Rand Paul Rejects Judicial Restraint, Says ‘I’m a Judicial Activist’ Reply

I have long believed that the most important role mainstream libertarians can play is in the realm of the legal system, e.g. more libertarian lawyers becoming activist judges, district attorneys, and defense attorneys that reshape the legal system according to much more libertarian values. The U.S. legal system desperately needs some libertarian William Brennans or Thurgood Marshalls.

By Damon Root


Speaking Tuesday at the Heritage Action Conservative Policy Summit in Washington, D.C., Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) urged his conservative audience to reject the legal philosophy known as judicial restraint and instead embrace an “activist” Supreme Court that’s willing to strike down offensive state and federal laws. “What happens when a legislature does bad things?” Paul asked the crowd. “Should we have an activist court that comes in and overturns that?”

Paul answered that question with a resounding yes. He pointed to a variety of Supreme Court cases where government actions were on trial, from Progressive era economic regulations to state bans on birth control to the 2012 showdown over Obamacare, and pronounced himself in favor of judicial activism against those laws in every instance.

“I’m a judicial activist when it comes to Lochner,” Paul declared. “I’m a judicial activist when it comes to the New Deal. But I’m also a judicial activist when it comes to Brown [v. Board of Education]. I think the [Supreme Court] was right to overturn state governments that were saying separate but equal is fine.”

When governments “do wrong we should overturn them,” Paul said. “There is a role for the Supreme Court to mete out justice.”

Click here to watch Paul deliver his remarks.

For a detailed account of the long-running legal battle over the merits of judicial restraint, check out my new book on the subject, Overruled: The Long War for Control of the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a Safer Age, U.S. Rethinks Its ‘Tough on Crime’ System Reply

The police state and prison-industrial complex have become so large that state repression has spilled over into the mainstream, rather than remaining on the margins and on the bottom. It’s become costly enough that mainstream liberals and conservatives alike are starting to rethink it all. Interesting.

By Erik Eckholm

New York Times

A man in a T-shirt selling drugs in New York in 1989. Closing open-air drug markets drove down shootings in many urban areas. Credit Ángel Franco/The New York Times

Bullets were flying in the cities. Crack wars trapped people in their homes. The year was 1994, and President Bill Clinton captured the grim national mood, declaring “gangs and drugs have taken over our streets” as he signed the most far-reaching crime bill in history.

The new law expanded the death penalty, and offered the states billions of dollars to hire more police officers and to build more prisons. But what was not clear at the time was that violent crime had already peaked in the early ’90s, starting a decline that has cut the nation’s rates of murder, robbery and assault by half.

Perhaps nowhere has the drop been more stunning than in New York City, which reported only 328 homicides for 2014, compared with 2,245 in 1990. The homicide rate in some cities has fluctuated more — Washington ticked up to 104 in 2014, after a modern low of 88 in 2012. But that still is a drastic fall from a peak of 474 in 1990.


Let the Fire Burn: The MOVE Bombings 30 Years Later Reply

The Waco of the 1980s.


MOVE members and police during the 1978 confrontation outside MOVE headquarters.

MOVE members and police during the 1978 confrontation outside MOVE headquarters.

It’s the week of the 29th anniversary of the MOVE bombings, and for those who were in the middle of it and are still with us, the memories of those tragic events still linger all these years later. As the haunting story unfolds in Jason Osder‘s Let the Fire Burn, which premieres tonight on Independent Lens on PBS (check local listings), you may be curious as to what became of some of the people involved.


Imprisoned Member of Philadelphia Radical Group MOVE Dies Reply

R.I.P. Phil Africa. Heroic resistance fighter against state repression.


Free Thought Project

phil africa dies in prison
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – According to Ramona Africa, a representative for the MOVE 9, Phil Africa, the organization’s First Minister of Defense, passed away in prison under suspicious circumstances this week.Phil was a legendary activist and political prisoner, as well as a beloved brother, husband and father.


An Amnesty for Prisoners of the War on Drugs Reply

Nothing less is acceptable.

By Ernest Drucker and Mike Trace

Huffington Post

Atty. General Eric Holder’s long overdue realization that “too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law enforcement reason” was an important step toward a national recognition that our decades long war on drugs has been ineffective, expensive, and cruel. As bipartisan support grows in Congress for overhauling U.S. drug laws, Holder has just ordered Federal prosecutors to remove any reference to quantities of illicit drugs that trigger mandatory minimums and to apply this provision to pending drug cases, where the defendant has not yet been sentenced.

