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.
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.
Our friends at Outside the Beltway clipped a Washington Post story that sets up a new look at decades-old campaign finance law by the nation’s high court, just three years after their landmark decision in Citizens United v. FEC. Washington’s paper of record reports:
The Supreme Court reentered the controversial field of campaign finance Tuesday, agreeing to consider a Republican challenge to decades-old limits on the total amount a person can contribute to candidates, political parties and political action committees.
It is the court’s first major campaign finance case since its 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allowed unlimited corporate and union spending in elections. By extension, the decision led to the creation of super PACs, whose multimillion-dollar donations transformed funding of the 2012 presidential contest.
The Daily Caller just published a new editorial of mine, in which I critique Tennessee Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey’s proposal to protect gun rights by trampling property rights, and in which I offer the TN General Assembly a few alternative paths forward. Here’s an excerpt:
As Justice Antonin Scalia articulated in the majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, we find the Second Amendment’s roots in the English Declaration of Rights of 1689, which asserted what Scalia called an “ancient right” of people to not be disarmed by the Crown. The Founders also recognized this right, and were wary of a government — any government — that would disarm its citizens. Ownership and possession of firearms, they believed, separated citizens from subjects.
Ramsey’s supporters are rightly bothered by the current regime, under which a gun owner can receive a jail sentence if found in possession of a firearm where a “NO GUNS ALLOWED” sign is posted, even on private property. To that extent, threats of criminal charges and imprisonment have a chilling effect on the exercise of ancient rights. Nobody should doubt the deterrent effect of firearm possession on violent crime, and gun owners are right to want to carry in today’s society.
But the current law was borne out of a conflict of rights: the right of a citizen to keep and bear arms, and the right of a property owner to determine the conditions under which someone may enter his/her property. We should view the issue as one of voluntary bargaining between private actors in the market; this is not a cut-and-dry Second Amendment issue.
Erick Erickson, master of the conservative blogging site RedState.com, has just penned a FoxNews column where he says we should just totally skip the drone debate and just kill the terrorists before they kill us. He goes through a series of so-called “justifications” for this terrible idea, before ending with this very chilling conclusion:
Just kill them before they kill us. At some point, we must trust that the president and his advisers, when they see a gathering of Al Qaeda from the watchful eye of a drone, are going to make the right call and use appropriate restraint and appropriate force to keep us safe.
Frankly, it should be American policy that any American collaborating with Al Qaeda is better off dead than alive. Richard Nixon and Dick Cheney should be proud.
First off, let’s get one thing straight—Richard Nixon and Dick Cheney are not people to celebrate or emulate. Nixon engaged in dirty, underhanded tactics to keep his presidency, tactics which when exposed led to the largest case of political corruption in modern American history. And Cheney, well, he’s just a jerk. A jerk who was beholden to his old company, Halliburton, and was not exactly in line with the Constitution on several issues. Erickson should not be looking to either with praise and approval, but the exact opposite.
In light of a Department of Justice memo laying out the general rules for assassinating American citizens with drones via a presidential “kill list” - and consequently, without Due Process - it was believed yesterday’s confirmation hearing for John Brennan as Central Intelligence Agency Director, the architect of these strikes, would be contentious. It sadly was not, and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s failure to press him on the assassinations of American citizens is nothing short of inexcusable.
As I stated in a post earlier this week, I did not expect the U.S. Senate to check the power it collectively usurped with the CIA; after all, they had a hand in constructing the legal framework for the extrajudicial assassinations of American citizens. The precedence set by this policy endangers the checks-and-balances inherent within a typical constitutional republic.
I’ve decided to start a new feature here at United Liberty, one that would run on a monthly basis. I’m calling it “7 on the 7th.” It will be a list of 7 agencies, on the 7th of the month, that we should get rid of. The purpose is to showcase just how many government agencie that exist, which most Americans just don’t realize. While they may think the government does too much stuff, I doubt that many know just what the government really does. Most don’t know about the ridiculous organizations that are prt of our government, and I can say because I don’t know.
So this will be informative not just for you, dear reader, but also for yours truly. What sort of stupid things can we uncover? Feel free to submit your suggestions for next month’s feature in the comments (but please, don’t be silly and tell me we must get rid of the Department of Defense; we’re moderate, sensible libertarians here, not barking-at-the-moon anarcho-capitalists.) Hopefully, if enough on the web read this feature, we may be able to spark a genuine discussion about the role of government and what it should actually be doing, so when some politician says we need more money to fund essential services, we can tell him (or her) that nothing he (or she) is demanding funding for is actually essential.
Now, on to the inaugural list. For this one I’ve decided to go for the low-hanging fruit, to get them out of the way and remove temptations for future entries. I don’t really expect to surprise anyone with these, but that just goes to show you how many folks think a lot of what our government does is rubbish.
1 - Department of Homeland Security
As Barack Obama begins his second term in office, trust in the federal government remains mired near a historic low, while frustration with government remains high. And for the first time, a majority of the public says that the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms.
The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Jan. 9-13 among 1,502 adults, finds that 53% think that the federal government threatens their own personal rights and freedoms while 43% disagree.
In March 2010, opinions were divided over whether the government represented a threat to personal freedom; 47% said it did while 50% disagreed. In surveys between 1995 and 2003, majorities rejected the idea that the government threatened people’s rights and freedoms.
The growing view that the federal government threatens personal rights and freedoms has been led by conservative Republicans. Currently 76% of conservative Republicans say that the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms and 54% describe the government as a “major” threat. Three years ago, 62% of conservative Republicans said the government was a threat to their freedom; 47% said it was a major threat.
Yesterday, I read an article from the Council on Foreign Relations called “Reforming U.S. Drone Strike Policies.” The opening paragraph read:
Over the last ten years, drones have become a critical tool in the war against terrorist and militant organizations worldwide. Their advantages over other weapons and intelligence systems are well known. They can silently observe an individual, group, or location for hours on end, but take immediate action should a strike opportunity become available—all without putting a pilot at risk. This combination of capabilities is unique and has allowed the United States to decimate the leadership of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and disrupt the activities of many other militant groups.
The paragraph seems to be a wholehearted endorsement of drones. But everyone knows what happens when you start peeling the layers of an onion. What appear to be reasons for drone strikes also happen to be reasons against them.
Three rings for the broadcast-kings filling the sky,
Seven for the cable-lords in their head-end halls,
Nine for the telco-men doomed to die,
One for the White House to make its calls
On Capitol Hill where the powers lie,
One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them,
One ring to bring them all and without the Court bind them,
On Capitol Hill where the powers lie.
Myths resonate because they illustrate existential truths. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s mythical tale, the Lord of the Rings, the evil Lord Sauron imbued an otherwise very ordinary ring – the “One Ring”– with an extraordinary power: It could influence thought. When Sauron wore the One Ring, he could control the lords of the free peoples of Middle Earth through lesser “rings of power” he helped create. The extraordinary power of the One Ring was also its weakness: It eventually corrupted all who wore it, even those with good intentions. This duality is the central truth in Tolkien’s tale.
It is also central to current debates about freedom of expression and the Internet.