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Making an Opportunity

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

Making an Opportunity

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

The Internet is abuzz about the Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer, in which a Wisconsin man and his family’s experiences with the criminal justice system are chronicled from his arrest, conviction, and exoneration for a 1985 rape case to his trial for a 2005 murder of a freelance photographer.

While not completely one-sided, the viewers’ reactions seem to be strongly in favor of Steven Avery’s defense, as well as that of his nephew Brendan Dassey, eliciting both WhiteHouse.Gov and Change.Org petitions with hundreds of thousands of signatures aimed at garnering his release.

making a murdererI watched the series in three to four nights, quickly moving through the 10 episodes. As a libertarian, the series drew me in with its focus on alleged misconduct on the part of government prosecutors and law enforcement and the possible miscarriage of justice for both the defendants and victims.

Once the “water cooler discussions” commenced and writers returned from time off over the holidays, the enormity of the opportunity that Making A Murderer became apparent to me with article after article populating my social media newsfeeds and my “must read” websites and news sources with perspectives, refutations, and commentary on the series.

The opportunity that libertarians can, and should, seize is one where we can discuss important aspects of libertarian thought by pointing to the alleged corruption of these government officials, the inability for them to follow their own rules, and how the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise fades with each passing day that the pop culture phenomenon features. While many libertarians know their rights and “flex” them frequently, the series uncovers that many who aren’t well-versed in such discussions will easily acquiesce to requests made by perceived authority figures to their detriment.

One key to persuasion is to find openings and moments that can be an opportunity to reveal someone’s “inner libertarian” as you find common ground. Often, we talk about the importance of building rapport with those who do not yet identify as libertarians, yet hold many libertarian beliefs without knowing it. As with our World’s Smallest Political Quiz and the opportunity to “break the ice” that it presents, pop culture phenomena like Making a Murderer can be the opening you need to start building that rapport for those aren’t ready to call themselves libertarians… yet.

If you are not interested in the true crime documentary series, don’t fret. Libertarianism continues to permeate popular culture as we find ourselves more in the mainstream of everyday life than ever before.

New York Times: End the Federal War on Marijuana

in Criminal Justice, Drugs, Liberator Online, Libertarian Stances on Issues by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

In a major and historic breakthrough for libertarians and other advocates of marijuana re-"Repeal Prohibition, Again" in the New York Timeslegalization, the New York Times editorial board has called for ending the federal war on marijuana.

Here are excerpts from the July 27 editorial, entitled “Repeal Prohibition, Again”:

“It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end [alcohol] Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.

“The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana. …

“There are no perfect answers to people’s legitimate concerns about marijuana use. But neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we believe that on every level — health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order issues — the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization. That will put decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs — at the state level. …

“The social costs of the marijuana laws are vast. There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, according to F.B.I. figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives. Even worse, the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals.

“There is honest debate among scientists about the health effects of marijuana, but we believe that the evidence is overwhelming that addiction and dependence are relatively minor problems, especially compared with alcohol and tobacco. Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults. Claims that marijuana is a gateway to more dangerous drugs are as fanciful as the ‘Reefer Madness’ images of murder, rape and suicide. …

“Creating systems for regulating manufacture, sale and marketing will be complex. But those problems are solvable, and would have long been dealt with had we as a nation not clung to the decision to make marijuana production and use a federal crime. …

“We recognize that this Congress is as unlikely to take action on marijuana as it has been on other big issues. But it is long past time to repeal this version of Prohibition.”

The Times followed with a six-part series on marijuana legalization, which can be found under the text of their editorial.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance,commented on the groundbreaking editorial:

“This is of historic consequence — far bigger than most people assume. Some people in the country may perceive the Times editorial page as a liberal organ, but they should know that on this issue they’ve been cautious to a fault, even conservative. So for them to write what they did, at this juncture, demonstrated intellectual and moral clarity as well as courage.”

It should also be noted that what the New York Times is calling for is what the Libertarian Party and Ron Paul in his presidential campaigns called for — many years earlier.

Great News! The World Is Getting Better: HumanProgress.org

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

HumanProgress.orgThere is a large and growing body of evidence showing dramatic and remarkable improvements in human well-being in recent decades, especially in the developing world.

Unfortunately, this evidence is little-known and often overlooked. Bad news and predictions of doom and gloom are disproportionately reported. Many people, including the highly educated, simply have no idea of the great and ongoing progress in many crucial areas of human life around the world.

This exciting and uplifting news deserves far more attention. HumanProgress.org, a new website and research tool from the Cato Institute, hopes to accomplish that.

Many visitors who take the time to explore the site will be genuinely surprised by the well-documented major advances in world peace, living standards, environmental cleanliness, life spans, and much more. Crimes such as rape, hate crimes, deadly riots, and child abuse are all substantially down from the past. Around 5.1 billion people live in countries where incomes have more than doubled since 1960, and well over half the human race lives in countries where average incomes have tripled or more. Technologies unimaginable just a few years ago are now commonplace even among the world’s poor.

HumanProgress.org provides tools that let users see the many documented ways in which the world has become a far better place. Over 500 data sets of human development indicators from a variety of reliable sources allow visitors to compare indicators with one another, create and share graphics, and calculate differences in human well-being between different countries over time. Visitors can explore progress in categories including: Communications, Education, Energy, Environment, Food, Gender Equality, Happiness, Health, Housing, Transportation, Violence, and Wealth.

By putting together this comprehensive data in an accessible way, HumanProgress.org provides a fantastic documented resource for scholars, journalists, students, and the general public.

For a good graph-free overview of what it’s all about, go to the introductory essay “What is Human Progress?” which presents some downright startling figures and arguments and puts them in context.

And for an easy way to keep up with breaking good news about human progress — and to get a regular booster shot of reasons for rational optimism — you can like HumanProgress.org’s Facebook page.

Cato hopes that HumanProgress.org will lead to a greater appreciation of the improving state of the world. Things are getting better in many areas, to a remarkable degree, and largely due to progress in markets, civil liberties and peace. That’s great news! Let’s spread the word.