning simple tasks that could be easily accomplished in a short period into huge, complex processes filled with hurdles. So when we allow governments to run our lives, we are giving bureaucrats the power to complicate it.

marijuana

When the policy in question involves drugs that could save our lives, complicating the process in which we must take part to obtain said drugs could mean pain, suffering, and health complications.

In New Jersey, where a 9-year-old medical marijuana law has yet to be updated, patients hoping to have access to cannabis for treatment have been patiently waiting for regulators to follow the recommendations a state health panel made 5 months ago.

At the time, the panel urged regulators to expand the list of conditions that may be treated with cannabis, adding autism, Alzheimer’s, anxiety, chronic pain, migraines, and others.

But long before the health panel got together to make this recommendation, dozens of patients submitted petitions. Then, the panel met to review the case during three different hearings. During these hearings, the same patients who filed the petitions pleaded with officials for the freedom to choose what they will put in their own bodies in order to treat or soothe their ailments.

But even after all of this hard work and long months of wait, the New Jersey Department of Health does not seem to ready to embrace the changes.

Instead, officials are now saying that yet another must be held. After that and if the panel agrees that the changes must be adopted, the health commissioner will be able to sit on his hands for another six months if he so wishes before he decides whether he should adopt the panel’s recommendation.

Imagine that, waiting over a whole year just for the state’s permission so you may treat your illness the best way you see fit.

Being willing to try different treatments and drugs to help you manage or heal a certain health condition should be the patient’s decision alone. Precisely because government officials can’t possibly know what’s best for you or for me, giving him the power to tell us what we can and cannot put in our own bodies is ineffective — to say the least.

So while New Jersey patients suffer and wait for the state to listen to their plea, we hope that more states join the nullification revolution, going the opposite way of New Jersey by simply decriminalizing the use substances like cannabis so neither the federal nor the state governments are able to dictate who gets to use the substance for their health benefits and who doesn’t.

 

Maryland Nullifies FDA’s Control Over Experimental Treatments

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

Maryland Nullifies FDA’s Control Over Experimental Treatments

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

Maryland residents have just been allowed to choose whether they will become involved in experimental treatments that would have otherwise been blocked by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

A new “right to try” legislation just went into full effect in the Old Line State, effectively nullifying the FDA’s monopoly on drug treatments.

FDA's

House Bill 584 was sponsored by Maryland’s Karen Young, a Democrat, and counted with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle as co-sponsors. The law allows for terminally ill patients to have access to experimental drugs and treatments that may not have been approved for use by the FDA.

With HB 584 now fully enacted, Maryland lawmakers were able to effectively nullify the federal control on life-saving drugs.

Much like the drug war, the FDA’s control over which drugs terminal patients are allowed to use or not goes against a fundamental right: The right to self-ownership.

If an individual has the ability to make his or her own decisions regarding their own life, they should also have the right to choose which drugs they will put in their bodies.

What regulations and drug laws do is to simply make it more difficult for researchers to look into said drugs and treatment. By keeping researchers from progressing, regulators and lawmakers are keeping people from having access to information regarding these drugs that could be saving their lives.

We have seen an incredible shift in how researchers use cannabis and how many individuals have been able to use legal cannabis to treat their illnesses after states started nullifying the federal drug war against weed. With states like Maryland enacting other pieces of legislation that give the terminally ill access to more choices, states are fighting on the drug war by targeting the federal government’s prohibitionist laws and the federal regulators’ control over who gets what treatment.

By controlling which drugs are allowed and which aren’t, the FDA dictates who lives and who dies. It’s because the FDA will rather see someone in their deathbed perish instead of giving them the option to try different and experimental treatments that passing these right to try pieces of legislation are so important and yes, urgent.

Now Is The Wrong Time For More Gun Control

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

Now Is The Wrong Time For More Gun Control

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

The horrific and heartbreaking mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, has already sparked calls for more gun control legislation. Still, on the aftermath of such incidents, the number of Americans running to gun stores to purchase firearms always increases, showing that regardless of whether public figures, news reporters, or progressive politicians on both sides of the aisle seem to think, most Americans put their own well-being and self-defense rights before politics.

gun

While it’s impossible to discuss the tragic killings of dozens in an attack that left more than 500 injured simply because the details regarding the attacker are still being investigated, we must always remember that it’s in times of crisis that politicians will try to tell us they know how to make it all better.

Whether Republican or Democrat, elected officials, and hopeful candidates will go over their talking points in times of tragedy, telling us that their solution will work this time, all we have to do is to trust them.

