We Own this City Review

We own this city

I watched the last episode of We Own this City on HBO and largely enjoyed it. It’s based on a book by Baltimore journalist Justin Fenton and created by David Simon of The Wire fame. It focuses on the Gun Trace Task Force led by Sergeant Wayne Jenkins in Baltimore.

The Wire is a great show about the problems of drugs in Baltimore specifically but all across our nation and, indeed the world. It doesn’t sugarcoat the violence and spares neither the police nor the drug dealers. We Own this City continues in the same manner and I came away discouraged about the world in which we live.

That being said, I think it’s a good show and well-worth watching, particularly by those invested in perpetuating the War on Drugs.

The Premise of We Own this City

The Gun Trace Task Force in Baltimore engaged in criminal activity that resulted in many of its members being given lengthy prison sentences, particular their leader, Jenkins. They stole money, stole and resold drugs, took money from taxpayers for overtime they didn’t actually perform, and engaged in generally despicable and illegal behavior with impunity. Bullying, harassing, assaulting, framing, and otherwise attacking the citizens of Baltimore.

The six-episode mini-series details their behavior in horrifying detail and ends with the sentencing phase of their crimes.

The Quality of We Own this City

The acting, writing, sets, camera work, and everything else in We Own this City is excellent. It’s a slick and well put-together show. It’s a bit jarring seeing actors like Jamie Hector in role-reversal from The Wire but I managed to overcome that eventually.

The biggest problem with the quality of the show is the non-linear time flow. I understand they wanted to start with the arrest of Jenkins but the constant back-and-forth with time made the show difficult to process. They tried to make it easier by having Jon Bernthal, who played Jenkins with frightening aplomb, adjust his facial hair indicating the time frame.

The display of dates on the screen didn’t really help me follow the story. Is this happening before the scene we just saw? After? When is this? Has the previous scene we just watched already happened when we’re watching this scene or is it going to happen later? Very confusing. That’s pretty much my only problem with the show.

Who Watched We Own this City?

I wonder if the target audience of We Own this City actually watched it or is it a case of preaching to the choir. I have no doubt Simon and Fenton are passionate. They well-understand the War on Drugs and the horrors it begat.

The sad truth is the people who will watch this show already understand the problems associated with the War on Drugs. The people who must be convinced of its folly are not going to watch, at least I don’t think so. They don’t want to see beloved police officers turned into nothing more than the single largest criminal enterprise in the history of the world. Hyperbole? No, I’m afraid not. Police are the worst criminals in the United States.

Treat Williams Daggers the Problem

Now, having read the previous paragraph I feel certain you think I’m anti-police. Let me explain why that is not the case.

Treat Williams plays Brian Grabler, a retired officer who understand the real problem. He tries to explain its nature to Wunmi Mosaku. She plays Nicole Steele an attorney from the Civil Rights Division of the Justice department.

Near the end of the last episode, Grabler asks Steele what’s not in the report detailing the many systemic problems in the Baltimore Police Department. What’s not in the report? She doesn’t understand and he must lead her to the answer.

The problem isn’t law enforcement officers. It’s not a legal system willing to stomp the rights of citizens. It’s not the violence on the streets committed by those plying the drug trade and those trying to stop them. It’s not that police departments are completely at odds with the communities they serve, enemies unwilling to cooperate.

The problem is the War on Drugs. It’s the root cause of everything else. Its corrupted our legal system. Its corrupted our police departments. Its corrupted city hall. The War on Drugs hasn’t stopped drugs, its just created an army of amoral criminals. Police officers, lawyers, judges, politicians. All engaged in criminal activity wrapped in good intentions and driven by the money the drug trade creates.

The system forces law enforcement officers to become criminals. Judges to twist the Constitution into a laughable parody of words used to enact that which it is designed to prevent. Politicians to actively work against their constituents.

Conclusion

We Own this City is an excellent show marred by a confusing timeline. It’s also a show that clearly illuminates the errors of the War on Drugs. Sadly, the people who need to understand the root cause of the problem have little interest in fixing it. Those who understand the problem don’t have the power to fix it.

Tom Liberman

Depp and Heard are a Billion Dollar Industry

Depp and Heard

Depp and Heard are in the middle of contentious legal battle and it’s a billion dollar industry. I’m conflicted. I’m talking about Amber Heard and Johnny Depp but I don’t think anyone needs that clarification. Who isn’t cashing in on the Depp and Heard drama?

I’m conflicted about this blog. Writing it means I’m part of the legion of Depp and Heard opportunists. Am I expressing genuine thoughts here or do I just want clicks and eyes on my blog? Maybe this post will go viral and indirectly result in the sale of millions of my novels.

On the other hand, the sheer volume of people trying to cash in on this terrible and tragic story is nauseating. I suppose it’s all moot in the end, you’re reading this and that means I wrote it. Let’s get on with it.

Depp and Heard Trial

The trail is all over the news and I’m not going to expend any time talking about the awfulness of one party versus the other. It’s a terrible tragedy. A marriage gone horribly wrong. Two people whose love turned into an international tragedy and lawsuits.

Cashing In

Who is the big winner in all of this? Not Depp and Heard. It’s mainstream news channels. Alternate news channels. Misogynists, social justice warriors. It’s social media personalities, all the influencers. Even morally bankrupt politicians are trying to garner a few votes by picking sides. Scalpers! Yuck.

Twitch watch parties with some of the biggest streamers. YouTube personalities with millions of subscribers releasing daily videos with sensationalistic titles. Depp this! Heard that! The Big Moment! Twitter is trending Depp and Heard. TikTok. Name a social media outlet and I’ll show you opportunists trying to take advantage of the situation to make some money.

Sick to my Stomach

I’m honestly feeling nauseas just writing this. I’m regretting it. I’m thinking I shouldn’t be doing it just because it means I’m part of the problem. Still, I think it’s important to call out everyone profiting off this situation.

I know this lurid story is interesting and people are genuinely picking sides. That being said, there is no doubt that a YouTube video that suddenly generates millions of watches is a strong motivator to make more such content. A Twitch streamer watching the legal case live with thousands of viewers is cash in the bank. It’s money and its gross money, at least I think so.

