Saturday, November 30, 2019

Destroying the environment for clean energy

The dirty business of clean power | National Post - Sarah Cox:

May 14, 2019 - This year’s nominees for the Writers’ Trust Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing [include] Journalist Sarah Cox [who] takes on the dirty business of clean power in Breaching the Peace: The Site C Dam and a Valley’s Stand against Big Hydro.

SC: "Large hydro dams are a hugely expensive and destructive way to generate renewable energy. They are neither 'green' nor environmentally friendly.... Among other impacts, the Site C dam will destroy habitat for more than 100 species already vulnerable to extinction, including bird, plant, butterfly, bee and mammal species. The Site C dam and its reservoir will also eliminate some of Canada’s richest farmland, ancient wetlands called tufa seeps, old-growth boreal forests and a living laboratory for scientists to study how species adapt to climate change.... As many as 30,000 songbirds and woodpeckers nest in the dam’s future flood zone....

"Just how 'clean' big hydro dams really are is called into question by many scientists. One study by U.S. scientists shows that reservoirs produce considerably more carbon emissions than anticipated. About 80 per cent of these emissions are in the form of methane, a greenhouse gas 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide....

"[T]here was a concerted lobby by construction trades unions to continue the Site C dam. The same unions donated generously to the NDP — to the tune of many hundreds of thousands of dollars — and they continue to form a key part of the party’s labour base. The unions directly lobbied the NDP government and held well-attended press conferences in Vancouver and Victoria to champion continued Site C construction....

"[T]he independent B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC) would normally have examined the Site C dam to determine whether or not the project was in the public interest. The watchdog commission rejected the project in the 1980s.... B.C.’s Liberal government ... changed the law in 2010 to strip the commission’s oversight of Site C. When the NDP came to power in 2017, it ... sen[t] the project to the BCUC.... But, notably, it didn’t allow the BCUC to determine whether or not proceeding with Site C was in the public interest and the BCUC wasn’t given the most up-to-date financial information for the project....

"Two Treaty 8 First Nations have filed civil claims alleging the Site C dam and two previous dams on the Peace River unjustifiably infringe on their treaty rights.... Already, BC Hydro contractors are clearcutting 13 areas in the Site C project zone that the nations have identified as critical to maintaining cultural practices guaranteed to them in the treaty signed in 1899. Three of those areas fall within a corridor for a transmission line that cuts through ... two wetlands — Sucker Lake and Trappers Lake — where First Nations have hunted moose and trapped for millennia....

"It made financial sense to build large hydro dams in Canada in the 1960s and 1970s when there were fewer renewable energy options available and they were far more expensive. But ... Canada’s publicly owned energy corporations are largely stuck in an old model and haven’t kept up with the times. Plummeting prices for wind energy and other renewables, coupled with the abundance of shale gas, mean that power from expensive new hydro dams can’t be sold for anything close to what it will cost to produce it. So, in addition to their devastating impacts on the environment and Indigenous peoples, large Canadian dams are no longer economical....

"Ultimately, provincial ratepayers will suffer, or taxpayers — they are largely the same people. B.C.’s NDP government just bailed out the deeply indebted BC Hydro for more than $1 billion, for example, and that’s even before many more billions in Site C costs come due."

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Friday, November 29, 2019

Hong Kong opposition wins election landslide

Pro-Democracy Candidates Win Landslide Victory in Hong Kong Election - Liberty Nation - Onar Åm:

November 26, 2019 - "The 2019 district council election in Hong Kong gave a landslide victory to the pro-democracy camp and is widely interpreted as an unofficial referendum on the Chinese Communist Party’s interference in the governance of the former British colony.

"A record-breaking 71% of voters cast their ballots in the election. Of the 452 contested seats, pro-democratic candidates won 385, collecting more than 85% of the votes.... Candidates who support the protesters, now in their sixth month of activism, won 17 out of 18 districts. The people of Hong Kong could hardly send a more explicit message to the government.

"Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing Chief Executive Carrie Lam expressed that she 'respected the results' and ... promised that the government would 'humbly and seriously reflect' on the election result.

"Despite the landslide victory, the election will not directly impact the selection of the government. Even with the infusion of district council members who can vote on the selection of Hong Kong’s chief executive, the pro-democracy camp likely does not hold a majority, although it is close. If some of the business representatives who align with Beijing for strategic reasons should choose to defect, the next leader of Hong Kong could represent the people.

"That is unlikely, but the election has not been for naught. The protesters now officially know that most people in Hong Kong are on their side, which lends them credence in the international community. Consequently, Western countries are more likely to voice official support to the protesters as a legitimate movement backed democratically by the people.

"Although the road to independence may be long and arduous for Hong Kong, this election has enormously boosted morale and confidence in the pro-democracy movement.

"Sometimes the most significant part of an event is what doesn’t happen. During the six months of turbulence in Hong Kong, Beijing has stayed out officially and left the task of cleaning up to Lam and her administration. For China, this is unusually restrained. The mainland government rarely hesitates to use extreme force against open opposition. This self-imposed restraint in Hong Kong is a sign of weakness, vulnerability, and deep structural problems. It reflects China’s fundamental dependence on access to the global market, especially the West. Many parties who want to do business with China strongly prefer to go through Hong Kong, which has a long tradition of the rule of law, orderly conduct, civility, and good business practices.

"Hong Kong can survive well without China, but the converse is not true. Beijing’s rule is built on a house of cards, and the Chinese government avoids shaking the box lest the unstable construction should fall. While that may not secure freedom for Hong Kong, it could buy residents more bargaining chips in the struggle for autonomy."

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Thursday, November 28, 2019

House committee passes cannabis legalization bill

MORE Act: Step Toward Decriminalizing Marijuana - Robert M. Kline (McDermott Will & Emery), National Law Review:

November 25, 2019 - "For the first time in American history, a congressional committee approved a marijuana legalization bill. On November 20, 2019, after more than two hours of debate, the House Judiciary Committee approved the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019 (H.R. 3884) in a 24 to 10 vote. If the MORE Act becomes law, it would effectively end the federal prohibition of cannabis in the United States.

"Currently, marijuana remains a Schedule I drug, alongside heroin and LSD, under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I drugs are those that the federal government considers to have no proven or acceptable medical use and a high abuse potential. The MORE Act, if passed into law, would remove marijuana from Schedule I....

"Under current federal law, doctors at the VA can discuss marijuana use with patients, but they cannot recommend it, even in states where marijuana is legal under local law.... Medical marijuana, prescribed by physicians, is legal in 33 states. But veterans can lose all VA benefits if they are found to be using cannabis, even if lawfully prescribed by a physician outside the VA....

"[T]he MORE Act also would require federal courts to expunge certain convictions for marijuana offenses, and ... create a Cannabis Justice Office focused on reinvesting resources into communities that have been disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition. A 5% tax imposed on the sale of legal cannabis products would cover the costs of the initiative, which would provide job training, legal assistance and treatment for substance abuse in communities most impacted by the war on drugs. If enacted, the law also would ... allow the Small Business Administration to issue loans and grants to marijuana-related businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.

"Although the bill received votes from two Republicans, ... the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Doug Collins (R-GA), said that the bill 'is nearly devoid of bipartisan support'.... Many Republicans in Congress recognize that federal marijuana laws much change, but they believe that the MORE Act is too aggressive....

"[T]he MORE Act still faces significant hurdles.... The bill has been referred to seven other House committees, each of which could influence the debate. Moreover, even if the bill passes the Democratic-controlled House, it is unlikely to be considered in the Senate."

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Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Privatized toll highway 407 benefits all Toronto

Why Toronto needs more toll highways like the 407 | The Toronto Star - Peter Shawn Taylor:

November 18, 2019 - "Highway 407 ETR ... Toronto’s east-west toll highway is the road everyone loves to hate. Some critics say it’s robbing taxpayers blind, others accuse it of causing congestion across the GTA. Both views are nonsense. Rather all Torontonians should celebrate its mere existence. Whether you pay the tolls or not – and even if you don’t drive at all − everyone benefits from this freeway that isn’t free.

