I mean, there’s things like SOPA and the NDAA and the Patriot Act and your typical corruption and whatnot, but then you have ridiculous stories like the Texas teen who was accidentally deported to Columbia:
Turner said with the help of Dallas Police, she found her granddaughter in the most unexpected place - Colombia.
Where she had mistakenly been deported by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in April of 2011.
“They didn’t do their work,” Turner said. “How do you deport a teenager and send her to Colombia without a passport, without anything?”
News 8 learned that Jakadrien somehow ended up in Houston, where she was arrested by Houston police for theft. She gave Houston police a fake name. When police in Houston ran that name, it belonged to a 22-year-old illegal immigrant from Colombia, who had warrants for her arrest.
So ICE officials stepped in.
News 8 has learned ICE took the girl’s fingerprints, but somehow didn’t confirm her identity and deported her to Colombia, where the Colombian government gave her a work card and released her.
The only thing going for ICE in this is that the girl gave a false name. Yes, she probably shouldn’t have done that—but how in the world could ICE, in her mother’s words, deport a girl to Colombia who knew no Spanish and failed to even do the basic work of, you know, confirming this claim? You would think law enforcement officials would expect teenagers to give false names upon imprisonment; it’s not that uncommon.
Everyone seems to be proposing fixes for our country lately, whether it’s amendments to repeal the First Amendment or ban gays or whatever. I have a few ideas of my own that I think will go a long ways towards restoring some sanity in government and fixing what’s wrong with our society. Some of these will require constitutional amendments, and I don’t expect the entire list to actually get enacted unless magic somehow returns to the world and we resurrect Barry Goldwater, F.A. Hayek, and George Washington all at once.
I originally drafted a list of some 23 ideas, but I figured that it would be way too long for a blog post, so I shortened it to 14, a baker’s dozen. None of these are simple or light fixes, they are not tweaking around the edges to ensure a marginally better outcome. Judging from the situation our government and economy is in, from the horrific hard place our civil liberties are wedged behind, and the unmanageable mess that is Washington, I don’t think that “moderate” or “conservative” changes will do anything. We cannot pussyfoot around the issue; we need radical alterations to how our government works if we’re going to get us out of this morass. Again, most of these may never pass, but that’s to be expected.
Certainly, if you wish to hear my entire list, let me know and I’ll write it up, but for now, here are my 14 ideas for fixing our country:
1. Establish Approval Voting
I’ve already talked about this idea at length here, so I will not bore you again. In this post, all I will say is that I believe if we are to get anything done—and I do mean anything—we need to systematically reform how people actually get into office. That’s the foundation upon which any democracy stands, and when you’re up to your eyeballs in tar, the only way to get that fixed is to drain the swamp and start at the beginning.
You would think the First Amendment is a relatively easy legal precept to grasp, and that the idea of free speech is an equally easy general concept to comprehend. Naturally, this being 21st century America, that just isn’t so.
Take this example from the Arizona Daily Star, this Tuesday:
Northern Arizona University students who were passing out American flags Friday in remembrance of 9/11 got a bigger response than they expected.
No fewer than four university officials and a police officer descended on the group, accusing them of hindering foot traffic and lacking an advance permit.
“9/11 is very important to me,” said student Stephanee Freer. “That’s why I do the event. Every year, I do something for 9/11 and it’s never been disrupted like this.”
University spokesman Tom Bauer said it had nothing to do with what they were saying and everything to do with keeping traffic moving.
“I don’t think that this is a freedom of speech issue. We were not asking them to be quiet. We were not asking them to leave,” he said. “We were asking them to move to a different location within the same area. This is basically clearing the walkways.”
Freer said she meant to pass out flags all weekend but canceled the rest of her plans after the dust-up.
Read the rest of the story. Read the arguments of both sides; the students basically say “First Amendment! Free speech!” while the school officials just say “time, place, and manner.”
“Clearing the walkways,” uh-huh.
As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches this Sunday, I cannot help but feel it will be a commemoration of not one, not two, but at least three different tragedies that have befallen the American people. The first is the obvious tragedy of the attacks themselves, which took thousands of lives in an act of barbarism and insanity. The second tragedy is what happened to the American consciousness afterwards. And the third is what our children understand about it.
I read earlier this week about a poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The results were disquieting, to say the least. Some of the highlights:
- 71% of Americans favor surveillance cameras in public
- 47% support the government reading emails outside the US without a warrant
- 30% support the government monitoring emails within the country
- 58% support random searches involving full-body scans or patdowns at airports
- 35% support racial or ethnic profiling at airports
- 55% support the government snooping into financial transactions without a warrant
- 47% support a national ID card to show to authorities on demand (a “Show-Me” Card, if you ever watched Fringe)
- 64% believe it is “Sometimes necessary to sacrifice some rights and freedoms” in order to fight the war on terror
- 53% think you can’t be too careful dealing with people (which is a slight improvement from 2002, I suppose, which was 58%, but…)
- 54% would, between counterterrorism and civil liberties, come down on the side of civil liberties
Like I said, disquieting. All but the last should be far lower; the last should be far higher. Only 54% would go for civil liberties? That means 46% would put counterterrorism operations above what it actually means to be an American?
