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Texas Could Soon ‘Nullify’ Federal Gun Control Measures

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

Texas Could Soon ‘Nullify’ Federal Gun Control Measures

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

This week, a Texas state representative took a step that could effectively nullify any past or future federal gun control measures.

According to the Tenth Amendment Center, Representative Matthew Krause, (R-Ft. Worth) prefiled House Bill 110, which would prohibit the state of Texas to offer any resources in support of several federal gun control measures, whether they have already become law or haven’t yet been discussed by Washington D.C. legislators.

Open_Carry_March_Erika_Rich_03_1_jpg_800x1000_q100Since the federal government often relies on state governments to ensure its laws are being enforced, states that withdrawal their participation end up leaving the federal government empty-handed. As a result, enforcement is eliminated in practice.

HB 110’s text makes it clear that any “agency of this state or a political subdivision of this state, and a law enforcement officer or other person employed by an agency of this state or a political subdivision of this state” is not allowed to provide any assistance to “a federal agency or official” upholding a rule or regulation that targets firearms, gun owners, firearm accessory, or firearm ammunition. If the regulation “does not exist under the laws” of the state of Texas, local agencies and officials would be barred from assisting the federal government with enforcement.

As we all know, the federal government is running out of resources and nullification efforts explore this reality, making it difficult for federal officials to get their will imposed on states.

By passing laws that ensure states refuse to participate in tyrannical policies embraced by the federal government, states send a clear message to Washington, D.C., letting federal bureaucrats know that local governments are, in a way, more powerful than a centralized administration will ever be.

But this is not the only benefit of seeing similar efforts being embraced nationwide. Taxpayers are also spared millions, since state agencies will not have to bend backwards to follow the federal government’s orders.

While many believe that a Republican White House won’t attempt to pursue any restrictive gun control regulations anytime soon, Texas doesn’t have any assault weapon law. Locals are also allowed to own firearms without registering their guns, purchase them without a permit, and able to purchase magazines without having to worry about capacity restrictions and they like it that way.

Live In Peace

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

Live In Peace

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

Well, another election happened.

As we get further from Tuesday, we are going to see that the conversations and discussions that we were having just a week ago, driving our lives (and probably driving us crazy) are going to fade and become distant memories, if we remember them at all.

So, now what?

The election is over. The results are in.

We have an opportunity now to really focus. We can focus on ourselves. We can focus on our families. We can focus on what’s happening around us. We can take some time to focus on our hobbies.

The beauty of all of this is, we’re NOT focused on the government anymore.

Personally, I’m going to take some time to do the things that make me happy. We’ve discussed previously that I’m only involved in politics so that I don’t have to be.

So, I’m going to focus on my happiness. I’m going to take this time to connect… Connect with myself, connect with my family, connect with my friends, many of whom were ignored over the last few weeks and months as politics consumed me. I’m also going to be able to connect more people, and new people.

As I connect with new people, I’m not going to let politics drive that conversation or that relationship. What I’m going to do is focus on learning more about them, their interests, and relate them, as we work to make a difference in each others’ lives. We can make a difference by making one another happy. We can make a difference, working to together to change someone else’s life.

What I’m going to do is that rather than at the end of my life, rather than resting in peace, that I spend the time here living in peace. I encourage you to do the same.

Go out and find what makes you happy and spend your time doing that. Meet some new people and experience new things, like we discussed just a couple weeks ago. You might find new things that make you happy.

Don’t focus on the endgame, where you will be resting in peace. Take this time to live in peace.

Creepy County Officials Stalk Grocery Shoppers in Search for Unlicensed Pets

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

Creepy County Officials Stalk Grocery Shoppers in Search for Unlicensed Pets

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

When collectivists get their way, life gets complicated. And over time, even expensive.

The movement to ensure pets are properly taken care of has created a nightmare to some residents in Seattle, Washington, to the point that their privacy is now at risk.

PetsAccording to Komo News, thousands of pet owners in the county are receiving letters from local officials telling them to license their pets. The letter adds that, if they do not comply, they could face a 250 fine.

For the last four years, King County officials have been using the data gathered by the company paying stores such as Safeway and QFC, a supermarket chain based in Bellevue, Washington, to have access to customer data registered in their system every time consumers use a reward swipe card. By having access to this data, King County officials have access to information on what these consumers are purchasing, making pet owners an easy target of local authorities.

When thousands of residents received this letter, many felt officials were “snooping around in a place where they shouldn’t be.”

But according to representatives from the local Animal Services, this is just a “standard marketing practice.”

But should government have access to this information?

