Justice

US Supreme Court Will Hear Police Accountability Case

US Supreme Court Will Hear Police Accountability Case

Arlington, Virginia—This morning the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would review the case of James King, an innocent college student who was savagely beaten in 2014 by a police officer and FBI agent in Grand Rapids, Michigan, after being unreasonably misidentified as a fugitive. The officers were working as members of a joint state-federal police task force. Ever since the unjustified assault, the government has played what amounts to a shell game to prevent King from holding the officers to account. Now, the nation’s highest court will weigh in on whether to provide the government yet another tool to shield its agents from accountability. The Institute for Justice (IJ), which represents King, will urge the Court to instead allow King to get compensation for his injuries.

This case is fundamentally about the obstacles that the government and courts have placed in the way of citizens trying to make law enforcement pay for intentional, outrageous abuses. In King’s case, he brought two kinds of federal claims because he was uncertain of the officers’ status as joint agents. First, King brought constitutional claims against the officers themselves. Second, he brought claims against the U.S. government under a statute called the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). Bringing different kinds of claims is normal in American law. But now the U.S. Solicitor General is taking the position that because James brought claims under the FTCA, he cannot also bring constitutional claims against the officers. In other words, the government is asserting that simply bringing an FTCA claim is like stepping on a tripwire that destroys your constitutional claims.

“We hope the Court will reject the government’s request for yet another way to shield officers from constitutional accountability,” said IJ Attorney Patrick Jaicomo. “Because members of joint federal-state task forces have power under both state and federal law, they should be more accountable, not less, when they use that power to violate the Constitution.”

The government first argued for this novel immunity from liability before the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where the court rejected the argument and also held that the officers were not entitled to another form of immunity under the doctrine of “qualified immunity.” But before the case could proceed, the U.S. Solicitor General petitioned the Supreme Court to carve out a new form of immunity under the FTCA that would preclude plaintiffs like King from bringing alternative claims under the FTCA and Constitution.

“In short, the government is asking the Court to provide another shell for its shell game that would make it harder for plaintiffs to bring claims against government officers and easier for officers to avoid accountability for their constitutional violations,” said IJ President and General Counsel Scott Bullock.

“If our constitutional rights mean anything, we must be able to enforce them,” explained IJ attorney Anya Bidwell. “People shouldn’t face a system rigged against them when they are trying to vindicate their rights, especially when those rights have been so clearly violated, as in King’s case.”

IJ will ask the Court not to create another means for the government to shield officers from constitutional accountability.

“There are already too many, and we are hopeful the Supreme Court will agree,” Bidwell said.

Although the Court accepted the government’s appeal, it did not accept King’s cross-petition in this case.  This is the first U.S. Supreme Court case the Institute for Justice will argue before the High Court as part of its Project on Immunity and Accountability, which seeks to hold government officials more accountable when they violate individual rights.

Reprinted from the Institute for Justice.

Police, Military Begin Door to Door Searches to Hunt Down New Yorkers Seeking Refuge

Police, Military Begin Door to Door Searches to Hunt Down New Yorkers Seeking Refuge

Rhode Island — In perhaps the most unprecedented attack on the Constitution on which the Free Thought Project has ever has ever reported, the governor of Rhode Island has announced that the National Guard will begin conducting house-to-house searches to hunt down New Yorkers seeking refuge in their state.

Not only will cops be violating the 4th Amendment rights of citizens in their homes, the governor also announced that Rhode Island cops have already begun puling over every vehicle they see with a New York license plate.

In a move that is reminiscent to that of Nazi Germany, the governor labeled an entire state a threat. Checkpoints have been set up along the interstate and vehicles with New York plates were being stopped without probable cause on Friday.

“Right now we have a pinpointed risk,” Governor Gina Raimondo said. “That risk is called New York City.”

It is no question that New York is the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak and their citizens should remain self-quarantined to prevent the spread of the virus. The state has over 46,000 reported cases and 450 deaths reported as of Saturday morning.

However, police officers and the National Guard have no idea if the person they are stopping or searching has been in the state for weeks or days.

As Bloomberg reports:

Rhode Island has just over 200, and it has begun an aggressive campaign to keep the virus out and New Yorkers contained, over objections from civil liberties advocates.

Raimondo, a Democrat, said she had consulted lawyers and said while she couldn’t close the border, she felt confident she could enforce a quarantine.

This draconian police state action comes in spite of the fact that many New Yorkers own summer houses in Rhode Island and have every right to be there. But the governor could not care less. According to Bloomberg, “many New Yorkers have summer houses in Rhode Island, especially in tony Newport, and the governor said the authorities would be checking there.”

“Yesterday I announced and today I reiterated: Anyone coming to Rhode Island in any way from New York must be quarantined,” the governor said. “By order. Will be enforced. Enforceable by law.”

Those caught seeking refuge, even in property that they own, will be subject to hefty fines and even jail time.

National Guard members will be stationed at the T.F. Green airport, Amtrak train stations and at bus stops. The citizen-soldiers will be following up with people at local residences. The maximum penalty for not complying: a fine of $500 and 90 days in prison.

Naturally, this has advocates of civil rights up in arms, and rightfully so. On Friday, the ACLU lambasted the governor’s unconstitutional measure, accurately pointing out that she has no right to “suspend the constitution.”

“While the Governor may have the power to suspend some state laws and regulations to address this medical emergency, she cannot suspend the Constitution,” Rhode Island ACLU executive director Steven Brown said in a statement. “Under the Fourth Amendment, having a New York state license plate simply does not, and cannot, constitute ‘probable cause’ to allow police to stop a car and interrogate the driver, no matter how laudable the goal of the stop may be.”

This move comes after other Orwellian steps by officials across the country. Earlier this week, TFTP reported that cops were raiding sleeping truckers trying to get some shut eye as they delivered essential supplies to those in need.

Because many rest stops are closed across the country, Truckers have been forced to stop on the side of the road to sleep while hauling these supplies. Instead of realizing this, NYPD cops raided the sleeping truckers, issued them fines and impounded their vehicles — for sleeping on the side of the road.

Completely oblivious to the heinous nature of preying on people trying to keep the nation from falling into chaos, the officers who conducted the raid took to Twitter to brag about it.

What’s more, New York and California are deploying drones to spy on their citizens and ensure they are complying with shelter in place orders. Other states have implemented hotlines for citizens to snitch on their neighbor if they think they are violating a shelter in place order.

Make no mistake, the threat of COVID-19 is real and people should take proper measures to protect themselves. However, as states across the country continue to roll out such tyrannical measures, we are inching closer to the idea of creating a cure far worse than the disease itself.

This is not okay.

Reprinted from The Free Thought Project.

The Deep State’s Demolition of Democracy

The Deep State’s Demolition of Democracy

“Thank God for the Deep State,” declared former acting CIA chief John McLaughlin while appearing on a panel at the National Press Club last October. In 2018, the New York Times asserted that Trump’s use of the term “Deep State” and similar rhetoric “fanned fears that he is eroding public trust in institutions, undermining the idea of objective truth and sowing widespread suspicions about the government and news media.”

But barely a year later, the Deep State had gone from a figment of paranoid right-wingers’ imagination to the great hope for the salvation of American democracy. Much of the media is now conferring the same exulted status on the Deep State that was previously bestowed on Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Almost immediately after its existence was no longer denied, the Deep State became the incarnation of virtue in Washington.

The Deep State commonly refers to officials who secretly wield power permanently in Washington, often in federal agencies with vast sway and little accountability. A New York Times article in October gushed that “over the last three weeks, the deep state has emerged from the shadows in the form of real live government officials, past and present … and provided evidence that largely backs up the still-anonymous whistle-blower” on Donald Trump’s phone call to the president of Ukraine. New York Times columnist James Stewart declared, “There is a Deep State, there is a bureaucracy in our country who has pledged to respect the Constitution, respect the rule of law…. They work for the American people.” New York Times editorial writer Michelle Cottle proclaimed, “The deep state is alive and well” and hailed it as “a collection of patriotic public servants.” They were echoing earlier declarations by Washington Post columnist Eugene Roberts and former top Justice Department official Preet Bharar: “God bless the ‘Deep State.’”

Former CIA Director John Brennan, appearing on the same panel as McLaughlin in October, declared, “The reason why Mr. Trump has this very contentious relationship with CIA and FBI and the deep state people is because they tell the truth.” Much of the media coverage of the Trump impeachment is following that dubious storyline.

“We lied, we cheated, we stole.”

Five years ago, John Brennan’s CIA ignited what should have been a constitutional crisis when it was caught illegally spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which was compiling a massive report on the CIA torture program. After 9/11, the CIA constructed an interrogation regime by “consulting Egyptian and Saudi intelligence officials and copying Soviet interrogation methods,” the New York Times reported in 2007. Secret Bush administration torture memos “set the C.I.A. loose to slam suspects’ heads into walls up to 30 times in a row, to deprive suspects of sleep for more than a week straight, to confine them to small dark boxes for hours at a time … and to suffocate them with water to induce the perception that they are drowning,” Georgetown University law professor David Cole noted. But the only official who went to prison was John Kirakou, a former CIA analyst who publicly admitted that the CIA was waterboarding.

Is the Deep State more trustworthy when it is killing than when it is torturing? Brennan declared in 2016 that “the president requires near-certainty of no collateral damage” before approving a drone strike. Confidential CIA documents revealed that the CIA had little or no idea whom it was killing most of the time with its drone attacks in Pakistan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, and other nations. Salon.com summarized an NBC News report: “Even while admitting that the identities of many killed by drones were not known, the CIA documents asserted that all those dead were enemy combatants. The logic is twisted: If we kill you, then you were an enemy combatant.” Lying about drone killings quickly became institutionalized throughout the Deep State. The New York Times reported in 2015, “Every independent investigation of the [drone] strikes has found far more civilian casualties than administration officials admit.”

The Deep State is practically designed to destroy privacy while enabling government officials to deny sweeping abuses. Former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden declared in 2014, “There’s definitely a deep state. Trust me, I’ve been there.” The NSA’s credibility was obliterated in 2013 when Snowden revealed the NSA can tap almost any cell phone in the world, access anyone’s email and web-browsing history, and crack the vast majority of computer encryption. But the NSA’s definition of “terrorist suspect” was ludicrously broad, including “someone searching the web for suspicious stuff.” Snowden also revealed that each day phone companies turned over tens of millions of phone records of average Americans to the feds. A few months before Snowden’s revelations, National Intelligence director James Clapper lied to Congress when he denied that the NSA collects “any type of data at all on millions, or hundreds of millions of Americans.” The fact that Clapper was not charged with perjury did nothing to burnish the credibility of the Justice Department.

Impeachment proceedings have been spurred in large part by disputes over Donald Trump’s phone call to the president of Ukraine. The House Intelligence Committee heard testimony from Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the Ukrainian-born officer who listened in to the call while serving on the National Security Council. Vindman was “deeply troubled by what he interpreted as an attempt by the president to subvert U.S. foreign policy,” the Washington Post reported. Which provision of the Constitution gives junior military officers sway over foreign policy? Because Vindman objected to Trump’s efforts to decrease tension with Russia, the Washington establishment quickly hailed him and thus encouraged other military officers and government officials to pull strings to subvert policies of which the media disapprove.

It is naive to expect the Deep State to provide an antidote to the sordidness of American politics. The Friends of the Deep State talk of certain federal agencies as if they exist far above the sordid details of political life — or even of human nature. Former CIA boss McLaughlin declared, “This is the institution within the U.S. government that … is institutionally committed to objectivity and to telling the truth. It’s whole job is to speak the truth — it is engraved in marble in the lobby.” But historically, atrium engravings have proven a weak surety for bureaucratic candor. In reality, the CIA and other Deep State agencies are notorious for suppressing convicting truths about themselves. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently described the CIA’s modus operandi when he was director: “We lied, we cheated, we stole. It’s like we had entire training courses.”

Power and truth

Promises that the chiefs of the CIA and other intelligence agencies will “speak truth to power” have become a Washington ritual in the years since the 9/11 attacks. No matter how brazenly political appointees lie, members of Congress assure the media and constituents that the next nominee will be as honest as George Washington. The “speak truth to power” bromide was recited after Trump nominated Gina Haspel as CIA chief. At her confirmation hearings, the public heard plenty about Haspel’s meeting with Mother Teresa but almost nothing about her key role in the CIA torture scandal — including the illegal destruction of recordings of torture sessions.