New legislation, they say, will help remedy this situation by cracking down on gun owners, or individuals with health issues, or gun salesmen. But while these pieces of legislation target everyone under the sun, they fail to target bureaucrats with guns.

These politicians often ignore the countless instances of abuse involving law enforcement agents, government security agents, and members of other agencies tasked with border securitydrug law enforcement, and even surveillance.

Their guns are never at risk.

When it comes to allowing government to oversee all aspects of an individual’s life, the consequences are usually disproportionate.

Government will create rules that hurt good people while giving law enforcement little to no incentives to go after the real bad guys. That’s precisely what happens when gun control laws are enacted.

When rules are applied to gun purchases, delaying the gun purchasing process, the law-abiding citizen has to prove his innocence before being able to take that gun home. To criminals, all that it takes is the willingness to steal a gun or a weapon to commit a crime. No background checks necessary.

In the case of mass shootings involving distraught individuals, many were able to obtain their guns legally and yet, no background check was able to detect any issues that could have led authorities to believe that these individuals were going to eventually turn into mass murderers.

With the media feeding the fear surrounding these instances of mass shootings and using heavy anti-gun rhetoric, those who do not feel either represented or protected by government officials become anxious. So instead of feeding into this fear and paranoia, how about understanding that, ultimately, it’s up to the individual whether he decides to purchase a gun for personal safety or other ends, and realize that the government should have no say as to what property one has the right to have access to. Just like it doesn’t have a moral reason to tell an individual whether he can or cannot use a substance such as cannabis on his own body.

Are libertarians aware of safety concerns regarding legal marijuana?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Drugs, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

Are libertarians aware of safety concerns regarding legal marijuana?

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

Question:

I think libertarians are wrong to support legal marijuana. Do you really think it wise to smoke pot and work with machinery, cars, trains, planes, or motorcycles, or weapons? Do you want to risk your child’s bus ride to school, or a field trip, after the driver has smoked pot? Or do you want the captain of your plane to smoke pot prior to your trip to Bermuda?

marijuana

Answer:

Libertarians agree with you that no one should drive or operate machinery or engage in similar behavior while impaired by alcohol or drugs. Further, libertarians believe that employers have the right to require their employees to take performance tests or drug tests, and fire them if they take anything — even prescription medication — that imperils their coworkers or customers.

However, why shouldn’t someone be free to smoke pot, drink alcohol, or use other substances, in the privacy of their own home? If there is no harm to others, there is no foul.

One could legitimately argue that the use of marijuana and other currently-illegal drugs may harm some users’ long term health. However, the same is true of many, many substances that are completely legal, ranging from alcohol and tobacco to fat, salt, sugar, and so on. Chronic overeating is especially damaging, yet having our calorie consumption regulated by the “Twinkie police” would be prohibitively expensive and invasive as well as outrageous.

We all make choices everyday that compromise our health. People die every year in sporting accidents, but the idea of prohibiting skiing, skydiving, and scuba seems ridiculous. Some people have higher thresholds for risks, and take chances that other people would not. That’s their right — as long as they don’t endanger others.

Living is dangerous and death is just a matter of time. We may want to spend life enjoying it as we see fit, rather than trying to prohibit others from doing so!

New Maine Law Shields Locals From Federal Gun Registries

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

New Maine Law Shields Locals From Federal Gun Registries

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

A new Maine law has just made the nullification of any future effort by the federal government to create countrywide gun databases more difficult to take full effect.

The Tenth Amendment Center has reported that a state law sponsored by Rep. Patrick Corey, a Republican from Windham, Maine, prohibits state officials from establishing any firearms registry. Without the collection of local gun owners’ information for any purpose, the federal government is no longer capable of putting any large-scale registry of gun owners across the country together, shielding Americans from Washington, D.C.’s efforts to restrict their 2nd Amendment rights.

gun

House Bill 9 wasn’t just supported by the state legislature in Maine by Republican lawmakers. According to TAC, the effort was put forward by a bipartisan coalition, showing that, sometimes, when we act locally we are able to put traps in place that will render the federal government’s war on personal freedom and choices useless.

The bill was cleared by the House Joint Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety by a 122-24 margin and the Senate later passed it unanimously.

As the bill was enacted, Gov. Paul LePage signed it into law on June 12. Now, in full effect, the bill prohibits state and local officials from working in any capacity to develop a registry of gun owners in the state of Maine.