Human Nature

People love a train wreck. It’s undeniable. People cheer at the hockey game as much during a fight as they do for a goal. Many people enjoy the lurid, the sensational, the exciting. Depp and Heard is all that. Everyone has an opinion and if they can make some money expressing it, all the better.

I suppose I’m tilting against windmills here, just the same as when I rail against drafting in professional sports.

Conclusion

I think I’ll wrap this up quickly and then go wash my hands. Gross. It’s all so gross.

Tom Liberman

Sheriff Hickman and the Blacks

Sheriff Hickman

I just read a fascinating article about Sheriff Rick Hickman and his response to an emergency call in the neighborhood of Des Arc, Arkansas. Sheriff Hickman responded to the call by asking where the triple-shooting took place. When informed it was a particular apartment complex he responded, “Oh really, black people then.”

The upshot of the response is Sheriff Hickman is being called a racist. Sheriff Hickman claims the apartment in question is largely occupied by black people so his response was not racist, but natural. Now, it turns out the attacker and victims are all white but that is not relevant to the point I’d like to analyze today.

Is Sheriff Hickman a racist?

The Event and Aftermath

The event itself is a horrific example of the gun violence rampant across all sections of the United States, urban and rural, white and black. Three people died in the shooting. It’s horrible and my sympathies to all those who lost loved ones and those who respond to such events and see the horrors.

Sheriff Hickman and his Other Comments

Sheriff Hickman, now accused of being a racist, was asked if he ever used racial slurs before. He responded that he does not use the most egregious racist word often but has in the past and a lot of people around him do. He also thought his response when told about the location of the shooting was natural and not of racist implication. Black people live in that area so that’s what he assumed.

My Analysis

The case seems pretty open and shut but I think there is a great deal more nuance than people who view the world in simplistic, good and evil, terms will admit. Now, I don’t know Sheriff Hickman at all besides his few quotes so I’m merely stating an opinion here.

I found the response to the question of his own usage of racial slurs to be refreshingly honest. In this day and age where the standard law enforcement line generally includes something like: that sort of attitude has no place in our department. We never put up with it. I’ve never known a racist law enforcement officers. Blah blah blah blah blah. Bullshit.

I’ve lived in small towns. I know all about sheriffs, both good and bad. Fire marshals, both good and bad. Good old boys, both good and bad. The fact that Sheriff Hickman answered honestly about his own use of racial slurs when his brethren officers consistently lie in similar situations makes me like the man. It makes me think he’s one of the good guys.

I think if I sat down with Sheriff Hickman and asked: what do you think you’d say if the shootings took place in a predominantly white area? Would you have said, “Oh really, white people then.”? I suspect Sheriff Hickman might pause, look at me, thought about it, and replied, “You know what, Tom. You’re right. I wouldn’t have said that. Maybe I do have some unconscious racial biases and it affects the way I do my job and the way underlings look to my lead. I need to do something about that.”

Now, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he wouldn’t reply that way. Maybe he’d remain in continual denial about a problem that isn’t just overt racism, hatred of all black people. It’s subtle, it has nuance, and it causes problems in many ways, both small and large.

Conclusion

I think it’s important to have conversations with men like Sheriff Hickman. Difficult conversations where I understand his point of view and he understands mine. I think that’s the way forward. This rush to judgement, to cancellation or whatever you want to call it, just widens the divide instead of helping to heal it.

What do you think?

What should be done about Sheriff Hickman

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Tom Liberman

Cremated and Unable to Rapture Lawsuit

Rapture Lawsuit

There’s an interesting lawsuit making its way through the courts in Arkansas against a funeral home that cremated the remains of man against his and his family’s wishes. The man believed that if cremated his body could not ascend to heaven during the rapture. The lawsuit indicates the cremation caused significant emotional distress on the family.

It’s been a while since I wrote a legal blog as I’ve been preoccupied with entertainment and I thought I’d chime in on this one, particularly after reading the comments. The comment thread on the story seems focused on the idea that god can do anything and the man’s beliefs and that of his family are wrong.

I’m happy to say your beliefs are not on trial, whatever they might be.

The Rapture Lawsuit

It seems pretty clear to me that when the Roller-McNutt Funeral Home cremated the remains of Harold D. Lee they violated a contract. They certainly acknowledge as much, waived all fees and returned the deposit to the family.

The family members believe Lee’s cremation means he cannot ascend to heaven. Thus, the rapture lawsuit. I’m not going to get deeply into religion in this blog as we’re talking law, but we must consider it to some degree. Here in the United States, we have something called Freedom of Religion. People can have whatever religious beliefs they want without fear of legal ramifications.

Anguish

If the Lee family believes Harold can’t get into heaven, then that’s what they believe. It doesn’t matter the vast majority of comments involved the idea an all-powerful deity isn’t restricted by a cremation. The comments largely ridiculed the family for this belief. The Lee family believes it so, and that is their right. That’s all that matters. Not your opinion nor my opinion of their grief.

It’s important to understand mental anguish in regards to the rapture lawsuit is not debatable. If they claim to be anguished, they are anguished. You cannot prove someone is or is not suffering mental anguish. As nonsensical as this atheist finds their beliefs, I cannot argue against their anguish.

Damages

The thing the court must decide in this rapture lawsuit is what actual damages the family suffered. Seeing as the funeral home refunded all fees there are no immediate financial damages. However, if the family can prove the anguish of the event caused them to miss days of work, firing from work, suffering financially, then the rapture lawsuit has merit.

It’s clear the funeral home made a terrible mistake. Personally, I want to be chucked, wearing only my beloved St. Louis Cardinals jacket, into a hole and left to the worms. Sorry for any damage that image burned into your brain. If the funeral home did something else, it’s possible my family members might be anguished. No matter her or his anguish, they have to prove damages in the lawsuit.

Getting into Heaven

The court cannot offer damages for the ascension, or lack thereof, of Harold into heaven. You cannot assign a price that. Nor could my family sue religious organization if they performed some rites that supposedly sent my non-existent spirit to heaven.