To defend their actions, local officials claim residents are being made aware of the requirements and benefits associated with pet licensing. But to companies like Safeway, the county’s approach is wrong and in the long run, it might even cost them business considering the company promises its customers it does not give their data to third parties.

Last year, this sneaky practice helped county officials bring in $100,000 in new pet license revenue. But at what cost? Data on how much King County pays third parties for customer information doesn’t seem to be factored in, and with what pet owners pay the county yearly to keep their pets licensed, they could be instead investing in other much more necessary pet-related purchases.

As far as the privacy issue is concerned, the fact that a county official has access to your grocery list opens up your private life to further scrutiny. Instead of minding their own business, officials might soon be using this privilege to target you for other products you purchase regularly, going as far as using this access to help piece together criminal enterprises that never took place.

In the great haystack of data, officials end up targeting innocent individuals at time, wasting taxpayer-backed resources just like mass online surveillance does.

What Is Right Isn’t Always What Is Legal

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

What Is Right Isn’t Always What Is Legal

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

When discussing libertarianism with others, never forget that we have one of the best tools at our disposal at almost all times. We have the biggest recruiter to libertarian philosophy, and that is government.

One of the best ways that we can utilize that tool is that we can talk about the difference between what is right and what is legal.

Those two are NOT one in the same. On the one hand, we can talk about the things that are right. We can talk about the things that we know to be true. We can talk about the things that are the result of the decisions that you and I make about what is right for us.

On the other, we have what is legal. Those decisions aren’t necessarily something we were a party to. Many times these things were decided before we were even born, and often, they were decided hundreds or thousands of miles away from the situation at hand by people we’ve not met and we’ll never meet. They know nothing about our situation.

Do you honestly believe that we would see people that were arrested for feeding the homeless without a permit if we were focused on what is right vs. what is legal?

Do you think we would see people fined for growing their own food, instead of having a lawn? Or for having chickens in their backyard for fresh eggs? Or want to be more self-sustaining?

Would we see children suffering because they aren’t able to get the medicine that their doctor would otherwise prescribe if it were legal?

We can utilize these examples and many more as we talk about the difference between those two things, because we can then drive the discussion to be about how when we let others make our decisions, we’re at their mercy. We aren’t deciding for ourselves what is right and what is wrong. We outsource that morality to somebody else.

When you outsource that decision-making, when we outsource that morality to someone else, you’re at the mercy of what they believe to be right, good, and true, and not what is the best outcome for you and for me.

When we’re talking about libertarianism, we can really take an opportunity by focusing on the difference between right and legal. Again, they’re not the same, and we don’t need to let people think that they are.

 

Americans Starting to Lose Faith in Centralized Power

in Elections and Politics, Liberator Online, Libertarianism, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Americans Starting to Lose Faith in Centralized Power

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

If you are mostly accustomed to getting your news from established TV and news sources, you might not know that a new poll suggests that most Americans have lost faith in how the media covers politics in the country. But if you have been paying attention, you probably agree with them.

PeopleA poll carried out by Suffolk University and the USA Today asked individuals “who do you think the media, including major newspapers and TV stations, would like to see elected president: Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?” While the question itself could have been presented differently, taking into consideration the fact that, traditionally, the job of the news reporter is to be unbiased and faithful to facts, the fact 75.9 percent of respondents said they believe the established media wants to see the Democratic candidate win proves they know that cronyism has taken over.

According to the poll, most of those who responded believe that the media is overwhelmingly in favor of one presidential candidate, discarding not only the choice of the second most established party, but also both the Libertarian Party and the Green Party candidates.

That brings us to the realization that, as individuals begin to notice the subjects playing a role in the U.S. presidential elections are also partly responsible for influencing our decisions, they also realize that our central government is filled with individuals who have made their way to the top under far from ideal circumstances.

Instead of living by principles and the idea that they represent those who have elected them, these politicians only hold promises to those who have bankrolled their campaigns.

The “pay to play” scheme, after all, is not only a reality among clusters of politicians who are being eviscerated by those paying attention. It’s also a reality wherever a centralized form of government is in place.

Centralization of power is, at the end of the day, the right environment for corruption to thrive.

In Human Action, Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises writes that “there is no such thing as a just and fair method of exercising the tremendous power that interventionism puts into the hands of the legislature and the executive,” explaining that, in “many fields of the administration of interventionist measures, favoritism simply cannot be avoided.”

As interventionism remains an innate part of governing, what we, libertarians, can take away from this recent poll is that the access to information provided by an open wide web of ideas, such as the Internet, has helped us understand these powerful alliances, seeing their result right before our eyes on a regular basis.

People are no longer going along quietly. And that’s why we should be celebrating.

