FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 26, 2019

Contact: Marcos Miralles,
Chairman, Libertarian Party of Florida
chair@lpf.org

Contact: Souraya Faas
sourayafaas@gmail.com

 

Souraya Faas

MIAMI – Marcos Miralles, chairman of the Libertarian Party of Florida, announced today the newest convert to the LPF, Souraya Faas, Miami-Dade County Republican Executive Committee Committeewoman for Dist. 32.

“As a Libertarian, I want to highlight the party and show people that they are Libertarians,” Faas said today. “I registered Republican since I was 18 because I thought I had to choose between one of the two major parties. But I’ve always considered myself a libertarian because I was conservative about some things, and moderate about others. I was in the Republican Liberty Caucus.”

Increasingly, politicians are choosing Libertarian to run for office. Faas joins Coconut Grove Village Councilwoman Courtney Omega as the latest

Souraya Faas with Marcos Miralles

South Florida politician to switch from Republican to Libertarian Party during the past year. In 2012, Gov. Gary Johnson left the Republican Party to run for president as a Libertarian.

Faas, 37, has been active in politics most of her life. In 2016, she ran for president as a write-in Independent in 2016, but lost her lawsuit to get on the ballot in Texas. At the time, she was the youngest person and the first person of Arab descent to run for the office. Last year, she made a bid for U.S. Congress, but lost to incumbent Rep. Carlos Curbelo in the Republican Primary.

During the 2018 campaign, Faas denounced the U.S. intervention in the Syrian War and praised a House Democrat who opposed U.S. military involvement.

“Time and time again we see history repeating itself where, in the name of freedom and peace, wars have been provoked and fought for special interests,” she wrote in a RT op ed piece last year.[1]

“The Libertarian Party is a place where diversity is valued and a place where everyone works together to enhance our community’s quality of life,” Miralles said.

Faas says she will continue to seek public office. “I feel like people have lost the perception of what it’s like to be a politician,” Faas said to the Miami Herald last year. [2]

“Politicians are no longer what they used to be: for the people,” she said today. “They are more worried about getting re-elected and listening to special interests than they are about listening to the people.”

 

– By J. Mark Barfield, Staff Writer

—xxx—

[1] Divide & conquer: America’s blueprint for ‘world peace’ simply a roadmap to disaster

[2] Miami congressional candidate says chemical attacks in Syria were staged

raquel-okyayDear friends,

We are so excited to announce that the LPF will host its first U.S. Senate Primary race in LPF history! On election day in November, there will be a 3-way race between the winners of the Libertarian, Republican and Democratic Parties, respectively, and it’s our job to make sure that every voter in the Sunshine State is made aware of this historic primary on Aug. 30.

One of the biggest problems we face as a political party, is that the rest of the world doesn’t know we’re here. We practically beg for media attention, but the main stream agenda is to promote the 2-party system. How do we change that? We hit the streets: talk to our families, friends, neighbors and colleagues about the LPF and our candidates. We get involved with our local affiliates and work in a unified way to build the party.

The momentum is with us! The time to act is now!

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The Libertarian Candidates are (listed in alphabetical order): Augustus Invictus (www.InvictusForSenate.com), a criminal defense attorney from Orlando, and Paul Stanton (www.Stanton2016.com), an IT specialist from Daland. For more information about their campaigns, please link to their websites.

For Edition IV we bring you the second part of Ryan Ramsey’s “Prohibition and Gun Control”, “The Fallacy of Social Justice” by Charles McMillan, and “The Arrogance of Power” by Tom Regnier. Tom is a long-time friend of the LPF and former editor of its newsletter. His powerful speech (reprinted in The Quill) was delivered to the Florida Constitution Revision Commission in Orlando on Sept. 4, 1997.

Exclusive to The Quill, you don’t want to miss my story “The Libertarian Party of Florida is ON FIRE!” about the party’s national convention in Orlando last month.

We are also happy to announce the advancement of two Associate Editors at The Quill; Amanda Gluck and Brandi Alexandra. Congrats and thank you!

As always, we are taking article submissions from Florida Libertarians on topics of interest to Florida Libertarians for publication at The Quill. Submit your 550-650 word articles to news@lpf.org. State affiliates can submit event calendars and reports for publication as well.