I won’t mince words here. I don’t want to go to your imaginary heaven. I’m morally and ethically disgusted by the Judeo-Christian-Islamic god as depicted in your holy books. I want no part of it. But my family can no more sue for damages for you believing I ascended than the Lee family can sue for their belief in the lack of his ascension.

Conclusion

If the Lee family can prove their emotional distress caused them damages, the funeral home will have to pay. They made a terrible mistake and the family member’s anguish cannot be debated.

Tom Liberman

Sweet Drinks Advertised Deceptively

Sweet Drinks

I just read an interesting article about how beverage manufacturers advertise sweet drinks directly to children. This advertising, along with lower prices, steers consumers to those products. This is aided by deceptive labeling on bottles that confuse parents.

When children consume sweet drinks, they become unhealthier. There is no question about the link between poor diet and health. There is also no question that advertising works. Advertising designed to make a product appealing to a child does so. Labeling designed to fool people does so.

The question the article poses is if government has any role in all of this. I’ve certainly written about the role of government in sweet drinks in the past. Taxes were my topic of discussion at that time but today I want to talk more about regulation.

Regulating Sweet Drinks

As a Libertarian I’m not as opposed to regulation as you might think. I think false and misleading advertising definitely fall under the purview of criminality and the government. The problem is that we have laws to prevent false labeling and false advertising and, as usual, manufacturers find ways to bypass those laws.

It’s incredibly difficult to create an effective law to modify human behavior. We often see a law designed with the best intentions ending up being more harmful than that which it purports to stop. We need go no further than the War on Drugs to see this.

Deceptive Advertising and Labeling

If we examine the picture included in this blog you see Glaceau vitamin water with a label clearly reading Naturally Sweetened. We also see a wonderful reference to electrolytes which any fan of Idiocracy will appreciate. A perusal of the nutritional content on the back reveals a large amount of sugar in the drinks.

What is naturally anyway? If companies are not allowed to use the world naturally or electrolytes, they will find other deceptive words, it’s an endless cat and mouse game. That’s the problem with trying to regulate human behavior, be it through the War on Drugs or buzzwords like Organic and Naturally.

Companies will find ways around your rules.

The Goal

What we want is people to have healthier diets. If people have healthier diets, it is good for our society. Our healthcare system is largely broken. In part because of the enormous number of unhealthy people in this country. People, particularly poor people in rural areas, need the services of Doctors without Borders as if we were a Third World Country. I hesitate to use the words “as if” but I don’t want to get into that debate today.

The Solution

The manufacturer loves obfuscating the product and does so with misleading labels and advertising that comes right to the edge of legality. No matter how much we try to regulate this, companies will find a way.

I’m convinced the most helpful remedies to the problem lie with us, with the store owner. Don’t stock sweet drinks on the same shelf as unsweetened drinks is one that comes to my mind. One shelf is marked Sweetened and the other marked Unsweetened. If the store owner refuses, if the manufacturer pays extra to be on a certain shelf, there’s not much to be done, unfortunately.

I don’t think there are magical solutions to these problems but I also think individuals can focus on both informing the consumer and making the world a better place. Go to your local grocer and ask if they’ll separate the sweet drinks onto their own shelf, the worst that can happen is you’re told no.

Tom Liberman

Texas Gun Law if there is no Crime why do Time?

Texas Gun Law

Crimes that No Longer Exist

A new Texas gun law overrides previous illegal activities, particularly in regards to rules for carrying a firearm. Yet there are many people in prison for violating those laws in the past. Should we release those prisoners immediately?

The same goes for prisoners serving time for drug behaviors no longer considered criminal. I find it an intriguing question worth exploring and that is my aim today.

It was a Crime Then

Some will say the prisoners committed crimes at that time. Or at least a jury found them guilty of doing so. Just because carrying a weapon without a permit or training is now legal thanks to the new Texas gun law doesn’t mean people doing so didn’t break the law in the past.

I understand the argument although I disagree with it. Now, if you argue someone who drove fifty miles per hour down a thoroughfare with a speed limit of thirty but where the limit is now sixty should be released, I don’t agree. Driving over the speed limit is still a crime. Just because the limit changed on that particular street doesn’t absolve someone of breaking the existing rule.

I think a crime like carrying a weapon without a permit is different than running a red light at an intersection that no longer exists. If the state decides it’s perfectly legal to carry a firearm without a permit or training, then immediately release anyone incarcerated for doing so in the past.

What is a Crime?

To a large degree my argument comes down to defining a crime. It is my opinion, if we decide a certain activity is not criminal any more, then it behooves us, in the name of justice, to release anyone who committed that supposed crime during the period it was considered against the law.

What is the point in declaring something a crime in the first place? It’s largely designed to protect the people of region from some negative outcome. One of the biggest problems we have in the United States, in my opinion, is that we use the legal system to punish people we don’t like.

If the state legislators of Texas declare people can carry a gun without a permit, then no one should be in jail for doing so. Who exactly are we serving when we keep such offenders in prison? They did something now considered perfectly legal.

If you want to keep people in jail for committing that particular crime, then you should be against changing the law now. Freedom is not something to take away lightly.

Tom Liberman

Apple Buy or Rent Lawsuit

Apple Buy or Rent

What is the Difference between Buy or Rent?

A federal judge allowed a class-action lawsuit against Apple involving the difference between the options buy or rent to continue. At question is the option at offer in selling music, should customers of Apple Buy or Rent their music, movies, and television shows? I love the law so let’s examine the issue.

As it stands in the Apple Buy or Rent conundrum the company offers people the option to buy but in reality, if the owners of that content ever decide Apple no longer has rights to it, the customer also loses the ability to consume the media.

When you buy something from Apple you are not really buying it. Apple gives you the opportunity to consume that media on your device at the time of your choosing but nothing more. People seem to think the store should use the word rent instead of buy because you never actually own the content.

I have a couple of problems with the lawsuit; primarily I ask what end result the litigants hope to get. I also see no damages resultant of the difference and therefore I’m not sure if compensation is in order.