Another reason to distrust the Deep State is that its arch practitioners are honored regardless of their iniquities. Former CIA bosses McLaughlin and Brennan were speaking on a panel sponsored by the Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security, named after the former chief of the National Security Agency and the CIA. As Trevor Timm noted in the Columbia Journalism Review in 2017, “Hayden has a long history of making misleading and outright false statements, and by the estimation of many lawyers, likely committed countless felonies during the Bush administration.” Hayden set up the illegal, unconstitutional wiretapping program after 9/11 that the New York Times exposed in late 2005. When the Senate Intelligence Committee released its report on CIA torture in 2014, it included a 36-page appendix filled with Hayden’s “testimony to Congress, next to the actual facts showing statement after statement he made was inaccurate, misleading, false, or outright lies,” Timm noted.  At least George Mason University did not call it the Torquemada Institute, after the Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition. Naming that Center after Hayden simply reflects the prevailing Deep State aggrandizement in the Greater Washington Metropolitan area.

The Deep State has an appalling record of abusing the whistleblowers who are now being acclaimed. A draft Intelligence Community Inspector General report last year found that intelligence agencies refused to recognize retaliation against whistleblowers in 99 percent of cases. A 2017 report by Foreign Policy magazine concluded that “the intelligence community’s central watchdog is in danger of crumbling thanks to mismanagement, bureaucratic battles, clashes among big personalities, and sidelining of whistleblower outreach and training efforts.” After CIA Inspector General John Helgerson compiled a condemnatory report on the CIA’s post–9/11 interrogation program, CIA chief Michael Hayden launched a major investigation of Helgerson in 2007, provoking outrage on Capitol Hill. (The CIA managed to delay the release of Helgerson’s report for five years, thereby keeping both Congress and the American people in the dark regarding shocking abuses.)

The Trump–Deep State clash is a showdown between a presidency that is far too powerful versus federal agencies that have become fiefdoms that enjoy immunity for almost any and all abuses. Most of the partisans of the Deep State are not championing “government under the law.” Instead, this is a dispute over who will be permitted to break the law and dictate the policies to America and the world. Former CIA and NSA boss Hayden proudly proclaimed, “Espionage is not just compatible with American democracy, espionage is essential to American democracy.” And how can we know if the Deep State’s espionage is actually pro-democracy or subversive of democracy? If they told you, they would have to kill you. The Founding Fathers never intended for covert agencies to trumpet a right to correct voters’ verdicts.

Neither the White House nor the CIA, NSA, nor other Deep State agencies should enjoy immunity from the law or deserve blind trust from average Americans or the establishment media. A wayward president (especially a first-term president) can eventually be checked at the ballot box. But who or what can check the Deep State?

Reprinted from The Future of Freedom Foundation

Like Freedom? Then You Won’t Like the FREEDOM Act

Like Freedom? Then You Won’t Like the FREEDOM Act

Last Monday, a bipartisan group of Senators and a coalition including libertarian and progressive activists thwarted a scheme to ram through the Senate legislation renewing three provisions of the USA FREEDOM Act (previously known as the USA PATRIOT Act). The bill had already been rushed through the House of Representatives, and most expected it to sail through the Senate. But, instead, Senate leadership had to settle for a 77-day extension.

Senate leadership was also forced to allow consideration of several amendments at a later date. Included is Sen. Rand Paul’s amendment that would forbid the FISA court from issuing warrants targeting American citizens.

Deep state supporters claim the expiring business records provision (which authorizes the collection of our communications and was at the center of Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelations), lone wolf provision (which allows government to subject an individual with no known ties to terrorists to warrantless surveillance), and roving wiretaps provision (which allows government to monitor communications on any device that may be used by a targeted individual) are necessary to keep Americans safe. But, since Congress first passed the PATRIOT Act almost 20 years ago, mass surveillance, warrantless wiretapping, and bulk data collection have not stopped a single terrorist attack.

The legislation does have “reforms” aimed at protecting civil liberties, but these new protections contain loopholes that render the protections meaningless. For example, the bill requires those targeted for surveillance to be notified that the government spied on them. However, this requirement can be waived if the government simply claims — not proves but just clams — that notifying the target would harm “national security.”

The notice provision also only applies to the target of an investigations. So, if you were caught up in a federal investigation because a coworker is being targeted and you shared an office computer, or if a store clerk reported to the government you and others bought pressure cookers, the government could collect your phone records, texts, and social media posts without giving you the chance to challenge the government’s actions.

The bill also makes some reforms to the special FISA court, which serves as a rubber stamp for the intelligence community. These reforms are mainly aimed at protecting political campaigns and candidates. They would not stop the FISA court from rubber-stamping surveillance on organizations that oppose the welfare-warfare-surveillance-fiat money status quo.

Anything limiting warrantless wiretapping and mass surveillance should be supported. However, nothing short of repeal of the USA FREEDOM Act will restore respect for our right to live our lives free of the fear that Big Brother is watching. The path to liberty, peace, and prosperity starts with eliminating all unconstitutional laws and returning to a system of limited government, free markets, individual liberty, sound money, and a foreign policy that seeks peaceful commerce and friendship with all instead of seeking new monsters to destroy.

Reprinted from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Police Stole $225K in Cash and Coins, and the Court Said “Okay”

Police Stole $225K in Cash and Coins, and the Court Said “Okay”

Arlington, Va.—Seven years ago, police officers in Fresno, California, executed search warrants on the homes and business of Micah Jessop and Brittan Ashjian, who owned a business operating and servicing ATMs. Police were investigating a report of illegal gambling. Although neither was ever charged with a crime, police seized nearly $275,000 in rare coins the men owned and cash they used to restock their business’ ATMs. When the investigation was over, police said they’d seized only approximately $50,000 in cash; they kept the remaining cash and the coins for themselves.

Most Americans would say this was a clear-cut case of theft, but when Jessop and Ashjian sued the police, the federal courts threw out their case, citing a controversial legal doctrine called “qualified immunity.” Now, the U.S. Supreme Court will soon decide whether to hear their case, and the Institute for Justice (IJ), as part of its recently launched Project on Immunity and Accountability, has filed an amicus brief urging the Court to take up the case and put an end to this dangerous doctrine once and for all.

“No one should be above the law, least of all those who are supposed to be enforcing it,” said IJ attorney Patrick Jaicomo. “And yet, according to the federal courts, police officers who steal money from people cannot be held accountable because the courts have never ruled that it is unconstitutional for the police to steal from someone. No one really believes that theft is a reasonable seizure permitted by the Constitution. The Ninth Circuit’s decision shows how absurd qualified immunity has become.”

After the search, Jessop and Ashjian filed a lawsuit, claiming that government theft violates the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizures. But both the trial court and the Ninth Circuit held that they did not need to address the issue because—even if the theft was a constitutional violation—the officers were immune under the qualified immunity doctrine.

Qualified immunity traces back to 1982, when the U.S. Supreme Court announced a rule that government officials would be liable only if their specific actions had already been held unconstitutional in an earlier court case. They called the new rule “qualified immunity.” The Court’s decision was a drastic departure from the historical standards of government accountability. At the founding and throughout the nineteenth and earlier twentieth centuries, courts simply decided whether a government official’s actions were unlawful and, if they were, ordered a remedy. It was up to the other branches of government to decide whether the official should be reimbursed (if he had acted justifiably) or not (if he had acted in bad faith).

Unfortunately, Jessop and Ashjian’s case is not an outlier. It is the result of forty years’ worth of Supreme Court decisions that make it effectively impossible to hold government officials accountable, even when they intentionally break the law. The courts are so concerned with protecting the government that they are willing to shield even those officers who act in bad faith.

“It’s time for the Supreme Court to end the failed experiment of qualified immunity,” said IJ Attorney Anya Bidwell. “The fundamental purpose of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is to protect Americans from government abuses. But thanks to qualified immunity, police can literally come into your home and steal from you, and the courts will shield them from liability. In the brief we filed today, IJ is urging the Court to reconsider the entire doctrine of qualified immunity and revoke the license to lawless conduct it provides.”

The Institute for Justice’s Project on Immunity and Accountability is devoted to the simple idea that government officials are not above the law; if citizens must follow the law, the government must follow the Constitution. In addition to filing amicus briefs, like this one, IJ has also filed three petitions with the Supreme Court on behalf of Americans whose rights were violated by police but were barred from seeking redress due to governmental immunity. Those cases are all pending with the Court.

Reprinted from The Institute For Justice.

 

Price-Gouging Laws Violate the First Amendment

Price-Gouging Laws Violate the First Amendment

Laws against so-called price gouging — that is, price spikes during emergencies — violate our natural right to engage in voluntary exchange at mutually acceptable terms. As economics has long taught, price ceilings that defy market forces make the affected goods vanish from the market. Instead of a product being available at a price more-than-X, it is instead unavailable at a price less-than-X. Small comfort for the consumer. (Try to find masks and hand sanitizer on ebay or at the supermarket.)

Here’s another way to look at those laws: they violate freedom of speech (expression) and hence the First Amendment. Civil libertarians should be up in arms.

How can those laws violate the First Amendment? It is rather simple. The market’s price system is a communications process, a means of expression. In the market, people’s demonstrated preferences with respect to scarce resources are translated into highly usable information in the form of prices. Typically, when the quantity demanded for something rises, so does the price tend to rise. (Other things equal, as the economists say.) And vice versa. Adam Smith explained this beautifully in The Wealth of Nations. (See my article “The Market Is a Beautiful Thing.”) Through the price system consumers (without realizing it) tell producers what to produce and in what quantity. And producers use it to tell us when we need to economize (that is, buy the product only for our subjectively most important purposes, leaving some for others). This is important because we live in a world of scarcity. To produce more of good A, we might need to produce less of good B. If we want the market to be sensitive to consumers’ priorities, we’ll want the price system to be free of political and bureaucratic molestation. It’s as simple as that.

It follows, then, that if price controls — such as law against so-called gouging — are enforced, our voices are muffled if not silenced. That violates our freedom of expression and thus the First Amendment. When the price of hand sanitizer is bid up during a pandemic, the higher price is like a broadcast summoning producers to bring more product to the market. Laws against price spikes are like the gagging of consumers. It’s true that empty shelves are also a form of communication, but unfortunately, price controls also remove the incentive for people to produce more of the goods that are suddenly in short supply. Prices are the irreplaceable tool of economic calculation, as Ludwig von Mises spelled out a century ago in his case against central planning.

No good comes from stifling the market — that is, from interfering with peaceful cooperation.

John Rawls, A Theory of Justice – REBUTTED

John Rawls, A Theory of Justice – REBUTTED

To summarize Rawls-

“So much of life is the result of circumstance that no person can be entitled to what they “earn”, therefore one group of people called government has the monopoly right to initiate violence against peaceful people”

Libertarian: “So congress has no real right to pass laws since they just happened to live in a time and geographical area where some registered voters happened to vote for them instead of another person? Do police have the right to arrest me for victimless crimes since they just happened to get hired by a group that happened to have recognized jurisdiction in a place the government happens to control? Does someone in Haiti have the right to take property by force from a ‘poor’ person in America who is wealthy compared to their standards?”

The NSA’s Encroaching Oversight

The NSA’s Encroaching Oversight

The NSA’s spy program failed miserably, but some spooks want to expand it

The US National Security Agency spent $100 million over three years on illegally collecting millions of American phone records – all for two reports with unique counterterrorism intelligence, according to a declassified report from an NSA oversight body.

So naturally, intelligence officials and lawmakers want the NSA’s records collection program reauthorized, and some even want it expanded to include more modern forms of communications such as encrypted chat apps.

The NSA’s failed spying scheme is detailed in a report released Wednesday by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB). Congress faces a March 15 deadline to decide whether to renew the NSA’s program.

According to the PCLOB report, the latest iteration of the NSA’s data collection scheme – which was “reformed” by the Freedom Act in 2015 – was not abused or intentionally misused. Nevertheless, the program resulted in the collection of some 1 billion records on more than 18 million phones.

Much of the metadata was illegally collected due to human error, PCLOB said.

In a particularly illuminating example, the NSA used outdated and misleading intelligence information in a FISA application – due to an FBI agent being on vacation.

According to the report, a “foreign partner” provided additional information to an FBI analyst that would have called into question certain facts included in the FISA application. Because the analyst was on vacation, the additional information was not conveyed to the NSA until the agency already used the FISA order to vacuum records.

And despite collecting more than 1 billion phone records – whether legally or otherwise – the NSA only produced 15 intelligence reports, and only two with information the FBI didn’t already have, according to PCLOB. Moreover, of the two relevant reports, one led to a dead end and the details of the other were redacted by PCLOB.

“The low volume of intelligence reporting produced by the program — 15 reports over several years — is particularly informative, especially when coupled with NSA’s assessment that it would expect a program of this scale and expense to generate hundreds or thousands,” the report said.

But like so many other government programs, US spooks now argue that the NSA’s authority should not only be renewed, but expanded, too. You see: the NSA has been limited to collecting metadata from traditional phone services, and needs to also be able to collect the same from chat applications, social media, emails, and other sources.

Two PCLOB members made this case in Wednesday’s report.

