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By Changing U.S. Policy Toward Cuba, Barack Obama Got Something Right

in Business and Economy, Economic Liberty, Foreign Policy, Trade & Tarrifs by Jackson Jones Comments are off

After more than 50 years of a failed foreign policy, President Barack Obama formally announced on Wednesday that his administration will re-open the United States Embassy in Havana, Cuba. The historic announcement comes nearly seven months after the administration set in motion the restoration of diplomatic ties with Cuba.

Cuba's Capitol buildingIn 1961, the United States, under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, severed diplomatic ties with Cuba. The tiny island country located approximately 90 miles off from Miami had come under the control of a dictator, Fidel Castro, who’d risen to power more than two years prior by toppling Fulgencio Batista, who was friendly to the U.S. The next administration, under President John F. Kennedy, added to tensions by expanding sanctions against Cuba.

Foreign policy experts praised the initial move. In December, Daniel Drezner, a professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, explained that the foreign policy approach toward Cuba had been a failure.

“U.S. policy on Cuba has been, literally, isolationist — as in, it isolates the United States. Unlike other cases, there is zero multilateral support for sanctioning Cuba — quite the opposite, in fact,” Drezner wrote. “Improving ties with Havana ameliorates a long-standing source of friction between the United States and Latin America. That’s called ‘good diplomacy.’”

At a press conference on Wednesday, Obama said that the new approach “is not merely symbolic.”

With this change, we will be able to substantially increase our contacts with the Cuban people. We’ll have more personnel at our embassy. And our diplomats will have the ability to engage more broadly across the island,” he explained. “That will include the Cuban government, civil society, and ordinary Cubans who are reaching for a better life.”

While there are many entirely valid criticisms of the administration policies, particularly domestic policy, Obama got this one right. There are, of course, critics. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., whose parents left Cuba before Castro toppled Batista, slammed Obama, claiming that his administration handed Cuba a gift.

“Throughout this entire negotiation, as the Castro regime has stepped up its repression of the Cuban people, the Obama Administration has continued to look the other way and offer concession after concession,” said Rubio in a press release. “The administration’s reported plan to restore diplomatic relations is one such prized concession to the Castro regime. It remains unclear what, if anything, has been achieved since the President’s December 17th announcement in terms of securing the return of U.S. fugitives being harbored in Cuba, settling outstanding legal claims to U.S. citizens for properties confiscated by the regime, and in obtaining the unequivocal right of our diplomats to travel freely throughout Cuba and meet with any dissidents, and most importantly, securing greater political freedoms for the Cuban people.”

“I intend to oppose the confirmation of an Ambassador to Cuba until these issues are addressed. It is time for our unilateral concessions to this odious regime to end,” he added.

Similarly, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in a press release of his own, said Obama is “rewarding one of the most violently anti-American regimes on the planet with an embassy and an official representative of our government.” Cruz, like Rubio, plans to stall the confirmation of any nominee to serve at ambassador to Cuba.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., however, was supportive of the policy shift. “It’s long past time for U.S. policy toward Cuba to be associated with something other than five decades of failure,” he said. “It is difficult to overstate the importance of resuming diplomatic relations ‎with Cuba, in furthering our own national interests, benefiting our relations in the region, and encouraging a positive future for the Cuban people.”

The best way to promote the values of political and economic liberty is through open relations and free trade. Those who fail to realize this basic truth are, in reality, isolationists. As Cubans get see more economic liberty, they will desire more political liberty. It may take time, but that’s better than continuing an insane foreign policy approach that allows the Castros to make Cuba out to be victims.

The Cure Is… More Liberty

in Communicating Liberty, Marriage and Family by Sharon Harris Comments are off

Frequently when there is a sudden expansion of liberty, new potential problems arise and become reasons for concern. The answer to these temporary problems is always…more liberty!

With the recent Supreme Court ruling, same-sex couples gained the long-sought right to marry – something libertarians have been working on for decades. Most libertarians celebrated this as a great victory for liberty, a landmark. (Libertarian writer Sheldon Richman has an excellent article on why libertarians should welcome this decision.)

MORE libertyHowever, some libertarians, and many non-libertarians, have raised some legitimate concerns about new problems created by this expansion of liberty. Among them:

  • This decision emphasizes the fact that the government is in the position of granting permission for marriage. True liberty demands that there be no government involvement in marriage at all.
  • Government may now attempt to use anti-discrimination laws against people who don’t support gay marriage. Business owners who object to same-sex marriage on religious grounds may face government violence if they refuse to provide services to gay couples or otherwise discriminate against them. Indeed, the ACLU has indicated it will support some compulsion along these lines.
  • Some voluntary sexual arrangements are still illegal (prostitution, polygamy, etc.).

Why are they not equally protected under the law?

Libertarians need to be ready to argue that the answer to any and all such concerns is… more liberty.

That’s true on every issue. On this issue specifically:

  • Government should be removed from the issue of marriage altogether. People should not have to get government’s permission to engage in peaceful voluntary personal relationships. We should reject what Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) accurately calls “the false premise that government licensure is necessary to validate the intimate relationships of consenting adults.”>
  • Libertarians should be ready to defend the rights of business owners and others who peacefully object to recognizing same-sex marriage. As Reason writer Robby Soave notes, “If religious freedom does not include the freedom for individuals to peacefully decline involvement in private commercial activities they find objectionable, it’s a meaningless concept.” We should learn to do this in a way that emphasizes that our concern is not with one side or the other, but rather with liberty. We should show people the value of liberty and true tolerance — how only liberty offers an answer to the concerns of people on every side of this issue.
  • We should prepare to further explore and expand the principle behind this decision. If gays are free to marry, why aren’t all people free to do any peaceful things they want with their own lives, bodies, and possessions? Why aren’t people free to, for example, smoke marijuana, start a business without government permission, and so on?

