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Supreme Court Upholds Illegal Searches Prompted by the War on Drugs

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

Supreme Court Upholds Illegal Searches Prompted by the War on Drugs

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

When discussing the ongoing surveillance programs run by the US government’s National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013, Dr. Ron Paul said that “the Fourth Amendment is clear; it says we should be secure in our persons, houses, papers and effects, and that all warrants must have probable cause.” But while Dr. No from Texas has always been a consistent defender of liberty, few other members of any of the branches of government can say they take the task of upholding the US Constitution seriously. Recently, yet another powerful group in Washington joined Congress and the Executive branch by using its political power to ravage the 4th Amendment: the Supreme Court.

Supreme CourtIn a 5 to 3 ruling of the Utah v. Strieff case, the Supreme Court decided that police officers are allowed to stop anyone without probable cause, going against restrictions imposed by the 4th Amendment of the Constitution. What TechDirt calls “bogus traffic stops predicated on nonexistent laws” is now protected thanks to the Supreme Court, causing the reach of these same stops to be expanded to individuals on foot as well.

But while this decision is damaging because it expands the police’s unchecked powers, the factors that prompted the stop that led to this case in the first place are being widely ignored.

In 2006, the Salt Lake City policy received an anonymous tip concerning a drug activity hotspot. An officer was sent to monitor said hotspot, noticing that, for several days, the house in question received a high volume of foot traffic. One of the individuals seen entering and leaving the property was Edward Strieff, who was stopped by an officer while on his way to a convenience store.

During the so-called routine check after he encounter, police found Strieff had an outstanding “small traffic warrant,” prompting the officer to arrest him and search him. That’s when the officer found a bag of methamphetamine, as well as drug paraphernalia, in his pockets.

What prompted the unconstitutional stop, and then search, wasn’t just due to police abuse. Instead, the drug war was what prompted the anonymous caller to reach out to law enforcement, and before that, what prompted the black market to provide Salt Lake City customers with the products they wanted.

According to TechDirt, the evidence found on Strieff should have been suppressed in court since the officer stopped the individual without probable cause. The state of Utah had already conceded to that much, but once it decided the case should be appealed, Utah v. Strieff made it to the highest court in America, where the justices decided that the “fruits of the illegal search” should remain unsuppressed. To TechDirt writers, this decision gives the government precedent, giving law enforcement agencies across the land even more expanded powers than they had before.

Instead of keeping Americans safe, the war on drugs has produced yet another unintended consequence, destroying our 4th Amendment protections and putting the lives of innocent individuals in danger in the face of police abuse. Isn’t that the opposite of keeping us safe?

Drug-Testing Industry Heavily Invested in Keeping Pot Illegal

in Consumer Protection, Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Advocates HQ Comments are off

Drug-Testing Industry Heavily Invested in Keeping Pot Illegal

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

The US government’s war on drugs has always counted with a great deal of support coming from a variety of special interest groups. Crony capitalism, it seems, is always to blame. But while libertarians have always known that, the media is just now realizing that there are more special interest groups involved with the drug war than they had previously thought.

TestToo bad mainstream news sources often misdiagnose the root of the problem.

According to an extensive ATTN article, the drug-testing industry is one of the most powerful opponents to weed legalization in America, along with the private prison industry, law enforcement, and big drug companies.

In the ATTN piece, the writer gives inside information on the history of cronyism involving the drug-testing industry and the US government. It also explains that several former DEA administrators are now part of nonprofits that advocate and actively lobby for drug-testing in Washington to remain relevant. The piece also explains that while federal agencies were bound by law to implement drug-testing programs in the 1980s due to the passage of the Drug Free Workplace Act, government agencies were the first to be hit with the government’s recommendations regarding drug-testing policies, thanks to an executive order issued by the President Ronald Reagan administration.

“Urine tests,” the article explains “didn’t become a common workplace practice in the U.S. until the 1980s,” which is when the Reagan administration began requiring federal government employees to be tested. This statement implies that the entire drug-testing industry may have not had as much influence as it does now if not for a string of orders and regulations that require organizations to use their services.

To Jason Williamson, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Criminal Law Reform Project, “passing or failing a drug test has no bearing on whether or not they’re going to be impaired at the job two weeks later.” This “piece of the puzzle,” Williamson told Attn.com, is huge, and a major reason why “drug-testing companies don’t need or want to talk about” the real implications of their services.

According to a 1985 study shared by the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association, airline pilots using flight simulators after smoking marijuana showed signs of impairment 24 hours “after usage.” But in a more recent government-sponsored study from 1989, researchers found that the psychoactive effects of cannabis use “wore off after one to four hours.” Proving that the largest drug-testing industry trade group in the country might have been helping these firms do business with countless organizations and government agencies without addressing the problems brought up by pro-marijuana legalization activists.

