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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

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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.

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.

The Libertarian USP

in Liberator Online, Libertarianism, Philosophy by Mike Sertic Comments are off

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As I mentioned in a recent issue of The Liberator Online, the Advocates finished its move from Indianapolis to Sacramento last month.  A colleague of mine was sorting through the treasure-trove of materials and resources that the Advocates has collected over the decades and stumbled upon something he then passed along for me to read.

USPWhat he shared was a powerful essay in the form of a pamphlet entitled “Persuasion versus Force” written by Mark Skousen in 1991.  In it, Skousen quotes an excerpt from the rather obscure book Adventures of Ideas written by Harvard professor and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead:

The creation of the world—said Plato—is the victory of persuasion over force…Civilization is the maintenance of social order, by its own inherent persuasiveness as embodying the nobler alternative.  The recourse to force, however unavoidable, is a disclosure of the failure of civilization, either in the general society or in a remnant of individuals…

Now the intercourse between individuals and between social groups takes one of these two forms: force or persuasion.  Commerce is the great example of intercourse by way of persuasion.  War, slavery and governmental compulsion exemplify the reign of force.

Skousen proceeds to acknowledge a truth all libertarians will recognize: “The triumph of persuasion over force is the sign of a civilized society.”  But, he adds, it is also a principle with which most citizens will agree, regardless of their liberal or conservative tendencies.

My friends on the left and the right will not dispute that persuasion is preferable to violence and force.  If they did, I would likely reevaluate our friendship.  However, it seems that only libertarians consistently view socio-political events from the persuasion-force perspective, and it is only libertarians who reject wholesale the use of force to promote one social agenda over another (through politics or otherwise).

In other words, it is within this framework that libertarianism’s unique selling proposition (USP) lies.  While it isn’t wrong to tout the fact that libertarians advocate for free markets, limited government, and peace, from a marketing perspective it leaves something to be desired.  After all, liberals and conservatives will, from time to time, pitch policy positions that align with the libertarian position—but not because they fundamentally reject force.  Unfortunately, Democrats and Republicans regularly embrace force over persuasion whenever it is deemed politically expedient to do so.

In my experience, the disconnect between people saying they reject force and then employing it through the political system is largely due to the fact that most people 1) do not recognize most forms of political coercion as being such (e.g. voting for and enforcement of bad laws), and 2) rationalize political coercion either as a defense mechanism against previous aggression (e.g. the “But he started it!” retaliation  argument), or as the only option (building roads).  It is our job as Advocates to continue to shine a light on these problems.

To me, anyone who consistently rejects force and employs persuasion in their personal, social and political relationships is acting as a libertarian.  I am unaware of any contemporary competing ideologies or political movements in America that embrace and advocate for the “nobler alternative” of peaceful, voluntary persuasion.  This is the libertarian USP.

Have your own take on libertarianism’s USP?  Write me at mike@theadvocates.org.  I’d like to hear about it.

California Deputies Caught Selling Stolen Marijuana On The Side

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

California Deputies Caught Selling Stolen Marijuana On The Side

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

The drug war is a disaster on many levels, especially because it ignores the most basic principle there is, that the individual owns his body and only he has the right to do with it as he pleases.

marijuanaBut the drug war is also a failure when it comes to helping bring an end to violent crime, which stems from the black market created precisely because of the existence of restrictive laws concerning drug commerce and use in the first place.

And as it turns out, the disastrous war on drugs has also failed law enforcement, by giving officers incentives to be corrupt.

In California, two former Kern County deputies pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute. What’s worse, they did so by abusing their positions within the law enforcement agency.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Logan August, 30, and Derrick Penney, 34, conspired with an informant for the police to steal marijuana that had been seized during investigations.

Once stolen marijuana was in their hands, August and Penney would then trim it then deliver it to one of their confidential informants who would then sell the stolen property. The proceeds were shared with August and Penney, along with another accomplice.

The instances involving theft and the distribution of marijuana happened more often, officials found, as an additional 25 pounds of marijuana had been stolen by the deputies.

The fact August served as a “peace officer” assigned to a narcotics unit helped, as he spent the period between March and December 2014 participating in marijuana-related operations.

According to the DOJ, he stole marijuana on at least ten separate occasions.

After this embarrassment to Kern County, officers involved in this scheme will spend only 5 years in jail for selling marijuana — not for stealing private property.

When laws meant to make us “safer” end up creating incentives for law enforcers to become criminals, you bet that they are also creating a lot of perverted incentives to those being hunted down by the police.

When government pushes a particular practice or substance into the shadows, they are also giving individuals incentives to distort the markets. Instead of working to beat the competition by providing better services and goods, they resort to simply killing their competitors, literally or figuratively by sabotaging their business. Corrupt law enforcement agents like the two deputies in Kern County saw a way to benefit from it, despite the fact they had sworn to uphold the law at all costs.

Ending the war on drugs is the only way to put an end to this vicious cycle.

 

California Kicks the Corpse of Free Association in Airbnb Investigation

in Economic Liberty, Issues, Liberator Online by Erik Andresen Comments are off

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California has decided you must allow anyone into your home, at least if you rent it on a short term basis. Department of Fair Employment and Housing had filed a complaint against Airbnb over alleged incidents of hosts discriminating against users on the basis of race. Airbnb has agreed to let DFEH conduct “testing,” similar to testing applied to landlords.

AirbnbThe problem DFEH is looking to solve: it seems some Airbnb hosts reject users based on their race. It reminds me of dating site OKCupid’s “discovery” that race plays heavily into how users select prospective matches.

That’s the trouble with freedom; sometimes people use it in ways we don’t like. Sometimes the results are unpleasant. But libertarianism isn’t about making perfect people. That’s what Progressivism wants to do: remake mankind. Libertarians see the world as it is, and we endeavor to act – messy as it can be – in harmony with human nature, not against it. Our goal is maximum happiness and prosperity for all but without the threat of force from the state.

