Doug Mataconis

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Biggest Stories of 2013: Supreme Court Partially Strikes Down DOMA

Throughout New Year’s Eve, we’ll be going through the 10 biggest political stories of 2013 as selected by United Liberty’s contributors. Don’t forget to chime in on the biggest stories of the year on our Facebook page.

Supreme Court

When 2013 started, only nine states in the United States recognized same-sex marriage, including three that did so just two months earlier on Election Day. As the year went on, three additional states joined the list via legislation.

The biggest moment in the history of the marriage equality movement to date, though, occurred in June when the Supreme Court handed down its opinion in United States v. Windsor which declared Section 3 the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional.

DOMA, of course, had been passed by Congress with huge majorities in 1996 in response to the very first steps toward attempting to give gays and lesbians the right to marry and was the beginning of a push back against same-sex marriage, and Section 3 was the portion of the law that defined marriage for purposes of federal law as being only between a man and a woman. This was the start of a “traditional marriage” movement that was hugely successful for the next twelve years as laws or constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage passed in the vast majority of the states, typically by large majorities.

Legal or Not, Data-Mining Poses a Threat to Civil Liberties

Roger Pilon and Richard Epstein are out with an op-ed that argues that the data-mining and surveillance programs we’ve become aware of over the past week aren’t really as big a deal as many libertarians and conservatives are making them out to be:

President Barack Obama is under harsh attack for stating the obvious: No amount of government ingenuity will guarantee the American people 100 percent security, 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience. He was answering a burst of more heated responses from left and right alike to the “news” that for years the National Security Agency has been collecting metadata about Americans’ phone calls and certain foreign Internet communications.

Legally, the president is on secure footing under the Patriot Act, which Congress passed shortly after 9/11 and has since reauthorized by large bipartisan majorities. As he stressed, the program has enjoyed the continued support of all three branches of the federal government. It has been free of political abuse since its inception. And as he rightly added, this nation has real problems if its people, at least here, can’t trust the combined actions of the executive branch and the Congress, backstopped by federal judges sworn to protect our individual liberties secured by the Bill of Rights.

A Libertarian Case For Manchin-Toomey

Robert Levy

Robert Levy, the chairman of the Cato Institute and co-counsel in the landmark Second Amendment case, District of Columbia v. Heller, had an op-ed in The New York Times over the weekend arguing that the Manchin-Toomey gun background check bill that was recently defeated in the Senate is something that gun rights advocates should be supporting rather than trying to block:

I’m a libertarian who played a role in reducing handgun restrictions in the nation’s capital. In 2008, in a landmark case I helped initiate, Heller v. District of Columbia, the Supreme Court declared for the first time that the Second Amendment protected an individual’s right to bear arms.

But the stonewalling of the background check proposal was a mistake, both politically and substantively. Following a series of tragic mass shootings, public opinion is overwhelmingly in favor of reasonable legislation restricting the ownership of guns by people who shouldn’t have them. There was also plenty in the proposal that gun-rights proponents like me could embrace.

The compromise — carefully negotiated by two moderate gun-rights supporters, Senators Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, and Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania — should be reintroduced in the Senate. I am convinced that, with some modifications, it could still be passed, because it would add reasonable protections for both gun owners and sellers.

Republicans Seem To Be Afraid Of Gary Johnson And Other Libertarians

Gary Johnson

Many of my conversations with Republicans regarding the Presidential race and the fact that I intend to vote for Gary Johnson usually end up in one of two categories. First, there are the people who tell me that by voting for Johnson, I’m voting for President Obama. As I’ve noted before, this an absurd argument largely because it assumes that Mitt Romney is entitled to my vote as a libertarian, an argument which I don’t accept. The other argument I frequently hear is one that basically says that my vote is wasted because Gary Johnson isn’t going to have any impact on the race. I’ve always thought that the two arguments are mutually contradictory. After all, if my vote for Johnson is going to hurt Romney then it obviously will have some impact on the race, and if it isn’t going to have any impact on the race then it isn’t going to hurt Mitt Romney. You really can’t make both arguments at the same time.

I’ve always thought, though, that the best way to judge what people really think is to look at how they act, and based on their actions, Republicans really seem to be concerned about Gary Johnson’s potential impact on the Presidential race:

When he was running for the Republican presidential nomination last year, Gary Johnson, the former two-term Republican governor of New Mexico, drew ridicule from mainstream party members as he advocated legalized marijuana and a 43 percent cut in military spending.

There Is No Libertarian Case For Mitt Romney

Romney

Stephen Green, PJMedia’s Vodkapundit, came out this morning with a post putting forward a libertarian case for Mitt Romney. I’ve seen several other people try to attempt to make this argument in the last several weeks, but they’ve all been conservatives trying to convince libertarians why they absolutely must vote for Mitt Romney rather than Gary Johnson on November 6th. Inevitably, those arguments, whether in the form of a blog post or a conversation on Twitter or Facebook end up devolving into the same ridicule and condescension one typically hears from conservatives directed at libertarians. A vote for Gary Johnson, they say, is a vote for Barack Obama, for example. Another common theme is to point out that the Libertarian Party doesn’t exactly have a record of electoral success, a fact which I concede but which I find completely irrelevant to the question of who I should consider voting for and why. They call you a Paulbot too, even though I was an enthusiastic backer of Governor Johnson’s bid for the Republican nomination and had pretty much had my fill of the Ron Paul movement way back in 2007. On the whole, the conservative argument to libertarians regarding the 2012 election has been dismissive, insulting, and based more on the false assumption that we want to be loyal Republicans. I’ve really grown quick sick of it, to be honest.