"A few months ago the road’s owners, which include majority stakeholder Canada Pension Plan, released a report from the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis (CCEA) totalling up its wide-ranging impact. The highway boasts an average 413,000 trips every weekday, a substantial chunk of daily commuter traffic. (More trips than GO Transit.) And these trips are smooth and fast. During peak hours, 85 per cent of vehicles on the 407 ETR are travelling at or above 100 km/h. By comparison, 85 per cent of drivers on the equivalent portions of the 401, are going below 50 km/h at the same time.

"The toll road is also substantially safer than the alternatives. The 407 ETR’s annual collision rate is less than 0.30 accidents per million vehicle kilometres travelled; on other freeways in Ontario the collision rate is nearly double that. The gap for fatal collisions is wider still.

"Because of its striking lack of congestion and accident delays, the CCEA study estimates Highway 407 ETR users save a cumulative 22.7 million hours every year, as compared to driving on roads as congested as an un-tolled GTA freeway ... equivalent to more than 12,000 full-time jobs. If we add in the effect on businesses of employees travelling during the workday, the time savings grow by another 7.7 million hours per year, or a further 3,700 full-time jobs.

"These effects are real and tangible, and have an immediate impact on families and employers. They cannot be ignored or waved away as part of any ideological crusade. While many transit or cycling advocates either tacitly or explicitly argue in favour of greater road congestion in order to push drivers out of their cars and into more-virtuous modes of transportation, such an argument crumbles on the basis of economic efficiency.

"A Metrolinx estimate once put the cost of congestion in the GTA at $3.3 billion per year in lost time and environmental impacts. The 407 ETR is a practical, on-going response to those costs....

"It is true only drivers willing or able to pay the tolls can reap these direct benefits. But by capturing a significant share of traffic volume, the road has a beneficial spillover impact on all the other public thoroughfares. In the absence of the 407 ETR, congestion everywhere in the GTA would be much worse. Plus, these time savings provide society-wide benefits in terms of lower greenhouse gas emissions and, due to reduced collision rates, lower health care expenses as well. So even folks not using the road should feel thankful.

"And let’s be clear: the benefits arising from this highway are as a direct result of its tolls. Invent a new social obligation for the CPP to provide cheap travel for Torontonians by dramatically reducing fees, as some toll-road detractors do, and these advantages disappear. Plus, this would fatally undermine the pension plan’s higher-level duty to professionally manage its contributors’ money."

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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

5 running for UK Libertarians in 2019

General election 19: Sevenoaks voters have unique opportunity to vote for Libertarian candidate Sean Finch - - Alan Smith:

November 16, 2019 - "Voters in Sevenoaks have an opportunity in this General Election that no other voters in Kent have. They can vote for a Libertarian Party Candidate.

"The Libertarian Party (LP) of the United Kingdom is relatively new - it was founded in 2008 and has just 1,000 members across the country, but its supporters look for inspiration to America where the Libertarian Party is the third largest party after the Republicans and Democrats. LP UK is fielding five candidates in the election on December 12 and one of them, Sean Finch, will be standing in Sevenoaks.

"Mr Finch, 32, lives within the constituency, in Swanley. He was born and brought up in Lewisham, but moved to Sevenoaks 10 years ago to take up the opportunity of becoming a retained fire-fighter. He works as a postman and is single. He said he has a strong sense of civic duty and has previously served in the Territorial Army and as a volunteer with St John Ambulance.

"He said he had always been interested in politics and in his youth joined the Green Party attracted by their environmental ethics. He left because they 'swung too far to the left.' Prior to the referendum, he was a member of the Liberal Democrats ... but he left after the referendum result. He said: 'It was immediately apparent that the Lib Dems were not going to accept the result - they are not actually democrats.'

"The Libertarian Party stands on the principles of reducing the role of the state to one of protecting [the] individual's rights, reducing the burden of taxation and devolving decisions as close to the people whom they affect as possible – and it wants to see those principles enshrined in a written constitution for the United Kingdom.

"Mr Finch will be chiefly be campaigning in favour of Brexit. He said the country needed to honour the will of the people.... He previously contested council seats in Orpington and Swanley and also contested the Lewisham By-election in 2018 ... where he came 11th in a field of 14 candidates.

"The Libertarian Party leader Adam Brown said: 'We have seen from the last three years that our political system which so far has existed on a form of gentlemen’s agreement, is not fit for purpose. We have a Parliament that is more unwilling than ever to honour the manifesto promises of its members. The time is right therefore for a written constitution which secures the rights of individuals and holds politicians to account.'”

"You can contact Mr Finch on For more information click here."

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Monday, November 25, 2019

PATRIOT Act extension buried in funding bill

Why the Hell Did Democrats Just Extend the Patriot Act? | The New Republic - Sam Adler-Bell:

November 20, 2019 - "Tuesday ... the House of Representatives voted to fund the government through December 20 ... to prevent a government shutdown and forestall a debate about border-wall funding.... Democratic leaders had slipped something else into the bill: a three-month extension of the Patriot Act, the post-9/11 law that gave the federal government sweeping surveillance and search powers and circumvented traditional law-enforcement rules.  Key provisions of the Patriot Act were set to expire on December 15, including Section 215, the legal underpinning of the call detail records program exposed in the very first Edward Snowden leak.

"'It’s surreal,' Representative Justin Amash told me on Tuesday, just before the vote. Amash, an independent who left the Republican Party over his opposition to President Trump, pointed to the hypocrisy on both sides of the aisle. Republicans have 'decried FISA abuse' against the president and his aides, he said, referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, 'and Democrats have highlighted Trump’s abuse of his executive powers, yet they’re teaming up to extend the administration’s authority to warrantlessly gather data on Americans.'

"By tucking the measure into a must-pass bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi forced many members who oppose the Patriot Act to vote in favor of its extension.... Amash submitted an amendment to strip the Patriot Act language from the budget bill, but the amendment was blocked by Democrats on the Rules Committee.  Just 10 Democrats defied the leadership to vote against the resolution....

"There’s no other way to spin this,' a progressive staffer on the Hill told me. 'This was a major capitulation. The progressive caucus has touted itself as an organization that can wield power and leverage the votes of its 90 members. And they didn’t lift a finger. Democratic leadership rammed this down their throats.'"
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Trump signs temporary spending bill, punting government-shutdown risks to just before Christmas | Markets Insider - Gina Heeb:
November 21, 2019 - "President Donald Trump on Thursday approved a measure that would stave off the threat of a government shutdown until just days before Christmas.... The short-term spending bill, known as a continuing resolution, was signed into law just hours before a critical midnight deadline. Federal funding was scheduled to expire after that point, and several federal agencies would have been forced to shutter. But it will keep the government running only until December 20....

"Border-funding issues were avoided in [the] stopgap measure signed on Thursday, but other major provisions were tucked in. The legislation reauthorizes parts of the Patriot Act through March, raises the pay for members of the military by about 3%, and increases the Commerce Department budget ahead of the 2020 census.... The Senate passed the continuing resolution 74-20 earlier on Thursday."

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Sunday, November 24, 2019

Hong Kong protesters driven by desperation

Hong Kong Protests: Inside the Chaos - The Atlantic - Zeynep Tufecki:

November 12, 2019 - "For months now, I’ve been told that Hong Kong’s protests would end soon. They’ll end when school starts, I heard during the summer.... Next, the mask ban of early October was supposed to slow protesters down, but the very first day after that ban, I watched streams of protesters in masks and helmets.... The government shut down many of the subway lines that day, a practice that has become a de facto curfew, because Hong Kong’s über-efficient subway system is the way most people get around. No matter; the protesters ended up walking....

"One of the most popular chants in Hong Kong is 'Five demands, not one less.' These include the full withdrawal of the anti-extradition bill, which originally sparked the protests in June; an independent commission to investigate police misconduct; retracting the riot charges against protesters; amnesty for arrested protesters; and, crucially, universal suffrage.

"Nothing animates the Hong Kongers I’ve been talking with as much as that final demand. Yesterday, the police shot one protester in the stomach at point-blank range, and another police officer drove into the protesters with his motorcycle.... Later in the day, Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam ... called the protesters the 'enemy of the people.' She was voted into office by 777 people from the 1,200-person 'Election Committee,' many of whose members are businesspeople with close ties to mainland China..... Polls in October showed her popularity around 22 percent, with just over one in 10 Hong Kongers saying that they would vote for her voluntarily. No wonder the protesters want the right to elect their own leaders....