What This School District in Pakistan Teaches the World About Choice

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

What This School District in Pakistan Teaches the World About Choice

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

According to Al Jazeera, the most literate district in Pakistan is not heavily subsidized by the Pakistani government.

HunzaKnown for being a success story in a country torn apart by war and poverty, Hunza Valley beats all other Pakistani school districts, boasting 95 percent literacy rates among both genders. Meanwhile, districts across the country have some of the lowest literacy rates in the world, with the average adult literacy rate at 55 percent and female adult literacy rate at 42 percent.

When analyzed closely, Hunza Valley’s uniqueness is easy to identify. After all, their schools are not run by the government. Instead of waiting for government to do something, the local community decided to take matters into their own hands in the 1980’s, starting their own independent community school system.

What started as a way to fill in the gap left by government turned into a success story, thanks to the private initiative of villagers.

Muhammad Ibrahim, the chairman of the local Ismaili Community, says that village residents “all joined hands to start a community school [that would] produce students who can compete with the challenges of the modern world,” giving birth to the most successful education story coming from Pakistan in the past years.

The plan worked so well that currently, parents will power through any kind of struggle or difficulty to ensure their children are attending a community-run school.

“Education is the top priority” for Hunza residents, Hunza Public School principal Mehraban Karim told Al Jazeera. And to ensure their children are educated, “they have and will eat grass but will not compromise on their kids’ education. That’s the reason we have 95% literacy rate,” Karim added.

In Pakistan, education is free and mandatory up to secondary school. While classes start at a young age and the enrollments are high, the community-run schools in Hunza are much more popular, outnumbering government-run schools.

According to a World Bank study from 2014, another mountain district five hours away from Hunza Valley has a 5 percent female literacy rate. A huge difference when compared to Hunza, where local communities work together to educate their young without the help of government.

While infrastructure-wise, Hunza Valley cannot be compared to many — if any — school districts in the United States, the results of Hunza residents’ efforts are tangible.

That’s what happens when parents, educators, and community leaders come together to ensure their children have an option. When government fails, individuals step up, doing a much better job at educating children so they won’t become dependent on government assistance throughout their early years and even long into their adulthood.

Hopefully, parents in America can learn a thing or two from these Pakistani parents, becoming more involved and more interested in learning more about how they should go about amplifying school choice nationwide.

Without a National Government, Spaniards Have a Taste of Freedom

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

Without a National Government, Spaniards Have a Taste of Freedom

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

For the last ten months, Spain has had no official government in place. And apparently, Spaniards couldn’t be happier.

It all began when neither of Spain’s major parties was able to secure a majority of seats in the national legislature. Since these parties are also unable to agree on a coalition government out of disdain for their opponents, the country of 47 million people is being left with a caretaker government instead of an officially elected body.

SpainAccording to the New York times, locals are glad.

To Félix Pastor, a local language teacher, the situation has produced positive outcomes. After all, “no government, no thieves.” Ana Cancela, a civil servant, agrees. She adds that “[w]e already knew that politicians were corrupt, but now we also see that they can’t even make politics work.”

As Spain dealt with corruption and scandal throughout the last two administrations, the current situation is being welcomed by those who believe that powerful politicians do less harm when left out of power.

For the past 300 days, basic government services have continued to be funded, but in the meantime, no new legislation is being considered and infrastructure and other government-run projects are frozen. And, unlike pessimistic predictions, things are actually getting better, with interest and energy rates staying low, and the economic growth forecast showing a 2.9 percent increase by the end of 2016. According to the New York Times, that’s twice the 1.6 percent average for the eurozone expected by the European Commission.

According to the Mises Institute, this period has been important for Spaniards. Now, they are finally able to get a taste of how resilient a society can be when left alone, without the paternalistic presence of a higher body regulating every aspect of people’s lives.

Instead of chaos, the absence of a centralized power gave Spaniards economic growth, a strong tourism industry, and a safe haven for consumers, who are expected to reach Spanish shores in droves.

To libertarians, this experience should be celebrated — and shared — widely. Not just because Spain has been surviving remarkably well without a government in place, but because common Spaniards are also celebrating the current situation, instead of giving in to fear.

How Egg Regulations Hurt the Environment — And Your Pocket!

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

How Egg Regulations Hurt the Environment — And Your Pocket!

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

Government has a way of making us all question our sanity. Especially when it comes to food regulations and its environmentally unsound consequences.

In many countries across the globe, the practice of washing eggs is seen as anti-hygienic. Because when egg producers wash fresh eggs, they also remove a layer of protein known as cuticle.

EggsThe cuticle is important because it prevents the egg shell from being porous. With a porous exterior, eggs are vulnerable to bacteria.