Many libertarians have hailed the disruption that the “sharing economy” has unleashed on tired and over-regulated business, from taxis to hotels.  But we should not be surprised that those established industries and bureaucrats are fighting back however they can. And in this instance, they have found a chink in the armor; the sharing economy may not survive it. Airbnb and similar services are troubling for regulators and elected officials (beyond protecting established industries and maintaining tax revenue).  Peer-to-peer dealings, especially those involving your car and your home, are prone to reveal individuals’ personal preferences.

Then the mask slips – regulators like to regulate “business” – putting the boot to someone who wants to rent their spare room for extra cash looks too heavy-handed (and it is). A government official would never say that we must allow every stranger who knocks on our doors must be allowed in. But that is exactly what DFEH is saying the moment you and that stranger exchange cash.

Libertarians favor free association and dissociation. Private deals between two individuals are no business of the state. But California doesn’t see it that way; bureaucrats want to decide for you who you may let into your home.

 

Bay Area Restaurants Suffering due to Local Minimum Wage Laws

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

Bay Area Restaurants Suffering due to Local Minimum Wage Laws

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

Californians are proud of their politics. More often than not, they will claim they have set the standards, yielding “real change” across the country. But when policies embraced by Californian progressives backfire, don’t expect to see them apologizing to the rest of us.

In the Bay area, folks working in the restaurant business had one of their worst years yet in 2016. And it had nothing to do with the presidential election. Instead, it was a local wage policy that changed their realities, making it difficult for restaurant business to stay afloat or expand.

Oakland-CaliforniaRecently, a local favorite closed its doors while a new restaurant opened in the same area. Unfortunately, the second place was also forced to shut down. What both places have in common? The cost of doing business is too high.

According to a local radio station, rents are helping to drive restaurant business out of the region and into the East Bay. But employees are also feeling the rent blues, moving away from the Bay area and finding it harder to keep a job due to the distance. On top of all that, food prices have also risen, while California’s new minimum wage law begins to claim its first victims.

In the case of the Bay area, the minimum wage jumped from $9 per hour to $12.25 in 2015, due to a recent Oakland wage law. In 2016, the minimum wage rose even higher, to $12.55, leaving restaurants scrambling to keep the same number of employees while struggling to stay in business.

As a result, restaurant owners are either closing or reinventing their businesses, turning full service restaurants into casual eateries. Local reporters who discussed the matter with these business owners all agree: when everything is expensive, whether it’s keeping employees to buying ingredients, the cost of doing business becomes too high. Now that we’re in 2017, local restaurants will be forced to pay $12.86 per hour to their minimum wage employees. In San Francisco, the minimum wage will increase to $14 this year. As restaurants struggle to keep up with payroll demands while paying the bills, they look at local politics and find themselves choosing between sticking with their communities or leaving. To stay, they must slash the number of employees or close their doors. With fewer employees — either because commute is unreasonable or because the minimum wage is bringing these businesses down — the industry’s future seems bleak.

While there’s still a vibrant and competitive environment for restaurants in the region, the cost of living and doing business locally is forcing people to think twice about their choices. Instead of staying put, they often prefer to walk away. And over time, this problem will yield even worse outcomes, producing fewer jobs in the region, which will eventually translate into poor economic growth.

Not being able to take risks, these entrepreneurs who decide to stay must downsize their businesses, and those who were employed are now, once again, struggling to find a job.

As locals begin to live the unintended consequences of minimum wage laws, they also learn about economics.

DUI Arrest Over Caffeine? Time to Review These Silly Laws

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

DUI Arrest Over Caffeine? Time to Review These Silly Laws

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

DUI laws are often inefficient. Mostly because not all drivers react to certain substances like alcohol the same way, and because provoking injury or causing deadly harm to a fellow human being while behind the wheel is already against the law. Now, we have another reason to be skeptical of government’s “driving while under the influence” rules.

CaffeineA recent DUI case in California is catching the media’s attention for the police’s choice to pursue a case involving a driver under the influence of caffeine. Not drugs or alcohol, but caffeine.

According to the driver’s attorney, Joseph Schwab was pulled over in August of 2015 and charged with misdemeanor driving while under the influence of stimulants. As he and his attorney prepare to go to trial, the Solano County district attorney’s only evidence is a blood test showing the presence of caffeine in the driver’s system.

The motorist was on his way home from work when he was pulled over by a California department of alcoholic beverage control officer who was driving an unmarked vehicle. The official claimed Schwab had been driving erratically. She also said Schwab had cut her off before he was pulled over.

During the exchange between the official and the driver, he was given a breathalyzer test that eventually showed a 0.00% blood alcohol level. Nevertheless, he was booked into county jail where his blood was drawn. The toxicology report came back negative for THC, benzodiazepines, cocaine, opiates, carisoprodol (a muscle relaxant), methamphetamine/MDMA, oxycodone, and zolpidem, The Guardian reports. But officials weren’t over yet, sending the sample back for a second laboratory test in Pennsylvania, where they found that only caffeine had been running through the driver’s veins at the time of the arrest.

Despite the odd results, charges were brought against the man ten months after the incident, and the only evidence being used is the blood test. But in a statement, the local chief deputy district attorney said that “[t]he charge of driving under the influence is not based upon the presence of caffeine in his system.”

When we give the government power to criminalize what we do to our bodies, we also give way to authority abuse, allowing law enforcement to apply the law in an arbitrary way. Instead of relying on the rule of law, we now rely on flawed individuals in the justice system, giving them the power to say who’s to be held accountable. Isn’t it time to put an end to this waste?

Californians Continue to Flee as Public Pensions Eat Up 20 Percent of City Budgets

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

Californians Continue to Flee as Public Pensions Eat Up 20 Percent of City Budgets

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

California has, for a long period in American history, been the go-to place for entrepreneurs and seekers of fortune and fame. But as the regulatory burden grows, making it difficult for business owners to stay, they simply pack and move somewhere where the cost of doing business won’t be as overwhelming.