“The [Freedom] Act did not provide … authority for the myriad other ways in which terrorists may communicate, from emails to encrypted messaging. That proved to be a problem,” PCLOB members Aditya Bamzai and Jane Nitze said in the oversight report. “Thus, in the future, for surveillance authorities to be useful in a world of rapidly advancing technology, they should be neutral as to communications methods.”

It’s also noting that despite the instances of improper data collection identified in the report, PCLOB still argued that overall the program is constitutional.

“We first consider whether the collection of telephony metadata under the [records collection] program constituted a ‘search’ or ‘seizure’ under the Amendment’s text as interpreted by relevant Supreme Court cases,” PCLOB said. “We believe it did not, and that the program was constitutional for this reason alone.”

Take PCLOB with a grain of salt, however: The body was created by the Bush administration in 2004, and allowed rampant abuses to go unchecked for years. Somehow, the board found that even the NSA’s original bulk data collection program – exposed by Edward Snowden – was constitutional, too.

To their credit, two board members, Ed Felten and Travis LeBlanc, released their own dissenting statement, calling for the unconstitutional program to be permanently shuttered.

“This large-scale CDR program surely sweeps in the CDRs of protestors, journalists, political activists, whistleblowers, and ordinary people,” Felten and LeBlanc said. “In the end, whether for concerns over constitutional implications or for policy reasons, we concur with NSA’s decision to end the program and believe the program should remain shuttered.”

Data Don’t Speak for Themselves

Data Don’t Speak for Themselves

Check out this graph, data for which were drawn from the USDA and CDC:

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With a correlation coefficient of about -0.94, these data indicate that for the decade 2000-2009 there was a strong inverse relationship between per capita consumption of beef and the number of suicides by handgun. That is, this correlation seems to imply that the decline in total beef consumed per person over the course of the decade was linked to the number of suicides by handgun, which rose at virtually the same rate.

This proves that there’s a relationship between an individual’s meat consumption and his likelihood to commit suicide, right?

Of course not; this correlation is spurious. These data were not the result of a study that tracked the mental health and dietary habits of individuals over a decade. Rather, to demonstrate this idea of spurious correlation, the graph‘s maker, Tyler Vigen, took data from the CDC and USDA and laid them on top of one another. That they correlate for so long–and so closely–is entirely coincidental.

Absent some theoretical framework with which to interpret data–that is, if we let the data “speak for themselves”–data correlations can seem to deny true principles. For instance, roughly 87,000 flights occur daily in the United States, ostensibly defying the laws of gravity. But the laws of gravity aren’t contravened by the flight of giant metal birds with fixed wings. Rather, the interaction between airspeed, air pressure, wing shape, and direction creates the lift that allows aircraft to soar thousands of feet above the earth. The laws of gravity are entirely satisfied, and anyone claiming that these flights are evidence that the laws of gravity have been overturned would be ridiculed mercilessly by his peers.

This principle is just as true in economics as it is in physics. For example, economic theory tells us that demand curves are downward sloping–i.e. as price increases, fewer units of a good are consumed–but some studies purport to find that raising the cost of labor by means of a minimum wage causes no change in employers’ demand for labor. If the relationship between labor and the law of demand isn’t being disproved, what’s going on? 

At first glance, the law of demand would seem to imply that an increase in the cost of labor would induce employers to decrease the number of workers they hire. But if the minimum wage is only binding on certain individuals, and if employers don’t hire any such individuals, then employers won’t be impacted by the change. Likewise, for those making more than a proposed wage floor, a rise in the minimum wage won’t constitute a “raise” because, at best, their incomes will remain unaffected.

For example, according to PayScale the estimated average yearly earnings of someone who throws freight at WinCo Foods in Boise, ID, is $17,000. Assuming full-time status (2,080 working-hours annually), that amounts to a wage of roughly $8.17/hour. Idaho’s minimum wage reflects the national minimum wage of $7.25/hour, so any increase in their wage floor of up to $0.92/hour won’t be binding on any of WinCo’s Boise-based freight throwers, and, all things equal, WinCo’s employment level won’t be impacted.

But such a lack of response in employment isn’t evidence that minimum wage laws have no disemployment effects, or that the law of demand is irrelevant to labor. All it would demonstrate is that we must be more careful in determining the impacts of minimum wage hikes. Indeed, including workers who make more than the amount of a given proposal to raise the minimum wage is distortive of a study’s results, at best. At worst, their inclusion is highly disingenuous. 

Fortunately, the minimum wage is among the most studied policies in economics, so a great deal of work on its disemployment effects has already been done with low wage-earners in mind. A study out of Denmark [pdf], for example, assessed the impact of minimum wage increases on teenagers, for whom, by law, the minimum wage rises nearly 40 percent at age 18. 

The authors found that while those who keep their jobs see a significant increase in take-home pay, labor as a proportion of total input falls by nearly half. Furthermore, the overall employment rate for teens falls by a third as 18-year-old workers find themselves jobless. The upshot of these effects, taken together, is that the level of total wages paid by employers remains virtually unchanged—a result completely in line with the law of demand.

But there are other ways that employment is distorted by the institution of a new wage floor. Quite often, in fact, the law of demand is satisfied in ways that are less immediately visible. 

Recent studies from Seattle, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign [pdf], and New York University [pdf] provide good examples. In the Seattle study, workers saw declines in hours that completely offset their gains in hourly pay, leaving them with less take-home pay. The NYU study found that higher productivity workers were substituted for lower productivity workers. In addition to such findings, the UIUC study also found that in low-skilled, labor-intensive industries a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage resulted in an increase of more than 24 percent in spending on capital, in line with concerns that minimum wage hikes lead to faster automation.

Other impacts from minimum wage hikes that aren’t immediately obvious include reductions in non-wage benefits for workers both at and just above the wage floor, higher consumer prices [pdf], substituting increased customer responsibility for unskilled labor [pdf], higher credential requirements for would-be employees [pdf], delayed teen and minority entry into the job market, and slower job growth for as long as eight years after the increase.

In spite of (methodologically questionable) recent challenges, the decades-old consensus remains on solid empirical ground. In a review of more than 100 studies of the minimum wage in countries across the globe, less than 8 percent found that increasing the minimum wage had the kind of positive impact on employment found in studies that challenge the consensus view. About two-thirds of the studies, by contrast, found negative employment effects. 

When the authors narrowed their evaluation to the best-quality evidence, 85 percent of studies found the expected disemployment effects, while “very few–if any–cases [were found in which] a study provide[d] convincing evidence of positive employment effects of minimum wages” on those most susceptible to employment displacement. 

In other words, despite donning a scientific veneer, the claims of those who hold that labor is not subject to the law of demand are nearly as baseless as those who might argue that the flight of airplanes disproves the law of gravity. Given the weight of evidence, we should be immediately skeptical upon hearing of studies that purport to find net-zero (or net-positive) impacts resulting from minimum wage hikes. 

But even if the literature were murkier on the empirical relationship between wage floors and employment, such skepticism would still be warranted. Intuitively, we know that if the price of a good rises, we respond to that change by reducing our consumption of that good. While the response depends on the individual consumer’s capacity and desire to consume at a given price level (that is, their demand elasticity), at some point the next increase in price causes everyone* to consume less. Interpreting data within this theoretical framework allows one to forego the mockery of anyone possessed of passing familiarity with economic principles.

In the end, economist David Henderson’s First Pillar of Economic Wisdom remains a true guiding principle: there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. And, indeed, in the immortal words of Wesley, “Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

*The exception is in goods for which demand is perfectly inelastic, but, given the ease with which unskilled laborers can be found in the labor market, one would be hard-pressed to argue convincingly that unskilled labor constitutes such a good.

Reprinted from Ignore This.

Federal Confiscation Reflects Mission Creep and the Expanding Police State

Federal Confiscation Reflects Mission Creep and the Expanding Police State

In 2019, the Transportation Security Administration seized $181,000 in cash from an employee of a Tampa trucking company while he was going through a TSA checkpoint for a flight from Tampa to Cleveland. According to the employee and his employer, the worker was taking the cash to Cleveland to buy second-hand trucks for his company. The company says that cash transactions for these types of purchases are common in their industry.

The company is now suing TSA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to recover its confiscated money. Meanwhile, TSA and Customs are claiming the cash was somehow involved in unspecified illegal activity and was legitimately seized. The Tampa Bay Times reports, “The company contends it proved the cash was not tied to illegal activities. The lawsuit also contends authorities violated the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment for warrantless searches and seizures during prolonged detentions.”

One issue here is the nature of civil asset forfeiture, which assumes the accused are guilty unless they can prove themselves innocent. I could go on an extended rant about this, but I won’t, because most readers of The Beacon are likely aware of this outrageous abuse of due process.

Rather, I’m questioning why these two agencies are even involved in this case. According to the TSA website, the agency’s mission is to “Protect the nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce.” First, I would question why anyone carrying $181,000 in cash would be considered a threat to the nation’s transportation system. Sure, if you’re carrying scissors or a bottle of water, the TSA sees you as a threat to the nation’s transportation system. But cash? Where’s the threat?

Plus, the TSA says its mission includes ensuring the freedom of movement for people and commerce, yet when someone is trying to buy $181,000 worth of second-hand trucks, the agency isn’t ensuring freedom of movement for commerce, it is preventing commerce.

Then there’s the involvement of Customs and Border Patrol. The traveler was going from Tampa to Cleveland, a domestic trip. Customs and Border Patrol is way overstepping its mission by intervening in domestic travel.

So yes, civil asset forfeiture is a gross violation of the civil rights our nation was formed to protect, but this case is even more egregious because the seizure was undertaken by two federal agencies that appear to have acted far outside their intended scopes of authority.

Reprinted from the Independent Institute.

‘I Was Just Following Orders’

‘I Was Just Following Orders’

“I was just following orders” is the mantra of everyone who has found themselves on the wrong side of history – who is called into account for their actions as an order taker. How is it possible that everyone from corrupt mayors, to murderous tyrants have been able to get so many people to obey them and march in lockstep? When you take into account there are people who are willing to defend them, it’s easy to understand how these organs of the State are allowed to get away with everything from ticketing people for non-violent crimes, to the worst atrocities one could ever imagine. When you have cheerleaders, as athletes do, you are often looked at as a hero. Why else would other people be championing you and your profession? 

From the day they’re born, the overwhelming majority of people are raised in environments that teach them to obey “authority” and never question it.  

A perfect example is unquestioning nationalism. A quote on nationalism by Albert Einstein which he spoke before the rise of Hitler was, “nationalism is an infantile disease, it is the measles of mankind.” That makes sense especially when you consider that people who are unquestioning nationalists are generally taught it from a young age.  

Nationalism doesn’t have to be a negative. To the contrary, many people who identify as such can articulate the difference between having an affection for the people and the society into which they were born, or chose, and their radical distrust of the government they live under. But those who can’t (or won’t) separate the State from their neighbor, have been shown in history to be the ones who either become the order-follower, or blindly worship and make excuses for them. 

The much rarer trait is to see someone raised as a radical individualist. Homeschooling numbers from 1990- 2019 have grown from 275,000 to 2,300,000. Reasons for wanting to keep your children out of government schools can vary. Some of the earliest started out for religious reasons. Today, many people who call themselves libertarians/anarchist/voluntaryists do it because they don’t want their children to grow up in an environment which fosters and actively promotes obedience to the State apparatus.  

Law Enforcement Worship 

From a young age, many parents teach their kids that law enforcement are the good guys and if they ask you a question, you better answer and be respectful. You can be respectful and still understand the nature of the job of the police in this country. They are evidence gatherers. That is their main task since they rarely show up in time to stop a crime. They have rightfully been referred to as “historians.” If a statute has been broken, it is their job to figure out who did it and they do this by detaining or arresting people and asking them questions. 

Any lawyer worth their salt will tell you to never answer questions unless they, or another attorney is present, even if you know you are not guilty. In the must-read book, “You Have the Right to Remain Innocent,” James Duane details by citing case upon case how innocent people have talked their way into losing decades of their lives even though they didn’t commit the crime of which they were convicted. He explains how police can ask you 100 questions, and while you may have answered 98 of them correctly, even proving your innocence, the 2 that you answer in a wishy-washy way can be used to convict you while the other 98 (ones that prove your innocence) will be thrown away and declared inadmissible in court. 

This continues to be a blight on the criminal “justice” system and police officers are aware that this happens. Yet they continue to do their job as they always have with no regard for whether they are contributing to the jailing of an innocent person. They, and their defenders, will often blame it on the prosecutors. Yes, they will pass the buck so to speak. And what is their excuse? It’s just part of the job and we are “just following orders.” “We’re just doing our jobs!” 

