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

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

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

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

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

Texas

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

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

Now, it’s Texas’ turn.

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

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

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

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

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

Police Mistake Cat Litter for Meth, Won’t Apologize to Driver

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

Police Mistake Cat Litter for Meth, Won’t Apologize to Driver

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

Not all that glitters is gold. But how about sand? Is it always meth? To sheriff’s deputies in Harris County, Texas, it certainly is.

Cat litterAccording to a local ABC affiliate, Ross LeBeau made a right turn without coming to a complete stop in December of 2016, prompting local deputies to pull him over. LeBeau reportedly admitted to having a small amount of marijuana in his vehicle, but the “confession” was only produced after deputies said they were able to smell it. As the driver was arrested, deputies proceeded to search his car, finding 252 grams of sand.

“Meth!,” they must have thought. “We busted this guy!” It’s almost as if we can see them celebrating once they found that bag of sandy material. And we can! After all, the police reminded the public of the importance of “routine traffic stops” following the arrest.

While LeBeau denied having any meth in his car, deputies didn’t listen. Later, when the sandy substance was taken in for tests, lab workers found that the “meth” was really just cat litter. Seriously.

Thankfully, his arrest over meth charges was dismissed. Still, police continue to claim deputies acted appropriately, mentioning that field tests showed the sandy product was indeed, meth. Never mind the fact field drug tests used by law enforcement are completely bogus.

While LeBeau’s attorney claimed local law enforcement agencies are low on cash to purchase good testing devices, the problem with mistakes like this is that, more often than not, these arrests ruin the lives of people who would have otherwise been contributors to society.

Ultimately, drug laws have nothing to do with legitimate criminal activities such as murder or theft. Instead, all the drug laws do is to create crime out of a commercial and voluntary transaction.

In addition, drug laws help to create drug epidemics, artificially impacting the supply and demand of certain substances, and ultimately putting addicts in grave, deadly danger.

In the case of LeBeau’s story, this botched arrest may have been resolved, but law enforcement still hasn’t apologized for the mistake. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to the libertarians reading this piece. After all, it’s more common to see pigs flying — or at least trying to — than government and their employees taking responsibility for their mistakes.

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.

Aluminum Industry Wants Tax Deal, but Nobody Wants to Cut the Red Tape

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

Aluminum Industry Wants Tax Deal, but Nobody Wants to Cut the Red Tape

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

Many think of crony capitalism as the source of all problems we face as a nation. They are not entirely wrong.

Take the domestic aluminum industry for instance. Despite the taxpayer investment, producers are losing their share of the market. Without freedom to compete, members of the industry take part in political games, using their influence with state governments and Washington politicians to beg for privileges that no other aluminum producers enjoy. The result? Major trouble for the consumer, employer, and worker.

Aluminum

In America, there are three companies that produce primary aluminum. Alcoa is the largest producer, operating multiple primary plants in New York, Washington, Indiana, and Texas.

In early November 2015, Alcoa announced that it would have to permanently close its Massena West smelter in New York. At the time, town supervisor Joe Gray said that the jobs Alcoa would take away if the smelter closed would be “next to impossible to replace,” considering the aluminum giant has been the major employer in the region for quite some time.

By late November, however, a deal was reached and the upstate New York smelting plant was saved. What happened? New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled a $69 million incentive package that benefited Alcoa. At least 600 jobs were saved.

The plan was backed by Cuomo and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), who made the announcement at the Alcoa plant in Massena. As union bosses celebrated the special relationship between the New York government and industry leaders, the incentives weren’t widely criticized, mainly because tax incentives aren’t seen as handouts by many. Instead, people often believe that tax incentives are good.

During the announcement event, Cuomo claimed that the incentives plan “is the state’s way of stepping up.” Yet none of those present were able to criticize the existing red tape that makes it so hard for companies to function in America in the first place.

If the cost of doing business in the country was not an obstacle, more competitors would fill up the gap, and cheap aluminum coming from China would have a hard time staying relevant. Instead of working to remove red tape and help all entrepreneurs and existing businesses to flourish, the state decided to give one group access to privileges that others in the same industry simply do not enjoy.

But as Alcoa enjoys the $30 million it got from the New York incentive package, things continue to look bad for the aluminum producers and its employees. Except now, the issue is not New York, it’s Indiana.

