Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Montana school choice fight goes to SCOTUS

Constitutional showdown: Montana school choice case heads to U.S. Supreme Court | News | - Gail Schontzler:

January 19, 2020 - "The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit brought on behalf of Kendra Espinoza and two other Kalispell-area mothers whose children attend Stillwater Christian School. Their lawsuit against the Montana Department of Revenue concerns a school choice program that ... provided $3 million a year to be spent on tax credits for individuals and business taxpayers who donated up to $150 to a new scholarship program for private school students.

"The Montana Supreme Court ruled the program violated the state’s constitution, which bars spending any public money directly or indirectly to support religious schools [and] struck down the entire scholarship program, a decision now being challenged in the nation’s highest court.

"The scholarship program is small, helping about 40 or 50 students a year — 94% of whom attend Christian schools, according to court filings. But the potential impact of the Espinoza case is huge. The Institute for Justice, the nonprofit legal advocacy group that has represented the Kalispell mothers from the start of their lawsuit, called it 'one of the most important education reform cases in the past half century'....

"The Institute for Justice — which has received funding from billionaires Charles and David Koch and the Walton and DeVos families — argues this case could stop Montana’s discrimination against religious options, uphold the free exercise of religion and expand school choice.  Opponents, including the nation’s two largest teachers’ unions and liberal groups, argue the Espinoza case threatens public schools and the basic principle of separation of church and state..... Thirty-seven states have constitutional language similar to Montana’s barring aid to religious schools....

"The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling this summer.... Supreme Court rulings in recent years have moved in the direction of allowing public funds to benefit religious schools. In 2017 the court ruled in the Trinity Lutheran Church case that the state of Missouri violated the First Amendment when it excluded churches from a state program to make playgrounds safer because of the state constitution’s strict separation of church and state..... Chief Justice John Roberts ... added, however, that this decision does 'not address religious uses of funding or other forms of discrimination.'"

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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

20,000 rally for gun rights in Richmond, Virginia

Richmond, Virginia gun rally: Protest draws militias - Ryan W. Miller & John Bacon, USA Today:

January 20, 2020 - "Thousands of gun owners and gun rights supporters gathered Monday at Virginia's Capitol for a 'peaceful day to address our Legislature' that appeared to generate none of the violence feared by some state leaders. Many demonstrators, opposed to proposed gun restrictions, openly displayed military-style semiautomatic rifles. Other[s] wore orange 'Guns save lives' stickers as the crowd chanted “USA” and sang the national anthem. Signs read 'Come and take it' and 'Second Amendment Sanctuary.'

"But despite warnings from Gov. Ralph Northam and law enforcement that out-of-state hate groups and militias may incite violence, the protest did not grow heated. Police estimated the size of the crowd at 22,000 – including 6,000 people inside Capitol Square – and only one arrest was reported ... [on] one felony count of wearing a mask in public.... Earlier, a heavy police presence greeted rally goers calmly lining up to enter the state Capitol, where they had to pass through a security checkpoint.

"Northam declared a state of emergency Friday through Tuesday, banning all weapons, including firearms, in the square around the Capitol building. He said law enforcement received 'credible' threats of violence from out-of-state hate groups and militias.....On Monday, law enforcement helicopters buzzed overhead as state, city and Capitol police kept a wary eye on the crowds. Barricades lined the streets and many shops were closed....

"The day was planned as a 'lobby day' by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, which has organized similar events to advocate for gun rights for years. A mass movement grew out of the scheduled protest this year, however....

"Driving the momentum behind the Richmond rally was a host of new gun-control measures backed by Northam and Democrats, who flipped both houses of the General Assembly and have full control of state government for the first time since 1993. Democrats proposed limiting handgun purchases to one a month, universal background checks on gun sales, allowing localities to ban guns in some public areas and a 'red flag' bill that would allow authorities to temporarily take guns away from anyone deemed to be dangerous to themselves or others. Other proposals include rules around reporting lost or stolen firearms and a ban on 'assault firearms,' though some moderate Democrats have expressed concerns over that bill."

