Today in Liberty: CNN stoops to a new low, our insurance salesman-in-chief

“The proverb warns that ‘You should not bite the hand that feeds you.’ But maybe you should if it prevents you from feeding yourself.” — Thomas Szasz

— CNN apparently now run by Alex Jones: CNN has been following the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 almost nonstop for several days now, seeing it as ratings gold. But the cable network’s coverage, which had already jumped the shark, fell to a new low last night when host Don Lemon asked panelists “is it preposterous” to think a black hole caused the plane to crash? CNN is still relevant, they said. Give it a chance, they said. It’s like they’re not even trying anymore.

— Insurance Salesman-in-Chief: The presidency used to be considered a prestigious office with heavy influence and gravitas. But the influence of the office has been reduced to appearances on radio and television talk shows as President Obama tries to sell his healthcare law to a skeptical public, the latest of which will be a live interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. The appearances are targeted to reach a certain audience and it’s probably a smart strategy to get a message to the crowd they’re trying to reach. At the same time, however, it’s just sad to see a president reduced to being a cheap insurance salesman. Well, that and a college basketball expert.

— Russia isolated from G-8: The G-8 is now the G-7. The group of influential nations has, basically, isolated Russia over its invasion of Crimea. The U.S. and its allies have all but kicked Russia out of the vaunted Group of Eight, comprised of the world’s top economic powerhouses with origins dating back to the early 1970s. The G-8 has, at least temporarily, reverted to its incarnation before Russia joined in 1998,” The Washington Times reports. “The resurgent Group of Seven — the U.S., the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, Canada and Italy — will meet next week in the Netherlands to discuss how to respond to Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine.”

— DOJ doesn’t seem to be taking the CIA/Senate controversy seriously: The Justice Department is taking a look at allegations that the CIA spied on Senate staffers, but it hasn’t decided to launch a formal probe. “[T]he attorney general seemed to play down the significance of the referrals,” Politico reported, “and said it was not certain that a criminal probe would result.” Holder actually said that that “the fact that we get a referral does not necessarily mean we make a decision that we’re going to investigate on the basis of that referral.” The White House reportedly knew the CIA was spying on the committee and tried to resolve the dispute before it became public.

— Another reason to despise Lindsey Graham: The South Carolina Republican will file legislation to ban Internet gambling, picking up a cause pushed by casino owner and mega donor Sheldon Adelson. “Graham is expected to introduce a bill to ban Internet gambling as soon as next week, according to sources working on the issue,” Politico notes. “Adelson launched a coalition late last year to ban online gaming. The billionaire casino mogul promised to use his fortune to push the issue, arguing that it is not good for society and could hurt the traditional business model of casinos.” Because protectionism! Also, cronyism. Politico points out that Adelson and his wife have donated $15,600 to Graham’s campaign.

— Oh, by the way, there was almost a civil war in Libya: Though it’s gone mostly unnoticed with everything else going on in the world. “For five days last week, it looked like the country was headed for civil war. Ibrahim al-Jadhran, the leader of a Libyan militia that has maintained an eight-month blockade of country’s largest oil terminals, had pulled a fast one on the weak central government in Tripoli. With his go-ahead, a tanker of uncertain origin and ownership docked at the port of Es-Sidr, in eastern Libya, on March 10 and loaded a cargo of crude valued at $36 million. Prime Minister Ali Zeidan threatened to bomb the tanker were it to try to set sail with its cargo of stolen oil, but taking advantage of rough weather and the lack of a Libyan navy, the tanker cast off the following day and made for international waters,” Geoff Porter wrote at Politico Magazine. ”But just five days later, the tanker is headed back to Libya, after having been boarded by a team of U.S. Navy SEALs off the coast of Cyprus. The ship’s return averts an immediate escalation of violence in Libya, but what happens next may be no less ugly.” Just a reminder, President Obama’s intervention in Libya has been a complete failure.

