Bill of Rights

The Straw that Broke the Federalist Camel’s Back

Recently when discussing with a friend Tammy Duckworth’s new proposal for breastfeeding rooms to be installed in all airports, I suggested that while it might be a worthy goal, it has no business being a nationally mandated policy. Fortunately, my friend did not retort aghast that I was against privacy, breastfeeding, or women, as is so often the case in debates with our leftward neighbors:

Bastiat

Instead, my progressive friend responded that the federal government already controls airports, and this one additional mandate would hardly be “the straw that breaks the camel’s back.” Though the federal control of airports itself is dubious, it occured to me that, while not much of a logical argument in favor of this particular example, this is actually the perfect metaphor for federal regulation as a whole.

No, one additional piece of straw on the back of a camel will not break it. But how would one place straw on a camel’s back anyway? With the hump(s), it would likely roll right off to the ground and not weigh down the camel at all, at least after a certain amount of straw. Similarly, any one single regulation is not likely to make any regulated private business, organization, or individual unsustainable.

11th Circuit: The Location of Your Cell Phone Isn’t Private

location

You know how Google, Apple, and Microsoft store your phone’s location history to help with searches and app interactivity? Well, a federal appeals court just ruled that none of that information is actually yours and you have no expectation of privacy from it, so courts don’t need a warrant to get it.

“Cell tower location records do not contain private communications of the subscriber,” the court said in its ruling. “This type of non-content evidence, lawfully created by a third-party telephone company . . . does not belong to Davis, even if it concerns him. . . . Davis has no subjective or objective reasonable expectation of privacy in [the phone company’s] business records showing the cell tower locations that wirelessly connected his calls at or near the time of six of the seven robberies.”

This is an obscene and invidious ruling that has enormous implications for yes, your actual privacy. If the cell tower location data that shows where your phone is can from now on be acquired without a warrant, then your physical location is always within reach of government agents.

Nevermind that your phone has layers and layers of privacy settings that keep your GPS and other location data off the grid. Triangulating cell tower data can be just as useful and is now more accessible to the government than it is to you.

As an example of the lengths Google’s Android Lollipop system goes to allow you to protect your location data, the following are screenshots from my phone.

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Matt Lewis Is Right: Rand Paul Is Wrong on Term Limits, Here’s Why

(Editor’s note: this post first appeared on George Scoville’s personal blog.)

The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis has a really important piece up this morning critiquing Rand Paul’s rhetoric on congressional term limits from Paul’s announcement of his 2016 presidential campaign yesterday. During his speech, Paul said, “We limit the president to two terms … It is about time we limit the terms of Congress.”

Here are the counterpoints Lewis offers (emphasis added):

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.

The Perpetual Battle for Natural Rights

With all the scandals today – namely, at the IRS, AP, and NSA – many believe our government’s actions are violating our natural rights: mostly, our freedoms of speech, press, due process, and privacy. These “natural rights” are fundamental basic human rights, not based on man-made positive law. Many of these rights were codified by our founders in the Bill of Rights… but not without tumult.

There are those today - even within the liberty movement - willing to compromise on many issues that would infringe on the natural rights of others, in both domestic and foreign policy. I think they are wrong. In this brief history of how our Bill of Rights came about, I encourage you to look for parallels between today’s struggles and our country’s founding.

A Constitution Without Rights

John Locke, regarded as the Father of Classical Liberalism, grounded the premise for his 1690 Second Treatise of Government on the idea of natural rights. This idea, while revolutionary at the time, provided a template for subsequent political theory. Merging Locke’s idea with the British Bill of Rights of 1689, George Mason, a member of the Virginia delegation, penned the Virginia Declaration of Rights in May of 1776 - preceding both the Virginia State Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. In its Article 1, he penned these words:

We Already Knew About NSA’s PRISM Program

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the National Security Agency (NSA) has been using a program called PRISM to collect “metadata,” under a broad interpretation of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, to spy on Americans’ phone records and online data, even if they aren’t accused or suspected of a crime.