"Some surveys suggest that more than 80 percent of the people of Hong Kong may have been exposed to tear gas.... Some neighborhoods close to protest sites have been so repeatedly drowned in the noxious clouds that the protesters held a rally on behalf of their pets.... Almost every protest results in videos of protesters being beaten by the police. Many are live-streamed, to horrified viewers.... Fearful accounts are coming out of the police stations, alleging torture, sexual assault, and rape....

"Many protesters believe that people were killed by the police on the night of August 31 in Prince Edward station, when the police shut down the subway station with protesters trapped inside. Videos emerged of young people cowering on the floor, as they were pepper-sprayed from a close distance and beaten. Medics weren’t allowed in.... Almost every night now, protesters show up at the entrance of the subway at Prince Edward, right next to the Mong Kok police station.... They shout slogans and obscenities at the police. Often they get tear gas and rubber bullets in return....

"Hong Kong’s government, backed by mainland China, ... seems to have decided that the best way to reestablish control is to crack down even more. Meanwhile, about half of Hong Kongers say that, on a scale of zero to 10, they would rate their trust in the police at zero....

"Last week ...I chatted with two young women, of the many thousands of people who had shown up, right before the police teargassed the [Victoria] park.... This is our last chance, they said very matter-of-factly. If we stand down, nothing will stand between us and mainland China, they said. They talked about Xinjiang, and what China had done to the Uighur minority. I’ve heard about the fate of the Uighurs from so many protesters over the months. China may have wanted to make an example out of the region, but the lesson Hong Kongers took was in the other direction — resist with all your might, because if you lose once, there will be a catastrophe for your people, and the world will ignore it.

"The two women weren’t sure whether they would win.... 'But we cannot give up,' one insisted, 'because if we do, there will be no future for us anyway. We might as well go down fighting.'”

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Saturday, November 23, 2019

Humanitarian aid groups turning to blockchain

PolloPollo: The crypto project putting chicken back on the table in Venezuela - Decrypt - Adriana Hamacher:

November 9, 2019 - "In a TV broadcast last month, Venezuelan President Maduro suggested installing hen coops in classrooms to feed the country’s starving children. It’s a measure of the enduring humanitarian crisis that he’s persistently insisted does not exist. And this stance, say aid workers, makes it impossible for international agencies, like UNICEF and the World Food Programme, to airlift and distribute the supplies that Venezuelans so desperately need....

"But a new initiative, PolloPollo, is hoping to put poultry, and other groceries back on the table once again. PolloPollo is using blockchain to deliver on its promise, but also to address questions of transparency and accountability that have been levied against other donation programs....

"It’s not the only one. Further afield, the World Food Programme has also been using DLT [distributed ledger technology] to distribute aid to those who need it most since early last year, and is now both expanding the ground it covers and improving on the technology....

"Casper Niebe, PolloPollo’s founder, told Decrypt [that aid] recipients don’t even need a smartphone. They simply have to register on the platform’s website, and post a request.... When a third party responds to the request and makes a donation on the platform, the person requesting food gets a text message or an email. They then pick up and digitally sign for their supplies from a food retailer or producer nearby. The shop or farm then receives payment for the produce in 'bytes,' the cryptocurrency of the Obyte platform PolloPollo is built on. The final step is when an Obyte representative visits the supplier and converts the cryptocurrency into Venezuelan Bolivars, or another crypto.

"Niebe said that the project was born out of his frustration at the lack of transparency in current aid distribution platforms. Transaction fees and costs eat up around 3.5 percent of the average donation, according to estimates, and former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned that up to 30 percent of development funds are lost to corruption.... Niebe believes PolloPollo is a better solution, one that offers more accountability. With their digital signature, the aid recipients activate the smart contract that ensures suppliers are paid. And donors are notified via the PolloPollo platform.....

"Since early in 2018, the World Food Programme has been using blockchain to address the food shortages that dog the 106,000 refugees who have fled Syria, and set up temporary homes in Jordan’s camps. 'Currently, we’re exploring the foundational blockchain layer, rather than cryptocurrency,' Houman Haddad, the UN executive behind the project, told Decrypt.

"His initiative, Building Blocks, provides food vouchers for the refugees to redeem in local stores. It uses a 'permissioned' or private version of the Ethereum blockchain, together with iris scanning technology, to manage the data underpinning the delivery of the vouchers. To buy food, a recipient need only go to a participating supermarket, where their iris is scanned and the price of the food they need is deducted from the family’s account....

"Instead of furnishing refugees with crypto, Haddad’s dream is to roll out a more decentralized version of Building Blocks; one that all 40 of the organizations assisting people in the camps can use.... Meanwhile, Building Blocks is expanding to Bangladesh and rolling out a blockchain that Haddad hopes will — eventually — service more than 800,000 Rohinga refugees."

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Friday, November 22, 2019

Chafee joins Libertarian Party as life member

Lincoln Chafee dances around question of presidential run | WJAR 10, Bill Rappleye:

November 20, 2019 - "Lincoln Chafee took to Rhode Island airwaves Wednesday morning to tout his new political party -- Libertarian -- and dance around the question of whether he will run for president.

"The former mayor, senator and governor registered to vote as a Libertarian in his new home state of Wyoming, and also attended the Libertarian National Committee meeting in Miami last weekend, where he became a lifetime member of the party, according to his posting on a new Facebook page titled "Virginia for Lincoln Chafee 2020."

"Wednesday morning on WPRO, Chafee told host Tara Granahan that the Libertarian Party is a good fit for him, because it is 'anti-war and anti-deficit. The two go together.'

"He would not commit to running for president, noting that there are 43 Libertarians who have said they are running. He said the party’s national convention is not until May, in Austin, Texas."

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Thursday, November 21, 2019

Why there are still US troops in Syria

The story behind Donald Trump’s fake withdrawal from Syria | The SpectatorJohn R. Bradley:

November 2, 2019 - "Last week, American troops and dozens of tanks and armoured vehicles moved to occupy oil fields in Syria. The escalation came just half an hour after Trump had tweeted that all US soldiers had left the country and would be coming home. As so often, the President says one thing, then orders the military to do the other. On Twitter, Trump is ending the endless wars. In the real world, he is perpetuating them.

"Trump’s focus is not really Syria, of course. It is the presidential election next year, and his precious voter base. But he can’t seem to decide if his supporters are peaceniks or bloodthirsty chauvinists. His problem is that they are both and neither. He’s beginning to learn that the relationship between foreign policy and domestic politics is more complicated than perhaps he realised.

"The most important group in Trump’s base are white evangelical Christians. In 2016, evangelicals rallied behind Trump in greater numbers — he took a staggering 82 per cent of their votes — than they had for any candidate since Nixon.... His trouble, however, is that he needs even higher levels of the evangelicals’ support to have any chance of being re-elected. In three crucial mid-western states where there are large evangelical populations, he won by just 70,000 votes. And his poll numbers there are down, so if there is even a 1 per cent drop in the evangelical support he is toast....

"Evangelical leaders condemned his pulling the troops out.... Trump took dozens of phone calls from .... evangelical activists, while Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, evangelical Christians themselves, met with numerous church congregations to try to pacify them. Hours later, Trump made the shock decision to send troops back to Syria.

"Trump’s other great miscalculation in Syria was to underestimate ... the neocons.... With the threat of impeachment hanging over his head, Trump cannot afford to alienate hawks such as Senator Lindsey Graham. Graham ... visited Trump in the White House to show him a map of where the oil fields are in Syria. (For all his boasting about American energy independence, Trump is preoccupied with the idea of seizing Middle Eastern oil.) Within hours of Trump agreeing to seize them, Graham gave his first major public appearance unequivocally denouncing impeachment proceedings....

"The US generals will be over the moon that Graham forced the U-turn in Syria. From the moment he entered the White House, Trump’s inexperience in international affairs meant he had to rely on men in uniform to guide him.... [T]he US annual defence budget is at least $1 trillion (and growing), and there is no group more determined to keep the wars alive (and the money flowing) than the military top brass. The build-up announcements in Syria and in Saudi Arabia in September — which also undermined Trump’s initial promises of de-escalation — following an attack on the kingdom’s oil facilities blamed on Iran came not from the White House but the Pentagon. Last year, the same was true when thousands more troops were sent to Afghanistan, again just days after Trump announced that he was going to withdraw all of those already there. Thus Trump defers to generals and men in uniform.....That he has not completely caved in to the top brass — Trump is the first US president in two decades, we should remember, not to have started a new war — is at least something to his credit.

