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House of Representatives Fails to Meet Its Most Important Constitutional Duty

in Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, Middle East, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

House of Representatives Fails to Meet Its Most Important Constitutional Duty

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

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.

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.

This Date In History

in From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Well, not THIS date in history.

Something we’ve added to the Liberator Online to help inspire libertarian activists is a list of important historical dates in the week ahead. These include holidays, significant laws enacted, and birthdays of historical figures with a major impact on the libertarian community. This calendar is by no means a finished product, but we have the beginning of what we think will be a terrific tool for libertarians.

I would be remiss if I did not thank the Chairman of the Board for The Advocates for Self-Government, Dr. James Lark III, who compiled this information for our use. His efforts brought us our first iteration, and we welcome your additions.

How great would it be for each of us to utilize (and amend) this calendar to help guide our libertarian outreach?

For some of the events listed or holidays observed, a simple post to Facebook could suffice. It may remind or inspire a fellow libertarian activist about that great idea they have to point out the birthday of an influential figure for libertarians, like Adam Smith’s, whose birthday is just 4 days from today.

For more significant historical events, like the signing of the Magna Carta 800 years ago, you may be moved, as our friend and President of the Foundation for Economic Education Lawrence Reed was, to share a terrific lesson about the history, motivations, and effects of such a ground-breaking document. There may even be an opportunity to promote and host an event locally to draw attention to something that holds significance to libertarians for the public at large, like Constitution Day in September.

In addition to pointing to the upcoming week’s events, we prepared a full listing on our website for your use. There, you’ll also find a .pdf for your reference and future planning, an option I hope you’ll take advantage of to have a more successful (and less rushed) outreach activity.

Will you commit to one activity each week?

Even something as small as noting these events on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or your favorite other social media outlet will have an impact to grow the libertarian movement.

If you do, please share it with us to feature in an upcoming issue, by e-mailing me directly with a photo, link, or description of what you did.

Do We Homeschool?

in Conversations With My Boys, Liberator Online by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

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The Libertarian Homeschooler (Me): Do we do school at home?
The Young Statesman (YS): No.
homeschoolMe: 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 Criminal Justice, Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, Middle East, National Defense, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Bipartisan Senate Amendment Seeks to End Indefinite Detention of American Citizens

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

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.

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 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 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.

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

in Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, War by Jackson Jones Comments are off

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

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

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.

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.

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

in Gun Rights, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Jackson Jones Comments are off

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

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

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.

The 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.

Brakey

“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.

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

in Liberator Online, Persuasion Powerpoint by Michael Cloud Comments are off

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

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.”

Use the Ruler as a Ruler

in From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

I talk with a LOT of people, libertarians and non-libertarians alike. If you are not doing the same, you are really missing out on finding new friends and learning about others and their lives.

Often, my job as Executive Director of the Advocates comes up in conversation. With the vast popularity of World’s Smallest Political Quiz, it’s often a connection I make with my new conversation partner.

rulerAfter all, it’s been taken over 22 million times online, as well as millions more at festivals, rallies, and campuses throughout the country. As happens with everyone with a connection to something as popular as the Quiz, people often have suggestions about how to improve it. They mean well, but I don’t know that that fully realize how much work goes into making this terrific outreach tool as effective as it is.

In a conversation this week with someone familiar with the Quiz, it was suggested that we replace this question with another and to remove one question in particular. “It’ll make it easier for you to persuade people to be more libertarian,” they said. “If you just don’t talk about that, you will get more people to identify as libertarian.”

A highlight of my day is to discover a new libertarian, so I’m certainly interested in what is effective. In this instance, it seems my friend didn’t quite gather what the purpose of the Quiz is.

Thinking on it further after our conversation, I realized that he didn’t see that, like a ruler, the Quiz is a tool to measure political tendency. We use it to objectively measure a very subjective topic, political philosophy. The Quiz itself holds no preference, as it is a ruler by which we can measure a pretty accurate picture of one’s political philosophy. By seeing where someone falls on the Diamond Chart, we know where to start the journey of persuasion.

We carefully crafted the statements to identify the tendencies of each Quiz taker on a diverse set of issues, centered on issues of freedom. The beauty of the Quiz is that liberals find themselves in the “Liberal” area, conservatives end up in the “Conservative” area, and libertarians fall in the “Libertarian” area.

Do you use the Quiz as a ruler?

By knowing someone’s political tendencies, you know where to begin what I like to call “The Freedom Conversation.” You wouldn’t try to persuade a conservative on economic freedom issues where we agree, would you? Likewise, you wouldn’t try to convince a liberal to adopt a belief that they already hold on personal freedom issues, would you?

Where do you start “The Freedom Conversation”?

After giving the Quiz over 3000 times in person (and 1 “in panda”), that conversation starts with the measurements that the ruler indicates.

Are you ready to use that ruler like a ruler?

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

in Foreign Policy, Issues, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, War by Jackson Jones Comments are off

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

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

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 soldiers, greatly 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

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.

The Debate Over NSA Spying is Finished. Or is it?

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Jackson Jones Comments are off

The Debate Over NSA Spying is Finished. Or is it?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

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.

uncle-sam-watching-you-feature

“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.

Although several organizations and tech companies backed the USA Freedom Act, the bill wasn’t without opposition because it didn’t go far enough to protect Americans’ privacy. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., made his opposition clear because he wanted the ability to offer amendments to strengthen the bill.