In the 1970s, regulators with the U.S. Department of Agriculture concluded that egg producers should invest in “fancy machines,” as NPR puts it, to shampoo eggs with soap and hot water. But once the eggs were washed, regulators added, producers should place them immediately in a refrigerator.

To justify the addition of yet another requirement for the egg industry, regulators claimed this step helped to avoid salmonella contamination. But washing the egg’s exterior does little to prevent contamination.

As NPR explains, the cuticle “is like a little safety vest for the egg, keeping water and oxygen in and bad bacteria out. Washing can damage that layer and ‘increase the chances for bacterial invasion’ into pores or hairline cracks in the shell, according to Yi Chen, a food scientist at Purdue University.”

Salmonella enteritidis often infects a chicken’s ovaries, which tends to impact the yolk before the shell hardens. The bacteria can be killed when consumers cook it. Washing the exterior of the egg does little to prevent contamination. As expected, salmonella continues to expose about 142,000 individuals to infections each year.

While many contend that washing the egg and refrigerating it or leaving the cuticle both work, only the method adopted by the United States government requires a great deal of electricity use to ensure the product’s safety. Considering only 10 percent of the total U.S. energy consumption comes from renewable sources, it’s hard to see why environmentalists are not urging government to nix this particular regulation.

But too much energy consumption is not the only negative consequence of egg-washing. The cost of purchasing an egg washing machine, the device’s maintenance, required labor, and the cost of electricity employed in maintaining the product shielded from contamination all add up, increasing the price of eggs and harming the consumer.

With reports showing just how salmonella is still a problem despite the regulatory requirements imposed on the egg industry, it’s hard to contend forcing all producers to wash their eggs is somehow productive. Especially when so much electricity is required to maintain the eggs refrigerated.

Why not try freedom for a change?

Give Them Hope!

in Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

Give Them Hope!

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

I took the opportunity to see the movie Sausage Party (REMINDER: THIS MOVIE IS NOT SAFE FOR KIDS) over the weekend. While filled with raunchy adult humor and innuendo, near the end of the film, there was a line of dialogue that struck me as important for our conversations with those who aren’t libertarians yet… Give them hope!

hope

Conversations about politics right now center around how terrible both old parties’ candidates for president are, and we have a terrific opportunity to discuss libertarian ideas in the vacuum without any good ideas.

In the movie, there is a moment when the lead character can shatter an entire belief system (and does) to share the truth. He has two choices: he can disrespect their beliefs as he tears down their entire way of life, or he can offer them hope as he shows them the truth. At first, he adopts the former, yet moves toward the latter as he sees no fruit borne by his first efforts.

As libertarians, we should strive to adopt the second route.

We are LITERALLY the only people who can offer a world that is peaceful, prosperous, and free.

We need to offer the hope that outcome provides as we bring more people toward our way of thinking.

Think about it for a minute… We’re opening their eyes to something that goes against what the authoritarians have been touting their entire lives. We can either persuade them gently and bring them into the fold, or we can disrespect everything they’ve known their entire lives and lose them.

Those who want control and to use force over others build up the tool they use… The government.   They portray it as the only way to do anything, regardless of consequence. Our ideas and beliefs run counter to that, and that change is often hard to swallow after a life filled with being taught what we know to be false.

So, when we work to change hearts and minds, we can do so with a welcoming elegance and grace, shepherding our new brothers and sister in liberty to embrace what we already do, or we can do so clumsily and without lasting effect.

Homeland ‘Security’? Gov’t Wants to Collect Travellers’ Social Media Info

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

Homeland ‘Security’? Gov’t Wants to Collect Travellers’ Social Media Info

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

In Omnipotent Government, Ludwig von Mises writes that tending toward “a transgression of the limit” of the application of violence is a natural impulse among professionals who use violence in their line of work, even if the particular application of violence is seen as legitimate.

These transgressions are seen everywhere, from instances of police brutality to the ever-growing presence of law enforcement agents on our borders and airports.

SmartphoneNow, this transgression is entering another realm, making way for law enforcement to have an even more formally accepted online presence.

According to a new Department of Homeland Security proposal, officials are considering asking visitors entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program to disclose information pertaining to their social media presence.

If the DHS has its way, visitors would have to fill out a form with links to their Twitter, Facebook, and other online applications. According to the DHS, the collection of this information would “enhance the existing investigative process and provide DHS greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections by providing an additional tool set which analysts and investigators may use to better analyze and investigate the case.”

But the wording in this new proposal is broad enough to allow officials to dig at will, increasing the risk of abuse of power—a surveillance issue that has already been associated with 4th Amendment violations in the past. To privacy advocacy organizations like Restore The 4th, this new transgression is everything but legitimate.