Compensation for Apple Buy or Rent

I don’t want to, and am not capable of, getting into an in-depth discussion of Tort and Contract law but one of the principles involved is damages. In order to receive compensation, the plaintiff must show damages. If Apple does not lose rights to the media in question and revoke it; there are no damages. Therefore, the entire lawsuit seems aimed at making a point. What is that point?

What Result do Litigants Want?

Change it to Rent

If the Apple Buy or Rent wording changes, what difference does it make? I rent something rather than buy it but that doesn’t change the fundamental nature of the business. It’s exactly the same either way. The consumer is not helped in any way.

If the content creator revokes the license from Apple the customer loses rights, exactly as things currently stand.

Rent the Content from the Creator

If the litigants want to force Apple to allow us to purchase the content outright it essentially drives Apple out of the business entirely. Customers must buy directly from the content creators who do not have convenient stores available to the consumers.

Essentially, every content creator will make their own store front and buyers will navigate a myriad of avenues in order to purchase their content, and, in reality, things don’t even change. When we purchase the media from the content creator, we still merely rent it. If they revoke the license, we’re exactly where we started.

Buy the Content Outright

The final intended goal is possibly that we simply purchase the content outright from the creator. In this case we have to store the content and that costs money. After years of purchasing, we have enormous volumes of media stored on the cloud by Apple. That’s really what our payment is all about. Apple holds all our content on enormous servers and grants us access to that content when and where we desire.

If we want to own the content outright, just like any physical product, we must take care of it ourselves. Ford doesn’t make a garage for our car and keep it shiny and clean and away from thieves. We do that, or we don’t, but it’s up to us in the end.

If I decide to store the media on a home server and there is a fire, it’s gone. If I rent a server from some company and they go out of business, likewise, all my content is gone. I prefer the current model and I think the vast majority of people agree with me.

Conclusion

The convenience Apple offers us through Cloud Storage is the reality of the Apple Buy or Rent question. The remedies to the lawsuit seem to be either pointless or actually an enormous inconvenience. They only make things worse for everyone.

What difference do the words Buy or Rent really make? Nothing. Yet, if this lawsuit somehow persists and proves triumphant in the courts; we lose. Great.

Tom Liberman

Josh Hawley and the Book Publisher

Josh Hawley

I, once again, get to discuss the implications of Freedom of Speech thanks to Senator Josh Hawley and his disagreement with Simon and Schuster. Apparently, Josh Hawley planned to release a book but after his involvement in the riots at Capital Hill the publisher decided to cancel the project. Hawley believes this is a Freedom of Speech, First Amendment issue and he’s right, sort of. Let me explain.

Josh Hawley argument goes as follows: This could not be more Orwellian. Simon and Schuster is canceling my contract because I was representing my constituents, leading a debate on the Senate floor on voter integrity, which they have now decided to redefine as sedition. Only approved speech can now be published. This is the Left looking to cancel everyone they don’t approve of. I will fight this cancel culture with everything I have. We’ll see you in court.

Simon and Schuster is a private company that publishes books. It is quite clear they can publish whatever books they want and they can choose not to publish other books, say twelve fantastic Sword and Sorcery fantasy novels written by a fellow I know. That’s their right and while I can certainly argue that said twelve novels are among the greatest in human literature, I can’t force them to publish any more than Josh Hawley can do so.

From a Freedom of Speech there is an important difference in me ranting about how unfair it is and Hawley trying using his position as a government official to force Simon and Schuster to publish his book. He is violating the Freedom of Speech clause of the First Amendment. It is quite unambiguous to interpret but that doesn’t stop Josh Hawley from getting it completely wrong, his understanding of the clause is actually the opposite of its real meaning.

Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech ….

That’s it. That’s the wording. Josh Hawley is a member of Congress. Simon and Schuster is not a member of Congress, it isn’t even a person. It’s a private company that gets to choose what they do and do not publish which is at the very center of our freedom from government interference.

When Josh Hawley claims Simon and Schuster must publish his book, he is in direct and obvious violation of the Freedom of Speech clause. His ignorance in regard to the meaning of the Constitution of the United States is disheartening although entirely expected.

Tom Liberman

Oh contraire Alan Dershowitz you can Count on the Courts

Alan Dershowitz

Esteemed lawyer Alan Dershowitz seems to be of the opinion the Supreme Court sent a message to Donald Trump that he cannot count on the court. The full quote is: The three justices that President Trump appointed, his three justices, voted not to hear the case. I think it’s a message to him and his team that you can’t count on the judiciary, you can’t count on the courts.

I cannot begin to tell you how this quote by Alan Dershowitz displays his utter disregard for the law and for the courts, a sentiment he mouths in ever-growing examples. Sorry, Alan Dershowitz, President Trump can count on the courts. The courts uphold the law not your personal vendetta, that’s the entire point of the legal system. A fact that Alan Dershowitz seems to have either forgotten or completely abandoned in his towering arrogance.

The courts are not here to do favors for those who appoint judges and, sadly, the entire political spectrum of the United States seems to have forgotten that vitally important fact along with Alan Dershowitz. It is has led to what I consider a Supreme Court that is wholly invalid and without legal standing.

Now, I’ve had my troubles with decisions of the Supreme Court all the way down to defining a tomato as a vegetable but my understanding of the court differs wildly from that of Alan Dershowitz. In rejecting the case in question, they were not sending a message, they were upholding the law, their job.

I’m reminded of my novel, yes fair readers, self-promotion time, The Sword of Water. In it, Jon Gray is explaining the nature of trust to Tenebrous the Shade. Jon trusts Tenebrous to do what is in his self-interest even if that is not in Jon’s interest. That is the point of the courts. They are not there to do the bidding of one party, one president, one befuddled and aging jurist. The entire court system can be counted on to uphold the law. That’s what this entire episode proves.

Jon relies on knowing how Tenebrous will react to a situation, and this allows Jon to further his own goals, even if they are diametrically opposed to that of the shade. We must have that same opinion of the Supreme Court and the courts in general. That is trust, that is counting on something, that is reliability.

