Reason Roundup

Justin Amash's Tenure as the Libertarian Party's First Member in Congress Will Be Shortlived

Plus: Homeland Security memo worries masks will thwart their surveillance, the feds are snatching people off the streets in Portland, Congress takes up the D.C. shroom debate, and more...

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Amash isn't running—for anything. After Rep. Justin Amash's brief foray into seeking the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination, many thought that Amash—a Tea Party Republican turned Trump-era independent and, now, Congress' first and only Libertarian member—might try to hold his seat representing Michigan in the House of Representatives. That's not to be.

Following a Detroit News report Thursday night that Amash's congressional campaign was inactive, Amash tweeted:

I love representing our community in Congress. I always will. This is my choice, but I'm still going to miss it. Thank you for your trust.

Amash adviser Poppy Nelson had told The Detroit News earlier that Amash "hasn't been campaigning for any office and doesn't plan to seek the nomination for any office."

The paper notes that Amash's campaign "raised only $24,200 for the quarter ending June 30—another indication he's not running for federal office. He previously raised over $1.1 million toward re-election."

Amash was first elected to Congress in 2010 and has served five terms.

Nicholas Sarwark, former chairman of the Libertarian National Committee, told The Detroit News that with Amash "as our first Libertarian congressman—I would like to keep that seat. But I understand if he thinks there's a better way for him to advance the Libertarian Party and improve the conditions of this country—that he has to do what he thinks is right."


FOLLOWUP

More horrifying scenes out of Portland. Earlier this week, it was federal agents shooting impact munitions at protesters in Portland, Oregon—hitting one man directly in the head, knocking him over and putting him in the hospital. At the time, Sen. Ron Wyden (D–Ore.) accused the feds of acting like an "occupying army." Now, unidentified federal agents wearing camouflage have been driving around Portland, snatching people off the streets, and taking them away in unmarked vehicles.

"Federal law enforcement officers have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland and detain protesters since at least July 14," Oregon Public Broadcasting reports.

Personal accounts and multiple videos posted online show the officers driving up to people, detaining individuals with no explanation of why they are being arrested, and driving off.

The tactic appears to be another escalation in federal force deployed on Portland city streets, as federal officials and President Donald Trump have said they plan to "quell" nightly protests outside the federal courthouse and Multnomah County Justice Center that have lasted for more than six weeks.


FREE MINDS

Another good reason to wear a mask. A May 22 memo from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) explores the agency's fears that widespread mask wearing will thwart federal facial recognition programs. The memo was "drafted by the DHS Intelligence Enterprise Counterterrorism Mission Center in conjunction with a variety of other agencies, including Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement," and brought to the public's attention by The Intercept.

In its own words, the intelligence memo discusses "the potential impacts that widespread use of protective masks could have on security operations that incorporate face recognition systems—such as video cameras, image processing hardware and software, and image recognition algorithms."

"Violent extremists and other criminals who have historically maintained an interest in avoiding face recognition" may "opportunistically seize upon public safety measures recommending the wearing of face masks to hinder the effectiveness of face recognition systems in public spaces by security partners," the feds fret, while noting that they have "no specific information" about this actually happening.

The Homeland Security memo also "cites as cause for concern tactics used in recent pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong," notes The Intercept.


FREE MARKETS

D.C. efforts to decriminalize psilocybin draw interference. Yesterday members of Congress—which still has veto power over local D.C. laws—debated a proposal to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms in the District. "We certainly…don't want to be known as the drug capital of the world," said Rep. Andy Harris (R–Md.), who had introduced an amendment to forbid D.C. from putting the issue up for a vote this fall.

"We all can agree that policies that increase the availability of psychedelic drugs in the nation's capital—that's dangerous," Rep. Tom Graves (R–Ga.) said at the House Appropriations Committee hearing.

Not all of the committee agreed.

"If the district's residents want to make mushrooms a lower priority and focus limited law enforcement resources on other issues, that is their prerogative," said Rep. Mike Quigley (D–Ill.).

Harris ultimately withdrew his amendment—for now. "This is a new issue to the committee," he said in a statement. "Between now and the meeting of the conference committee this fall, the issue of whether this will be on the ballot will be resolved. Fortunately, in that time, members will also have time to learn more about this complicated medical issue."


ELECTION 2020

America is seeing a dramatic shift in party affiliation. Since the start of the year, "what had been a two-percentage-point Republican advantage in U.S. party identification and leaning has become an 11-point Democratic advantage, with more of that movement reflecting a loss in Republican identification and leaning (down eight points) than a gain in Democratic identification and leaning (up five points)," notes Gallup:

Currently, half of U.S. adults identify as Democrats (32%) or are independents who lean toward the Democratic Party (18%). Meanwhile, 39% identify as Republicans (26%) or are Republican leaners (13%).

These results are based on monthly averages of Gallup U.S. telephone surveys in 2020.


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