Unless you live under a rock, you’ve undoubtedly heard about Rachel Dolezal, the former President of the Spokane, Washington NAACP.
Regardless of one’s thoughts about her allegedly fabricated backstory, her accomplishments for the African-American community, the legal dispute with her family, and her questionable racial background, you have to admit that her commitment to a cause and the efforts she’s made are admirable.
As someone who’s worked with libertarian activists and volunteers for years, I wish I had come across JUST ONE that was half as committed to the libertarian movement as Ms. Dolezal is to the black community in Spokane.
That brings me to my original question.
How committed are you to the libertarian movement?
Now is the time for libertarians to seize the opportunities afforded us by so many finally seeing the problems with Big Government and its exponential growth. The government we see today has grown far beyond anything envisioned by Jefferson, Adams, Madison, and Paine.
What are you going to do to stop that growth and help reverse course?
No one’s asking you to be as committed as Ms. Dolezal, but can you make a positive impact for your community in the same way she has hers?
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.
It’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.
“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.
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.
In 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 trail 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 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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On Tuesday, the United States Senate gave final passage to the USA Freedom Act, but not without drama on the floor of the upper chamber. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., offered three amendments that, if passed, would have weakened the bill.
With the support of hawks in the Senate Republican Conference, McConnell proposed amendments that would have increased the transition period from three to six months, removed essential transparency requirements, and required private companies to notify the federal government if they changed their data retention policies. Each of the amendments failed, falling short of the majority needed for passage.
After the USA Freedom Act passed with significant bipartisan support, a visibly irritated McConnell railed against the bill from the floor, lecturing his colleagues that the Fourth Amendment, which protects Americans against “unreasonable searches and seizures,” doesn’t cover phone records.
“No content. No names. No listening to the phone calls of law-abiding citizens. We are talking about call data records,” said McConnell. “And these are the provider’s records, which is not what the Fourth Amendment speaks to. It speaks to: ‘The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects.’”
Part of the legal justification for bulk collection of Americans’ phone records is grounded in a little-known 1979 case, Smith v. Maryland, in which the Supreme Court ruled that the installation of the pen register on the phone of Michael Lee Smith without a warrant was not a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. But as Jim Harper of the Cato Institute has explained, this interpretation of the case is wildly misleading.
“It is not possible to argue honestly that the facts of Smith are anything like the NSA’s bulk data collection. The police had weighty evidence implicating one man. The telephone company voluntarily applied a pen register, collecting analog information about the use of one phone line by that one suspect,” Harper wrote in August 2013. “I can’t think of a factual situation that could be at a further extreme than NSA’s telephone calling surveillance program.”
Add to Harper’s point that Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act allowed only the collection of records related to specific investigation into terrorism. It didn’t permit the bulk collection of all phone records of every American, a fact that was noted recently by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
Others, like Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., believe the USA Freedom Act merely shifts the method of bulk collection from the National Security Agency to private phone companies. The USA Freedom Act, Amash said after it passed the House of Representatives in mid-May, “actually expands the statutory basis for the large-scale collection of most data.”
But with debate on the USA Freedom Act now over, at least for now, President Barack Obama’s signature on the bill, some may be asking what’s next. The Guardian reported on Wednesday that the administration is seeking to restart the bulk collection program “temporarily” to transition “the domestic surveillance effort to the telephone companies that generate the so-called ‘call detail records’ the government seeks to access.”
So, just to be clear, the administration will, according to The Guardian, “argue it needs to restart the program in order to end it.” Add that one to the growing list of Orwellian statements from this administration, and put it right under “if you like your health plan, you can keep it” and “never let a good crisis go to waste.”
Currently, 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.”
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.
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.
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!”
The USA Freedom Act failed to clear a procedural hurdle in the Senate during a session that stretched into the very early hours of Saturday morning. Senators also blocked a two-month extension of Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, which has been broadly interpreted to allow the National Security Agency to conduct mass surveillance on law-abiding Americans, in a showdown between two Kentucky senators.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., introduced substitute language of the USA Freedom Act. The Senate version of the bill is different, Burr says, because it “provides a longer transition period to ensure that the metadata collection process moves properly to the carriers” and “contains a bipartisan approach which would provide the government with advance notice of a carrier’s intent to change its data retention policies.”