As we all know, the federal government relies on information collected by local law enforcement to develop its own tracking databases. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), for instance, has a license plate tracking database that is only available because state and local law enforcement bodies collect this information. By using personal details gathered locally, the DEA is then able to have easy access to personal information from across the country without much of an effort.

By passing legislation statewide that forces officials to say no to the feds, state lawmakers are able to, one by one, nullify federal regulations that might not even be in the books yet but that could be enacted by a future administration. As a means to maximize individual freedom, this type of activism is, perhaps, one of the most effective ways of introducing libertarian principles into local politics — and one of the most effective ways of being active in politics without losing focus on what matters.

NFL Outrage: If You’re Bothered, Get The Gov’t Out Of The Sports Business

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

NFL Outrage: If You’re Bothered, Get The Gov’t Out Of The Sports Business


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

If you haven’t been completely disconnected from the world in the past few days, you may have noticed that everyone is either condemning or praising President Donald Trump for telling a crowd in Alabama that it would be nice to see an NFL owner fire any player who kneels in protest during the national anthem.

Regardless of where you stand on this subject, the reality is that the heart of this debate lies in sports and how they have become highly politicized. But this trait is anything but new. It might feel that way because the media has, for the most part, been much quicker to use anything Trump says to boost the ratings. Still, sports have been used by those making politics in America to boost the war spirit since World War I. Over time, the tradition of tying the anthem with sports in times of war expanded into a regular reminder that pride in government efforts and sports went hand in hand, at least in America.

NFL

So it’s no wonder those who feel betrayed by what the anthem represents, regardless of motives, will use such a high-profile event as a football game to show their discontent. And when a highly powerful elected official such as the president makes a strong statement against people who often embody the most American of sports, it’s also easy to see how his comments may cause divisiveness.

Still, the outrage is here because we have always allowed the U.S. government to latch its own agenda to what happens in the sports arena.

Now that the U.S. government openly invests in “paid patriotism,” spending millions of taxpayer dollars in pro-government campaigns during sports events run by the NFL — itself one of the most successful government-subsidized organizations in U.S. history — how can we claim ignorance and act as if football had, all of a sudden, become immune to government influence?

The president complains about players demonstrating against their government because football is as American as apple pie and as entangled with politics as it gets. So the solution to the outrage of the day isn’t to condemn players who refuse to stand for the anthem. The solution isn’t to complain about the president either. After all, he’s simply standing for that to which a man in his position is expected. No. The solution is to look at sports once again as a private business matter and forever untangle it from the political machine in Washington.

Unless we’re able to successfully do just that, the outrage will always be there — and the future will continue to look bleak for those of us who simply think that a game is a game and politicians should have the decency to at least handle that back to the people.

Bill Protecting Californians’ Personal Data Headed To Governor’s Desk

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

Bill Protecting Californians’ Personal Data Headed To Governor’s Desk

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

The state of California has just passed a bill that essentially nullifies any effort from the federal government that would force the state to collect data concerning an individual’s religion, national origin, or ethnicity.

Senate Bill 31 was authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara and it was written to prevent local or state agencies from collecting any information that could later be placed in a federal database targeting people for their religious beliefs or ethnicity. This bill was supported by local nullification activists who do not want information from California residents ending up in a national database.

data

Since the federal government often relies on states to collect this type of information for later use, this bill could help protect people who may be targeted by rogue executive administrations. In President Donald Trump’s era, this means that people who subscribe to Islam or who are from particular countries targeted by his travel ban wouldn’t be forced to share that information with any state agency. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and other organizations supported the bill at the time it was introduced by saying that it served as means to create a database firewall.

But to libertarian-leaning individuals who have been working with organizations such as the Tenth Amendment Center (TAC), SB 31 also serves as a perfect example of why the nullification of federal rules within a city or state government is a battle worth fighting for.

To Brian Gonzalez, a nullification activist who has worked closely with TAC and other coalitions, the passage of SB 31 was an important step toward shielding Californians from the federal government’s power grab. Now that the bill is on its way to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, he told The Advocates for Self-Government he’s hopeful that the bill will protect Californians from participating in the federal government’s paranoia.

“Over the years, we’ve witnessed a peeling away of our civil liberties here at home,” Gonzalez said. “Indefinite detention, mass surveillance, civil asset forfeiture, etc. [The creation of a] database or registration is just another step into mass paranoia and injustice.”

By keeping the state shielded from having to comply “with federal requests for information based on race, religion, ethnicity for the purpose of creating a database/registry,” Gonzalez added, the bill doesn’t just protect Californians from the Trump administration’s plans but also other administrations that may want to target individuals over different characteristics in the future.