— Yes, Republican presidents have abused their power: Though House Republicans are right to criticize President Obama’s abuse of executive power, at least in most instances, Jacob Sullum notes that Republican presidents have abused the office as well. “The ENFORCE the Law Act (get it?) would allow either chamber of Congress to authorize litigation aimed at correcting the president’s ‘failure to faithfully execute the laws,’” Sullum wrote. “While the bill’s name is ridiculous and its mechanism is dubious, the basic premise of its supporters, almost all of whom are Republicans, is correct: As the House Judiciary Committee’s report on the bill puts it, Obama has engaged in a ‘pattern of overstepping [his] constitutional bounds.’ But so did his Republican predecessors—a fact the report seems designed to obscure.” Again, House Republicans have some great points and examples about President Obama’s overreach, but the executive branch has to be reined in, regardless of which party is in power.

— Paul, Cruz disagree on social issues: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) says that Republicans need to “agree to disagree” on social issues and embrace views that are outside traditionally conservative views in order to grow the party. But Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) disagrees. “There are some who say the Republican Party should no longer stand for life. I don’t agree with that,” Cruz said recently, according to The Daily Caller. “There are some who say the Republican Party should no longer stand for traditional marriage. I don’t agree with them either. I think we should continue to defend our shared values.” The two senators, both of whom are social conservatives, also recently sparred on foreign policy. Despite the disagreements, Cruz says, “I love Rand Paul.”

— Get ready to pay more at the pump: New regulations proposed by the Obama administration could cause gas prices to rise by as much as nine cents per gallon as oil companies pass the burden on to consumers. “The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week unleashed a new regulation on the amount of sulfur contained in gasoline. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy praised the new regulation as a ‘benefit worth the burden’ citing a projected one cent increase in gasoline prices to American consumers,” wrote Justin Skyes at Americans for Tax Reform. “[T]he one cent figure cited by McCarthy is far from accurate as evidenced by a recent study by Baker & O’Brien Incorporated. The study found not only would the cost of gasoline prices increase to potentially nine cent per gallon but that the new rule would require $10 billion in capital costs and an annual compliance cost of $2.4 billion.”

— David Alexrod doesn’t like big words: Though he admits that Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is “an interesting story,” David Axelrod, a former advisor to President Obama, says that “most Americans probably don’t know what ‘dystopian’ means,” referring to the senator’s speech at Berkeley. Maybe, maybe not. But there’s a reason why movies about oppressive governments do so well.

— One step closer: Paul, by the way, is one step closer to being able to run for president and reelection to the Senate at the same time. The Kentucky Senate passed a measure that would fix a flaw in the commonwealth’s election law, letting Paul run for two federal offices at once. It still has to clear the Kentucky House, which is controlled by Democrats, before it can be sent to the governor’s desk.

(Credit: Ron Paul Problems)

— Sin taxes means smuggling — obviously: The higher the sin tax, the worse the cigarette smuggling problem is. “New York is the highest net importer of smuggled cigarettes, totaling 56.9 percent of the total cigarette market in the state. New York also has the highest state cigarette tax ($4.35 per pack), not counting the local New York City cigarette tax (an additional $1.50 per pack). Smuggling in New York has risen sharply since 2006 (+59 percent), as has the tax rate (+190 percent),” the Tax Foundation notes. “On the other end of the spectrum, New Hampshire has the highest outbound smuggling rate of 24.2 percent, as its relatively moderate cigarette excise taxes and close geographical proximity to high tax states makes cigarette trafficking lucrative.”

— Radicalism is suggesting that the Fourth Amendment doesn’t exist: As if there was even a question about that. “The Fourth Amendment was being eroded long before the NSA began its current program of spying on millions of innocent Americans. The War on Drugs alone has done tremendous violence to it. But even when paramilitary SWAT units are kicking down doors in the dead of night because a homeowner is suspected of possessing marijuana—an atrocious practice that I’ve condemned on many occasions—they can at least say that they suspect the individualized target of an actual crime,” wrote Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic. “With its telephony-metadata program, the NSA sets the precedent that the state may force its way into the private affairs of citizens even when authorities themselves acknowledge that they are suspected of no crime. It’s a dangerous, radical notion that national security statists have managed to pass off as centrism.”

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