The new language of the USA Freedom Act was a nonstarter in the Senate. The upper chamber blocked motion to proceed by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on the bill in a 57-42 a vote. The motion required 60 affirmative votes. Even if the Senate did proceed, House Republicans, including Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., warned that the new language would not have the votes to pass the lower chamber.
“Senator Burr’s proposal to plug the so-called ‘holes’ in the USA FREEDOM Act is dead-on-arrival in the House. His bill is not stronger on national security, it is just much weaker on civil liberties,” Sensenbrenner said on Friday. “This is nothing more than a last-ditch effort to kill the USA FREEDOM Act, which passed the House 338-88.”
“If the Senate coalesces around this approach, the result will be the expiration of important authorities needed to keep our country safe,” he added.
McConnell tried to move forward with a simple two-month reauthorization of Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, which expires on May 31. McConnell could muster only 45 votes, far short of the 60 votes required.
The scene got even more interesting when McConnell began making motions for unanimous consent to shorten the length of extension of the provision. The Republican leader first tried to extend the provision to June 8, but his home-state colleague, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was not having it.
“Reserving the right to object, we have entered into a momentous debate. This is a debate about whether or not a warrant with a single name of a single company can be used to collect all the records, all of the phone records of all of the people in our country with a single warrant,” said Paul. “Our forefathers would be aghast. One of the things they despised was general warrants.”
Paul has proposed a series of amendments to any attempt to reauthorize Section 215, including giving Fourth Amendment protections to records held by third parties and placing limitations on Section 213, the so-called “sneak-and-peek” provision, to only terrorism and espionage investigations.
“I started out the day with a request for six amendments; I’m willing to compromise to having two amendments at a simple majority vote,” Paul stated before objecting to McConnell’s consent agreement. “I think that’s a very reasonable position, and if we can’t have that and we can’t have an extensive debate over something we’ve had four years to prepare for.”
Blocked by Paul, McConnell tried to shorten the reauthorization to June 5. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., objected. McConnell tried again, proposing extension to June 3. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., blocked him. McConnell tried one last time, shortening the date to June 2. Paul objected.
Seeing no path forward on reauthorization early Saturday morning, McConnell conferred with Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on how they should proceed with reauthorization as the Senate entered into a week-long recess.
Shortly before the Senate moved onto other business before recessing for the week, McConnell announced that members would come back to Washington on Sunday, May 31 for a final chance to reauthorize Section 215.
Whether the opposition seen on Saturday morning will last through the week or some sort of agreement will be worked out between Paul and Republican leadership to allow him to offer amendments remains is unclear. But the scene in the Senate was encouraging for those passionate about the protections guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.
The 10-hour marathon speech by Rand Paul, the freshman Kentucky Republican senator, may not technically be considered a filibuster, but it served an important purpose, nonetheless, as the upper chamber seeks to close out its business before going into a week-long Memorial Day recess.
The Senate was in the midst of a debate over the proposed Trade Promotion Authority on Wednesday when, at 1:18 PM, Paul rose from his desk and began speaking against the Patriot Act, executive overreach, and the National Security Agency.
This was Paul’s second filibuster, loosely speaking, since he took office. In February 2013, the Kentucky Republican, for nearly 13 hours, filibustered the nomination of John Brennan to serve as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency over the Obama administration’s use of drones to target American citizens.
“There comes to a time in the history of nations when fear and complacency allow power to accumulate and liberty and privacy to suffer. That time is now,” Paul declared on Wednesday. “And I will not let the Patriot Act, the most un-patriotic of acts, go unchallenged.”
Paul was joined by 10 of his colleagues, including Republican Senators Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Senator Ron Wyden and Joe Manchin, both of whom are Democrats.
Whether Paul’s latest marathon can be considered a filibuster is irrelevant. There was a method to his madness. Some, such as Reason’s Scott Shackford, have speculated that Paul and Wyden, both vigorous opponents of the Patriot Act, hope to include amendments to make the USA Freedom Act, which has already passed the House of Representatives, a stronger bill.
Paul did state that he plans to propose amendments to the bill, which is backed by Cruz and Lee, to ensure that the privacy of Americans is protected. But Wednesday’s speech may have served another purpose.
