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Address Security Concerns But Let Syrian Refugees Come to the U.S.

in Foreign Policy, Immigration, Liberator Online, Middle East, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Address Security Concerns But Let Syrian Refugees Come to the U.S.

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

America’s governors are playing right into the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. In reaction to the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday, the governors of 30 states have called on the Obama administration to delay its plans to allow refugees from Syria to be placed in their states.

The concerns aren’t without merit. One of the Islamic radicals who participated in the terrorist attacks had a passport, using a phony name, showing that he entered Europe from Syria. This revelation has raised concerns about holes in the security screenings of the refugees who may enter the United States as the flee from a bloody civil war that has ravaged their country and left tens of thousands dead.


Similarly, congressional Republicans are poised to push legislation to “pause” the program. Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., in the first major test of his nascent speakership, said, “This is a moment where it’s better to be safe than to be sorry.” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., introduced a bill of his own to temporarily halt the resettlement of Syrian refugees.

“The time has come to stop terrorists from walking in our front door,” Paul said in a statement. “The Boston Marathon bombers were refugees, and numerous refugees from Iraq, including some living in my hometown, have attempted to commit terrorist attacks.”

“The terrorist attacks in Paris underscore this concern that I have been working to address for the past several years. My bill will press pause on new refugee entrants from high-risk countries until stringent new screening procedures are in place,” he added.

Prohibiting Syrian refugees from entering the United States, which is what some seem to want, may not be at all like the retaliatory attacks being carried out against mosques and Muslim-owed businesses in France in the aftermath of the attacks, but the anti-Islam sentiment is what ISIS thrives upon in its twisted eschatology.

“This is precisely what ISIS was aiming for — to provoke communities to commit actions against Muslims,” University of Maryland professor Arie Kruglanski told the Washington Post. “Then ISIS will be able to say, ‘I told you so. These are your enemies, and the enemies of Islam.”

Governors and lawmakers must tread carefully and keep in mind that history shows that refugees are overwhelming unlikely to be terrorists. A temporarily halt to the Syrian refugee program is understandable until security concerns are addressed, but we shouldn’t shut the door to people who are seeking safety by conflating it with the other hot-button issues, such as immigration.

Conservative Judge Defends Retroactivity of Drug Sentencing Guidelines

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Conservative Judge Defends Retroactivity of Drug Sentencing Guidelines

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

In April 2014, the U.S. Sentencing Commission issued new sentencing guidelines for drug offenders by two offense levels and, a few months later, voted to make the change retroactive. According to Families Against Mandatory Minimums, some 10,000 federal prisoners were eligible for re-sentencing under the new guidelines. Applicants were reviewed on a case-by-case basis and approximately 6,000 were released between the end of October and early November.


For decades, bad laws passed by well-intentioned lawmakers have ravaged mostly poor and minority communities and have cost taxpayers billions while doing little to stem drug use or stop the drug trade. Several states, both red and blue, are turning to drug treatment and rehabilitation to address drug crime. The U.S. Sentencing Commission’s revision of its guidelines, known as “All Drugs Minus Two,” is just one of many that either have been adopted by the federal government or are currently under consideration in Congress to reform the criminal justice system.

Although the U.S. Sentencing Commission should be applauded for the change, some are directing fire at the Obama administration. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., for example, is making the release of the prisoners an issue against his Democratic opponent in his campaign for governor of Louisiana. Similarly, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatter, R-Va., blasted the commission in a recent piece at the conservative publication, National Review.

“The problem with the Sentencing Commission’s changes to federal drug-sentencing requirements is that they are applied without regard to the inmate’s criminal history and public safety,” Goodlatte wrote. “Consequently, criminals set to be released into our communities as a result of the Sentencing Commission’s amendment include inmates with violent criminal histories, who have committed crimes involving assault, firearms, sodomy, and even murder.”

Goodlatte may come across like a hardened drug warrior determined to punish anyone whose life got off track, but, to his credit, he recently introduced the Sentencing Reform Act. His bill would expand the safety valve for certain drug offenders so they can avoid lengthy mandatory minimum sentences.

At least one member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission says Goodlatte and others who are criticizing the retroactivity of the new guidelines. Judge William Pryor was appointed to the Eleventh District Court of Appeals in 2004 as a recess appointment. Pryor was one of the judicial appointments stalled by Senate Democrats because they were deemed “too conservative.” When Senate Republicans threatened to go nuclear on the filibuster in 2005, an agreement was reached to ensure the filibuster would remain intact and the controversial judges would receive a confirmation vote.

Pryor set the record straight about what the process and the decision to make the new guidelines retroactive.

“When the commission votes to amend the sentencing guidelines, its decision becomes effective no sooner than six months later — that is, only after Congress has had an opportunity to exercise its statutory authority to reject the proposed change. Congress, of course, did not exercise that authority last year after the commission proposed modest changes in sentencing for drug cases. Instead, several members of Congress publicly supported those changes, and few said anything in opposition,” Pryor explained. “In fact, Chairman Goodlatte did not even schedule a hearing to review our decision.”

“Chairman Goodlatte objects to making the changes in drug sentencing retroactive, but he fails to mention that Congress gave the commission that authority,” he noted. “Indeed, Congress required the commission, whenever it lowers any guideline.”

The Bureau of Prisons has been preparing for these prisoners to re-enter society for a year. In October, the Washington Post reported that “[a]bout two-thirds of [of the prisoners] will go to halfway houses and home confinement before being put on supervised release.”

While there is no guarantee that these prisoners won’t re-offend, the U.S. Sentencing Commission has taken a step in the right direction and the Bureau of Prisons has provided them with support necessary to put their lives on the right track. The rest is up to them.

But it brings up a point worth considering, perhaps at another time, what steps should Congress and the Bureau of Prisons take to ensure that prisoners, once released, won’t re-offend. Re-entry programs that help with job placement and other policies, including “ban the box,” would go a long way to reducing recidivist behavior and turning these one-time offenders into taxpaying citizens.

Gun Control Fear Mongering Rings Hollow

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

Gun Control Fear Mongering Rings Hollow

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

It didn’t take long for President Barack Obama to politicize the tragic shooting Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon on Thursday, October 1. Just hours after the news of the shooting broke, he appeared before reporters and demanded more gun control laws.

gun control

“[W]hat’s become routine, of course, is the response of those who oppose any kind of common-sense gun legislation. Right now, I can imagine the press releases being cranked out: We need more guns, they’ll argue. Fewer gun safety laws,” Obama said. “Does anybody really believe that? There are scores of responsible gun owners in this country — they know that’s not true.”

“There is a gun for roughly every man, woman, and child in America. So how can you, with a straight face, make the argument that more guns will make us safer? We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths. So the notion that gun laws don’t work, or just will make it harder for law-abiding citizens and criminals will still get their guns is not borne out by the evidence,” he added.

No one denies that what happened at Umpqua Community College is a terrible tragedy. But it doesn’t appear that the gun control laws that President Obama and like-minded members of Congress have tried to advance could’ve prevented this incident. The shooter didn’t have a record of mental health problems or past legal problems, unlike the Charleston, South Carolina church shooter, who slipped between bureaucratic cracks.

Bad things can and do happen. Some of them are preventable and some of them aren’t. But no legislative proposal that has been discussed or actually introduced will stop tragedies like these from happening. In addition to the anti-gun bias of our President, part of the problem, of course, is a media that isn’t honest about the ineffectiveness of gun control proposals or how they wouldn’t stop shootings like the one at Umpqua Community College from happening.

