Private Property

NSA tracks cellphone location data around the globe

After The Guardian reported that only 1 percent of the files leaked by Edward Snowden have been published, the Washington Post reported that the NSA also tracks location data from mobile phone users around the world, allowing the agency to gather “nearly 5 billion records a day.”

The NSA is able to do that because it manages to tap into the mobile networks’ cables that happen to serve worldwide cellphones as well as U.S. phones. The NSA does that to collect information regarding its targets.

With this data in its power, the NSA locates and analyzes data from cellphones anywhere in the world. This represents an effort that might have no matching historical precedent since analysts can use this data to retrace cellphones’ movements and uncover potential relationships among users anywhere.

Elements of the intelligence community are not collecting the bulk cellphone location data intentionally, according to Robert Litt, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA. But the NSA collects this information anyway, mainly because one of the agency’s most powerful analytic tools, the CO-TRAVELER, can search unknown associates of intelligence targets by tracing intersecting cellphones.

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 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:

Frack Nation: A Systematic Takedown of Gasland

Frack Nation

I was one of the millions of people who had seen the footage of the “flaming water” supposedly caused by fracking in Pennsylvania, but had never seen Gasland or really studied the issue in depth. When the opportunity to attend the Los Angeles premiere of Frack Nation arose, I decided to see what the fuss was about. Cinematically and content-wise, Frack Nation did not disappoint.

Frack Nation starts with the same flaming water shot from Gasland that has alarmed environmentalists and the masses and describes the anti-fracking movement’s complaints. What was helpful for a newbie like me was to have the fracking process described in detail.

McAleer interviewed many of the farmers of Dimock, Pennsylvania, the “ground zero”  of this issue. The farmers almost unanimously want the ability to lease their mineral rights to the gas companies for fracking. Many of them are dairy farmers whose land has been in the family for generations. They passionately tell McAleer that they need this money to be able to survive, as farming is a money-losing proposition these days. It is what they love to do, and leasing mineral rights will allow them to do that instead of joining the ranks of the unemployed.

Just as passionately, they state they would never allow anything on their land that harms the environment. Their homes are on this land. Their dairy cows graze on this land. They’ve tilled this land for a lifetime. They are believable – they would not allow any process that harms their asset, the land, just for money.

Apparently, The NRA Only Cares About One Part Of The Bill Of Rights

Gun

Based on this from Cato’s Roger Pilon, apparently, the National Rifle Association only cares about some parts of the Bill of Rights:

NPR ran a story this morning, “NRA Targets One Of Its Own In Tenn. Race,” that nicely illustrates the perils of single-issue politics, although you’d never learn the principle of the matter from the NPR account. It seems that the NRA has launched a $75,000 ad campaign against state Rep. Debra Maggart, a long-time NRA member and avid gun-owner who a year ago had an “A+” rating from the NRA. Her sin? She and several other Tennessee Republican officials opposed a bill that would have allowed employees to keep guns in their cars while parked in their private employers’ parking lots.

The NRA’s Chris Cox, who’s spearheading this political vendetta and, in the process, is supporting Maggart’s tea-party backed opponent, invokes both “our First Amendment right to assemble to petition our government” and, of course, the Second Amendment, seemingly oblivious to the fact that neither is relevant here. In fact, the issue could not be simpler: individuals, including employers, have a right to determine the conditions on which others may enter their property.

The Coase Theorem in Action: Exercise Edition

 Emily is the in-shape person on the right.

Crossposted from The Dangerous Servant.

My girlfriend Emily, fierce competitor and endurance athlete, celebrated her first “Whole Iron Woman” blog anniversary over the weekend — you can count that among one of many proud boyfriend moments!

While it’s a bit late for Valentine’s Day, gushing over one’s significant other is never out of style. Emily and I met several years ago when I was on hiatus from college and working as a bartender at a small, independent restaurant in Nashville. Unbeknownst to me, I waited on her and her family a time or two before we actually met. After being introduced by mutual friends, we went out a couple times (and by “went out” I mean I dragged her to my favorite dive bar, and then to my bi-weekly all-night poker game), and we eventually lost touch after she moved to New Jersey to work on statewide races.

Who Has The Party Delegates?

What all the GOP candidates are after, are so-called ‘delegates.’Elected officials that will broker the convention of either party this fall. Officials are parcelled by the amount of votes, the candidates receive in the primary.

During Michigan’s primary recently, for instance, there were 30 official delegates, state-wide. Two were ‘at-large’ candidates, which meant they could be assigned individually to any winning candidate. The other 28 were ‘proportional’ ones, alotted through 14 congressional districts. During the push for the nominations in Michigan last night, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum spent millions of dollars to influence the voting population; with TV ads, pamphlets, media, interviews, rallies, stickers, and much more. Michigan’s grand sum of politcal expenditure was near six million bucks.

Delegates are what really counts at the GOP convention. What looks to be happening, is that no clear winner will come out victorious. There’s a righteous number: 1444 delegates will win any nominee the victory-nod of the Republican National Committee. Nationwide, 2169 delegates are extended for contestation, until the RNC celebration in Tampa, Florida. From the RN Committee, an additional 117 delegates are added into the mix, ostensibly to keep debate lively and clear-up dead locks. So what appears, on first looks, to be a rather hot-headed and fast paced Republican rocket-launch to the RNC, is more like a jammed or misfired pistol in a duel.

Momentarily, Mitt Romney is in the lead, with 167 total delegates. Rick Santorum is second with roughly half, at 87. Newt Gingrich won only one state and has 32, while Ron Paul has 19 carefully collected delegations. The count may reshuffle at any moment, since constitutionalism and populism together, ring alarm-bells in states such as Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

Ronald Paul Assails GOP Establishment

It’s not often that the media give Ronald Paul (R-Texas) a chance to speak.

There were reasons, why I didn’t watch the second GOP debate on Sunday.

Ronald Paul cleared the field on Saturday, he was the last man standing! After some initial tampering with his microphone, and pitch, he opened his arguments by restating his offensive tactic on “big-government Republican”, Rick Santorum. The only two real Tea Party contenders: Ronald Paul and Rick Perry, were left to languish on stage for the better part of 15 minutes, until allowed to join the discussion.

Mitt Romney was busy arguing how many jobs were, lost and gained under his CEO leisure. Newt Gingrich quoted the New York Times. Paul smoothly stepped back, blocked Santorum’s smugness by raining down: “he voted to raise the debt [ceiling] five times.”

Rick Santorum let loose liberal counter-attacks, naming sources “leftist”, and calling Mitt Romney class-consciously dangerous. In so doing, Santorum looked less Republican, more like a blue-state lawyer from the Northeast. Neither Paul nor Romney delved deep into his attacks, mostly picking up on their own strengths. Santorum was a negative force, not a positivist in this debate, Saturday night January 7th.

When Ronald Paul raised his hand for a response, the slick Stephonopilis retorted back to Paul (his senior by quite a few years): “we’ll stay with the subject, don’t you worry.” Brilliance in public debate rarely comes to the fore, especially on television. Paul showed it by counterstriking first Santorum, then defecting the attack from Rick Perry, onto Santorum and Newt Gingrich.

Jon Huntsman decided not to attack. Mitt Romney largely left the debate unscathed. Only because Ronald Paul made no concerted effort to attack the former Massachusetts blue-state Governor. It was easy for Paul to slice-down the cryptic schizophrenity of Gingrich, whose attempted slur of Ronald Paul on “style”, many see as hearnestness.

14 Fixes For Our Messed Up Country

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.

Building Codes and Zoning Laws Strike Again: “Battle for the California Desert”

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.

 


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