Libertarians will gain from all this in several ways.

  1. We win new people to our side, and demonstrate that libertarians are always consistently on the side of individual liberty.
  2. >We show that liberty — always — is the answer to political problems.
  3. >We have the opportunity to raise the “Overton Window” on some key issues: that is, we have the chance to bring currently little-discussed libertarian positions — like legalizing prostitution and ending all government involvement in many other peaceful personal lifestyle decisions — into the mainstream political debate. (The Overton Window is a major communication concept. Learn about it in my article “Raising the Overton Window.”)

Legalization of gay marriage is a great step forward — and the controversies ahead will give us valuable opportunities to advance liberty even further.

As always, do this with the key rules of great communication the Advocates has taught for 30 years (and collected in my book, available in e-book format here, How to Be a Super Communicator for Liberty): use soundbites, proper presentation, and documented facts. And always do it with friendliness, kindness and compassion.

The Supreme Court’s Marriage Decision was Completely Avoidable

in Marriage and Family by Jackson Jones Comments are off

On Friday, the Supreme Court issued an opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, holding that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to license marriages between two people of the same sex.

Most expected at least a narrow ruling in favor of same-sex couples that would require states with prohibit same-sex marriage to recognize same-sex marriages conducted in other states. If a same-sex couple had gotten married in Massachusetts, for example, Georgia, which had one of the strongest bans on same-sex marriage by even refusing to recognize civil unions, would have been required to recognize the license, though still allowed to deny in-state licenses for same-sex marriages.

marriageThe logic behind this is because during oral arguments back in April, Justice Anthony Kennedy expressed concerns about extending marriage rights to same-sex couples because the definition of marriage – between one man and one woman – “has been with us for millennia.”

Still, Kennedy, who authored the majority opinions in Windsor (2013) and Lawrence (2003), has been seen as one of the Court’s biggest proponents of “gay rights.” So his opinion isn’t exactly a surprise, per se, though his dissent in Hollingsworth (2013) was a defense of voter-driven ballot initiatives, specifically California’s same-sex marriage ban, Proposition 8. The majority on the Court held that the plaintiffs didn’t have standing to defend the initiative in the absence of the State of California, which refused to do so.

“In the end, what the Court fails to grasp or accept is the basic premise of the initiative process. And it is this. The essence of democracy is that the right to make law rests in the people and flows to the government, not the other way around,” Kennedy wrote in his dissent, which was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Sonia Sotomayor. “Freedom resides first in the people without need of a grant from government.”

Nevertheless, Kennedy, whose opinion in Windsor laid the groundwork for Obergefell, made the connection that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to license same-sex marriages, despite states having voter-approved constitutional amendments or ballot measures prohibiting the practice.

“It is now clear that the challenged laws burden the liberty of same-sex couples, and it must be further acknowledged that they abridge central precepts of equality. Here the marriage laws enforced by the respondents are in essence unequal: same-sex couples are denied all the benefits afforded to opposite-sex couples and are barred from exercising a fundamental right,” Kennedy wrote in Obergefell. “The imposition of this disability on gays and lesbians serves to disrespect and subordinate them. And the Equal Protection Clause, like the Due Process Clause, prohibits this unjustified infringement of the fundamental right to marry.”

Commentators, while philosophically correct, have criticized Kennedy’s opinion. Writing at The New Republic, Brian Beutler, a leftist journalist, called the opinion “a logical disaster.” Similarly, Ilya Somin, a law professor at George Mason University who contributes to the libertarian-leaning Volokh Conspiracy, called the outcome “a great result, but based on dubious reasoning.”

“Ultimately, Kennedy does not clearly conclude that either the Due Process Clause or the Equal Protection Clause by itself creates a right to same-sex marriage,” Somin explained. “Rather, his claim is that the combination of the two somehow generates that result, even if neither can do so alone.”

“If a sufficiently important right (Due Process Clause) is denied for discriminatory reasons (Equal Protection), then the Fourteenth Amendment has been violated. However, both the criteria for what makes the right important enough, and the criteria for proving discrimination seem extremely vague. Thus, it is difficult to tell what – if, indeed, any – implications this ruling will have for future cases,” he added.

Somin, by the way, co-authored a brief to the Supreme Court urging justices to strike down state same-sex marriage bans.

The reaction to the ruling, as some might expect, has been predictable. Opponents of same-sex marriage (now accurately called “marriage,” without the qualifier) are calling for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as one man and one woman. Others, including many conservatives and libertarians, have wondered aloud about any government involvement in marriage.

“For thousands of years, marriage flourished without a universal definition and without government intervention. Then came licensing of marriage,” wrote Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich.) in a Facebook post on Friday. “In recent decades, we’ve seen state legislatures and ballot initiatives define marriage, putting government improperly at the helm of this sacred institution.”