Let’s be clear, we know that gun violence has declined significantly over the last 20 years. What we know is that the Centers for Disease Control, in 2013, recognized the private ownership of firearms as a deterrent to crime. And we know that states with concealed carry laws, known as “shall issue” states, have fewer murders than those that severely restrict these permits.

There is no cure-all to stop shootings, and President Obama and the media should be honest about that, rather than trying to push outrage and raise emotion to pass policies that promote their long-standing views against guns.

Cop Fired for Doing the Right Thing

in Criminal Justice, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Cop Fired for Doing the Right Thing

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

Jay Park was following a recently passed Georgia law extending amnesty to those who seek medical attention for others in need when he refused to arrest two underage college students who had far too much to drink.


The Georgia General Assembly passed the 9-1-1 Medical Amnesty Law in March 2014. Gov. Nathan Deal, R-Ga., put his signature on the bill not long after. The bill extends amnesty to people who seek medical attention to those who may have overdosed on illegal drugs and underage individuals who were consuming alcohol.

The idea is that amnesty may save the lives of those who may have otherwise died because those who they were with were scared of being prosecuted. As of August 2015, 32 states have passed a 9-1-1 “Good Samaritan” law, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.

In September 2014, Park was called to a scene where two underage female students had been drinking. The University of Georgia wrongly believed amnesty applied if the intoxicated person was the one who made the call. After speaking to state lawmakers who worked on the law and a judge, he believed the university had gross misinterpreted the law.

Park, who served for four years as a police officer for the University of Georgia, was fired for refusing to arrest two underage students who fell under the protections of Georgia’s 9-1-1 Medical Amnesty Law.

University of Georgia Police Chief Jimmy Williamson recorded the firing of Park. “You went outside the chain of command,” Williamson told the dismissed officer. “You’re an embarrassment to this agency.”

Current and former students have petitioned Williamson to reinstate Park, without success. An online petition has gained nearly 5,000 signatures. “In the interest of preserving the safe environment within the University of Georgia community,” the petition states, “I ask that you reinstate Officer Jay Park, expunge his most recent personnel record for insubordination, and commit your officers to serving and protecting in a legal and ethical manner.”

Park, who has been unable to find work in law enforcement as a result of his firing from the University of Georgia, has filed a lawsuit against the Georgia Board of Regents, which governs the state’s university system; the University of Georgia Police Department; and others, including Williamson.

Frankly, it’s discouraging to see so many instances of police officers getting away with abusing their authority and not face any repercussions, and finally see one who did the right thing lose his job because of it. Here’s hoping Park either wins his suit and is awarded monetary damages for the harm to his reputation.

The Good and the Bad of Donald Trump’s White Paper on Guns

in Elections and Politics, Gun Rights, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has shifted away from his previous support of some gun control policies, including longer waiting periods and a ban on “assault weapons.” Although his campaign is general devoid of any meaningful or specifics on policy, Trump released a white paper last week that offers support for the Second Amendment.


The white paper opposes restrictions on firearms, such as “assault weapons,” that are usually targeted by the anti-gun left. But this is a departure for Trump, who, in his 2000 book, The America We Deserve, expressed support for a ban on this type of firearm.

“The Republicans walk the NRA line and refuse even limited restrictions,” Trump wrote. “I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun.” (Emphasis added.) Trump was, at the time, considering a bid for the Reform Party’s presidential nomination.

Today, Trump, as he does on many different issues, sings a different tune. “Gun and magazine bans are a total failure. That’s been proven every time it’s been tried. Opponents of gun rights try to come up with scary sounding phrases like ‘assault weapons’, ‘military-style weapons’ and ‘high capacity magazines’ to confuse people. What they’re really talking about are popular semi-automatic rifles and standard magazines that are owned by tens of millions of Americans,” Trump’s white paper states. “Law-abiding people should be allowed to own the firearm of their choice. The government has no business dictating what types of firearms good, honest people are allowed to own.”

He opposes expanded background checks and supports allowing the military to carry weapons on base and at recruiting centers. In the months after the Newtown tragedy, conservatives resisted a failed attempt to expand background checks, which wouldn’t have stopped that particular incident from occurring, and, after the recent shooting at a military recruiting center in Chattanooga, have expressed support for allowing recruiters to carry weapons on the job.

One particular policy proposed by Trump is likely to strongly appeal to conservatives. He supports “national right to carry,” which would make concealed carry permits valid in every state and the District of Columbia, much like a driver’s license. “A driver’s license works in every state, so it’s common sense that a concealed carry permit should work in every state,” Trump says. “If we can do that for driving – which is a privilege, not a right – then surely we can do that for concealed carry, which is a right, not a privilege.”

While this policy is attractive and worth of support – and at least three pieces of legislation have been introduced in the current Congress to achieve that goal – one aspect of Trump’s white paper is particularly troubling. He expresses support for a little known federal program, known as “Project Exile,” that existed in Richmond, Virginia in the 1990s.

“Several years ago there was a tremendous program in Richmond, Virginia called Project Exile. It said that if a violent felon uses a gun to commit a crime, you will be prosecuted in federal court and go to prison for five years – no parole or early release. Obama’s former Attorney General, Eric Holder, called that a ‘cookie cutter’ program. That’s ridiculous. I call that program a success,” the white paper states. “Murders committed with guns in Richmond decreased by over 60% when Project Exile was in place – in the first two years of the program alone, 350 armed felons were taken off the street.”

From 1993 to 2010, violent crime fell across the United States. The Pew Research Center found that the gun homicide rate fell by 49 percent from its peak level in 1993 and the victimization rate for other violent crimes committed with firearms, including rape, dropped by 75 percent.

“Nearly all the decline in the firearm homicide rate took place in the 1990s,” Pew noted, “the downward trend stopped in 2001 and resumed slowly in 2007. “ Theories on what caused the decline in crime rates vary, but economist Steven Levitt, known for the best-selling book, Freakonomics, has written that changes in policing strategies and gun control didn’t have much of an impact.

Project Exile was a federal program created in 1997 that targeted felons in possession of firearms. It brought these cases to federal court, where offenders faced a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence.

Trump’s praise of Project Exile may be misguided. A 2003 study called into question its effectiveness as a deterrent to violent crime. “Despite this widespread acclaim, some skeptics have questioned the effectiveness of Project Exile, pointing out that homicides increased in Richmond in the last ten months of 1997 following the program’s announcement,” the authors explained. “In fact, the Richmond homicide rate increased by 40 percent between 1996 and 1997.”

Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., who represents part of Richmond and the surrounding area, blasted Project Exile in a speech on the House floor in April 2000. “The mandatory minimums associated with Project Exile show no better results. The proponents suggest that the violent crime rate has gone down 39 percent in the city of Richmond under Project Exile,” Scott said. “At the same time it went down 43 percent in Norfolk, 58 percent in Virginia Beach and 81 percent in Chesapeake without Project Exile.”

Trump’s white paper may offer a good idea, national right to carry, combined with fluff in contradiction to his previous statements, but programs like Project Exile are bad policy that are better handled under state law. What’s more, it defies logic. Violent crime is at its lowest point in the last couple decades. Unfortunately, the politics of fear are politicians need to succeed to win support from people who simply don’t know better.