In a press release, the organization explained that the DHS new proposal is toxic.

In a letter addressed to the US Customs and Border Protection, the group along with “over two dozen human rights and civil liberties organizations” outlined the program’s “disproportionate risks, excessive costs, and other serious shortcomings.”

According to the letter, the DHS will be further invading individual privacy, putting freedom of expression at risk if this proposal is implemented. Furthermore, the federal government would have to worsen the national debt due to the high cost of implementation. The maintenance of this program would also cost taxpayers greatly, Restore The 4th added, and these costs “appear to be unaccounted for in the DHS Paperwork Reduction Act statement.”

The advocacy group also claims that the DHS would ignite the expansion of the surveillance state by opening a new window into the traveler’s private life. If implemented, this new rule could impact particular groups of travelers, allowing law enforcement to refer to their racial and religious bias in order to do their job.

Restore The 4th explains:

“This ‘disparate impact will affect not only travelers from visa-waiver program countries, but also the Arab-Americans and Muslim Americans whose colleagues, family members, business associates, and others in their social networks are exposed to immediate scrutiny or ongoing surveillance, or are improperly denied a visa waiver because of their online presence.’”

The letter urges CBP to dismiss the DHS proposal altogether. ​

If not you, who? If not now, when?

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

If not you, who? If not now, when?

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

QUESTION: Sometimes when I criticize government, I am told that if I don’t like it here, I should go somewhere else. Essentially, the old “love it or leave it” line. What’s a good response?

QuestionMY SHORT ANSWER: One response I use goes like this:

“I love my country and its heritage of liberty. When I see it going astray, I want to help it get back on track.

“Our government once endorsed slavery. Where would we be today if the abolitionists had left, instead of helping our nation extend its heritage of liberty to slaves?

“When our government makes a mistake, it’s up to us to correct it. If not us, who?”

Don’t Be Fooled by the DOJ’s Proposed Legislation

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

Don’t Be Fooled by the DOJ’s Proposed Legislation

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

Two years ago, Microsoft refused to comply with a warrant concerning information hosted in Ireland, and the case was brought to court where justices ruled against the tech giant. Recently, however, the 2nd Circuit appeals court ruled in favor of Microsoft, claiming that the US government warrants do not apply to data stored outside of the country.

DOJDespite the ruling, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is now proposing a piece of legislation that would affect Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs), allowing the US government to force companies like Microsoft to unlock a server abroad.

According to the proposed legislation documents, Assistant Attorney General Peter J. Kadzik claims that the ideas proposed by the DOJ would help the US government investigate foreigners suspected of being involved in terrorism, urging Vice President Joe Biden to consider having Congress look at the DOJ’s solution.

In a post crafted by a former DOJ lawyer, the proposed legislation would allow the US government to have access to communication from non-US citizens who are located in foreign countries. Pieces of communication subject to the proposed rules would only be available for what the DOJ calls “criminal investigations,” which legalists claim to be helpful, since this restriction could help prevent current MLATs from being used with the purpose of gathering intelligence. Despite the carefully crafted piece of legislation, concessions aren’t enough to cover up for the DOJ’s goals to expand the agency’s reach.

According to Tech Dirt, the DOJ is using this proposed legislation to target laws and statutes that the agency has been abusing for years. Is the DOJ trying to make its work easier?

Take the Wiretap Act for instance, a law that has been rendered toothless ever since the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) used a single state judge in California to build a massive wiretapping operation in the Los Angeles suburbs. If the DOJ’s proposed rules are considered and signed into law, remaining restrictions imposed by the Wiretap Act would be lifted for good, making incidents like the one that took place in California more common across the country.

But that’s not all, restrictions imposed by the Stored Communications Act, which was used by the DOJ in its fight against Microsoft, as well as the criminal Pen Register statute would also be lifted under the proposed rules, Tech Dirt reports.

If the DOJ is lucky and Congress goes along with its plan, the dubious wording in the proposed rules would give officials authority to carry searches related to the “prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution of serious crime, including terrorism.” Targets of investigations would have to be in countries that have executive agreements with the United States.

According to Tech Dirt, the proposal may superficially seem to cater to privacy advocates, but “The self-written loopholes allow for plenty of ‘search first, ask permission later’ action.” If Tech Dit’s assessment is correct, the proposal rules’ dubious wording could further entrap US citizens, helping the authorities to destroy even more of our liberties in the name of security, while targeting foreign servers in the meantime.