If anything, nullification is the most practical tool we have at our disposal to make sure the states are not cooperating with the federal government when its goal is to violate our rights. And with SB 31, this becomes even clearer.

Now, Gonzalez is alerting his friends and fellow advocates on social media that is time to contact Gov. Brown to let him know the bill has a great following and that he must sign it into law as soon as possible.

As Maine Fights For Food Sovereignty, The Federal Government Closes In

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

As Maine Fights For Food Sovereignty, The Federal Government Closes In


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

Decentralization continues to be an important goal for many practical libertarians, and for good reason. After all, when you take the power away from a big, overbearing government body and brings it back to the hands of small communities, you allow individuals to make decisions for themselves along with their neighbors. You give autonomy back to small groups of people, keeping powerful politicians and lobbyists from having the last say on how people run their lives.

Maine

In Maine, Governor Paul LePage has just signed a Food Sovereignty Bill into law. The piece of legislation works by giving Maine towns the power to regulate local food production on their own. With this new bill, the state has essentially nullified the federal government’s monopoly on food regulations.

The first town to have enacted this type of legislation was Sedgwick, which is located in Hancock County in Maine. After passing its own law giving locals the right to produce and consume whatever food item they wish, such as meats from local plants or even raw milk (the horror!), the rest of the state followed suit. Now that the nullification fever spread across the state, others are hoping it spreads across the country.

In other states like Wyoming, similar laws also strip the federal government from its monopoly over food regulation. Unfortunately, they do not go as far as Maine’s new law.

With a law protecting the citizen’s right to sell homemade food without a license, Wyoming is one of the states that have fought for food sovereignty recently. Still, it’s only when we see states going as far as Maine that we’re reminded that battles fought locally are more likely to succeed. For libertarians, this is a message worth embracing as we often look for ways to ensure that individuals are the freest they can be regardless of who’s sent to oversee the executive branch in Washington, D.C., every four years.

Still, we must keep in mind that the federal government doesn’t let go of its powers that easily.

Unfortunately for Maine residents, the new law protecting their food rights is already being attacked by the feds.

Scheduled to go into effect in early November, the governor has urged the state government to hold a special session so they may listen to the federal government’s objections before allowing the bill to run its course.

This follows the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s threats regarding the state’s meat and poultry industries. If the law goes into effect as is, the USDA threatened the state’s meat to be transferred to the federal government’s inspection program. This would then defeat the bill’s purpose, giving the federal government its power to have the last word when it comes to meat and poultry products back.

Hopefully, the state will stand strong in the face of a threatening almighty federal government attempting to keep locals from making their own food-related decisions. And if that is the case, then Maine will serve as a real example of what courage looks like.

Gov’t Allows National Guard To Confiscate Locals’ Guns In Light Of Irma

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

Gov’t Allows National Guard To Confiscate Locals’ Guns In Light Of Irma


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

Following the destruction and horror caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas, government officials and locals started bracing for the potential destruction that Hurricane Irma is about to bring the southeast coast. But in at least one place in particular, government officials seem to be using the hurricane as an excuse to expand the U.S. civil asset forfeiture powers.

Irma In the U.S. Virgin Islands, Gov. Kenneth Mapp gave the National Guard the OK to confiscate locals’ guns, ammunitions, explosives, and any other material that is seen as needed to respond to Irma. This move shocked conservatives nationwide. Now, many are asking since when does the seizure of private property give response teams advantages in fighting a national disaster?

If anything, those who own weapons and ammunition would feel less safe if the government were to take them away from them, especially in light of reports involving house break-ins and violence in Texas following Harvey.

Unfortunately, the practice of giving law enforcement the power to seize private property has now become so common, with one of its most staunch defenders of civil asset forfeiture serving as President Donald Trump’s Attorney General, that when this report hit the news few mainstream, left-leaning news organizations bothered to cover it.

Still, civil asset forfeiture-related practices should concern any American, regardless of political affiliations, as such actions are nothing but transfers of wealth from citizens to governments. And unlike what is going on now in the U.S. Virgin Islands, civil asset forfeiture doesn’t only hurt pro-gun rights advocates who are rightly upset at this order. The practice hurts the poor, minorities, and even students who dare to own any property.