You Don’t Have to Like Same-Sex Marriage to Realize Kim Davis Ignored the Rule of Law

in Liberator Online, Marriage and Family, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Jackson Jones Comments are off

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

Apparently, the most pressing issue in the country is a Kentucky county clerk who refuses to separate her religious beliefs from her duties as a public official. The media frenzy has created a debate over the role of religion in public affairs in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.

Kim Davis was elected as a Democrat to serve as the clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky in November 2014. She succeeded her mother, Jean Bailey, who served in the role for 37 years. Davis worked under her mother as a deputy clerk for 24 years.

Near the end of Bailey’s tenure, her office was the subject of complaints. Davis pulled in more than $63,000 in compensation. The excessive government salaries in the county of approximately 23,600 residents led to a reduction in the office’s budget in December 2011.

When Davis took the oath of office, she pledged that she would “support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth.” When she entered office in January, same-sex marriage was constitutionally prohibited in Kentucky, but that changed in June when the Supreme Court struck down state constitutional amendments and statutes prohibiting it.

Governor Steve Beshear, D-Ky., instructed county clerks to comply with the ruling by issuing marriage certificates to same-sex couples. “Neither your oath nor the Supreme Court dictates what you must believe,” Beshear explained. “But as elected officials, they do prescribe how we must act.”

Davis, citing her religious beliefs, refused to issue marriage licenses to any couple, traditional or same-sex, in Rowan County and ordered her staff to follow suit. In mid August, U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning, the son of former Republican U.S. Senator Jim Bunning, issued an injunction against Davis ordering her to issue marriage licenses in accordance with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergfell.

Just days later, Davis appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which, prior to Obergfell, was one of the few courts in the United States that upheld the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans. A three-judge panel denied her appeal.
She asked the Supreme Court to take her case, but she was again rebuffed.

In the injunction issued against Davis, Bunning wrote that “[o]ur form of government will not survive unless we, as a society, agree to respect the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions, regardless of our personal opinions. Davis is certainly free to disagree with the Court’s opinion, as many Americans likely do, but that does not excuse her from complying with it.”

“To hold otherwise,” he added, “would set a dangerous precedent.”

The case isn’t about religious liberty; it’s about the rule of law. Certainly, one can disagree with the Supreme Court rulings. Simply because five judges in black robes rule on an issue doesn’t necessarily mean that the subject can’t be revisited through appropriate legislation within the confines of a judicial ruling.

But as Judge Andrew Napolitano explained on Tuesday, “There is no acceptable dispute to the truism that the Supreme Court has the final say on the meaning of the Constitution, whether you agree with it or not.”

“[Davis’ attorney is] asking for an accommodation between her religious beliefs and the fundamental right of same sex couples to get married in that county, they found the accommodation, she doesn’t have to deal with them, and the deputy clerks can issue those applications,” said Napolitano. “But if he wants to relitigate the issue of whether or not a local county clerk can defy the Supreme Court, he is going to lose and she is going to lose. That issue has already been resolved with finality.”

Still, despite losing at every turn, Davis refused to perform her duties. She refused to uphold the rule of law. Davis and her attorney insisted that she was acting on “God’s authority,” which, since the United States isn’t a theocracy, isn’t recognized.

Bunning found Davis in contempt on September 3 and ordered her into custody. Her staff subsequently resumed issuing marriage licenses to traditional and same-sex couples. Those who initiated the suit against Davis asked for fines, but Bunning believed that Davis’ supporters would pay the fines for her, rendering that form of sanctions irrelevant.

Republican presidential candidates, desperate for the limelight, have rallied behind Davis. Former Governor Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, have been the most vocal. Huckabee said the jailing of Davis for contempt is an example of the “criminalization of Christianity.” Huckabee offered to take Davis’ place in jail should she be required to go back for further ignoring the law. Cruz claimed that Bunning’s action against Davis was “judicial tyranny.”

“Those who are persecuting Kim Davis believe that Christians should not serve in public office. That is the consequence of their position,” said Cruz. “Or, if Christians do serve in public office, they must disregard their religious faith–or be sent to jail.”

The public comments of presidential candidates are little more than hot air in the conversation in a desperate attempt to gain attention when all the wind in the room is being consumed by Donald Trump, who, as it happens, doesn’t agree with Davis. As an example of how desperate these guys are, one of Huckabee’s aides physically blocked Cruz from appearing on stage with Davis and Huckabee when she was released on Tuesday.

No one disagrees that people are free to observe their religion peacefully in their private lives. But if someone, like Davis, holds a public office and is willfully using their religious beliefs position to ignore the rule of law, they deserve some form of punishment.

Perhaps the Kentucky General Assembly will offer Davis some means to avoid having to sign off on marriage certificates for same-sex couples, but, until state lawmakers act, Davis has no choice but to follow the law or face some form of punishment until she complies with the law or resigns from office.

No, Violent Crime is Not Getting Worse

in Criminal Justice, Gun Rights, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Jackson Jones Comments are off

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

One wouldn’t know it if they read what some news outlets are reporting or listened to the words of some Republican hopefuls and pundits on television, but there isn’t any real evidence that crime is getting worse.

The Pew Research Center, in May 2013, noted that the gun homicide rate was down 49 percent since 1993, when it peaked. What’s more, non-fatal gun violence dropped by 75 percent over the same period analyzed. The Bureau of Justice Statistics, an agency in the Department of Justice, found similar figures, a 39 percent drop in gun homicides and a 70 percent drop in non-fatal gun violence, between 1993 and 2011.


Although instances of gun violence were falling, according to the Pew Research Center, 56 percent of Americans believed gun-related crimes were on the rise compared to 20 years before. The causes of this belief are certainly up for debate, but the media’s focus on shootings and coverage of politicians’ reactions could be a cause. After all, bad news sells.

At the end of August, The New York Times reported that “[c]ities across the nation are seeing a startling rise in murders after years of declines.” The Times offers data from several U.S. cities that have seen spikes in homicides. Some have interpreted the story as a nationwide spike in violent crime attributed to the so-called “Ferguson effect.” Heather Mac Donald pushed this theory in a May editorial at the Wall Street Journal.

“Since last summer, the airwaves have been dominated by suggestions that the police are the biggest threat facing young black males today,” Mac Donald wrote. “Almost any police shooting of a black person, no matter how threatening the behavior that provoked the shooting, now provokes angry protests.”

Others, including Bruce Frederick of the Vera Institute and John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center, have taken a more reasoned approach to the perceived spike in violent crime.

“[N]ot all of the increases cited by the Times are statistically reliable; that is, some of them are small increases, or are based on small numbers of cases, such that the observed increases could have occurred by chance alone. Among the 16 top-20 cities for which I found publically available data, only three experienced statistically reliable increases,” Frederick explained. “Only one of the top-20 cities included in the Times’ sample, Chicago, experienced an increase that was statistically significant.”

“Even where a statistically reliable increase has been experienced,” he noted, “a single year-to-year increase does not necessarily imply a meaningful trend.”

Writing in response to Mac Donald at the end of May, Lott pointedly contested her narrative, writing, “The bottom line is that across the largest 15 cities in the US the murder rate has fallen by by 12 from 749 to 737 (a 2% drop) or from 43 from 871 to 828 (a 5% drop).”

And while many are insisting that violence against police is becoming a trend, the Associated Press recently noted that shooting deaths of police officers are actually down by 13 percent. “There were 30 shootings last year and 26 this year,” the report explained. “Those figures include state and local officers, as well as federal agents.” The data used in the report came from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

Each shooting, whether of an innocent person or a police officer, is a tragedy, but everyone needs to calm down about this supposed uptick in violent crime because the data suggest that 2015 is consistent with recent years. Even if by year’s end there’s an increase in violent crime, it’s far too early to call it a trend.

