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Congress Spends More on Defense Than the Next 10 Countries Combined

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We’re out of Afghanistan. Good. We should have gotten out before.

Our involvement there was America’s longest war, longer than the Civil War, World War I, and World War II combined. We accomplished little good and plenty of bad. Tens of thousands killed. A trillion dollars spent.

Now the Taliban wear American uniforms and fly American planes.

Hawks say, “If we just stayed a little longer…”

It’s not true.

Yes, there had been a drop in violence in Afghanistan. But that did not mean we were winning. The Taliban were just waiting because former President Donald Trump announced we were going to leave.

Now what?

Will we continue to try to police the world?

Probably.

Washington defines U.S. national interests so broadly, says the Cato Institute’s John Glaser, “that virtually no region of the world [is] considered non-vital.”

This grandiosity started after WWII.

“No longer would we canonize George Washington’s warning against entangling alliances,” writes Glaser. “Or extol the counsel of JohnQuincy Adams that America ‘goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.'”

Now we repeatedly go abroad, searching for monsters.

Many Americans believe the military and our use of military force shrank after WWII and after the Soviet Union collapsed. But it’s not true either.

“The United States has engaged in more military interventions in the past 30 years than it had in the preceding 190 years altogether,” Glaser points out.

We post soldiers all over the world: 50,000 in Japan, 35,000 in Germany, 26,000 in South Korea. Why? Is it America’s job to protect South Korea from North Korea? Taiwan from China? Israel from Iran?

We spend more on defense than the next 10 countries combined.

We can’t afford to keep doing that.

We can’t afford to keep funding defense contractors’ cost overruns.

In my new video, Cato defense analyst Eric Gomez explains why Congress never does anything about that.

“A lot of members of Congress don’t want it fixed,” he says.

Defense contractors cleverly produce weapons in different states. Lockheed Martin boasts that F-35 parts are made in 48 states.

“If you’re a member of Congress,” says Gomez, “they’re spending that money in your district….You don’t want that taken away from you.”

An earlier draft of President Dwight Eisenhower’s “military-industrial complex” speech called it the “military-industrial-congressional complex.”

In Afghanistan, America spent $43 million to build a gas station (normal ones cost $500,000). Why? Some central planner decided this gas station should dispense natural gas, even though almost no cars can use it.

At least in Afghanistan our government did try to limit American involvement. Instead of having U.S. soldiers fight…forever, America would train and equip Afghans so they could defend themselves.

But that didn’t work either.

The U.S. spent $200 million trying to teach Afghan soldiers to read. Five years later, half still couldn’t read.

The problem, says Gomez, is that American officials don’t “have any clear sense of where things are going to go, what our objective is.”

“We havean objective,” I push back. “Make the world safe for democracy.”

“In Afghanistan, we had objectives of making it safe for democracy,” says Gomez. “We had objectives of turning Iraq from Saddam Hussein into a democratic and rich society. The record has not been very good.”

No.

Now the military budget exceeds $700 billion, and the Defense Department says it will spend more money fighting climate change because the “climate crisis” is an “existential” threat.

Give me a break.

Spending patterns are driven by inertia. Year after year, they give about the same share of money to the Army, Navy, and Air Force, even though today’s threats from places like China mean the Navy and Air Force are much more important.

Politicians and the Pentagon need to make some choices. What exactly is the military’s mission?

If America hopes to be both safe and prosperous, the military should focus on defending America itself.

COPYRIGHT 2021 BY JFS PRODUCTIONS INC.

Politics

“Turkeys Instead of Tickets” May Violate Fourth Amendment Rights

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Thanksgiving is associated with tradition. And it appears there’s a relatively new one popular with police departments in recent years: pulling over unsuspecting drivers to give out turkeys instead of tickets.

This holiday season was no exception, with media reports detailing such outreach efforts put on by the Mesa Police Department in Arizona, the McAllen Police Department in Texas, and the Fulton Police Departmentin Illinois.

The catch: It’s potentially against the law.

“They’re legal so long as there is reasonable articulate suspicion that a crime was committed,” says Andrew Fleischman, a defense attorney with Ross and Pines. “Absent that, it violates the Fourth Amendment.”

In other words, the cops haven’t violated anyone’s constitutional rights if every driver pulled over for a turkey allegedly committed a traffic infraction. But that’s not what’s going on here.

Some departments aren’t exactly hiding it. The cops in Fulton, Illinois, for example, admittedly eschew the Constitution and conduct such traffic stops on those who do follow the rules of the road. “Officers weren’t plucking out scofflaws,” reads a piece on the program in SaukValley.com. “Rather, they were issuing turkeys instead of tickets, all part of Operation Turkey Stop to reward mindful drivers.”

And while other departments aren’t necessarily so brazen with the messaging, it stands to reason that officers likely aren’t exchanging turkeys for tickets when it comes to drivers who are actively endangering others and abusing the rules of the road.

“I was like ‘Oh my God, no, what did I do?'” said Perla Romano, who was stopped in McAllen, Texas. “‘I was scared because what did I do? I just panicked.'”

In Mesa, Arizona, cops zero in on those who commit minor civil infractions. Officers focus on “stop sign violations, red light violations, or making wide turns,” says Mesa Police Sgt. Chuck Trapani. “We pull them over, and if they didn’t have any criminal violations like warrants or anything like that, then we’d give them a warning violation, plus a turkey.”*

A spokesperson for the McAllen Police Department was not able to comment and the Fulton Police Department did not respond to Reason‘s request as of this writing.