On a somber note, we are very saddened by the sudden death of LP Presidential Candidate Dr. Marc Allan Feldman. R.I.P. #ThatLibertarian

 

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In Liberty,

Raquel

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Exclusive to The Quill

by: Raquel Okyay

LPF Hosts National Convention in Orlando 

One Thousand and Five delegates representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia chose with more than 49 percent of the vote, the LP’s Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates: Former NM Governor Gary Johnson; and Former MA Governor, Bill Weld.

GaryJohnsonWins“The LP convention was a great success,” said LPF State Chairman Char-Lez Braden. “It fired up the party and resulted in the most qualified presidential ticket of any party.” He said the LPF sees this optimal ticket as leverage for the state party in the months to come.

“I got the impression and heard from others, that this was the most attended convention in LPF history,” said Macy John, LPF Social Media Manager. “The LNC did an outstanding job at putting this convention together.” So did the state party, she said.

“We handed out over 250 press passes,” she added. “The Party did a great job at conveying the liberty message to newcomers.”

Braden said the LP convention ended up in Orlando mostly through the work of former Vice Chair, Vicki Kirkland.

“Thank you Vicki!” he said. “Having the LP convention here in Florida made the LP and LPF more visible to local Floridians.” Enrollment, donations, and energy are on the rise, he said. “I’ve seen a dramatic increase in people reaching out and asking how to become involved.”

Braden said there is a difference between the way the LP has a convention, and the way the other parties do it. “The LP convention is not a show, but an actual convention,” he said. “Unlike the old parties, that have their nominees known well in advance, our party lets the delegates at the convention actually represent their constituents, as opposed to simply be a TV spectacle and photo-op.” Also he said the LP picks both the president and vice president nominees independently. “ That’s a big difference too.”

NationalConventionChairNicholas Sarwak, Chairman of NLP, said the American people are thirsty for another option.

“Large blocks of Americans feel cheated,” he said. “Every single American will have the option to chose an alternative to the two candidates they hate.”

John, who is a marketing specialist from Ft. Lauderdale, said there is certain momentum occurring in the Libertarian Party. “How could there not be? We have two of the most polarizing disliked candidates as the frontrunners for the Democrat and Republican parties.”

She called Republican Donald J. Trump an authoritarian crony-capitalist and warmonger, and Democrat Hillary Clinton a disliked figure with a steady 56 percent disapproval rate. “This could be the year of the Libertarian Party!” She said there is no doubt she is supporting the Johnson/ Weld ticket.

“They may not be 100% in line with the libertarian philosophy, but they bring a pragmatic tone that will entice voters to vote Libertarian this year,” said John. “We have to use this momentum to promote our state and local candidates’ campaigns as well.” She said the more Libertarians who run for public office, the more votes the LPF receives.

“Baby steps,” she said. “We will eventually get everyone the freedoms they want and deserve.”

Today’s LPF is on fire, said Braden. “Get your work clothes on! We’re all about to be very busy.”

Let’s recap the facts:

* Both parties have doubled down on the most divisive candidates in recent times
* Libertarians have the most qualified candidates on the ballot
* We have a historic US Senatorial primary in Florida

That all adds up to the most exciting election to come down the road in decades.

The LPF is engaged to make historic advances.

From the panhandle to the keys we’re organizing counties as fast as we can.

The treasurer is about to launch a fundraising campaign.

The LPF Chair has kicked off an agressive membership drive that aims to double membership.

The events committee has targeted 22 cities for “Burn Recovery Centers”, a voter outreach
effort we believe to be the biggest in LPF history.

The membership committee has a new volunteer coordinator that is helping to get volunteers
into the effort as soon as possible.

This is where you come in.

None of these things will be effective without your support.

It’s time to get your game face on.

Spreading liberty is person to person effort.

Slick TV ads don’t do it.
Slick Radio spots don’t do it.
Slick print media doesn’t do it.

Only people talking to people can do it.

Now is the time to approach family, friends, neighbors and even complete strangers.
Everyone you talk to is likely to have no idea that the Libertarian party even exists,
let alone what Libertarian ideals are.  Some will have distorted views.  Some will
deride the candidates.

And none of those negatives matter.

Voters are desperately searching for a way out of the old party nightmare, and we have it.

Don’t waste your time arguing and trying to convince the true believers that they are wrong.