Libertarian Parenting

in Conversations With My Boys, Liberator Online, Libertarianism, Marriage and Family by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

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

Me: What are the rules of the house?
BA (10): Do not encroach on the person or property of another. Do all you have agreed to do. [We took those rules directly from Richard Maybury.]11988564_10104815737879530_1104378496462959819_n
Me: Who has to obey the rules?
BA: Everyone in the house?
Me: Me and Dad?
BA: Yes.
Me: What if you don’t want to obey those rules?
BA: You can ask if you can change the rules.
Me: Who would you ask?
BA: It depends on who is in a good mood.
Me: Young Statesman, what are your thoughts? What if you don’t want to obey the rules? Do you only lose the constraint?
YS: You lose the protection that the rules provide you.
Me: What does that make you?
YS: An outlaw. Fair game.
Me: So, BA, what would you think if we said, “Great. You don’t want the constraints or the protection of the rules, there are more of us, we’re going to take your stuff!”
BA: I’d be like, “That was a bad choice. I take that back.”
Me: So you think those are good rules.
BA: Yeah.
Me: Are they rules you’ll take with you into adulthood?
BA: I think so.
Me: What if you met someone who didn’t obey those rules?
BA: I would be quite upset.
Me: What would you call that person?
BA: A thief.
Me: Are you free to leave the family?
YS: Yes. I’m not going to.
Me: So you’re here voluntarily?
YS: Yep.
Me: How can that be? What recourse do you have? Isn’t it dangerous just to leave?
YS: You would help me find a good home that suited me better.
Me: That’s true. That’s a big part of being a member of this family. You are free to go. Your father and I both agree on that point. He is free to leave, I am free to leave, you are free to leave, your brother is free to leave. How do you think it impacts our parenting to know that we have agreed that you can walk away–right now–and not look back?
YS: It makes you think about your actions and consequences.
Me: Does that make us perfect parents?
YS: No.
Me: Why don’t you leave?
YS: Because I love you all and you are my family.
Me: What if we were oppressive?
YS: You aren’t so how would I know what I would do?
Me: So if we were prone to being oppressive we wouldn’t give you the option to walk away.
YS: Right. If you’re going to be oppressive you aren’t going to give the kid the option to safely walk away.
Me: But you’re given the right to walk away when you’re eighteen, right? Earlier if you become an emancipated minor. So eventually everyone has the right to rid themselves of relationships they find abusive or broken. We’ve just given it to you earlier. Why would we do that?
YS: Because you want to be respectful of me.
Me: It also keeps us honest. Knowing that you can leave us. It levels the field. What if I couldn’t leave my marriage to your father?
YS: That would make you a slave and he could do anything.
Me: Would that be healthy?
YS: No. You couldn’t do anything. You would have no power.
Me: There has to be balance. We decided early on that our relationships had to be balanced. You had to have the right to leave. Your father and I agreed to that with one another. That’s our agreement. If one of us refuses to make leaving the family a safe option for a child, the other is the fail safe. They will guarantee your safe departure and survival until you are old enough to make it on your own. Are there other adults who would assist you if your dad and I suddenly lost it?
YS: Yes.
Me: Miss Katy, Miss Alison, Miss Karen, Mr. Jamie, The Whites, Scott. Would they help you?
YS: Yes, they would. But I’m not leaving.

We have this conversation about every six months. Just so he knows his father and I remain bound by this rule. We check in. They know the rules of our union as a family and they know that removing themselves safely is an option guaranteed to them as members of this family. Particularly as they become young adults with all that adulthood brings with it, I think having the option to walk away is fundamental.

The Radical Environmentalist Roots of the Anti-Immigration Movement

in Immigration, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

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

Immigration is dominating much of the national political dialogue at the moment. Republicans in Congress are preparing legislation to target so-called “sanctuary cities” and eyeing a new five-year mandatory minimum sentence for immigrants who illegally re-enter the United States.

immigrationConservatives, generally, are supportive of rolling back illegal immigration. A recent poll found that 55 percent of conservatives want to deport the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already in the United States. Most Americans – 56 percent, in fact – support a plan that would allow them to stay.

Much of the rhetoric on the Republican side reveals more than just opposition to illegal immigration, but animosity toward even legal immigrants. It shows nativist tendencies; the sort of sentiment that is dangerous, disgusting and seriously misinformed. There’s a wealth of information, for example, showing that immigrants, including illegal ones, are a net-benefit to the economy. But the negative attitude toward them persists.

So what’s driving it?

Organizations like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and NumbersUSA are some of the driving forces in the debate. And these three groups all share a common name: John Tanton.

Tanton is a retired ophthalmologist and radical environmentalist who was unable to convince prominent environmental groups to support restrictionist immigration policies. A resident of Michigan, he also served on the board of his local Planned Parenthood.

Tanton, who founded FAIR and helped organize CIS and NumbersUSA, opposes not only illegal immigration but advocates for zero-population growth for fear that an influx of immigrants would be dangerous for the environment. But, keeping to form, there was a hint of prejudice in his motives.

The New York Times’ 2011 profile of Tanton quotes from a letter he wrote to a donor, in which he said, “One of my prime concerns is about the decline of folks who look like you and me.” Tanton is white.

In his 2008 book, Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders, Jason L. Riley, a columnist with the Wall Street Journal, details the connection that Tanton has to the restrictionist movement in the United States. He provides details on some of the more sinister aspects of these groups that he helped get off the ground, such as the $1.2 million in funding FAIR received from the pro-eugenics foundation, the Pioneer Fund.

“When I travel the country to report on immigration, or speak to groups in the known about Tanton and his network, I’m often asked why the mainstream media continue to cite groups like FAIR and the Center for Immigration Studies without mentioning their origins or ulterior motives,” writes Riley. “CIS ‘reports’ are given the gravitas of the Brookings Institution’s, and FAIR is described as an organization that merely favors less immigration, when in fact its stated goal is to cut the U.S. population in half.”

Others have taken note of the restrictionist movement’s zero-population growth roots. Mario H. Lopez published a study in October 2012 in which he explained the views that, at the very least, were foundational principles of today’s anti-immigrant rhetoric.

“The myth that human beings are ‘overpopulating’ the earth, which has persisted for centuries, is rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of human activity, economics, and natural science,” writes Lopez. “Numerous political elites have promulgated the overpopulation myth in pursuit of various big-government policies both in their home countries and around the world. People like Thomas Malthus, Paul Ehrlich, and Margaret Sanger have sought various ‘remedies’ for this false crisis, ‘solutions’ which devalue human life—abortion, sterilization, and euthanasia—and promote government control of economic activity.”

Malthus’ An Essay on the Principle of Population, in which he theorized that population growth would eventually outpace agriculture production and offered “two great checks” – “positive,” which includes famine and war, and “preventative,” which refers to birth control. His work influenced many thinkers of the 19th and 20th centuries. Some of his beliefs were carried forward, perhaps unwittingly, perhaps not – by radical environmentalist Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb, and Margaret Sanger, a member of the American Eugenics Society and founder of Planned Parenthood.

“The opinions of the abortion and population-control movements are dominant among the founders, funders, and board members of FAIR, CIS, and NumbersUSA,” Lopez explains. “They represent the direct modern continuation of the 1960s and 1970s population-control movement—in many cases the same people involved in that movement decades ago sit on the boards of these three organizations.”