Section 215 of the Patriot Act is set to expire at the end of May, the Senate may not have enough time on the clock to pass what is expected to be a very close vote for reauthorization. Rather than the nearly six year extension of the Patriot Act that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the senior senator from Kentucky, may be forced to settle for a short-term reauthorization to avoid sunset of the controversial provision. Paul, who opposes the USA Freedom Act without stronger provisions, would prefer to run out the clock on the provision, letting it expire.
The situation is fluid because McConnell has floated keeping the Senate in session through the Memorial Day weekend to strong-arm reauthorization, but most observers have speculated that there are not the votes to bypass a filibuster, with many members of both parties expressing a desire for reform.
Whether Section 215 survives is fluid at the moment, but Paul’s speech has already had a huge impact. The Department of Justice issued a statement on the status of the NSA’s illegal surveillance program.
“After May 22, 2015,” the release said as reported by the Associated Press, “the National Security Agency will need to begin taking steps to wind down the bulk telephone metadata program in anticipation of a possible sunset in order to ensure that it does not engage in any unauthorized collection or use of the metadata.”
It may be too early to declare victory, but it’s certainly within reach.
In September 2003, nearly two years to the date after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the New Jersey-based post-hardcore band, Thursday, released its second record, War All of the Time. The title track of the record could serve as an anthem for a generation.
“War all of the time. In the shadow of the New York skyline, we grew up too fast, falling apart like the ashes of American flags,” Geoff Rickly sings in his nasally tone. “They burn on and on like an oil field or a memory of what it felt like. To burn on and on and not just fade away all those nights in the basement, the kids are still screaming on and on and on and on.”
The Millennial generation – young Americans born who became adults in or around 2000 – have now spent much of their lives with the United States at war, according to Martha Raddatz, an ABC News journalist who recently gave a commencement speech at Kenyon College.
“You have spent more than half your lives with this country at war. And yet the huge majority of you, and those your age, the huge majority of all people in this country have not been affected by these conflicts,” Raddatz told the graduates. “I can imagine all of you as 9- or 10-year-old children, huddled with your parents on 9/11, scared or just confused. Your parents surely thinking, as I did, that our lives would never be the same, your lives would never be the same.”
A young American born in 1980, for example, has lived 44.4 percent of their life while the United States was at war. The wars include only the first Gulf War and the War on Terror. The Washington Post didn’t count minor overseas interventions, such as the conflict in Kosovo.
“Anyone born after 1984 has likely seen America at war for at least half of his or her life,” Philip Bump wrote for the Washington Post. “And that’s a lot of Americans.”
If this isn’t concerning enough, that an entire generation has spent close to, if not most of their lives, with the United States at war, one should begin to wonder when the wars will end. Younger Americans, those born after the year 2000, have known nothing but their country at war. A 14-year-old has spent their entire life in this circumstance.
Just as important are the costs of war. Millennials may know war all too well, but it’s their children that will bear the costs. A recent estimate by the Watson Institute at Brown University concluded that the United States has spent and is committed to $4.4 trillion related to the War on Terrorism.
The question one should be asking themselves is, when will it end?
A lower court deferred to the Obama administration, upholding the legal basis for the domestic surveillance program, but the three-judge appellant panel reversed the decision, setting the stage for the case to go before the Supreme Court.
“This case serves as an example of the increasing complexity of balancing the paramount interest in protecting the security of our nation – a job in which, as the President has stated, ‘actions are second‐guessed, success is unreported, and failure can be catastrophic,’ with the privacy interests of its citizens in a world where surveillance capabilities are vast and where it is difficult if not impossible to avoid exposing a wealth of information about oneself to those surveillance mechanisms,” wrote Judge Gerard Lynch for the panel. “Reconciling the clash of these values requires productive contribution from all three branches of government, each of which is uniquely suited to the task in its own way.”
“[W]e conclude that the district court erred in ruling that Section 215 authorizes the telephone metadata collection program,” he continued, “and instead hold that the telephone metadata program exceeds the scope of what Congress has authorized and therefore violates Section 215.”
As one might expect, the decision was hailed by privacy groups – including the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit to end the NSA’s domestic surveillance program. Hawkish Republicans were quick to condemn the decision, invoking the September 11 attacks and the rise of the Islamic State to promote fear in the minds of Americans.
During an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union, former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) complained “[t]he more we make this more difficult, the more likely we’re going to have [bad] event.”
