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Protect Data Privacy at the Border

Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) recently introduced a much-needed, bipartisan Senate bill to combat mobile device searches. Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO.) and Blake Farenthold (R-TX) also introduced this bill to the House. The “Protecting Data at the Border” Act is a vital step towards protecting the American people from one of the most egregious forms of government overreach.

The bipartisan, bicameral bill would shut down what Wyden calls a “legal Bermuda Triangle,” which allows the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to search people’s mobile devices at the United States border without a warrant. If passed, the bill would require law enforcement agencies to obtain a “warrant based on probable cause” before seizing the device of “a U.S. person.” It also prevents law enforcement from denying or delaying entry to the country if a person refuses to turn over PIN numbers, passwords, or social media account information.

Current device search policy applies to U.S. citizens and noncitizens alike and allows the federal government to search cell phones, tablets, and other mobile devices at border crossings without any suspicion of criminal wrongdoing. In 2009, after concerns were raised about the legality of the policy, the DHS conducted a civil liberties impact assessment, which came to the troubling conclusion that such searches are justified. The summary reads:

“We also conclude that imposing a requirement that officers have reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a border search of an electronic device would be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefits.”

In other words: Fourth Amendment need not apply.

It is abundantly clear that this policy treads all over civil liberties. As the American Civil Liberties Union points out, federal authorities are granted “broader” power near border areas. But those powers do not allow them blatantly to violate Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Continue reading at RealClearPolicy

hands in jail

The New Drug Czar’s ‘Hospital Slash Prisons’ Are a Horrible Idea

Once he was safely a lame duck, President Barack Obama let states set their own marijuana policies, pardoned or commuted thousands of prisoners’ sentences and talked more freely—and less hypocritically—about the need to end the war on drugs. In fact, his Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP) concluded that Richard Nixon’s famous War on Drugs was now a relict by sending the wrong message in prioritizing punishment over treatment. (In reality, the war did continue, even if the phrase had been covered neatly with a tarp for a few years under the guise of “laboratories of democracy.“)

Now we’re in Donald Trump’s America, with Trump’s ODCP and Trump’s Department of Justice. Attorney General Jeff Sessions heads the latter and he’s expressed befuddlement that the American people aren’t cheering his musings on the prospect of kicking the drug war up a notch to prevent some imagined dystopian future of convenience-store marijuana sales. Unfortunately, POTUS’s supposed pick for drug czar, U.S. Representative Tom Marino, is likely to be just as bad as Sessions. A Republican from Pennsylvania, Marino’s voting record on the drug war makes him well-suited for this position in a Trump administration.

As the Washington Post reports, Marino seems to gung-ho on the “Let’s vaguely pretend this is about public health” front, a position that is all the rage on the right. For Marino, protecting public health may involve “hospital-slash-prisons.”

During a 2016 congressional hearing about heroin, Marino wrung his hands on drug abuse and mostly, how it affects children. His full quote, in context: “One treatment option I have advocated for years would be placing nondealer, nonviolent drug abusers in a secured hospital-type setting under the constant care of health professionals. Once the person agrees to plead guilty to possession, he or she will be placed in an intensive treatment program until experts determine that they should be released under intense supervision. If this is accomplished, then the charges are dropped against that person. The charges are only filed to have an incentive for that person to enter the hospital-slash-prison, if you want to call it.”

Continue reading at Playboy

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There’s No Such Thing As Corporate Tax

The EU reaffirmed its commitment to fighting corporate tax avoidance through a statement by European Commissioner Pierre Moscovici. This should come as no surprise following recent financial scandals exposed through the Panama Papers and Luxleaks, and the ensuing international outrage towards corporations “not paying their fair share”. Yet, the push for higher corporate taxes disproportionately also affects ordinary citizens by increasing their tax burden.