No, Alan Dershowitz, the Trump administration and lawmakers can count on the courts, that’s the lesson to be learned from this sorry episode of United States history.

Tom Liberman

Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act Insanity

Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act Insanity

President Trump just signed into law something called the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act which passed through Congress without so much as a whimper of disapproval. The law allows our government to arrest any athlete, for up to ten years, who uses a prohibited substance or method in any competition in which a U.S. athlete takes part.

The bill passed the house by a voice vote and senate with unanimous consent. That means no one particularly objected to the idea of the United States government arresting and imprisoning athletes from other countries, participating in events in other countries, for such violations. To paraphrase the Sopranos; Where do we get the balls?

For those of you who think this is perfectly acceptable; would you agree to another country passing such a law and arresting U.S. athletes, imprisoning them for up to ten years, seizing their property and forfeiting it to that country? No? I thought not.

Any athletic organization can make any rule it wants as far as I’m concerned but why is the government of the United States getting involved? If some Somali runner tests positive for a steroid while running in a race in France, law enforcement from the United States can swoop in and arrest her or him? Imagine if the United States now had Femke Van den Driessche in prison for her actions in cycling.

The idea we can police the citizens of other countries in this manner is insane. When a U.S. citizen is murdered by a foreign national in a foreign country, it is up to that country to prosecute the criminal, not the United States. The Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act overtly gives law-enforcement from foreign nations the right to operate in the United States.

In Afghanistan the limit for blood alcohol in a driving accident is a big 0.00%. Can law enforcement in that country come to the United States and arrest anyone who had an accident involving an Afghani? Would you support that? No! Obviously.

By passing the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act we give every law, in every foreign nation, the right to be enforced in the United States regarding the citizens of the original country. No one in Congress managed to think about this? None of our esteemed Representatives and Senators?

Where do we get the balls? Where?

Tom Liberman

General Salvador Cienfuegos Charges Dropped

Cienfuegos

United States Attorney General William Barr dropped all charges against General Salvador Cienfuegos who, among other things, informed Mexican Drug Cartels who was an inside informant resulting in the murder of said person. Why did William Barr do this, well, he claims it’s because Mexico wants to charge Cienfuegos, but the real reason is to make sure that Mexican authorities continue to cooperate with the US in drug interdiction.

Let’s be clear, the United States has many, many Mexican nationals in our prisons related to drug crimes. What makes Cienfuegos special is that he has friends in high places and our completely corrupt government is happy to do them a favor.

In continuing to be clear, Cienfuegos is responsible for far more of the drug trafficking coming into the United States than a thousand low-level drug dealers. Our willingness to lock up a person selling drugs on the corner while ignoring the entire top of the supply chain is a damning indictment of those who bleat earnestly about the dangers of drugs in the United States.

I’m against the War on Drugs for any number of reasons. I don’t think we should be prosecuting this war and I think the interdiction effort has caused more harm to the citizens of the United States than any other policy of government in the history of the country.

However, if you are for the War on Drugs, if you believe this scourge must be stopped, then you should be calling for Barr to be hanged by his neck until dead, I won’t hold my breath. The reason you won’t is because you are not really invested in ending the War on Drugs. This war fills the pockets of not only Cienfuegos but law enforcement agencies throughout this country. We are completely corrupted by the money and Barr’s head is deeply in the trough.

The government takes your tax dollars by the billion and redistributes this wealth to law enforcement agencies across the country. This money is the primary way the Attorney General of the United States controls law enforcement. It is the way government bribes local officials into doing their bidding.

When Barr claims Cienfuegos will be tried and imprisoned in his own country, he is taking part in the grand deception. When Barr funnels money to law enforcement to war on drugs, they purchase equipment that allows them to crush freedom across the country, from Lafayette Square to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Drugs have won, not because they are legal, but because they are illegal. We the People are losing.

Tom Liberman

Conservatorship of Britney Spears

Conservatorship of Britney Spears

The Conservatorship of Britney Spears is in the news these days because the entertainer was suing to regain control of her finances which her father has controlled for the last twelve years. The issue in regards to whether or not to revoke the conservatorship of Britney Spears is an interesting question from a Libertarian perspective.

First a little background, twelve years ago Spears went through a difficult period in her life that led to losing custody of her two children, serious financial setbacks, and out-of-control behavior fueled by various intoxicants. In order to prevent further damage, Jamie Spears, her father, petitioned the state of California for Conservatorship and was awarded such. It is now 2020 and, according to Britney Spears, times have changed. She thinks she is now capable of handling her own finances and is concerned her father is not managing the money appropriately.

The question about the conservatorship of Britney Spears is a difficult one because it seems quite clear that she was, twelve years ago, incapable of properly managing her life. The state allowed her father to step in and manage her money and life and, judging by events over those twelve years, he has done at least an adequate, if not exceptional, job.

That being said, who is Jamie Spears or the court system to say that Britney Spears is still incapable of managing her life and finances after twelve years of personal growth? The general Libertarian mantra suggests if a person wants to ruin their own life, it is their right to do so. However, if the person is not mentally or physically capable of doing so, the question is much more nuanced.

I have a mentally disabled family member and there is no question she should never be in charge of her own finances. The money would be stolen by dishonest entities and she would almost certainly be left destitute and in horrific conditions without protection.

Britney Spears is not so impaired, physically or mentally. She might well have a substance abuse predilection but we just don’t know one way or the other if she is capable of handling her own finances. It’s possible some con-artist is pulling the strings in an attempt to end the conservatorship of Britney Spears. I strongly suspect Jamie Spears is better capable of handling the finances than his daughter. That suspicion is not enough, in my opinion at least, to keep the conservatorship of Britney Spears fully in place.

In this particular case it is a father attempting to look out for the welfare of his daughter but there are parallels to government trying to look out for me and you. In some cases, the father does know best and, in some cases, so does the government. That does not mean we should allow them to take control of our lives without strong reasons.

Britney Spears has spent twelve years without control of her own money and I think that’s long enough, barring any evidence to the contrary. She should be allowed to manage her own finances. When it comes to controlling another person’s finances or life, we must err on the side of freedom or we risk tyranny.