Military Members are Beyond Reproach 

At this point in the “War on Terror” it’s impossible to argue that those fighting it are expected to be held up as heroes by the government and general public, even to the point of excusing the worst atrocities and war crimes imaginable. 

Recently, president Trump granted clemency to war criminal, special operations chief Eddie Gallagher. Gallagher, a Navy Seal and platoon leader, is described as, “a “toxic” character who was “OK with killing anything that moved”, according to fellow Iraq veterans who reported his conduct to military investigators.” “In the interviews, conducted by navy investigators looking into Gallagher’s conduct during a tour of duty in Iraq in 2017, fellow platoon members told of a ruthless leader who stabbed a captive to death for no reason then forced his troops to pose for a photograph with the corpse.”  

At his court martial Gallagher was acquitted of murder but lost rank because of the pictures posing with the dead body. “In a lengthy criminal investigation report, the navy detectives laid out other allegations against Gallagher, including shooting a schoolgirl and elderly man from a sniper’s roost. Members of Alpha Platoon’s Seal Team 7 alarmed by their leader’s conduct said they were initially shut down by military chiefs when they first spoke up, and told their own careers would suffer if they continued to talk about it” 

“The guy is freaking evil,” special operator first class Craig Miller, one of the platoon’s most experienced members, told investigators in sometimes tearful testimony. “I think Eddie was proud of it, and that was, like, part of it for him.” 

This is the man Trump gave clemency from any future charges to. And when he did, Gallagher’s defenders came out of the woodwork to defend him from anyone who dared make the claim that this man not only deserves to be locked up, but that his sanity should be called into question. Trump went so far as to hint that he would take Gallagher out on the campaign trail with him. 

Eddie Gallagher was the platoon leader, the one who gave the orders. But he also took them. Testimony shows that these military chiefs did everything they could to protect Gallagher. Even threatening those under his command if they spoke of this. It’s hard to judge from afar whether those men who posed with the dead body wanted to, or they were just following orders and feared retribution. When you see that Gallagher’s bosses actively sought to protect him, is it unreasonable to ask whether Gallagher was “just following orders” when he committed these atrocities? 

As was stated at the start, “order-followers” have found themselves on the wrong side of history when it comes to decency, not to mention liberty. Their defenders are vocal and can rarely be reasoned with. They see people in these positions as heroes and will make any excuse for actions that could be stood right next to the worst atrocities committed by Pol Pot. As we progress into a future where it is clear that the overwhelming majority of people intend to grow the size and scope of government, those who value individual liberty and justice may have to decide whether they will stick it out and attempt to change this culture, or look for alternate solutions lest they wake up in a State in which their every deed and word is under the purview of the unthinking automaton. 

Support Grows for West Virginia Bill to Block Unconstitutional National Guard Deployments

Support Grows for West Virginia Bill to Block Unconstitutional National Guard Deployments

Politicians Still Misunderstand High Insulin Prices

Politicians Still Misunderstand High Insulin Prices

In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control ranked diabetes seventh among the leading causes of death in the United States. If current trends continue, skyrocketing death rates and other serious consequences of poorly managed diabetes will continue.

Managing diabetes is challenging, often requiring strict dieting, regular exercise, and taking a variety of medications. For an increasing number of diabetics, insulin injections taken multiple times a day are indispensable for managing their conditions.
Tragically, many diabetics who depend on insulin find themselves struggling to afford it. From 2012 to 2016, the price of insulin doubled, costing some over $5,000 a year. Reports finding “horror stories everyday” of diabetics choosing between their medical needs and their financial needs have become heartbreakingly common.

Read the full article at the Independent Institute.

The Red Flag Flying Over the Second Amendment

The Red Flag Flying Over the Second Amendment

The Second Amendment is the provision in the Bill of Rights that seems to scare people the most. Why?

The Second Amendment lays down the groundwork for the right to keep and bear arms. Specifically, it asserts that the right of the people to keep and bear arms is the only thing that can preserve a regulated militia, which is necessary to preserve liberty. And it cannot be infringed by other laws or federal officials.

In other words, the Second Amendment is based on the fact that a free state, in order to be ensured with security, must trust a militia formed by the people and, obviously, their guns.

However, this very amendment scares people the most, mainly because government authorities don’t know how to take it into account when it comes to gun control.

Contradictory Arguments

Gun control operates against the Second Amendment – and, as we all know, amendments cannot be easily broken.

For example, if a witness takes the Fifth in the Court of Law, no one can persuade them to answer any questions. Lawyers and jurors can suspect an answer, but the witness has the full right not to answer.

The same applies to the Second Amendment. It is a thing that is ensured to the American people, by law. It cannot be taken away – but how does gun control interfere with this?

  • If you carefully read the Second Amendment, you’d understand, as most people have, that the phrase the right of the people to keep and bear Arms asserts an individual right for all people in the United States.
  • As a result, the legislative bodies of the U.S can’t come up with laws that would prohibit firearm possession.
  • On the other hand, certain scholars believe that the Second Amendment was meant to restrict Congress from passing a law that would deny the state its right to self-defense. This is the so-called collective rights theory – it asserts that the individuals don’t actually have an individual right to possess firearms and that the federal government has the authority to regulate firearms without having to take an individual right into account.

The Double-Edged Sword

It goes without saying why there’s currently a red flag flying above gun control – and why the Second Amendment scares people the most. It’s because this very amendment can affect, solely, both parties of this debate.

Depending on how the higher authorities decide to rule in terms of gun control, they have to take the Second Amendment into account. Naturally, the worst part is that it can be seen from two different points of view – one that can establish gun control and one that makes it void.

The Historical Militia

On the other hand, we also have to take into account that the American people are kind of trying to make an 18th-century law fit our modern times. The truth is that, given the current state of the country, a militia may not be the right answer.

This is because, in the 18th century, it was believed that the citizens should all be part-time soldiers. Both Federalists and anti-Federalists, despite their disagreements, were devoted to this idea.

However, having a standing army was the ideal way to subvert the ideas of that time – namely, the ideas of the American Revolution that people had on their minds.

The Standing Army

Moreover, the Second Amendment was also meant to prevent the US from establishing a professional, standing army. Obviously, we couldn’t imagine the country not having the army it has today but, if we’re honest, the 18th century didn’t actually need this type of army.

According to the old times, a society that had a standing army couldn’t actually become free, mainly because the leaders of that army could turn their back to the society. Instead, as mentioned above, it was believed that a well-regulated militia was more fit to keep the state safe, secure, and free.

The Second Amendment Was Based on Gun Control

Even though the militia was very important and those who wrote the Bill of Rights wanted all of the citizens to be in it, they still left room for those that wouldn’t be part of the militia.

As history states, if an individual was not allowed to participate in the militia, then the leaders in the founding generation wouldn’t allow him access to weapons. Therefore, there were classes of people that could not bear arms – the fact that everybody used to own a gun back then doesn’t quite stand true.

Now versus Then

The Second Amendment scares people the most because of two very important reasons.

First, if the nation was to return to the old meaning of the amendment, there wouldn’t be any professional soldiers nor any army. Instead, every citizen had to be a part of the militia and, if need be, fight for their country.

Then, if we are to adapt the amendment to today’s circumstances, we’d come to the conclusion that it does not, in fact, prevent gun control laws – or stricter laws, at least. This is because the amendment stands for the safety and security of a free state and not for the right of an individual to self-defense.

Naturally, it is not implied that there shouldn’t be self-defense rights. It is only implied that they should come after gun control laws and, paired with the 2nd amendment, they must keep this free country safe.

The Bottom Line

In the end, the 2nd amendment can be considered a red flag on gun control. It’s a red flag mainly because the misinterpretation of the 2nd amendment could lead to a state with no gun control laws, where everyone has the personal right to bear arms.

Overall, it depends on how people understand the amendment first, and then the entire gun control thing. However, given the current situation of the state, it goes without saying that all people should fight for a better future, for both them and their children – and this means making the right choice!

Reprinted from the Tenth Amendment Center.

Ice and Fire

Ice and Fire

The relationship between conservatism and libertarianism is a tenuous one. However, such was not always the case. Fellow travelers of both groups were united in opposing Roosevelt’s New Deal. The work of the late economist Murray N. Rothbard (1926–1995) on the “Old Right” is indispensable here. After World War II, the political right was generally opposed, not only to “domestic statism,” but also to war, foreign intervention, and “American statism in the international arena.” But after the death of the political and intellectual leaders of the Old Right, the conservative movement — which “was basically classical liberal and libertarian” in the 1930s and 1940s — suffered a “power vacuum in both the political and the intellectual areas,” and was taken over and transformed “beyond recognition” by William Buckley (1925–2008) and those associated with him at National Review magazine. The “modern conservative movement” — after the departure of its libertarian element and the purging of “embarrassing extremists like the John Birch Society” — “combined a traditionalist and theocratic approach to ‘moral values,’ occasional lip service to free-market economics, and an imperialist and global interventionist foreign policy dedicated to the glorification of the American state and the extirpation of world Communism. Classical liberalism remained only as rhetoric, useful in attracting business support, and most of all as a fig leaf for the grotesque realities of the New Right.”

“At the heart of the dispute between the traditionalists and the libertarians,” says Rothbard, “is the question of freedom and virtue: Should virtuous action (however we define it) be compelled, or should it be left up to the free and voluntary choice of the individual?”

The disagreements between conservatism and libertarianism — the “uneasy cousins,” in the words of the conservative sociologist Robert Nisbet — were made public in the early 1960s in the pages of National Review and other lesser-known publications. No resolution was forthcoming, in spite of the “fusionist” efforts of Frank S. Meyer. Ronald Reagan, apparently, never got the memo.

In between his time as the governor of California and the president of the United States, Ronald Reagan (1911–2004) was interviewed by Reason magazine in 1975 about his political philosophy. The first question he was asked was about conservatism and libertarianism: “Governor Reagan, you have been quoted in the press as saying that you’re doing a lot of speaking now on behalf of the philosophy of conservatism and libertarianism. Is there a difference between the two?” Here is his response: “If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals — if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.”

When asked to give “some examples” of what he “would consider to be proper functions of government,” Reagan replied, somewhat libertarianishly, “Well, the first and most important thing is that government exists to protect us from each other.” He maintained that he didn’t “believe in a government that protects us from ourselves.” He recognized that “government’s only weapons are force and coercion and that’s why we shouldn’t let it get out of hand.” Although Reagan acknowledged that “the government has legitimate functions,” he also thought that “our greatest threat today comes from government’s involvement in things that are not government’s proper province.”

Yet when asked about the issue of “laws against gambling,” Reagan quickly abandoned any pretense of libertarianism and showed that he, like modern conservatives, had no firm philosophical foundation: “You’ve named an issue that is one of the most difficult for me to reconcile. I know this gets into the whole area of the sin laws and here again I think you’re in one of the grey areas. There’s one side of me that says I know this is protecting us from ourselves; there’s another side of me, however, that says you can make the case that it does get into an area in which we are protecting us from each other.”

The issue of “laws against gambling” is one of the least difficult for libertarians to reconcile. No government at any level should ever, for any reason, enact any laws against gambling. It’s that simple. This straightforward question shows that libertarianism and conservatism are not traveling “the same path” as Reagan said in his Reason interview. Their paths are going in opposite directions.

A contemporary and admirer of Reagan, conservative icon Russell Kirk (1918–1994), saw things differently. Although conservatives and libertarians “share a detestation of collectivism” and “set their faces against the totalist state and the heavy hand of bureaucracy,”

In the nature of things, conservatives and libertarians can conclude no friendly pact. Adversity sometimes makes strange bedfellows, but the present successes of conservatives disincline them to lie down, lamblike, with the libertarian lions.

When heaven and earth have passed away, perhaps the conservative mind and the libertarian mind may be joined in synthesis, but not until then.

I venture to suggest that libertarianism, properly understood, is as alien to real American conservatives as is communism.

Conservatives have no intention of compromising with socialists; but even such an alliance, ridiculous though it would be, is more nearly conceivable than the coalition of conservatives and libertarians. The socialists at least declare the existence of some sort of moral order; the libertarians are quite bottomless.

What else do conservatives and libertarians profess in common? The answer to that question is simple: nothing. Nor will they ever have. To talk of forming a league or coalition between these two is like advocating a union of ice and fire.

Why, then, do some people have the idea that conservatism and libertarianism are cousins, or at least compatible? Before answering this question, it is first necessary to take a closer look at conservatism and libertarianism.

Conservatism

What is conservatism? I will let conservatives explain it.

In his book The Conservative Mind (1953), Kirk listed and described “six canons of conservative thought” that he considered to be a summary of themes common to conservative thinkers:

  1. Belief that a divine intent rules society as well as conscience, forging an eternal chain of right and duty which links great and obscure, living and dead.
  2. Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of traditional life.
  3. Conviction that civilized society requires orders and classes.
  4. Persuasion that property and freedom are inexorably connected.
  5. Faith in prescription and distrust of “sophisters and calculators.”
  6. Recognition that change and reform are not identical.