But reducing the length and frequency of drug-related incarceration going forward for new cases, however welcome, doesn’t do anything about the large population of drug users already stuck in our prisons. Many non violent drug offenders are still serving out long terms under the now discredited mandatory sentencing policies. Most of these are young minority men with children, drawn from our poorest urban communities.

To date little has been said about how we can both dispense justice and save money by reducing the size of this key population. As of Jan 1, 2012 there were over 1.8 million drug law offenders under the control of the U.S. criminal justice system; 320,000 behind bars (in State and Federal prisons) and an additional 1.5 million under community supervision on parole and probation programs — where administrative violations, missed appointments, and failed drug tests send hundreds of thousands of drug offenders back to prison. The total annual cost of keeping these millions in our criminal justice system is now over $12 billion per year.

The U.S. is not the only country in the world that has filled its prisons with low-level drug users and dealers — countries as diverse as Brazil, Thailand and Russia have followed the U.S. drug war example — but the scale of the U.S. prison population is unique.

Now that the White House has acknowledged the fundamental wrong-headedness of its own mass incarceration of drug users, what should be done about the failed war’s victims who are still in prison?

One proposal immediately leaps to mind: declare a blanket amnesty or pardon for all drug war prisoners currently serving time in prison or on parole for non-violent drug offenses.


NYPD Brass to Rank and File: Start Writing More Summonses Or Else Reply

The case of the NYPD “work slow down” is an example of why a Machiavellian approach to political strategy and activism is necessary. If there were a large and well-organized anarchist movement in North America, that was in turn organizing a larger federation of anti-state groups, we would of course have been out there participating in the recent anti-police brutality protests generated by Ferguson and Garner. However, once a division emerged between the police and the political class, or between the rank and file police and top brass, we would then seek to exploit that division. Unlike liberals and other do-gooders who chastised the NYPD for disrespecting the mayor by turning their backs on him, we would welcome such actions as fostering division between the state and its enforcer arm (hey, the cops are just exercising their right to protest, right?). In response to the top brass “back to work” order we would come out and protest in support of the work slow down (after all, the cops are just unionized wage workers, too. Right? LOL).

By Jesse Walker


On Friday, the New York Police Department publicly acknowledged that a slowdown was underway among the rank and file. Over the weekend, we learned how the bosses were responding to the revolt. According to The New York Post,

Back to work, officer!At precincts across the city, top brass are cracking the whip on summons activity and even barring many cops from taking vacation and sick days, The Post has learned.


Hot Air and the Paris Atrocities 1

By Dr. Sean Gabb

Libertarian Alliance

For the avoidance of doubt, I will begin by saying that the murders this week at Charlie Hebdo were a barbarous crime, and deserve the strongest punishment allowed by law. This being said, the smug chanting of the politicians and media people is getting on my nerves. Here, without further introduction, are the more objectionable mantras:

Je suis Charlie

I will repeat that this was a barbarous crime. But there seem to be barbarous crimes and barbarous crimes. Suppose the attack had not been on a cultural leftist magazine, but on the headquarters of the Front National, and the victims had been Francine le Pen and the party leadership. Would all those city squares have filled with people reciting Je suis le Front National? I hardly think so. Nor would the media have given blanket and uncritical coverage.

Indeed, we had our answer before the gunmen had opened fire. When Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh and Lee Rigby were murdered no less barbarously, we were all urged to moderate our response. In the first two cases, we were told, with more than the occasional nod and wink, that victims had brought things on themselves. As for the third, the only protest demonstrations were broken up by the police.

Cultural leftists have the same right not to be murdered as the rest of us. So far as the present lamentations indicate, they are seen by the directors of public opinion as having a greater right.


If we want to reduce police brutality we have to end the war on drugs Reply

By T.C. Sottek

The Verge

Protests for police reform are sweeping the United States following the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and an untold number of other unarmed or innocent people of color. Amid the anger and sadness, one thing is clear: policing in America is a huge and complex problem. It’s also a historical problem. As Ta-Nehisi Coates observed in The Atlantic, the insane incarceration rate of blacks in this country is part of a long tradition; “America’s entire history is marked by the state imposing unfreedom on a large swath of the African American population.”