Go for those freshly disenfranchised and angry voters looking for a new home.  Those are the
hearts and minds we can win.

Get involved.

Contact your local affiliate: Affiliates
Contact the Gary Johnson campaign: Johnsonweld.com
Contact your senatorial candidates and learn about them.
Contact your region representative: Leadership
Contact national: lp.org

 

FloridaCapitol

by: Tom Regnier, member of the LP’s National Platform Committee and former secretary of the LPF.

The following speech was delivered to the Florida Constitution Revision Commission in Orlando on Sept. 4, 1997. Reprinted with permission.

My name is Tom Regnier, and I spoke to the Constitution Revision Commission once before in Fort Lauderdale. After I heard some of the views expressed to the Commission, I felt the need to come back and speak again.

I was concerned by the sentiment, expressed by one of the speakers in Fort Lauderdale, that, while the people have certain rights, it is the government that has the power. This is a misleading statement. In this country, the people are sovereign; the government has only those powers delegated to it by the people. This was a new concept about government when it was expressed in the Declaration of Independence. Before that, kings ruled their subjects. The king was the master and the people had to do what he said. The Declaration made it clear that men form governments for the sole purpose of protecting their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Governments are there to protect these rights-not to control the people, not to rule the people, not to direct their lives for them, but to guard their liberties. I hope you will keep this in mind when considering changes to the state constitution.

Another sentiment I heard expressed at the Fort Lauderdale hearing was one with which I strongly agree, and that is Lord Acton’s famous saying, “Power corrupts.” I know that many of you, outside of your roles as commissioners, are used to wielding power. When you’re in that position, it becomes very easy to believe that one has a special knowledge or wisdom that others don’t have, and the exercise of power can be seductive and addictive. It can lead even the best-intentioned persons into a state of arrogant disregard for the wisdom and good sense of those in less powerful positions.

I am here to warn you against the arrogance of power.

When I hear rumblings that the citizens’ initiative process is too easy and needs to be made more burdensome so that the voters have an even harder time changing the law, I am concerned about the arrogance of power. When I hear suggestions that the Florida tax system is outdated and that updating it may require a state income tax, I fear the arrogance of power. Remember that Thomas Jefferson said, “A wise and frugal government.., shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.”

When Florida passes asset forfeiture laws that allow a person’s property to be seized on the mere suspicion of a crime, in complete disregard of the due process of law guaranteed in the Fifth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution; when these laws compel these suspects-80 percent of whom are never even charged with a crime, let alone convicted-to prove their innocence in order to retrieve their property, then I am concerned about the arrogance of power. Has no one in state government spoken up to condemn these outrageous, unconstitutional laws? Have you forgotten why you are the there?

When the two parties in power create discriminatory laws to keep other parties off the ballot and justify them by saying the voters would be confused by too many choices, I am concerned about the arrogance of power. Stop treating the voters like children who can’t make decisions. And stop pretending that laws that are passed to protect someone’s political turf and to stifle competition are somehow a service to the voters.

When the will of the people strongly favors an amendment to limit the taxing power of the state, and yet the Florida Supreme Court strikes it down on the basis that the voters didn’t know what they were voting for, this is the arrogance of power. In a land where the people are supposed to rule, who can argue with allowing the voters to approve any new taxes? What makes the Supreme Court think it knows better than the people?

When the legislature passes a law that major parties will get a 50 percent rebate on candidate filing fees, while minor parties get none, and the state Supreme Court upholds this law on the basis that “the state has an interest in protecting major parties,” I see the arrogance of power. Yes, the state has an interest in protecting major parties, just as kings have an interest in protecting monarchies. What happened to a government for the people-a government that was supposed to be there to protect the little guy? Since when is it supposed to protect the people in power?

GovernmentThatGovernsLeastAnd when this Commission makes a decision, for reasons unknown, that people who arrive earliest at these hearings will have to speak last, then I smell the arrogance of power.

I hope that when you consider changes to the constitution, you will remember George Washington’s words that “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force,” and realize that every time you pass a law, it must be backed up by the force of government guns. I hope you will remember Thomas Jefferson’s words that “that government is best that governs least.” And any time you think of using government to bestow blessings on any of your constituencies, I hope yon will remember that government cannot give material things to anyone without first taking them away from someone else.