Gov’t Watchdog Worried About Consumer Privacy Offers no Solution to the Federal Surveillance State

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

Gov’t Watchdog Worried About Consumer Privacy Offers no Solution to the Federal Surveillance State

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

Recently, the Government Accountability Office released a report on issues regarding “surreptitious tracking apps,” hoping to identify the problems with cellphone features used for stalking so that regulators and lawmakers are able to find policy solutions that protect the American consumer and his privacy.

OfficeUnfortunately for Americans across the board, GAO failed to include government-backed and run surveillance programs as features putting our privacy at risk.

The report, which can be read in full here, claims that the issue with most apps designed as tracking features is that they may intercept a smartphone’s communications, such as text messages, phone calls, and emails. Without the consent of those being tracked, GAO reported, their safety and privacy are at risk.

During a recent interview, GAO’s Physical Infrastructure Director Mark Goldstein said that while many tracking apps that offer services to parents who are concerned about their children’s whereabouts for instance have “legitimate purposes,” but many others are “marketed for what’s called surreptitious use, or where you’re not telling someone that you’re using their phone to track them, and this happens in a number of kinds of cases, for stalking and for other kinds of nefarious purposes.”

Without explaining what he meant by nefarious purposes, Goldstein went on to claim that the biggest safety issue with tracking apps available nowadays is that, if a tracker knows where you are, they “can stalk you, they can harm you.” And while “there are a variety of laws on the books, both at the federal level and at the state level that focus on different components of whether you can sell [these apps],” “millions of people report being stalked every year,” suggesting that whether the laws are in effect or not, it doesn’t matter—criminals will continue to do what they do, whether the law exists or not.

The solution, Goldstein explained, is a combination of government-backed efforts that would allegedly protect the citizen from abuse, regardless of how ineffective current laws are. These efforts include boosting the Department of Justice’s educational programs.

In the past, the DOJ launched the Stalking Resource Center, an agency that trains law enforcement officers, policymakers, victim service professionals, and others on the dangers associated with tracking technology. In 2012, reports claiming that the center did not offer any direct support to victims was mostly dismissed by mainstream media. But the program is still funded by taxpayer money.

According to Goldstein, law enforcement must also get a boost in order to effectively “prevent these things from happening and to penalize, obviously, and prosecute people who break the law in these areas.” Goldstein also added that producing more “legislative remedies” could also help to improve law enforcement effectiveness.

“The bottom line is,” Goldstein closed the interview by saying, “the technology brings us costs as well as benefits.” The fact an individual has access to a cell phone, the government employee claims, is enough to put him in danger. “As individuals,” he continued, ”we have to be alert to that, and as a government, we have to ensure that our citizens are able to use these kinds of devices without fear of something bad happening.”

Instead of micromanaging what app an individual uses on his or her phone, what GAO could have done instead to help protect American consumers was to also carry a research into whether the federal government’s spying programs are effective.

According to a White House-appointed review group as well as the nonprofit organization New America Foundation, NSA’s phone record collection has played an insignificant role in preventing terrorist attacks. But the effects of federal surveillance policies being used as we speak are not always neutral: abuse within the agency continues to put countless of innocent people—and their privacy—in danger.

But will GAO ever look into that? I doubt it.

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

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

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

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

Question:

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

restroom Answer:

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

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

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

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

Did the Government Offer a Contract to New Balance in Exchange for TPP Support?

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

Did the Government Offer a Contract to New Balance in Exchange for TPP Support?

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

Government has a way of selling incredibly bad economic deals by calling them free trade agreements. Haven’t you noticed?

ShoesThe Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, is a trade agreement between Pacific Rim countries, including the United States, that hopes to “promote economic growth; support the creation and retention of jobs; enhance innovation, productivity and competitiveness; raise living standards; reduce poverty in our countries; and promote transparency, good governance, and enhanced labor and environmental protections.” But according to information released by WikiLeaks, only five of TPP’s 29 sections deal with trade.

At the time, WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange claimed that many of the other sections dealt with Internet regulations, which includes details on what specific type of information Internet service providers will be required to collect once TPP is enacted.

To former congressman Ron Paul, TPP is dangerous because of the several items listed in its sections that benefit special interest groups. Instead of opening up the market, Paul argues, TPP would boost “world government,” meaning that international nations would unite for all the wrong reasons, such as spying on its citizens. Opening up the trade among individuals in different parts of the globe, Paul explains, has little to do with the effort.

To folks at Tech Dirt, TPP has always been bad, mostly because of the issues mentioned previously. But as reports claiming the US government has allegedly pressured a shoe company to back TPP in exchange for exclusive contracts hit the news, we learn that power players behind the TPP might be just as corrupt as the politicians under fire in South America over one of Brazil’s largest embezzlement schemes in recent history.

