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Stop-and-Frisk: How Government Creates Problems, Then Makes Them Worse
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Crime, Law Enforcement and the Judiciary
Written by Sheldon Richman   
Wednesday, 14 August 2013
Stop-and-Frisk: How Government Creates Problems, Then Makes Them Worse
by Sheldon Richman
Two recent law-enforcement decisions illustrate yet again that when government sets out to solve a problem it created, things get much worse.
This week, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department will keep nonviolent small-scale drug sellers who have no links to criminal organizations from getting caught in the mandatory-minimum-sentence trap. Under current law, judges must impose a mandatory minimum prison term for defendants convicted of selling more than a specified quantity of illegal drugs.
With prison populations and costs mushrooming — America has more people behind bars than any other country in the world — Holder has instructed U.S. attorneys to evade the mandatory-minimum law by not specifying drug quantities when they charge qualifying suspects. He also wants alternatives to prison pursued where possible. While it’s good news that some people who would have faced long prison sentences now will not, we nevertheless should be concerned whenever the executive branch unilaterally declares it will write its own law.
The other decision, this one from a court, criticized New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy, under which the police can stop, pat down, and question anyone on the street who arouses suspicion, a highly subjective criterion indeed. Federal District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the New York Police Department carries out the policy in a manner that violates the Fourth Amendment rights of blacks and Hispanics. The judge specified the ways that the city could fix the policy and appointed a monitor to keep an eye on the police.
In both matters, horrendous policies are to be tweaked to make them less egregious. But this won’t be satisfactory. New York police will still have the arbitrary power to stop people walking down the street, and the federal judges will still put some people away with long mandatory prison terms regardless of the particulars of their cases.
In other words, deeply flawed policies can’t be tweaked enough to make them acceptable. Stop-and-frisk and mandatory minimums should be abolished.
Yet even this would fall short of what’s needed. The problems purportedly addressed by stop-and-frisk and mandatory minimums are of the government’s own making. Thus, if we got to the root, the “need” for these bad policies would disappear.
Stop-and-frisk is largely aimed at finding youths who are carrying guns and drugs. Mandatory minimums are directed at drug sellers. It’s not hard to see what is at the root: drug prohibition. When government declares (certain) drugs illegal, those drugs don’t disappear; instead they move to the black market, which tends to be dominated by people skilled in the use of violence. Because the trade is illegal and the courts are off-limits for dispute resolution, contracts and turf will be protected by force. Those who operate on the street will find it wise to be armed.
So, as a result of prohibition and its attendant violence-prone black market, in some parts of town a percentage of young men will likely be walking around with guns and drugs. Seeing this, politicians and law-enforcement bureaucrats turn to stop-and-frisk and mandatory minimum sentences. But the only real solution is to repeal prohibition. There's no need for intrusive police tactics or prison terms.
In a free society, government has no business telling us what we can and can’t ingest or inject. Before drug prohibition, America had no drug problem. It’s prohibition that created the problem, just as alcohol prohibition gave America organized crime on a large scale. As we’ve seen, when government tries to ban drugs, it creates bigger problems by putting drugs in the streets and gangs in control.
Ask yourself why after so many decades of apparent failure — drugs are plentiful, accessible, and inexpensive — prohibition persists, as if spending more taxpayer dollars or coming up with some new law-enforcement gimmick will bring success. Maybe prohibition has not failed at all. Maybe the purpose is simply to spend the money and expand law enforcement. May all the moralizing is simply a ruse.
And maybe what Thomas Paine said about wars also applies to the war on drugs: “a bystander, not blinded by prejudice nor warped by interest, would declare that taxes were not raised to carry on wars, but that wars were raised to carry on taxes.”
Sheldon Richman  is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (
The U.S. Empire Provokes Terrorism
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Foreign Policy, Military and War
Written by Sheldon Richman   
Wednesday, 07 August 2013
The U.S. Empire Provokes Terrorism
by Sheldon Richman
Perhaps we’ll never know if intercepted chatter between al-Qaeda leaders — which prompted the U.S. government to close dozens of diplomatic missions in the Muslim world and to issue a worldwide travel alert — was serious or not. But mischief shouldn’t be ruled out. Without cost or risk, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s successor, and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, head of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Yemen), can have a big laugh as they send American officials running around as though their hair were on fire. Why should they attempt to pull off some spectacular but risky action when they can disrupt things — closing embassies is no small deal — so easily? As a bonus, President Obama’s claim about al-Qaeda’s degradation is revealed as an empty boast. (Yemeni officials claim that they foiled a plot. But who knows?)
The United States has been fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan for a dozen years, but not because the former rulers are a direct threat to the American people. Rather, the Bush and Obama administrations insisted, if the Taliban was not defeated, Afghanistan would again become a sanctuary for al-Qaeda. Now we see (if we hadn’t already) that this was a mere rationalization for the projection of American power. Al-Qaeda doesn’t need Afghanistan. Bin Laden wasn’t found there. Al-Zawahiri presumably isn’t there. And the latest alleged unspecified threat comes from Yemen, 2,000 miles from Kabul. Doesn’t that expose the 12 years of American-inflicted death and destruction, not to mention the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars, as a monumental waste of life and treasure?
If the Obama administration has any doubts about the seriousness of the chatter, it’s not displaying them in public. CNN reports that the U.S. military has been readied for possible strikes against “potential al-Qaeda targets if those behind the most recent terror threats against U.S. interests can be identified.” Moreover, the Globe and Mail reported earlier that “a suspected U.S. drone killed four alleged al-Qaeda members in Yemen.”
Yet we can assume that the administration’s conduct would be the same whether or not it took the chatter seriously. Let’s remember that the “war on terror” (George W. Bush’s label) is an industry from which many both inside and outside the government profit handsomely. Since the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. response has poured trillions of dollars into the government-industrial complex. Agencies have multiplied and grown, and bureaucrats have acquired new power and prestige. None would want to give any of it up. But if things were to become too quiet, those Americans who pay the bill might wonder if it’s all worth the great cost. Quietude breeds complacency.
So a little heightened alert, from the complex’s point of view, would be welcome.
Of course, al-Qaeda did attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001, as well as various other targets outside the United States before and afterwards. One of its so-called affiliates could certainly strike.
Does that mean the U.S. government must maintain a global empire in order to eradicate the sources of anti-American terrorism? Absolutely not — quite the contrary. It is the global empire that provoked the al-Qaeda attacks in the first place. Contrary to the popular notion that the organization struck U.S. “interests” out of the blue while our country minded its own business, the U.S. government for decades has supported violent regimes in the Middle East and North Africa: from Saudi Arabia’s corrupt and brutal monarchy, to the Egyptian military dictatorship, to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, to Israel’s unconscionable occupation of Palestine. American administrations, Republican and Democrat, have directly inflicted death and suffering on people in the Muslim world — through the 1990s economic sanctions on Iraq, for example. (Today’s sanctions on Iran now impose hardship on another group of Muslims.) Every time an al-Qaeda official or operative has the chance, he points out that his hatred of America stems not from its “freedoms” but from this bloody record. Unrelenting U.S. drone attacks on Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia, in which noncombatants are killed, don’t win friends. They recruit enemies bent on revenge.
It follows therefore that the best way to dramatically reduce, if not eliminate, the threat of terrorism is to dramatically change U.S. foreign policy — from imperial intervention to strict nonintervention.
Sheldon Richman  is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (
Why Not Just Abolish the NSA?
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Foreign Policy, Military and War
Written by Jacob G. Hornberger   
Monday, 05 August 2013
Why Not Just Abolish the NSA?
by Jacob G. Hornberger
Notice that all the public discussion about the NSA’s supersecret, massive surveillance scheme assumes that the NSA has become a permanent part of American life. The debate revolves around what restrictions, if any, should be placed on the NSA’s authority to spy on people.
But the real question that Americans should be debating is, Why not simply abolish the NSA?
The NSA was brought into existence as part of the national-security state apparatus that was grafted onto our constitutional order to fight the Cold War against America’s World War II partner and ally, the Soviet Union. This apparatus brought a fundamental change in our constitutional order, and it was created without even the semblance of a constitutional amendment.