“Those who care about liberty should not be satisfied with the current situation. Government intervention in marriage presents new threats to religious freedom and provides no advantages, for gay or straight couples, over unlicensed (i.e., traditional) marriage,” he continued, adding “we shouldn’t blame the Supreme Court for where things stand.”

Amash’s words are sobering, and perhaps he’s correct. Maybe government shouldn’t be involved in the marriage business. If only Republicans had realized that in 2004 rather than further meddling in people’s personal lives for political gain.

Witness Protection Libertarians

in Communicating Liberty by Michael Cloud Comments are off

The Witness Protection Program.

Witness ProtectionYou’ve seen it featured in crime, courtroom, and police dramas on television.

A powerful and dangerous individual or group has gotten away with force and fraud for years. Finally, the police and prosecutors find a  witness whose testimony can put the thugs behind bars.

But the criminals will threaten or kill the witness or his family if he takes the stand.

The only way the authorities can get the witness to testify is to protect him and his family.

So the prosecutors and law enforcement offer secret relocation, new identities, and a new life to the person and his family — in exchange for his truthful testimony in court.

Witness Protection.

In our legal system, in certain cases, this makes sense.

But it makes no sense for libertarians to act as if they were in the political equivalent of this program.

Some libertarians blend in with mainstream or nonpolitical neighbors and coworkers.

They rarely join in on political or economic conversations at home or at work.  And, if they do, they keep their comments mild and bland.

If they get libertarian email newsletters or social media, they keep it to themselves

“Why stir up trouble?” they think. “Why start an argument?”

They don’t put libertarian campaign signs on their front lawns. They don’t put libertarian bumper stickers on their cars. And they keep their libertarian books and DVD’s in the private areas of their homes.

If they donate to libertarian campaigns or vote for libertarian candidates, they tell no one.

Secrecy. Silence. Invisibility.

Witness Protection Libertarians.

But this does NOT make them safer. It makes Big Government safer.

It delays the growth of the Libertarian movement. It hinders support for the cause of liberty.

It keeps your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers from having warm and thoughtful conversations about liberty with someone they know and like and trust: YOU!

Opt out of Witness Protection Libertarian policies.

Opt into persuasive libertarian communication with The Advocates for Self-Government.

Freedom to Vape?

in Big Government, Business and Economy, Economic Liberty by Jackson Jones Comments are off

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is planning to expand its vast regulatory reach to e-cigarettes and vapor products, but new language in an agriculture bill currently in the U.S. House of Representatives could throw a wrench into the machine.

The FDA plans to use a “deeming rule” to move forward on regulations that would treat e-cigarettes and vapor products like tobacco. Though these products can contain nicotine, which is entirely up to the user, they don’t have tobacco. In fact, there is, according to the American Vaping Association, “no fire, no ash, [and] no smoke.”

vapeMany people who use e-cigarettes or vapor products do so to quit smoking, using high-nicotine e-juices and gradually lowering the dosage until they’ve kicked the habit. The FDA and public health advocacy groups claim that e-cigarette and vapor products are dangerous and target minors through different flavors available on the market. Despite the concerns, studies have shown these products don’t emit significant amounts of toxins, especially when compared to real cigarettes.

“Does this mean e-cigarette vapor is about as safe as air? Not quite, since we don’t know the long-term respiratory effects of inhaling the glycerin or propylene glycol that delivers nicotine into vapers’ lungs,” Jacob Sullum wrote at Reason. “But whatever those effects are, it is safe to say they will not compare to the effects of smoking.”

Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., has introduced language to the agriculture appropriations bill currently working its way through committee that would reduce the impact of the awaited FDA regulations. The bill would prevent the FDA from reviewing products already available on the market, which, opponents say, could virtually put the industry out of business.

“Without action by Congress, the FDA’s proposed regulations threaten to ban 99 percent-plus of vapor products currently available on the market,” said Gregory Conley, President of the American Vaping Association, of the bill’s introduction in the House. “This would be a disaster not only for thousands of small businesses, but also public health.”

“This proposal does not remove the FDA’s ability to regulate vapor products. The FDA will retain the authority to immediately move forward with science-based product standards, disclosure requirements, and many other measures. Anyone who claims that this bill would somehow render the FDA toothless is either not familiar with the law or not being forthright,” he added.

While a ban on the sale of e-cigarette and vapor products to minors may be appropriate – though most sellers already refuse to sell to anyone under the age of 18 – promulgating regulations that would subject this industry to extensive regulation is a bridge too far.

Interestingly, “Big Tobacco” is encouraging the FDA to implement the regulations. Some traditional cigarette makers are in the e-cigarette business. Reynolds American, for example, the maker of Newport and Camel cigarettes, owns Blu e-cigs. Conley believes Reynolds and other cigarette makers, which are already subject to the regulation and can easily absorb the cost, are trying to snuff out refillable vapor producers, which are typically small businesses.

The FDA regulations are due to be announced in the coming weeks, if not sooner. In the meantime, puff ‘em while you have ‘em, because your freedom to vape may not be around much longer.

House of Representatives Fails to Meet Its Most Important Constitutional Duty

in Constitution, Foreign Policy, Middle East, War by Jackson Jones Comments are off

The House of Representatives, on Wednesday, blocked a resolution that would have required President Barack Obama to remove all United States armed forces operating in Iraq and Syria by the end of the year, at the latest.