According to New Balance, an American footwear company from Boston, Massachusetts, the US government allegedly promised the shoe company would get a “big government contract” if the company stood by TPP.

Unfortunately for New Balance, the deal never came through.

According to the Boston Globe story, It wasn’t until 2015 that New Balance chose to stop criticizing the deal. Until then, the company resisted supporting the pact for years. If what New Balance now alleges is true, executives only chose to change their tune after the Department of Defense claimed it would consider choosing New Balance for a contract to outfit recruits.

So far, New Balance hasn’t received any official contract proposal, and New Balance now say Pentagon officials are intentionally delaying the purchase.

While the US government claims that the contract problem is not associated with TPP in any way, the company is now renewing its battle against the TPP. For all the wrong reasons.

According to Tech Dirt, New Balance claims that while most of the uniform purchased for the military is made in the United States, sneakers are the exception. With that in mind, New Balance decided to offer its products to the government, hoping to obtain a contract. That’s when a representative for the current administration “more or less” asked New Balance to accept a compromise version of the trade deal in exchange for a pledge of help in pressuring the Department of Defense to expedite the government’s purchase of American-made shoes.

According to the Defense Department, New Balance didn’t get the contract because its sneakers aren’t durable or inexpensive enough. Regardless of what the government alleges, Tech Dirt claims, the idea that the government may have offered the company deal if it sided with its trade deal is “highly questionable.”

This LA Gang Member Knows Why the Drug War Doesn’t Work

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

 This LA Gang Member Knows Why the Drug War Doesn’t Work

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

Ozy, an online magazine that takes pride in presenting original content crafted by contributors with unique perspectives, has recently published an article allegedly written by “Loko,” a Bloods gang member from Los Angeles, California. In the piece, Loko talks about his life in the City of Angels, how changes to marijuana laws are reshaping local communities, and how other drug restrictions are ruining an entire generation of African Americans.

It’s hard to read his rendition of the current situation without thinking about how countless lives could have been saved if current and past government administrations hadn’t embraced the war on drugs.

Marijuana He opens his comments by claiming that living in the city is a daily struggle. The main problem nowadays, Loko tells Ozy’s Seth Ferranti, is “crystal.”

Methamphetamine, Loko explains, is what all of the “homeboys are using. … Blood, Crip, it doesn’t matter.” Meth is such a problem in LA that everyone “is going crazy.” But what makes it an issue isn’t that locals have easy access to the substance. The problem is that meth is illegal. That makes competition a matter of force, not product quality and demand, pitting gangs against gangs over who’s ready to offer the best, most potent crystal meth there is.

To Loko, the meth phenomena is “the second coming of crack.” And while it’s making many gangsters rich, it’s also hurting entire families.

To the Bloods gang member, life has mellowed out considerably after new marijuana policies were signed into law in in the Golden State.

At first, Loko was selling crystal meth he claims to have gotten from “the Mexicans,” but as life happened and his family grew, he decided to go legit. “Weed offers a better opportunity,” he told Ozy. Instead of “hustling” in the streets to push what he calls “super meth, like that Breaking Bad stuff,” he decided to get legalized, obtain a card and documents, and open his own legal dispensary.

“Meth is destroying the Black community,” he told the publication. In the early 2000s, locals didn’t go for meth. Now, it’s the most popular drug around.

According to Vice News, Mexican cartels are responsible for making crystal meth the real deal in Los Angeles.

In 2008, one pound of crystal meth was worth $8,000 to $10,000. The fact other types of substances were more accessible in California’s black market then also helped to keep the price of meth up. But now that weed is legal and that cartels are focusing on other substances, meth is widely available—and cheap. As Mexican cartels started mass producing the drug, the cost of methamphetamine went down. One pound of meth now costs about $3,500, Vice News reports. Seizures of meth at the border between the United States and Mexico have surged 33 percent around San Diego, hitting a record high in 2014. And if Loko is right, there’s no stopping to the trend. Unless the laws change.

According to Jeffrey Miron, the director of economic studies at the Cato Institute, taking on drug cartels and their leaders and getting them out of circulation “will likely have no impact on the drug trade.”

Violence doesn’t cease to exist when the Drug Enforcement Administration catches a kingpin, and yet, most governments in the world embrace prohibitionist policies, making the trade of wanted goods a criminal act. The hype around illegal substances often helps to boost the popularity of destructive substance abuse. Once California loosened its policy toward marijuana production and distribution, many people like Loko made better lives for themselves, distancing their families from the streets’ violent environment.