In the introduction to his anthology The Portable Conservative Reader (Penguin, 1982), which includes essays, poetry, and fiction from writers that he identified as conservatives, Kirk offered a variation on his six canons, which he termed “first principles.” Kirk’s “canons” were revised and expanded in subsequent editions of The Conservative Mind.

In his book The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Conservatism (1957), Kirk listed ten of “the chief principles which have characterized American conservative thought”:

  1. Men and nations are governed by moral laws.
  2. Variety and diversity are the characteristics of a high civilization.
  3. Justice means that all men and women have the right to what is their own.
  4. Property and freedom are inseparably connected; economic leveling is not economic progress.
  5. Power is full of danger; therefore the good state is one in which power is checked and balanced, restricted by sound constitutions and customs.
  6. The past is a great storehouse of wisdom.
  7. Modern society urgently needs true community; and true community is a world away from collectivism.
  8. In the affairs of nations, the American conservative feels that his country ought to set an example to the world, but ought not to try to remake the world in its image.
  9. Men and women are not perfectible, conservatives know; and neither are political institutions.
  10. Change and reform, conservatives are convinced, are not identical: moral and political innovation can be destructive as well as beneficial.

In his book The Politics of Prudence (1993), Kirk returned again to “principles,” presenting “a summary of conservative assumptions differing somewhat” from the “canons” and “principles” found in his earlier books. In introducing his new “ten articles of belief,” he said that they “reflect the emphases of conservatives in America nowadays.”

Next is George H. Nash, The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America (1996, second ed.):

What is conservatism? For those who have examined the subject, this is a perennial question; many are the writers who have searched for the elusive answer. Such an a priori effort, I have concluded, is misdirected. I doubt that there is any single, satisfactory, all-encompassing definition of the complex phenomenon called conservatism, the content of which varies enormously with time and place. It may even be true that conservatism is inherently resistant to precise definition. Many right-wingers, in fact, have argued that conservatism by its very nature is not an elaborate ideology at all.

So I offer here no compact definition of conservatism. In fact, American conservatives themselves have had no such agreed-upon definition. Instead, the very quest for self-definition has been one of the most notable motifs of their thought since World War II.

And then there is Bruce Frohnen, writing in American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia (2006):

Conservatism is a philosophy that seeks to maintain and enrich societies characterized by respect for inherited institutions, beliefs and practices, in which individuals develop good character by cooperating with one another in primary, local associations such as families, churches and social groups aimed at furthering the common good in a manner pleasing to God.

Conservatives are attached, not so much to any particular regime or form of government, as to what they believe are the requirements for a good life for all peoples. In the American context, conservatives defend the ordered liberty established by the Constitution and the traditions and practices on which that constitution was built.

Conservatives believe that there is a natural order to the universe, governed by a natural law that gives mankind general rules concerning how to shape their lives in common as individuals.

Nathan W. Schlueter, coauthor of Selfish Libertarians and Socialist Conservatives? The Foundations of the Libertarian-Conservative Debate (2017), has a hard time defining conservatism, since it “is not a specific philosophy of government but a generic term that can have a wide range of specific meanings, depending on context.” Nevertheless, he does say,

Conservatism seeks to “conserve” the best elements of that [Western philosophical and political] tradition.

Conservatism rests on a recognition of the mutual interdependence of liberty, tradition, and reason.

American conservatism is committed to conserving the principles of the American founding, and to renewing the models of political leadership that gave those principles life.

It seems as though the only thing that conservatives can say with absolutely certainty is that they don’t exactly know what conservatism is. But it is no wonder that conservatism suffers from not having any clear, concise, coherent, and consistent definition. Contrary to its name, conservatism changes with convictions, circumstances, country, and consensus. Conservative godfather Kirk readily acknowledges that:

Conservatism is not a fixed and immutable body of dogma, and conservatives inherit from Burke a talent for re-expressing their convictions to fit the time.

The diversity of ways in which conservative views may find expression is itself proof that conservatism is no fixed ideology. What particular principles conservatives emphasize during any given time will vary with the circumstances and necessities of that era.

Although certain general principles held by most conservatives may be described, there exists wide variety in application of these ideas from age to age and country to country.

Conservatism amounts to the consensus of the leading conservative thinkers and actors over the past two centuries.

Concludes Kirk, “Conservatism offers no universal pattern of politics for adoption everywhere.”

Libertarianism

In contrast to the confusion and contradictions of conservatism, there is the simplicity and consistency of libertarianism. For a compact definition of libertarianism, here is Future of Freedom Foundation president Jacob Hornberger: “Libertarianism is a political philosophy that holds that a person should be free to do whatever he wants in life, as long as his conduct is peaceful. Thus, as long a person doesn’t murder, rape, burglarize, defraud, trespass, steal, or inflict any other act of violence against another person’s life, liberty, or property, libertarians hold that the government should leave him alone. In fact, libertarians believe that a primary purpose of government is to prosecute and punish anti-social individuals who initiate force against others.”

Libertarianism is the philosophy of nonaggression, whether that aggression be theft, fraud, the initiation of nonconsensual violence against person or property, or the threat of nonconsensual violence. The initiation or threat of aggression against the person or property of others is always wrong, even when done by government. Aggression is justified only in defense of one’s person or property or in retaliation in response to aggression against him. Violence is justified only against violence. Force must be proportional, but is neither essential nor required.

There is nothing inherent in libertarianism that stands in opposition to custom, convention, tradition, natural law, Christian humanism, prudence, the natural order, religion, civilized society, moral laws, patriotism, the natural world, family values, community, civic pride, ordered liberty, an enduring moral order, cooperation, local associations, or the common good. And contrary to the smears of some conservatives, libertarianism has nothing to do with libertinism, greed, selfishness, antinomianism, hedonism, utopianism, materialism, atheism, anarchy, licentiousness, relativism, or nihilism. Likewise, libertarians qua libertarians don’t fetishize change, delight in eccentricity, sacrifice order on the altar of liberty, reduce everything to economics, deify efficiency, romanticize a fictional past, or celebrate alternative lifestyles.

Libertarianism celebrates individual liberty, personal and financial privacy, private property, free markets, free enterprise, free exchange, individual responsibility, personal freedom, free association, free assembly, voluntary interaction, freedom of conscience, free speech, and free expression — as long as one’s conduct is peaceful and doesn’t violate the personal or property rights of others.

The nature of conservatism

Beneath the conservative façade of tradition, culture, community, and prudence lies an authoritarian ideology. Conservatism is the philosophy of state-coerced morality and virtue. Conservatism is more interested in order, conformity, control, and orthodoxy than tradition, culture, community, and prudence. Conservatives are statists when the state does its bidding. They deem it just, right, and necessary for government at some level — (1) to arrest, fine, imprison, or otherwise punish people for engaging in entirely private, peaceful, voluntary, and consensual actions that do not aggress against the person or property of others; (2) to regulate, license, or prohibit commercial activity between willing buyers and willing sellers; and (3) to take people’s resources against their will, by force if necessary, and transfer or redistribute them to other citizens or foreigners as the government sees fit.

Conservatism is an authoritarian philosophy that looks to the state to arrest people and then fine them, appropriate their property, or lock them in cages for engaging in private consensual behavior or peaceful activity that doesn’t violate the personal or property rights of anyone.

Why?

Why, then, do some conservatives and libertarians, and many liberals, progressives, and socialists, have the idea that conservatism and libertarianism are cousins, or at least compatible? Consider these statements from the Conservative Review news site and the Heritage Foundation think tank: “Principle[s] such as limited government, free markets, traditional family values, individual freedom, rule of law, and a strong national defense are at the core of Conservative Review’s principles.” The Heritage Foundation promotes “conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.”

Conservative organizations also regularly include in their mantra adherence to the Constitution, federalism and States’ Rights, free trade, and private property.

The reason people think that conservatism and libertarianism are related, allies, or two sides of the same coin is that libertarians regularly talk about those very things. There is one major difference, however. Libertarians actually believe them, although they don’t confound the idea of national defense with national offense, as most conservatives do. Conservatives only selectively believe their own mantra. They don’t follow the Constitution in many areas. They reject federalism when it comes to things such as the drug war. The only limited government they desire is a government limited to control by conservatives. They don’t accept the freedom of individuals to do anything that’s peaceful as long as they don’t violate the personal or property rights of others. They don’t believe in the sanctity of private property. They think traditional values should be legislated by government. They confound free trade with managed trade. They don’t yearn for free enterprise and a free market in every area.

When conservative politicians want votes, and especially the votes of “libertarian-leaning” conservatives, they don’t talk about tradition, culture, community, and prudence. They instead use libertarian rhetoric to portray themselves as advocates of libertarian principles.

So Russell Kirk was right. There is no real affinity between conservatism and libertarianism. Conservatives and libertarians have about as much in common as ice and fire.This article was originally published in the January 2020 edition of Future of Freedom.

Reprinted from the Future of Freedom Foundation.

Sabra and Shatila

Sabra and Shatila

Originally published at “The Massacre” in The Libertarian Forum, October 1982.

All other news, all other concerns, fade into insignificance beside the enormous horror of the massacre in Beirut. All humanity is outraged at the wanton slaughter of hundreds of men (mainly elderly), women, and children in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. The days of the massacre— September 16 to 18—shall truly live in infamy.

There is one ray of hope in this bloodbath: the world-wide outrage demonstrates that mankind’s sensibilities have not, as some have feared, been blunted by the butcheries of the twentieth century or by watching repeated carnage on television. Mankind is still capable of reacting to evident atrocities that are wreaked upon other human beings: be they thousands of miles away or members of a different or even alien religion, culture, or ethnic group. When hundreds of manifest innocents are brutally and systematically slaughtered, all of us who are still fully human cry out in profound protest.

The outrage and protest must be compounded of several elements. First, of course, we must mourn for the poor downtrodden people of Lebanon, especially the Palestinians, who were driven out in 1948 to a reluctant exile from their homes and land. We must mourn for the slaughtered and their remaining families. And for the hundreds of thousands in Lebanon and in Beirut who have been killed, wounded, bombed out, and rendered homeless wanderers by the aggression of the State of Israel.

But mourning and compassion are not enough. As in any mass murder, the responsibility and the guilt for the crime must be pinpointed. For the sake of justice and to try to make sure that such a holocaust—for holocaust it has been—may never happen again.

Who, then, is guilty? On the most immediate and direct level, of course, the uniformed thugs and murderers who committed the slaughter. They consist of two groups of Christian Lebanese, working their will on innocent Muslims: the Christian Lebanese Forces of Major Saad Haddad, and the Christian Phalange, headed by the Gemayel family, now installed in the presidency of Lebanon.

But equally responsible, equally guilty, are the aiders and abettors, the string-pullers, the masters of West Beirut where the slaughter took place: the State of Israel. When the PLO was evacuated from West Beirut, to the fanfare of an international accord and international armed force supervision, the State of Israel saw its way clear to the conquest of Muslim West Beirut. Its protectors gone, the international forces cleared out, the poor huddled people of West Beirut had to put up with the conquest of the Israeli aggressors, who marched in on September 16. It was the deliberate decision of the Israeli government to usher the Phalange and the Lebanese forces into camps, to have them, in Israel’s words, “purify” the camps and rid them of PLO members who might be lurking therein—masquerading, no doubt as babies and children. Israeli tanks guarded the perimeter of Sabra and Shatila to permit the Christians unlimited control of the camps, and Israeli army observation posts on rooftops supervised the scene less than 100 yards from the slaughter.

On Friday, on the scene, Reuters correspondent Paul Eedle spoke to an Israeli colonel who explained about the operation: it was designed to “purify” the area without the direct participation of the Israeli army. This policy is of course all too reminiscent of the Nazi policy on the Eastern front, when the German soldiers stood by and benignly allowed the Ukrainian and other non-German SS to massacre Jews and other natives of Russia.

Also on Friday, it is particularly edifying to know that the Phalangists came to Israeli positions on the perimeter of the camps to relax, eat and drink, read and listen to music, and in general “rest up” before returning to butcher the few people still remaining. A Phalangist officer, a gold crucifix dangling from his neck, later told a reporter that there was still shooting going on in the camps, “otherwise what would I be doing here?”

Writing from the scene of the crime in evident horror, New York Times reporter, Thomas L. Friedman (Sept. 20) wrote that from the Israeli observation posts “it would not have been difficult to ascertain the slaughter not only by sight but from the sounds of gunfire and the screams coining from the camp. In addition to providing some provisions for the Christian militiamen, the Israelis had tanks stationed on the hilltop, apparently to provide cover for them if the militiamen encountered fiercer resistance than had been anticipated.”