"At the same time, it is now clear that Trump is not the president that anti-war types hoped he might be. And the reason is that perpetuating wars (while pretending to end them) is the least risky path for him to take electorally.... The reason Trump was put off war with Iran was less to do with a public backlash and more because he was persuaded that it might well mean losing votes. Trump, like most Americans, likes winning and kicking ass. The warmongers now have him exactly where they want him."

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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Libertarian wins DA election in Broome co. NY

Board of Elections say Korchak wins race for Broome County DA after votes counted - WBNG:

November 19, 2019 - "Libertarian Michael Korchak has officially won the race for Broome County District Attorney. The Broome County Board of Elections spent Tuesday counting absentee and affidavit ballots.

"It came down to Korchak leading Republican opponent and local defense attorney, Paul Battisti, by 112 votes with 104 votes still to be counted. Democrat Debra Gelson trailed behind both of them. Cheers erupted throughout the Broome County Board of Elections Tuesday night, as supporters of Michael Korchak heard the results.

“'I feel very relieved,' said Korchak. 'It was a tough battle, but we knew it was going to be a tight race and come down to the absentees, and it came down to the final absentees actually, as well as the affidavit votes.'

"Korchak says he credits the success to his support from both the people working on his campaign and the voters. 'We really had a great team. There’s too many people to even mention, but it really was a group effort and I’m very, very happy to continue to serve Broome County as a prosecutor,' said Korchak.

"Democratic opponent, Debra Gelson, says she was happy to see Korchak win.... However, Paul Battisti [is] demanding a recount....

"Battisti beat Korchak in the Republican primary by less than 200 votes. Korchak then made a surprise return as part of the Libertarian Party for the election."

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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

SC Libertarians call for Article V convention

South Carolina Libertarians, Republicans United In Supporting Convention Of States – FITSNews:

November 2, 2019 - "South Carolina Libertarians approved a resolution on Saturday ... at their annual state convention in Florence, S.C., calling on the GOP-controlled S.C. General Assembly to “join other states – including Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, North Dakota, Utah, Arizona and Alaska – in passing a resolution calling for an Article V convention of states.

"In urging state lawmakers to support 'constitutional amendments that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, and limit the terms of office for members of congress,' the Libertarian resolution specifically cited Article V legislation recently introduced at the S.C. State House (H. 3125 and S. 112).

"The resolution also stipulated that any Article V resolution approved by state lawmakers must be 'specifically restricted to addressing the aforesaid issues.”

"The GOP resolution – which passed the party’s state convention back in May – was similarly worded, calling for an Article V convention that was 'specifically limited to proposing amendments to the Constitution of the United States that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of congress'.....

"Critics of Article V legislation – including S.C. governor Henry McMaster ... claim there is no way to control the issues a constitutional convention may address, and have raised the specter that such a gathering could conceivably deprive Americans of their Second Amendment right to bear arms, among other essential liberties....

"Article V is the section of the U.S. Constitution which deals with amending our nation’s founding document.  An 'Article V Convention' is one of two methods by which changes to the Constitution can be proposed.  The other method is a two-thirds vote of the U.S. House and Senate....

"As of this writing, the convention of states method has never been engaged – but the concept is gaining momentum across the country. That is a map posted to the Convention of States Action website, which shows Article V legislation having been approved in fifteen states ..., having advanced through at least one legislative chamber in seven additional states and having been introduced for debate in another seventeen states (including South Carolina)....

"According to a January 2018 survey conducted by The Trafalgar Group, 44.2 percent of South Carolinians supported calling such a convention compared to 24.1 percent who opposed the idea.  The rest – 36.1 percent – were undecided. When asked whether they would support an Article V convention for proposing amendments that would address term limits and a balanced budget, though, support for Article V shot up to 64.7 percent."

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Monday, November 18, 2019

Black Guns Matter founder quits Libertarian Party

Maj Toure exits the Libertarian Party in controversy after a failed bid for City Council | Clout - Chris Brennan and Andrew Seidman, Philadelphia Inquirer:

November 15, 2019 - "Maj Toure, the Libertarian Party candidate in last week’s election for a City Council at-large seat ... took less than half of 1% of the more than 1.3 million votes cast by 304,500 Philadelphians for 18 candidates in the race. Now Toure, 39, has broken up with the Libertarian Party, where he was seen as a rising star, thanks to his Second Amendment advocacy through 'Black Guns Matter,' a group he founded in 2016....

"Toure was scheduled to be the party’s keynote speaker at its national presidential nomination convention in Texas in May. That spotlight was revoked Wednesday after a political mess that started on and is still playing out across social media.

"Libertarian Party Chairman Nicholas Sarwark said Toure became 'more and more controversial' during his Council campaign and finally 'devolved into a lot of inappropriate name-calling' with a prospective donor to the party. Still, Sarwark said, he had hoped Toure would remain a Libertarian after joining the party last year.

"Daniel Hayes, the Libertarian official who revoked Toure’s invitation, praised his Second Amendment advocacy and donated to his Council campaign. Hayes pointed to tweets from Toure that were seen by some party members as transphobic and anti-immigrant. 'It’s social media silliness,' Hayes said of the furor after Toure was dumped.

"Toure has been knocking the Libertarian Party in his Twitter feed. But he declined to discuss the matter with Clout....

"Toure ... testified about gun violence in a Sept. 26 hearing of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. He addressed the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) in February. And he appeared in the Pennsylvania Capitol rotunda in May for a gun-rights rally hosted by State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, a Butler County Republican and one of the most conservative members of the state legislature."

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Sunday, November 17, 2019

Is LSD the mental-health wonder drug?

Can LSD help solve mental health issues? - CBS News - Faith Salie:

August 19, 2018 - "Ayelet Waldman is no stranger to drugs.... Diagnosed with a mood disorder, this author and mother of four had tried everything. 'I was profoundly, profoundly depressed, suicidally depressed,' she said. 'I had never been like that in my life.'

'That’s when she turned to ... LSD. In secret, Waldman ... began taking a miniscule amount every three days. It’s called microdosing, and it’s a controversial yet growing trend among the Silicon Valley crowd. But for her, she says, it worked. 'You don’t hallucinate; you don’t see anything unusual,' Waldman said. 'Best way I could describe it, a little more cheerful and a little more effective at work, like, a little more productive.'

"So productive, in fact, she wrote a book about her mind-altering experiment, A Really Good Day. And most importantly, her suicidal thoughts disappeared. But there was a catch: After a month, she ran out of the small supply she had gotten a hold of. And she stopped microdosing. Why? '‘Cause it’s illegal,' Waldman said. 'If it weren’t illegal, I would still be doing it.'

"Taking LSD, even a tiny microdose of it, is still against the law, and potentially dangerous. But once upon a time, LSD and psychedelics like it were considered potential wonder drugs. Throughout the 1940s, ’50s, and into the ’60s, scientists studied them to understand mental disorders like schizophrenia, and to treat anxiety, depression, even alcoholism.

"But when the drugs left the labs and started hitting the streets ... the bad trips and even worse headlines that followed changed their reputation. And then: the Controlled Substance Act led to a more than three decades-long ban on all psychedelic research. Since 2003, however, the FDA has allowed for a few clinical trials of illegal hallucinogens ... like psilocybin, the psychedelic ingredient found in so-called 'magic mushrooms'....

"Dr. Tony Bossis, of New York University  ... along with researchers at Johns Hopkins University, published their findings of what a one-time dose of psilocybin can do to treat anxiety and depression in cancer patients. It was eye-opening. 'In this study, anxiety and depression reduced dramatically, immediately after the experience,' he said.... 'This medicine you take once, it’s out of their system in a few hours. But it generates a three- to four-hour, incredible transcendent experience. And it’s the memory of that experience that recalibrates how they view life and death and their existence, and give you very spiritual insights.'

"If that all sounds a bit far-out, scans have shown psychedelics may increase connectivity among different regions of the brain — areas that normally don’t communicate with each other. 'Maybe it’s time to take a sober, careful, scientific look at these medicines,' Dr. Bossis said, 'to revisit, are they helpful? Are they safe? Are they effective?'