I’ve spilled a lot of digital ink over the years writing about national politics and sea changes in public policy. If it wasn’t for some great professors, I probably would’ve never taken an interest in urban development policy — at least not until I acquired some property of my own and attempted to do something with it (I’m not a homeowner).
I argued at The Dangerous Servant earlier this year that
This is a game of concentrated benefits with diffused costs, and it takes the form — in this case — of zoning laws, but it also includes building codes.
City planners use zoning laws to create geospatial distinctions in an urban jurisdiction by restricting the ways in which property owners can use their land or buildings. When regulations help crowd economic activity out of a residential area, home prices rise artificially because the zone becomes less noisy, less polluted, and less congested. As a result, existing homeowners wind up paying a higher amount of property taxes each year the zoning rules are in effect. Any new developments designed to attract new residents to a jurisdiction also take on a disproportionate share of property taxes.
Federal spending has ballooned 28 percent during the Obama Presidency while the government has amassed more debt than it acquired from the first day of George Washington’s administration to the last day of George H. W. Bush’s.
Our nation is racing toward a fiscal cliff. Yet, as Sen. Jim DeMint noted, instead of hitting the brakes, Congress and the President just set the cruise control. “The Budget Control Act of 2011” offers an object lesson in exactly the sort of empty compromise that has gotten our nation into its present mess. Faced with the devastating consequences of unprecedented and unsustainable federal spending, both parties agreed on only one thing: to lock in that spending for at least the next two years. Bypassing the normal legislative process, the deal was written behind closed doors and dumped it into the laps of both houses under the threat that failing to pay the government’s bills would jeopardize the nation’s triple-A credit.
Unfortunately, the deal didn’t just pay our current bills – it gave the most spendthrift administration in history an open credit line to continue its spending spree beyond 2012. Ironically, it ended up costing the United States its triple-A credit rating by failing to rein in spending significantly. Indeed, Standard and Poor’s had explicitly warned for the last two months that $4 trillion had to be cut from the projected ten-year deficit to preserve the nation’s credit. Even if the plan works perfectly, it doesn’t come close.
Yet the same politicians who ignored these warnings were shocked-just-shocked when Standard and Poor’s lowered the boom four days later. Instead, they blamed the “Tea Party” that has been sounding the same alarm for more than two years.
It’s a great day for liberty — the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta has ruled against the government in Florida v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
WASHINGTON - An appeals court ruled on Friday that President Barack Obama’s healthcare law requiring Americans to buy healthcare insurance or face a penalty was unconstitutional, a blow to the White House.
The Appeals Court for the 11th Circuit, based in Atlanta, found that Congress exceeded its authority by requiring Americans to buy coverage, but also ruled that the rest of the wide-ranging law could remain in effect.
The legality of the so-called individual mandate, a cornerstone of the healthcare law, is widely expected to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Obama administration has defended the provision as constitutional.
There are a couple of things of important note packed into this ruling:
Following up on an earlier post I wrote about the legal theory and precedent behind online retailers and state sales taxes, I thought I’d share this video from C-SPAN’s “The Communicators” show, in which Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne makes the consitutional and policy cases for not subjecting online retailers to state sales taxes:
Scott Peterson, executive director of the Streamlined Sales Tax Governing Board, offers the pro-tax position in the latter half of the video.
Recall in my last piece that I deduced that
the Internet has connected people in ways they’ve never before been able to connect, and one of the ways it has done this is through electronic commerce. As such, if someone in Michigan buys something from an Amazon Associate seller in California, and that order is filled in California (or anywhere else), then commerce has taken place across state lines. Last time I checked, only the U.S. Congress has the power to regulate interstate commerce, and California therefore has no taxing power over Amazon Associates sellers in California — unless they’re taxing purchases made by Californians only.
As the debt debate continues with no end in sight (not even Aug. 2nd) some people are getting understandably upset. They want to know who to blame, and if anything that’s come up so far will actually fix the problem. Well, I have good news and bad news.
The good news is that the Cato Institute has come out with another outstanding video on the situation. The bad news is that you have to blame everybody, and no, there isn’t really a good solution coming out yet:
Again, there will be no dismantling of unconstitutional (or just flat out bad) programs and departments, just “trimming” around the edges, which won’t be good for the long term as they’ll a piece of cake to overcome. The “Cut Cap Balance” idea is a good start, but the Democrats will never go for it, and it’s only that—a start.