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.”

Your Favorite Distilled Beverage May Get a Little Cheaper

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Taxes by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Your Favorite Distilled Beverage May Get a Little Cheaper

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

A bipartisan bill was introduced recently that would lower the per gallon excise tax on distilled drinks, 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.

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.

Barrel

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, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Taxes by Jackson Jones Comments are off

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

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

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 Tax

Beer Tax

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!”

Are You Using Facebook to Advocate for Liberty?

in Liberator Online, Walk the Walk by Brett Bittner Comments are off

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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?

FacebookWhen 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!

Memorial Day Isn’t Just for Cookouts

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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 hot dogs 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!

All Millennials Have Known is a United States at War

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All Millennials Have Known is a United States at War

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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.”

The Washington Post took a look at Raddatz’s statement an eye-opening revelation: “The percentage is almost certainly much higher than that.”

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?

Paradise, AKA Las Vegas

in From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

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This month, I will be visiting Las Vegas, one of my favorite cities in this country, again.

I cannot count how many times I’ve traveled there, both for business and for vacation. To me, there is something very libertarian about that town and about the state of Nevada. Perhaps it’s the availability to do nearly anything at any hour of the day or night.

There is also the awesome history about Paradise, an unincorporated area of Clark County, that is home to most of the famous Las Vegas Strip. It also happens to be, as this video notes, a “city-sized tax dodge,” specifically fighting annexation by the city of Las Vegas to prevent an increase in their tax liability in the 1950s, while remaining the main attraction in the Nevada desert.

How cool is that?

Paradise

As if I need an excuse to go to Vegas…

Earlier this year, I accepted an invitation to speak at LPEX, the Libertarian Political Expo, a major non-partisan conference created to connect people, organizations, technology and ideas, providing vital leadership training in the form of workshops, panelists and speakers. In other words, this event is an ideal place to find The Advocates for Self-Government.

This is the first year of what promises to be an exciting annual event, and they chose to kick things off with quite an offering of training by some of the most respected organizations in the country. The Leadership Institute and American Majority offer some of the best activism training in the political world, and they tailored their training presentations for the hundreds of libertarians expected to attend.

I invite you to join me at the end of this month in Paradise, as we identify and equip the newest leaders in the libertarian movement.

Most Effective Outreach? Lead By Example

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I’m often asked what I find to be the most effective ways to share libertarian ideas.

My answer? Lead by example.

Don’t worry about word choice, which book to recommend, or how you will answer a tough question. Start by being a shining example of what a libertarian is.

lead by exampleWhen you live your life in a way that exemplifies your beliefs, your actions display to others what you believe. This means getting involved in your community, volunteering for charity activities, and networking. What does it say to you when someone constantly talks about gardening should be, but you never see their tomatoes or roses? Is your mind questioning those supposed skills? The same goes for libertarian ideas. If you talk ALL DAY LONG about the wonders of free markets, voluntary cooperation, and how private charity outperforms government welfare programs in every way, but if no one sees you “gardening,” how much weight do your words carry?

Finding activities like maintaining a notoriously littered part of your community, starting a neighborhood tool library, or keeping the lawn trimmed of an infirm, elderly neighbor, are ways to show how individuals can make a difference in the community. As you perform these tasks, you inspire others to join you or to also do something that will also benefit those around you without looking to the government to pay someone to pick up litter or to send scary notices to your neighbor when their grass exceeds the mandated height for the city or county. Additionally, you will become known for your efforts to improve the quality of life in your community, which opens the door for others to seek you out.

Now that your neighbors seek you out, you have an amazing opportunity. You will get to hear about their concerns and the issues that are important to them. The key to this activity is NOT to talk, but to LISTEN. The most important to be done is to hear what they have to say, letting them lead the conversation. This will help you to build rapport by finding common ground with which you begin to converse.

Because libertarianism is such a broad philosophy, you will likely find that you have similar concerns and desire the same outcomes, but the person to whom you are speaking may not be considering how libertarian principles and ideals could solve a problem. THIS is your opportunity to speak.

You listened, identified a problem, heard their desired outcome. Now, you can effectively offer a libertarian solution. Whether it is helping the homeless via shelters, soup kitchens, and health and employment services in the community or offering answers to the area’s poor education results by NOT relying on a government “solution,” you have credibility because you took it upon yourself to address a tangible issue that others noticed.

As you converse about the issue you both identified as an issue in need of a solution, keep the conversation in a friendly tone, using everyday language. The use of unnecessarily scholarly verbiage or political jargon and buzzwords may turn off your new friend. This is just a conversation between two people about everyday issues, not a debate. As tempting as it is, there is no “win” in making him or her feel like your intellectual inferior.

We libertarians are a diverse lot, and not everyone can bring new people around to the ideas and principles of libertarian philosophy, and that is OK.

By being a great example of libertarianism, you can be active and bring more people into the movement, but if you are uncomfortable with the whole “walk the walk” concept, please find another way you can help the libertarian movement. There are candidates, campaigns, and organizations who need your assistance in other ways. It may be that your lifestyle allows you to finance activities, your skills can bring a professional website to them, or your “best fit” is to be someone who can distribute hundreds of flyers that affect an electoral outcome. The key is to find and do what you do well.

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