On Wednesday October 16, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Kaley v. United States. This case will undoubtedly be a landmark decision on the legality of civil asset forfeiture, a “government seizure of property and cash, even when the owner isn’t charged [with] a crime.” see more…
Can you own an idea? This may seem to be a simple question, however the question requires a complex answer. And unlike most issues, not all people who fall into the libertarian quadrant of the Nolan Chart agree on the answer.
While many people believe “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” some libertarians believe that an idea belongs to the creator even after the idea is shared and that imitation is theft. Recently, a three-year old dispute between Davi Barker and L. Neil Smith was reignited when Smith sent an email to one of Barker’s employers. see more…
We often hear the phrase “the punishment should fit the crime,” and I’m quite certain that many people believe that to be a cornerstone of common law. It is certainly the primary concept of retributive justice, and is contrasted by the legal theory of utilitarianism; “the doctrine that actions are right if they are useful or for the benefit of a majority.” While I’m no expert on the concept of utilitarianism, I would suspect that the theory has been used more often than not by the supporters of the drug war.
On September 4, 2013, 27 year-old Corey Ladd was sentenced “to 20 years hard labor at the [Louisiana] Department of Corrections.” Ladd’s dastardly offense that landed him in the clink for 2 decades was possession of 15 grams of cannabis.
Bill Quigley of AlterNet.com reports, “In Louisiana, a person can get up to six months in jail for first marijuana conviction, up to five years in prison for the second conviction and up to twenty years in prison for the third. In fact, the Louisiana Supreme Court recently overturned a sentence of five years as too lenient for a fourth possession of marijuana and ordered the person sentenced to at least 13 years.”
The punishment of 20 years in prison for possessing 15 grams of plant substance is in no way proportionate to the supposed offense, and I can’t even fathom how such a punishment is seen as benefiting the whole of society. The tax-payers of Louisiana are ultimately worse off, as they are being forced to pay for the incarceration of Corey Ladd for the next 20 years. Those same tax-payers are also being forced to pay for the incarceration of nearly 14,000 other people in Louisiana for drug offenses.
Karen O’Keefe, Director of State Policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, said “A sentence of 20 years in prison for possessing a substance that is safer that alcohol is out of step with Louisiana voters, national trends, and basic fairness and justice. Limited prison space and prosecutors’ time should be spent on violent and serious crime, not on prosecuting and incarcerating people who use a substance that nearly half of all adults have used.”
Whether a punishment of 20 years in prison for possessing 15 grams of cannabis is considered retributive justice or utilitarianism should not matter. No one should be incarcerated for an offense with no identifiable victim. Further, those individuals who do create a victim should make their victims whole, and incarceration should only be a last resort if the perpetrator refuses to give the needed reparations.
With the federal government once again nearing the debt ceiling limit, the AFP reports, “The White House offered more than $300 million in aid and support to bankrupt Detroit.”
A statement released by the White House said, “The Obama administration is dedicated to ensuring that the federal government remains an active partner in bringing jobs back into the City, and turning the people of Detroit’s vision of the future into a reality.”
Obama claims the money being given to Detroit is not a bailout, and is committing to $150 Million for the Effective, Coordinated Demolition of Blighted Properties, Neighborhood Revitalization and Redevelopment in Detroit; $30 Million to Improve Public Safety, Reduce Crime, and Decrease Emergency Response Time; and $140 Million in Federal Funds for Improving Transportation Systems for City and Regional Residents.
Interestingly this announcement by the White House came less than a week after former-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said “there’s no more cuts to make… The cupboard is bare.”
One would imagine the $300 million being given to Detroit would be a place to begin cutting federal spending. Instead of attempting to be fiscally responsible with the money stolen from taxpayers, the Congress and White House are claiming they can’t cut the budget, despite the fact that the budget continues to increase, and despite the fact that the federal government continues to go deeper into debt. If anyone in the Congress were serious about cutting the budget, they would immediately offer legislation to withdraw troops from the nearly 1,000 bases around the world, and end foreign aid. After all, the foreign policy of the United States government costs taxpayers nearly $1 trillion per year. This sum includes the nearly $1.5 trillion spent on the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan since 2001. The federal government could also stop “giving” militarized vehicles to city and state governments at a cost of almost $300,000 each. There are many other areas where the federal government could cut spending, however it seems the majority of Congress agrees with Nancy Pelosi’s statement that “there’s no more cuts to make… The cupboard is bare.”