According to IndyStar.com, southwestern Indiana residents are now concerned that the Alcoa smelter in their state will shut down, shedding 600 jobs in the process. Early in January 2016, Alcoa announced it would be closing its Warrick Operations smelter by the end of March. This is a “major economic event,” said Warrick County Chamber of Commerce director Shari Sherman. But to Alcoa, the shutdown makes sense because the Indiana facility is not “competitive.” Meaning the cost of keeping it open is a burden.

The facility has been operating in Indiana for the past 55 years. As the smelter closes, multiple families brace for the impact. As workers struggle, so do companies that are finding it much harder to compete. The issue? They have a hard time covering the costs of doing business in America.

If workers and consumers are serious about seeing fewer job losses in their states and more prosperity, they’d be urging lawmakers to cut the red tape, not backroom deals.

Don’t be surprised when Garland is used as an excuse to renew the Patriot Act

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

Don’t be surprised when Garland is used as an excuse to renew the Patriot Act

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

Supporters of the NSA’s domestic spying programs say that a vast data collection effort is needed more than ever to prevent terrorist attacks in the United States, but they are unable to point to any specific example of foiled terrorist plots through these unconstitutional, privacy-violating programs.

In June 2013, Gen. Keith Alexander, then the Director of the NSA, claimed that the spying programs prevented “potential terrorist events over 50 times since 9/11.” Testifying before a Senate committee in October of the same year, Alexander backtracked after Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) grilled him for misleading the American public.

Spy

“There is no evidence that [bulk] phone records collection helped to thwart dozens or even several terrorist plots,” said Leahy. “These weren’t all plots and they weren’t all foiled. Would you agree with that, yes or no?” he asked the NSA chief.

Alexander, realizing he had been put on the spot for peddling misinformation, simply replied, “Yes.”

Of course Alexander was more honest than his colleague, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who lied about the NSA domestic surveillance program in a March 2013 Senate hearing. He was accused of perjury, although the allegation went nowhere in a Congress filled with pro-surveillance members.

Two government panels – President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board – have since determined that NSA’s domestic spying programs have not played a role in thwarting terrorist attacks.

The attack on Sunday evening in Garland, Texas at the “Draw Muhammad” event hosted by an anti-Islam organization will undoubtedly be used as a reason to reauthorize a soon-to-expire provision, Section 215, of the USA PATRIOT Act by which the federal government claims the vast authority to spy on Americans.

But such claims should be met with a large dose of skepticism. One of the suspects involved in the attack had already come across the FBI’s radar. The United States’ top law enforcement agency began investigating him in 2006 on the suspicion that he wanted to join a terrorist group in Somalia.

The alleged attacker lied to federal authorities. He was convicted in 2010 of making false statements and sentenced to three years of probation. He was, however, able to avoid being placed on the “no-fly” list.

The alleged attackers in Garland are precisely are the needle for which the federal government claims that it needs the haystack, and intelligence and law enforcement officials failed to prevent what could have been a mass murder.

The NSA’s resources are spread too thin. Collecting the phone calls of virtually every American – the proverbial “haystack” – even if the people on the call are not suspected of any terrorist involvement, not only betrays the constitutionally protected rights defined by the Fourth Amendment, but also makes Americans less safe because intelligence agencies may not be able to connect the dots efficiently and effectively.

Rather than using the Garland attack as tool to further reauthorization of Section 215, which expires on June 1, lawmakers should seriously reexamine the approach to intelligence, requiring agencies like the NSA to focus on actual terrorism suspects as opposed to innocent Americans calling their families and friends.

They Said it… With Rand Paul, Loretta Lynch, and More

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 20, No. 5 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

UNKNOWN MAN TO HEAD SECRET AGENCY: “The Central Intelligence Agency has selected a new top spy… He remains undercover and is known within the agency as ‘Spider’… His new role will be director of the National Clandestine Service, a position that effectively makes him responsible for all the CIA’s spying activities. … The CIA wouldn’t reveal any information about the new NCS chief.” — journalist Damian Paletta, “CIA Taps Undercover ‘Spider’ as Its Top Spy,” Wall Street Journal, Jan. 29, 2015.