"With more clinical trials on the horizon, researchers hope to open more minds about the potential of psychedelic drugs, one trip at a time."

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Saturday, November 16, 2019

Russia uses pedophilia charges to silence critics

Russian Libertarian Party Head Is Latest Kremlin Critic To Face Pedophilia Accusations - Robert Coalson, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty:

November 8, 2019 - "Mikhail Svetov, the head of Russia's opposition Libertarian Party, has denied allegations by Moscow prosecutors that he engaged in 'immoral activities' with a minor, after he was questioned by investigators for about 12 hours beginning on November 6.... Svetov has now become one of many people at odds with local or federal authorities in Russia who have found themselves the target of child pornography or pedophilia allegations.

"Historian Yury Dmitriyev, who conducted ground-breaking research into Soviet crimes in the Karelia region under dictator Josef Stalin, was initially charged with taking 'pornographic' photographs of his foster daughter.... After he was acquitted of those charges, authorities soon rearrested him on more severe charges of child sexual assault. That case is still pending.

"In May, another Karelia historian, Sergei Koltyrin, was convicted of having sex with a minor and was sentenced to nine years in prison. Prior to his arrest in October 2018, Koltyrin told several people that he feared repercussions because of his opposition to government-backed efforts to 'prove' that Stalin-era executions in the Karelia region had actually been carried out by Finns....

"In April 2015, Soviet-era dissident Vladimir Bukovsky was charged in England over pornographic images of children found on his computer. He claimed at the time that he was the victim of a revenge plot by the Russian secret services.... The trial was suspended ... and the case was still pending when Bukovsky, who pleaded not guilty, died on October 27.

"In December 2017, French citizen Yoann Barbereau completed a harrowing escape from Russia, fleeing child-pornography and pedophilia charges in the Siberian city of Irkutsk.... He was arrested in February 2015 and spent 16 months under house arrest during his trial. In September 2016 .... he fled to Moscow and made his way to the French Embassy. He spent 14 months hiding in the embassy before setting off on foot to a Baltic country that he declined to name.

"In June 2015, Lithuanian police visited the home of Konstantin Rubakhin, a Russian environmental activist who was seeking political asylum in the country after being harassed and beaten in Russia. Police told him they were investigating allegations of child pornography, allegations that Rubakhin believed were planted by the Russian security services to thwart his asylum application. The authorities in Lithuania quickly dropped the case.

"In 2013, Russian opposition activist and blogger Rustem Adagamov fled Russia amid pedophilia allegations that he denied as 'insane.' The accusations were made by Adagamov's former wife in an interview with Russia's state-controlled RT television network.

"Raising suspicions that someone is a pedophile suits 'the Kremlin's line that human rights activists are all just degenerates,' Vytas Jurkonis, a Lithuanian human rights activist, told The New York Times in December 2016."

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Friday, November 15, 2019

New high: 67% of Americans want cannabis legal

Two-thirds of Americans support marijuana legalization | Pew Research Center:

November 14, 2019 - "Two-thirds of Americans say the use of marijuana should be legal, reflecting a steady increase over the past decade, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. The share of U.S. adults who oppose legalization has fallen from 52% in 2010 to 32% today....

"As in the past, there are wide partisan and generational differences in views of marijuana legalization. Nearly eight-in-ten Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (78%) say marijuana use should be legal. Republicans and Republican leaners are less supportive, with 55% in favor of legalization and 44% opposed.

"Majorities of Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1997), Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980) and Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) say the use of marijuana should be legal. Members of the Silent Generation (born between 1928 and 1945) continue to be the least supportive of legalization: Only 35% favor legalizing marijuana, while 64% are opposed. The generational divide in views of marijuana legalization exists within both party coalitions....

"In addition to asking respondents about whether marijuana use should be legal in general, the Center asked a separate group of respondents about legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use. Nearly six-in-ten Americans (59%) favor legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use, while another 32% say it should be legal for medical use only. Only 8% say it should not be legal.

"About two-thirds of Democrats (68%) say marijuana should be legal for both medical and recreational use, compared with 49% of Republicans. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say it should be legal just for medical purposes (38% vs. 28%) or that it should not be legal at all (12% vs. 4%).

"Younger adults are somewhat more likely than older adults to say that marijuana use should be legal for both medical and recreational use. About two-thirds (69%) of those ages 18 to 29 say it should be legal for both types of use, compared with 48% of those ages 65 and older. Most adults 65 and over nonetheless favor legalization in some form.

"The growth in public support for legal marijuana has come as a growing number of jurisdictions have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational purposes. Eleven states and the District of Columbia have legalized the drug for recreational purposes. Meanwhile, 33 states – plus the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands – have legalized the drug for medical purposes, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

"Marijuana remains illegal under U.S. federal law. However, several Democratic candidates for president have proposals to legalize or decriminalize marijuana use."

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Thursday, November 14, 2019

Buy flavored e-liquid, lose your car, MA bill says

Pending Ban on Flavored E-Cigarettes in Massachusetts Authorizes Forfeiture of Vapers’ Cars –

Novewmber 14, 2019 - "The Massachusetts House of Representatives yesterday approved a bill that would ban flavored e-cigarettes, impose a 75 percent excise tax on 'electronic nicotine delivery systems' (including e-liquids as well as devices), and authorize forfeiture of cars driven by vapers caught with 'untaxed' products. The House approved H4183 by a vote of 127 to 31, and the state Senate is expected to consider it next week.

"An 'emergency' ban that Gov. Charlie Baker (R) imposed on all vaping products in September will expire on December 24. This bill permanently bans 'flavored tobacco products,' including menthol cigarettes as well as vaping liquids that taste or smell like anything other than tobacco. It does not apply to hookah bars or marijuana vapes....

"Once their preferred flavors are no longer legally available, some ... vapers may go back to smoking, a far more dangerous habit, while others may buy potentially tainted pods or e-liquids on the black market. Or they might buy flavored e-liquids in states where they are still legal and bring them back to Massachusetts. But vapers who try to find ways around the ban should be aware of the potential penalties.,,,

"The bill says ... a police officer who 'discovers an untaxed electronic nicotine delivery system in the possession of a person who is not a licensed or commissioner-authorized electronic nicotine delivery system distributor' may seize both the product and the 'receptacle' in which it is found, 'including, but not limited to, a motor vehicle, boat or airplane in which the electronic nicotine delivery systems are contained or transported'....

"While both fines and asset forfeiture could be deployed against distributors of newly illicit vaping products, they apply to consumers as well.... [A] vaper is presumed to be in possession of 'an untaxed electronic nicotine delivery system,' which makes his car subject to forfeiture, unless he has receipts that prove otherwise. And in the case of newly illegal vaping products purchased out of state or on the black market, he will have no such proof.

"Under this bill, unapproved vaping products would be treated like illegal drugs, possession of which is enough to justify forfeiture of the vehicles in which they are found. Massachusetts is poised to deprive vapers of the harm-reducing products they used to quit smoking, then steal their cars if they dare to defy that unjust and irrational edict."

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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

21 US Libertarians elected locally in 2019

Minor Parties in US Make Gains in Local Elections | Voice of America - English - Durin Hendricks:

November 12, 2019 - "While Democrats and Republicans dominate U.S. political headlines, scores of smaller parties dot America's landscape and, at times, have a major impact on national, state and local elections.

"The 2016 elections saw several third parties attract their highest-ever presidential vote totals at a time when many Americans expressed dissatisfaction with both major party candidates. The Libertarian party, which advocates for lower spending and taxes, saw the biggest leap in support as presidential nominee Gary Johnson received 4.5 million votes, nearly triple his 2012 total....

"Small parties have capitalized on disaffection with the major parties. According to a 2018 Gallup Poll, 57 percent of Americans say a third party is needed because Democrats and Republicans do a 'poor job.'

"Earlier this month, the Libertarian Party notched victories in a string of local elections, as 21 Libertarian or Libertarian-endorsed candidates were elected to school boards, city councils, and mayorships across the country....

"Tipton, Indiana, a Republican stronghold, elected a Democratic Mayor and a Libertarian Party member to the city council last week. Libertarian Nate Kring beat the Republican incumbent who had been the city’s former mayor and long serving police chief.