Tom Liberman

Oregon Leads the Way on Drug Legalization

Drug Legalization

All praise Oregonians and their enlightened stance on drug legalization. Hail magnificent, glorious Oregon for defying an out of control federal government led by decree wielding autocrats issuing executive orders as a way to wage war on the citizens they perceive as the enemy.

Oregon just decriminalized small amounts of cocaine, heroin, and LSD, among others so-called hard drugs. This action, this glorious defiance of an overreaching federal and state governments warms the cockles of my heart, wherever they might be found.

The War on Drugs is a war on the citizens of the United States, there is no question this war has caused more misery than any other federal program in the history of the country. I’ve written numerous times on why this war destroys families, communities, law enforcement, the legal profession, and everything it touches so I will not wax poetic today. Today I shower praise on Oregon for charging forward.

The entirety of whether or not marijuana, or any other drug, is something federal or state governments can regulate is wrapped up in a cased called Gonzales v. Raich and it is interesting reading. Drug legalization is freedom for people.

The point here is fairly straight-forward from my perspective. Those in power like telling you what to do and drug legalization is something they don’t want. The pecking order is Federal, State, Local. The party in power at each level enjoys forcing their view of right and wrong on everyone they control. It is my opinion the Constitution of the United States was written with a full understanding of the nature of humans to want to force others. The powers of the Federal Branch are barely limited anymore, what the Federal Government wants, it gets. What the State wants, it gets.

There are few solutions left to freedom lovers who have no desire to dictate to anyone else how she or he leads life. We are overwhelmed by do-gooders who know what gun I should own, what weed I should smoke, what medical procedure I should have, what religion I should pursue. We the People must pass laws, in our municipalities and states, contrary to the authoritarian decrees of out of control federal and state governments.

This is the power of the people. Well done, Oregon.

Tom Liberman

Irish Court rules Subway Sandwiches not made with Bread

Subway Sandwiches

The Supreme Court of Ireland just ruled Subway Sandwiches are not made with bread. You read correctly. What’s important to understand is not the ruling itself but the reason behind the ruling, why is it judges must spend time determining the composition of Subway sandwiches.

The reason the justices were examining the situation is because Ireland has a tax exemption for staple foods like bread but differentiates bread from cake by how much sugar is used in the baking process. A case was brought by Subway wanting a refund for the ingredients they use to make bread. The court ruled the amount of sugar used in making bread for Subway sandwiches is greater than the limit allowed. I’m going to stop examining the actual case here and get to my main point, which has nothing to do with how the bread on Subway sandwiches is prepared.

The problem here is that the courts are looking at the baking process of bread, not what that procedure might or might not be. It’s basically the same reason the United States Supreme Court ruled a tomato is a vegetable. It all has to do with taxes, tariffs, and government intervention.

Now, you are probably thinking, hey, it’s a good thing the government gives tax exempt status to staple foods so that people don’t have to pay extra for a simple meal. I agree. The problem isn’t giving tax exempt status to bread, the problem is taxing food at all. What is the justification for taxes on food?

I’ve written before I’m not completely against taxes. We pay taxes for transport infrastructure because the government uses tax money to build and maintain roads. We find those roads particularly useful and so, rather than have each neighborhood build and maintain their own section of road, we allow the government to tax us for a unified system.

The justification for taxing food is the same as the justification for any product. People need to drive to the store to purchase things. However, the drive to the store to purchase bread is exactly the same as the drive to purchase a chocolate cake. Taxing cake but not bread is an attempt to make people eat in a healthier manner and forces the courts to look into the baking process at Subway, which is time not well spent.

If we decide it is important for people to purchase food and give tax exempt status to those doing so, we should do it across the board. The best solution is to simply stop taxing all food items rather than force the courts to decide what constitutes bread. Simple and efficient, the way government should operate but seldom does.

Tom Liberman

A Failure of Constitutional Obligation

Constitutional Obligation

There is much in the news today about the Constitutional Obligation of the Senate to consider a Supreme Court nomination from the President of the United States. It is important to understand this is a Constitutional Obligation and when Senator Mitch McConnell failed to fulfill that duty upon the death of Justice Scalia in 2016 the entire Supreme Court became unconstitutional. Every decision made by the court from that point forward has no legal standing.

When McConnell made the decision to ignore his constitutional obligation, he willingly poisoned the entire judicial branch of the United States. I interpret this as an attempt to destroy the United States as a whole and such falls clearly under Section 3 of Article Three of the Constitution of the United States. Every time McConnell states he has a constitutional obligation to appoint a Supreme Court Justice to the fill the vacancy of Justice Ginsburg he admits his guilt in the previous appointment. He is, without question, guilty and should face punishment as described in that section.

Every decision made by the court since that failure of constitutional obligation is tainted. The entire court is invalidated by the decision McConnell made. For a while I posited if Justice Gorsuch were to resign and another judge appointed in his place, it would rectify the problem. With the current nomination process ongoing, I see this was a false hope. This version of the Supreme Court, in place and serving ably since 1790, is forever invalid. The situation is far worse than that, the entire judicial branch is poisoned by the fruit from that tree.

Every ruling of the Supreme Court since 2016 is invalid and every precedent used from those decision is likewise meaningless. We cannot fix the situation by appointing another justice. If an umpire makes a bad call on the first pitch of an at bat, it cannot be resolved by making a reverse call on the fourth pitch. What is done, is done. The Supreme Court as we know it cannot be fixed through normal processes.

I’m quite aware my point here is radical to the extreme. There is no Rule of Law and we might as well accept such. The United States is currently a lawless country and until a new Supreme Court is installed, it will remain that way.

We must look to the Judiciary Act of 1789 to proceed. Every Supreme Court justice must step down and be replaced, immediately. President Washington acted in the interest of the country by appointing six justices from different regions of the nation with differing views, I suspect President Trump is incapable of such but I offer him, or his successor, and the United States Senate the opportunity to fulfill their constitutional obligation.