That tradition is as deep and as old as our revered constitution. The condition of possibility of America’s existence was a racist compromise baked into our founding document. We’re a country founded by people who declared forcefully that “all men are created equal” as a self-evident fact, and then 12 years later declared that black slaves were only worth three-fifths of free white men to avoid giving the South greater representation in Congress. The chokehold on people of color in America is written in ink. And it has always been about property.

So, perhaps ironically, I find myself sympathetic to the words of a southern white man, Senator Rand Paul. Listen to what he said when he was asked this week about Eric Garner’s death on MSNBC.

Senator Paul’s libertarian-leaning politics are controversial, but they’re also predictable — it’s not a surprise that he took an opportunity to knock excessive New York taxation. (A city that tried to ban large sodas is low-hanging fruit for conservatives who love to rail against the nanny state.) Paul’s argument is that high taxes on cigarettes in New York incubated an underground market that ultimately created the conditions for Eric Garner’s death. Here’s what Paul said about taxation:


It’s the End of the War on Drugs as We Know It Reply

By Joel Mathis


After decades of pain, some sanity.

Kids, gather round. Let me share with you the horrors of my youth.



Back in the 1980s, these commercials were on a near-constant loop — especially on Saturday mornings and any other times kids might be watching TV. It was a steady drumbeat: Don’t do drugs. Don’t do drugs. Don’t do drugs. Don’t do drugs. Somehow, people kept doing drugs.


The State of American Fascism as it was in 2014 1

The Antifa need not worry about efforts by fringe right-wing cults to impose fascism in America. Fascism is already here.

By Radley Balko

Washington Post

Sometimes, real life can be stranger than parody. This can be particularly true when it comes to the beat we cover here at The Watch, civil liberties. With that in mind, I’ve gone out on a limb to make some predictions about what might happen on the civil liberties front in 2015. I realize that some of these prognostications may seem a wee bit hyperbolic, a bit paranoid, maybe even a little nutty. But I think we can all agree that we should hope none of them actually do come to pass.

So on with the predictions. In 2015, I foresee the following:

• A state judge will quite reasonably suggest that prosecutors shouldn’t suborn perjury, shouldn’t retaliate against political opponents, shouldn’t suppress evidence, and that we should discipline those who do. That state’s prosecutors will revolt, accuse the judge of bias and demand that the judge recuse himself from all criminal cases.

• In the name of “preparation,” school officials will stage terrifying active-shooter scenarios on children in which cops and other community leaders storm school buildings with guns. In some cases, neither parents nor children will be notified ahead of time that the scenario is a drill. In others, kids will be recruited to play victims, complete with bloody bullet holes and gaping wounds.


Defense and Law Enforcement in an Anarchist Society Reply

By Josh Wiley

Cop Block

This article is for the irate minority who, like myself, have come to the realization that government, by its nature, constitutes a monopoly on force.

Sadly, we live in a world in which there exists at least two classes of citizens: The average public Joe and the enforcement arm of the state. Unlike a “normal” citizen whose right to self-defense is severely limited by law, law enforcement and military do not have such restrictions. In fact, they are virtually void of restrictions at all, having the legal authority to incarcerate, attack, and even murder other individuals who lack their uniform and shiny badge.

Historical examples of such abuse of power are countless – the Kent State massacre; numerous undeclared wars, facilitated in our modern age by armed drones; the murder of Amadou Diallo; the illegal and racist stop-and-frisk policy of the NYPD, etc. Recently, the Occupy Wall Street protests (regardless of any  opinion one may hold of the protesters) have put the issue of police brutality back into the public discourse:


NYPD Punishes City by Not Citing, Arresting Citizens as Much. Oh, No! Reply

By Scott Shackford


Right now in New York City, guys selling black market cigarettes are much, much less likely to be harassed and arrested (or worse) by the New York Police Department. Apparently, or at least in the eyes of the New York Post, we’re supposed to see this as a bad thing (people not getting arrested is certainly a bad thing for the New York Post‘s reporting, anyway):

It’s not a slowdown — it’s a virtual work stoppage.

NYPD traffic tickets and summonses for minor offenses have dropped off by a staggering 94 percent following the execution of two cops — as officers feel betrayed by the mayor and fear for their safety, The Post has learned.

The dramatic drop comes as Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio plan to hold an emergency summit on Tuesday with the heads of the five police unions to try to close the widening rift between cops and the administration.