As countless people see their money or their cars being taken away without being able to fight in court due to the prohibitive costs of such legal cases, we see few civil rights activists worried about criticizing the government now for allowing the use of a natural disaster to confiscate private property. Perhaps, that’s because many believe that guns and ammunition shouldn’t be seen as prized personal possessions, especially if they are owned by the civil population.

After all, what good could such personal items do in case something like what happened in 2005 in New Orleans happened now or if houses in the U.S. Virgin Islands were attacked like houses in Texas were? One can only wonder.

Freedom Of the Press at Lowest Point in 12 Years

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

Freedom Of the Press at Lowest Point in 12 Years

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

According to a report from Freedom House, an independent organization that promotes freedom around the world, in 2015, press freedom has declined to its lowest point in 12 years, as political, criminal and terrorist forces worked to silence the media.

press

Only 13 percent of the world’s population experiences a free press, meaning that coverage of political events is prevalent, the government minimally interferes in media happenings, and the safety of journalists is guaranteed.

These declines are attributed to the partisanship of a country’s media and the amount of intimidation and violence journalists experience world-wide.

This data is best visualized in the Newseum’s world press freedom map located in the Time Warner World News Gallery in Washington, D.C.

This giant map shows which countries have the greatest amount of press freedom. A green-colored country means the most, yellow is somewhat, and red is least to none at all.

The majority of these problems for the press happen in the Middle East where governments, militias and extremists groups pressure journalists and media outlets to push alternate narratives. Often times, these groups distribute news through their own networks without needing to rely on traditional journalists or other outlets.

And recently, extremist groups have attempted to silence or eliminate news organizations that they don’t agree with, have taken journalists hostage, or have had them killed.

Only two countries improved their practices against journalists in 2015. Burkino Faso and Sri Lanka removed prison sentences for libel and saw a change in government that lead to fewer physical threats against journalists.

More than 15 countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and others declined in their practices against freedom of the press. For example, the majority of these countries declined to provide protections for journalists against violence and censored websites and other medium. North Korea, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan lead the list in countries with the worst press freedom scores.

Freedom House lists China, Poland and India as some of the countries to watch in the next year as they may be moving towards important changes in their press freedom conditions.

The United States has a “free” press freedom status, however, since the terrorist attacks of 2001, journalists have had difficulties in gaining access to proceedings and facilities related to counterterrorism. These include reporting on the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, where more than 100 detainees continue to be held.

Sorry Mr. Trump, But Militarized Cops Act Like Soldiers In A Warzone

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

Sorry Mr. Trump, But Militarized Cops Act Like Soldiers In A Warzone

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

President Donald Trump signed an executive order lifting a ban on the 1033 Pentagon program, allowing the federal government to exert greater influence on local and state law enforcement agencies by transferring expensive, military-grade equipment to their ranks so they may be used in our streets.

warzoneBut local police forces aren’t supposed to act like the military. As a matter of fact, the very Founders of the United States had a deep suspicion of standing armies, placing the Third and Fourth Amendments strategically in the Bill of Rights so that the individual was treated as the mighty owner of his house and anything he occupies, shielding him from prosecution for acting in defense of his “castle.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) denounced the president’s plan, saying that, on top of “[subsidizing] militarization,” this move would make minorities across the country feel that police are targeting them. After all, he added, “[a]nyone who thinks that race does not still, even if inadvertently, skew the application of criminal justice isn’t paying close enough attention.”

But perhaps what’s also at stake but seldom discussed when it comes to policing in America is the driving forces behind these policy changes. And what’s worse, how incentives play a major role in how these policies are applied.

Long before Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Trump would be reinstating the 1033 Pentagon program, the country’s largest police union had already lobbied hard to make sure the president was listening. They see advantages to being given so much power despite having sworn an oath to act as peace officers, not soldiers in times of war.

What they fail to realize (or perhaps do realize but don’t care about) is that when officers who are supposed to act as local law enforcers are given military toys, they go from men and women of the community who exist as a force to keep the peace, to acting as if they were in a warzone.

With the extra military-grade toys in hand, these men and women fall prey to the tricks their minds play on them, and they forget that they must act responsibly in order to boost public safety — not instill fear.

When the Founders realized that standing armies were being quartered in the houses of local Americans during the American Revolution, they looked at Rome for yet another example of power-thirsty military men destroying a Republic. They knew that the individual was meant to be powerful and soberan in his home, strong, willing, and capable to defend himself and his loved ones, and that the policing of local laws are meant to be enforced by the community.

When federal governments grow powerful, they are also capable of “bribing” local law men to fall in line. So when you centralize power in the hands of a few, expect the powerful in your midst to tag along. Who loses? The individual, who suddenly sees his freedom being diluted in the name of “security.”