These revelations are nothing new, actually; we are just now getting the details. A YEAR AGO, Spencer Ackerman (@attackerman) reported at WIRED’s Dangerroom:

“On at least one occasion,” the intelligence shop has approved Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to say, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court found that “minimization procedures” used by the government while it was collecting intelligence were “unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”

At the time, Cato Institute’s Julian Sanchez elaborated:

“The standard procedure for FISA surveillance is that “large amounts of information are collected by automatic recording to be minimized after the fact.” The court elaborated: “Virtually all information seized, whether by electronic surveillance or physical search, is minimized hours, days, or weeks after collection.”

Too Good to Check: Ben & Jerry’s Ben Cohen Now Buying Issue Support with Free Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Ben Cohen is waging a new campaign to reform the campaign finance system, and to “get money out of politics.” But Cohen is no stranger to injecting a lot of his own money into politics, and his latest gambit makes him a hypocrite of the highest degree, as the Ben & Jerry’s company and its parent company Unilever bear the financial costs of his advocacy.

Ben & Jerry's truck

You might say Cohen is delivering the bullshit by the truckload these days. Politico Influence reports:

BEN & JERRY’S DEFENDS FREE ICE CREAM TO FIGHT CORPORATE INFLUENCE: Last week, POLITICO reported that Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Ben Cohen is fighting the Citizens United decision by stamping dollar bills with anti-money-in-politics messages. Anyone who presents a stamped dollar bill gets a free ice cream. PI asked Ben & Jerry’s ‘Grand Poobah’ of communications Sean Greenwood who was paying for the effort - noting that it would be a bit ironic for a for-profit corporation to fight influence-peddling by giving away free ice cream.

Romney Data Scientist: Americans View Marriage, Abortion Differently


GinsburgChurchLady.png

United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who may or may not have been separated at birth from Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady” character from Saturday Night Live, may have signaled how she’ll decide Hollingsworth v. Perry (covered here by Travis) when she recently characterized the Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade as somewhat reactionary and hurried.

Americans would be broadly disappointed, argues former Romney 2012 chief data scientist and Target Point Consulting vice president and research director Alex Lundry, if the Court bases its Hollingsworth ruling on Ginsburg’s feelings about the Roe decision. It’s not that Lundry believes the Court shouldn’t be insulated from popular opinion. But when you set aside the substantive and legal differences between the two cases and the policy issues which they embody respectively, Americans fundamentally view gay marriage and abortion in different ways.

He writes in The Daily Caller, looking at opinion polling and demographic data from a number of sources:

A clear majority of the country favors providing same-sex couples with the ability to marry, while opinion on abortion has remained closely divided for almost 40 years. A March poll by ABC News and the Washington Post found that 58% of Americans support gay and lesbian Americans’ legal right to wed — a record high. That majority will likely grow into a broad-based consensus in the not-too-distant future, as polls reveal that more than four out of five voters under 30 support legalizing same-sex marriage.

NAACP Chief: GOP Needs To Become Party of Civil Rights

Ben Jealous

A couple of weeks ago, Senator Rand Paul did a courageous and unusual thing by visiting Howard University in DC. Howard is what is known as a “historically black university,” founded in the wake of the Civil War to provide opportunities for higher education to African-Americans. It’s not exactly home turf for Republicans, but that’s precisely why Paul went, in order to bridge a massive gap that is hurting the GOP.

Response to his visit was mixed, but yesterday, NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous wrote a generally supportive op-ed on CNN. Although noting that Paul missed his target in most areas, there is one area that has promise:

Paul struck out when he tried to equate today’s Republican Party with the party of Abraham Lincoln, while ignoring much of the 150 years in between. (He even acknowledged his mistakes shortly after). But his willingness to step up to the plate can provide a lesson for a GOP struggling to get on top.

Republicans will not win black votes by paying lip service to party history while attacking social programs and voting rights. But they can make inroads by showing a commitment to civil rights, something Paul managed to do briefly in his remarks.

Rand Paul on Drones: “Only the Beginning”

Last week, in his historic filibuster, Senator Rand Paul provoked Attorney General Eric Holder to relinquish the right to assassinate American citizens on American soil - a claim previously made in a Department of Justice White Paper. In so doing, we have established the first real boundary for the use of drones in American foreign policy. Senator Paul has since stated the drone debate “isn’t over” and that this victory is “just the beginning.” Senator Paul is pioneering a winning strategy to incrementally advance freedom within a broader liberty movement.


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