If policymakers are serious about saving lives and helping people kick drug addiction to the curb, they must begin taking the liberalization of all drug laws seriously, not only those that affect marijuana.

Helping Others See Your Vision of Liberty

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

Helping Others See Your Vision of Liberty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Free Market

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

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

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

New Jersey’s Takeover of Camden Proves Freedom is Better Than Taxpayer-Backed Revitalization Projects

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

New Jersey’s Takeover of Camden Proves Freedom is Better Than Taxpayer-Backed Revitalization Projects

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

Governor Chris Christie has recently announced that the state will take control of Atlantic City’s finances. As the city’s huge debt looms over its residents and the state vows to take over, critics and experts take a closer look at a previous major takeover of the city of Camden. And since many argue that state intervention ended up failing some of Camden’s most vulnerable residents, the promise of a better Atlantic City after intervention seems somewhat unrealistic.

In 2002, the state of New Jersey poured millions of taxpayer dollars into one of the largest takeover projects in US history. At least one law school, an aquarium, and a hospital were updated. But despite the taxpayer-backed incentives, the lives of residents did not improve. Instead, poverty and crime rates in the city remain high.

Camden

Despite the interventionist failures since 2002, the state announced in 2013 that it had decided to take over the education in Camden. As you will see, the results were equally disappointing.

According to a report from 2009, the initial revitalization campaign in the city counted with $175 million in bonds and loans and a one-time $7.5 million appropriation from the state budget. Shortly after, the then-Governor Jim McGreevey appointed a chief operating officer to take over the local government and the school board. The plan was to create jobs, bring in new businesses, fix the schools and the sewers, and demolish unsafe vacant businesses.

But as the takeover came to an end in 2010, Camden remained one of the most dangerous cities in New Jersey. And despite the state’s repeating efforts to reform the education system in the city, Camden school districts remain problematic.

The New Jersey government has been responsible for running the Paterson, Newark, and Jersey City school districts for more than 20 years. In 2013, it took over Camden’s as well. During the first years under state control, Camden failed to meet performance requirements in at least five areas.

While Paterson, Newark, and Jersey City report that their graduation rates had improved, local educational leaders claim that the improvement is due to the work members of the community have been doing in partnership with educational groups.

According to Paterson Education Fund’s executive director Rosie Grant, the state takeover meant little to the community.

“The gains that we have made,” she told The Record, “have been for the most part despite the state takeover.” Instead, Grant believes that the city’s decision to break the region’s largest high schools to form smaller academies is what made Paterson great.

But not all is lost in Camden.

When it comes to education, the real revolution arrived in the form of school choice.

According to a 2015 video by Jim Epstein, school choice gave local families in Camden the ability to choose. Instead of relying solely on state-run schools that continue to fail Camden’s children to this day, the implementation of charter schools has given residents the opportunity to enroll their children in institutions where children actually learn, despite their economic background.

If the state’s intervention in Camden has anything to teach other cities across the country is that pouring taxpayer money into an issue won’t make it better. Boosting choice—and freedom—on the other hand, usually works.

If the current administration is serious about saving Atlantic City, it will avoid pouring money into the problems the city is facing. Opening its doors for businesses and competition, however, may just do the trick.

So, You Won This Week’s Powerball…

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

So, You Won This Week’s Powerball…

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

We all went to Chino Hills, California to purchase a Powerball ticket this week, right?

Powerball cartoonNow, it’s time to discuss the realities of having won. Assuming you chose the cash option, you’ll “earn” $930 million dollars. The IRS gets 25% off the top, before the money hits your hands, with another 14.6% due at tax time. Surprisingly, California has a personal income tax exemption for lottery winnings, stemming from a law passed in 1984.

How are you going to spend the remaining $561.72 million dollars?

Obviously, you’ll want to ensure that your family is comfortable for the rest of their lives. Let’s assume you also want to make a positive impact on the world around you. This is a path taken by many entrepreneurial philanthropists like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.

Let’s say that you have $200 million dollars for your philanthropy. How can you make the best use of those dollars?

Option 1: Write a check $568.28 million ($200 million beyond your “tax liability”) already taken by the bureaucrats in Washington DC to add to the Treasury to be doled out as they see fit.

Option 2: Research to find 200 charities and organizations that have similar goals that will make $1 million go a long way toward their mission.

Option 2, right?

When discussing the coercion of government to have you spend money on things you may not want to fund, this is a great exercise with those skeptical of libertarian ideas. Almost EVERYONE picks Option 2, regardless of political affiliation.

That’s because the waste and inefficiency associated with government is known far and wide.

That knowledge is another opening to build rapport to share libertarian philosophy with those who already have some libertarian leanings without even realizing it.

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