A quick search on the Center for Responsive Politics website shows that, to this day, organizations associated with DATIA such as Quest Diagnostics are actively—and heavily—involved with Washington politics.

According to a 2012 Reason piece, another organization known as the Drugs of Abuse Testing Coalition spent thousands lobbying for “Medicare reimbursement … and payment rates for qualitative drug screen testing.”

Targeting crony capitalism and its negative consequences, even when the subject is the drug war, could help us clear away the fog, giving advocates access to the real roots of the government’s ineffective drug war and how to solve the problem.

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.

Will Republicans Allow an Obamacare Bailout?

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

Will Republicans Allow an Obamacare Bailout?

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

One of the few bright spots in the government-funding bill passed last December was the inclusion of a provision that barred the Obama administration from using taxpayer dollars to bailout a little-known Obamacare program. Known as “risk corridors,” the program receives contributions from health insurance companies that make money from plans sold on the exchanges required by the law and redistributes it to those that experience losses.

Health Care

Congressional Republicans had targeted the program for repeal. In November 2013, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced legislation, the Obamacare Bailout Prevention Act, to do just that. “The American people are sick of Washington picking winners and losers, especially since the chosen losers often end up being taxpayers who foot the bills for Washington’s mistakes,” Rubio said at the time. “Washington’s bailout culture must end, and eliminating Obamacare’s blank check for a bailout of insurance companies is a common sense step to protect taxpayers when Obamacare fails.”

Lobbyists for insurance companies worried about congressional action against the program, which, according to the administration’s propaganda, is supposed to be deficit-neutral. Without the program, insurers’ lobbyists said, premiums would rise and drive consumers away from the exchanges, possibly leading to a dreaded “death spiral.” While the bill didn’t see any action in the Senate, Rubio reintroduced it in January at the beginning of the new Congress.

The language prohibiting the use of taxpayer funds for the risk corridors program that was included in the government-funding bill applied only to fiscal year 2015. It would have to be inserted into the bill for fiscal year 2016 for it to continue to apply. This is where it gets interesting. Insurers have filed more in claims than money that’s available in the program.

“On October 1, 2015, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced the total of collections and payouts under the risk corridor premium stabilization program for 2014. CMS announced that insurers have submitted $2.87 billion in risk corridor claims for 2014. Insurers only owe, however, $362 million in risk corridor contributions,” Health Affairs reported in October. “Thus payments in 2015 for 2014 will be paid out at 12.6 percent of claims, assuming full collections of contributions owed.”

In other words, the risk corridors program faces a more than a $2.5 billion shortfall. The only way to fill the gap is to transfer funds – i.e., taxpayer money – to cover the payments owed to insurers.

The House of Representatives is in the midst of working on the government-funding bill for fiscal year 2016. The current funding agreement expires on Friday, though lawmakers will likely pass an extension to give themselves more time to hammer out a framework. But without a specific language prohibiting the administration from using taxpayer money to make the risk corridors payments, taxpayers could be on the hook for what is, ostensibly, a $2.5 billion Obamacare bailout.

What is a Libertarian Win? Part 2

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

What is a Libertarian Win? Part 2

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

**Note: This is the second part of an article focused on wins for libertarians. You can find the first part, focused on electoral politics, here.**

Outside of winning your election as a candidate or some of the other wins we shared in Part 1, libertarians can win in other ways as well.

  • winWinning a voter referendum. Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon re-legalized the possession and use of marijuana recreationally. About half of the states that legalized marijuana for medical use did so through ballot measures. These popular votes increased freedom for everyone in their respective states and pressured nearby states to “keep up with the Joneses.” These referendums gave libertarians an opportunity to share a message about the freedom to choose what goes into your body. Statewide ballot measures are not the only opportunities to share a freedom-oriented position on an issue. Local tax referendums take place across the country, and are a great opportunity for a win for libertarians. We can highlight wasteful spending, cronyism, and the proper role of government in opposition to the proposed tax. Who votes to tax themselves? 
  • Lobbying for legislative action. Referendums are not the only avenue for libertarian legislative wins. Strong working relationships with legislators and their staff can yield positive results for liberty if you work with them to pass freedom-oriented bills. This can be a difficult route, even if you have legislators friendly to the issue you’re working on. This will also require some coalescing with other groups with a similar interest and potentially compromising to get some of what you seek. This is easier with the more populist beliefs we hold.
  • Disruptive innovation. Almost entirely outside of politics, free market innovations that revolutionize industries and change the way we do things disrupt the status quo and offer another win for libertarians. Innovations like Uber, Airbnb, and Amazon transformed transportation, travel lodging, and retail sales. Until your innovation affects Big Government and their cronies, this won’t become a political issue. As Uber, Airbnb, and Amazon can tell you, the politicization of innovation will get you interested in politics, no matter the level of interest you held before.