It is also important to understand the current situation is the outcome of the politicization of the Supreme Court for which both Democrats and Republicans are to be blamed. The Founding Fathers established separate but equal branches for a reason and this is an example of why they did so.

Can we appoint new Justices in an apolitical way? I doubt it, but it is the only way forward. Everything else points to the end of the Republic. If the Supreme Court becomes an extension of the Legislative Branch which has become an extension of the Executive Branch, there is no separation of powers, and there is no Republic. That is where we currently stand.

Tom Liberman

The Problem is there was no Crime in the Breonna Taylor Case

Breonna Taylor

The Breonna Taylor case is making a lot of headlines and people are upset only one criminal charge, reckless endangerment, was filed against the officers. The problem isn’t that a single charge was filed, the problem is that everything the officers did, except shooting blindly into a room, was perfectly legal. The problem is that none of them can be charged with a crime.

The problem is that police can, and all to frequently do, murder people legally. It’s vitally important to understand this is a problem for the people and for the police, both are the victims here.

This is the state of our legal system as a result of the failed War on Drugs that allows police to kill with legal impunity, to steal your money with legal impunity, to throw flashbang grenades into baby cribs with impunity, to intimidate, harass, abuse, imprison, torture, absolutely legally. That’s the problem and if you don’t see it, you’ll be a victim soon enough under the unlikely circumstances that you have not been already.

The problem isn’t the police, the problem is our society, our laws, our willingness to give up freedom and reduce safety at the same time.

Many right-wing Trump supporters out there are angry about what is going on to poor people in this nation. What’s happening to poor black people is exactly why you voted for Trump, except it was being done to you. You in West Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, and lots of other places were left out when the rich got richer, laws designed to protect wealthy people left you out in the cold in a crap job without enough money to feed your kids and no hope for advancement.

Farmers see their land taken by corporate bankers. Energy workers see their livelihood being taken from them. President Trump promised you he’d stop it all but instead he’s redirected your anger to poor, largely minority people, who are being trampled upon in exactly the same way. These people are your allies in this fight. Antifa, Alt-Right, Libertarian, BLM, the police themselves; the Trumps and Pelosis of the world want you to fight each other so you don’t line them up against a wall and put a clip into their center mass.

Breonna Taylor is dead because you gave away your freedom. You stood by and watched as politicians passed laws for the War on Drug, the War Powers Act, The National Emergency Act. You stood by while local officials made it impossible for you to drive to work without violating the law and if you get on the wrong side of the police department, they will figure out a way to fine you to within an inch of your life to finance their bloated government.

Breonna Taylor was absolutely murdered by police who got a stupid no-knock warrant to kick in her door with guns drawn because she was dating a guy who sold drugs. She was murdered and it’s not against the law. That’s the problem. Police officers, everyone wants to kill you because politicians have set you up to take the fall, no matter how much they pretend to be on your side, they are murdering you. They are sending you out to take bullets for them.

You all need to figure this out. All those organizations fighting each other in the streets of Louisville need to get together, then we will actually see change.

Tom Liberman

Jacksonville Strippers and the Case Justice Ginsburg will Never Hear

Jacksonville Strippers

There’s an interesting legal case involving Jacksonville Strippers and I thought with the news of Justice Ginsburg’s passing it would be something that might interest her and certainly does me. In Florida a new law prevents Jacksonville strippers from being under the age of 21 in clubs that do not serve alcohol. This city ordinance is being challenged as unconstitutional and might, if pursued diligently, end up in the Supreme Court.

Justice Ginsburg spent her life championing the cause of women and Jacksonville strippers are in that category. The justification for the law is that women under twenty-one are closer in age to the current limit of eighteen, that the closer a woman is to eighteen, the more likely she is to be unduly influenced into a career she does not want.

In Jacksonville the city representatives decided all strippers must be fingerprinted and licensed before they can pursue their profession. They also came to the conclusion they would not issue such licenses to anyone under twenty-one. They do this in the name of stopping “sex trafficking”.

The reality is relatively simple, for whatever reason we’ve established eighteen is the age when citizens are legally adults and can largely make their own decisions. If someone is eighteen, they can have sex with whomever they want, they can take their clothes off for money, they can model in a skimpy swimsuit, they can do anything any other adult can do and the government should not get involved, no matter how repugnant we, personally, might find the situation.

You’ll notice the do-gooder city hall members in Jacksonville have not asked to fingerprint and license members of the University of North Florida Osprey Division I football team. These young men are playing a violent game and run an enormous risk of personal injury but no one seems all that concerned about their welfare, despite them being under twenty-one. I’m sure you find that as surprising as me, as in not at all.

Today’s question is What Would Ruth Do? Justice Ginsburg lived a life actively and vigorously fighting for women to have the same rights as men in this world of ours, that includes Jacksonville Strippers. Once we’ve decided the legal age of adulthood is eighteen, we must not start picking and choosing particular professions and genders to protect from their own decisions. This is Big Brother at his worst, picking on adult women because Big Brother knows better how to lead their life than they do themselves.

Big Brother says young women are too weak of mind, too easily preyed upon, and we must protect them. Big Brother is, as usual, wrong.

The question is easily answered for me. What about you?

What would Justice Ginsburg Decide in this case?

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Tom Liberman

Yale University Admissions show the Difficulty of Proving Discrimination

Yale University

The Department of Justice recently filed suit against Yale University for discriminating against Caucasian and Asian students. It’s going to be just as difficult to prove this discrimination as it is to prove against companies that refuse to hire black or homosexual candidates. This is where government intervention often appears to be a force of good but it really is not. Let me explain.

In a nutshell, the discriminating agency can deny the choice was made because of color of skin, sexual orientation, or any external factor. My father argued a Supreme Court case in the 1960s involving discrimination in housing. He won that case but, and this is important, doing so did not stop white people from preventing blacks moving into their neighborhoods. There are plenty of black people in St. Louis who can affirm the practice is still thriving.

In this case the shoe is on the other foot. Basically, kids from impoverished regions of the country who attend schools without the many academic advantages have no little or no chance to score as well on tests as kids from wealthy school districts, or beat them on the football field. The kids with a huge wealth gap advantage in tutors, trainers, equipment, study material, study time, and other things almost always do better on standardized tests.