"Kring began to identify as a Libertarian in 2016, dissatisfied by the Republican Party's embrace of Trump. On a local level, Kring complained the Tipton Republican Party was not transparent and that Republican elected officials were not enforc[ing] the city’s codes and were raising taxes. Kring said his biggest hurdle as a candidate was convincing people that voting for ... him did not mean they were joining the Libertarian Party or that a third party vote was a wasted vote.

"As a councilman, Kring sees himself as a problem solver, promising to fairly enforce city laws, collaborate with the county government to 'share services and save money' and make the municipal government more transparent. 'The county live streams meetings, but the city doesn't,' he said.

"Indiana has elected 28 Libertarian officials to public office since 1992. The 2019 elections saw Nate Kring and four other Libertarians elected or re-elected in the state."

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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Sanford suspends 2020 presidential campaign

Mark Sanford suspends 2020 presidential campaign - CNNPolitics:

November 12, 2019 - "Mark Sanford, the former South Carolina governor and congressman who two months ago launched a longshot primary challenge to President Donald Trump, suspended his candidacy Tuesday.

"'I am suspending my race for the Presidency because impeachment has made my goal of making the debt, deficit and spending issue a part of this presidential debate impossible right now,' Sanford said in a statement. 'From day one, I was fully aware of how hard it would be to elevate these issues with a sitting president of my own party ignoring them. Impeachment noise has moved what was hard to herculean as nearly everything in Republican Party politics is currently viewed through the prism of impeachment.'

"Sanford -- who emerged as a vocal Republican critic of the President before losing his congressional seat in a GOP primary contest last year -- made the announcement during a press conference at the New Hampshire statehouse....

"Sanford was one of three Republicans running to unseat Trump; former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld remain in the race. Unlike his rivals, however, Sanford focused his primary bid not on Trump's conduct in office but on his sharp policy turns from traditional conservative values, including a skyrocketing national debt on his watch. But Sanford's message failed to resonate with Republican and Independent voters looking for an alternative to Trump. On a cross-country road trip to promote his candidacy last month, Sanford drew only sparse crowds of curious onlookers, or none at all.

"Sanford and his fellow Republican challengers have also faced institutional roadblocks, with a number of state Republican parties deciding to forego their presidential primaries as a show of support for Trump. In one of those states, South Carolina, former Republican Rep. Bob Inglis has sued the state Republican Party to reinstate the presidential primary; that lawsuit is awaiting a decision."

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Monday, November 11, 2019

Maine LP sues over membership disenrollment

Libertarians sue Maine, saying enrollment thresholds 'suppress competition' | WGME - Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News:

November 7, 2019 - "The Libertarian Party of Maine is suing Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap in federal court over political party enrollment thresholds it says are impossible for new parties to maintain. State law requires new parties to enroll at least 5,000 members the year before a general election and to have at least 10,000 by the next general election.... Party members are unenrolled if that enrollment threshold isn’t met.

"The requirements are so burdensome that they 'severely burden the constitutional rights' of voters and prevent new political parties from gaining a foothold in the state, the Libertarians claim in a complaint filed Nov. 1....

'You can’t simply throw out one’s choice to belong to a political party,' said Jim Baines of Hampden, the Maine party chair and one of the plaintiffs, in a Wednesday press release. He went onto say the laws 'suppress competition' and prevent 'thousands of independent thinkers in Maine from considering a viable political option.'

"The party is asking the federal court to prevent Dunlap, a Democrat, from enforcing the state laws, allowing Libertarians to compete in state elections until the Legislature changes the law, according to the complaint....

"The state currently recognizes three political parties: Democrats, who have 347,281 voters Republicans, who have 287,045 voters and the Green Party, who have 43,507 voters, according to May registration data....

"The Libertarian Party ... gained official status in June of 2016 with 5,150 votes. The party lost its status by December 2018, when the party only had 6,168 voters. It has until Jan. 2 to get 5,000 enrollees, according to a Secretary of State press release.

"That deadline is too early for new parties to realistically meet, the Libertarian Party says, pointing to the financial and time commitment needed to enroll party members. Dunlap’s office declined comment on the lawsuit.

Rep. Justin Fecteau, R-Augusta, proposed a bill this year that would have cut the required enrollment numbers in half and put in place a 90-day warning period for party members if enrollment fell beneath that threshold before members were unenrolled, but the measure failed to pass the panel of legislative leaders that is able to approve bills for consideration in 2020."

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Sunday, November 10, 2019

Gabbard's poll numbers rise after Clinton smear

Tulsi Gabbard got a boost following Hillary Clinton's attacks on her - CNNPolitics - Harry Enten:

November 7, 2019 - "Hawaii Rep.Tulsi Gabbard appeared poised to be one of the many forgotten 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. That was until former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton decided to call her out on David Plouffe's podcast. After Clinton's attack on Gabbard -- calling her 'favorite of the Russians' -- the Hawaii Democrat's poll numbers rose, earning her a place on the November debate stage.

"Before the Democratic debate on October 15, Gabbard looked like she was going to miss November's debate. Candidates needed to hit at least 3% in four qualifying polls. Gabbard had never hit that 3% mark in any qualifying poll this entire year. Then Clinton's remarks came on October 17.

"Following Clinton's podcast appearance, Gabbard got a qualifying poll from Suffolk University Iowa poll that was taken partially before Clinton's comments and partially after. She then reached 5% in a CNN/University of New Hampshire poll conducted the following week. Over that same period, Suffolk gave Gabbard another qualifying poll. Finally, she earned 3% in a Quinnipiac University poll from Iowa this past week. Four qualifying polls means Gabbard is in the November debate....

"It is, of course, difficult to say with certainty that Clinton's remarks caused Gabbard to rise, but it's difficult to escape the likelihood given the polling data.... Among those who debated in October, [Gabbard] ranked lowest for the percentage of Democratic primary voters who said they'd consider voting for her. Gabbard had the lowest favorable rating and worst net favorabilty (favorable - unfavorable) rating. She also had the highest jump in unfavorable ratings comparing Ipsos poll taken before and after the debate with the same respondents.

"Then in nearly perfect succession, Clinton spoke about Gabbard and Gabbard started hitting the debate threshold in qualifying polls.

"What Clinton may not have foreseen is that there are some Democratic primary voters who aren't fans of hers. In our CNN poll of likely New Hampshire Democratic primary, Gabbard got 2% among those who said they voted for Clinton in the 2016 general election. She only reached 5% overall thanks to scoring 10% of those who said they didn't vote for Clinton in the 2016 general election....

"Clinton has boosted Gabbard's profile, so that anti-Clinton voices within the Democratic electorate know to rally for Gabbard. So far, that's been enough for Gabbard to make at least one debate she likely wouldn't have made and get a platform for her message. Additionally, it's plausible that Gabbard makes December's debate. She already has two of the necessary qualifying polls for that debate. That's almost certainly thanks to Clinton."

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Saturday, November 9, 2019

Tax cuts not causing US trillion-dollar deficit

"Trump tax cuts hiked the deficit, now $1 trillion, so guess what Republicans want for 2020" - headline, USA Today, Nov. 7, 2019 

Reality Check: After Huge Tax Cuts, Revenues Increased. The Deficit is Spiking Because of Overspending. - Guy Benson, Townhall::

November 8, 2019 - "Many Republicans in Washington only seem to take deficit and debt issues seriously when they're out of power, turning in their fiscal hawk cards once their party is back in control. Many Democrats, meanwhile, only feign concern about deficits and debt in the context of opposing tax cuts. They'll back inexorably exploding federal spending to the hilt.... But when their opponents decide to let families, workers and businesses keep more of the money they earn, we're treated to lectures about fiscal prudence.

"The way the tale goes, the GOP-backed tax cuts are for 'the rich,' and they're blowing giant holes in the budget, depriving needy people of critical government services. This is anti-factual nonsense. The tax reform law passed in 2017 cut taxes for every income group of Americans, disproportionately benefiting the middle class....