Rand PaulRAND PAUL SLAMS JEB BUSH’S POT HYPOCRISY: “This is a guy who now admits he smoked marijuana but he wants to put people in jail who do. I think that’s the real hypocrisy… a lot of people who made mistakes growing up, admit their mistakes but now still want to put people in jail for that. Had he been caught at Andover [Massachusetts, where Bush attended the elite Phillips Academy prep school], he’d have never been governor, he’d probably never have a chance to run for the presidency. … You would think he’d have a little more understanding.” — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), quoted by The Hill, “Rand Paul Slams Bush Hypocrisy on Pot,” Jan. 30, 2015.

LYNCHING LIBERTY:
Loretta Lynch“Not only do I not support the legalization of marijuana, it is not the position of the Department of Justice currently to support the legalization. Nor would it be the position should I become confirmed as Attorney General. … Civil and criminal forfeiture are very important tools of the Department of Justice as well as our state and local counterparts. … [Civil asset forfeiture is] done pursuant to supervision by a court, it is done pursuant to court order, and I believe the protections are there. … [Current and past NSA spying programs on U.S. citizens are] constitutional and effective.” — Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch, remarks made during her confirmation hearings, Jan. 28, 2015, as reported by Reason.com.

CUT MILITARY WASTE: “Cut the defense budget by $300 billion. An alarming portion of the $600 billion to $700 billion defense budget is sheer waste caused by managerial inefficiencies and bloat. The inability of the Defense Department to audit of its own spending is scandalous. We can easily cut $300 billion from military spending while making ourselves safer by devoting the entire defense budget to defending ourselves in lieu of racing around the world in search of monsters to destroy.” — Bruce Fein, constitutional scholar and Associate Deputy Attorney General under President Reagan, ” A nonpartisan national security agenda,” Washington Times, January 19, 2015.

ONE GOV’T SCHOOL SYSTEM TO RUIN THEM ALL: “I assure you my son lacks the magical powers necessary to threaten his friend’s existence. If he did, I’m sure he’d bring him right back.” — Jason Steward, father of nine-year-old Aiden Steward, who was suspended from a Kermit, Texas elementary school for telling a classmate he could make him invisible with a magic ring. The family had watched “The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies” a few days earlier. (New York Daily News, January 31, 2015.)

Study: States with Economic Liberty Benefit; States Without Economic Liberty Suffer

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 23 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

A just-released study shows that U.S. states with economic liberty benefit greatly from it, while residents of states with less economic freedom suffer badly from the lack of it.

Economic Freedom of North America 2014 is an annual report by Canada’s Fraser Institute that measures levels of economic freedom, and thus economic opportunity, in the 50 states (as well as Canada and Mexico).

Economic Freedom of North America 2014The report defines “economic freedom” as “the ability of individuals to act in the economic sphere free of undue restrictions.”

Elaborating on that: “The freest economies operate with minimal government interference, relying upon personal choice and markets to answer basic economic questions such as what is to be produced, how it is to be produced, how much is produced, and for whom production is intended. As government imposes restrictions on these choices, there is less economic freedom.”

The report shows that economic liberty has clear, measurable, dollars-and-cents benefits, writes study co-author Dean Stansel in the Washington Examiner:

“States that have low taxation, limited government and flexible labor markets enjoy greater economic growth, while states with lower levels of economic freedom suffer from reduced living standards for families and less economic opportunity.

“In the three most-free states (Texas, South Dakota, and North Dakota) average personal income is about 20 percent higher than in the three least-free states (Maine, Vermont, and Mississippi) — approximately $48,000 versus $40,000. And the unemployment rate is more than seven percent in Rhode Island (45th) versus about four percent in nearby New Hampshire (5th).

“Furthermore, cities in low-freedom states like California (43rd), Michigan (37th), and Rhode Island have made headlines in recent years for declaring bankruptcy, whereas cities in high-freedom states like Nebraska (5th), Texas, and the Dakotas, have seen incomes and their tax bases expand.

“In the top ten states, total employment grew by roughly 3.5 percent, while it has barely budged in the bottom 10. Over that same period, the economy grew more than eight percent in the top 10, but only by about two percent in the bottom 10.”

Concludes Stansel:

“The research is clear: Where economic freedom is high and rising, the number of jobs is expanding and the economy is vibrant and growing. Where it’s low and declining, the economy is stagnant, limiting opportunity and quality of life for residents of those states.

