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'Where Are Libertarians on Police Reform?' Right Where We've Always Been.

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After the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, America is finally embracing police reform. As is so often the case in matters of personal freedom, libertarians were here long before mainstream political counterparts and fought a frequently lonely battle against abusive government power. Now, just as they did with same-sex relationships, drug reform, and the ongoing battle against the surveillance state, people across the political spectrum seem ready to concede that a little more freedom could be a good thing. If the effort succeeds, we may not get the credit—newly converted reformers are already trying to separate the cause from its long-time promoters —but at least we'll live in a better world.

"Where are the libertarians?" is such a knee-jerk cry after incidents of police brutality that it's safe to assume that it's a matter of bad faith rather than of ignorance. Having left the issue on the back burner for so long, some people don't want to admit that we were there ahead of them. Unfortunately, when it comes to police misconduct, we've been way ahead of them.

"Of the three political alternatives, a free economy, a mixed economy, a totalitarian state, only one provides the economic, political, and cultural context in which systematic police brutality cannot be a problem: a free society," wrote Reason founder Lanny Friedlander in a very '60s-ish 1969 essay. "The police of a free society, engaging in retaliatory force only, enforcing laws of a defensive nature only, would be bound by the same laws they enforced, and would stand fully accountable for their actions."

Going beyond window-dressing, libertarians favor minimizing opportunities for police to act against the public and making any interactions as non-confrontational as possible.

In 1971, the fledgling Libertarian Party (L.P.) called for "the repeal of all 'crimes without victims' now incorporated in federal and state laws," such as the prohibitions on drug use that have driven so much of the escalation in aggressive police tactics. The same platform declared itself opposed to "so-called 'no-knock laws'" of the sort that got Breonna Taylor killed by cops this year when they crashed through her door at night, unannounced, looking for illegal drugs.

In cases of police misconduct, libertarians favor holding government agencies and their employees accountable for their actions.

"We support full restitution for all loss suffered by persons arrested, indicted, tried, imprisoned, or otherwise injured in the course of criminal proceedings against them which do not result in their conviction," the L.P. proposed in 1976. "Law enforcement agencies should be liable for this restitution unless malfeasance of the officials involved is proven, in which case they should be personally liable."

That police agencies too often foster abusive conduct was no secret to libertarians long before the Minneapolis Police Department failed to implement reforms that might have saved George Floyd's life.

"When a rookie Houston patrolman named Alan Nichols did the unthinkable and reported three fellow officers for the vicious beating of a black prisoner, police internal-affairs investigators tried to have him fired, the chief publicly reprimanded him, and other police ostracized him," Glenn Garvin wrote in Inquiry, a Cato Institute publication, in 1979 coverage of violent and racially charged policing in Texas.

"Civil libertarians need to recognize that federal prosecution of law-enforcement officers who use excessive force often provides the only check on such unrestrained state power," Dirk G. Roggeveen urged in the pages of Reason as Americans reacted to the 1991 police beating of Rodney King.

Through these years, police not only misbehaved but also came to act like an occupying army lording it over a hostile populace.

Seattle's "police force has spied on local political activists for more than 20 years," Roxanne Park warned in Inquiry in 1978. "The intelligence abuses discovered in Seattle are 'typical examples' of the practices of urban police departments."

"Over the last 25 years, America has seen a disturbing militarization of its civilian law enforcement, along with a dramatic and unsettling rise in the use of paramilitary police units (most commonly called Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT) for routine police work," Radley Balko cautioned for the Cato Institute in 2006. He expanded his argument in his 2013 book, Rise of the Warrior Cop.

Now, after decades of manifestos, journalism, research, and advocacy, America seems to agree with libertarians. "Americans by a 2-to-1 margin are more troubled by the actions of police in the killing of George Floyd than by violence at some protests," the Wall Street Journal reports from survey results. That just may result in policy changes.

Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, the only Libertarian in Congress, literally wrote the bill that would eliminate qualified immunity, the legal doctrine that makes it so difficult to hold police accountable for their bad behavior unless courts in the same jurisdiction have already ruled that such conduct is wrong.