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Monday, January 20, 2020

OR Congressman endorses psilocybin initiative

Congressman Backs Ballot Measure To Legalize Psychedelic Mushrooms For Therapeutic Use | Marijuana Moment- Kyle Jaeger

January 16, 2020 - "One of the leading champions of cannabis reform in the Congress told Marijuana Moment in an interview that he’s supporting a campaign seeking to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for therapeutic use in his home state of Oregon. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who has spent decades advocating for the legalization of marijuana, said he’s in favor of the proposed Psilocybin Services Act, which would allow adults to visit licensed facilities to have the psychedelic administered in a medically supervised environment.

“'I have been involved with them,' the congressman said, on Tuesday referring to the Oregon Psilocybin Society (OPS). 'We are focused like a laser on the cannabis progress, but I’ve been in touch with the people in Oregon about their initiatives. I plan on being supportive.' While Blumenauer said he 'can’t undertake any more sort of leadership responsibilities' ... he said he 'will be open and visible and supportive' in the effort to legalize psilocybin for use in therapy.

"If the campaign, which is currently in the signature gathering process, is successful and makes it on the state’s November ballot, the congressman said he will 'absolutely' vote for it. 'Not just a "yes" vote, but I will make clear why I support it,' he said....

"Blumenauer did vote in favor of a modest psychedelic reform amendment on the House floor filed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), which was aimed at freeing up research into the restricted Schedule I substances. That measure was ultimately rejected by the Democratic-controlled House last year, but the congresswoman said she plans to reintroduce it.

"David Bronner, whose company Dr. Bronner’s is contributing to several campaigns working to decriminalize or legalize a wide range of entheogenic substances, told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview on Thursday.... 'His endorsement carries a lot of weight just because of his stature and long service in Congress. I think it’s pretty awesome and hopefully that’ll be an example and inspiration to follow'....

"Since Denver became the first city to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms last year, followed by a unanimous Oakland City Council vote to make a broad array of psychedelics among the city’s lowest law enforcement priorities, activists in about 100 cities across the country have begun to pursue similar policies."

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Sunday, January 19, 2020

Vince Vaughn Trumps up a tweetstorm

Last of the Hollywood libertarians: why the outrage over Vince Vaughn's handshake with Trump?- The Telegraph [UK]:

January 14, 2019 - "On Monday night, Twitter was sent a-flutter after photographs and video footage showed [film actor Vince] Vaughn enthusiastically catching up with President Trump and the First Lady at a college football game in New Orleans. Vaughn was spotted shaking hands and briefly sitting next to the Trumps to engage in an animated conversation, before carrying on with his evening.

"When video taken by US journalist Timothy Burke made its way to Twitter, with the caption, 'I'm very sorry to have to share this video with you. All of it, every part of it', it swiftly gained thousands of views and such a polarised response it was difficult to know who was serious, who was mocking, and which side of the spectrum those involved occupied....

"But those shocked by Vaughn's enthusiasm for Trump might be even more alarmed to discover that this is only the latest example of the actor expressing his right-wing views. Vaughn's ascent in Hollywood was always matched with an increase in volume from the actor about his political opinions – a rarity in the entertainment industry, where stars tend to keep such matters brushed under the carpet and those that do speak tend to veer to the left.

"[I]n 2004, [Vaughn] was shut out of a conference for young Republicans in Washington DC, ... while filming Wedding Crashers ... [b]ecause the gatekeepers weren't convinced that Vaughn was actually a Republican, and was trying to come in for a joke....

"[O]ver the next decade ... Vaughn developed a budding friendship with presidential candidate Ron Paul.... They attended barbecues together and bonded over libertarian views, with Paul's campaign chairman describing Vaughn as 'a great guy who loves liberty'. In 2009, the politician was invited to the premiere of Vaughn's film Couples Retreat. By 2011, Vaughn was officially campaigning for him....

"[Following] Paul's 2012 presidential campaign, Vaughn pivoted back to media, where he buddied up with Fox News commentator Glenn Beck ... to co-produce The Pursuit of Truth, a reality television series. A kind of X Factor for documentary makers ... [it] aired on Beck's own television network, The Blaze, in 2013 and lasted just one season.