Constitutional dutyIt’s clear that the framers of the Constitution intended authorization or declarations of war come from Congress, rather than presidents. Article I, Section 8 of the nation’s foundational document, which lists the limited powers of the legislative branch, makes this quite clear.

The framers knew unchecked power in the hands of a president was dangerous. In Pacificus-Helvidius debate with Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, wrote: “In no part of the Constitution is more wisdom to be found, than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not to the executive department. Beside the objection to such a mixture to heterogeneous powers, the trust and the temptation would be too great for any one man; not such as nature may offer as the prodigy of many centuries, but such as may be expected in the ordinary successions of magistracy. War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement.”

H. Con. Res. 55 – introduced by Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., and cosponsored by Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and Walter Jones, R-N.C. – would have required President Obama, under Section 5 of the War Powers Resolution, to remove American troops in Iraq and Syria absent an authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

In late May, McGovern and Jones sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to remind him of comments he gave to The New York Times late last summer. “Doing this with a whole group of members who are on their way out the door, I don’t think that is the right way to handle this,” said Boehner, who added that the issue should be discussed early in the new Congress, which came into session in January. President Obama asked for an AUMF in February.

“Since then, the House has failed to act on the President’s request [for an AUMF against ISIL], or any alternative,” McGovern and Jones wrote to Boehner. “No AUMF bill has been marked up in committee or debated on the House floor. As a result, the House has failed to asset its proper constitutional authority over declaring and authorizing war.”

Some Republicans have suggested that President Obama doesn’t necessarily need an AUMF to fight ISIL. Instead, they say, he can rely on the War Powers Resolution. This notion, however, is woefully inaccurate. Section 2 of the War Powers Resolution places limitations on executive branch, requiring a formal declaration of war, statutory authorization, or a national emergency due to an attack on the United States.

The proposed resolution found bipartisan support. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., for example, urged the House to act.

“Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress, not the President, the power to declare war,” Massie said from the House floor. “War requires congressional authorization, and the American people deserve open debate by their elected officials.”

“If we are to send our brave young men and women into harm’s way overseas, then Congress must honor the Constitution, declare war, and fight to win. Anything else is illegal, unconstitutional, and likely to lead to horrific unintended consequences,” he added.

In the end, the House failed to meet its constitutional obligation. H. Con. Res. 55 failed by a vote of 139 to 288, meaning that an authorized war against ISIL will continue for as long as…well, who knows.

You’ve Taught Me to Think… Not to Obey

in Communicating Liberty, Conversations With My Boys, Education by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

The Libertarian Homeschooler (Me): What time did you wake up this morning?

The Young Statesman (13 at the time) (YS): 5:30

Me: People are going to be interested in knowing what it is that causes a thirteen-year-old to wake at 5:30 in the morning. Can you tell me about that?

not to obeyYS: If I get up that early I can go to the gym and I can practice the organ. Those are two things I want to do every day and we do that every day. It’s done and I don’t have to worry about it. When I wake up early I can get that done early.

Me: You didn’t just wake yourself up, did you?

YS: I woke The Baby Anarchist (8 at the time).

Me: How did you do that?

YS: I tuned on the light and woke him and gave him his clothes. While he brushed his teeth I made his bed. Then I went to my room, made my bed, tidied up, put away my laundry, brushed my teeth, and went downstairs. I let the dog out, I fed her, I filled up the water bottles for the gym, I got the breakfast cooler together, and we went to the gym.

Me: Did your brother need help with his shoes?

YS: Yeah. The shoe laces aren’t that good so I helped him.

Me: Why do you help your brother?

YS: One day I’m going to want his help. I’d might as well be nice to him.

Me: Did I tell you to do these things?

YS: No. You said you were going to the gym at 6 in the morning and if I got up early I could join you. Then you asked BA if he wanted to come so now all of us go.

Me: You’re a pretty independent kid, aren’t you?

YS: I don’t like to be told what to do.

Me: If I started pestering you to do things, what would be your reaction?

YS: I’d wonder if you’d been hit in the head.

Me: If I were insisting that you do these things would you be as willing as you are?

YS: Nope.

Me: Why not?

YS: Because when I’m being told to do things that puts me in a passive frame of mind. And it makes me not like you if you’re bossing me around.

Me: Tell me about being passive.

YS: If I try to take the initiative, I’m going to end up butting up against you. I’m living off of you and what you’re telling me to do. I stop thinking.

Me: At that point you’re just being directed.

YS: I stop thinking. I’m just in brainless mode. I’m like a dog.

Me: How long can you stand to be in that mode?

YS: Not very long. If you’re in that mode for very long, you rebel.

Me: So you act rebelliously?

YS: Yes. In response to not being allowed to think for yourself you make stupid decisions. You don’t even think before you act.

Me: So your actions aren’t so much your own decisions as they are reactions against authority. I don’t think that’s just what adolescents do. Anyone who is being dominated and doesn’t think it’s legitimate is going to do that.

YS: You’ve taught me to think. Not to obey. You don’t tell me what to do. You give advice. I can take it or not.

Me: Would there be a problem if you didn’t take my advice?

YS: No.

Me: You’d just have a different experience. I notice that you take my advice more often than not. Why?

YS: Because when I haven’t taken your advice I’ve gotten hurt. Remember when you told me not to run in flip flops and I didn’t listen and I scraped my face across the road?

Me: That was so awful.