LuggageThat is a reality and it has been bad for quite some time.

According to CoreLogic’s recent analysis, for every home buyer coming into the Golden State, there are three Californians selling their property and flocking elsewhere.

What the study concluded, deputy chief economist at CoreLogic Sam Khater told reporters, is that the the current state of the California housing market shows that there’s a clear connection “between migration patterns and home prices.”

Since property costs in California have risen 71 percent since 2011, members of the middle and lower classes simply cannot afford to stay so they flee, taking their taxes with them. With local government’s worker pensions growing at a staggering rate — even after reforms were implemented — it isn’t farfetched to believe that, as young, hard-working people leave the state, local governments begin to face tough times, much like what happened in places like Detroit, Michigan.

In a state where the median home price is at $480,000 statewide due to the local and state government’s heavy-handed intervention in the real estate market, incomes aren’t keeping up with the home price increases, making it hard for young families to keep up with their expenses. Instead of opting for paying bills and taxes instead of spending on themselves, people are choosing to leave.

In cities like Los Angeles, taxpayers foot billionaire pension bills, which eventually added up to $1.04 billion in 2015, a sum that represents 20 percent of the city’s general fund. And despite the changes to the laws, city officials will continue to use up to 20 percent of the Los Angeles city budget just to cover pensions and retiree healthcare in the future.

But what about the tech industry? You might ask. Isn’t it making Californians rich?

While the tech industry in is, indeed, thriving, the wealth it creates helps to play into the hands of crony capitalism.

As wealthier tech giants become even more prosperous, they also become more influential among California and Washington politicians. But that’s not all. They also raise the overall cost of living for those around them.

With local governments eating into locals’ paychecks, only those who are powerful enough to influence policy will remain in California. And as history teaches us, this is bound to have a very bad ending.

Small CA City Employees Living Large, Making More Than Governors

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

Small CA City Employees Living Large, Making More Than Governors

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

Governments lack knowledge. And it’s what that axiom in mind that we can safely say that acting without knowledge is, even in the short run, a waste.

SantaMonicaIn the city of Santa Monica, California, local bureaucrats are making more than $300,000 a year. That’s $187,000 more than current Vice President elect Mike Pence made as Governor of Indiana the past year.

According to a local investigation, at least 105 Santa Monica employees make more than $300,000 a year, including Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Brooks, who makes $480,000 a year while public records show her base salary is at $306,000.

Overseeing 200 officers, Chief Brooks’ salary seems a bit unusual, especially when you compare it with next door’s Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, who makes $344,000 while overseeing more than 9,000 officers.

Still in Santa Monica, an unnamed police sergeant raked in nearly $500,000 last year while his base pay was only $137,000. With overtime alone, he was paid about $179,000 extra but unused sick and vacation time were also added to the total, bringing the sergeant’s pay to the total of $475,000.

Others in the local force such as lieutenants, other sergeants, fire captains, and even a marshal made up to six figures by working overtime. According to the Santa Monica city manager, the high number of city employees working overtime is due to the fact that several positions are still unfilled. Currently, however, 18 new firefighters are training in the local academy. Other 18 positions are still waiting to be filled within the local Police Department.

As local transparency groups ask officials why they are having such a hard time filling positions while offering such good pay rates, they want more answers. And if public pressure grows, they may even be able to push for an audit.

As the taxpayer is forced to foot the bill, these watchdogs want city officials to be able to explain in detail why so many of its employees are making more than governors and, sometimes, even as much as the president.

Currently, Santa Monica has some of the highest taxes in the region. With the imminent increase in sales taxes projected to pass by popular vote, they will become even higher.

In other local cities such as Long Beach, watchdogs found 13 city employees making more than $300,000. The same number of overpaid employees was found in Newport Beach, but both cities have populations that are about five times that of Santa Monica.

While the figures are exorbitant, the real problem in this case is not only that government officials are clueless about what the labor market looks from outside of their offices. The bottom line is: When the money doesn’t come out of your own pocket, you do not have to be careful about how you spend it.

Seeing taxpayers as a bottomless pit of money, governments have enough incentives to keep on spending without being held accountable for how they are spending this money. In a free market where the price system is in place, the cost of labor is varied and competitive. Without the pricing mechanism, service providers are not aware of the demand, making them incapable of determining real value.

The only solution to this problem is to shrink the government. Even local ones.

As CA Moves to Legalize Recreational Weed, Startups Work Hard to Meet the Demand

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

As CA Moves to Legalize Recreational Weed, Startups Work Hard to Meet the Demand

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

California could soon be legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

If Proposition 64 passes this November, recreational marijuana would be legal in the Golden State for individuals aged 21 or older. Taxes would be established and then used to back government-run drug law enforcement, research, and what the architects of Prop 64 call “environmental restoration, cleanup, and enforcement efforts” resulting from illegal marijuana production.

PotWhile the initiative allows the state to profit from legalization, helping to boost the militaristic approach to the war on drugs locally, the law could benefit individual users and business owners who commercialize weed. And that’s what the startup community living in the heart of the American tech revolution is celebrating.

According to some reports, Silicon Valley’s class of pot entrepreneurs can’t wait until the votes have been all counted. Instead of sitting and waiting to see how things play out, they are already putting a “signature Valley spin on the age-old practice of selling marijuana,” using what they have learned from the social media explosion in order to prepare the market for consumers dying to use their smartphones to order some ounces of girl scout cookies, Bruce Banner, or perhaps sour diesel.

But they are not stopping there. They are also eager to develop software for growers and dispensaries, helping to “blow open the doors to innovation on the technology side of the cannabis industry,” says Chris Walsh, editorial director of Denver-based Marijuana Business Daily.

While this enthusiasm shows the importance of allowing markets to let consumers make all decisions, it is also a risky business, considering marijuana is still illegal under federal law.