“Of course, not everyone concerned about immigration advocates population control, abortion, or sterilization. However, the evidence shows that the primary leaders and funders of the anti-immigration movement were drawn to it because they were also active organizers and supporters of, and contributors to, the population-control movement in the United States,” he adds.

Similarly, Neil Stevens, a contributor at the popular conservative outlet, RedState, has called these restrictionist groups, specifically FAIR and NumbersUSA, “fronts for the extreme left.”

“FAIR took a number of early members from ZPG, the group founded by Paul Ehrlich of The Population Bomb fame. They’ve now renamed themselves to Population Connection, but they’re always been a group about abortion and birth control in the global green left context,” Stevens explains. “FAIR spun off from them when, in the United States, it turned out that our fertility rate before Roe v. Wade was low enough that the way to end population growth here was to end all immigration.”

He turned his attention to NumbersUSA and its executive director, Roy Beck. “[B]uried in PDFs is the real NumbersUSA agenda. Take a look for example at Page 8 of this PDF by the group, which goes off into a whole rant against a vast Catholic conspiracy to oppose abortion and birth control,” he notes. “Or take Page 189 of this PDF which outlines Beck’s green left agenda, including ‘Laws that force greater cuts in consumption and waste,’ and ‘Tougher enforcement of environmental laws.’”

One has to wonder that if conservatives would still support the work of restrictionist and anti-immigration organization if they had even a basic overview of its background in the zero-population growth movement. For now, just sit back and enjoy the irony.

Immigration is Good for the Economy

in Immigration, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

The Republican presidential race has devolved into a contest about who can spew the most venom at immigrants. Make no mistake about it, the rhetoric on the campaign trail hasn’t been limited to illegal immigrants but even those who came to the United States through the legal process.

immigration at ellis islandMuch of the focus has been on the comments of Donald Trump, the businessman turned celebrity turned presidential candidate turned general annoyance of anyone who wants a serious discussion of the issues facing the United States.

Trump has already accused Mexico of “sending people that have lots of problems,” accusing immigrants from our neighbor to the south of being drug runners and criminals. Of course, that isn’t true. But Trump has continues to spout of this nonsense to appeal to a certain segment of the public that, simply put, just doesn’t like people of color.

On Tuesday evening, for example, Trump told Fox News host Bill O’Reilly that he wants to eliminate citizenship for children who are born to immigrant parents in the United States. He actually said that Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees citizenship to people “born or naturalized in the United States”, is “unconstitutional.”

“What happens is, they’re in Mexico, they’re going to have a baby, they move over here for a couple of days, they have the baby,” Trump said on The O’Reilly Factor. “It’s not going to hold up in court, it’s going to have to be tested.”

Yes, seriously. He said that, and it’s painfully ignorant of, you know, the Constitution – the “supreme law of the land.”

Other Republicans contenders have made equally asinine comments. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon turned presidential candidate, said he wants to use militarized drones to police the southern border.

“We can use a whole series of things to do that, not just fences and walls but electronic surveillance, drones and many of the techniques that are used to keep people out of top secret places,” Carson told a crowd in Phoenix on Wednesday. “All of those things are available to us. We have the ability to do it; we just don’t have the will to do it. That will change when we have the right administration in place.”

“The reason that is so important—a lot of people think there are just people coming from the south of the border—there are radical global jihadists who want to destroy us and our way of life and we have to keep them out. We have to make it not easy for them to get in here. This is a matter of our own security,” he said. “Then once we have that border sealed, we have to turn off the spigot that dispenses the goodies. If there are no goodies, guess what? They won’t come. It won’t be worth trying to get through our borders if there are no goodies. That includes employment—we should make it illegal to employ people in this country who are not legally here.”

Carson’s nativist logic – which has been repeated by a handful of other Republican contenders – is baseless. Immigrants contribute to the economy. A 2006 study conducted by the Texas Comptroller found that immigrants contributed $17.7 billion to the state’s economy and paid $1.58 billion in taxes, more than the $1.16 billion they consumed in services.

On the whole, immigration, much like trade, is a net-benefit for the economy. This doesn’t mean that immigration reform proposals in previous congresses were worth passing, but as a general principle, immigration is a good thing. Republican candidates need to stop demagoguing this issue and propose serious policies to educate to the party’s base rather than appealing to the lowest common dominator of it.

A New Mandatory Minimum for Illegal Immigration is a Costly Bad Idea

in Criminal Justice, Immigration, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

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Senate Republicans plan to bring to legislation to the floor in September that will target so-called “sanctuary cities” that provide a safe haven for illegal immigrants. The bill, according to a Politico report last month, “would block funding for cities and other local governments that decline to cooperate with federal immigration officials.”

mandatory minimum  sentencingThere’s a recent wrinkle in that a) doesn’t make much sense and b) could undermine efforts in Congress to reform America’s criminal justice system. In response to the tragic murder of Kate Steinle at the hands of an illegal immigrant, some members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, including Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, want this proposal attached to the sanctuary cities bill.

“Kate’s Law” would require a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for any immigrant who re-enters the United States illegally. Those who are lobbying for the measure, either professionally or through citizen activism, don’t seem to understand the costs associated with housing federal prisoners.

On average, the annual price tag for incarcerating a federal inmate is around $30,000. Multiplied by five years; that’s $150,000 to incarcerate someone who those pushing for the bill don’t want here, anyway.

Greg Newburn of Families Against Mandatory Minimums notes that this isn’t a small sum, given the number of people incarcerated for illegal re-entry in the most recent fiscal year for which data are available. “According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, 16,556 offenders were sentenced for illegal reentry in FY 2014,” Newburn writes, ” 98.6% of those offenders were sentenced to prison; the average sentence was 17 months.”

“If they all received five-year mandatory minimums rather than the average sentences of 17 months, new incarceration costs would be $1.78 billion per year. That’s nearly $2 billion that could be spent on finding, arresting, and prosecuting violent undocumented immigrants that will instead have to be spent on incarcerating people [who’ve re-entered the United States illegally],” he added.

Not only does “Kate’s law” fail to make any fiscal sense, it could undermine movement on criminal justice reform, which is currently a topic of serious discussion in both chambers of Congress. Much of the logic behind this effort is that there are too many people in prison and mass incarceration is too expensive.

Although he’s been a reluctant participant, Grassley led discussions in the Senate Judiciary Committee to bring legislation that would include some mandatory minimum sentences, though the expansion of the federal safety valve, and prison reforms to reduce the likelihood that offenders will engage in recidivist behavior.

Enacting a new and very costly mandatory minimum sentence defeats the purpose of criminal justice reform. In fact, this is how mass incarceration in the United States really took off. Congress enacted harsh sentences, including mandatory minimum sentences, as a reaction to a problem. As well intended as these policies were, they haven’t been an effective deterrent to crime. This proposed mandatory sentence won’t be any different.