But the Cold War is over. It ended more than two decades ago. Why do we need a gigantic, supersecret, Cold War–era spy agency in our midst?
NSA proponents say that despite the end of the Cold War, the NSA is still necessary to “keep us safe.”
Really? Safe from what? Safe from the dangers that the two other major components of the national-security state — the military and the CIA — produce through their policies and programs overseas! At the risk of belaboring the obvious, that’s quite a racket.
Recall that immediately after the 9/11 attacks, the first thing that national-security officials said was that the terrorists were motivated by hatred for America’s “freedom and values.”
That was palpable nonsense. The real motive was rooted in anger and hatred over the horrific things that the U.S. government had been doing to people in the Middle East, especially since the end of the Cold War, when the national-security state lost its official enemy — Communism — the enemy that had been used to justify the existence and expansion of the national-security state for some 40 years.
The anger and hatred that was inducing foreigners to join the terrorist ranks was the last thing that U.S. officials wanted Americans to focus on. If Americans figured out that it was U.S. foreign policy at the hands of the national-security state that was responsible for the constant threat of terrorism, then they might begin asking critical questions: Why not end foreign aid and foreign interventionism? Why not dismantle America’s vast military empire, the military-industrial-congressional complex, and the CIA, along with the NSA? Why not limit the U.S. government to defending of the country, much like the Swiss government does for Switzerland?
The most important question that Americans need to be asking themselves is, Does the national-security state have any role in a free society?
The Founding Fathers certainly didn’t think so. Their deep antipathy to standing armies was, in fact, based on the grave threat to freedom and prosperity that standing armies present. Moreover, given their fervent opposition to meddling in the affairs of other countries, they would never have countenanced a supersecret paramilitary organization like the CIA. And given their ardent commitment to liberty and privacy, our Founding Fathers certainly would never have permitted a supersecret spy agency like the NSA to exist in our country.
Anyway, what good does the NSA do at this point? How can it honestly purport to “keep us safe” with a massive surveillance scheme that everyone concedes isn’t going to catch any terrorists, given that terrorists are not going to be using emails and cell phones to organize their plans. All that the NSA is left with is a massive surveillance scheme that keeps track of the American people, but not terrorists.
When the Cold War ended, Americans had a grand opportunity to bring an end to the Cold War national-security state apparatus. Now that the United States has ended its occupation of Iraq and is ending its occupation of Afghanistan, that opportunity is once again presenting itself. What better time to seize the opportunity, in order to restore a peaceful, harmonious, free, and prosperous society to our land?
Jacob G. Hornberger is president of The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (
Victim-Blaming Is Easy (or You Really Aren't A Useful Person)
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Rape, Sexual Assault and Abuse
Written by James Landrith   
Friday, 02 August 2013