We know now that by Thursday night the Israeli army and government knew about the massacre, and that yet they did absolutely nothing for 36 hours, until Saturday morning, when, the bloodbath completed, they gently waved the Christian murderers out of the camps. All was secured.

As a grisly finale to Israel’s blood crime, even after the world outrage, the Israeli army turned over a huge number of captured weapons to the Lebanese Forces—the Haddad army which Israel has trained and armed for seven years, which has held and occupied the southern Lebanese border for many months on behalf of Israel, and who, as the New York Times put it, are “virtually integrated into the Israeli army and operate entirely under its command.”

One of the most heartening aspects of the response to the massacre has been the firestorm of protest within Israel itself, even from the ordinarily pro-Begin press. Thus, Eitan Haber, military correspondent of the ordinarily pro-Begin Yediot Ahronot, wrote in shock:

“Government ministers and senior commanders already knew during the hours of Thursday night and Friday morning that a terrible massacre was taking place in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, and despite the fact that they knew this for sure, they did not lift a finger and did nothing to prevent the massacre until Saturday morning. For 36 additional hours, the Phalangists continued to run rampant in the refugee camps and to kill anyone who fell in their path.”

An editor of the Beginite daily paper, Maariv, appearing on ABC-TV Nightline, was evidently shaken and pinned full responsibility for the holocaust on the Begin government, and clearly called for its resignation.

Unfortunately, the response of American Jews was not nearly as outraged as that from Israel itself. It is well known that the lockstep and knee-jerk support by American Jews for any and all acts of the State of Israel is scarcely replicated within Israel itself. But even here the ranks were broken or at the very least confused. Even William Safire, always ardent in support of Israel, attacked its “blunder”—a strong word coming from Safire. Only the “professional Jews,” head of the leading Jewish organizations in America, continued to alibi and excuse. For a few days, they fell back on the view that “we can’t judge until we know the facts,” but even this lame alibi fell apart when Begin arrogantly refused any impartial judicial inquiry and pushed his view through the Knesset. Among the American Jewish leaders only Rabbi Balfour Brickner and the highly intelligent Professor Arthur Hertzberg—who have always been unafraid to speak their mind—lashed into the responsibility of the state of Israel.

An illuminating scene occurred on ABC’s Nightline, when Rabbi Schindler and Howard Squadron, two top “professional” American Jews, were asked their views of the Israeli action. It was squirmsville. One particularly sharp question was asked by Nightline: How is it that American Jewish protest has been so muted compared to that within Israel itself? Rabbi Schindler’s response was one for the books. In essence he said: “Within Israel there are political parties which can be critical of the government’s action. But our role as American Jews is to support the State of Israel regardless of its specific actions.” A chilling admission indeed!

And so American Jewish leaders consider it their role to support the State of Israel come hell or high water. How many deaths would it take? How many murders? How much slaughter of the innocent? Are there any conceivable acts that would turn off the American Jewish leadership, that would cause these people to stop their eternal apologetics for the State of Israel? Any acts at all?

After this statement of his role, the rather startled Nightline interviewer asked Rabbi Schindler, “but what about support for right and wrong? Doesn’t that count?” Having marched to the edge of the abyss and perhaps revealed too much, Rabbi Schindler rallied, and muttered something about “of course, we’re interested in right and wrong; but we can only judge after we know the facts.” Since Begin had just vetoed a fact-finding board of inquiry, this line fell pretty flat.

In American politics, the magic attraction of the State of Israel has at last lost some of its power. Even Scoop Jackson, even Senator Alan Cranston (D., Calif.) have become critical of Israel. The leading all-out supporter of Israel in the Reagan Cabinet—Al Haig—has been booted out, perhaps partially on that issue. But these are only small, fitful steps toward de-Israelizing American foreign policy.

One bizarre aspect of this affair has been the American perception—at least until the massacre—of the Gemayel family and its Phalange. It has now been revealed that the Israeli intelligence services—notoriously savvy people—had warned Begin and Defense Minister Sharon in advance that the Phalangists were likely to commit a massacre if the camps were turned over to them. To say that these warnings were “ignored” by Begin, Sharon & Co. is putting matters very, very kindly.

Well, what are the Gemayels and the Phalange like? Perhaps it is best to contrast reality with the Alice-in-Wonderland comments of the Reagan Administration upon the assassination of Phalangist leader and near-president of Lebanon Bashir Gemayel on September 15. “A tragedy for Lebanese democracy,” opined the Reagan Administration, while Ronnie himself spoke of Bashir as a brilliant, rising young democratic politician. The U.S. and Israel both spoke of their hope that Bashir could impose a “strong, centralized government” to unify anarchic Lebanon.

Since the Massacre, we should now have a better idea of the sort of “unity” that the Gemayels propose to bring to Lebanon: the “unity” of the charnel house and the cemetery. Perhaps the name of the political and military organization known as the Phalange should give a clue. For Bashir’s father, Pierre, founded the Phalange after an enthusiastic visit to Hitler’s Germany. The Phalange (named after Franco’s Falange) are fascists, pure and simple, in goals and in method.

But let us concentrate on the rising young politician and see if we should shed any tears for Bashir. Bashir is distinguished from other leading Lebanese politicians in that he is himself a mass murderer. I mean personally. The Gemayels had two sets of powerful rivals among the fascistic Maronite Christian community. “Pro-Western” and “Pro-Israeli” a little less fanatically than the Phalange, these were the followers of elderly ex-Presidents Camille Chamoun and Suleiman Franjieh.

Here is the way that young democrat, Begin and Reagan’s Man in Beirut, dealt with dissent within the Maronite community. Five years ago, the then 29-year-old Bashir Gemayel led a commando raid on Franjieh’s mountain stronghold in northern Lebanon. Bashir made Franjieh’s oldest son Tony watch while he and his gang tortured and killed Tony’s wife and two-year-old daughter. Bashir then murdered Tony and 29 followers, calling the massacre a “social revolt against feudalism.” Two years later, Bashir took care of the Chamouns. In May, 1980, Bashir and his men, in a lightning strike, massacred 450 of Chamoun’s followers at a beach resort near the city of Junei. Over 250 were murdered on the beach or while swimming. The wife and daughter of Camille Chamoun’s son Dany were both raped. Less than a month later, Bashir and his men invaded Chamoun’s headquarters in east Beirut, and savagely killed over 500 of Chamoun’s followers as well as bystanders. Many of the victims were castrated by Bashir’s thugs, and one captured Chamounite was blown apart with a stick of dynamite shoved down his throat.

Who assassinated Bashir? It could almost have been anyone in Lebanon.

The fascist savagery and the willingness to be a catspaw of Israel may be partly explained by demographic factors. Lebanese political rule is set by quota system, in which dominance— including the Presidency—is assured the Maronite Christian community. Unfortunately, the census on which the quotas are based is that of the early 1930’s, when the Christians were a majority in Lebanon. The early 1930’s census still rules, even though it is now conceded by everyone that Muslims are about 55% of the Lebanese population, to the Christian 45%. This means that freezing Maronite Christian rule over a majority of Muslims—the Begin-and-Reagan solution to the Lebanese problem—in addition to being profoundly immoral, in the long run will not work. The Muslims are out-producing the Christians in future population, no matter how many Muslim babies the Phalangists are proposing to kill.

Unfortunately, no matter the anguish and the outcry within Israel, there is little hope that the Israeli opposition will be able to do much to correct the fundamental problem. For while individual voices are raised on the massacre, politically there is almost no opposition to the fundamental Zionist axiom within Israel. The chief opposition Labor Party, the Founding Fathers and Mothers of Israel, paved the way for Begin in their commitment to the Zionist ideal and to the consequent expulsion of 1 million Palestinian Arabs from their homes and their lands. Only a few minor parties in Israel, such as those of Uri Davis and Shulamith Aloni, can be considered to have broken with the Zionist paradigm, and these are only on the fringe of Israeli politics.

The fundamental problem, the Zionist paradigm, is simply this: The establishment of the State of Israel was accomplished by the expropriation of the Palestinians from the overwhelming bulk of the land of the “original” 1948 Israel. Over a million Palestinian Arabs fled outside the borders of Israel, and the remaining Arabs have been systematically treated as second-class citizens, kept down by the fact that only Jews are allowed to own land within Israel that once falls into Jewish hands. (And more is doing so all the time.) In 1967, Israel aggressed against and conquered the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights of Syria, which it is in the process of annexing. Palestinian Arabs in the occupied territories are, again, treated as second-class citizens, and Zionist settlements are planted amongst them.

Israel and its American apologists are wont to blame everything on the dread bogeyman, the PLO, and to excuse all Israeli crimes as necessary to defend the security of the Israeli state from PLO “terrorism.” And yet it is conveniently forgotten that there was no PLO at all until after the shame of the 1967 war, when the Palestinians realized that they had to stop relying on the faithless Arab states and could only try themselves to win back their homes and their possessions. Since there was no “PLO terror” until 1968, how come that Israel aggressed against and terrorized the Palestinian Arabs for two decades previously?

The answer lies in the Zionist paradigm. Zionism was a nineteenth-century creation of European (not Middle Eastern) Jews, and was sold to Great Britain as a conscious colonial settlerstate, a junior partner to British imperialism in the Middle East. After World War I, when the British and French dismembered the Ottoman Empire, they betrayed their promises to give the Arabs their independence, and they established mandates or puppet states across the Middle East. We are still living with the legacy of that final outcropping of British imperialism.

How did the early Zionists sell their scheme to Western public opinion? The favorite Zionist slogan of the day rings peculiarly hollow now: “A land without people [Palestine] for a people without land [the Jews].” A land without people; there are no Palestinian Arabs, the Zionists assured everyone, and so a million and a half people, many of them productive farmers, citrus growers, businessmen,—people “who made the desert bloom” first—were at a stroke written out of existence. And before the PLO launched its fight-back, Israeli leaders stoutly continued to deny reality, Golda Meir repeatedly maintaining that “there are no Palestinians.” Say it often enough and maybe they go away. Maybe.

Libertarians are opposed to every State. But the State of Israel is uniquely pernicious, because its entire existence rests and continues to rest on a massive expropriation of property and expulsion from the land. Libertarians in the United States often complain about the radical libertarian adherence to “land reform,” i.e. the giving back of stolen land to the victims. In the case of expropriations centuries ago, who gets what is often fuzzy, and conservative libertarians can raise an important point. But in the case of Palestine, the victims and their children—the true owners of the land—are right there, beyond the borders, in refugee camps, in hovels, dreaming about a return to their own. There is nothing fuzzy here. Justice will only be served, and true peace in the devastated area will only come, when a miracle happens and Israel allows the Palestinians to stream back in and repossess their rightful property. Until then, so long as the Palestinians continue to live and no matter how far back they are pushed, they will always be there, and they will continue to press for their dream of justice. No matter how many square miles and how many cities Israel conquers (shall it be Damascus next?), the Palestinians will be there, in addition to all the other Arab refugees newly created by the Israeli policy of blood and iron. But allowing justice, allowing the return of the expropriated, would mean that Israel would have to give up its exclusivist Zionist ideal. For recognizing Palestinians as human beings with full human rights is the negation of Zionism; it is the recognition that the land was never “empty.”

A just Israeli state (insofar as any state can be just), then, would necessarily be a de-Zionized state, and this no Israeli political party in the foreseeable future would have the slightest desire to do. And so the slaughter and the horror will go on.

Reprinted from LewRockwell.com.

‘The Person Advocating Violence Is The Fed!’

‘The Person Advocating Violence Is The Fed!’

A lot of people have heard my “liberty story.” It’s the common, “I saw Ron Paul confront Rudy Giuliani on the debate stage in 2007” narrative. Then the reading started; pretty much every “libertarian” book I could get my hand on. For two years all I did was read. Attending a Campaign for Liberty event in Atlanta in 2010 or 2011 sealed the deal and I was all in. 

What most people don’t know is that soon thereafter I became interested in what many refer to as the “Sovereign Citizens.” I came across a few online that invited me to Skype chats to discuss the illegitimacy of the government. One of the main issues people have with those referring to themselves as “Sovereign Citizens” is that a few advocated violence and straight up theft from individuals. This was not the group that I talked to. These were people who came up with scripts of what to say to a judge in a courtroom to get the case dismissed. They advocated peaceful resistance based on education, not belligerence. They always said that if it gets to the point where you’re getting emotional, they’ve won, that they thrive on you being combative.  

It was in one of these groups that I heard a phrase that I’ve heard many times since; “If someone in these groups starts advocating the use of violence, they’re a Fed.” That stuck to me like glue and it’s an alarm that has been ringing in my head a lot lately. 