You Can’t Force a Person to Learn Something

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

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Me: Can I force you to learn something?
The Young Statesman (then 12): No. You can not.
Me: So, if I sat you down and did chemistry lessons with you and threatened to….
You can't force someone to learnYS: Take something away?
Me: Yes. Take something away. If I threaten to take something away if you don’t do well on a chemistry test I give you will that make you learn it?
YS: I’ll learn it, I’ll spit it out, and then I’ll forget it.
Me: Isn’t that learning?
YS: No. That isn’t learning. That’s wasting time.
Me: What if I gave you an incentive to do well on a chemistry test. Will that make you learn it?
YS: If I don’t want to learn it, I won’t learn it. I’ll just memorize it, spit it back out at you, and forget it.
Me: What about subjects that are important?
YS: Important to whom?
Me: To many adults.
YS: Does that mean it’s important to me? If I don’t want to learn it, I will not learn it.
Me: Some people say if you don’t learn a thing when you’re young then that field will be closed to you when you’re older.
YS: Like what?
Me: We could say science. If you aren’t exposed to science when you’re young….
YS: You won’t be exposed to it again? You weren’t exposed to libertarian thought and Austrian economics when you were young and look at you. You’re running a page with over 25 thousand likes.
Me: What you’re saying is that I’m teaching people about liberty and Austrian economics and I wasn’t exposed to it as a child.
YS: Right. You were never exposed to that when you were little. Just because you weren’t exposed to it then doesn’t mean you won’t be great at it later.
Me: You’ve watched me teach myself, haven’t you?
YS: I have. I’ve watched you teach yourself a lot. I’ve watched you teach other people, too.
Me: You’ve watched me tutor. You’ve been in the room with me when I’ve tutored. What have you learned by watching students struggle with subjects they’ve been told are “important” but aren’t aren’t important to them?
YS: They want to make their teachers happy but the subjects aren’t important to them so they aren’t going to excel. Daisy was an artist. They were trying to cram all sorts of other stuff into her.
Me: What did that do to her?
YS: You had to re-school her.
Me: What do you think was the most important thing for her?
YS: Art. She was a wonderful artist. You let her focus on that.
Me: Someone had told her it was more important that she be a mediocre, miserable student than a fantastic artist. One would have to be blind to miss that she was an artist.
YS: She was told doing what she was good at wasn’t as important as what the teachers thought was important.
Me: And what did the teachers think was important?
YS: Everyone being the same was important. Following the curriculum was important. Art wasn’t important.
Me: It’s like a factory isn’t it? It makes one product.
YS: No variations. All the same thing.
Me: Does that work with people? Who does it reward?
YS: The state gets a nice new batch of uniform people.
Me: What happens to people like Daisy who are brilliant in something the school doesn’t value?
YS: Their talent gets squashed. I’ve noticed that you tutor the brilliant people. It’s the creative people who don’t do well in the school system.
Me: I would say that every child I’ve tutored had a burning passion that was being neglected or misdirected or devalued. I don’t think there’s one child I’ve worked with who wasn’t obviously being sold short. Can you imagine being a fantastic artist and having to sit in classes that bored you, that you weren’t interested in, that you actively hated and that you were failing every day of your life?
YS: I can not imagine how bad that would be. That would basically be the first eighteen years of your life thrown away.
Me: It would be worse than wasting it. It would be eighteen years of being told that you weren’t good enough. It would be a daily attack. We were talking about whether or not you can force a person to learn something.
YS: You can’t force a person to learn something.
Me: I was required to teach Daisy certain subjects. Do you think they stuck?
YS: No. She probably forgot them. It was probably a big waste of her time and your time.
Me: What do you think she remembered?
YS: That you let her do what she loved to do. That you understood what her talent was.
Me: I wish we had spent more time on art with her.
YS: She was a lot happier here than in school.

What Do You Think About the War on Drugs?

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

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Me (The Libertarian Homeschooler): What do you think about the war on drugs?
War on Drugs Is a War on UsYS (Young Statesman, 14): I think it’s none of the state’s business what we can or cannot put into our bodies and what we can or cannot do with our money.
Me: But a lot of people die from drug overdoses. For whatever reason you aren’t likely to do that, but shouldn’t other people be protected from drugs and drug overdoses? Should they just be thrown to the wolves? Don’t we care about them?
YS: You’ve made a emotional argument.
Me: How do you combat that?
YS: You could say, “Are you saying it is the responsibility of the state to protect people from making bad choices?”
Me: Right. That’s the argument that the state should protect people from bad choices wrapped in a veiled personal attack: “You don’t care about other people. You’re a bad person.” But there’s another argument. Who determines what goes into your body? Who owns your body? That’s the most compelling argument.
YS: Do you own you or does the state own you?
Me: Yes. I think that’s the most important argument. Property rights. Who owns you? That can get lost. Why did it become difficult when it became about you caring about other people?
YS: Because it became an emotional argument.
Me: How did it feel when it became an emotional argument?
YS: Oh, God. Not this again.
Me: It’s a trap.
YS: It makes your brain stop working as well.
Me: What do you have to do when faced with a emotional argument?
YS: Think about the argument that’s being given to you. You have to make it about property rights again.
Me: Is that because most arguments boil down to property rights?
YS: If you’re arguing about feels, it’s because the other person is trying to shut the argument down. Most arguments are actually about property. You have to remove the emotion. You can’t follow that trail. That’s not the real argument.
Me: Is it possible that the other person doesn’t know the real argument? They don’t know what’s at stake?
YS: Yeah. They think it’s about protecting people from a small danger but there’s a bigger danger. You are trying to show them the rest of the picture. Yes, it’s important for people not to overdose but property rights are more important.
Me: The denial of property rights, in my opinion, is the greatest evil. When we deny people their property rights we have to tell lies and create systems to justify the denial. Those lies and those systems lead to violence and slaughter.

No, Immigrants Don’t Make the U.S. Less Safe

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Immigration has been catapulted back into the national political discussion in recent weeks, thanks to the comments of a bloviating celebrity businessman who is desperately seeking relevance.

immigrant family

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists,” he said last month. “And some, I assume, are good people.”

While some justifiably cringed at the notion, immigration restrictionists have praised the comments, especially after the tragic death of Kate Steinle, who was murdered by an illegal immigrant in San Francisco.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a rabidly anti-immigration group, declared, in the wake of Steinle’s murder, that the celebrity’s “widely mocked warnings of this very danger have been vindicated.”

Former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, who, in 2010 signed the toughest anti-immigration law in country, said the celebrity “is kind of telling it like it really, truly is.”

“I think that the people of Arizona realize that we picked up the tab for the majority of the violence that comes across our border in regards to the drug cartels, the smugglers, the drug houses,” Brewer said. “It has been horrendous.”

But is it true that immigrants bring crime to the United States? The answer may surprise you. Writing at Reason in July 2009, Radley Balko noted that despite its close proximity to Ciudad Juarez, which has been ravaged by Mexican drug cartels, El Paso, Texas “is among of the safest big cities in America.”

“There were just 18 murders in El Paso [in 2008], in a city of 736,000 people. To compare, Baltimore, with 637,000 residents, had 234 killings,” Balko explained. “In fact, since the beginning of 2008, there were nearly as many El Pasoans murdered while visiting Juarez (20) than there were murdered in their home town (23).”

“Numerous studies by independent researchers and government commissions over the past 100 years repeatedly and consistently have found that, in fact, immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or to be behind bars than are the native-born. This is true for the nation as a whole, as well as for cities with large immigrant populations such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Miami, and cities along the U.S.-Mexico border such as San Diego and El Paso,” he added.

On Tuesday, Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy expert at the Cato Institute, further countered the argument that more immigrants mean more crime in the United States.

“Both the Census-data driven studies and macro-level studies find that immigrants are less crime-prone than natives with some small potential exceptions. There are numerous reasons why immigrant criminality is lower than native criminality,” Nowrasteh wrote. “One explanation is that immigrants who commit crimes can be deported and thus are punished more for criminal behavior, making them less likely to break the law.”