If Congress doesn't rise to the occasion, the Supreme Court could. Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor both look eager to revisit the mess the court created when it invented qualified immunity.

No-knock raids, which so often end in tragedy when police kick-in the wrong door, or when suddenly awakened residents try to defend against intruders, are also getting a second look. Louisville, Kentucky is considering banning such warrants, a half-century after the Libertarian Party proposed exactly that.

City council members in Minneapolis are even talking about disbanding the police department amidst a national, though ill-defined, movement to "defund police." Whether or not that's an improvement depends on what comes next. Retaining harsh enforcement by another name will continue the abuses, the intrusiveness, and the disproportionate use of state violence against disfavored communities under nothing more than different branding.

Maybe that's why it's taken so long for people to seriously consider police reform, and why they're so resistant to giving libertarians credit on the issue. Real change requires not just dropping the word "police" but reducing the opportunity for government agents to use violence against the public. That means fewer laws to be enforced and less intrusive enforcement of those laws. That's a hard pill to swallow for ideologues who are committed to forcing people to do what they don't want to do, or to forcibly stopping them from exercising their own preferences.

Libertarians should be happy that Americans are ready to discuss police reform. But we'll have to see if the country is actually prepared for less policing.



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bertcox
65 days ago
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Coronavirus Death Rates Controversy Heats Up

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Coronavirus update: Cases of COVID-19, or coronavirus, continue to climb in the U.S., and the disease seems to pose a special risk to older adults, especially if they're in poorer health to start. But fears about coronavirus death rates are likely inflated.

The numbers: Over 100 U.S. cases of coronavirus have been confirmed now, including six cases that were fatal. The deaths all occurred in King County, Washington, including four residents at a single nursing home. Overall, 15 states have reported coronavirus cases but only Washington has so far seen fatalities.

Where in the U.S. has coronavirus been diagnosed?: Cases are being treated in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Why it's still not time to panic: "Misleading arithmetic," as the Cato Institute's Alan Reynolds puts it:

Assuming the number of people who have reportedly died from COVID-19 is reasonably accurate, then the percentage of infected people who die from the disease (the death rate) must surely have been much lower than the 2–3% estimates commonly reported. That is because the number of infected people is much larger than the number tested and reported.

The triangle graph [here], from a February 10 study from Imperial College London, shows that most people infected by COVID-19 are never counted as being infected. That is because, the Imperial College study explains, "the bottom of the pyramid represents the likely largest population of those infected with either mild, non‐​specific symptoms or who are asymptomatic."

As the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom, explained in his February 28 briefing, "Most people will have mild disease and get better without needing any special care." Several studies have found that about 80% of all the COVID-19 cases have relatively minor symptoms which end without severe illness and therefore remain unreported.

As of yesterday, there were 89,253 confirmed cases worldwide (about 96 percent of them in Asia). Reynolds also points out that there have "been 45,393 known recoveries from COVID-19 (compared to 3,048 cumulative deaths) and, importantly, recoveries have been outnumbering new cases."

To put that in perspective:

… the SARS coronavirus killed 774 people out of 8,096 known cases in 2003, which was a death rate of 9.6% before it vanished the next year. Bird flu in 1997 was predicted to be a deadly pandemic, but it killed very few people before it disappeared.

More from Reason:


FREE MINDS

Today is International Sex Worker Rights Day (ISWRD). And this year, there's actually something to celebrate, suggests sex worker, author, and Reason contributor Maggie McNeill. "In the past two years, the tide of sex worker rights has completely turned," she writes on her blog, The Honest Courtesan. More:

The government's violent suppression of sex workers has, instead of winning more support for bigotry, instead turned a majority of Americans against the prohibitionists for the first time since such polls have been a thing; a few politicians (even at the presidential election level) have begun to recognize that sex workers and or clients are voters, and that among younger voters support for sex worker rights is as normal as support for LGBT rights was among that age cohort a generation ago.  Even "sex trafficking" hysteria has begun to backfire… Sex workers of all business models and socioeconomic levels are organizing and speaking out, and most people who aren't dyed-in-the-wool racists are finally being forced to recognize how much more severely the consequences of criminalization fall upon people of color, trans women, migrants, and other marginalized groups.  Even mainstream feminism, which has been trying to destroy sex workers since the late '80s, is beginning to fragment as more and more chapters of old-guard feminist organizations forsake the pearl-clutching harridans who pretend to speak for everyone with a vagina.