The mainstream media would have you believe the Republicans and Democrats are preparing for a high-noon stand-off in front of the O.K. Corral. Both parties do seem to be playing into the narrative. The Republican-controlled House voted for the 42nd time to defund implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly called “Obamacare,” this time the vote was part of a bill to keep the federal government operating. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Democrat-controlled “Senate will not pass any bill that defunds or delays Obamacare.” Cue the tumbleweed and western-themed suspense music. see more…
During a Senate debate on an energy efficiency bill, Harry Reid claimed “the anarchists have taken over” Congress. This claim was part of a longer statement in which Reid was frustrated over the fact that several amendments had been proposed for the bill. One amendment would, if passed, delay implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly called ObamaCare. Another amendment would require some congressional and executive branch staff to enroll in the ObamaCare health exchanges.
Those are the amendments that have Harry Reid upset. He didn’t want there to be any amendments that weren’t approved by the bills sponsors. During his speech on the Senate floor Reid said, “We’re diverted totally from what this bill is about. Why? Because the anarchists have taken over. They’ve taken over the House and now they’ve taken over the Senate. [pause] The Speaker couldn’t pass a simple CR, today… We’re in a position here where people who don’t believe in government — and that’s what the Tea Party is all about — are winning, and that’s a shame.”
Calling Tea Party members “anarchists” plays nicely into the narrative for both Reid, and the members of the Tea Party that want people to believe they don’t like (big) government. The problem is that it simply is not true.
Some Republicans will will do whatever they can to make sure certain bills they may not like get delayed. In an article titled, The Rise of the Myth of the Republican Anarchist, Trevor Hultner says, “This obstructionism is being called anarchism, repeatedly, despite having nearly nothing in common with any aspect of the anarchist tradition. Yes, it is true that if an actual anarchist somehow managed to get themselves elected to Congress, they would do all they could to make sure that nothing got passed. But this doesn’t just stem from a hatred of Democrats. Actual anarchists loathe both parties, and would make sure that their obstructionist platform was bipartisan in its monkeywrenching.” Hultner adds, “despite their flirtation with (often the most basic or vulgar) libertarianism, Republicans love the State. Specifically, they love the aspects of the State that anarchists loathe most.”
If there were any anarchists in Congress, among the first things they would do is introduce legislation to de-fund the entire federal government. This has not happened, nor will any of the members of the Tea Party Caucus ever introduce such legislation. An anarchist member of Congress would also introduce legislation to abolish all forms of taxation, and withdraw the US military from the nearly 1000 military bases around the world. Again, that has not happened.
To Harry Reid and many Democrats, an anarchist is anyone who wants government to grow slower than they do; to the Republicans, being viewed as wanting less (or no) government fits within the myth that Republicans support limited government, despite the real-world evidence to the contrary!
We are still learning the secrets discovered by Edward Snowden. Among the most recent revelations is that “US and British intelligence agencies have successfully cracked much of the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of people to protect the privacy of their personal data, online transactions and emails.”
The Guardian reports the National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ have broadly compromised the guarantees of internet privacy. The agencies “have adopted a battery of methods in their systematic and ongoing assault on… ‘the use of ubiquitous encryption across the internet.’
Those methods include covert measures to ensure NSA control over setting of international encryption standards, the use of supercomputers to break encryption with ‘brute force,’ and – the most closely guarded secret of all – collaboration with technology companies and internet service providers themselves.”
The agencies insist they need to quarter-billion dollar program to defeat encryption because it “is vital to their core missions of counter-terrorism and foreign intelligence gathering.”
But the anti-encryption program puts all users at risk, not just suspected terrorists. The Guardian reports, the NSA & GCHQ have worked with software companies to insert vulnerable points or “backdoors” into commercial encryption software. Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist and senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union said, “Backdoors are fundamentally in conflict with good security. Backdoors expose all users of a backdoored system, not just intelligence agency targets, to heightened risk of data compromise. This is because the insertion of backdoors in a software product, particularly those that can be used to obtain unencrypted user communications or data, significantly increases the difficulty of designing a secure product.”