They provide an info box showing, in addition to the huge drop in minor offense summonses, a 94 percent drop in citations for traffic violations, a 92 percent drop in parking violation citations, and a 66 percent drop in overall arrests.

And there’s this paragraph:

The Post obtained the numbers hours after revealing that cops were turning a blind eye to some minor crimes and making arrests only “when they have to” since the execution-style shootings of Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.


NYC arrests tumble 66% with NYPD in virtual work stoppage 3

Is this how we defeat the police state? Engage in massive protests against police brutality, and elect anti-police local officials who will inspire the cops to stand down? These events lend support for the credibility of ATS’s adoption of the “Mailer model” for building localized resistance.

D.C. Beacon

It’s not a slowdown — it’s a virtual work stoppage.

The New York Post reports:

NYPD traffic tickets and summonses for minor offenses have dropped off by a staggering 94 percent following the execution of two cops — as officers feel betrayed by the mayor and fear for their safety, The Post has learned.

The dramatic drop comes as Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio plan to hold an emergency summit on Tuesday with the heads of the five police unions to try to close the widening rift between cops and the administration.

The unprecedented meeting is being held at the new Police Academy in Queens at 2 p.m., sources said.

Angry union leaders have ordered drastic measures for their members since the Dec. 20 assassination of two NYPD cops in a patrol car, including that two units respond to every call.


Overcriminalization Reply

The Heritage Foundation

Overcriminalization describes the trend to use the criminal law rather than the civil law to solve every problem, to punish every mistake, and to compel compliance with regulatory objectives.  Criminal law should be used only if a person intentionally flouts the law or engages in conduct that is morally blameworthy or dangerous.

Too Many Laws, Too Little Oversight

  • Too Many New Laws: Federal criminal law has exploded in size and scope and deteriorated in quality. It used to focus on inherently wrongful conduct: treason, murder, counterfeiting, and the like. Today, an unimaginably broad range of socially and economically beneficial conduct is criminalized.
  • Unjust Punishment: More and more Americans who have worked diligently to abide by the law are being trapped and unjustly punished due to vague, overly broad criminal offenses. Congress must halt its overcriminalization rampage.

Scales How We Got Here


Wary NYPD cops letting minor crimes slide Reply

The people get militant, and the pigs back off. It looks like the protests are working. Lesson learned. 


Police turn their backs on Mayor de Blasio during funeral for fallen NYPD cop Reply

Wonderful! This is indicative of a deep rift between the political class and law enforcement. Severe disunity between the state and its enforcer arm is always welcome to revolutionaries.

FOX News

Associated Press


Hundreds of police officers outside the Queens, N.Y. church Saturday where the funeral of Officer Rafael Ramos was being held turned their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio as he eulogized the fallen officer who was ambushed last week along with his partner.

De Blasio’s remarks were being shown on large TV monitors outside the Christ Tabernacle Church. Police union officials have accused the mayor of fostering a climate of mistrust that contributed to the killings of Officer Ramos and his partner.

More than 25,000 police officers from across the country assembled in winter sunshine to pay final respects to Ramos, a seven-year veteran of the NYPD. The long sea of blue stretched more than six city blocks.

In his eulogy, de Blasio offered the city’s condolences to the Ramos family.

“All of this city is grieving and grieving for so many reasons,” he said. “But the most personal is that we lost such a good man.”

Vice President Joe Biden expressed condolences directly to Ramos’ two sons.

“You’ve shown tremendous courage these past days,” he said.

He said Ramos and his partner Wenjian Liu were officers who were committed, passionate and vigilant.


Pretty Much Every U.S. Demographic Group Believes Torture Is Justified Reply

It looks like mass democracy is working.

By Mark Strauss

Pretty Much Every U.S. Demographic Group Believes Torture Is JustifiedExpand

The good news: For those who are worried that the nation is more divided than ever, there’s finally one contentious issue that a majority of Americans agree upon. The bad news: Most people are okay with the CIA torturing suspected terrorists.

According to a new poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News, 58% said the torture of suspected terrorists could be justified “often” and “sometimes.” But what’s most striking about the survey is that there’s a consensus among demographic groups who typically have dramatically divergent views on social and political issues.

