Limited Government

Ted Cruz picks a winner in Paul-Christie spat

After harsh words were exchanged between Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Gov. Christie, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said in an interview that not much has changed since Rand Paul’s historical filibuster: he still stands with Rand.

“I disagree with Chris Christie when he said that the protections of the Bill of Rights and the privacy of the American people are esoteric and academic,” Sen. Cruz told National Review Online. “I am proud to stand with my friend Rand, I don’t think the protections of the Bill of Rights, I don’t think individual liberty is an esoteric concept.”

According to the Texas Republican, Gov. Chris Christie has been doing a good job in a state that was never historically too friendly to Republicans but that alone doesn’t mean Cruz and Christie agree on much else.

When asked if he would be on Christie’s side if he decided to run in 2016, Sen. Cruz declined to answer by claiming it’s “far too early to be speculating on 2016 presidential candidates.”

The Tactics of the Enemy

Peggy Noonan has a great column in The Wall Street Journal about the domestic spying at the National Security Agency (NSA) that, it turns out, may have been a little broader and a little more illegal than previously suspected. The Washington Post reported yesterday that new documents and an internal audit indicate that NSA “has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008”:

The documents provided by Snowden offer only glimpses of those questions. Some reports make clear that an unauthorized search produced no records. But a single “incident” in February 2012 involved the unlawful retention of 3,032 files that the surveillance court had ordered the NSA to destroy, according to the May 2012 audit. Each file contained an undisclosed number of telephone call records.

One of the documents sheds new light on a statement by NSA Director Keith B. Alexander last year that “we don’t hold data on U.S. citizens.”

Some Obama administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, have defended Alexander with assertions that the agency’s internal definition of “data” does not cover “metadata” such as the trillions of American call records that the NSA is now known to have collected and stored since 2006. Those records include the telephone numbers of the parties and the times and durations of conversations, among other details, but not their content or the names of callers.

NLRB Illegally Wades into Labor Dispute; Private Sector Fights Back

Just a couple of short years after using litigation to intimidate Boeing into either allowing new South Carolina employees to organize, or to move those new jobs to a state with stronger labor protections, two regional directors of Obama’s National Labor Relations Board asserted themselves in a labor dispute in New York earlier this year between Cablevision and the Communications Workers of America union. The NLRB, however, doesn’t have the authority to wade into the dispute because a D.C. Circuit Court ruled in January that Obama’s recess appointments to the NLRB were illegal.

Cablevision, according to the Wall Street Journal, sought emergency injunctive relief from that same D.C. Circuit Court earlier this year to stop the NLRB from trying to adjudicate the dispute in the agency’s administrative court:

Cablevision is petitioning the D.C. Circuit to issue a writ of mandamus—a direct court order—prohibiting the NLRB from proceeding with unfair-labor-practice complaints against it and its parent company, CSC Holdings. Cablevision’s rationale is straightforward: The same D.C. Circuit ruled in January that President Obama’s non-recess recess appointments to the NLRB were illegal. Thus, the board has been operating without a quorum since January 2012….

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.

No More Tanks: Army Tells Congress to Stop Spending

Abrams tank

Whenever people call for cutting the military budget, the usual response goes something like  ”How can you keep the Army from getting the equipment it needs to fight wars?” Well, the problem with that response is highlighted today by this story from ABC:

Lawmakers from both parties have devoted nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer money over the past two years to build improved versions of the 70-ton Abrams.

But senior Army officials have said repeatedly, “No thanks.”

It’s the inverse of the federal budget world these days, in which automatic spending cuts are leaving sought-after pet programs struggling or unpaid altogether. Republicans and Democrats for years have fought so bitterly that lawmaking in Washington ground to a near-halt.

Yet in the case of the Abrams tank, there’s a bipartisan push to spend an extra $436 million on a weapon the experts explicitly say is not needed.

“If we had our choice, we would use that money in a different way,” Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army’s chief of staff, told The Associated Press this past week.

Why are the tank dollars still flowing? Politics.

Keeping the Abrams production line rolling protects businesses and good paying jobs in congressional districts where the tank’s many suppliers are located.

If there’s a home of the Abrams, it’s politically important Ohio. The nation’s only tank plant is in Lima. So it’s no coincidence that the champions for more tanks are Rep. Jim Jordan and Sen. Rob Portman, two of Capitol’s Hill most prominent deficit hawks, as well as Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. They said their support is rooted in protecting national security, not in pork-barrel politics.

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.

Nanny Staters Should Mind Their Own Business

Nanny State

In the midst of the debates about banning firearms with certain features, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s failed attempt to ban New Yorkers from drinking soft drinks he felt were too large, and the debate over whether or not same sex couples should have the ability to enter into a legal contract to have the same legal rights and responsibilities as married heterosexual couples, a thought occurred to me: “Gee there are a lot of people out there who just want to ban things!”

Why is this impulse so prevalent in our society? It seems that nearly everyone wants to be free to live their lives as they see fit. I haven’t met too many people who favor any notion of limiting their freedom because elected officials passed a law or majority of fellow citizens took a vote. When it comes to one’s own personal liberties, everyone is a libertarian! Consider that the Gadsen flag underneath the coiled rattlesnake reads: “Don’t Tread on Me.”

But far too many of these same people who jealously defend their own liberties are more than eager to limit someone else’s when that someone else engages in an activity that, for whatever reason, offends them. No, when it comes to other people, these people who don’t want their liberties tread on are not libertarian but majoritarian (i.e. political might makes right).

The Specter of Internet Taxation

As the U.S. Postal Service closes 53 processing plants to trim $2 billion from its bloated budget, government officials - who earlier floated ideas to suspend Saturday service - look for other ideas to balance their budget. While USPS handles 40 percent of all the mail delivered in the world, it lost $15.9 billion last year with revenues of $65 billion. What’s more, its unfunded pension liabilities are nearly $50 billion.

Instead of privatizing the postal service - which would allow it to compete with FedEx and UPS, who seem to be able to make profits even up against a subsidized postal service - a California city councilman is proposing a tax on email as a fix:

Berkeley City Councilman Gordon Wozniak brought up taxing emails during a recent council meeting. He suggested the money collected, which would be part of a wider-reaching Internet tax, could be used in Berkeley’s case to save the local post office.

“There should be something like a bit tax,” he said during the March 5 meeting. “I mean, a bit tax could be a cent per gigabit and they would make, probably, billions of dollars a year.”

Plus, he said, there should be a “very tiny tax on email.”

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.

OPINION: “Tennessee ‘Guns in Parking Lots’ Bill a Net Drain on Liberty”

//creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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.

 


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