Although Rogers is no longer rooming the halls of Congress as an elected official, others, such as Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), are pushing for reauthorization of Section 215, using fear to advance their unconstitutional cause.
The House of Representatives will likely vote on the USA FREEDOM Act on Wednesday. This bill, according to Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), is flawed because it actually authorizes the bulk collection of innocent Americans’ phone metadata.
Absent passage of worthwhile reforms, there could be enough votes in Congress to deny reauthorization of Section 215 before the provision expires, particularly in the Senate where there may be the votes to filibuster any extension. Still, that may not be enough. Some have speculated that the administration could continue the program without Section 215.
It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out, but no matter how it ends, we’ll find out soon who in Congress actually believes the rhetoric they espouse on the campaign trail and who is willing to cast aside privacy protections of the Constitution to give the federal government almost unlimited power to spy on Americans.
In August, The New York Times ran a piece proclaiming that the United States’ political landscape was in the in the midst of a “libertarian moment.” The narrative may have focused some on Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and his strong libertarian leanings, but the story told was much deeper and, perhaps, a sign of a generational shift in American politics.
Still, some view the “libertarian moment” as a blip on radar. Old narratives, such as the stale left-right political paradigm, are repeated on television and talk radio shows by the pundit class, who are ignorant to changing attitudes and growing discontent with increasingly irrelevant political institutions.
Over the last several years, polling firms have tried to make sense of the rise of libertarians. In 2006, David Boaz and David Kirby of the Cato Institute analyzed polling data and found that 9 percent to 14 percent of the voting public held libertarian views. These voters, the authors suggested, were fiercely independent, and frustrated by the growth of government under President George W. Bush.
Although there is no looming libertarian takeover of the United States, subscribers to the philosophy find themselves gaining more influence, according to a recently released Reuters survey. In particular, the data show millennials – those between the ages of 18 and 29 – more likely to label themselves as libertarians.
“One in five Americans consider themselves libertarian, with younger adults being the most likely to adopt the label,” Reuters noted. “Among adults aged 18 to 29, 32 percent consider themselves libertarian. Just 12 percent of Americans age 60 or older consider themselves libertarian.”
Surprisingly, 22 percent of self-identified libertarians are Democrats to only 19 percent are Republicans, while 25 percent are politically independent.
It may be too early to draw any conclusions about what the data suggest, but it’s becoming clear that libertarians are becoming a subset of the body politic that is difficult for the political class to ignore. Those who do may be doing so at their own peril.
For libertarians, it’s crucial not to misread this growing trend. Influencing policy debates through responsible activism and well-messaged education are the best courses of action, at least for now.
Every fall, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) publishes an annual report, known as the Wastebook, highlighting dozens of the worst examples of wasteful spending by federal agencies.
Some of the items in the report may sound unbelievable, but this is the federal government, and one should never underestimate bureaucrats with tax dollars at their disposal. More ridiculous examples from the 2014 version of the report include the $387,000 the National Institutes of Health spent on Swedish massages for rabbits (yes, seriously) and the $200,000 the Department of Agriculture spent to help a New York-based brewer build a beer farm.
Coburn, who earned a reputation as a hardcore fiscal hawk, resigned from Congress last year after a second cancer diagnosis, leaving a need for transparency in federal spending. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is stepping up to fill the void left by Coburn’s departure.
On Wednesday, Paul rolled out a new feature on his official Senate homepage, dubbed The Waste Report. According to a press statement, the periodical report “will identify egregious examples of wasteful spending throughout the U.S. government.”
The inaugural edition of The Waste Report focuses on medical waste, specifically a little-known U.S. Coast Guard program that costs taxpayers $1.2 million each year. The Travel to Obtain Health Care Program pays for Coast Guard members stationed in locations where there are no providers to seek medical care elsewhere. The program is available to members in Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, though the latter two account for 7 percent of cases.
The Inspector General (IG) of the Department of Homeland Security released an audit in February detailing the inefficiency and lack of oversight in the Travel to Obtain Health Care Program, which costs taxpayers $1.2 million annually.
“[T]he IG uncovered trips from Alaska to Vail, Colorado; Orlando, FL; Scottsdale, AZ; and Savannah, GA,” Paul’s report notes.