I hope state government will not make the mistake that the federal government has made of trying to solve every problem and to poke its nose into every aspect of life. Since government relies on coercion to achieve its aims, it is too blunt an instrument for solving most social problems. Adam Smith, the economist, said that it is impossible for planners to manipulate members of society the way they would arrange pieces on a chessboard because human beings, unlike chess pieces, have a will of their own. Members of the Commission, it is the arrogance of power that treats people as pawns on a chessboard, and not as intelligent, self-determined beings.

gun-control-prohibition

by: Ryan Ramsey

The hypocrisy of supporting gun rights and the drug war Part II

Recent attempts to curtail the prescription drug epidemic in Florida had a predictable result, as heroin deaths continue to rise. Rather than addicts in Florida using drugs originating in pharmacies, manufactured in regulated labs, the ignorant lawmakers decided it would be better to fund terrorists in the Afghanistan poppy fields. It invokes an ad on TV I remember seeing in the early days of the most recent Iraq war, about how drug users were funding terrorism. Maybe ISIS will give an award to the misguided prohibitionists in the state house. Heroin is a perfect example of the ineffective result of drug prohibition, as the graphs below detail.

BulkPriceOfHeroin

Portugal, in contrast, was able to turn a never ending criminal problem of 100,000 people into a 40,000 person medical problem. Not only are drug use, overdose death, and HIV infection rates way down, but the treatment programs save the taxpayers a ton of money that can be used for better purposes. Now that people don’t fear the stigma, twice as many people are seeking treatment to overcome addiction. Curing addiction is a better way to reduce drug demand than locking people up in prisons full of drugs. When they get out, the criminal record often prevents them from retaining gainful employment, and this cycle of misery and addiction, born of hopelessness begins again, and their children suffer as a result. Often they end up back in prison, and these children become the new generation of addicts or the thugs keeping them supplied. The cycle will never end, as long as we keep doing the same thing while expecting a different result, something many use to define insanity.

The price we have paid in the loss of civil liberties is even more horrific. I founded Jacksonville Open Carry in 2010, and gun rights issues saw my first major political success. I was forced to reconsider my position on decriminalizing drugs when I realized prohibition is at the root of  gun control. The facts forced me to realize that to support the drug war was to support gun control, and to continue giving the enemies of the Constitution ammunition (pun intended). If you oppose decriminalization, quit fooling yourself and pull the lever for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, or the next round of liberal nut jobs in the next election cycle. Go hand over everything in your safe to the next gun buyback.

AddictionRate

Does that sting? Suspend your emotional distress, as we constantly demand the left do, and consider the facts.

-Prohibition of alcohol gave rise to the wave of mob violence that resulted in the Gun Control Act of 1936.

-Drug prohibition laws in the 1960’s gave rise to the street violence that resulted in the  abomination known as the Gun Control Act of 1968.

-In the early 1980’s, the CIA started smuggling cocaine to a man named “Freeway” Ricky Ross, to fund proxy wars against Soviet funded guerrillas in Central America. They sent a US-backed Contra rebel to marketing school, and he taught Ricky Ross how to manufacture and distribute crack cocaine. His network reached into Chicago, Houston, and beyond. Others followed suit and the crack epidemic was born. Most people are familiar with the Iran/Contra affair, and a great documentary called “American Drug War” features many  of the actual players from Ricky Ross, to law enforcement discussing it. “Dark Alliance” by Gary Webb is a great book on the subject. If you believe he shot himself twice in the head with a .38, I have a nice beachfront condo to sell you in Fallujah.

recreationaldrugvsadrdeath02

The end result was the Gun Control Act of 1986, and we lost our automatic weapons, and the first steps of registration scheme began. One day it may be used to confiscate our firearms.

The irony of those supporting the drug war while opposing gun control reaches epic proportions, when we consider they espouse, rightly so, that no law will stop criminals who want guns from getting their hands on them. We tell the world that the cat is out of the bag, and since we cannot stop them, we must be able to defend ourselves. How do they not understand the same concept applies to people seeking drugs? It is the same exact concept! Since we know there is a more effective strategy, not a theoretical one, but a proven one, aren’t we then supporting cartels and terrorists by a refusal to admit it? What sort of hypocrite do we become, if we demand everyone accept the facts in the masterpiece of John Lott, “More Guns, Less Crime” while ignoring the facts surrounding the current drug war policy?