YS: I was trying to take something back to a neighbor. It really hurt. I’ve never run in flip flops since. Do you remember when you told me not to shriek and cry about everything because you wouldn’t know when I was really hurt? And then when we were at the swamp and I broke my arm and I was screaming and crying and you didn’t come because I screamed and cried at everything. That was a learning experience. And when dad told me not to run the chisel towards my hand and I did it anyway and we ended up in the ER for five hours. Or when he told me not to shove sharp things and I was in the ER again. I’m learning. Slowly. And painfully. But if you had stopped me, I wouldn’t have learned to listen.

Me: We would have stopped you from getting hurt if we could have. Do you think the injuries were worth it?

YS: I do.

Do We Homeschool?

in Communicating Liberty, Conversations With My Boys by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

Homeschool?The Libertarian Homeschooler (Me): Do we do school at home?

The Young Statesman (YS): No.

Me: Do we homeschool?

YS: No.

Me: Do we unschool?

YS: No.

Me: What are we doing?

YS: Not fitting in that box everyone likes things to fit things in.

Me: What are some words that would describe what you do from day to day?

YS: I’m doing. I’m not learning about what I want to do, I’m doing what I want to do.

Me: Like what?

YS: Accompanying choirs. Proctoring. Performing. Composing. I’m working for people who do what I want to do.

Me: And they’re helping you decide how to spend your time and where to put your effort.

This is what we’re doing with our older son and what we’re starting with our younger son. It’s not school, it’s not homeschool, it’s not unschooling, it’s not waiting, it’s not preparing. It’s none of that. It’s figuring out what they’re interested in, how they want to serve others, who they want to be, and assisting them as they go about creating themselves and their work. If they need something as they go, we help them get it.

Whether it’s competency in algebra, speech lessons, table manners, an internship with someone who is familiar with development and PR, a seminar on cottage industry, dancing lessons, composition curriculum, a trip to the organ builder, whatever. We facilitate.

We help them picture where they’re going and help them make the vessel that will get them there. We find people to teach them how to navigate, to sail, to take to the oars when the wind won’t serve, and help them recalibrate as they go.

We’re not homeschoolers. We’re dreamers and we’re ship builders and we’re navigators.

Bipartisan Senate Amendment Seeks to End Indefinite Detention of American Citizens

in Constitution, indefinite detention by Jackson Jones Comments are off

An amendment to the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, would guarantee that no American citizen can be indefinitely detained by the federal government without charges being filed against them.

Indefinite DetentionIn 2011, Congress passed the FY 2012 version of the NDAA, which contained a controversial provision that, read broadly, could be used to detain American citizens suspected of terrorism without charges or trial under the 2001 Authorization for Military Force against al-Qaeda. The Lee amendment – which is cosponsored by a bipartisan group of senators, including Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. – would resolve the controversy.

“America should never waiver in vigilantly pursuing those who would commit, or plot to commit, acts of treason against our country.  But the federal government should not be allowed to indefinitely imprison any American on the mere accusation of treason without affording them the due process guaranteed by our Constitution,” Lee said in a statement released by his office. “By forbidding the government from detaining Americans without trial absent explicit congressional approval, the Due Process Guarantee amendment strikes the right balance between protecting our security and the civil liberties of each citizen.”

The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution guarantee Americans the right to due process of law. The Sixth Amendment protects the right to “a speedy and public trial.”

The indefinite detention provision was inserted into the FY 2012 NDAA at the request of the White House, according to then-Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who complied with the administration’s wishes. A Senate amendment, which passed the upper chamber with strong bipartisan support, to clarify the language was dropped during negotiations to resolve differences between the House and Senate’s versions of the FY 2013 NDAA.

“The Constitution does not allow President Obama, or any President, to apprehend an American citizen, arrested on U.S. soil, and detain these citizens indefinitely without a trial,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, another cosponsor of the amendment. “The Due Process Guarantee amendment will prohibit the President’s ability to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens arrested on American soil without trial or due process.”

“While we must vigorously protect national security by pursuing violent terrorists and preventing acts of terror, we must also ensure our most basic rights as American citizens are protected,” Cruz added.

The Senate is currently debating the FY 2016 version of the NDAA. Votes on amendments will occur over the next few legislative days. The bill passed the House in mid-May by a vote of 269-151.

This Libertarian-Leaning Maine Republican is Someone We Can Learn From

in Elections and Politics by Jackson Jones Comments are off

At the young age of 26, Eric Brakey was elected to the Maine State Senate to serve a district in the southern part of the Pine Tree State. He hasn’t wasted any time since arriving in Portland for his first legislative session.

State Sen. Eric BrakeyThe Portland Press Herald profiled Brakey this week, noting that he’s already sponsored 28 bills, including a “constitutional carry” bill that passed the state Senate with bipartisan at the end of May. The bill cleared the state House last week, though with changes that need to be approved by the upper chamber before heading to the desk of Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican.

“It’s great that we have finally gotten to a place where people understand the importance of this protection and are comfortable enough to let our Maine citizens exercise the same freedoms that the state of Vermont allows their citizens to exercise,” Brakey told the Bangor Daily News after the state House vote. Although it’s a progressive bastion, Vermont is known for its strong support of the Second Amendment.

But Brakey’s style as a legislator with strong libertarian leanings is earning him some fans in Portland. “He hasn’t ruffled feathers,” Lance Duston, a Republican strategist in the state, told the Portland Press Herald. “He’s successfully moved legislation and he’s done it in a productive and positive way. He has also helped move the party more toward the libertarian side. I’ve been a little surprised at his trajectory.”