During the upcoming months and even years, many states will be joining the list of states legalizing marijuana, but federal regulators will, most likely, be the last ones to embrace the trend.

Estimates suggest that by 2020, marijuana sales in America will exceed $22 billion. While there’s a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs to join the industry, barriers lifted by the very laws removing the criminal element and regulating the sale and use of weed may make it difficult for those who aren’t already established or well-connected to succeed.

To those who are already in the business or getting ready to cash in, there’s still an issue with the financial aspect of the marijuana industry, considering the fact that most investment firms will steer away from marijuana entrepreneurs due to federal pressure. But companies like Snoop Dogg’s Casa Verde Capital have already thought of that, offering startups the means to get going with their ideas without having to worry about convincing powerful, well-connected men in suits their business plan will work despite all odds.

As more states join the legalization movement, opportunities will be made available. It’s up to those willing to take the risk of going against the feds to embrace them.

Oakland Officers Fail to Find Suspect Through Surveillance so Feds Step In—All Without a Warrant

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

Oakland Officers Fail to Find Suspect Through Surveillance so Feds Step In—All Without a Warrant

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

In Oakland, California, feds were caught helping local police departments to spy on suspects without warrants. And in at least one instance, the individual targeted, Purvis Ellis, wasn’t even the main suspect in the murder case that led to his capture.

OaklandAccording to Tech Dirt, court documents obtained by Ars Technica show that the Oakland Police Department used stingray technology without seeking a warrant first against Ellis in 2013. The use of the device was deployed in order to catch the suspect who had been associated with the attempted murder of officer Eric Karsserboom.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), stingrays “are invasive cell phone surveillance devices that mimic cell phone towers and send out signals to trick cell phones in the area into transmitting their locations and identifying information.”

Oakland police attempted to use an older version of the device in 2013 to find one of the suspects in the attempted killing of a police officer, but officials were unsuccessful. They then reached out to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), asking federal agents to step in. Promptly after, FBI officials were able to locate the suspect using a more advanced stingray technology.

But despite the successful operation, state and federal officers failed to follow the constitution, ignoring the need for a warrant.

During the suspect’s trial, both the FBI and the Oakland PD stated that they didn’t need to obtain a warrant at the time due to “exigent circumstances.” In the FBI case, officials also claim the warrant requirement was not in place at the time of the operation, making the evidence obtained through surveillance tactics less likely to be tossed by a judge.

Nevertheless, news sources were finally able to report on this story since the judge presiding over the suspect’s prosecution ordered the government to submit detailed information on how Ellis was located. But despite the commotion surrounding Ellis, he has not been accused of actually shooting the officer, prompting privacy advocates to wonder whether the police has used the same surveillance tactics in other similar cases, targeting individuals who have not been accused of a crime and going to the lengths both the FBI and the Oakland PD went to keep this a secret.

Two years after the 2013 incident, the Oakland Police Department tried to secure a grant from the Department of Homeland Security in order to upgrade their stingray technology, suggesting that local police had been invested in this type of surveillance tactics long after the Ellis case. The technology local officials had at the time was unable to locate the suspect, but the latest system used by the FBI got the job done pretty quickly.

But details regarding why the suspect was targeted and why only his phone was intercepted were never revealed. All we know up until now is that two law enforcement agencies suspended the potential suspect’s rights to privacy, even as they knew that he hadn’t shot the officer.

Whether Ellis was directly involved in the attempted murder remains a mystery. But what should also be addressed in this case is the fact that individuals who haven’t been formally accused of a crime nor charged are being targeted by both local and federal law enforcement agents who continue to ignore the unconstitutionality of their actions.

States have been pushing their own anti-federal surveillance laws as the nullification movement initiated by groups like the Tenth Amendment Center gains more ground. But the American individual’s privacy rights won’t be truly upheld until federal agencies have been stripped of their surveillance powers.

Drug War Makes Criminals Out of California Physicians

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

Drug War Makes Criminals Out of California Physicians

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

To those who are born and raised in the City of Angeles, stories of violence set in motion due to poorly written drug and health-related laws aren’t particularly unique.

PillsOver the decades, Southern California has been in the news over instances of police brutality against minorities, wrongful killings by the police, deadly gang fights, and police union scandals. Los Angeles has also been the backdrop of countless gangster rap songs and videos, as well as the actual setting of several real life criminal conspiracies, so it’s not a surprise that even physicians are now being arrested for working directly with drug gangs.

According to a local NBC affiliate, two doctors working out of the Lynnwood area in South Los Angeles were arrested and charged for selling prescription drugs “without medical purpose.” The two physicians surrendered to federal authorities this past Friday and were later released on bond after appearing on court.

They were allegedly linked to gang members who were also arrested on the same day.

The United States Attorney’s Office’s Central District of California claimed that both physicians were “significant suppliers of drugs to a street gang.” Some of the drugs they allegedly helped gang members obtain include Vicodin, which is also known as Norco, Xanax, and Soma. The opioids, psychoactive, and barbiturate-like drugs were all prescribed “at or near maximum strength,” the report states.

One of the charged physicians was allegedly involved in these transactions between 2011 and 2015. The second doctor was accused of signing purposeless prescriptions in 2014 and 2015.

While the operation that led detectives to the gang members associated with the Lynwood doctors targeted East Coast Crips involved in California burglaries, officers looked into the relationship between the physicians and gangsters after learning that both doctors “served as large-scale sources of supply to [gang] members and associates.”

The doctors were allegedly caught after a series of undercover operations, meaning that officers or cooperating witnesses approached both physicians asking for these prescriptions. In most cases, officials stated, doctors failed to examine patients.

As the nation goes through one of its toughest drug epidemics in history, putting countless of drug users and addicts in morgues over tainted batches of opioids, stories like these remind us that, if there’s a market, even if the demand is for something considered illegal, there will always be someone willing to break the rules. Why? Because financial incentives often push otherwise decent people into breaking the law.