Can you think of any other ways a libertarian can win?

Compassion with Caution

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

Compassion with Caution

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

Over the last month, citizens of the world have watched the growing Syrian refugee crisis unfold on television. Thousands of men, women and children are risking their lives to flee the violence from the Syrian civil war. Many are making the treacherous journey on foot through Turkey, while others attempt to sail across the Mediterranean on makeshift rafts.

compassionAccording to Mercy Corps, more than 11 million Syrians have been displaced since 2011. The majority of these people have fled to Syria’s neighboring countries over the years – Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. As violence continues in the Middle East, more than 350,000 migrants have sought asylum in Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom – and it’s not ending there.

Germany expects 800,000 more migrants this year. British Prime Minister David Cameron pledged on Monday to take in up to 20,000 refugees from camps in Syria over the next five years.

Since the start of the Syrian war in 2011, only 1,500 refugees fled Syria for the United States, though President Barack Obama has committed to accepting 10,000 more over the next coming year.

Obama’s plan has sparked a debate in Washington. Refugee advocates say the United States is not doing enough to address the humanitarian crisis caused by the war, while some congressional Republicans worry that an increase could allow terrorists to enter the United States.

“The rhetoric has been really awful,” said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute. “The difficulty of doing it is met by this Islamophobia and conflation of Syrians and Iraqis with terrorists.”

Strong opposition met previous efforts to increase the flow of Syrian refugees.

Fourteen U.S. Senate Democrats wrote a letter urging the Obama administration to allow at least 65,000 Syrian refugees to settle in the United States this past May. The following month, Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX) objected to the administration’s plans to allow nearly 2,000 by the end of 2015.

“While we have a proud history of welcoming refugees, the Syrian conflict is a unique case requiring heightened vigilance and scrutiny,” McCaul, whose Homeland Security Committee has held hearings on the issue, wrote in a letter to Obama.

Although both sides of the debate in Washington present valid arguments, why can’t the United States offer these refugees compassion while exercising caution? After all, the U.S. has a history of meddling in Middle Eastern affairs that complicate the situation faced today. That history goes back almost 100 years.

Now, in an attempt to escape the horrors of war, hundreds of refugees have drowned in the Mediterranean. Small children are washing up on the shores of Turkey and Greece. Refugees face tear gas and water bombs in other parts of Europe where their governments are closing borders.

The U.S. should be a shining example of compassion to the migrants who have lost everything. Republicans raise an excellent point: young, single men of military age should be looked at with caution so that our compassion isn’t taken advantage of by ISIS or other terrorists. The U.S. can do better than just taking 10,000 refugees.

By offering compassion, the United States can be an example to other parts of the world that the Syrian refugee crisis isn’t an issue of proximity, but an issue of humanitarianism.

How Committed Are You?

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

How Committed Are You?

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

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve undoubtedly heard about Rachel Dolezal, the former President of the Spokane, Washington NAACP.

Regardless of one’s thoughts about her allegedly fabricated backstory, her accomplishments for the African-American community, the legal dispute with her family, and her questionable racial background, you have to admit that her commitment to a cause and the efforts she’s made are admirable.

As someone who’s worked with libertarian activists and volunteers for years, I wish I had come across JUST ONE that was half as committed to the libertarian movement as Ms. Dolezal is to the black community in Spokane.

That brings me to my original question.

commitmentHow committed are you to the libertarian movement?

Are you writing a letter to the editor every week about a libertarian position on an issue?

Are you utilizing social media to to advance the libertarian cause?

Are you reaching out to the people in your community with tools like anOperation Politically Homeless booth?

Now is the time for libertarians to seize the opportunities afforded us by so many finally seeing the problems with Big Government and its exponential growth. The government we see today has grown far beyond anything envisioned by Jefferson, Adams, Madison, and Paine.

What are you going to do to stop that growth and help reverse course?

No one’s asking you to be as committed as Ms. Dolezal, but can you make a positive impact for your community in the same way she has hers?