The Virginia Lobby Day Gun Rally 

Most of the people I follow and interact with on social media would consider themselves to be for personal liberty. Or at least that’s their message. My Facebook and Twitter accounts are purposely set up to not interact with family or friends. The overwhelming majority of them are still stuck in the two-party system and I don’t want to interact with them especially when other people can see the posts and start a dog-pile. I consider family important and am not going to abandon them because they’re where I was 13 years ago.  

All of that being said, the amount of people that I witnessed not only advocating for violent uprising against the State, but calling the Virginia rally a LARP because no shots were fired honestly shocked me. The only reason I’m either “friends” with them on Facebook, or interact with them on Twitter, is because I assumed, they were logical, liberty-minded thinkers.  

 Some of the sentiment I witnessed goes like this: 

 Tyrants only understand you’re serious if you’re pointing guns at them! (this one was “liked” by a “liberty-minded” person whose show I have appeared on) 

 Commenting on the guillotine that was wheeled into downtown Richmond, someone said:  

 The fact that it was dismantled before it was dripping with blood proves this was all a LARP! 

Other comments lamented the lack of violence, especially since the Virginia Senate voted to send the House a bill instituting a Red Flag law the next day. Bill SB 16 which would have been an assault weapons ban that hinted at confiscation has been rescinded but that doesn’t mean that that part of the fight is over. 

Is Violent Revolution the Answer? 

Many are frustrated that a state as “red” as Virginia has been taken over by the “blue” team. Making the joke that you all need to “vote harder” probably isn’t helpful but it makes me chuckle. But seriously, there may come a time that they become tyrannical and all peaceful options have been exhausted. That’s not right now. As I warned in an article prior to the rally, the powers that be control the narrative, but the country saw the white supremacist portrayal debunked when people across the racial and political spectrum came together to celebrate their love of guns. That was a win for everyone except the coastal elites. You have a country on your side. A few randos firing off shots would have destroyed that.  

Which brings me back to the title of this piece. People have heard that the FBI infiltrates peaceful groups who gather to celebrate liberty and to talk about how they can peacefully remove themselves from the power of the government. The FBI radicalizes otherwise peaceful Muslims to continue “The War on Terror.” When I see people who on one hand promote liberty, but on the other advocate for violent, disorganized revolution, I have to wonder whether they’re ignorant, or there to promote an agenda advantageous to the State. It certainly is something to consider. 

Another Victim in America’s Drug War

Another Victim in America’s Drug War

On November 15, 2018, my wife came home to give me the worst news that I have ever gotten in my adult life. My stepdaughter, Mandy Koblischek, who had been my stepdaughter for the past 21 years, and who I loved dearly, died from a lethal overdose of heroin laced with fentanyl. If heroin was legal, Mandy would still be alive today. To some readers, that last sentence might appear to be a misprint. After all, isn’t America’s strict laws against the sale and use of recreational drugs designed to prevent what happened to Mandy? The answer is yes, but the reality is that drug prohibition, just like America’s failed experiment with alcohol prohibition, has actually exacerbated the problem and its consequences.

There are two facets to this issue which deserve examination, and both complement each other: those being liberty and utility. Human nature, and its requirement to achieve happiness and harmony, is best served by being in a condition of liberty. People who are free to determine for themselves what is in their best interests are more likely to achieve what most of us would consider the good life. Simply put: more freedom, more happiness. All we have to do is look at those countries that have little or no freedom to recognize the truth of that statement. In North Korea, for example, people live in abject fear and deprivation, yet in such a tightly controlled totalitarian regime, where any private expression of discontent with its dear leader will lead to imprisonment or death, there is no discernible “drug problem.” Thus, the only way to eliminate this problem is to totally eliminate individual liberty. Is that a price we are willing to pay?

When talking about freedom and liberty, what does that entail with respect to what actions we may or may not take? What it does not mean is that one can do whatever one feels like, regardless of its consequences to others. Those are the key words: “to others.” Therefore, if you steal, murder or rape, you are transgressing against the right of others to enjoy the blessings of liberty, and those actions are legitimately proscribed by government, which in the best of circumstances, is established to protect those rights.

So how does that apply to the act of taking drugs? First and foremost, taking drugs is something that the individual does to himself, not to others. If freedom is to mean anything, it is to recognize the sovereignty of the individual in his own person. That must come before anything else. The state does not own your life. You do. Therefore, the right to ingest drugs into your own body is a foundational right, and if government has the right to take that away, the door is open for it to take away any and all rights upon a whim; which unfortunately it often does with reckless abandon. 

The Utility of it All

When government makes it illegal to take drugs, it is attempting to suppress human nature, and in that it cannot succeed, but only make the problem worse. In my stepdaughter’s case, if she could have received legally prescribed heroin, she would have been ingesting safe doses with clean needles from a provider that would have no incentive to boost its profit by lacing it with fentanyl. The provider would have been a legally sanctioned company that would be shut down by the government if it provided a product that was something other than what was advertised to be, for to do otherwise would be committing fraud on its customers, which in and of itself is a rights violation. By way of example on how that would work: In 2015, The Peanut Corporation of America knowingly sold peanut butter contaminated with salmonella, leading to some deaths. That company no longer exists, and its president is now serving a 28-year sentence. 

However, in the black drug market there is no such legal recourse or protection. Operating outside the 

law, there is no market incentive to provide a safe, affordable product. Adulteration of heroin with fentanyl is currently the most dangerous threat to the lives of drug users in the United States. But even if a user does not die from overdosing, there are many other harmful consequences, that include violent crime, the spread of AIDS, and legal consequences that can prevent the user from ever having any hope of getting a decent job, housing or education. Just ask anyone with a criminal record for non-violent drug convictions how hard it is to get a good job with a future so they can provide for themselves and their family. Once out of prison such individuals easily fall prey to the neighborhood drug culture from whence they came and must steal or prostitute themselves to maintain their habit.

Ironically, the huge upsurge in recent years of heroin use and deaths can be laid at the feet of yet another government policy gone bad; greater restrictions on legal opioids. As legal opioids become harder to come by for people with legitimate chronic pain issues, the black market in opioids becomes prohibitively expensive or next to impossible to find, leading users to seek the much cheaper and more readily available heroin. That’s precisely what happened to Mandy; thus making her a statistic in a policy which is leading to over 130 deaths a day in the U.S.

There must be a better way

The United States has some of the most draconian restrictions on the sale and use of recreational drugs. Our government spends billions annually in interdiction, criminal prosecution and incarceration. This has fostered the creation of a huge, violent, criminal underclass which has corrupted government both here and abroad. Innocent by-standers die in the crossfire of rival gangs, while innocent citizens die at the hands of their own police in drug busts that have gone horribly wrong. In the process law enforcement has become “addicted” to the constitutionally unlawful practice of padding their budgets with asset forfeiture even if the property owners whose assets are seized are not convicted of any crime.

Meanwhile, the lure of easy money in the ghetto entices our youth to forego legal occupations, where they then spend much of their adult life incarcerated. Annually, there are 1.4 million arrests for drug possession for personal use.

Fortunately, there are some real-world alternatives to the dominant approach of criminalization and harsh enforcement in the United States. In 1999 Portugal had the highest rate of drug-related AIDS and the second highest rate of HIV in the European Union. In response it decided in 2001 to decriminalize drug use and the results have been dramatic. The number of people voluntarily entering treatment programs rose dramatically, while the number of HIV infections, drug overdoses, incarceration rates and AIDS have plummeted.

The Portuguese model, while falling short of full legalization for adults, does provide some empirical data to support a policy which treats drug use as a public health problem rather than a crime problem. Its approach is to offer treatment, rather than incarceration, and makes sterile syringes readily available. Possession for small amounts for personal use are non-prosecutable but trafficking in large quantities which causes death or serious bodily harm carry prison sentences, similar in concept to the peanut butter example cited earlier.

To give some examples of how the Portuguese model has fared vs. the U.S. one, consider the following statistics:

Overdose deaths in Portugal declined by over 80 percent after decriminalization.

In 2017 more than 72,000 people died of drug overdoses in the United States, which equates to 21.7 deaths per 100,000. But in Portugal in 2015 there were only three overdose deaths per 

100,000, making the U.S. death rate from overdoses more than six times that of Portugal

Incarceration rates for drug offenses in Portugal fell by over 40% from 1999 to 2016.

Switzerland is another example of how a less draconian approach to drug use has yielded some significant beneficial results. In the 1990s whole sections of the most beautiful cities in the country, Zurich and Bern, were over-run with drug users who lived in unsanitary tent cities, dubbed Needle Parks, where rates of infection and deaths from sharing needles soared. In response, the Swiss implemented one of the most controversial drug policies in the world, which included dispensing heroin, and providing treatment programs, which in turn resulted in a dramatic reduction in deaths, crime, and an end to the notorious Needle Parks. Opioid related deaths declined by 64% in the past two decades, while the number of people testing positive for HIV dropped from 3,000 in 1986 to fewer than 500 in 2017. In short, the Swiss adopted the approach of fighting heroin with heroin.

Not surprisingly, Switzerland does not have the same fentanyl problem as the United States. That’s because addicts who obtain heroin from the state know exactly what’s in it and have no incentive to get it on the streets. In fact, the street business has dwindled to nothing, as the program instituted by the Swiss has made its existence obsolete.

Other benefits include a huge drop in opioid related crimes. In 1993 the country had about 20,000 cases a year. Today, the average is 5,000 cases annually.  Even more stunning was the decline in burglaries. According to M. Savary, a Swiss drug and harm reduction expert, “We reduced theft [burglaries] by 98%. It sounds like a miracle, but you can do it.”

Some final thoughts

While neither Portugal nor Switzerland offer perfect panaceas in how to best address the drug problem, just moving the needle, so to speak, towards decriminalization has obviously offered some very salutary results. If my step daughter had been living in one of those countries, I have every reason to believe she would be alive today, continuing to live a productive life full of hope and promise.

In the United States there is a presumption that someone who is addicted to heroin is unable to function as a productive citizen. Yet as we can see by the results in Portugal and Switzerland, it is the illegalization of heroin which makes that the case, because to procure heroin or other potentially lethal drugs on the black market, the addict is always hustling to get their next fix from uncertain and unreliable sources. If legally and safely obtained in a clinical environment, the addict receives a maintenance dose which allows him or her to function normally and fully capable of handling day-today responsibilities such as a job and raising a family. 

While that is not the ideal situation, it is certainly preferable to prohibition. I can attest that before Mandy died, she was raising a teenage son, and holding down a job making well into the six figures, ironically enough, as a marketing director for a for-profit drug rehab company. As a recovering addict she was uniquely qualified to fill that role. Yet Mandy’s death took place at a time when her work gave her daily reminders of where she came from and where she could end up if she relapsed. The fact that she did relapse only belies the incredible challenge all current and former drug addicts must face on a daily basis; a challenge which cannot be met and overcome by drug prohibition, but which on the contrary only exacerbates the problem. Such is the price we must pay in America’s endless and futile drug war.

Lance Lamberton is a writer and Chairman of the Cobb Taxpayers Association who lives in Cobb County, Georgia, and who served as the deputy director of the White House Office of Policy Information under President Reagan. This article is dedicated to the memory of Mandy Koblischek, (1976 – 2018)

 

Law Enforcement Respects The Constitution?

Law Enforcement Respects The Constitution?

With the 2nd Amendment rally scheduled for Richmond, Virginia’s “Lobby Day” now completed, those who warned against “agent provocateurs,” and other possible hazards, get to breathe a sigh of relief and be thankful for being wrong. The narrative that this was going to be an event dominated by “white supremacists” was proven empirically false by photos that came out showing a racially and politically diverse crowd of people who showed up to communicate to the world that they have one thing in common; their belief that the right to own firearms to protect themselves is a universal idea that only seems to be bemoaned by the most loud and obnoxious “coastal elites” on Twitter, as well as those who believe they are the rulers of the people because they won a popularity contest.  

Among the photos that have been circulated from the event is one that shows unidentified law enforcement officers carrying a banner with the American flag on it that includes the words, “We Support the Second Amendment.” To those who closely monitor the State’s enforcement arm, this is a confusing message. The question needs to be asked; do you? 

Virginia’s New Gun Laws 

As was discussed in a previous article, the Virginia senate has passed three gun bills that are now being sent to the house for consideration that would see it become one of the most restrictive states in America when it comes to firearms ownership. 

Bill SB35, which would “allow localities to ban guns from public events, would actually repeal the current law that restricts localities from enforcing ordinances that would prohibit the purchase, possession, transfer, ownership, carry, storage, or transport of firearms or ammunition.”  

Bill SB69 “amends the current law, only allowing Virginia residents to purchase one handgun a month, or in a 30-day period.”  

Bill SB70 “requires a background check on all private transfers of firearms.” 