One day, if we fail, when they “pry your cold dead fingers from around your firearm” as your grandchildren are loaded into boxcars, and sent to the camps, they will curse you for your ignorance. They will wonder how you sat there with a cold beer, condemning your neighbors to prison for what they put in their cigarettes. They will forever curse those who gave rise to the police state, and saw the Constitution set ablaze, because they refused to see the facts.

us_incarceration_rate_timeline

-The fact is that you cannot be a fiscal conservative while supporting drug prohibition. It is hypocritical to do so while opposing Obamacare. Prohibition is even less effective and still costs a trillion dollars. In many ways, it is far worse. Every dollar spent on the drug war is wasted, and has collateral damage on millions of families. At least people on Obamacare plans get treatment, albeit substandard. What kind of fiscally conservative policy spends more money to solve a problem than the problem costs, while making it worse?

-The fact is you cannot claim to support smaller government and support prohibition. It is the number one catalyst for the growth of the police state, and the source of the commerce clause perversions that grew to justify federal encroachment in every area of life. We have 25% of all people incarcerated on the planet, right here in the land of the free. Let it sink in that communist China and Russia have far lower incarceration rates per capita. Then tell me how you believe in limited government and personal freedom. Chug another beer and wave that flag, Mr. Freedom.

-The fact is undeniable: if you support prohibition, you support gun control. Shut your mouth about the Constitution, you damage it more than all of Barack Obama and Sarah Brady’s wildest dreams. I’ve had cocktails with many of you, while we had a cigar, shared coffee in Tallahassee with you before hearings and at open carry events. Those are all drugs. Alcohol and nicotine kill more people every year than all the illicit drugs combined. Marijuana has never killed a single person in recorded history. Do you realize you are making the same argument as the anti-gun crowd!! Well these guns are reasonable, but you shouldn’t be able to own that assault rifle! Assault rifles account for a fraction of the gun deaths. You say, well I want my coffee, beer, cigarettes, and prescriptions, but you have to ban that evil marijuana and other drugs, that kill at a tiny fraction of the rate of your preferred intoxicant. Intellectual honesty means something, especially when you promote something unpopular, despite evidence it lowers crime.

-The fact is undeniable, if you support prohibition you support drug use, because the only policy that has lowered drug use is to decriminalize and treat the addicts.

I support reducing the federal government, I support personal liberty, I support the right to keep and bear arms, I want to see less people on drugs. I refuse to sink to the level of the left wing, and cling to falsehood because I am so vested in a position.

Therefore, I support decriminalization. It is the only way to reduce drug use, especially among young people. It is the only policy that will protect our right to keep and bear arms. it is a free country, you can disagree. I hear the Democrat Party is looking for live voters, go register with the other folks who propagate lies despite evidence. You’re promoting drug abuse and the police state, and it’s embarrassing to the rest of us, who love the Constitution.

ryan-ramseyRyan Ramsey is a US Navy Veteran and lifelong political activist. He hosts “The Sounds of Rebellion” and “Liberty Tree Radio” on Blog Talk Radio. He sits on the National Council of the SDL, is the Director of The Florida Liberty Project, founder of Jacksonville Open Carry, and Bradford County Chairman, for the LPF. He also is the singer and guitarist of the “Rock Against Communism” band “Lovecrime”.

Liberty Quote ~ The Quill Edition IV

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“It is easy to be conspicuously ‘compassionate’ if others are being forced to pay the cost.” ― Murray N. Rothbard

 

 

via wiki Murray Newton Rothbard (March 2, 1926 – January 7, 1995) was an American heterodox economist of the Austrian School, a historian, and a political theorist whose writings and personal influence played a seminal role in the development of modern libertarianism. Rothbard was the founder and leading theoretician of anarcho-capitalism, a staunch advocate of historical revisionism, and a central figure in the twentieth-century American libertarian movement. He wrote over twenty books on political theory, revisionist history, economics, and other subjects. Rothbard asserted that all services provided by the “monopoly system of the corporate state” could be provided more efficiently by the private sector and wrote that the state is “the organization of robbery systematized and writ large.” He called fractional reserve banking a form of fraud and opposed central banking. He categorically opposed all military, political, and economic interventionism in the affairs of other nations. According to his protégé Hans-Hermann Hoppe, “There would be no anarcho-capitalist movement to speak of without Rothbard.”