Whoa: Donald Rumsfeld Criticizes George W. Bush’s Iraq Policy

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

Whoa: Donald Rumsfeld Criticizes George W. Bush’s Iraq Policy

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

Hell may have just frozen over. Donald Rumsfeld, who served as Secretary of Defense from 1975 to 1977 and again from 2001 to 2006, says that President George W. Bush’s attempt to bomb Iraq into accepting “democracy” was “unrealistic.” Rumsfeld made the comments during an interview with The Times of London.

“The idea that we could fashion a democracy in Iraq seemed to me unrealistic. I was concerned about it when I first heard those words,” Rumsfeld told the paper. “I’m not one who thinks that our particular template of democracy is appropriate for other countries at every moment of their histories.”

The comments are surprising. Rumsfeld was one of the major figures promoting the Iraq War. In fact, he was one of prominent administration figures who tried to connect the Middle Eastern country’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, to al-Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks. In September 2004, Rumsfeld, who has since denied making the connection, said the ties were “not debatable.”

President Bush announced Rumsfeld’s resignation November 8, 2006, a day after Republicans were shellacked at the ballot box in that year’s mid-term election and lost control of both chambers of Congress.

In August 2006, only 36 percent of Americans supported the Iraq War while 60 percent, the highest number at the time, opposed it due to almost daily reports of violence in Iraq. By the end of that year, more than 3,000 American soldiers were killed in the line of duty, according to iCasualties.org.

With the rise of the Islamic State and Levant, which has taken control of swaths of Iraq, Rumsfeld may have had a change of heart. The question is, will Republicans currently pushing for war with other countries heed his words?

It’s not likely. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., has firmly supplanted himself as one of the top Republican war hawks in the upper chamber, which isn’t an easy task considering that he serves alongside Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. Although Cotton is frequently touted as a fiscal conservative, his doesn’t seem to understand that perpetual war is inconsistent with limited government.

Last week, Fred Boenig, an antiwar activist whose son, Austin, committed suicide in May 2010 while serving in the Air Force, confronted Cotton during an event at the Johns Hopkins University campus in Washington, DC.

“When do we get to hang up the ‘mission accomplished’ banner,” Boenig said, referring to the May 2003 photo op and speech by President Bush, “and when do I get my kids to come home safe again?”

“There’s no definite answer because our enemies get a vote in this process,” said Cotton. “In the end, I think the best way to honor our veterans…”

“Is to have more killed?” asked Boenig, who interrupted Cotton. “[I]s to win the wars for which they fought,” the freshman Arkansas senator said.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is also trying to position himself as Bush-style foreign policy hawk. During a recent appearance on Fox News, obviously, Rubio gave an unusual answer to a question about Iraq.

“I think we have a responsibility to support democracy. And if a nation expresses a desire to become a democratic nation, particularly one that we invaded, I do believe that we have a responsibility to help them move in that direction,” said Rubio. “But the most immediate responsibility we have is to help them build a functional government that can actually meet the needs of the people in the short- and long-term, and that ultimately from that you would hope that would spring democracy.”

When a host said that Rubio sounds like he backs nation-building, the freshman Florida Republican said: “Well, it’s not nation-building. We are assisting them in building their nation.”

That’s a distinction without a difference, senator.

Maybe Rumsfeld’s comments, which are only now getting traction in American media, will put Republican hawks on the defensive, forcing them to answer tough questions about the failed the failed foreign policy Republicans all too frequently promote. But don’t hold your breath.

They Said It… Ann Coulter, Jacob Sollum, Milton Friedman and More

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

(From the They Said It section in Volume 19, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

ANN COULTER WANTS TO DROWN LIBERTARIAN VOTERS: 

Ann Coulter“The biggest current danger for Republicans is that idiots will vote for Libertarian candidates in do-or-die Senate elections… If you are considering voting for the Libertarian candidate in any Senate election, please send me your name and address so I can track you down and drown you.” — Ann Coulter, “Your ‘To-Do’ List to Save America,” syndicated column, September 17, 2014.

OBAMA VS. THE CONSTITUTION: “[President Obama] is acting on the Bruce Ackermanproposition that the president, in his capacity as commander in chief, has unilateral authority to declare war. In taking this step, Mr. Obama is not only betraying the electoral majorities who twice voted him into office on his promise to end Bush-era abuses of executive authority. He is also betraying the Constitution he swore to uphold.” — Bruce Ackerman, professor of law and politics at Yale, “Obama’s Betrayal of the Constitution,” New York Times, Sept. 11, 2014.

 

U.S. GENERAL ADMITS “WE HELPED BUILD ISIS”: 
Tom McInerney“In Syria we backed… some of the wrong people and not in the right part of the Free Syrian Army. … I’ve always maintained… that we were backing the wrong types. … Some of those weapons from Benghazi ended up in the hands of ISIS. So we helped build ISIS.” — retired U.S. Air Force General Tom McInerney, FOX News, early September.