Brakey, who is described as a “worker” by one of his Republican colleagues, came from a Republican household. He was born in Maine, but grew up and went to college in Ohio. He found himself drawn to former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, when he ran for president and worked on his 2012 campaign in Maine.

Not long after relocating to the state, Brakey decided to run for a seat occupied by a Democrat. Despite a gaffe unrelated to his actual campaign, he won the seat with over 56 percent of the vote.

Brakey has been careful to pick his battles, in his role as chairman of the state Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee. But his views on issues are libertarian to the core.

“There are two molds that a state legislator usually fits,” Duston said. “One is that their life story or their work is such that it leads them to service. The other is that someone represents a value system, and that’s where he fits in.”

“Also, he is fairly strident ideologically, but he approaches things moderately, which has served him well,” he added.

In addition to his strong support of the Second Amendment, Brakey has sponsored legislation supporting privacy rights by targeting the National Security Agency’s water supply. He’s also a supportive of medical marijuana, introducing legislation to allow patients to access their prescriptions at Maine hospitals.

Assuming he’s reelected every two years, Brakey will serve until he’s term-limited out of office in 2022. When’s not legislating, Brakey, who majored in theatre at Ohio University, spends his time acting.

Whoa: Donald Rumsfeld Criticizes George W. Bush’s Iraq Policy

in Foreign Policy, Middle East, War by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Hell may have just frozen over. Donald Rumsfeld, who served as Secretary of Defense from 1975 to 1977 and again from 2001 to 2006, says that President George W. Bush’s attempt to bomb Iraq into accepting “democracy” was “unrealistic.” Rumsfeld made the comments during an interview with The Times of London.

Donald Rumsfeld“The idea that we could fashion a democracy in Iraq seemed to me unrealistic. I was concerned about it when I first heard those words,” Rumsfeld told the paper. “I’m not one who thinks that our particular template of democracy is appropriate for other countries at every moment of their histories.”

The comments are surprising. Rumsfeld was one of the major figures promoting the Iraq War. In fact, he was one of prominent administration figures who tried to connect the Middle Eastern country’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, to al-Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks. In September 2004, Rumsfeld, who has since denied making the connection, said the ties were “not debatable.”

President Bush announced Rumsfeld’s resignation November 8, 2006, a day after Republicans were shellacked at the ballot box in that year’s mid-term election and lost control of both chambers of Congress.

In August 2006, only 36 percent of Americans supported the Iraq War while 60 percent, the highest number at the time, opposed it due to almost daily reports of violence in Iraq. By the end of that year, more than 3,000 American soldiers were killed in the line of duty, according to iCasualties.org.

With the rise of the Islamic State and Levant, which has taken control of swaths of Iraq, Rumsfeld may have had a change of heart. The question is, will Republicans currently pushing for war with other countries heed his words?

It’s not likely. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., has firmly supplanted himself as one of the top Republican war hawks in the upper chamber, which isn’t an easy task considering that he serves alongside Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. Although Cotton is frequently touted as a fiscal conservative, his doesn’t seem to understand that perpetual war is inconsistent with limited government.

Last week, Fred Boenig, an antiwar activist whose son, Austin, committed suicide in May 2010 while serving in the Air Force, confronted Cotton during an event at the Johns Hopkins University campus in Washington, DC.

“When do we get to hang up the ‘mission accomplished’ banner,” Boenig said, referring to the May 2003 photo op and speech by President Bush, “and when do I get my kids to come home safe again?”

“There’s no definite answer because our enemies get a vote in this process,” said Cotton. “In the end, I think the best way to honor our veterans…”

“Is to have more killed?” asked Boenig, who interrupted Cotton. “[I]s to win the wars for which they fought,” the freshman Arkansas senator said.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is also trying to position himself as Bush-style foreign policy hawk. During a recent appearance on Fox News, obviously, Rubio gave an unusual answer to a question about Iraq.

“I think we have a responsibility to support democracy. And if a nation expresses a desire to become a democratic nation, particularly one that we invaded, I do believe that we have a responsibility to help them move in that direction,” said Rubio. “But the most immediate responsibility we have is to help them build a functional government that can actually meet the needs of the people in the short- and long-term, and that ultimately from that you would hope that would spring democracy.”

When a host said that Rubio sounds like he backs nation-building, the freshman Florida Republican said: “Well, it’s not nation-building. We are assisting them in building their nation.”

That’s a distinction without a difference, senator.

Maybe Rumsfeld’s comments, which are only now getting traction in American media, will put Republican hawks on the defensive, forcing them to answer tough questions about the failed the failed foreign policy Republicans all too frequently promote. But don’t hold your breath.

“You Libertarians Will Never Get Anywhere Until You Accept the Fact of Big Government…”

in Big Government, Communicating Liberty by Michael Cloud Comments are off

I was in a Starbucks, drinking coffee, and reviewing my notes in Libertarianism by Dr. John Hospers.

A 20-something guy walked in the door, glanced at the cover of my book, and walked over to my table.

“Are you a libertarian?”  he asked.

“Yeah,” I answered.

Big Government“I don’t know you,” he said. “But I do know this: You libertarians will never get anywhere until you accept the fact of Big Government. Let me tell you why.”