Even gang members are drawn into a life of crime over the promise of high turnouts for little work, even if the risks are also high. They might have never wanted to be part of a criminal gang, but when faced with the decision of becoming rich fast—even if it’s just a promise—they change their minds.

In a free society, these incentives also exist, but without prohibition, addicts and those who provide them with their drug of choice have freedom to do so in a peaceful manner. In the black market sprung out of prohibition, gangs use force to maintain contracts and fight over territory. They are also not worried about branding, making it easy for them to set morals aside to produce bad batches of whatever drug customers are after. In a free market setting, the opposite is true.

Also, addicts are more likely to be safe in an environment where drug consumers aren’t stigmatized. In a free society untainted by prohibitionist laws, drug users are more likely to look for help. Under the current laws, addicts are often afraid of being arrested—for a good reason. This fear pushes them deeper into their addiction, and the consequences are often deadly since they often become dealers themselves to sustain their habit.

Compassion can only exist in a society where people are free to develop their own sets of values. When forced upon us, morals are ignored. But when all we have is freedom, consumers and their welfare hold the key to good business practices.

Why make criminals out of inner city kids and doctors when you can put an end to the drug war?​

California: Closer to the End of ‘Policing for Profit’

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

California: Closer to the End of ‘Policing for Profit’

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

California has just taken another step to nullify a federal rule over its unconstitutional nature.

According to the Tenth Amendment Center, the California Assembly passed a bill that would keep state officials from using civil asset forfeiture to seize private property without due process while also effectively preventing federal agents to do the same in the Golden State.

Police StopSenate Bill 443 was introduced last year, and it was a response to the growing trend against civil asset forfeiture taking over the country. Organizations like FreedomWorks and Tenth Amendment Center are some of the leaders in this area, helping state legislators have access to reform ideas that render the federal rules unenforceable.

According to the libertarian justice firm Institute for Justice, civil asset forfeiture is “legal plunder,” because the practice gives federal and state law enforcement agencies the power to take a person’s property or assets, even if the owner hasn’t been arrested or convicted of a crime.

After passing the state Senate last summer, the bill failed in the Assembly. But once Assemblyperson Chris Holden made a motion to reconsider, the bill was placed in the inactive file and then brought up for a vote in the full Assembly on August 15.

If the bill is signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, the loophole in California law that allows officers to refer to federal agents in civil asset forfeiture cases in exchange for a portion of assets seized will be gone. Equitable sharing has been the only issue with California’s civil asset forfeiture laws, which are considered to be some of the strongest in the country. But up until now, the local protections against the practice meant nothing if federal agencies were involved.

Between 2000 and 2008, federal agents doubled their equitable sharing earnings. By the end of 2008, state officials across the country had helped the federal government seize about $400 million through the program.

With SB443, state prosecutors would be prohibited from going around restrictions imposed on state officials by passing cases off to the federal government. While this is good news, the bill still isn’t perfect.

If the amount seized is above $40,000, SB443 would allow state prosecutors to refer to federal officials under the equitable sharing program. The state could also have access to a portion of the assets seized if the owner of the property is convicted in a related criminal activity.

Despite its potential shortcomings, SB443 goes a long way to roll back federal intervention in local law enforcement activities, removing the financial incentive often tied to the practice.

Will other states follow?

With Anti-Christian College Bill, California Universities Might Become Even Costlier

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

With Anti-Christian College Bill, California Universities Might Become Even Costlier

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

California is slowly becoming a state so intolerant to freedom, many argue it might as well benefit the rest of the country if it achieves its independence.

Recently, Governor Jerry Brown signed a series of gun control bills that would have blushed even one of the most anti-gun governors the state has ever known, prompting several groups of Californians to run for the hills. But if things continue as they are, yet another group will have to pack their bags: Christians.

CrossOnce California lawmakers get back to work in August, a bill targeting religious schools may change California’s education landscape for good. The Equity in Higher Education Act, or SB 1146, would force religious colleges that receive federal religious exemptions to publicize its status to newcomers. The bill would also restrict the number of colleges that qualify for exemptions, effectively raising the price of doing business for schools that lose their status.

To many opponents of SB 1146, the bill is an attempt at forcing Christian colleges that fail to comply with the state’s nondiscrimination laws to adapt. According to critics, Christian colleges should not be forced to comply with guidelines that go against their beliefs, especially when it comes to accommodating individuals who are transgender.

But if it wasn’t for the potentially costly discrimination lawsuits these schools could be facing in times to come, as well as the millions of dollars tied to the federal exemption status these schools would lose, the reality is that these same institutions would not be at a loss if the education system in California—and the country—were based on free market principles.

In an article for the Cato Institute, the former director of Cato’s Center for Educational Freedom Andrew J. Coulson wrote that the times we live in demand freedom in education, not the opposite.

“By combining a pluralistic society with a one-size-fits-all education system,” Coulson wrote, “we have created a perpetual conflict machine.”

He clarified his point by claiming that people are only able to obtain the type of education they want in a heavily regulated, heavily controlled system if they “force their preferences on their neighbors.”

On the surface, that assessment may seem correct and harmless. But once you analyze the actual real world consequences, you learn that where there’s a demand in a regulated environment, supply suffers tremendously due to the aggregated costs of doing business.

To individuals whose religious convictions are deeply rooted, attending a religious college makes sense. Restricting individuals because education “is a right” has the exactly opposite effect. Instead of opening up the market by allowing more people in once the religious factor is eliminated, the extra regulatory burden increases the cost of doing business. As schools struggle, they resort to lobbying governments for more funding. The result? A perpetual cycle of high taxes, low quality education, and high volume of individuals swimming in a sea of debt.