Your Tax Dollars Are Helping Local Law Enforcement To Spy On You

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

Your Tax Dollars Are Helping Local Law Enforcement To Spy On You


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

The fight for a more libertarian society begins with the identification of policies that make us less free precisely because they are enacted by a centralized power. As we learn about these restrictive rules and programs, we also learn about how the federal government uses any tool at its disposal to ensure smaller, more local government organizations fall in line.

spy

As expected, these smaller entities end up becoming effective arms of the federal government in its fight against personal freedoms, mostly due to the fact federal government agencies and regulatory bodies often have special influence over state agencies.

This is the case with surveillance policies.

In a December 2016 report released by the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reforms, lawmakers confirmed that federal agencies give state and local law enforcement extra funding so they may purchase stingray devices.

The stingrays, as they are known, are cell site simulators that spoof cell phone towers, capturing data from devices within their range. As the phones targeted get tricked into connecting directly to the stingray, officials are able to primarily track and locate targeted devices. But depending on the technology in use, systems may be modified to also gather data from these phones such as text messages.

As these stingrays are used without a warrant, targeting any cell phone within range, the use of this technology is a blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment. Still, feds provide the incentives that push local law enforcement to ignore the Constitution.

What’s worse is that you and I as taxpayers are paying the federal government to spy on us illegally.

According to the report, the bulk of funding for this program comes from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), but the grant programs are administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA.)

Up until 2016, this program had officially cost taxpayers $1.8 million, but the real number could be much higher as the DHS “does not maintain a separate accounting of grant funds used to purchase cell site-simulators,” the report concludes.

If local or state officials want to participate and get the extra dough from the feds, they may obtain grants through a variety of programs such as the Citizen Corps Program, the State Homeland Security Program, the Emergency Management Performance Grants, the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program, the Urban Areas Security Initiative, the Transit Security Program, the Intercity Passenger Rail Program, and the Buffer Zone Protection Program.

Still, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has denied that it funds local stingray purchases, despite claiming there were a “handful of instances” where the DOJ knows grant money was used to purchase stingrays — not to our surprise. As it turns out, the Tenth Amendment reports, the congressional report does not go deep enough as state and local agencies that purchase stingrays often sign non-disclosure agreements with both the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the company behind the device As such, both the feds and the companies that produce these towers end up shrouding the exchange in secrecy.

With clauses in place that guarantee law enforcement won’t make it clear that data or records obtained in a criminal investigation were gathered via stingray use, local law enforcement agencies have nothing to lose.

Due to the secrecy surrounding these programs, the public is left in the dark, completely oblivious that, perhaps, their local law enforcement bodies might be gathering their personal information even if they were never formally accused of any crime.

Despite being told that stingrays should not be authorized, the federal government still acts exactly as you would expect: It tells you to relax because the government has it all under control.

Unfortunately, this isn’t  anywhere close to what the Founding Fathers envisioned, as any program that is used to violate our privacy should be under great scrutiny, especially as the data collected by local and state law enforcement is sent to state and local governments.

Tech Entrepreneurs Now Betting On Unrestricted Freedom Of Speech

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

 Tech Entrepreneurs Now Betting On Unrestricted Freedom Of Speech


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

In an era where cultural wars are fought online first and then aggressively taken to the streets by relatively small groups of people that fail to represent the majority of the population, the social media market has shown us that relying solely on popular, mainstream online hubs such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter for their communication needs does not pay off.

speech

In the past, privacy advocates demanding more freedom and less collaboration between mainstream organizations and government were able to obtain small victories as apps and email services that put their customers first started popping up.

But now that the fight for better communication tools hit a wall with white nationalist groups taking to the streets in a rally that unfortunately turned out deadly, tech giants are targeting anyone who may hold any idea that resembles white supremacy.

While such companies are entirely entitled to do what they wish, it’s important to note that no matter how vile and dangerous some ideas might be, shunning people from the online world we now take for granted means certain ideas will be driven into the shadows. Without an outlet, resentment then grows into something even more dangerous.

The cure for bad speech, veteran libertarian author Wendy McElroy put years ago, is a “a good one,” so when it comes to fighting bad, collectivist ideas such as hate toward a particular group of people, the best way to go about it is to defend and fight for freedom of speech first so that those who are being loud about their awful ideas today can be debated in the open.