"In 2015 [Vaughn] told Playboy that he preferred taxation the way it was before 1913, 'when locally you had sales taxes and property taxes. That seems ethical to me.... the federal government looking into your books to decide what to take from you, that feels wrong.'

"Also in 2015, Vaughn took to the lectern while giving a keynote address at a Libertarian conference at UCLA to explain his approach to drug legalisation: 'If someone’s parents don’t have money they are going to go to prison and have a life wasted. If someone’s parents do have money, they go to rehab. You can’t really go after people that are committing real crimes – forceful crimes, violent crimes – because [courts AND prisons] are so inhabited with people that were using drugs.'

"Later that year Vaughn won the attention of the NRA after expressing his support for gun possession in a profile in GQ [Gentleman's Quarterly]....

"Vaughn's Trumpian handshake ... is one of the first headlines he's won in several years. Perhaps it's the start of a whole new eyebrow-raising phase of his career."

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Saturday, January 18, 2020

U.S. libertarians could be kingmakers in 2020

Primary Primers: How Libertarians could be the kingmakers of the 2020 presidential election | USAPP: - Olivier Lewis & Jeffrey Michels, London School of Economics US Centre:

November 15, 2019 - "Estimated to make up at least 10 percent of the population, libertarian-minded Americans have long posed an immense potential as swing voters.... Their political views – which are centred around the idea of personal autonomy – though now rather mainstream, have never fit cleanly in the programs of the two main parties.... But ... it is nearly impossible to speak of them as a bloc, most having been captured by a mainstream party and lacking their own through which to assert their public identity. But could this now be changing?

"Historically, the Republican Party (GOP) has monopolised the libertarian vote, mainly with its promise of fiscal conservatism. Amid growing aversion to post-war welfare programs championed by the Democratic Party, the GOP cobbled together an unlikely consensus uniting small-government libertarians with religious conservatives and foreign policy ‘hawks.’ This alliance seemed to offer libertarians more than going it alone with the Libertarian Party....,

"The libertarian alliance with conservatives weakened in the 2000s, with the Republican Party back in the White House.... In the 2006 midterms a significant number of libertarian voters allegedly voted for Democratic candidates....  But the rise of Barack Obama ... brought this dalliance with the Democratic Party to an end....

"[W]ithin the Republican Party ... Trump’s presidency is laying bare the Republican Party’s tenuous claim to represent libertarian values.... But with Democrats on the cusp of selecting a big-government candidate, libertarian voters are likely to keep their distance.....

"One option, of course, would be to vote for the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate. Indeed, the Libertarian Party has already been building momentum. In 2012, the party received more than 1 million votes for the first time. Four years later, with two former state governors on its ticket, the Libertarian Party obtained over 3 percent of the votes, the best result for a third-party contender in that election.

"For 2020, the Libertarian party is on its way to, once again, having its candidates on presidential ballots in every state, and holding a record number of presidential primaries.... Of course, the Libertarian Party candidate is unlikely to win... Some libertarians, however, sense a victory of a different type. Given how tight the last presidential race was, and that US voters increasingly identify as political independents (42 percent in 2017), the Libertarian Party could grow to become a swing party, acting as a gate-keeper to power....

"After decades of support, it will not be easy for even self-conscious libertarians to dislodge themselves from traditional party loyalties. This will be more difficult given the American media’s unwavering representation of party politics as having only two sides; though the Libertarian Party’s stance is far simpler than that of its larger competitors, it is hardly articulated in public discourse.... But for the elections to come, a change of tactic will likely be necessary – and it could prove consequential, if libertarians move as one."

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Friday, January 17, 2020

Cannabis legalization bill filed in New Mexico

New Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed After Governor Puts Issue On 2020 Agenda | Marijuana Moment - Kyle Jaeger:

January 16, 2020 - "One day after the governor of New Mexico formally included marijuana legalization in her 2020 legislative agenda, lawmakers have filed a comprehensive reform bill that would accomplish that goal.