Read the rest here. And check out the #ISWRD hashtag on Twitter for information about sex work criminalization and sex worker rights activism around the world.


FREE MARKETS

Federal drug warriors get grabby in Ohio. "Federal prosecutors are seeking the forfeiture of more than $356,000 from an Akron man they say made money from trafficking drugs," reports Cleveland.com. They also seized marijuana edibles, a gold Rolex watch, and $67,000 worth of jewelry. But the man, Cory Grandison, "has not been charged with a drug crime."

Grandison did plead guilty to owning a gun and some ammunition, which is prohibited since he has a felony conviction in his past. The gun charge comes with at least two and a half years in federal prison and possibly a bit over three years.


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bertcox
163 days ago
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In Little Women, Jo March Listens to Markets, Not Just Moralists

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I want to realize my dream of supporting the family and being perfectly independent. Heavenly hope!

—the journals of Louisa May Alcott, January 1868

For a century and a half, it has been possible to ask nearly any American girl or woman, "Are you Meg, Jo, Beth, or Amy?" and receive an unhesitating reply. If the joyful reactions of my 11- and 14-year-old daughters to Greta Gerwig's new film of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women are any evidence, we will be able to ask the question for a good while longer.

Adapting such an intensely beloved book for the screen is a tricky business. When every moment of the story is someone's favorite moment, someone is going to be disappointed.

Greta Gerwig cut my favorite moment from Little Women

Before I complain about that, though, I want to point enthusiastically to some of the many other favorite moments she kept. 

One of the strongest themes of Little Women, and of all of Alcott's work for young people, is the importance of financial independence and responsibility. Alcott was a hard worker, and she was the primary support for her family for much of her life. She had no patience with those who were unwilling to try to support themselves, or with those who—lucky enough to be born wealthy—do not have a philanthropic spirit and the good sense to use their money wisely.

Gerwig's film understands and conveys this theme. Aside from Beth, who is generally too ill to plan for much of a future, the March sisters are always working, always planning for their futures, and always trying to find a way to stretch their limited resources further.

Meg, who aspires to a traditional life as a wife and mother, managing her household and teaching her children, teaches other people's children before she gets married. Gerwig shows that the extra money Meg brings home from teaching provides necessities as well as small treats—particularly for Amy, the youngest, that help her feel less like an outcast among her wealthier school friends.

Jo plans on a career as a writer, and Gerwig shows her constantly working on learning her craft by creating plays and stories for her sisters. Meanwhile, she brings in some spare money and invests in a possible future by reading to her wealthy Aunt March, who dangles promises of trips to Europe and inherited wealth in front of the sisters. Amy, who would like to be a great painter and become rich and famous as a result of her art, also has a strongly pragmatic side to her dreams for the future. As the beauty of the family, she is expected to marry well and support her family with her husband's wealth.This has been made clear to her very early on. Her vanity, which her sisters find annoying (and which irritated me endlessly as a young reader) becomes understandable and even tolerable when one views it as an investment in her future and in her ability to care for her family. And her dedication to learning to be a charming and pleasant companion, fit for any gracious social setting, means that when Jo alienates Aunt March, Amy possesses the skills to maintain the family's relationship with this potential patron.

Alcott's little women have plans for their lives and work consistently to make those plans a reality.

It is no accident, then, that some of the most memorable moments in book and film touch on these plans and on the attitude of independence the March sisters bring to them.