“Another explanation is that immigrants self-select for those willing to work rather than those willing to commit crimes,” he added. “According to this “healthy immigrant thesis,” motivated and ambitious foreigners are more likely to immigrate and those folks are less likely to be criminals.”

None of this touches on the economic benefits of immigration or the dishonorable intentions of anti-immigration groups that drive the fear mongering. Those are topics, perhaps, for another day. But the fears about crime committed by immigrants are completely and utterly unfounded.

The Supreme Court’s Gay Marriage Decision was Completely Avoidable

in Liberator Online, Marriage and Family, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

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On Friday, the Supreme Court issued an opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, holding that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to license marriages between two people of the same sex.

wedding couplesMost expected at least a narrow ruling in favor of same-sex couples that would require states with prohibit same-sex marriage to recognize same-sex marriages conducted in other states. If a same-sex couple had gotten married in Massachusetts, for example, Georgia, which had one of the strongest bans on same-sex marriage by even refusing to recognize civil unions, would have been required to recognize the license, though still allowed to deny in-state licenses for same-sex marriages.

The logic behind this is because during oral arguments back in April, Justice Anthony Kennedy expressed concerns about extending marriage rights to same-sex couples because the definition of marriage – between one man and one woman – “has been with us for millennia.”

Still, Kennedy, who authored the majority opinions in Windsor (2013) and Lawrence (2003), has been seen as one of the Court’s biggest proponents of “gay rights.” So his opinion isn’t exactly a surprise, per se, though his dissent in Hollingsworth (2013) was a defense of voter-driven ballot initiatives, specifically California’s same-sex marriage ban, Proposition 8. The majority on the Court held that the plaintiffs didn’t have standing to defend the initiative in the absence of the State of California, which refused to do so.

“In the end, what the Court fails to grasp or accept is the basic premise of the initiative process. And it is this. The essence of democracy is that the right to make law rests in the people and flows to the government, not the other way around,” Kennedy wrote in his dissent, which was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Sonia Sotomayor. “Freedom resides first in the people without need of a grant from government.”

Nevertheless, Kennedy, whose opinion in Windsor laid the groundwork for Obergefell, made the connection that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to license same-sex marriages, despite states having voter-approved constitutional amendments or ballot measures prohibiting the practice.

“It is now clear that the challenged laws burden the liberty of same-sex couples, and it must be further acknowledged that they abridge central precepts of equality. Here the marriage laws enforced by the respondents are in essence unequal: same-sex couples are denied all the benefits afforded to opposite-sex couples and are barred from exercising a fundamental right,” Kennedy wrote in Obergefell. “The imposition of this disability on gays and lesbians serves to disrespect and subordinate them. And the Equal Protection Clause, like the Due Process Clause, prohibits this unjustified infringement of the fundamental right to marry.”

Commentators, while philosophically correct, have criticized Kennedy’s opinion. Writing at The New Republic, Brian Beutler, a leftist journalist, called the opinion “a logical disaster.” Similarly, Ilya Somin, a law professor at George Mason University who contributes to the libertarian-leaning Volokh Conspiracy, called the outcome “a great result, but based on dubious reasoning.”

“Ultimately, Kennedy does not clearly conclude that either the Due Process Clause or the Equal Protection Clause by itself creates a right to same-sex marriage,” Somin explained. “Rather, his claim is that the combination of the two somehow generates that result, even if neither can do so alone.”

“If a sufficiently important right (Due Process Clause) is denied for discriminatory reasons (Equal Protection), then the Fourteenth Amendment has been violated. However, both the criteria for what makes the right important enough, and the criteria for proving discrimination seem extremely vague. Thus, it is difficult to tell what – if, indeed, any – implications this ruling will have for future cases,” he added.

Somin, by the way, co-authored a brief to the Supreme Court urging justices to strike down state same-sex marriage bans.

The reaction to the ruling, as some might expect, has been predictable. Opponents of same-sex marriage (now accurately called “marriage,” without the qualifier) are calling for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as one man and one woman. Others, including many conservatives and libertarians, have wondered aloud about any government involvement in marriage.

“For thousands of years, marriage flourished without a universal definition and without government intervention. Then came licensing of marriage,” wrote Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich.) in a Facebook post on Friday. “In recent decades, we’ve seen state legislatures and ballot initiatives define marriage, putting government improperly at the helm of this sacred institution.”

“Those who care about liberty should not be satisfied with the current situation. Government intervention in marriage presents new threats to religious freedom and provides no advantages, for gay or straight couples, over unlicensed (i.e., traditional) marriage,” he continued, adding “we shouldn’t blame the Supreme Court for where things stand.”

Amash’s words are sobering, and perhaps he’s correct. Maybe government shouldn’t be involved in the marriage business. If only Republicans had realized that in 2004 rather than further meddling in people’s personal lives for political gain.

New House Bill Will Protect Your Freedom to Vape

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Jackson Jones Comments are off

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is planning to expand its vast regulatory reach to e-cigarettes and vape products, but new language in an agriculture bill currently in the U.S. House of Representatives could throw a wrench into the machine.

vapeThe FDA plans to use a “deeming rule” to move forward on regulations that would treat e-cigarettes and vape products like tobacco. Though these products can contain nicotine, which is entirely up to the user, they don’t have tobacco. In fact, there is, according to the American Vaping Association, “no fire, no ash, [and] no smoke.”

Many people who use e-cigarettes or vape products do so to quit smoking, using high-nicotine e-juices and gradually lowering the dosage until they’ve kicked the habit. The FDA and public health advocacy groups claim that e-cigarette and vape products are dangerous and target minors through different flavors available on the market. Despite the concerns, studies have shown these products don’t emit significant amounts of toxins, especially when compared to real cigarettes.

“Does this mean e-cigarette vapor is about as safe as air? Not quite, since we don’t know the long-term respiratory effects of inhaling the glycerin or propylene glycol that delivers nicotine into vapers’ lungs,” Jacob Sullum wrote at Reason. “But whatever those effects are, it is safe to say they will not compare to the effects of smoking.”

Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., has introduced language to the agriculture appropriations bill currently working its way through committee that would reduce the impact of the awaited FDA regulations. The bill would prevent the FDA from reviewing products already available on the market, which, opponents say, could virtually put the industry out of business.

“Without action by Congress, the FDA’s proposed regulations threaten to ban 99 percent-plus of vape products currently available on the market,” said Gregory Conley, President of the American Vaping Association, of the bill’s introduction in the House. “This would be a disaster not only for thousands of small businesses, but also public health.”

“This proposal does not remove the FDA’s ability to regulate vape products. The FDA will retain the authority to immediately move forward with science-based product standards, disclosure requirements, and many other measures. Anyone who claims that this bill would somehow render the FDA toothless is either not familiar with the law or not being forthright,” he added.

While a ban on the sale of e-cigarette and vape products to minors may be appropriate – though most sellers already refuse to sell to anyone under the age of 18 – promulgating regulations that would subject this industry to extensive regulation is a bridge too far.

Interestingly, “Big Tobacco” is encouraging the FDA to implement the regulations. Some traditional cigarette makers are in the e-cigarette business. Reynolds American, for example, the maker of Newport and Camel cigarettes, owns Blu e-cigs. Conley believes Reynolds and other cigarette makers, which are already subject to the regulation and can easily absorb the cost, are trying to snuff out refillable vapor producers, which are typically small businesses.