“I’ll be glad to hear why… If you’ll just clarify a couple of things for me,” I said.

“Clarify what?” he asked.

“When you say we need to ‘accept the fact of Big Government’, exactly what do you mean?” I asked. “Do you mean that we libertarians have to accept the fact that Big Government DOES EXIST? OR: Do you mean that we libertarians need to RESIGN OURSELVES to Big Government?”

“I mean that you need to come to terms with the fact that government is big and it’s going to stay big,” he said

“So you’re telling me that Big Government is inevitable – that it’s impossible to shrink today’s Big Government, to make it smaller?” I asked.

“Yes, I am,” he said.

“Well? What’s your evidence that it’s impossible for voters or libertarian officeholders to reduce the size, power, authority, taxes, and/or spending of today’s Big Government?”

“Look, I don’t want to get into a debate…” he said.

“Fine. But before you go, could you please tell me which facts and evidence tell us that Big Government is inevitable — and that the only sane thing for libertarians to do is surrender to Big Government?” I asked.

“Look, I’ve got to go,” he said as he headed for the exit.

“Okay. But remember, small government is beautiful. And individual liberty is possible.”

Oh, for the Love of Everything: CNN Poll Finds Bush with a Positive Favorability Rating

in Foreign Policy, Middle East, War by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Remember President George W. Bush? He’s the guy who ran huge budget deficits because of his addiction to spending, led the country into an unnecessary war in Iraq that led to the deaths of nearly 4,500 American soldiersgreatly expanded the powers of the executive, and bailed out Wall Street.

With a record like that, which only touches the surface of how bad of a president Bush was, one would think Americans wouldn’t think too fondly of him. Well, apparently, one would be wrong.

CNN poll - Bush Favorability

Hopefully, the answer is no.

A new CNN poll finds that Bush, who left office in January 2009, actually view Bush positively. “According to the poll, 52% of adults had a favorable impression of George W. Bush, 43% unfavorable,” CNN reported on Wednesday. “When Bush left office in 2009, only about a third of Americans said they had a positive opinion of him.”

Amazingly, it’s not just Republicans and conservatives driving Bush’s numbers upwards. CNN notes that his favorability has grown even among those who opposed most of his policies.

“Bush remains broadly unpopular among groups that made up his main opponents during his time in office: Democrats (70% unfavorable), liberals (68% unfavorable) non-whites (54% unfavorable), and those under age 35 (53% unfavorable),”CNN explained. “But even among these groups, he’s gained some ground since leaving office. In February 2009, 85% of Democrats and 90% of liberals had a negative take on the president, as did 75% of non-whites and more than 6 in 10 young adults.”

Some would argue that President Barack Obama, who received an even split at 49%, is just that bad. Certainly, Obama hasn’t been an improvement over his predecessor and, in many ways, has been much worse. But the absence of Bush in the Oval Office doesn’t mean that voters should have a favorable view of him.

The tension in the Middle East over the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) may be part of the reason why Bush is rising and Obama is falling. At the same time, voters should remember that Iraq and the rise of ISIL is a failure of the Bush administration.

Certainly, Obama’s foreign policy has been hawkish in some respects, such as Libya, and disastrous in others, like Ukraine, where tensions with Russia have boiled over. But that it doesn’t compare to the utter disgrace that was Bush’s foreign policy.

And again, it’s not just Bush’s foreign policy. He was bad on almost everything. It’s been said voters have a short-term memory; that they’re willing to forgive and move on. That may be true, but failing to remember the lessons of bad presidents means we’re doomed to repeat them again and again.  

Your Favorite Distilled Beverage May Get a Little Cheaper

in Economic Liberty, Taxes by Jackson Jones Comments are off

A bipartisan bill was introduced recently that would lower the per gallon excise tax on distilled beverages, including whiskey and rum.

The Distillery Innovation and Excise Tax Reform Act, introduced by Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.), would relieve distilleries, especially newer ones, of some of the burdens they face when bringing products to market.

distilled beveragesCurrently, distilled drinks are taxed at $13.50 per proof gallon. Young’s bill seeks to lower the tax to $2.70 per proof gallon on the first 100,000 gallons produced by a distillery and $9 per proof thereafter.

Rep. John Yarmuth (R-Ky.) has cosponsored the bill, which was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee on May 21. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) chairs the powerful tax-writing committee.

“All around southern Indiana, many new craft distilleries are popping up, creating jobs and adding to the tax base,” Young said in a release on Wednesday. “But there’s a lot of red tape involved in getting a new distillery off the ground, and this bill helps reduce that burden. In addition, we have many large, established distilleries in our region of the country, and this bill will help them, too.”

The bill has support from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) and the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA).  “It is significant that the distillers of all sizes are united behind this important hospitality industry legislation,” Peter Cressy, CEO of DISCUS, said in a joint release with ACSA. “We thank the sponsors for recognizing the economic impact passage of this bill will have for our industry.”

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) introduced a companion bill in the Senate. Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have signed on as cosponsors of the bill. Although the members represent states with a number of distilleries, the popularity of craft spirits has risen significantly and virtually every state now has distillery.

For the producers, the savings can mean expansion of their operations and more jobs for local communities.

“I started my distillery eight years ago to support Michigan jobs and prove that high quality spirits could be made right here in Michigan,” Rifino Valentine, founder of Valentine Distilling, said in a press release from Peters’ office. “While I’m proud to say we are expanding our facility, so many small distilleries are at a unique disadvantage as a result of the high federal excise tax.”