While the religious aspect of this debate is important and shouldn’t be ignored, honest progressives who believe quality education should be widely available do well by learning more about the unintended consequences of the government’s heavy hand.​

Airbnb to Collect Taxes from Los Angeles Users

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

Airbnb to Collect Taxes from Los Angeles Users

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

Airbnb, the short-term rental app, has recently agreed to go along with officials in Los Angeles by requiring users to collect hotel taxes from their clients. The three-year agreement was signed early this week. And according to LA city officials, money collected by Airbnb in Los Angeles would bring $5.8 million in annual revenue.

ProtestThe agreement follows the city’s efforts to regulate Airbnb and similar companies locally.

As City Council members discussed what to do with Airbnb in the past few months, the company lobbied its users to stand up against suffocating regulations in a series of emails sent out regularly.

In one of these emails, Airbnb explained that the LA City Planning Commission was considering putting a 90 day cap on the number of nights Airbnb hosts can list their space, a rule Airbnb called “restrictive and arbitrary.” City officials were also considering limiting the number of listings hosts can have, which could affect users who have more than one room to rent, and instituting a registration procedure that would render the process of hosting through Airbnb difficult and expensive.

Another rule LA city officials had considered would also force Airbnb to turn over users’ personal information to the authorities, giving them information on how many nights a host books through the site and how much money renters make. Airbnb warned its users that the city did not detail how this information could be used.

Accusing property owners of evicting tenants to turn their properties into “commercial hotel and motel businesses,” Councilman Mike Bonin was one of the first in Los Angeles to propose Airbnb regulations. But while it is true, many users have, in fact, evicted their tenants in order to list their properties on Airbnb, that alone is not an excuse to regulate Airbnb out of existence. After all, the system works because it’s still affordable.

To tourists looking for an affordable accommodation option, the extra financial burden tied to the hotel tax could mean that renting through Airbnb might not be that affordable after all. To those who use the service as renters to make ends meet, being part of Airbnb may not be as appealing if rates are high because of the new rules.

In an article for US News, Mercatus Center’s Matthew Mitchell urges regulators to “deregulate traditional industries” if their goal is to help all industries and local businesses thrive. Instead of regulating the sharing economy and stifling competition, deregulation could also make it easier for visitors to stay and spend money locally.

Airbnb’s decision to go along with Los Angeles city officials may represent the company’s willingness to compromise, but a real solution to this dilemma will only be produced when lawmakers are honest about their goals.

After all, regulation will always makes things difficult for the consumer and the businessman, no matter how you slice it.

LA County Wants to Spend $425 Million Just to Connect Bike Paths (Not Build Them)

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

LA County Wants to Spend $425 Million Just to Connect Bike Paths (Not Build Them)

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

In November, Los Angeles County residents will be asked to vote on a new half-cent sales tax increase that would add $120 billion to the county’s public transit fund. The hike would extend the current sales tax for 18 years and raise its rate for four decades. Just the type of tax hike Californians do not need right now.

bikepathlaWhile the proposal was met with enthusiasm by the LA River Revitalization Corporation, a group that hopes to see an “unbroken 51-mile river spine, giving Los Angeles a ‘linear central park,’” the idea of using $425 million of that money to simply connect existing bicycle paths and provide access to the river—which is often mocked over the absence of water—is somewhat hard to process, even for some of the most pro-big government members of California’s media.

While the goal of the proposal is to use the $120 billion to double LA’s existing rail network, LA Weekly focused on the proposal’s goal of linking the bike paths and questioned county officials, asking whether these bike paths would “be paved with gold,” “[l]ined with tuxedo-wearing attendants serving riders hot cocoa,” or perhaps “speakers carefully hidden behind the shrubbery” will be made to play soft jazz throughout the day and that’s why the plan is so expensive.

In an official statement, Metro spokeswoman Pauletta Tonilas responded to the concerns claiming that since the LA river is “constrained by urban development,” and its roads, freeways, and rail provide a great deal of over-crossings, “bike path requires heavy civil construction.”

According to Tonilas, a complete “LA River Bike Path” will function “as the backbone of biking and walking infrastructure for densest parts of” the county.

Even bicycle activists like Joe Linton, who serves as the editor of StreetsblogLA, believe that the county is spending too much on the project. After all, LA Weekly reports, the goal is to “connect the existing paths,” not build new ones.

According to research from 2013, bike paths cost an average $133,000 per mile. The most costly paths can cost about $537,000 per mile. With those figures in mind, LA Weekly claims that the construction of an entirely new, 51-mile bike path should cost Angelenos anything between $7 million and $27 million. So why is the proposal’s estimated cost so high?

While the answer to that question may not be that easy to answer, this is not the first time we hear about bike path proposals carrying hefty price tags. In 2012, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo planned to spend $400 million on a 3-mile bike lane that would have realistically cost about $40 million.

At the federal level, the US government is often targeted by its own watchdog agency, the Government Accountability Office, for wasting billions in improper payments. In 2008 alone, GAO reports, the federal government wasted $72 billion on improper payments. While this particular report is associated with a series of agencies and doesn’t touch on transportation expenditure, it’s a great example of how easy it is for governments to misuse taxpayer money.

In an article for Heritage Foundation, Brian M. Riedl provides us with 50 examples of government waste. And while bike paths haven’t made the list then, it would be incredible to see the overblown expenses tied to the LA County’s bike bath plan getting audited. But first, Angelenos must agree with the proposal in the November ballot.

Counter-Terrorism ‘Experts’ Failed to Identify Threat Prior to San Bernardino Attack

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

Counter-Terrorism ‘Experts’ Failed to Identify Threat Prior to San Bernardino Attack

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

The deadly San Bernardino attack prompted everyone from presidential candidates to media personalities to focus on the threat of Islamic radicals committing terrorist attacks at home. But in their quest to focus only on the religion as the root of terrorism here and abroad, many ignored the fact that both San Bernardino and Riverside counties held the First Annual Inland Terrorism Liaison Officer Conference just weeks before the San Bernardino shooters killed 14 people and injured other 22.

The region, The Intercept’s Jana Winter argues, has become home to a hub of counter-terrorism training groups, where countless people are taught to identify would-be terrorists before they actually put their plans into action.