If these bills pass the house, and the governor signs them into law (as he has promised he will), will Virginia law enforcement do as their sign claims and support the Second Amendment over their boss’ own mandate? Will they enforce these three bills, the worst of which amounts to a gun registry? 

Why is the Second Amendment a Bridge Too Far? 

Anyone who has spent any time around groups that promote the “American Gun Culture” has heard the claims from not only law enforcement (they are represented mightily), but from their acolytes that police are defenders of the Constitution and would never enforce gun control laws. “They would quit before they took an American citizen’s God-given right to own firearms!” When you point out occasions where law enforcement has not only shown up to take someone’s guns, but killed them in the process, you’re met with everything from excuses about how that was done in a liberal area, to the inevitable back pedaling about how maybe some people shouldn’t be trusted with guns.  

When one points out that they already violate the Constitution by not only trampling over the First Amendment, but especially the Fourth, that’s when the dancing really begins. 

The First Amendment 

The First Amendment to the United States says: 

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. 

Article 1, Section 12 of the Virginia Constitution states:  

That the freedoms of speech and of the press are among the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained except by despotic governments; that any citizen may freely speak, write, and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right; that the General Assembly shall not pass any law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, nor the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for the redress of grievances. 

Both the US and Virginia Constitutions give people the right to “peaceably assemble.” Is that in fact true? According to the ACLU there are conditions upon which one may have to acquire a permit to do just that in Virginia.  

Do we need to get a permit? The need for a permit depends on the type and size of event, as well as the locality in which it will be held. Generally, events requiring a permit include: 1) A march or parade that does not stay on the sidewalk and other events that require blocking traffic or street closure; 2) A large rally requiring the use of sound amplifying devices; or 3) A rally at certain designated parks or plazas. 

Properly understood, a permit is when the State takes a guaranteed “right” away, and sells it back to you by either requiring a fee, or for you to ask permission from them. At this point your “right” has been transformed into a privilege, something you must ask permission for.  

And if you did decide to bypass the “permit” process and declare your rights, who is going to be there to enforce these statutes? No, not the people at the window who take the fee and paperwork you have so dutifully filled out; it will be the law enforcement officer. You will be confronted by a man/woman with a gun and they will stop you from exercising your “rights.” 

Privacy? 

The Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution reads: 

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. 

One need only to go to YouTube and search “traffic stop” videos to know that the Fourth Amendment’s right to be secure in your person and possessions is a thing of the past. An individual’s vehicle, which many states have extended “Castle Doctrine” to, can be rifled through after the officer utters the phrase, “I smell marijuana.” It doesn’t matter if they actually do or not, the courts have interpreted privacy out of existence and local and state law enforcement happily use these phrases to gain access to your private spaces. 

The most egregious of these laws is “Civil Asset Forfeiture” in which you do not have to be convicted of a crime, only suspected, and local law enforcement can seize your bank account, home, anything they deem to be part of a criminal “conspiracy” or “drug nexus.” In the event you are found innocent you do not automatically have your property returned to you; you must petition to get it back. 

It was determined that in 2014 that the property taken from individuals by law enforcement was greater than all burglaries by criminals combined that year. And law enforcement uses the seized belongings for their benefit 

 

Many will no doubt applaud Virginia law enforcement for showing up to the January 20th rally to proclaim that they support the Second Amendment. It has been proven that State policy enforcers will enforce gun laws and already do when it comes to the National Firearms Act of 1934, et al. Yet, most fail to consider how they so easily enforce other laws that blatantly violate protected Constitutional rights such as assembly and privacy. One should afford people respect and consideration when it comes to their word but prior action is always a better gauge when taking into account people’s future behavior. 

Virginia Second Amendment Advocates Beware!

Virginia Second Amendment Advocates Beware!

The Virginia senate has passed three gun bills that are now being sent to the house for consideration that would see it become one of the most restrictive states in America when it comes to firearms ownership. A reading of the laws would put Virginia close to New Jersey from a legal standpoint when it comes to the ease at which one will be able to procure property guaranteed by its own state constitution. 

Bill SB35 which would “allow localities to ban guns from public events, actually would repeal the current law that restricts localities from enforcing ordinances that would prohibit the purchase, possession, transfer, ownership, carry, storage, or transport of firearms or ammunition.” 

Bill SB69 “amends the current law, only allowing Virginia residents to purchase one handgun a month, or in a 30-day period.” 

Bill SB70 “requires a background check on all private transfers of firearms.” 

In response to the three bills that went to the house, the NRA (who has grown out of favor with many pro-2A people in recent years over their non-response to the Philando Castile shooting, but mostly due to their willingness to cave to lawmakers) issued the following statement: 

“Regrettably, Virginia lawmakers approved a series of measures today that will make it harder for law-abiding Virginians to protect themselves, while doing nothing to stop criminals. We are pleased one of the most egregious gun confiscation bills was pulled from consideration. The NRA will continue our work with lawmakers to find solutions that address the root cause of violent crime, rather than punishing honest, hardworking Virginians.” 

The “Boogaloo” Bill Has Been Canceled 

The most controversial of the proposed bills, SB16 “was struck from the record, which included the ban on assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, bump stocks and silencers.”  

This is the bill that was seen by most pro-2A activists as an act of aggression by the Governor Northam led, Democratically-controlled, Virginia legislature. In no uncertain terms, Northam let it be known that this bill meant that anyone in possession of any weapon/accessory under the statute’s purview (inevitably the lawmakers could make any weapon/accessory fall under the jurisdiction of this law), would be confiscated by state agents.  

As one might imagine, Virginia gun owners immediately started planning what they would be willing to do to stop this tyranny from happening. Terms such as the “boogaloo” started to be seen everywhere on social media. The term has been taken to mean a second Civil War or another American Revolution. In this context it specifically references gun-grabbers but can easily be tied to either of the previous descriptions. 

With this one bill being eliminated the fight against what essentially creates a gun registry in Virginia continues. 

A Planned Rally and the Governor’s Response 

The Virginia Citizens Defense League is planning a lobbying day and rally for Monday January 20th at the state capitol grounds in Richmond. Gun rights supporters will meet to protest the new laws. 

In response, Governor Northam has declared a “State of Emergency” claiming that “officials” have heard reports of “out-of-state militia groups and hate groups planning to travel from across the country to disrupt our democratic process with acts of violence.” He continued saying, they “are coming to intimidate and to cause harm.” 

“Northam is raising concerns about a reprise of the deadly violence surrounding the white supremacist march in Charlottesville in August 2017. He said state intelligence analysts have identified threats and rhetoric online that mirror the chatter they were picking up around that time.” 

The New York Times reported on Thursday, January 16th, that the FBI arrested three suspected neo-Nazis of purchasing guns with the intention of attending the Richmond rally 

Taking all of this into consideration, Governor Northam banned the carrying of any weapons at the rally. That decision was contested but upheld by a judge. 

This “racist” narrative is to be expected and one that protesters must take into consideration; almost accept as a given. 

White Supremacists, Racists and Radicals 

This is how the protesters will be painted in the press. It won’t matter if half of the activists there are black and Hispanic; the corporate press has reported before on someone carrying an “assault weapon” at an Obama appearance but conveniently omitted a picture revealing that he was African-American.  

No, this will be about “white nationalists” “clinging to their guns and religion,” and that “outdated” Constitution.  

Agent Provocateurs 

Anyone considering going to a rally in which it has already been expressly declared by the state that they are expecting violence has to watch out for the agent provocateur. One need look no further than the Oakland, California protest against police violence where it was revealed that California Highway Patrol had undercover officers amongst the protesters for weeks before their cover was blown. When their ruse was discovered, one of the officers pulled a gun on his “fellow protesters.” 

Another tactic that must be brought up is federal law enforcement’s history of infiltrating  groups and pushing them towards violence. Since 9/11/01 this has been a recurring narrative that has been uncovered yet largely ignored by the corporate press. 

All it will take at the Richmond rally is for one “provocateur” to fire off a couple of rounds and the story concocted by Northam and his friends in the media will take hold and mainstream public support will jump right to the state (which is where their sentiments already lean). 

It cannot be argued that the laws going through the legislature in Virginia are not only against the US Constitution, but against that state’s very own. The impulse to fight back against this tyranny is strong and has garnered support throughout the country. The most noxious bill, SB16, (the one that would have the state trying to confiscate AR-15s), has been trashed due to the public’s outcry, showing the power masses of people speaking out and protesting can still have. In 2016 a bill was getting pushed through the Virginia legislature to remove the religious exemption from vaccines but a vocal group protested and it was scrapped.  

Contrary to popular belief, letting the powers that be know that this isn’t going to work and you have something to say about it often makes them stop in their tracks. Protest at the state capital, do it peacefully. Violence should be the last resort, the one you never want to go to except when nothing else can be done. But remember, a rally like the one planned is a powder-keg, and the powers that be hold all of the cards to paint the people as the villains were something to break out. In the struggle against tyrants be careful that they don’t turn the tables and have the public screaming for your heads as they have done so many times before.  

VA Declares State of Emergency to Stop ‘Serious Threats of Armed Militias Storming Capitol’

VA Declares State of Emergency to Stop ‘Serious Threats of Armed Militias Storming Capitol’

Richmond, VA — Since last month, tensions have been escalating in Virginia as lawmakers prepared a slew of gun laws that would have drastically changed the landscape of the state’s view on the Second Amendment. Protests have erupted, police officers have parted ways with the state government promising not to enforce gun bans, and on Wednesday, the hostility between pro-gun groups and government came to a head as Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency.

Since the battle over guns began in the state, more than 100 counties, cities and towns around Virginia have declared themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries” saying they feared state officials would try to remove their guns. In response, Northam said he would enforce the law, regardless of sanctuaries.

The state of emergency will be enforced from Friday evening until Tuesday evening as thousands of Second Amendment activists plan to descend on the capitol. Adding fuel to the fire brewing between the pro and anti-gun groups is the fact that this declaration ban all guns. It also bans all weapons, including bats and knives—even helmets.

Mincing no words, Northam compared this event to that of Charlottesville in which a racist white supremacist drove his vehicle into a crowd, tragically killing Heather Heyer. This parallel the governor is attempting to draw between Charlottesville and Richmond is not only inaccurate but dangerous. Supporting one’s right to self-defense is not white nationalism.

Nevertheless, Northam touted dangerous threats “similar to what has been seen before other major events such as Charlottesville.”

According to Northam, there are armed militias preparing an attack on the capitol, complete with drone strikes. Seriously.

“These are considered credible, serious threats by our law enforcement agencies,” Northam said, citing claims that “armed militia groups” plan on “storming our Capitol” and “weaponizing drones.”

Organizers of the protest, Virginia Citizens Defense League, disagree and have openly disavowed violence as a means of seeking change. They seek change through legislation instead.

As the Richmond Times Dispatch reports:

Monday’s rally is being organized by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, which says it expects as many as 50,000 people to arrive on the steps of the Capitol to protest gun control legislation Democratic lawmakers are proposing.

VCDL President Philip Van Cleave said in an interview Wednesday that he has encouraged peaceful demonstrations by rally participants. At the same time, he said the group plans to challenge Northam’s decision, which he believes goes beyond the governor’s legal authority.

“We believe it is illegal what he is doing,” Van Cleave said. “At this point, we’re going to try to take the governor to court. So it may mean guns aren’t banned on Monday.”

“The rally is going on no matter what.”

This is not some rogue organization planning a ragtag rally in Virginia’s capitol. They actually have the support of multiple sheriffs, lawmakers, and police chiefs who say that Northam is the one to blame. Multiple senators have come forward pointing out the obvious that banning guns and declaring a state of emergency “may be serving to heighten rather than assuage tensions.”

They also pointed out that he may be breaking the law in his declaration of a state of emergency.

“We are not confident Governor Northam is adhering to the limitations placed on the governor’s authority under the Code of Virginia,” Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment, R-James City; Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Ryan McDougle, R-Hanover; and Senate Republican Caucus Co-Chairman Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham, said in a joint statement.

Others pointed out the obvious unconstitutional nature of the declaration and subsequent weapons ban.

“While we are grateful for the precautions taken by law enforcement, the governor’s actions will unfortunately impede the ability of people to exercise not only their Second Amendment rights, but their First Amendment rights as well,” House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah said.

Hopefully all sides maintain peace during this event and lawmakers realize the mass of people they created who do not want their rights to self-defense impeded. Hopefully, no outside instigators show up either and turn this peaceful rights-flexing event into chaos either. Northam thinks this will be the case, saying he believed the VCDL “may have unleashed something much larger, something they may not be able to control.”

In response, Van Cleave put the blame back on him.

“Excuse me, the governor caused all of this stuff,” Van Cleave said. “This is on him, not on us. All of these people are stirred up because of what he is doing, trying to remove guns from law-abiding citizens.”

Reprinted from The Free Thought Project.

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