The bill may be common sense, but similar efforts to lower the excise tax on distilled spirits didn’t move out of committee in the previous Congress.

Free the Hops: Sin Taxes Drive Up the Cost of Beer

in Economic Liberty, Taxes by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Your favorite frothy adult beverage would be a little cheaper if sin taxes were not part of the equation, according to a new report from the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan policy research center.

Each state taxes beer by the gallon, with the costs ranging from just 2 cents in Wyoming to $1.29 in Tennessee.

“State and local governments use a variety of formulas to tax beer,” Scott Drenkard writes at the Tax Foundation. “The rates can include fixed per-volume taxes; wholesale taxes that are often a percentage of a product’s wholesale price; distributor taxes (sometimes structured as license fees as a percentage of revenues); case or bottle fees (which can vary based on size of container); and additional sales taxes (note that this measure does not include general sales tax, only those in excess of the general rate).”

There is a trend to be found in the rates, as well. States in the Southeast tend to have the highest beer taxes. Seven of the top 10 states with the highest beer taxes are located in the area of the country known as the “Bible belt.” Northeastern states tend to have lower beer taxes.

Beer Excise Tax Rates 2015

Map courtesy of our friends at the Tax Foundation

The Beer Institute estimates that consumers pay $5.6 billion in federal and state excise taxes annually. “Surprisingly, taxes are the single most expensive ingredient in beer,” the beer centric think tank notes, “costing more than the labor and raw materials combined.”

Although the Tax Foundation report does not touch on the cost of federal and state regulation of beer, which adds to the cost of production, particular of micro-breweries and small craft beer producers.

In a June 2014 editorial at US News, Matthew Mitchell and Christopher Koopman, both research fellows at the Mercatus Center, explained that the excessive regulations, which are just another form of taxation, create burdensome barrier to entry for small brewers looking to take their product to market.

“Once in business, brewers face more hurdles. Among the least efficient regulations are the ‘franchise laws’ that restrict their ability to sell beer directly to consumers, instead mandating that they sell through distributors. These rules can even dictate how brewers may contract with distributors,” wrote Mitchell and Koopman. “For example, some grant distributors exclusive territories, and others limit the ability of a brewer to choose to work with someone else. A recent survey found that in most cases, these rules make consumers worse off.”

Beer taxes may be an easy target for lawmakers looking to raise revenue for big government programs and regulation may be a convenient way to protect big beer brewers, but these policies are keeping Americans from the frothy goodness that is their favorite brew. Raise a glass and tell your lawmakers to “free the hops!”

Memorial Day Isn’t Just for Cookouts

in Communicating Liberty, War by Brett Bittner Comments are off

For many, Monday is the last of a three-day holiday weekend. A mark of the beginning of summer, this weekend is likely to be filled with activities, cookouts, and even special retail sales.

Here in Indianapolis, this weekend is home to one of the biggest events in motorsports, the Indianapolis 500.

But the day off of work, the beginning of summer, the parades, and the hotdogs and hamburgers are not what Monday is about.

Memorial DayMemorial Day began three years after the Civil War as “Decoration Day” by a Union veterans organization, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), who wanted to adorn the graves of those killed in the war with flowers. They chose the date of May 30th, a day believed to allow every area of the country to have flowers in bloom.

The first large observance of Decoration Day occurred in 1868 at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from the nation’s capitol.

The most important takeaway is that Memorial Day is a time to remember the soldiers killed in action. As libertarians, we see that moving away from Washington’s interventionist foreign policy will result in fewer fallen soldiers needing to be memorialized.

This holiday weekend, let’s focus on remembering those who paid the ultimate price in the name of our country, while also focusing on the peace and non-interventionism that will reduce the number of our fellow Americans that expire as a result of war.

Let’s focus on peace!

Are You Using Facebook to Advocate for Liberty?

in Communicating Liberty, Walk the Walk by Brett Bittner Comments are off

This week, a friend of mine blocked and unfriended someone they’ve known for years after years of arguing over issues that do not directly affect either of them, but get them fired up. I understand wanting to rid one’s self of negativity and people who drive that stress level up, UP, UP!, but what is accomplished by walling yourself off from someone with whom you disagree?

When you post political, economic, and social commentary on Facebook, you invite your “circle,” and possibly strangers (if your posts are public), to comment, debate, and engage in that topic. For me, this is an OPPORTUNITY to share libertarian ideas and possibly persuade others to join us in the libertarian movement.

Have you ever changed your mind about an issue or stance you hold after a major Facebook argument that ends a friendship, even one solely on a social network?

Me neither.

My views have only been changed when presented with newly-available information or by better understanding a principle that I had not previously. None of those would be possible if we shut the door on someone who holds a different opinion.

As an administrator of Facebook pages in addition to a personal profile, I have had the opportunity to share content and engage with millions of people. In just the last seven days, our Facebook page reached 1.1 million users.

Would that be possible if we walled ourselves off from those who disagree on some tenets of libertarian philosophy?

We continue to grow and reach more people with the seeds of Liberty we plant with each post, comment, and share. We also provide fellow libertarians with quality content to share with their networks to begin conversations about libertarian philosophy.

Will you do the same?

Happy Facebooking for Liberty!

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