For those who value their privacy, security is almost synonymous with encryption. The executives at Google are extremely concerned with this program. The Washington Post reports, “Google’s encryption initiative… was accelerated in June as the tech giant struggled to guard its reputation as a reliable steward of user information.” Google began encrypting its Gmail service in 2010, and also encrypts search results for most users. Eric Grosse, vice president for security engineering at Google says Google resists government surveillance and has never weakened its encryption systems to make snooping easier.
Soghoian added, “If the NSA wants to get into your system, they are going to get in… Most of the people in my community are realistic about that. This is all about making dragnet surveillance impossible.”
Voters in Colorado and Washington approved measures last November that would tax and regulate cannabis. On August 29, the Department of Justice announced, “Based on assurances that those states will impose an appropriately strict regulatory system, the Department has informed the governors of both states that it is deferring its right to challenge their legalization laws at this time.” Further, Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole sent a memo to all United States Attorneys explaining the DOJ’s stance.
Not only have two States essentially nullified federal cannabis laws, the federal government is supporting the nullification. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy praised the new guidelines, “All the more in a time when federal resources are especially scarce, the Justice Department should focus on countering and prosecuting violent crime, while respecting the will of the states whose people have voted to legalize small amounts of marijuana for personal and medical use.”
Last year, President Obama said, “We’ve got bigger fish to fry. It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal.”
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper weighed in, “We recognize how difficult this issue has been for the Department of Justice and we appreciate the thoughtful approach it has taken. Amendment 64 put Colorado in conflict with federal law. Today’s announcement shows the federal government is respecting the will of Colorado voters.”
While the Governors of Colorado and Washington may be pleased with the DOJ’s announcement, a coalition of Sheriffs, Chiefs of Police and narcotics officers sent a letter to Eric Holder. The letter begins, “On behalf of the undersigned national law enforcement organizations, we write to express our extreme disappointment that the U.S. Department of Justice does not intend to challenge [cannabis] policies in Colorado or Washington …” The letter goes on to regurgitate propaganda about the supposed dangers of cannabis and reasons why prohibition should remain intact. “Furthermore,” the letter continues, “it is unacceptable that the Department of Justice did not consult our organizations – whose members will be directly impacted – for meaningful input ahead of this important decision. ” The coalition also unintentionally encourages other states to nullify federal cannabis laws, “The failure of the Federal government to act in this matter is an open invitation to other states to legalize marijuana in defiance of federal law. ”
It should come as no surprise that this coalition would oppose the DOJ policy. Law enforcement has the most to lose when prohibition is finally repealed. They claim the laws are “for the good of the community” but they actually mean the laws bring in a lot of revenue for their departments. With civil asset forfeiture laws in place, a law enforcement officer can have almost any piece of property seized on the mere allegation that it is connected to the commission of a crime (usually a drug crime), even if the owner is never charged with a crime.
This coalition, as law enforcement is wont to do, ignores the fact that when prohibition of substances is lifted, the number of users decreases. In Portugal, after a decade of drug decriminalization, the number of addicts has declined by nearly half, and drug related diseases and overdoses have been reduced even more. Sadly, law enforcement would rather support their own interests than do what’s best for the society they claim to serve and protect.
In early August, CIA Deputy Leader Michael Morrell declared Syria to be the “top current threat to US national security,” a spot usually reserved for someplace the US is directly militarily involved in. Jason Ditz of Antiwar.com wrote, “The declaration is even more significant the deeper you get into Morrell’s comments, as he makes clear exactly what about Syria the CIA sees as a threat, saying the risk is that the Assad government ‘collapses and the country becomes al-Qaeda’s new haven.’”
After a chemical weapons attack on August 21, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reportedly treated 3600 patients displaying neurotoxic symptoms in less than three hours, 355 patients reportedly died. MSF general director Christopher Stokes said, “MSF hopes that independent investigators will be given immediate access to shed light on what happened.”
There are conflicting reports on who was responsible for the attack. The Syrian state media accused the rebels of the attack, while other reports put the blame on the Syrian military.
The Russian government has urged the Syrian government to cooperate with UN investigations into the attack. That chemical weapons attack is now being used as justification for a possible attack by the US military.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel suggested the Pentagon is moving naval forces closer to Syria in preparation for a possible decision by President Barack Obama to order military strikes. Hagel said “the Defense Department has a responsibility to provide the president with options for contingencies, and that requires positioning our forces, positioning our assets, to be able to carry out different options — whatever options the president might choose.”