 "We've written previously that the tax cuts are not responsible for the federal government's red ink, including a post about increased tax revenues, in spite of – or perhaps more accurately because of – the lower rates, which helped fuel a strong economy. We now have updated data, and the numbers speak for themselves:
Federal tax revenues rose during the 2019 fiscal year as the economy grew, but spending increased by over $200 billion more, which is why the country ended up running a deficit approaching $1 trillion, according to Congressional Budget Office data released Thursday.... Specifically, in the 2019 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, federal revenues increased by $133 billion (or 4%), but spending spiked by $339 billion (or 8%), driving up the deficit by $205 billion to $984 billion. Spending was driven by a $115 billion spike in the cost of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, an additional $52 billion in interest payments on the national debt, and a $48 billion spike in defense spending.
"[F]ederal tax revenues increased by four percent in 2019, reaching the highest level in American history. Republicans cut taxes (every single Democrat voted no), the economy grew, employment soared, and the federal government is now collecting more money in tax revenues than ever before.

"And yet, that same federal government is running a growing deficit.... Why? It's manifestly not because of the tax cuts. It's because Uncle Sam is spending way too much, with the top drivers of the debt being ... unsustainable and ballooning entitlement programs, and interest payments on the debt. This is basic stuff to people who pay attention to our worsening fiscal mess, but it's diametrically opposed to the rhetoric of leading Democrats."

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Friday, November 8, 2019

Svetov detained, searched over alleged child porn

Russian libertarian leader searched, interrogated in pedophilia case reportedly sparked by Instagram pictures — Meduza - Alexander Baklanov, translation by Hilah Kohen:

November 6, 209 - "On November 6, politician Mikhail Svetov’s home was searched. Svetov, a member of Russia’s unofficial but increasingly prominent Libertarian Party, was targeted in a new criminal case opened under Russia’s pedophilia statute. Novaya Gazeta broke the news of the search and acquired a copy of the warrant that listed its legal basis. Svetov himself has said he does not know what law he is suspected of breaking.

"Mikhail Biryukov, Svetov’s attorney, told Novaya Gazeta that the case against his client is based on a 2012 Instagram post.... Biryukov clarified that Svetov is currently listed as a witness in the case, but it is not uncommon in Russian jurisprudence for witnesses to be reclassified as suspects. Svetov said in an interview with the independent television channel Dozhd that the only object police seized in the search was a computer server....

"Following the search, Svetov was taken in for questioning ... at the Investigative Committee branch for Moscow’s Northwestern District. Svetov’s ex-girlfriend, Anastasia Starodubovskaya, also testified in the case, MBK Media reported. The former couple dated for several years, and Russian tabloids have previously pointed to a VKontakte profile that lists Starodubovskaya’s name and a birth year of 1995. 'This case was brought forward based on photographs that include her,' the libertarian politician said of his former partner.

"Svetov argued that police are targeting him for his political activity. 'This is a kind of attempt to put pressure on me so that I stop being involved in politics,' he told Dozhd. Svetov argued specifically that the case against him is a response to his recent 30-city lecture tour. 'In every city, I faced resistance from the police,' the politician said. Libertarian Party representatives also wrote that 'The Kremlin can’t forgive Mikhail a successful lecture tour, and it can’t forgive his principled stance or his unwillingness to become an opposition force that still fits in the Kremlin’s pocket.'

"In August, Russia’s censorship agency, Roskomnadzor, added Svetov’s old Instagram account to its registry of prohibited websites.... In 2012, Svetov used the page to post several photos of Anastasia Starodubovskaya; her age at the time remains unverified. Roskomnadzor has asked Instagram to delete the account entirely, but the social network’s administrators have not complied....  "

"Svetov is one of the Russian Libertarian Party’s best-known members. He joined the group in 2010. In the summer of 2019, the party served as the official organizing group for multiple permitted election protests that became known as Russia’s largest opposition events in the last several years. In July, Svetov was jailed for 30 days for his alleged involvement in illegal protests. On November 3, the politician announced that he was stepping down from the Libertarian Party’s federal board to pursue other projects but assured his followers that he remained a member of the party."

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Thursday, November 7, 2019

Hornberger enters Libertarian POTUS race (video)

Candidates Vie to Represent the Libertarian Wing of the Libertarian Party – - Matt Welch:

November 7, 2019- "[T]his past weekend at the South Carolina Libertarian Party state convention ... Jacob Hornberger, the 69-year-old founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation, formally announced his candidacy for president, immediately becoming one of the most well-known of the dozen or so names working actively to take the baton from two-time nominee Gary Johnson....

"Hornberger, the third-place finisher in the 2000 Libertarian presidential race, portrays his candidacy as a way for the party to return to principle, an implicit critique of nominating former Republican elected officials in the past three cycles.... Hornberger, notably, is a longtime antiwar activist."

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Wednesday, November 6, 2019

New York City adopts ranked-choice voting

Ranked-Choice Voting, Once Seen as a Novelty, Gains Ground Nationally | Fortune - Mike Hofman:

November 6, 2019 - "Voters in New York City have revised the city charter to adopt ranked-choice voting, a new way of deciding who has won an election that is steadily gaining in popularity across the country....

"Ranked-choice voting allows voters to select a favorite candidate, and then a second-favorite candidate, and so on. In New York City, the plan calls for allowing residents to rank their top five choices. If no candidate achieves a majority of the vote after the first round of counting, first-place votes for candidates at the bottom of the heap are set aside and those voters’ second-place votes are distributed among the top candidates, and so on, until a candidate achieves a majority....

"[T]he system reduces the need for arduous runoff elections, and ... it is particularly well-suited for municipal elections in which a diverse, multi-candidate field — often from within a single political party — results in a narrow win for a candidate with a strong base of support in, say, a particular neighborhood, but sometimes little appeal beyond that base....

“'First across the post' races also create weird, specific tensions with third-party options. On the one hand, a third-party candidate who has a passionate following nevertheless has a hard time breaking through because some group of voters will opt for a less dynamic but more 'electable' candidate — the lesser-of-two-evils approach to democracy that can feel so demoralizing. On the other hand, a third-party campaign can be used as a spoiler in a tight race, taking just enough votes away from a candidate whose views are broadly preferred by a slim majority of the electorate.

"In the close Kentucky governor’s race, for example, a third-party Libertarian Party candidate won 28,000 votes, about 23,000 votes more than the apparent, 5,000-vote margin of victory of Democrat Andy Beshear over Republican Matt Bevin. It’s impossible to know which alternative those Libertarian voters would have picked as a second choice, but it is well within the realm of possibility that they would have given Bevin the slim margin he needed to win a second term....

"New York City joins 20 other cities nationwide in adopting ranked-choice voting—many of them liberal bastions such as San Francisco, Berkley, and Oakland, Calif.; Santa Fe, N.M.; Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.; and Cambridge, Mass.

"Maine is also a laboratory for ranked-choice voting, having implemented it by voter initiative in 2016 for federal elections. Last year, the state’s hotly-contested second congressional district provided a test case in ranked-choice voting outcomes. The incumbent Republican congressman, Bruce Poliquin ... filed a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of ranked-choice voting, ... asking the courts to order a do-over race. A federal judge who had been appointed to the bench by President Trump flatly rejected Poliquin’s argument and call for a new election."

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Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Russian Libertarian Party leader resigns

Rising Russian political star leaves Libertarian Party leadership — Meduza:

November 4, 2019 - "Mikhail Svetov, who has become the public face of Russia’s Libertarian Party in recent months, has announced his departure from the party’s federal board. 'I’ve stepped down from my position on the federal committee of the LPR [Libertarian Party of Russia],' Svetov tweeted, adding, 'I haven’t left the party, don’t worry ^_^ But I’ll be taking a break to work on my book and other projects.'

"While the Libertarian Party is not officially registered as a political party in Russia, it still served as the central organizing body for the wave of opposition protests that swept Moscow in the summer of 2019. At one point, Svetov was jailed after he led negotiations with Moscow City Hall in an attempt to obtain a permit for one of the protests. His rise to public recognition has accompanied a new wave of interest in libertarianism in the former Soviet Union."
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Monday, November 4, 2019

No compensation due for home cops destroyed, US court rules

Federal Court Rules there is no Taking if the Police Destroy an Innocent Person's House During a Law Enforcement Operation - Ilya Somin, Volokh Conspiracy,

October 31, 2019 - "Earlier this week, the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled that the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment does not require the government to compensate an innocent man for the destruction of his house during a police operation:

When they were finished, it looked as though the Greenwood Village, Colo., police had blasted rockets through the house ... where an armed Walmart shoplifting suspect randomly barricaded himself after fleeing the store.... For 19 hours, the suspect holed up in a bathroom as a SWAT team fired gas munition and 40-millimeter rounds through the windows, drove an armored vehicle through the doors, tossed flash-bang grenades inside and used explosives to blow out the walls.... [T]he home was utterly destroyed, eventually condemned by the City of Greenwood Village....