Much has been made of a speech that Gerwig added into the film for Amy, justifying and explaining the rationality of her insistence on marrying well. Confronted by Laurie about her upcoming engagement to a perfectly pleasant, very wealthy non-entity of an English gentleman, Amy argues that Laurie has the luxury of judging her because he is rich, and even if he weren't, he has a wide range of possibilities for employment. For her, however, "there's no way for me to make my own money. Not enough to earn a living or to support my family, and if I had my own money, which I don't, that money would belong to my husband the moment we got married. And if we had children, they would be his, not mine. They would be his property, so don't sit there and tell me that marriage isn't an economic proposition, because it is. It may not be for you, but it most certainly is for me."

Some critics have suggested this speech was anachronistically "woke" in the mouth of a character from the Civil War era. This is utter nonsense, as debates about the laws surrounding women's property rights were of key legal and social importance in America from the 1840s on. Young woman raised by American radicals and Transcendentalists—as the March sisters were, and as the Alcott sisters were—would certainly have been well versed in those debates.

Gerwig's speech makes explicit for modern viewers a few ideas that Alcott's novel did not need to explain to the book's original readers. In the novel, Amy mentions her possible engagement and simply notes, "One of us must marry well. Meg didn't, Jo won't, Beth can't yet, so I shall, and make everything okay all round." 21st century women are rightfully discomfited by the idea of so bluntly setting out to marry for money, and Amy's desire to "make everything okay all around" by doing so requires some unpacking for a modern audience not to dismiss her as a mere gold digger.

Gerwig also makes sure that Meg, whose story often fades into a blissful watercolor domesticity, is allowed to share her key lesson of financial responsibility. Out shopping with a rich friend, she succumbs to a moment of vanity and spends an unthinkable $50 on the fabric for a silk dress. Her impulsive purchase means that her husband cannot afford to buy himself a winter coat, and Meg is brought face to face with the conflict between her love for pretty things and her love for her husband. She sells the silk to a friend, and her husband gets his coat. It's a quiet moment, with nothing like the fireworks of Amy's speech about women and property, but it's a fine example of the kind of personal responsibility that the March sisters have practiced their whole lives—even when it takes them a few mistakes to get it right.

Gerwig also wisely keeps one of American literature's three greatest moments of hairdressing drama. Mr. March, who has gone to serve in the Civil War as an army chaplain, has fallen seriously ill, and Mrs. March needs to travel to care for him and bring him home to convalesce. Gerwig's film makes explicit what Alcott's novel rightly assumes her readers would know: Such a trip was expensive, not merely because of the cost of travel, but because the state of military hospitals at the time was such that Mrs. March needed to bring clean bed linens, pillows, and food for her husband. For a family living on such a tight budget, the sudden expense was enormous.

To help provide for the costs of travel and medical care, Jo sells her hair to a wigmaker for $25. A few crucial things coincide in this moment. The first is that Jo has, as she and her sisters always do, found a way to use her limited resources to make money when her family most needs it. The second is that she has done so alone and unprompted, out of a desire to keep her family independent and out of debt. The third is that like Amy, who is prepared to trade herself—within reason—on the marriage market for security for her family, Jo finds that the only thing she has of value in this moment of crisis is her body. Perhaps because of that realization, Jo becomes the sister most determined to find a way to earn her own living.

And here is where Gerwig let me down.

For me, one of the greatest moments in Alcott's novel is when Jo secretly submits a sensational adventure story to a magazine contest and wins. The prize is an unheard-of (for the Marches) $100. This is four times what Jo made a little earlier by literally selling a part of herself. Her family is very excited, but her father reads the story, disapproves of its lack of moral instruction, and tells her "You can do better than this, Jo. Aim at the highest, and never mind the money."

I still remember my rage when I first read this passage. Jo had sold her hair to earn $25 to safeguard her father's health. She has now presented him with $100 more that she has worked to earn, and she is chastised for it? I found it unbearable, particularly from a father who cannot and does not provide for his family on his own.

