If you’re like me, you hoped that you wouldn’t be hearing anything more from allegedly corrupt former Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) after he decided in 2010 not to seek a sixth Senate term. Unfortunately those hopes were dashed when the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) decided it just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hire somebody who allegedly knows exactly what it takes to buy a senator. The MPAA selected Dodd as its new head lobbyist chairman and CEO last year. Now Dodd is taking aim at Wikipedia, Google, and other websites involved in today’s protest against the SOPA/PIPA internet censorship legislation pending in Congress:
It is an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on them for information and use their services. It is also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today. It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users in order to further their corporate interests.
Given President Obama’s first instincts to centralize power in Washington and expand his own executive power, it might seem unlikely that he would issue a veto threat against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its Senate counterpart, the Protect IP Act (PIPA). But we might be able to persuade him if we speak in language that is well understood at the White House, which is the language of reelection. While the Obama campaign might think backing SOPA/PIPA will help the president’s reelection efforts by way of generous campaign contributions from Hollywood, the White House might want to consider that signing SOPA/PIPA into law could damage his chances of reelection in at least five important ways.
1. SOPA/PIPA will alienate independents. No question about it, independents love and are well-informed about threats to their civil liberties. The Obama campaign might want to remember an ACLU poll from 2007 that showed a large majority of independents insisting that the next president should restore civil liberties that were eroded during the eight years of the Bush administration. That President Obama largely hasn’t restored those civil liberties hasn’t gone unnoticed. Maybe that’s why new polling shows Ron Paul and Mitt Romney beating Obama and even Rick Santorum nipping at his heels among independents. Many independents are independents precisely because they don’t trust either party to protect their civil liberties. Obama can kiss those independent voters goodbye if he signs SOPA/PIPA into law.
Yesterday, we went over the top 10 news stories from 2011, which were mainly about news and issues that made headlines this past year. This morning, we’re recapping our most read stories from 2011.
Being a libertarian-leaning blog, we touch on a variety of issues. From those of you that aren’t familiar with libertarianism, it is a philosophy grounded in individual liberty. We believe the individual is sovereign and has a right to pursue whatever lifestyle he chooses, provided that he doesn’t harm or disparage the rights of other sovereigns in the process. The belief in individual sovereign also extends to economic liberty and a belief in free markets.
With that said, our top posts from 2011 range from civil liberties issues, including the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the Fourth Amendment, to defending free markets and fighting cronyism and corporatism in Washington and on Wall Street to covering Ron Paul’s presidential campaign and having an open discussing the libertarian philosophy.
We offer no additional commentary on these posts. If you would like to read them, just click on the title. Again, have a safe and happy new year.
We’re winding down on another year. Much like recent years, 2011 represented challenges for liberty and the Constitution. These hurdles came from all sides, including the Obama Administration and Republicans in Congress, and we are ending the year a little less free than in 2010.
Below is a recap of some of bigger stories of the year that were covered here at United Liberty (though a couple are thrown in for fun). Thanks for reading in what was a record breaking year for this blog. We appreciate the readership and hope you’ll keep coming back in 2012
Happy New Year!
— The Death of Osama bin Laden (Jason Pye): On Sunday, May 1st, word broke that the White House had called notified the press of a major announcement. You could tell that it was a significant event since the president was making such a statement late on a Sunday evening.As you probably remember, wild speculation started almost immediately as many people said that it could have only meant a couple of things, either we were going to war or Osama bin Laden had finally been captured.
Around 11pm, President Barack Obama told Americans that, after nearly 10 years after murdering nearly 3,000 innocent people, Osama bin Laden was dead. Bin Laden, leader of the terrorist group, al-Qaeda, was killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan by a group of Navy SEALS at a compound that he had lived in for five years.
[UPDATE - 7:23pm] The United States Senate passed the NDAA this evening by a vote of 86 to 13. It will now head to President Obama’s desk for approval.
As noted yesterday, House and Senate conferees were moving the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) forward to the final action in both chambers with compromise legislation that kept in controversial language that would allow for the indefinite detention of American citizens and legal residents of the United States.
Unfortunately, the House of Representatives passed the NDAA overwhelmingly last night by a vote of 283 to 136. You can see how your representative and the members of your state’s delegation voted here. It now heads to the Senate for final passage.