Breitbart Blogger Takes Swing At Gary Johnson, Misses Completely

Gary Johnson

William Bigelow, a blogger at Big Government, one of the many websites that is part of the “Breitbart” media empire that continues to apparently flourish after Andrew Breitbart’s death in March, has taken the trouble of coming up with a list of reasons why Republicans shouldn’t vote for Gary Johnson.

As an opening point, I should probably say that on some level Bigelow is correct. If you are truly a Republican, as in being someone who is committed to the success of the Republican Party regardless of the fact that it remains, at its core, a party devoted to expanding the power of the state, then you obviously shouldn’t vote for Gary Johnson. Governor Johnson, though he was once a member of the Republican Party, stands against everything your party exists to perpetuate whether it’s the continued expansion of unchecked Executive Branch power, subsidies via the tax code and other methods to favored industries, or an interventionist foreign policy the foolishness of which was aptly demonstrated during the Presidency of George W. Bush. If you truly believe all of these things are good things, then go ahead and vote for Mitt Romney because you can be sure that, in the increasingly unlikely possibility that he’s elected in November, he will continue all of those polices. Heck, he’s already promised increase the defense budget by $2,000,000,000,000 over a ten year period!

However, I think in his use of “Republicans,” Bigelow really means conservatives and Tea Party supporters, which makes his arguments against Johnson all the more interesting. Let’s examine each one of them in turn.

Apparently, The NRA Only Cares About One Part Of The Bill Of Rights

Gun

Based on this from Cato’s Roger Pilon, apparently, the National Rifle Association only cares about some parts of the Bill of Rights:

NPR ran a story this morning, “NRA Targets One Of Its Own In Tenn. Race,” that nicely illustrates the perils of single-issue politics, although you’d never learn the principle of the matter from the NPR account. It seems that the NRA has launched a $75,000 ad campaign against state Rep. Debra Maggart, a long-time NRA member and avid gun-owner who a year ago had an “A+” rating from the NRA. Her sin? She and several other Tennessee Republican officials opposed a bill that would have allowed employees to keep guns in their cars while parked in their private employers’ parking lots.

The NRA’s Chris Cox, who’s spearheading this political vendetta and, in the process, is supporting Maggart’s tea-party backed opponent, invokes both “our First Amendment right to assemble to petition our government” and, of course, the Second Amendment, seemingly oblivious to the fact that neither is relevant here. In fact, the issue could not be simpler: individuals, including employers, have a right to determine the conditions on which others may enter their property.

California’s Foie Gras Ban Proves Once Again That Prohibition Doesn’t Work

Foie Gras

California became famous, or infamous depending on your point of view, a few weeks ago when it became the first state to ban the traditional method of producing foie gras, the fatty substance dervice from duck and goose liver that is considering something of a gourmet delicacy.

The reason for the ban had nothing to do with the health arguments that have been made in recent years about foie gras, but because animal rights advocates contended that the method of production, which involves feeding the animals large amounts of food in a short period of time, was cruel. There are other methods of producing foie gras, but it’s generally accepted that these alternative methods produce a vastly inferior product. As a result, some California restaurants have resorted to creative legal arguments to allow them to keep making the product available, while other Californians are engaging in a practice that is reminiscent of the era when alcohol was banned in the United States:

Cory Booker: The Drug War Is “Big Overgrown Government At Its Worst”

Cory Booker

Newark Mayor Cory Booker has made headlines in recent years for his dedication to responding to citizen complaints via social media, for rescuing a neighbor from a house fire, and for assisting one of his bodyguards in helping a car accident victim.

Indeed, his heroism become the subject of an amusing video with Governor Chris Christie that was part of the state’s annual political correspondents dinner. This past weekend, however, he made some headlines for what many people will likely consider controversial comments about the War On Drugs:

Newark, N.J. Mayor Cory Booker took to Reddit Sunday to criticize the war on drugs, saying it was ineffective and “represents big overgrown government at its worst.”

“The so called War on Drugs has not succeeded in making significant reductions in drug use, drug arrests or violence,” the Democrat wrote during the Reddit “ask me anything” chat. “We are pouring huge amounts of our public resources into this current effort that are bleeding our public treasury and unnecessarily undermining human potential.”

Booker then called drug arrests a “game.”

“My police in Newark are involved in an almost ridiculous game of arresting the same people over and over again and when you talk to these men they have little belief that there is help or hope for them to break out of this cycle,” he wrote.

Here’s exactly how Booker put it in his Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session:

A Thought About The Surprising ObamaCare Ruling

As we all know by now, the Supreme Court upheld the Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act today by relying upon an argument that most people had not been paying attention to:

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday left standing the basic provisions of the health care overhaul, ruling that the government may use its taxation powers to push people to buy health insurance.

The narrowly delineated decision was a victory for President Obama and Congressional Democrats, with a 5-to-4 majority, including the conservative chief justice, John G. Roberts Jr., affirming the central legislative pillar of Mr. Obama’s presidency.

Chief Justice Roberts, the author of the majority opinion, surprised observers by joining the court’s four more liberal members in the key finding and becoming the swing vote. Justices Anthony Kennedy, frequently the swing vote, joined three more conservative members in a dissent and read a statement in court that the minority viewed the law as “invalid in its entirety.”

The decision did significantly restrict one major portion of the law: the expansion of Medicaid, the government health-insurance program for low-income and sick people, giving states more flexibility.

The case is seen as the most significant before the court since Bush v. Gore ruling, which decided the 2000 presidential election.

In addition to its political reverberations, the decision allows sweeping policy changes affecting one of the largest and fastest-growing sectors of the economy, touching nearly everyone from the cradle to the grave.

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