As the Washington Post comments:

Those ideological poles at opposite ends of public opinion aren’t that surprising. But the distribution of demographic groups between them is. A majority of nearly every group — blacks, whites, women, young adults, the elderly, Midwesterners, suburbanites, Catholics, moderates, the wealthy — said that torture of suspected terrorists can be often or sometimes justified.

For instance, traditionally “blue” states in the Northeast and “red” states in the South had identical responses: 43% saying torture was “sometimes” justified, 19% saying “often” justified—a total of 62% in each demographic.

Among those with a high school education or less, a college degree and a post-graduate education, the total responses, respectively, were 59%, 48% and 57%.


Eric Garner, American Occupation, and the Decline of Empire Reply

By Danny Haiphong


The nascent movement against racist police brutality in the US received a boost of energy from the non-indictment of Eric Garner’s murderers in blue. Thousands filled the streets from New York City to Berkeley, California to protest racist injustice and declare #BlackLivesMatter.

In typical fashion, the militarized police and mass incarceration state responded by arresting, beating, and using dangerous weapons like the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) on protesters. The LRAD is a powerful “sound cannon” capable of deafening and causing long term health complications for intended targets. This device has been used by numerous US-backed reactionary governments. During the 2009 Obama-backed coup in Honduras, LRADs were used against supporters of the legitimate party of President Zelaya. The LRAD is also used frequently by Zionist Israel to break the resistance of the Palestinian people.


Why Did They Torture? Reply

By Justin Raimondo


The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on how the US government tortured detainees at Guantanamo and at secret “black sites” all over the world has focused on how they did it: rectal feeding, hanging detainees by their arms, “stress positions,” beatings, etc. The prurience of this focus is fairly obvious, and typical of decadent societies in general – which is not to say that the details of “how” are irrelevant. They underscore the moral bankruptcy of the regime that permitted these practices. Yet this preoccupation with the sordid details tends to overlook the “why” of it – the key to understanding what the neocons in control of the national security apparatus during the Bush years were really after.

They say they were after al-Qaeda’s alleged plans to carry out further strikes on the US homeland and American facilities abroad, but there is evidence in the report that their purpose was much more specific. Major Charles Burney, a psychiatrist who served at the Guantanamo Bay facility, told the committee that “a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq.” That Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon posed a seemingly insoluble problem for the interrogators: however, the failure to produce results did not impress higher-ups in Washington. The torturers were told to get rougher: As Burney testified: “There was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results.”


Rough Justice Reply

Good article from 2010 about over criminalization in the US.

The Economist

IN 2000 four Americans were charged with importing lobster tails in plastic bags rather than cardboard boxes, in violation of a Honduran regulation that Honduras no longer enforces. They had fallen foul of the Lacey Act, which bars Americans from breaking foreign rules when hunting or fishing. The original intent was to prevent Americans from, say, poaching elephants in Kenya. But it has been interpreted to mean that they must abide by every footling wildlife regulation on Earth. The lobstermen had no idea they were breaking the law. Yet three of them got eight years apiece. Two are still in jail.

America is different from the rest of the world in lots of ways, many of them good. One of the bad ones is its willingness to lock up its citizens (see our briefing). One American adult in 100 festers behind bars (with the rate rising to one in nine for young black men). Its imprisoned population, at 2.3m, exceeds that of 15 of its states. No other rich country is nearly as punitive as the Land of the Free. The rate of incarceration is a fifth of America’s level in Britain, a ninth in Germany and a twelfth in Japan.


Debate: We’ve Never Had it So Good Reply

By Keir Martland

Libertarian Alliance

My college’s History Society was to have a debate today, which was cancelled. Censorship! No, actually, revision sessions were scheduled at dinner. But, as the likelihood of this debate taking place before the end of the term is now virtually zero, here is what I intended to say – and will say when it goes ahead. 

Motion – ‘We’ve Never Had it So Good’

I must take issue with this motion. I find it patronising and almost 100% wrong.

Oh, indeed, some qualifications are called for. I won’t try to deny that we are all immeasurably better off than our 1914 counterparts in that we can Skype people, we can live our lives without fear of rickets, polio, or David Lloyd George , and we can go days without having to do anything involving a great deal of physical exertion. Maybe this means we are freer in some sense, but it is certainly not up for debate that we are more comfortable on the whole than our great grandparents were when they were our age. What is up for debate is whether we are, in addition to being better off in terms of lifespan and technology, better off in politics, economics, the law, society, and culture.