“Though a doctor’s referral is supposed to be required before travel is approved, only twelve percent of records had such notes. “
“In total, 94 percent of all records were missing key elements including travel requests, approval forms, cost estimates, and/or doctor’s notes,” the report continues. “This lack of basic documentation prevented the IG from substantiating whistleblower claims that trips – even to Anchorage – were more for shopping than medical care, while also preventing the IG from affirming the need for accompanying spouses (who also traveled at taxpayer expense) to assist patients.”
The Inspector General made three recommendations aimed at improving accountability and oversight in the program, including greater documentation requirements and training. But as The Waste Report explains, “one should not need special training to know that taxpayer funded medical travel should not be approved without a doctor’s note, especially if that travel is for couples’ trips to vacation hot spots.”
Supporters of the NSA’s domestic spying programs say that a vast data collection effort is needed more than ever to prevent terrorist attacks in the United States, but they are unable to point to any specific example of foiled terrorist plots through these unconstitutional, privacy-violating programs.
In June 2013, Gen. Keith Alexander, then the Director of the NSA, claimed that the spying programs prevented “potential terrorist events over 50 times since 9/11.” Testifying before a Senate committee in October of the same year, Alexander backtracked after Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) grilled him for misleading the American public.
“There is no evidence that [bulk] phone records collection helped to thwart dozens or even several terrorist plots,” said Leahy. “These weren’t all plots and they weren’t all foiled. Would you agree with that, yes or no?” he asked the NSA chief.
Alexander, realizing he had been put on the spot for peddling misinformation, simply replied, “Yes.”
Of course Alexander was more honest than his colleague, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who lied about the NSA domestic surveillance program in a March 2013 Senate hearing. He was accused of perjury, although the allegation went nowhere in a Congress filled with pro-surveillance members.
The attack on Sunday evening in Garland, Texas at the “Draw Muhammad” event hosted by an anti-Islam organization will undoubtedly be used as a reason to reauthorize a soon-to-expire provision, Section 215, of the USA PATRIOT Act by which the federal government claims the vast authority to spy on Americans.
But such claims should be met with a large dose of skepticism. One of the suspects involved in the attack had already come across the FBI’s radar. The United States’ top law enforcement agency began investigating him in 2006 on the suspicion that he wanted to join a terrorist group in Somalia.
The alleged attackers in Garland are precisely are the needle for which the federal government claims that it needs the haystack, and intelligence and law enforcement officials failed to prevent what could have been a mass murder.
The NSA’s resources are spread too thin. Collecting the phone calls of virtually every American – the proverbial “haystack” – even if the people on the call are not suspected of any terrorist involvement, not only betrays the constitutionally protected rights defined by the Fourth Amendment, but also makes Americans less safe because intelligence agencies may not be able to connect the dots efficiently and effectively.
Rather than using the Garland attack as tool to further reauthorization of Section 215, which expires on June 1, lawmakers should seriously reexamine the approach to intelligence, requiring agencies like the NSA to focus on actual terrorism suspects as opposed to innocent Americans calling their families and friends.
For the Advocates, some big changes and celebrations are coming up.
* It’s the 30th Anniversary for the Advocates.
* It’s my 20th Anniversary as Advocates president.
* And… I will be retiring as Advocates president at the end of the month.
Please note, I am not retiring as an active libertarian. I’m stepping down from the varied and time-consuming job of Advocates president and will be focusing my efforts on the activities I love most: writing and speaking about libertarianism and — my favorite topic — the most effective ways to communicate the ideas of liberty. I will also continue doing communication workshops on this topic — some of them in conjunction with the Advocates.
Being president of the Advocates for Self-Government has been the most wonderful and fulfilling job I could have ever imagined for myself!
It has been an incredible honor for me to follow in the footsteps of the previous two Advocates presidents: Advocates Founder Marshall Fritz and Carole Ann Rand.
They created a fantastic organization that has deeply affected the lives of millions of individuals. The Advocates has enormously increased the size and effectiveness of the libertarian movement, and has introduced tens of millions of people to libertarianism, first and foremost through the amazing World’s Smallest Political Quiz — the most popular outreach tool in the libertarian movement.
Of course there is much more to the Advocates than the Quiz. The original mission of the Advocates was to empower libertarians to become excellent and successful communicators of the ideas of liberty. This is a unique and vital contribution the Advocates has made to the movement in our 30 years.