Alyson Miers on There Is No Right Way For  A Victim To Behave :


"People are saying stupid shit about Amanda Berry.

Burnett’s concerned astonishment was charitable compared to what the lowest form of opinion generators – Internet commenters – had to say about Berry’s newly reignited social life. “It’s just odd given the years of abuse she suffered. Normally she would not have that kind of trust or comfort. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t make sense,” wrote one concerned ABC News commenter, while another more bluntly decided, “It seems to me she was enjoying it and is gonna use her ordeal to cash in.” Many were concerned that she appeared with a man who stood behind her and warmly put his arm around her and kissed her neck while she was onstage. Or, as some of the ABC commenters decided, he was a “dirt bag hanging all over her,” who “groped” and “pawed” her. A CBS News commenter more generously decided she looked “pretty hot.” And 645 comments later on NBC, Berry had plenty of well-wishers but also comments about her eyebrow piercing, and how she doesn’t look like “a real victim….lol.” And of course, if you want to plumb the absolute bottom of the barrel, there’s YouTube, where Berry is being  accused of “milking everything she’s getting.”

I think it would be interesting (if nauseating) to press these commenters on what exactly they’re implying about her. If she doesn’t look like a “real victim,” does that mean she wanted to be locked up in Ariel Castro’s house for ten years? Do you think she enjoyed what he did to her?


Does she need to justify going outside, looking cute and having a good time, now that she and her daughter are free and reunited with her family? Let’s not forget that Amanda Berry has a small daughter. When moms are happy and healthy, their kids are better off."


I share Alyson's concerns and disgust for these victim-blamers.  Why is a survivor expected to wallow in misery and exile for the rest of their lives?  For those who are able to go out and get some enjoyment and happiness - DO IT!  Sexual violence makes no sense.  It leaves devastation, pain and agony in it's wake.  Trying to apply static rules to how a person responds to their own traumas is a massive logic failure.  If you haven't been through it yourself, what makes you think you can tell those of us who have exactly how we are expected to respond?


I can certainly relate to the backlash that survivors experience online.  After speaking out on HuffPostLive, I got thousands of hateful comments. Nearly every major publication who ran my story was besieged with hateful victim-blaming and mockery - both by men AND women.  Many claimed that I “must have liked it" and should have “kicked her ass” so that meant I wasn’t raped according to their incredible Because I Said So logic. Really.  REALLY. People expected me to beat up a pregnant woman to stop her from raping me after she drugged me and threatened me. This is the level of discourse and emotional maturity that you can expect to find on most rape stories.


I weep for all survivors who go public. You pay for it over and over and over.  It isn't enough to be raped. It isn't enough to deal with the memories, flashbacks, body memories, panic attacks, anxiety and general PTSD responses.  No, you have to listen to clueless, know-nothing assholes tell you how they would be a better victim.  Wow.


