“We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.” — George Orwell, 1984
On May 5th, speaking at Ohio State University, Barack Obama lamented that “Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems. Some of these same voices also do their best to gum up the works. They’ll warn that tyranny always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave, and creative, and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.”
Obama has it exactly wrong. It is not that our experiment in self-rule is a sham, or that it can’t be trusted, it is that the experiment has been undermined by the growing power of government in our lives, the very danger of which the Founding Fathers warned us. James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution” declared that “The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.” Obama tries to convince us of just the opposite; namely, that we should place our trust in a benevolent government which will take care of us, and all we have to do is give up a little freedom.
The specter of terrorism, especially on the American homeland is very frightening. These fears are especially acute in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack such as the bombing near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday.
More recently and prior to this latest attack, however; according to a recent Gallup poll, terrorism received 0% when asked about America’s greatest problem. Sen. Mitch McConnell said in response to the mathon bombing: “I think it’s safe to say that, for many, the complacency that prevailed prior to September 11th has returned. And so we are newly reminded that serious threats to our way of life remain.”
Is Sen. McConnell right? Have Americans become complacent to these “serious threats”? Are Americans to blame for failing to be vigilant? Should we demand the federal government “do something” more to protect us?
Written by Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
The Atlantic‘s Conor Friedersdorf gives us a disturbing glimpse of what American schoolchildren are being taught about the War on Terror, in the form of excerpts from a widely-used high school history textbook. The whole piece is a disturbing catalog of hilarious propaganda presented as fact to kids who are increasingly too young to remember much about the immediate aftermath the 9/11 attacks, but I figured I’d focus on the paragraph dealing with the Patriot Act, which manages to get a truly impressive number of things wrong in a short space.
The President also asked Congress to pass legislation to help law enforcement agencies track down terrorist suspects. Drafting the legislation took time. Congress had to balance Americans’ Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure with the need to increase security.
In what is becoming its very own genre of blog post, another conservative voice has come out with a plea for libertarians to support Mitt Romney. To those of us who were not born last week, this all seems quite humorous as most of the time libertarians are treated as irrelevant. In this election, though, things have gotten tight and our votes count as much as those of the most hardcore Republicans.
As I wrote here two weeks ago, Republicans have a long way to go before they can make a truly credible case to libertarians. For one thing, they need to understand that most libertarians do not see themselves in the same way as conservatives and liberals. For the most part, both of these groups line up pretty well with a major party. Sure, conservatives will say they want the GOP to be more right-leaning, and liberals will say they want the Democrat Party to veer more progressive, but they are both going to vote for their respective parties in the end. Libertarians, though, mesh with elements of both parties - and find plenty to dislike about both as well.
It’s clear to me that the writer of the post, Mr. Brady Cremeens, didn’t read that post, and doesn’t understand the first thing about libertarians. His entire piece is premised upon the idea that libertarians are just another element of the Right that simply needs to be brought back into the fold. In Cremeens’ world, we really are just “conservatives who smoke pot” as the saying goes. With his initial premise being flawed, then, it does not bode well for the rest of what he says. If he does not understand where libertarians are coming from, how can he possibly make a convincing case?
This weekend Mitt Romney announced that his running mate would be Congressman Paul Ryan from Wisconsin. Ryan gained a lot of notoriety recently with his better-than-Obama’s budget proposal, which aimed to balance the budget in the next 3 or 4 decades.
It’s a sad day for conservatives when the hero to save them from their budget woes needs 30+ years to balance the budget.
Still, Ryan is the latest non-libertarian making waves about balancing the federal budget, so I would like to believe that Romney’s pick of Ryan is more about sending a message that he is (or that he wants to be) serious about fiscal issues rather than a pick to appease the Tea Party folks who don’t really care for Romney.
I am, however, a bit confused over the Tea Party excitement of Ryan. Sure, Romney could have made a worse choice, but Tea Party leaders are acting like the problems with Romney have vanished now that Ryan is on the ticket.
Let’s remember this is the same Paul Ryan who not only supported TARP but went to the floor of the House to beg his colleagues to do the same. This is the same Paul Ryan who supported the auto bailouts. How do those positions qualify anyone as a fiscal conservative?
As we role merrily right along into November, I, along with the rest of the libertarian crowd, am watching the Republican Party blissfully make the same tired mistakes yet again. Watching what appears to be unsynchronized cat herding under penalty of broken knee caps can be entertaining, but at this point, I’m really close to pulling out a speech worthy of a spot in Pulp Fiction on Samuel Jackson’s cue cards.
On saying “we have to remove Obama” out of fear and we can only support whoever the eventual GOP Nominee is: I’ve already written about this subject in The Strategy of Hating One. In the current cycle, it’s President Obama, but the previous installment was Bill Clinton and little blue dress. You can point to a general belief that the President is a Marxist or Socialist without too much opposition. You can make the point that the closest description of our country is Fascism. But I have to challenge you to point out the differences between the last Republican President or the alternative of McCain, and this Democrat President. We have stayed in Iraq until they are kicking us out, we have escalated Afghanistan, Libya, kept Gitmo open. Leaving the main differences that the increase in spending has been larger than say a McCain might have done, and Obamacare has been pushed through. And frankly, Obamacare could very well be named McCain-Care given the same congressional make-up.
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?
Someone recently sent an email asking for a post on whether folks should join the NRA. Jason, probably knowing how much of a gun guy I am, asked me if I was interested in expressing my thoughts. Being the shy, unassuming person who never shares his opinions with a living soul…oh wait, that’s not me at all. Of course I jumped at it.
The National Rifle Association is a group I’ve been pretty critical of for some time. Their compromises gave us background checks for firearm purchases, among other things. Over the years, they have tried to compromise rather than digging in their heals for our Second Amendment rights, so there’s plenty to be critical of. However, that was the past. What about the now?
To me, all the questions about the NRA can be summed up with their argument against Senator Rand Paul’s proposed amendment that would restrict law enforcement’s ability to look at firearm purchase records. While the NRA was correct that district attorney’s could get grand juries to subpena the records in question, what was missed is that the grand jury is a form of judicial oversight.
Instead, the NRA pretend that law enforcement being able to demand access to records is preferable to a panel of American citizens deciding if there is probably cause to access those records. Anyone purchasing a firearm from a licensed dealer has to fill out this paperwork, and the NRA’s position turns this paperwork into a de facto form of registration.
Way to go NRA. No suggestions on how to tweak it to make it more acceptable, just cover for allegedly pro-gun members of Congress to vote against the amendment in question without being labeled as anti-gun.
During Rand Paul’s campaign to become Senator from Kentucky, he held a few positions that gave some of his father’s supporters pause. Specifically, his disagreement with Ron over the issue of criminal trials versus military tribunals was a point of contention making it difficult for some to back his candidacy without trepidation. Rand thought we should keep the tribunals while Ron was vehemently opposed to any trial that didn’t give the accused the best protection of his rights.
After this past week, It probably isn’t far fetched to say that any trepidation one may have had about Rand Paul’s commitment to the principles of freedom has vanished.
Paul managed to single-handedly take control of the Senate chambers in a heroic attempt to move the Senate to consider and debate the Patriot Act - something shockingly absent since it’s first passage. In fact, in 2001, when the Patriot Act was first introduced, a single Senator read the bill before casting a vote. The vote cast was a resounding “NO” by Russ Feingold, coincidentally, the only vote recorded in opposition to the bill.
Rand’s efforts were unsuccessful if you deem passage of the Act’s extension the sole measure of success. However, Rand did far more than capture the imagination and attention of the country for a suspenseful 36 hours, 7 of which were spent on the Senate floor.
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.