In order to provide a platform that allows anyone their space, the social network Gab was launched with the promise to offer a neutral, free-speech environment to anyone who wants to join. And because it does not show preferences for political groups, parties, ideologies, or affiliations, Gab seems to be bringing a great number of people to its shores as the firm is now close to reaching its crowdfunding goal.

Reminding its potential users that 50 percent of all top social networking apps are owned by Facebook, Gab seems to be doing all it can to stand in the way of a handful of Silicon Valley companies that right now have a great deal of control over online content. If successful, the small but audacious company could open up its platform and offer users a place to “hang” where philosophical and ideological debates wouldn’t be at risk of succumbing to censorship threats.

While you may agree or not with how Gab is doing business in light of the recent events in Charlottesville, the appearance of this service serves as an example of why an open and unrestricted market is able to cater to all without resorting to coercion for support or legitimacy.

And in this case, it may even help people who might be targeted by certain groups to stay safer as they know people who subscribe to any ideology are free to discuss their ideas openly somewhere online instead of being driven into the shadows. But better yet, it might even give anti-white nationalists a chance to debate collectivists in a safe manner, helping to persuade them into learning different ideologies and being open to new ideas.

As platforms like Gab grow, others such as Facebook may finally learn how it feels to have competition. Unless, of course, these mainstream tech giants lobby government to keep entrepreneurs like the ones behind Gab to operate.

Only time will tell what will happen.

Decentralization Or Death: Texas Has A Chance To Legalize Medical Marijuana

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

Decentralization Or Death: Texas Has A Chance To Legalize Medical Marijuana

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

The fight for liberty in current-day America may look somewhat confusing to an outsider looking in. After all, what do libertarians want? More freedom. But how do they go about that? Well, that may depend on whom you ask.

Texas

Perhaps, we can all agree on at least one thing: The more centralized the power is, the less free the individual will become. By the same token, if power is decentralized, then people will become more free, even if gradually so.

The nullification movement ignited by the Tenth Amendment Center has helped to give countless of libertarians and non-libertarians tools to decentralize power, taking it from the hands of the feds by forcing state legislatures to say no to Washington, D.C. Thanks to this movement, several states have taken great steps to fight Washington’s violation of 2nd Amendment rights, to fight for more freedom in education, and to undo the great damage created by the war on drugs by weakening prohibition locally.

Now, it’s Texas’ turn.

House Bill 85, introduced by Rep. Eddie Lucio and 12 other lawmakers would legalize medical marijuana by expanding a cannabis oil law already on the books, giving medical marijuana a new status.

If the bill passes, people suffering from certain conditions would have legal access to cannabis while dispensaries would be allowed to operate in the state.

To many pro-marijuana advocates across the country, the most recent attempt to legalize medical marijuana in Texas is far from exciting. After all, the bill still limits the number of patients with access to the substance considerably. However, many other attempts to legalize marijuana in Texas ended up nowhere. This is yet another opportunity for anti-drug war advocates working hard to promote their ideas in the Lone Star state.

If HB 85 passes through the house and the Senate and makes it to the governor’s desk, Texas could be part of a growing movement that has already helped anti-drug war advocates in California, Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Nevada, and others. As more states refuse to aid the feds by not going after marijuana users, federal agencies become powerless and their prohibitionist laws become toothless.

But until then, HB 85 must first pass the House Public Health Committee before moving forward. Here’s hoping the decentralization fever spreads well across the red state.

Drugs Keep Blue Collar Workers From Finding Jobs: Time To End The Drug War

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

Drugs Keep Blue Collar Workers From Finding Jobs: Time To End The Drug War


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

The opioid crisis in America is real and it has been putting thousands of people in grave danger yearly with 33,000 dying of overdoses in 2015 alone. But despite the high rates of drug abuse in certain states, others have been reaping the benefits of pot legalization. In states where cannabis is legal either for medical, recreational purposes or both, the rate of opioid abuse is actually lower.

drug

Now, reports claim that employers have been having a hard time finding skilled blue collar workers because a high rate of them simply cannot pass random drug tests.

According to the latest Fed’s regular Beige Book surveys, employers in the manufacturing and hospitality industries have been unable to find enough workers who pass drug screenings.

Employees and potential employees who are subjected to these screenings are often tested for marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine, methamphetamines, nicotine, and alcohol. And in places like Ohio, where the opioid crisis hit locals especially harder, manufacturing companies such as Warren Fabricating & Machining have been experiencing the worst crisis in their history, with two out of every five qualified applicants failing routine drug tests.