People who could never in a million years handle what we've endured are so quick to tell us what we should have done, how they'd have prevented it and why we aren't acting like proper survivors.  Thanks for the help pal, but we've got it.  We endured the trauma, we'll figure out the healing part without your crucial advice.  Try empathy and understanding BEFORE you open your mouth if you really want to engage with survivors.




Go drag your knuckles somewhere else.   We don't need your input nor your approval, but thanks again.  You're truly the best!



About James A. Landrith

James Landrith is a healing rape survivor, public speaker, internationally syndicated blogger, civil liberties activist and the notorious editor and publisher of The Multiracial Activist (ISSN: 1552-3446) and The Abolitionist Examiner (ISSN: 1552-2881). Landrith can be reached by email at:  This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it  or at his personal website/blog.



Last Updated ( Saturday, 03 August 2013 )
How to Help Fast-Food Workers
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Economics and Financial Services
Written by Sheldon Richman   
Thursday, 01 August 2013
How to Help Fast-Food Workers
by Sheldon Richman
Doubling the minimum wage may seem like a good way to help fast-food workers, but it would hurt them instead. So what should we do? We must sweep away the government-created barriers to income earning, barriers that protect established businesses from competition and rob the most vulnerable people of options.
This week, fast-food workers have engaged in 24-hour strikes throughout America to bring attention to their struggle to make ends meet. They have been demanding an increase in the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour and the right to organize unions.
The low minimum wage, however, is not the cause of their problems; it’s a sign of deeper factors holding them back. In fact, the minimum wage distracts us from the radical changes we must make if low-income workers are to advance. Those who fixate on the minimum wage unwittingly do struggling workers a disservice.
What workers need is greater bargaining power, and that comes primarily from having options. Unfortunately, the corporate state, which people mistake for the free market, closes off options. Anything less than removal of these obstacles is a cruel hoax on those seeking better lives.
What’s wrong with simply doubling the minimum wage? The answer is that wages are not arbitrarily set. Even in a corporatist economy, they result from supply and demand. This can be seen in an extreme hypothetical example, in which the minimum wage in the fast-food industry is raised to $100 an hour. What would happen to employment? It’s easy to see that it would plummet as the industry itself faded away. Why? Because, given the price of fast food, workers can’t possibly produce $100 worth of value for their employers in an hour.
Employers don’t hire people as a favor. Businesses exist to make money for their owners. If hiring someone is to be worthwhile, that person will have to produce more than she is paid. If she can’t, she won’t have a job.
Couldn’t a restaurant raise prices to cover the higher wages? It could try, but this would drive away customers, who would seek out cheaper meals at other restaurants. (Franchisee profit margins are already thin.) If they all raised prices, people would eat at home instead. What happens to the jobs then?
The point is that wages aren’t set by picking numbers out of the air. Set them too high relative to value created, and the business disappears. Set them too low, and workers will look for alternatives.
So the spotlight should be on alternatives. On first glance, someone working at a fast-food restaurant seems to have alternatives. McDonald’s faces competition from Burger King, Wendy’s, and more. Low-skilled jobs can also be found in other kinds of businesses, such as Walmart. The problem is that the demand for such labor is more than matched by the supply. That’s the thing about low-skilled work: lots of people can do it, especially when an economy has not fully recovered from a (government-induced) recession. That’s why it pays to acquire marketable skills. (Rotten government schools handicap the most vulnerable Americans.)
Government aggravates an already bad situation anytime it erects artificial barriers to employment alternatives, including self-employment. But governments at all levels do this routinely, usually by protecting the well-connected from market competition.
How so? I couldn’t possibly count the ways here. But we can mention the most common: Occupational licensing restricts entry into many kinds of work by raising the cost of going into business. Zoning restrictions prevent people from using their homes for commercial purposes. Restrictions on street vendors and cabbies quash small-scale entrepreneurship.
Intellectual-property law inhibits or harasses those whose products might be construed as violating patents or copyrights. Government land holdings make land artificially more costly. Taxes and regulations impose greater burdens on would-be entrepreneurs than on large, established businesses.
All this and more shrink the options of those with limited skills and meager resources, forcing them to vie with one another for the remaining, perhaps less-desirable jobs with reduced bargaining power. This gives an unfair advantage to employers, who know there are others eager to take the place of any “troublesome” worker.
A higher minimum wage granted by a condescending ruling elite can’t help people trapped in this situation. Only a radically freed market can.
Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (
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