Let me make this a little more personal so you can see the point of view of the school. Let’s imagine you are hiring for a position. You have two candidates. One candidate comes from an elite educational environment with all the advantages. The other comes from a poor district with no advantages. Now, you give them both a business-oriented test for which the average score is 50. The elite candidate scores 55 and the poor candidate scores 51. But you look in your database and candidates coming from the elite environment average 64 on the test while those from the poor section average 35. So, you’ve got a candidate who scored 16 points above average for their background and one that scored 9 below from their own. One is clearly an overachiever while the other is an underachiever. Who do you hire?

This is what Yale University and other elite educational schools face everyday when they must choose who to admit. Yale University often chooses the minority student despite having what appears to be a worse academic record. Now, it’s also entirely possible Yale University picks the minority student because the admission counselor hates Asians, but this is difficult to prove. People will always be able to come up with some rational as to why the black family can’t move into the neighborhood besides blatant discrimination. We see it all the time here in St. Louis and I’m sure in your part of the world also.

Now that I’ve explained the problem I’m finally getting to the point of this article. The government cannot fix this problem and often does more harm than good when they try. Let’s imagine the Justice Department is successful in forcing Yale University to admit students based solely on their test scores. Are we not removing the freedom of the school to pick who they want to be members? Is it not their school?

It’s also important to understand it was earlier rulings making discrimination illegal that allow the Justice Department to file this lawsuit against Yale University in the first place. If discrimination was not outlawed by the government, Yale is free to do as it will.

To me that’s the important point. Discrimination didn’t stop because government passed a law. People still speed, people still take drugs, people still discriminate, they just hide it better.

Yale University should be allowed to admit whomever it wants, if they refuse overachieving minority students who will undoubtedly succeed, that’s their loss.

Tom Liberman

Liability Immunity is Wrong in so Many Ways

Liability Immunity

Federal and State governments provide liability immunity for a number of people and businesses and every single bit of it is wrong. Wrong! The topic of liability immunity is being discussed a great deal lately because of Covid-19 and President Trump’s social media spats but the problem is far deeper and more insidious than that.

State governments have largely made individual law enforcement officers immune from lawsuits in regards to actions taken while performing their duties. Thus, the officer who threw a flash-bang grenade into a crib during a no-knock search warrant couldn’t be sued by the parents whose baby had half its face burned off.

Gun manufacturers are immune to liability. Volunteers working for the government are immune to liability. The government has protected all sorts of people and businesses from liability over the years including social media outlets. If someone harms another person through negligent actions, the place to determine liability is in the courts, not in the legislatures. This seems self-evident to me.

Why should anyone get blanket liability immunity? It makes no sense to me; we have a judicial system to sort out these problems. Certainly, individual cases might be decided in a fashion I think is unfair but the old expression we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water seems perfectly relevant to me.

It’s important to note the liability immunity extended to social media by Congress means, by default, that such liability immunity can be removed, or a threat to remove it can be made. This gives government power they should not have; it gives government the ability to influence what content we see or don’t see. When we give government the ability to extend liability immunity, we explicitly give government officials the right to selectively remove it. They should have no such ability whatsoever.

When the government offers to give businesses liability immunity in regards to Covid-19 they are essentially engaging in force against We the People. If you don’t go back to work in a dangerous environment, we will punish you. We are taking away your right to get redress for crimes committed against you.

I’m horrified by all this liability immunity. If you harm through negligence, or other means, you must face your day in court. Anything else is tyranny.

Tom Liberman

Should Lynching be a Federal Crime

Lynching

Lynching will soon be a federal crime if President Trump signs a bill to that effect. The bill passed the House of Representatives by an overwhelming 410-4 vote and passed through the Senate without opposition so it seems unlikely to be vetoed.

To understand my objection to this law I must explain that I think any law must have a well-defined, non-paternalistic, and useful purpose. If a law doesn’t have all these things, it is a danger to freedom.

A law that is not well-defined is, by its very nature, open to abuse. Law enforcement officials are put in the position of enforcing a law based on their judgment. This means that groups of people who are, for whatever reason, perceived as less important will suffer the brunt of enforcement. We need not look any further than poorly written traffic laws which result in a hugely disproportionate number of citations against minorities and poor people.

A paternalistic law is essentially the government telling an individual how to lead their own life because the majority thinks they know better. The War on Drugs is an example of this kind of law. This war has caused far more harm than it has prevented.

In this case the law is useless from a legal perspective. No one has been lynched in the United States since 1955 when Emmett Till was brutally killed. He is the last of the estimated 4,733 people so murdered. If no one has committed this crime in sixty years then what is the point of having a law against it? No lives will be saved and no criminals brought to justice who would have otherwise escaped penalty.

That is not to say the law is without purpose, it is just without useful purpose. The law has political purpose. It gives legislators a way to tell voters they are doing something, they care. It is a backward way of apologizing for allowing all of those lynching to take place at all.

If you want to apologize, and believe me, an apology is owed, then do so. I’m sorry that I am part of a government that allowed nearly five thousand people to be brutally murdered without any attempt to bring the criminals that did so to justice. It is a stain on the honor of my country, my state, and my municipality. It is a sickening example of the irrational hate and to the horror such hate allows people to engage in. The fact it was tolerated is vile and I am ashamed that it happened. This law does not make such an apology. It is almost an affront to a real apology. It is a fake apology designed purely for political gain.

What good will this law do? What criminal will it bring to justice? It is even possible it might be manipulated in the future to further penalize someone the government doesn’t like. Let us not pretend such things do not happen.

If a law does not have a well-defined, non-paternalistic purpose, let us not make the law. Even if the law is against an activity that should clearly never be tolerated, as is the case here. Lynching was and remains disgusting. This law doesn’t do anything to prevent it, it does nothing to bring criminals to justice and that must be the explicit purpose of any law.

If you are looking for a way to improve the plight of minorities in this country I’d suggest a look at traffic violations and the War on Drugs.

Tom Liberman