I think Alcott wasn't pleased either, as she was careful to tell her readers that Jo uses the prize money to send Beth to convalesce at the seaside and that later stories provided similar necessities for the family: "So Jo was satisfied with the investment of her prize money, and fell to work with a cheery spirit, bent on earning more of those delightful checks. She did earn several that year, and began to feel herself a power in the house, for by the magic of a pen, her 'rubbish' turned into comforts for them all. The Duke's Daughter paid the butcher's bill, A Phantom Hand put down a new carpet, and The Curse of the Coventrys proved the blessing of the Marches in the way of groceries and gowns." The immoral stories have produced moral results.

Jo's moment of resistance is brief. She soon gives in to her family's moral arguments and gives up writing sensational stories, which means she also gives up making money that was vital to her family's well-being: "Jo wrote no more sensational stories, [she] produced a tale which might have been more properly called an essay or a sermon, so intensely moral was it. She had her doubts about it from the beginning, for her lively fancy and girlish romance felt as ill at ease in the new style as she would have done masquerading in the stiff and cumbrous costume of the last century. She sent this didactic gem to several markets, but it found no purchaser, and she was inclined to agree with Mr. Dashwood that morals didn't sell."

But no matter how brief it was, I wanted this moment for Jo. And I wanted it desperately. Instead, Gerwig retains the similar moral scolding Jo receives from Professor Bhaer when he discovers the trashy stories she has been writing, and Jo never stands up for the good that her income does for her family. She does bargain effectively with her publisher over advances, royalty rates, and retention of copyright, but her family is never brought to see that her "sensational stories" were, for many years, the only thing between them and debt or penury.

This is all the more galling because of the way that Gerwig fleshes out Amy's character, and because of the obvious sensitivity with which her film shows the similarities and distinctions between Alcott's real life and that her fictional analog, Jo March. We have, in Alcott's journals, numerous examples of her pride in the money she can bring in from her writing. In March of 1856 she recounted that she "Got $10 for 'Genevieve.' Prices go up, as people like the tales and ask who wrote them." That same month she also "Sewed a great deal, and got very tired; one job for Mr. G. of a dozen pillow-cases, one dozen sheets, six fine cambric neckties, and two dozen handkerchiefs, at which I had to work all one night to get them done, as they were a gift to him. I got only $4." One needn't be a financial genius to understand why Alcott, and Jo, might elect to write whatever sold rather than do piecework.

In August 1866, Alcott was still sewing for money at times, though her profits from writing increased. Like Jo, she found herself the breadwinner for her whole family, commenting on her return from a trip that "things were, as I expected, behindhand when the money-maker was away." In other words, Alcott went out of town, her family went into debt, and she came back to pay their bills. She notes that she sent her banker $100 to invest and "could have sent $300, but it was needed, so I gave it up unwillingly, and must work away for the rest."

It was with no small amount of satisfaction that I learned that Little Women was published and became a runaway bestseller in the same year that Alcott's father published his justly forgotten book of transcendental philosophy, Tablets. Louisa May Alcott never gloats over her success in contrast to her father's failure, but in 1870 she does write home cheerily to report: "No news except through N., who yesterday sent me a nice letter with July account of $6,212,—a neat little sum for 'the Alcotts, who can't make money!' With $10,000 well invested, and more coming in all the time, I think we may venture to enjoy ourselves, after the hard times we have all had….That does soothe my rumpled soul."

Gerwig closes her movie with shots of the first edition of Little Women coming off the press. I think it would have been greater justice, to the author and to her work, to have filmed just a moment longer, showing us the book's great success and the pleasure and wealth produced by a novelist who cut her literary teeth by writing "rubbish" and ended by writing one of the great American novels.



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bertcox
200 days ago
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'Ship of death': 14,000 sheep drown after cargo vessel capsizes, sinks...

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'Ship of death': 14,000 sheep drown after cargo vessel capsizes, sinks...


(Third column, 10th story, link)


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bertcox
262 days ago
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35$ per sheep
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Experimental art project will pay you to do nothing for rest of life...

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Experimental art project will pay you to do nothing for rest of life...


(First column, 19th story, link)


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bertcox
525 days ago
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Now this is art.
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Schlock Mercenary: March 1, 2019

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bertcox
531 days ago
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This is so true. We just guessed Dino's had feathers.
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