 

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GeorgeBernardShaw

by: Charles T. McMillan

An examination of the concepts of Social Justice and how they contradict the very meaning of Social Justice.

Our interconnectedness is more a curse than gift.  On the one hand, individuals from a whole other corner of the world can interact with another. The antithesis of interconnectedness is saturation where the mass of information becomes overwhelming. Along with the celebration of nostalgia, the ability to care about the problems of others has died. Regardless of how connected you are, their problems are not your problems. However, that does not stop others from joining causes they deem important. Enter the Social Justice Warrior (SJW), the most unequivocally worthless creation birthed from the Information Age and the Y Generation.

Unparalleled in their lack of self-awareness, SJWs habitually take up feats of activism that are to the determent of the cause in question. Whether it is a minority group, a conflict on social media, or a topic of entertainment, expect at least a dozen obnoxious opinions making irrelevant points. To the average SJW, what does not matter in the eyes of the majority is so important that they ensure everyone cares about it. These people are so fervent in perpetuating the cause of nothing that they cannot see the irony in how they become a worse enemy.

Anita Sarkeesian, the matriarch of Social Justice, championed the cause for female representation in video games and criticized how other titles handle their women characters.  In addition to gender, race and class are essential to Sarkeesian’s movement.  She believes that straight white middle class men belong to the Patriarchy, the cause of sexism, ableism, and racism and that nonwhites are inherently good.  You can just read a book and see none of these exist in a lawful or cultural sense, but that does not stop SJWs from believing it to maintain the narrative.

The focus on problems that do not exist translates to other aspects of culture.  Cyber bullying has become a mainstream issue because activists are so hurt by words online.  Instead of turning off their computers, SJWs feel they are being physically attacked.  Paranoia drives them to fear for their lives because they are unable to move on.  So offended are these snowflakes by digital text that they see it as abuse.  That is why we have safe spaces and how political correctness has made a resurgence because people are so afraid of saying the wrong thing.

Feminism is not the only philosophy bastardized by Social Justice.  Atheism has been adapted to push worldviews and concepts that contradict its own definition.  When a religious group does something terrible in the eyes of secular Western culture, Atheists who claim to be ethical dismiss such actions as ingrained in their culture, and a result of Patriarchy.  They unintentionally promote dangerous ideologies by turning a blind eye and allowing such acts to persist.

This is where the irony of Social Justice becomes obvious.  Most SJWs think capitalism results in oppression and the only answer is socialism.  While that seems like your usual communist detritus, it comes with a hot pink caveat: Capitalism is regarded as a straight white middle class male concept, a product of the Patriarchy to control women.  To SJWs, the only answer to oppression is female led socialism where they are in control of all aspects of life.  They determine what we say, what we think, and how we act with men as second-class citizens.

Those who think cyber bullying and mean words are actual problems have taken steps to suppress freedom of speech both online and in reality.  Many call for social media to deny users the ability to express themselves.  Even the UN has become involved when an envoy of snowflakes complained about what people say to them on the Internet.  At various colleges, speakers like Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannapoulos have been protested because SJWs do not like what they say.  These demonstrations often become violent with dissidents assaulting the speaker’s supporters.

By focusing on issues that do not matter, SJWs overlook real problems.  As Feminists complain about Patriarchy, women in third-world countries are oppressed by an actual Patriarchy ruled by religion and misogyny inherent in culture.  At the same time, SJWs perpetuate these issues by turning a blind eye, and giving them a place to prosper in the West like a cancer of ignorance.

Social Justice is a contradiction.  It preaches equality and forces dangerous ideologies upon a world that is already equal.  As we steer closer to a reality dominated by political correctness, it is our solemn duty to uphold reason against a perceived notion that society is corrupt.  When a girl cries after her parents remove her clitoris, it is not Feminists that will come to her aid, but those who value true freedom and morality.

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Charles McMillan is an independent film critic,  video game critic, and freelance writer from Orlando.