Tom BoggioniMILITARIZING SCHOOL DISTRICTS: “Taking advantage of U.S. Defense Department offers of free or low-cost military hardware, Texas school districts have been helping themselves to high-powered weaponry, bullet-proof vests, and armored vehicles to militarize their campus police officers. … [Ten] districts have acquired 64 M-16 rifles, 18 M-14 rifles, 25 automatic pistols, extended magazines, and 4,500 rounds of ammunition. Additionally, the schools stocked up on armored plating, tactical vests, as well as 15 surplus military vehicles.” — Tom Boggioni, “Texas school districts militarize campus cops with free surplus weapons, armored vehicles,” The Raw Story, Sept. 5, 2014.

LIFE SENTENCE FOR SELLING POT:
Jacob Sollum“Washington and Colorado have repealed all criminal penalties for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana and for production and sale by state-licensed businesses (as well as home cultivation of up to six plants in Colorado). … In Oklahoma, by contrast, possession of any amount can get you up to a year in jail, and sale of any amount less than 25 pounds triggers a sentence of two years to life.” — Jacob Sullum, “Life In Prison For Pot And Other Travesties Of Marijuana Prohibition,” Forbes.com, Sept. 4, 2014.

ME NEITHER: “Remember when war was something fought to defend the homeland from invasion? Yeah, me neither.” — tweet from Jonathan Danforth, Sept. 9, 2014.

NOTED AND RE-QUOTED
MY MOUTH, MY CHOICE:
Milton Friedman“The government has no more right to tell me what goes into my mouth than it has to tell me what comes out of my mouth.” — Milton Friedman, meme circulated by the Independent Institute.

 

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* * * * * * * * * *

“They Said It…” is compiled by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris.

Rand Paul, Others: Demilitarize the Police

in Criminal Justice, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“We Must Demilitarize the Police” is the title of a bold article by Sen. Cartoon Militarized Police OfficerRand Paul at TIME.com.

Written as the troubles in riot-torn Ferguson, Missouri were escalating, Paul says:

“The outrage in Ferguson is understandable — though there is never an excuse for rioting or looting. There is a legitimate role for the police to keep the peace, but there should be a difference between a police response and a military response.

“The images and scenes we continue to see in Ferguson resemble war more than traditional police action. …

“There is a systemic problem with today’s law enforcement. Not surprisingly, big government has been at the heart of the problem. Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies — where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement.

“This is usually done in the name of fighting the War on Drugs or terrorism. …

“When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury — national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture — we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands.

“Given these developments, it is almost impossible for many Americans not to feel like their government is targeting them. Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them.”

Paul quoted others who share these concerns:

Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit): “Soldiers and police are supposed to be different. … But nowadays, police are looking, and acting, more like soldiers than cops, with bad consequences. And those who suffer the consequences are usually innocent civilians.”

Walter Olson (Cato Institute): “Why armored vehicles in a Midwestern inner suburb? Why would cops wear camouflage gear against a terrain patterned by convenience stores and beauty parlors? Why are the authorities in Ferguson, Mo. so given to quasi-martial crowd control methods (such as bans on walking on the street) and, per the reporting of Riverfront Times, the firing of tear gas at people in their own yards? … Why would someone identifying himself as an 82nd Airborne Army veteran, observing the Ferguson police scene, comment that ‘We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone’?”

Evan Bernick (Heritage Foundation): “The Department of Homeland Security has handed out anti-terrorism grants to cities and towns across the country, enabling them to buy armored vehicles, guns, armor, aircraft, and other equipment. … federal agencies of all stripes, as well as local police departments in towns with populations less than 14,000, come equipped with SWAT teams and heavy artillery. …

“Bossier Parish, Louisiana, has a .50 caliber gun mounted on an armored vehicle. The Pentagon gives away millions of pieces of military equipment to police departments across the country — tanks included.”

Concludes Sen. Paul: “The militarization of our law enforcement is due to an unprecedented expansion of government power in this realm. … Americans must never sacrifice their liberty for an illusive and dangerous, or false, security. This has been a cause I have championed for years, and one that is at a near-crisis point in our country.”

For more libertarian critiques on Ferguson, see “Where Are the Libertarians on Ferguson? Here, LMGTFY,” by Elizabeth Nolan Brown, The Dish, Aug. 14, 2014.

Radley Balko, a libertarian journalist who writes for the Washington Post, has a great recent book on the dangers of U.S. police militarization, Rise of the Warrior Cop. You can read a lengthy excerpt from it here.