FBI

Law enforcement, public officials, and several members of the private sector have access to these trainings. Yet nobody was able to identify the two attackers in time to avoid bloodshed.

As Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik planned to carry their attack, locals who were part of these trainings just 25 miles from where the attacks took place were unable to identify what experts call “behavioral indicators” of potential terrorists. Such indicators are a central part of the US counter-terrorism prevention strategy.

According to Michael German, a former FBI agent who’s now a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, behavioral indicators used by law enforcement to fight terrorism rely “on generalized correlations found in selectively chosen terrorists without using control groups to see how often the correlated behaviors identified occur in the non-terrorist population.” To the former FBI agent, the theories that back the counter-terrorism trainings are flawed:

“The FBI, [National Counter-Terrorism Center], and [Department of Homeland Security] promote these theories despite the fact they have been refuted in numerous academic studies over the past 20 years.”
Even as groups debunk the US counter-terrorism effort to use behavioral indicators to identify potential terrorists, the industry is and has been blooming in California in recent years.

The Joint Regional Intelligence Center, which is a Los Angeles chapter of InfraGard (an FBI-backed group), is known for having produced dozens of Official Use Only intelligence bulletins that focus solely on behavior indicators.

In 2002, California hosted the first Terrorism Liaison Officer program, an initiative that enlists community members and representatives of the private sector to be the eyes and ears of the counter-terrorism community nationwide. While the program was first launched out of the Los Angeles chapter of InfraGard, it has been since expanded to the entire nation.

In 2013, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors renewed its contract with InfraGard’s LA chapter by signing a new $2,530,000 deal with the group, which was later extended through 2018. CT Watch, one of the companies hired by InfraGard to conduct counter-terrorism trainings, is famous for its “Threat of ISIS and radicalization in the homeland” seminar. CT Watch’s director, Roque “Rocky” Wicker, says that behavior indicators work, “you just need to train the right people.”

Other training sessions held recently in Riverside include “The Stealth Jihad in the United States,” “How to assess the threat posed by a potential lone wolf attacker,” and “Behavior threat assessment: preventing the Active Shooter.” All of these sessions took place on October 22, a few weeks before the December attack in San Bernardino.

Despite California’s long lasting relationship with the counter-terrorism effort, none of the well-trained officers or community members in the region were able to identify the terrorists operating from San Bernardino.

Should we, as Americans, allow the government to continue using the same failed tactics to keep us safe? Better yet, should we allow our tax dollars to go to groups that claim to know what they are doing, even as they fail to contain potential threats at home repeatedly?

These are some of the tough questions we should be asking our presidential candidates this year.

California Bureaucrats Want Nuns to Stop Producing Marijuana Products

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

California Bureaucrats Want Nuns to Stop Producing Marijuana Products

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

Christine Meeusen, known as Sister Kate, and her apprentice, Sister Darcey, have one mission: to heal the sick. But it’s how they go about living up to their mission goals that is bothering some California officials.

The sisters claim to produce marijuana products as part of a spiritual quest to heal the sick. According to Sister Kate, they produce “CBD oil which takes away seizures, and a million other things,” such as salve, “a multi purpose salve,” which the sisters learned that could cure “migraines, hangovers, earaches, diaper rash, toothaches.” They found the city of Merced to be the perfect home for their business. But now, city officials are threatening to put an end to their quest.

Ministries

While legislation signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in October allows a great variety of marijuana-related business to operate in the Golden State, local governments were granted the freedom to act against individual businesses by March 1st. After that date, local officials lose their chance to enact bans, and the cannabis-related businesses stay in place, whether officials like it or not. In order to meet their goals before the deadline, Merced officials are acting fast, attempting to get cannabis-related business banned from the region promptly.

When the city council proposed its marijuana-related business ban, the Merced Planning Commission urged the city council to review the proposed regulations and loosen their rules. At the time, Commissioner Peter Padilla said that marijuana is “here to stay.” He also stated that, even with a ban, cannabis “will continue to circulate” no matter how strict the new rules may be.

“I think this ordinance is uncalled for. Let’s get into the 21st century and move forward,” he added.

Despite the city officials’ efforts, their goal to put an end to marijuana businesses in the city are not even celebrated among residents.

During a city planning hearing in which the cannabis-business ban was discussed, all 19 residents who showed up said they opposed a local ban on marijuana growers and sellers.

In an interview with the Merced Sun-Star, Sister Kate said they “want to grow this business.” To both women who call themselves Sisters of the Valley, Merced is their home.

In another interview with ABC-30, Sister Kate reminded city officials that Merced would gain a lot through taxation if only others like the two women were allowed to operate their business from the region.

“Embrace, regulate and tax, that’s all we want them to do,” she told reporters.

If the sisters aren’t allowed to keep Sisters of the Valley in Merced, they will have to move to another location, and another city will collect the tax revenue associated with the marijuana product sales.

While the city council was originally scheduled to review the proposal this Monday, ABC13 says they will consider banning all marijuana growing in Merced next week. The future of these nuns’ business and the future of freedom in Merced are now hanging by a thread.

Watch the full ABC-30 interview here.

 

Multiple Threats Made Against US School Systems Following San Bernardino Shootings

in Education, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Chloe Anagnos Comments are off

Multiple Threats Made Against US School Systems Following San Bernardino Shootings

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

In the weeks following the shootings in San Bernardino, California, that killed 14 people, multiple threats have been made against school systems in New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Miami and Indiana.

Members of the Los Angeles Board of Education received a crudely written email that prompted officials to close all 900 schools in the nation’s second-largest school system Tuesday. School officials for the New York City school systems and local law enforcement dismissed an identical threat as a hoax.

On Thursday, school officials in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Houston and Dallas said they received threats similar to the ones received by the Los Angeles and New York school districts earlier this week.