The FDA regulations are due to be announced in the coming weeks, if not sooner. In the meantime, puff ‘em while you have ‘em, because your freedom to vape may not be around much longer.

Bipartisan Senate Amendment Seeks to End Indefinite Detention of American Citizens

in Criminal Justice, Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, Middle East, National Defense, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Jackson Jones Comments are off

An amendment to the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, would guarantee that no American citizen can be indefinitely detained by the federal government without charges being filed against them.

DetentionIn 2011, Congress passed the FY 2012 version of the NDAA, which contained a controversial provision that, read broadly, could be used to detain American citizens suspected of terrorism without charges or trail under the 2001 Authorization for Military Force against al-Qaeda. The Lee amendment – which is cosponsored by a bipartisan group of senators, including Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. – would resolve the controversy.

“America should never waiver in vigilantly pursuing those who would commit, or plot to commit, acts of treason against our country. But the federal government should not be allowed to indefinitely imprison any American on the mere accusation of treason without affording them the due process guaranteed by our Constitution,” Lee said in a statement released by his office. “By forbidding the government from detaining Americans without trial absent explicit congressional approval, the Due Process Guarantee amendment strikes the right balance between protecting our security and the civil liberties of each citizen.”

The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution guarantee Americans the right to due process of law. The Sixth Amendment protects the right to “a speedy and public trial.”

The indefinite detention provision was inserted into the FY 2012 NDAA at the request of the White House, according to then-Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who complied with the administration’s wishes. A Senate amendment, which passed the upper chamber with strong bipartisan support, to clarify the language was dropped during negotiations to resolve differences between the House and Senate’s versions of the FY 2013 NDAA.

“The Constitution does not allow President Obama, or any President, to apprehend an American citizen, arrested on U.S. soil, and detain these citizens indefinitely without a trial,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, another cosponsor of the amendment. “The Due Process Guarantee amendment will prohibit the President’s ability to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens arrested on American soil without trial or due process.”

“While we must vigorously protect national security by pursuing violent terrorists and preventing acts of terror, we must also ensure our most basic rights as American citizens are protected,” Cruz added.

The Senate is currently debating the FY 2016 version of the NDAA. Votes on amendments will occur over the next few legislative days. The bill passed the House in mid-May by a vote of 269-151.

This Libertarian-Leaning Maine Republican is Someone We Can Learn From

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

At the young age of 26, Eric Brakey was elected to the Maine State Senate to serve a district in the southern part of the Pine Tree State. He hasn’t wasted any time since arriving in Portland for his first legislative session.

The Portland Press Herald profiled Brakey this week, noting that he’s already sponsored 28 bills, including a “constitutional carry” bill that passed the state Senate with bipartisan at the end of May. The bill cleared the state House last week, though with changes that need to be approved by the upper chamber before heading to the desk of Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican.


“It’s great that we have finally gotten to a place where people understand the importance of this protection and are comfortable enough to let our Maine citizens exercise the same freedoms that the state of Vermont allows their citizens to exercise,” Brakey told the Bangor Daily News after the state House vote. Although it’s a progressive bastion, Vermont is known for its strong support of the Second Amendment.

But Brakey’s style as a legislator with strong libertarian leanings is earning him some fans in Portland. “He hasn’t ruffled feathers,” Lance Duston, a Republican strategist in the state, told the Portland Press Herald. “He’s successfully moved legislation and he’s done it in a productive and positive way. He has also helped move the party more toward the libertarian side. I’ve been a little surprised at his trajectory.”

Brakey, who is described as a “worker” by one of his Republican colleagues, came from a Republican household. He was born in Maine, but grew up and went to college in Ohio. He found himself drawn to former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, when he ran for president and worked on his 2012 campaign in Maine.

Not long after relocating to the state, Brakey decided to run for a seat occupied by a Democrat. Despite a gaffe unrelated to his actual campaign, he won the seat with over 56 percent of the vote.

Brakey has been careful to pick his battles, in his role as chairman of the state Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee. But his views on issues are libertarian to the core.

“There are two molds that a state legislator usually fits,” Duston said. “One is that their life story or their work is such that it leads them to service. The other is that someone represents a value system, and that’s where he fits in.”

“Also, he is fairly strident ideologically, but he approaches things moderately, which has served him well,” he added.

In addition to his strong support of the Second Amendment, Brakey has sponsored legislation supporting privacy rights by targeting the National Security Agency’s water supply. He’s also a supportive of medical marijuana, introducing legislation to allow patients to access their prescriptions at Maine hospitals.

Assuming he’s reelected every two years, Brakey will serve until he’s term-limited out of office in 2022. When’s not legislating, Brakey, who majored in theatre at Ohio University, spends his time acting.

The Debate Over NSA Spying is Finished. Or is it?

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

On Tuesday, the United States Senate gave final passage to the USA Freedom Act, but not without drama on the floor of the upper chamber. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., offered three amendments that, if passed, would have weakened the bill.

With the support of hawks in the Senate Republican Conference, McConnell proposed amendments that would have increased the transition period from three to six months, removed essential transparency requirements, and required private companies to notify the federal government if they changed their data retention policies. Each of the amendments failed, falling short of the majority needed for passage.

After the USA Freedom Act passed with significant bipartisan support, a visibly irritated McConnell railed against the bill from the floor, lecturing his colleagues that the Fourth Amendment, which protects Americans against “unreasonable searches and seizures,” doesn’t cover phone records.


“No content. No names. No listening to the phone calls of law-abiding citizens. We are talking about call data records,” said McConnell. “And these are the provider’s records, which is not what the Fourth Amendment speaks to. It speaks to: ‘The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects.’”

Part of the legal justification for bulk collection of Americans’ phone records is grounded in a little-known 1979 case, Smith v. Maryland, in which the Supreme Court ruled that the installation of the pen register on the phone of Michael Lee Smith without a warrant was not a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. But as Jim Harper of the Cato Institute has explained, this interpretation of the case is wildly misleading.

“It is not possible to argue honestly that the facts of Smith are anything like the NSA’s bulk data collection. The police had weighty evidence implicating one man. The telephone company voluntarily applied a pen register, collecting analog information about the use of one phone line by that one suspect,” Harper wrote in August 2013. “I can’t think of a factual situation that could be at a further extreme than NSA’s telephone calling surveillance program.”

Add to Harper’s point that Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act allowed only the collection of records related to specific investigation into terrorism. It didn’t permit the bulk collection of all phone records of every American, a fact that was noted recently by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Although several organizations and tech companies backed the USA Freedom Act, the bill wasn’t without opposition because it didn’t go far enough to protect Americans’ privacy. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., made his opposition clear because he wanted the ability to offer amendments to strengthen the bill.

Others, like Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., believe the USA Freedom Act merely shifts the method of bulk collection from the National Security Agency to private phone companies. The USA Freedom Act, Amash said after it passed the House of Representatives in mid-May, “actually expands the statutory basis for the large-scale collection of most data.”

But with debate on the USA Freedom Act now over, at least for now, President Barack Obama’s signature on the bill, some may be asking what’s next. The Guardian reported on Wednesday that the administration is seeking to restart the bulk collection program “temporarily” to transition “the domestic surveillance effort to the telephone companies that generate the so-called ‘call detail records’ the government seeks to access.”

So, just to be clear, the administration will, according to The Guardian, “argue it needs to restart the program in order to end it.” Add that one to the growing list of Orwellian statements from this administration, and put it right under “if you like your health plan, you can keep it” and “never let a good crisis go to waste.”

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