As Advocates president, I’ve learned about libertarian communication from the best: Marshall, Carole Ann, Michael Cloud, Mary Ruwart, David Bergland, Harry Browne, and many more too numerous to name. We’ve helped tens of thousands of libertarians become far more persuasive and effective in their outreach. And that has enabled libertarians to successfully win others to our side, helping build a strong and growing movement for liberty.
It has been a joy teaching numerous libertarian communication classes and seminars for libertarian groups in almost every state in America. Last year alone I had the pleasure of speaking on successful communication to over 1,000 libertarians.
I look forward to continuing this — so please contact me when you want a libertarian communication workshop in your area!
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with some of the finest libertarians in the world — world-famous celebrities and people you may not have heard of who are making our world a freer and better place. What a privilege it has been! (I wouldn’t dream of trying to name them all — we’d fill this entire issue up, and still leave deserving people out. Thanks, everyone!)
Similarly, I’ve had the great pleasure of working with many of the very finest libertarian organizations. I must especially thank the Libertarian Party for the greatest honors of my professional career. The LP has honored me with two of its highest awards. In 2012, I received the Thomas Jefferson Award, “presented to the Libertarian Party member whose achievements merit our recognition of outstanding leadership, high character, and dedication to the principles and goals of the Party.” In 2014, I received the LP’s Thomas Paine Award for “outstanding communication of libertarian ideas, principles, and values.”
But most of all I’d like to thank YOU, my friends who read the Liberator Online, use Advocates tools and services, and support the Advocates’ work. You are the true heroes of the Advocates. You are building a successful movement for liberty that is changing our world.
I will miss connecting with you through the Advocates. I hope you will follow my new work and stay in touch with me. You can do this by “liking” me onFacebook — or emailing me. (Please do this right now, while it’s on your mind.)
I’d like to congratulate Brett Bittner, the Advocates’ new executive director! Brett has an outstanding record as a libertarian activist. He is a former executive director of the Libertarian Party of Georgia and a former Chairman of the Libertarian State Leadership Alliance. He has been working with the Advocates for the past year and will be taking the helm of the organization on May 1. You’ll be hearing more from Brett soon.
Finally, please read my President’s Column in the next issue. I’ll let you know more details about what’s ahead — including a special celebration of the Advocates’ and my anniversaries to take place in Atlanta on June 27. Hold that date on your calendar, and I hope to see you there!
A new poll from YouGov brings exciting and unprecedented news for libertarians.
Asked “Would you describe yourself as a libertarian or not?” fully one in five of likely millennial (ages 18-29) voters said yes — thus self-describing themselves as libertarians.
YouGov found that young Americans are more likely than any other age group to accept the label libertarian — great news for a growing political movement. And there is room for this figure to grow significantly as libertarian ideas spread, because, in addition to the 20% who self-identify as libertarians, another 42% said they were “not sure.” Only 39% rejected the label.
Among older voters, 17% of 30- to 44-year-olds, 15% of 45- to 64-year-olds and 9% of those 65 and older say that the word “libertarian” described their views.
More great news: a majority Americans are, broadly, embracing libertarian ideas of limiting government. Fully 51% say they want to shrink the size of government. A whopping 30% of Americans even agree with the radical libertarian statement that “Taxation is theft.” (It probably didn’t hurt that the poll was conducted April 8-9 — a week before Tax Day.)
But what is most remarkable about the YouGov poll is that it has found so many millions of voters who accept the libertarian “brand” as a label for their political views — something inconceivable just a few years ago.
Nor are these self-described libertarians tied to either of the two older political parties. The libertarian vote is up for grabs to the candidate or party that appeals most to it. Writes YouGov: “There is little difference between partisans when it comes to identifying as libertarians. Republicans (13%) are essentially no more likely than Democrats (12%) to identify as libertarian, while 19% of Independents describe themselves as libertarian.”
Notes Reason.com’s Nick Gillespie: “Let’s be clear about a couple of things: First, the fact that YouGov and other groups are hunting down the number of libertarians afoot — Pew even went ‘In Search of Libertarians’ just last year — is itself a sign that something new and different is happening. When you start touting up the way many things are breaking in a libertarian direction — the energy surrounding Ron Paul in 2008 and 2012, majority acceptance of pot legalization and gay marriage, serious efforts at criminal justice reform, plummeting numbers for faith in government, the rise of school choice, embrace of a sharing economy that routes around old-style regulation, general acceptance of free trade and free speech as positive values, and much more — it’s fair to call attention to what we’ve dubbed here as ‘The Libertarian Moment.’”