The Associated Press reports that defense officials said the Navy had sent a fourth warship armed with ballistic missiles into the eastern Mediterranean Sea but without immediate orders for any missile launch into Syria.
Jason Ditz of Antiwar.com writes, “any military intervention that seriously changes the situation on the ground will run into the same problem that has repeatedly been pointed to, that of the rebels’ dominance by al-Qaeda allies. This means that any attack that harms the Assad government too much risks bringing a jihadist faction into power that will be even more hostile toward the US.”
Which means that Syria, much like Iraq & Afghanistan, would be another endless battle in the never ending War on Terror.
Speaking to a group of staff and families at the US Embassy in Brasilia on August 14, John Kerry said, “this little thing called the internet and the ability of people everywhere to communicate instantaneously and to have more information coming at them in one day than most people can process in months or a year… makes it much harder to govern, makes it much harder to organize people.”
Jason Ditz of Antiwar.com wrote, “it is hard to hear this from US officials and not immediately think about the Internet’s role in facilitating whistleblowers like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden.”
On August 15, Barton Gellman of the Washington Post released information provided to the Post by Edward Snowden. Gellman says that according to an internal audit the NSA “counted 2,776 incidents in the preceding 12 months of unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications.”
What I find to be quite disturbing is not that the NSA violated it’s own privacy rules, but that the information was only revealed after it was released by a whistleblower. The people in charge of the NSA wanted to keep their “mistakes” a secret, and actually lied to Congress about the severity of the violations.
Virginia Congressman Morgan Griffith, referring to sworn congressional testimony about the domestic programs from senior intelligence, FBI and Justice Department officials, told the Washington Times, “We were being told there were ‘some’ errors, like a few. They gave everyone the impression these [errors] were very rare. If [my colleagues] had realized how many [violations of privacy protection or legal rules] there were, I think more than seven of them would have switched.”
The “seven” mentioned by Griffith is a reference to a House vote in July on the Amash amendment that would have cut funds for domestic data gathering by the NSA except where based on individualized suspicion. That vote failed 217-205, with 12 not voting. Had seven people who voted against the amendment voted for it, the amendment would have passed. Before that vote, White House press secretary Jay Carney said, “We oppose the current effort in the House to hastily dismantle one of our Intelligence Community’s counterterrorism tools.
This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process.”
It seems to me that withholding such valuable information related to the numerous violations of privacy by the National Security Agency is “not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process.” It seems to me that Jay Carney, John Kerry and the many supporters of the NSA want an uninformed populace blindly following the words and whims of whomever may be President.
It takes a lot of courage to admit when you were wrong. It takes even more courage if you were very outspoken when you were wrong.
On August 8, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, wrote an article for CNN.com which states, “Over the last year, I have been working on a new documentary called ‘Weed.’ The title… may sound cavalier, but the content is not.”
“I traveled around the world to interview medical leaders, experts, growers and patients. I spoke candidly to them, asking tough questions. What I found was stunning.” Gupta added, “Well, I am here to apologize.”
“I apologize because I didn’t look hard enough, until now. I didn’t look far enough. I didn’t review papers from smaller labs in other countries doing some remarkable research, and I was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis.”
Gupta said he “lumped them with the high-visibility malingerers, just looking to get high” and mistakenly believed the DEA had sound scientific proof that cannabis has “no accepted medicinal use and a high potential for abuse.” see more…
There has recently been a war-of-words in the Republican Party between NJ Governor Chris Christie and people he considers to be “libertarian.” During a recent panel discussion at the Aspen Institute, Christie said the strain of liberarianism is a “very dangerous thought.” Someone asked Gov. Christie if he was referring to Rand Paul; he responded, “You can name any number of people and he’s one of them.” Adding that he wanted the people having “esoteric, intellectual debates… to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and the orphans” of the attacks on September 11, 2001. Christie added “[t]he next attack that comes, that kills thousands of Americans as a result, people are going to be looking back on the people having this intellectual debate and wondering –”
Rand Paul responded by telling Sean Hannity, “The Fourth Amendment says it has to be a specific person, a place, and you have to name the items and you have to go to a judge and you have to say there’s probable cause. And here’s the thing, I’m all for getting terrorists. I’m all for — if I were the judge, absolutely, say yes. Get the records. But I’m for spying on terrorists; I’m not for spying on every American.” see more…
The faux trial of Bradley Manning is almost over. Closing arguments ended on Friday July 26, nearly two full months after the trial began on June 3.