School

Two schools in Indiana canceled classes after also getting threats. The Danville Community School Corporation said two students were arrested after allegedly making threats against schools in separate incidents.

The Miami-Dade County, Dallas and Houston school districts announced on their websites that “less-than-credible” threats were received by email late Wednesday evening, and that schools would be open Thursday. Officials from Broward County Public Schools in Fort Lauderdale said they also received a threat.

The districts are among the nation’s largest — Miami ranks fourth, Broward is sixth, Houston is seventh and Dallas is 14th.

In Dallas, officials with the Dallas Independent School District said some teachers and staff members at two schools — Pinkston High and Martinez Elementary — received threats via email and notified district officials. The district’s police department activated its emergency response protocol and began working with other law enforcement agencies to make sure the schools were safe.

“We need to make sure that we don’t overreact to fear,” Dallas police Chief David Brown said. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings agreed, adding, “Obviously someone is trying to scare Dallas and that is not going to work.”

Robert Mock, police chief for the Houston Independent School District, said random overnight searches by explosives detecting dogs and patrol officers turned up nothing after district officials, including the superintendent, received the threat by email.

So far Thursday morning, “everything’s been normal, schools are in session, kids are learning,” Mock said.

He added that he doesn’t want to downplay the message because “a threat is a threat.” But he said the message referred to weapons and explosives among unsophisticated content that was “so far over the top the logistics just didn’t pan out.”

Details about the threats in Miami and Fort Lauderdale haven’t been released yet, but said on their websites they were similar to those received in New York and Los Angeles earlier in the week.

It’s unfortunate that some of the largest school systems in the U.S. let fear win – and dictate action. Instead of having the foresight to recognize hoaxes coming from some of these schools’ own students, the “better safe than sorry” mentality only succeeded in distracting students from what is really important – their education.

Marijuana Re-Legalization: Its Effects on Teens

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 2 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

One of the most often-heard arguments against marijuana re-legalization is fear it will encourage marijuana use by teens.

Marijuana Use By Colorado TeenagersHowever, reports Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), several recent significant studies indicate that hasn’t been the case thus far. Studies indicate no connection between legalization of medical marijuana and teen use. Studies also find a recent decrease in teen use nationwide — including Colorado, which legalized marijuana in 2012.

Finally, a new article in Rolling Stone makes the controversial argument that decriminalization in California has brought enormous benefits to teens and to the state as a whole, by removing teen offenders from the criminal justice system.

Armentano first points to the University of Michigan’s highly regarded Monitoring the Future study, which tracks trends in substance use among students in 8th, 10th and 12th grades. Each year the national study, now in its 40th year, surveys 40,000 to 50,000 students in about 400 secondary schools throughout the United States.

This year Monitoring the Future found that marijuana use among teens declined slightly in 2014, with use in the prior 12 months declining from 26 percent to 24 percent. This small but significant decline follows five years of increasing use.

Armentano also reports on Colorado, which re-legalized marijuana in 2012: “Separate data published earlier this year by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment similarly found that fewer high-school students are consuming cannabis, despite voters’ decision in 2012 to legalize the possession, production, and sale of the plant to adults.

“According to the survey, the percentage of Colorado high schoolers reporting having consumed marijuana within the past 30 days fell from 22 percent in 2011 to 20 percent in 2013. High school students’ lifetime use of cannabis declined from 39 percent to 37 percent during the same two years.”

(For an excellent analysis of this report, see “Despite Legalization, Colorado Teenagers Stubbornly Refuse to Smoke More Pot” by Jacob Sullum of Reason magazine.)

What about states that legalized marijuana for medical use? Armentano reports on a July 2014 paper by the nonpartisan National Bureau of Economic Research that examined federal data on youth marijuana use and treatment episodes for the years 1993 to 2011 — a time period when 16 states authorized medical cannabis use.

The study concluded: “Our results are not consistent with the hypothesis that the legalization of medical marijuana caused an increase in the use of marijuana among high school students.”

As Jacob Sullum of Reason points out, these studies are consistent with earlier data from the Center for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveys from 1993 through 2011, which show little evidence of any connection between legalizing marijuana for medical use and the use of marijuana by high school students.

“Study: Legalizing medical marijuana has not increased teen pot use” was a headline in the April 24, 2014 Washington Post. According to the article: “the first comprehensive study of teen drug use in the states where marijuana is available for medical uses shows that [increased teen use] just hasn’t happened.”

The Washington Post was reporting on a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health. The authors of the study conclude: “Our study suggests that — at least thus far — the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes has not increased adolescent marijuana use, a finding supported by a growing body of literature.”

Decriminalization has also had major benefits for youth in California, reports Rolling Stone magazine in an article entitled “The War on Drugs Is Burning Out” by Tim Dickinson, January 8, 2015.

In late 2010 California decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Possession of up to an ounce of marijuana became an infraction, like a parking ticket, with a maximum $100 fine.

Importantly, notes Rolling Stone, the law applied to users of any age — not just those 21 and over.

The result?

“The impact of this tweak has been remarkable,” Rolling Stone says.

“By removing low-level youth pot offenses from the criminal-justice system, overall youth crime has plummeted by nearly 30 percent in California — to levels not seen since the Eisenhower administration.

“And decriminalization didn’t lead to any of the harms foretold by prohibitionists. Quite the opposite: Since the law passed in 2010, the rate of both high school dropouts and youth drug overdoses are down by 20 percent, according to a new research report from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. Non-marijuana drug arrests for California youth, meanwhile, are also down 23 percent — fully debunking the gateway theory.

“Decriminalization in California, the report [from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice] concludes, has reduced the harms of prohibition for thousands of California teens. ‘Fewer young people, its authors write, ‘are suffering the damages and costs of criminal arrest, prosecution, incarceration, fines, loss of federal aid and other punishments.’”

The authors also point out that perhaps the most important result of decimalization is that it gives police “one less pretext to disrupt the lives” of young blacks.

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