"The city refused to compensate the Lech family for their losses but offered $5,000 in temporary rental assistance and for the insurance deductible....

"The Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment requires the government to pay 'just compensation' to property owners any time their land or other property is 'taken' by the state. That includes many situations where the government destroys or damages the property in question, rather than appropriates it for its own use.... As far back as 1872, the Court ruled that 'where real estate is actually invaded by superinduced additions of water, earth, sand, or other material ... so as to effectually destroy or impair its usefulness, it is a taking, within the meaning of the Constitution'....

"Why then, did the court rule that no taking had occurred, thereby denying the Lech family any right to compensation? Because the destruction of the house occurred in the course of a law enforcement operation intended to promote 'the safety of the public'.... The court is right to point out that this distinction between  the 'police power' and eminent domain has been adopted in many ... previous takings decisions.... But the rule still makes no sense, and should be done away with....

"The fact that the 'police power' may have been involved does not normally immunize the government from takings liability.... Outside the context of law-enforcement operations, the fact that the government was trying to promote public safety does not create blanket immunity from having to compensate innocent owners whose property is taken or destroyed in the process. There is no good reason to exempt law-enforcement operations from takings liability of the same kind that applies to other government actions that might enhance public safety....

"If the use of various destructive tactics pays large dividends for public safety, then the government can continue using them, secure in the knowledge that the compensation paid was well worth the price. And it is only proper that the costs be borne by the general public  whose safety these operations protect, not by innocent owners.... If, on the other hand, authorities find that they routinely end up paying compensation that far exceeds any plausible benefit arising from the use of such aggressive tactics, then they would be well-advised to issue stricter guidelines for the use of force by their officers. Perhaps they shouldn't seize and destroy as much property as they currently do....

"The Supreme Court would do well to overrule this case and make clear that the Takings Clause protects innocent owners whose property is destroyed during the course of law enforcement operations. Unfortunately, I am far from optimistic that will actually happen."

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Rand Paul makes The Case against Socialism

PYE: Rand Paul Makes The Case Against Socialism | The Daily Caller - Jason Pye:

October 17, 2019 - "As self-proclaimed 'democratic socialists' continue to rant and rave against capitalism, ... there still remain dedicated men and women willing to wade into the intellectual fog-of-war that is American politics and stand resolutely for ... our nation’s founding principles. Chief among these champions for liberty is Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

"In his latest book, The Case Against Socialism, Paul ... directly challenges proponents of new-wave socialism like Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). What’s more, he unabashedly demolishes the Oliver Stone-esque perception that socialism 'really isn’t that bad.'

"Before even concluding the introduction, Paul jumps straight to the heart of the matter, informing the reader that '[t]his is the story of an evil well documented and yet somehow still enticing … of socialism in all its drab and dreary machinelike destruction of individual thought, creativity, and ambition.... This is the story of socialism in all its violence, bloodshed, and tyranny. It is a cautionary tale of how America has so far eluded the siren call of something for nothing … but also of how close we still are to succumbing to socialism'....

"Paul wastes no time in attacking the misinformed “Hollywood socialists” who praise the likes of Hugo Chavez, Nicolás Maduro, and Fidel Castro. He reminds us that, not very long ago, important American figures like Noam Chomsky and then-Representative Bernie Sanders praised the election of Hugo Chavez, pointing to poverty statistics as evidence of socialism’s virtue....

"Yet, as history has consistently proven time and time again, the fruits of socialism quickly give way to oppressive violence, food shortages, and utter devastation.... [I]n the words of Venezuelan professor Daniel Lahoud: 'I have known the reality of the failure of socialism in my own flesh. And as I live in Venezuela, I want to show that this is an absolute failure always and everywhere.'

"Simply pointing out the failures of despotic socialist regimes is not sufficient for Paul to fully discredit socialism. For this, he addresses the common misconception of Scandinavian socialism. Countries like Denmark, Sweden, and Norway are often used as props that American socialists can point to as evidence of socialism’s success.... So strong is this misconception that the Prime Minister of Denmark reprimanded Sanders 'and asked him to stop insulting his country as "socialist"'....

"Socialism is a scourge on the human condition. Time and time again, elites and intellectuals have sought to remold society only to fail miserably. What’s more, the centralized planning of men like Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot resulted in some of the worst atrocities in human history. Yet, democratic socialists in Congress continue to believe that things will be different this time. This time socialism will work. Such a belief is not only foolhardy and ill-informed but downright dangerous....

"For this reason, it is important that ... we support those who are willing to stick up for the truth of history against the revisionism of political elites. Paul is ... and I am proud to consider him such a strong ally in the battle against socialism."

Read more:
'via Blog this'

Saturday, November 2, 2019

2019 election was deja vu for LP of Canada

by Jean-Serge Brisson 

Brisson, Libertarian Party of Canada leader (2000-2008), responds to 71 Republic's recent hatchet job on the Party:

You accuse the Libertarian Party of Canada of failing to get any kind of traction in this country. I don't think that you are well versed on the history of how libertarianism has developed and is developing in Canada.

Have you ever heard of a man named Preston Manning? Manning arrived on the scene in 1987 with a Western Canada-based political party called the Reform Party, notable for adopting more of the libertarian playbook than any other Canadian political party had in the past (other than the Libertarian Party itself). His Reform Party lasted 13 years, only to amalgamate in 2000 with the Progressive Conservatives to become the Conservative Party of Canada.

Manning was well known in the political arena. When he popped onto the scene we lost members and organizers to him. After that exodus, the Libertarian Party of Canada didn't make much noise for many years and in 1996 even lost its official party registration. When the law was changed in 2004, we were able to get re-registered and we immediately started running candidates again.

Rising from the ashes in a few years, we made headway in a manner that we had never known before. In 2018, in the province (like an American 'state') of Ontario, the provincial party reached a level of success unprecedented for any libertarian party in Canada. We came close to achieving what is called a full slate, which is a candidate in every constituency.

Also in 2018 that same federal Conservative Party had a leadership race, and a charismatic Member of Parliament, Maxime Bernier, ran on a libertarian platform. He lost after 13 ballots by less than half a percent. His frustration led him to form his own party, the "Peoples Party of Canada," in 2019. What happened then? The same thing that had happened 3 decades prior when Manning came on the scene. We had another exodus of people who thought that a charismatic individual could bring them victory at the polls. Deja vu.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. Bernier's sole intent was to get revenge against his leadership rival. But Bernier had a very libertarian agenda at first. Thus many of the LPoC executives and many other members went to support what they thought was going to be a quicker route to power.

It didn't happen. The Peoples Party garnished less than 300,000 votes, hardly enough to make a dent in the Canadian political structure. Bernier didn't hurt his rival, but did hurt us. Volunteers, donors, resources, and voters that would normally have come to us, went to Bernier at the last minute.

It is actually because the libertarian idea was catching on that these two upstarts were able to get off the ground so well. To have two parties within 3 decades start up with "Messiahs," draining and crippling the Libertarian party infrastructure, does not show lack of traction. It was the traction we had gained that caused the upstarts to do so well, but they had no stamina to maintain their drive.

The Libertarian Party of Canada got a punch that knocked us to the floor in this election. But unlike the last time, we were not knocked out. On the contrary, we are more like a boxer who is determined to see this fight to the end, no matter who stands in front of us. Because whether you realize it or not, the libertarian movement now is stronger in Canada than ever before.

When I ran in my first federal election, I was an unknown as a libertarian. But today, the word "libertarian" is not an unknown quantity anymore. It is well understood that it stands for less government. That is the result of many individuals in Canada working hard at getting our name and ideas into the media and also in front of politicians and voters.

Just like the Reform Party, Bernier's Peoples Party will be folding soon. Where do you think its members and organizers will turn to look for a political home?