To Edmond O’Neal, who is with the education and skills-training non-profit Northeast Indiana Works, the problem is that many employees or potential employees simply do not view pot as a drug.

“I’ve heard kids say pot isn’t a drug. It may not be, but pot will prevent you from getting a job,” he told reporters.

But because weed and many other substances are still seen as illicit drugs under federal law, these companies are compelled to be rigorous in their screening process. After all, having employees making use of illicit drugs is a liability and an insurance problem.

While performing any job under the influence of drugs has its consequences, individuals who use certain substances for medical or recreational purposes such as cannabis in their time off may find it hard to maintain a job.

In many cases, employees in fields where they are expected to go under great physical stress feel the pressure to let go of their cannabis use, a relatively safe way to obtain relief for muscle and other types of pain, just to stay employed. In no time, these same workers may end up turning to prescription drugs for relief, stepping into the never-ending cycle of legal opioid use triggered by doctors who are more than happy to prescribe highly addictive opioids but whose hands are still tied when it comes to medical marijuana.

While we don’t know exactly what percentage of employees fail drug tests over cannabis use, we can only assume that many are failing, especially in these fields, because they are directly affected by the work they do and turning to marijuana as a way to relieve stress and pain actually works. But thanks to the federal government’s continued effort to fight a failed war against drugs, both blue collar workers and their potential employers are the ones paying for these failed policies.

How do you define a victimless crime?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Criminal Justice, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty, Victimless Crime by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

How do you define a victimless crime?

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

Question

I’m a Libertarian candidate for prosecuting attorney, and I’m seeking to craft short answers for my campaign. One of my campaign promises is that I will not seek to imprison persons accused of a victimless crime.

crime

How would you define ‘victimless crime’ when asked? Specifically, does that include negligent conduct that involves a risk of harming others? For example: driving through a red light, driving while intoxicated, and firing shots into the air.

Many types of negligent criminal conduct involve some risk of harming others. But often the risk is trivial. What is the dividing line between trivial risk and significant risk? There are no statistics on the risk of harm I know of.

Answer

A victim (by libertarian standards) is someone who is threatened with physical force, fraud, or theft. If there is no threat, there is no crime. A victimless crime, therefore, is one in which no one has been threatened with physical force, fraud, or theft.

California May Soon Put An End To Unchecked Police Surveillance

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

California May Soon Put An End To Unchecked Police Surveillance

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

A bill introduced in the California Senate earlier this year that requires law enforcement agencies in the Golden State must get local government approval before deploying surveillance technology has just passed California Assembly’s Public Safety Committee. Now, it must pass the Assembly Committee on Privacy and Consumer Protection by a majority vote.

surveillance

If this bill remains favorable among California lawmakers and it becomes law, it could mark the beginning of a new era for privacy advocates since privacy advocates in other states might be inspired by seeing advocates targeting law enforcement agencies that abuse their power in the local level.

The bill, SB 21, mandates that law enforcement follows a Surveillance Use Policy for surveillance technologies available for use. This document would also cover the type of information these technologies collect. Once agencies develop their own operational policy, they would then have to submit these documents to a local governing body for approval. A hearing that would be open to the public would then be scheduled, and if the agency’s plan isn’t adopted then officials would be barred from using that particular surveillance technology within 30 days.

The proposed legislation would also ensure that civilians have the ability to sue a particular law enforcement agency if officers violate the legislation.

Officials would also have to amend policies related to any new surveillance technology they acquire in the future, forcing agencies to subject the new system to the same approval requirements.

While so far the bill seems promising, one of the risks associated with having this piece of legislation go through yet another committee is the fact lawmakers may feel compelled to amend the bill enough as to make some provisions in it toothless. Since this move would make law enforcement agencies fighting this bill quite happy, it’s important that SB 21 passes as is for it to be effective.

In order to help push the bill through the California legislature in a clean fashion, Media Alliance, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California, and the Tenth Amendment Center are all pushing legislators to focus on the end goal, ignoring calls for watering down the bill coming from law enforcement interests.

As it stands, officials are allowed access to an enormous amount of access to a series of surveillance equipment without any significant oversight. As officials notice access to these tools may be restricted, forcing them to do actual investigative work to do their jobs, pressure mounts. So it’s no wonder that law enforcement unions and their lobbyists aren’t willing to give up on this fight so easily.

As agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) show they are willing to let criminals go so their surveillance methods are challenged in court, we can only hope this legislative effort remains strong, producing the end goal desired so that Californians’ privacy is protected.

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