Though the initiative may sound benign, the Fourth Amendment exists for a reason: You have a right to privacy, and a right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. One wonders what might happen if an officer pulled someone over for a turkey and happened to catch a whiff of marijuana. Trade in that free Thanksgiving dinner for a potential jail cell.

Traffic stops rarely turn violent or deadly. Yet such instances are not unheard of. According to an investigation by The New York Times, police have killed more than 400 unarmed passengerswho were not suspected of any violent crimesduring traffic stops over the last five years, which amounts to more than one death a week. “It’s [a] frivolous use of their monopoly on force,” says Fleischman.

The spirit behind the program, according to the Mesa Police Department, is to engender affection between officers and the public during a time when cops have faced a sort of unprecedented pushback. Research indicates that such trust is indeed vital to building safer communities. But there are better ways for police to do that than by flouting the rule of law and violating people’s constitutional rights.

*UPDATE:This piece has been updated with a comment from the Mesa Police Department.

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Politics

No “Defense of Others” Defense in Justina Pelletier Hospital Hacking Case

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From U.S. v. Gottesfeld, decided earlier this month by the First Circuit (Judge Kayatta, joined by Chief Judge Howard and Judge Lynch):

In March 2014, Martin Gottesfeld and others committed a “Distributed Denial of Service” cyberattack against Boston Children’s Hospital and Wayside Youth and Family Support Network, causing both to lose their internet capabilities for three to four weeks. Gottesfeld targeted Boston Children’s and Wayside because of their role in caring for Justina Pelletier, a child whose medical condition and treatment were at the center of a custody dispute that received national attention.

Gottesfeld publicly admitted responsibility for the attacks. He was subsequently charged with intentionally causing damage to a protected computer, 18 U.S.C. 1030(a)(5)(A), and conspiring to do the same, id. 371. After an eight-day trial, Gottesfeld was convicted on both counts and sentenced to 121 months’ imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release….

Gottesfeld challenges the district court’s order precluding him from raising at trial the affirmative defense known as “defense of another.” A district court “may preclude the presentation of [a] defense entirely” if the defendant does not produce sufficient evidence “to create a triable issue.” …

“Use of force is justified when a person reasonably believes that it is necessary for the defense of … another against the immediate use of unlawful force,” so long as the person “use[s] no more force than appears reasonably necessary in the circumstances.”

Gottesfeld sought to argue at trial that his cyberattack on Boston Children’s and Wayside was justified because it was necessary to protect Pelletier from remaining under the care of those institutions. In support of this theory, he primarily pointed to news and television reports stating that Pelletier was being “abused” and “tortured” under the care of Boston Children’s and Wayside; that Pelletier’s custody proceeding might be “compromised”; and that Pelletier’s parents had contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies regarding Pelletier’s plight to no avail.

This evidence would perhaps support a finding that Gottesfeld subjectively believed Pelletier was at some risk of harm. But he marshals no case to support a finding that he reasonably believed that she faced the threat of immediate unlawful force. To the contrary, he knew that her custody was authorized by a court order. Furthermore, even if he thought that some individual or group of individuals were using or threatening to use unlawful force, that would have provided no justification for Gottesfeld to take hostage thousands of other persons’ internet connections.

{To the extent Gottesfeld contends that he reasonably believed that Pelletier’s treatment during her custody was unlawful, that argument is waived multiple times over: Gottesfeld did not clearly assert it before the district court and only now tries to develop it in his reply brief. Even were we to consider this argument, public commentary and opinion comparing Pelletier’s treatment to torturewhich is all he cites to support this claimdoes not alone support a finding that he reasonably believed that she was in fact being subjected to torture. To rule otherwise would be to empower every citizen with the ability to simultaneously incite and immunize criminal conduct by another even as a judicial tribunal is available to hear the claims of harm.}

Nor could a jury have found Gottesfeld’s chosen methods reasonably necessary. The issues of Pelletier’s custody and treatment were before a court, and all allegations known to Gottesfeld were known to law enforcement authorities. To the extent that Gottesfeld viewed these alternative courses of action as unlikely to succeed, we have previously explained that a defendant’s likely inability “to effect the changes he desires through legal alternatives does not mean, ipso facto, that those alternatives are nonexistent.” …

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Politics

University Administrators on the Rittenhouse Verdict

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Conor Friedersdorf (The Atlantic) has a very good article on this; an excerpt:

Rather than encourage independent scrutiny, administrators on many campuses have issued statements that presuppose answers to hotly contested questions, and assert opinions about the not-guilty verdict in the case and its ostensible significance as though they were matters of community consensus.

The whole episode is an illustration of a bigger problem in academia: Administrators make ideologically selective efforts to soothe the feelings of upset faculty members and students. These actions impose orthodoxies of thought, undermining both intellectual diversity and inclusion. “Certainly,” declareda statement by Dwight A. McBride, president of the New School, “the verdict raises questions about … vigilantism in the service of racism and white supremacy.” In reality, many observers are far fromcertainthat, when 12 jurors concluded that a white man shot three other white men in self-defense, they were saying anything about white supremacy.

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