Limited Government

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.

No, don’t skip the drone debate

drones

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.

Americans Say They Don’t Trust Their Government

A long time ago, I asked people “Why Do You Trust Your Government?” It appears I now have an answer: they don’t.

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.

1-31-13 #1The 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.

Recapping 2012: Scott Walker wins in Wisconsin

Perhaps one of the best stories this year was Scott Walker’s victory in his recall election. That election was prompted by Wisconsin passing a law that limited collective bargaining for some public-sector unions (most government employees, minus police and firefighters) and forced them to contribute more to their pensions.

Naturally, public unions threw a hissy fit at the thought that they would have to pay for their own benefits rather than forcing other people to pay for them—you know, government-backed robbery. They forced the recall election, but lost badly, and in the end it was perceived as a major blow to labor unions around the country. Not only did it deplete the Wisconsin unions’ coffers, it also damaged their image as a credible threat, and gave strength to more governors to fix their awful state budgets.

In retrospect, though, perhaps the big winner was Lawrence O’Donnell. Immediately after the results came in, O’Donnell proclaimed that the winner of the Wisconsin recall election was, bizarrely, Barack Obama. I derided him at the time, yet it turned out he was correct: Obama went on to win the 2012 presidential election, and took Wisconsin by 52% to Romney’s 46%.

Despite that, though, Walker’s recall victory was a major victory for free market advocates and libertarians everywhere. Let’s hope we can continue the fight under Obama’s second term.

 


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