"The legislation, introduced by Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino (D) and Rep. Javier Martinez (D), would allow adults in the state to possess and purchase cannabis from licensed retailers. It also includes a number of restorative justice and social equity provisions, such as automatically expunging prior marijuana possession convictions, promoting participation in the market by small and tribal-owned businesses and providing for microbusiness licenses.

"If the measure successfully moves through the legislature and arrives on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s (D) desk, New Mexico is all but certain to become the 12th state in the U.S. to legalize marijuana, as lawmakers are convening for a short, 30-day session that starts on January 21.

"While home growing would not be legally permitted under the bill, its provisions would decriminalize the activity by making cultivation of up to three plants and six seedlings punishable by a $50 fine without the threat of jail time. Anything more than that amount would be considered a fourth degree felony....

"There are other unique provisions of the legislation. For example, it would eliminate the gross receipts tax for medical cannabis sales, mandate that recreational dispensaries service registered patients and create a subsidy program for low-income patients to access marijuana.... The 173-page bill contains a number of other regulations ... including strict advertising rules and labeling and packaging requirements. A nine percent excise tax would be imposed on recreational cannabis sales....

"The governor ran on legalizing cannabis in 2018, but while reform legislation did pass the full House of Representatives as well as a Senate committee, it ultimately stalled. Lujan Grisham later formed a working group to study the issue and make recommendations, and that panel released a report in October stating that legalization legislation should include automatic expungements and provisions to promote equity in the industry. The group also commissioned a poll that came out last month showing that 75 percent of New Mexicans are in favor of legalization."

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Thursday, January 16, 2020

Heinlein fans launch libertarianism into space

Forget Earth: In Space, Libertarian Ideas Are Thriving | WIRED -Sarah Scoles:

December 12, 2019 - "You may have heard the phrase 'There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch'.... Its acronym — TANSTAAFL — pops up in subreddits ... sweatshirts ... and as a nerdy economics rap on YouTube. Also: For the first eight years of the Libertarian Party’s existence, TANSTAAFL was its official slogan. So it may come as a surprise that this oh-so-political meal owes much of its popularity to a single book, about an anti-state revolution ... on the moon.

"Written by sci-fi luminary Robert Heinlein, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is a libertarian manifesto baked into a novel. Heinlein infused his works with recurring sociopolitical themes, among them 'the importance of individual liberty and self-reliance,' as a sci-fi writers' society that anointed him its first Grand Master wrote. His interest in personal autonomy and private space exploration later seeped into the writing of other sci-fi authors, and into the minds of their readers—in particular, the leading figures in the commercial 'NewSpace' sector of private companies trying to escape Earth's surface.

“'The predominantly libertarian people who work in the free space movement almost universally cite Heinlein as their principal inspiration,' wrote engineer Robert G. Kennedy III.... Some of Heinlein's fans are, in fact, the biggest names in the commercial space industry. Take two of the (three total) people who've won the Heinlein Prize, a $500,000 award for accomplishments in the commercial space business: Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. Bezos, who has faced speculation about his hypothetical libertarianism and whose gargantuan store certainly ducks taxes and regulation, has said he spent his childhood summers reading Heinlein.

"Musk, meanwhile, has called himself both moderate and 'somewhat libertarian.' He wants his Mars outpost to have a direct democracy where it’s harder to make laws than delete them — a stance that leans libertarian. Musk too has labeled The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress one of his inspirations....

"For today's billionaire space set, though, ... NewSpace companies are pretty much regular old government contractors in new-brand clothing. They run on defense department and NASA contracts; they rely on federal perks. 'Taxpayer dollars often sustain these mythically self-made entrepreneurs,' says scholar Victor Shammas... 'The state,' he continues, 'is NewSpace’s biggest customer.”

"Yet assuming these companies succeed, their leaders may well place a philosophical stamp on any space outposts that emerge. One day, when your grandkids or friend's kids' kids are riding their hover-scooters around Mars Township B2, they could be living out aspects of Heinlein's libertarian dream."

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