For more excellent commentary on the YouGov poll see “Millennials Are More Likely to Identify as Libertarians” by Robby Soave, Reason.com.
In an editorial for USA Today Bovard put together a short dictionary of “Washingtonese” — the slippery lingo that politicians, bureaucrats and other such nefarious critters use to hide what they really mean.
Or, as Bovard puts it, the government’s “nebulous nomenclature [that] deters citizens from recognizing exactly how well their elected leaders serve them.”
Here’s a sampling:
Historic — different than last week
Unprecedented — different than last month
Emergency — the gift that keeps giving
Truth — whatever people will swallow
Legacy — any political boast that survives more than three 24-hour news cycles
Handout — a government benefit received primarily by the supporters of the other party
Mandate — whatever a winning politician can get away with
Honorable — any public figure who has not yet been indicted
Bill of Rights — (archaic) political invocation popular in 1790s
Fair play — any process in which politicians or bureaucrats pick winners and losers
Rule of Law — the latest edicts from a deputy assistant Labor Secretary or deputy assistant HUD Secretary
Patriotic — any appeal that keeps people paying and obeying
Waste — federal spending that fails to generate laudatory headlines, votes or campaign contributions
Freedom — whatever rulers have not yet benevolently prohibited
Election — when voters are permitted to freely consent to one of the two aspiring despots offered by the major parties
Cynic — anyone who expresses doubt about the latest bipartisan agreement to gradually eliminate the federal budget deficit over the next 117 years
Anarchist — anyone who advocates across-the-board spending cuts of more than 3.63%
Scurrilous — anyone who mentions previous federal failures when the president proposes glorious new programs
For much more Bovardian wit and wisdom, see his USA Today article.
“You don’t ”pay’ taxes. The government TAKES them.” — comedian Chris Rock.
Not only is this quote funny (especially when you hear Chris Rock say it), it makes a profound point — one well worth remembering when talking about taxes and politics.
The word “pay,” in connection with taxes, is just government propaganda. Using it — saying we “pay taxes” or “paid our taxes” — hides and distorts the true nature of taxation. And that’s something libertarians shouldn’t do.
Here’s what I mean.
In common usage, the word “pay” strongly implies some kind of consensual agreement. If you’re selling apples and I want one, I pay you for it. If I don’t want the apple, I don’t have to pay. If someone else has a better deal on apples, I’m free to trade with him instead. Or I can skip apples altogether.
Similarly, if I borrow money from a loan company, I agree to pay it back with interest. If a competing company offers lower interest rates, I’m free to trade with them instead. I also of course have the option of not borrowing money at all.
Those are payments, voluntarily agreed to.
However, the word “pay” is inappropriate for a coerced exchange — like taxation.
As the great Lysander Spooner famously pointed out, if a criminal points a gun at you and demands all the money in your pocket, you aren’t “paying” the robber when you hand over your money. You didn’t “pay” — you were robbed!
If burglars enter your home at night and steal your valuables, you didn’t “pay” the burglar. He TOOK your money! You were robbed.
Libertarians view taxes as a form of coercion, no different in essence from robbery or theft. (By the way, a startlingly large number of Americans now agree with us on this. See the story “New Poll: Millions of Voters Say They’re Libertarian” above.)
So we should never use language like “pay taxes” or “paid taxes.” Saying so legitimizes taxation. It implies that taxation is just another form of legitimate exchange, like paying for goods and services you voluntarily purchased.
Instead, when someone else uses that term, we should, if appropriate, gently disagree. And respond with something like: “Actually, I didn’t ‘pay’ taxes. No one PAYS taxes. The government just seizes money from you. There’s a big difference. Payments are voluntary. Taxes are coercive. Like… theft.”
Your wording, of course, will depend on who you’re speaking with and where. But one thing’s certain — you’ll have trouble improving on Chris Rock’s monologue:
“The messed-up thing about taxes is you don’t ‘pay’ taxes. The government TAKES them. You get your check and money is GONE! It was not an option! That ain’t a payment — that’s a JACK! I been TAX JACKED!”