“Big, costly government at the expense of the people doesn’t work. It leads to economic decline. In contrast, expanding economic freedom increases economic opportunity and provides the path to economic prosperity.”

The report ranks economic freedom along a scale of 1 (lowest) to 10 (full economic liberty). This brings a warning: “Historically, economic freedom has been declining in all three countries. Since 2000, the average score for Canadian provinces on the all-governments index has fallen from 7.8 to 7.6; the number for U.S. states was 8.2 to 7.5.”

The Economic Freedom of North America study is an offshoot of the Fraser Institute’s acclaimed Economic Freedom of the World index, the result of a quarter century of work by more than 60 scholars including three Nobel laureates.

They Said It… Leon Panetta, Dennis Kucinich, and More!

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 19, No. 16 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

TAX KARMA: “I’m at the breaking point. It’s not because I don’t like paying taxes. I have voted for every park, every library, all the school improvements, for light rail, for anything that will make this city better. But now I can’t afford to live here anymore. I’ll protest my appraisal notice, but that’s not enough. Someone needs to step in and address the big picture.” — Austin, Texas artist Gretchen Gardner at an Austin town hall meeting. She fears that the rising local taxes she voted for will drive her out of her home. First quoted in the Austin-American Statesman, May 31, 2014, then widely disseminated.

WAR FOREVER:
Leon Panetta“I think we’re looking at kind of a 30-year war.” — former Obama Secretary of Defense and CIA director Leon Panetta, explaining why he thinks the U.S. war with ISIS must be extended to Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere, for decades. Quoted in “Key Democrats, Led by Hillary Clinton, Leave No doubt that Endless War Is Official U.S. Doctrine” by Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept, October 7, 2014.

MERCHANTS OF DEATH CHEER ENDLESS WAR: “Led by Lockheed Martin Group (LTM), the biggest U.S. defense companies are trading at record prices as shareholders reap rewards from escalating military conflicts around the world… the four largest Pentagon contractors…rose 19 percent this year through yesterday, outstripping the 2.2 percent gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Industrials Index…investors see rising sales for makers of missiles, drones and other weapons as the U.S. hits Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq…” — journalist Richard Clough, “Syria-to-Ukraine Wars Send U.S. Defense Stocks to Records,” Bloomberg, September 25, 2014. (Hat tip to FirstLook.org)

Dennis KucinichKUCINICH VS. OBAMA: “Qatar and Saudi Arabia can now overtly join with the U.S. in striking Syria, after they have been covertly attempting for years to take down the last secular state in the region. We are now advancing the agenda of the actual Islamic States — Saudi Arabia and Qatar — to fight the ersatz Islamic State of ISIS. …What does this have to do with the security of the 50 States United? Nothing!” — Dennis Kucinich, former 16-year member of Congress and two-time presidential candidate, “The Real Reason We Are Bombing Syria,” Sept. 23, 2014.

WHICH ENEMIES SHOULD WE SUPPORT?
Nicholas Sarwark“The U.S. government has been intervening in the Middle East for more than half a century under the pretext of achieving peace. But things just keep getting worse. We must stop stoking conflicts that tear countries apart, stop dropping bombs, and stay out of the region. Democratic and Republican politicians have meddled so extensively in the Middle East that they’re now in the ludicrous position of siding with very recent U.S. enemies: Iran, Assad, and al-Qaeda, all of whom oppose the Islamic State.” — Nicholas Sarwark, chair of the Libertarian Party National Committee, “Libertarian Party urges lawmakers to get out, stay out of Iraq and Syria,” press release, September 9, 2014.

DRUG WAR POLICE STATE: “Thanks to the Drug War, merely on the whim of saying that they smell something, cops are now able to enter homes, search cars and totally violate the rights of nonviolent people. The Drug War and terrorism are the two biggest excuses used to violate people’s rights, yet according to the national safety council you are 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than a terrorist. The very existence of the Drug War to begin with, or a prohibition on any object is a fundamental violation of natural rights that should not exist in any civilized society.” — John G. Vibes, “8 Reasons to End Prohibition of All Drugs Immediately,” The Art of Not Being Government website, October 2, 2014.

THE FREE PRESS:
Jimmy Fallon“Political reporters are complaining that the White House has been asking them to edit some of their stories to make the president look better. The White House said that’s not true, and those reporters should please change what they said.” — Jimmy Fallon, Sept. 25, 2014.