UberLyft

By:  Lauren Anthony

It seems that whenever the government wants to thwart individual rights or liberties, the arguments they are most fond of using are safety-related.  And indeed, it is a legitimate function of government at both the state and the national level to ensure the safety of its citizens. But it is the misuse of this legitimate function that has been used to whittle away at our freedom to make choices consistent with our needs, beliefs, and lifestyles. Just such a battle is underway, particularly in Hillsborough County, in regard to the popular Lyft and Uber ridesharing services.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the services, Lyft and Uber are applications available for Android and iOS smartphones which allow users to request a paid ride through drivers independently contracted by one of these companies. Both driver and passenger profiles are exchanged via the app, including photos of each, as well as the vehicle, license plate number, and driver/passenger ratings. The service employs the use of GPS to locate both the driver and passenger.  Feedback and conflict resolution are also available to the passengers via email or, in case of emergency, via phone.

The argument seems to center on the fact that these services, which began between 2009 and 2012, do not meet the conventional definition of taxis, limousines, or other for-hire vehicles. The Public Transportation Commission, in counties where commissions exist, regulates the conventional services.  In Hillsborough County, the PTC are currently ticketing Lyft and Uber drivers via a “sting” operation in which they pose as passengers, request rides, and subsequently fine the drivers anywhere between $500 and $1,000 for an alleged failure to obtain the proper permits, licensing and/or insurance required for for-hire vehicles.

The problem is that Lyft and Uber drivers are using their own personal vehicles. The position of Hillsborough County seems to be that, where specific regulation doesn’t exist, it is necessary to enforce those most closely related to the service in question. However, in areas like Pinellas and Pasco Counties and even the City of Sarasota, the response has been different.  Drivers in the first two counties operate freely since they have no PTC-like agencies; in Sarasota, the decision was more deliberate:  the city council voted unanimously not to regulate the rideshare services.

This conflict has been the subject of both lawsuits and state legislative action, including a bill that was passed in the Florida House of Representatives (H.B. 509). Hillsborough Circuit Judge Paul Huey also denied a motion for injunction against Uber in August 2015. However, no definitive action has taken place to resolve the issue.  The Florida Senate has not taken up a similar bill, and Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal has not issued an opinion in the lawsuit against Uber. Meanwhile, the ticketing is ongoing, with drivers currently submitting fines to their respective companies for payment.

Safety is the main topic of debate, and indeed, makes up the majority of H.B. 509. Proponents want to increase the level of background checks required for drivers, the type of licensure they must obtain, and the amount of insurance they or the companies by whom they are contracted must carry. On the surface it does not sound like much of a new “intrusion”. However, the services were started in order to offer the public, especially those outside of an immediate metro area, an alternative to taxis at a reduced cost. Many of the legal challenges have been initiated by commercial taxi companies, which are losing money to Uber and Lyft, insisting that they should be forced to “play by the same rules”.  Requirements under a bill such as H.B. 509 (including a $5,000 per year “permit fee”) would increase the operating costs of companies like Lyft and Uber, which inevitably results in either increased costs to the consumer or an elimination of competition altogether.

Proponents have not come forward with any evidence that those who use ridesharing services have experienced an increased incidence of compromised safety over those using conventionally-regulated services.  Incident rates vary by locale, and for this reason, it makes sense for these services to be regulated (or not) at the local level.  It is also evident that proponents have not given due consideration to the extra security features inherent in the Lyft and Uber apps that are unavailable with taxi service, or the fact that, in the case of commercial taxi drivers, they have a much higher incidence of being targeted by passengers (who are obviously not subject to fingerprinting or background checks) rather than the other way around. Finally, legislation such as that passed in H.B. 509 would subject both drivers and passengers to claims of discrimination, which always have the potential to be used in reprisal.

The bottom line is that drivers for Lyft and Uber in Hillsborough County are being intentionally targeted by regulators who have been pressured by competitors – not for dangerous practices, but for not being regulated enough. And because the same drivers can operate freely in other counties in the state, how can this be seen as anything other than a violation of equal protection under the law? To voice your opinion on this issue, contact the Hillsborough County PTC at (813) 350-6878 or write to them at 4148 N. Armenia Ave., Suite A, Tampa, FL 33607.

ThePrickle

 

Lauren Anthony has been a freelance writer since 1990, a Florida resident for over 15 years, and resides with her family in Tampa. Share your news tips with Lauren at: laurenanthony9610@gmail.com.