Corporate tax avoidance is regularly said to be unfair to other taxpayers. Indeed, proponents of higher corporate taxes accuse multinational companies of de facto increasing ordinary citizens’ tax burden because these ones would be forced to compensate states’ budget shortfalls.

However, this artificial opposition between corporate and public interests is dishonest. When one argues corporations don’t pay taxes, the implication is that shareholders, workers and consumers are not taxed at all, which is completely untrue. All these people are taxed in various ways, including income tax and valued-added tax, among other costs imposed by national governments. The only purpose of this distinction is to push ordinary citizens to support higher corporate taxes without allowing them to realise they are the ones who are going to pay the bill.

In fact, a corporation is a legal fiction which aims to reduce transaction costs between physical stakeholders, which are shareholders, workers and consumers. Consequently, every fiscal cost imposed on corporations will necessarily be paid by these people. Therefore, as corporate taxes increase, shareholders’ dividends and workers’ salaries will decrease, while consumers will be forced to pay more for their purchases.

Read more at the The Daily Caller 

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Syria, North Korea, United passenger fiasco

Late last week, the Trump administration ordered a missile strike on Syria in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians. The political and diplomatic effects are still reverberating. Was this the right move?

Another potential crisis is brewing in northeast Asia. A U.S. carrier group is heading to the Sea of Japan as a show of force against recent North Korean aggression. Will this escalate the situation?

Perhaps the biggest story this week was the United Airlines passenger being dragged off a flight. Dr. David Dao was forcibly removed from a flight from Chicago to Louisville to make room for United crew members. How can this situation be avoided in the future?

Bill Buck of MyWallit.com, Jerrod Laber of Young Voices Advocates, conservative writer and editor Brian McNicoll discuss these issues & more….

Check out the whole exchange here

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	The Pentagon, headquarters of the Department of Defense.  DoD photo by Master Sgt. Ken Hammond, U.S. Air Force.

Will Policymakers Ever Stop Underestimating the True Cost of War?

On April 6, the hundred year anniversary of the United States’ entrance into World War I, President Trump ordered 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles to be fired at Syria’s Al Shayrat airfield. The strike came after Syrian President Assad’s most recent use of chemical weapons against rebel units and citizens living in opposition-controlled areas. Although officials claim this strike is a “one-off,” as we look back at another war –– one that may seem distant –– many parallels emerge to our current War on Terror, and warn of the danger of sending additional forces into Syria. Americans would do well to remember that wars usually cost more than assumed and that they invariably erode the domestic freedoms that the fighting is supposed to protect.

As any good student of history or economics will tell you, wars are expensive and have long-lasting consequences for decades or even a century. Yet, the start of a conflict is often greeted with a bizarre degree of enthusiasm, only for voters and governments to later realize the terrible price. In 1914, crowds cheered in every European capital as politicians predicted glorious victory that would see the boys home “before the leaves fall.” The war would last until 1918 and cause 41 million military and civilian casualties, about 20 million killed and 21 million injured. Moreover, the financial burden was billions of dollars, leaving the major European powers weakened and in debt. The Great War also hit Americans with a bill that would amount to $334 billion in 2014 dollars. This pattern of underestimating the price of war has repeated itself in subsequent conflicts, including our present day ones.

When the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, officials said the war would be short and estimated the cost at no more than $200 billion. Yet mission creep, the phenomenon when military and political objectives of using force keep expanding, set in. With a vaguely-worded authorization for the use of military force passed by Congress, soon the goals and enemies multiplied as the conflict spread across the globe. Including U.S. military involvement in at least five wars: Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. The combined War on Terror has cost at least $3.6 trillion. That rises to $4.79 trillion when requested spending and projected costs are taken into account.

Spending an amount similar to World War II would be alarming enough on its own, but borrowing at such a level when combined with ongoing U.S. entitlement costs is unsustainable. One fact many hawks on the left and right keep ignoring is that the national debt is now greater than America’s GDP and is about to hit $20 trillion.

Continue reading at RealClearDefense 

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