Defense lawyer David E. Coombs said in his closing arguments that Bradley Manning is a whistleblower who acted out of conscience and is “willing to accept the price” for it. This was in stark contrast to lead prosecutor Maj. Ashden Fein’s portrayal of Manning as a “gleeful, grinning traitor” who for some reason also hates the American flag.
Fein quotes Manning as having typed, “Hilary Clinton, and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack,” during an online chat with convicted computer hacker Adrian Lamo, to try to show that Manning knew he would harm diplomats by releasing the material.
Before hearing the closing arguments, Judge Col. Lind refused to dismiss theft charges against Manning after the defense said prosecutors hadn’t proven the allegations. She instead revised some of the theft charges to more accurately describe what was allegedly stolen. The defense asked for a mistrial, Lind refused to grant it.
Jason Ditz of Antiwar.com reports, “The extent to which Fein’s rhetoric has gone off the rails is bound to harm the case in the eyes of the average American, though with Judge Col. Lind giving the prosecution literally anything and everything it wants, it is unlikely to change the foregone conclusion of a guilty verdict in the shaky military court system.”
Pentagon Papers leaker, Daniel Ellsberg and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange held a conference call on July 26, with Assange saying Manning is a patriot responsible for “the most influential leak in history.”
Ellsberg said, “If the ‘aiding the enemy’ charge is permitted to stand, this case will forever change the ability of journalists to reveal the most important crimes of the state.” He also pointed out that President Obama has charged twice as many people (8) under the Espionage Act as all previous presidents. Daniel Politi reports, “Prior to Obama’s administration only three people who leaked information had been charged under the 1917 statute that was never really intended for leakers.”
I can’t claim to know President Obama’s intentions, but I can speculate. He wants to make an example out of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden in an attempt to intimidate anyone else from committing the greatest crime of all… disobedience to The State!
I recently received a message from Dave Hollist on my facebook page which reads, “Darryl, thanks for running for office. On your page and website, I could not find your plan to finance government without violating our Libertarian pledge to never force anyone to do anything. Please steer me to that info, or have you considered contract insurance?” He then asked, “How can a government operate without taxation?” and provided his answer, which can be found on his website.
Before offering my opinion on how government would be funded absent taxation, I feel compelled to say that I have only seen a handful of people mention “contract insurance” and based on what I’ve read, I would not oppose such a proposal, nor would I support it.
Now, to answer the question: How can a government operate without taxation? I believe that governments (if they are to continue existing) can operate without taxation in a similar way that your neighborhood grocer operates without taxation. Any proposed government project should be able to be funded through voluntary means. Just as your local grocer doesn’t point (or threaten to point) a gun to your head to force you to purchase his groceries; governments should not use the same tactics to force you to fund its schools, roads, post offices, bureaucrats, regulatory agencies, military conquests, and/or any other government function.
This does not mean that I oppose schools, roads, and post offices. In fact, I like all three of those things, and regularly use two of them. I’m opposed to the use of force to fund them. I’ve been a regular contributor to the arts and libraries, however I’m opposed to the use of force to fund them!
For a quick comparison between the private sector and government monopoly, lets look at the delivery of mail and packages. During the fiscal year ending in September 2012, the United State Post Office had a deficit of $15.9 billion, and a deficit of $1.9 billion in the second quarter of the current fiscal year, while UPS “is projecting to haul in $4.6 to $4.8 billion in after-tax profits” in 2013.
With regards to education, some statistics show that government-funded schools spend one and a half times more per student than their privately run counterparts. Private schools also hire more teachers and spend much less on administration than government-funded schools. Many museums operate almost entirely on private-funding, yet claim they will cease to exist absent the government funds they receive. There are also free-market solutions to policing and roads that currently exist, and operate better than the one-size-fits-all government-controlled solutions.
I admit that I do not have all of the answers, though I do offer solutions. My solution to operating a government without taxation is to have said government (if such would even exist in a libertarian society) rely on voluntary contributions, just as privately run businesses and charities do!