For those of you that are just now catching up on this, the House basically voted last night to suspend the right to due process, the right to a trial by a jury of an accuser’s peers, and the right to habeas corpus. And now that the so-called “war on terror” has been expanded to include not only al-Qaeda but also the Taliban and other “associated forces.” Given the war on terrorism has become an open-ended war with civil liberties being offered by Congress on the alter of the “national security,” this provision will be no doubt be abused; if not by this administration than the next.
It was also noted that the White House asked for the language, at least according to Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI). So it should come as no surprise that the White House has backed off veto threats of the NDAA:
This evening, I spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives against Section 1021 — the indefinite detention language — of the National Defense Authorization Act, which passed this evening. You can read my comments on this provision below the video:
I rise in opposition to Section 1021 of the underlying Conference Report (H.R. 1540, the National Defense Authorization Act).
This section specifically affirms that the President has the authority to deny due process to any American it charges with “substantially supporting al Qaeda, the Taliban or any ‘associated forces’” – whatever that means.
Would “substantial support” of an “associated force,” mean linking a web-site to a web-site that links to a web-site affiliated with al-Qaeda? We don’t know. The question is, “do we really want to find out?”
We’re told not to worry – that the bill explicitly states that nothing in it shall alter existing law.
Today, the level of political animus and vitriol seems to be on a nearly vertical trajectory, with both sides pulling out all rhetorical stops in an effort to win converts to their ideology. For a time this seemed to be just a partisan war, but I am beginning to believe that it is much, much deeper than that. I believe we are at one of those great crossroads in our nation’s history where we must assess who we are and what values we hold before we can come to agreement on policies that reflect those beliefs. On the ideological left is a philosophy which elevates the state above the individual, which says we as individuals can’t be trusted to make correct decisions and must therefore be governed by a technocrat oligarchy of (theoretically) unbiased bureaucrats. These are the intellectuals and the scientific “experts” who are smarter than the rest of us and will therefore make wise decisions that we are forced to accept now, and at some distant point in the future we will pay homage as beneficiaries of that wisdom.
This philosophy can be seen in efforts to ban the incandescent light bulb, regulate salt and sugar intake in our diets along with the use of trans-fats; in the use of the tax and regulatory codes to force us into smaller, more fuel efficient cars. It can be seen in attempts to ban all public expressions of religious belief and in the rigging of the free market in favor of “renewable” energy sources by providing taxpayer subsidies that hide the true cost.
On the ideological right is a philosophy that holds the individual above the collective, that sees government as a necessary evil to be kept under tight constraints and against which we must jealously guard our liberties from the encroachment and expansion of government power.
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?
As every last soul has surely heard by now, Osama bin Laden is dead. Finally located and taken out by American special forces, the death of bin Laden marks a significant moment for America. The occasion was marked by numerous celebrations and expressions of profound relief and satisfaction, coupled with a harsh brushing of the wounds left by 9/11. Whether it helps Obama’s political fortunes is yet to be seen, but it surely has raised Americans’ spirits.
But one question still remains in the minds of many - were the sacrifices we have made up to this point worth it? Over the past nine years Americans have had their privacy invaded, their values called into question, and their coffers tapped to fund two wars expensive in both treasure and blood. We’ve certainly engaged in some ugly practices in our anger over what bin Laden did to us on that fall day in 2001. Your average citizen may never know the true extent of the things done in the name of fighting terrorism.
It’s clear to me then that we have paid an immense price for this victory, one that is hard to justify in retrospect. It’s hard to look at the way our lives have profoundly changed and not say that, despite the fact that his life ended at the point of an American rifle, Osama bin Laden will go down as a victor. His actions have altered the American landscape permanently and have led us to do things that we ought be ashamed of.
Continuing our “Liberty Candidate Series” of interviews, Jason and Brett talk with John Dennis, discussing his opponent, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, liberty in San Francisco, and his candidacy. Dennis is a “Pro-Liberty” Republican candidate for U.S. Congress in California’s 8th Congressional District.
This special edition podcast is the fifth in a series devoted to showcasing liberty candidates nationwide. Dennis talks about his liberty-focused campaign against the Speaker of the House in California.