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The “Most Important Election of Our Lifetime” Fallacy

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

The “Most Important Election of Our Lifetime” Fallacy

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As libertarians, we’ve no doubt heard with every election that THIS one is the “most important election of our lifetime.” Even those who’ve decided to no longer participate in voting and elections are not immune.

Typically, it’s a hyper-partisan individual who is heavily invested in one side of the “horse race” for President, Governor, or Congress making the statement, and they have a litany of reasons why their candidate is “The One.”

To many of us, it’s a broken record. Whether it’s the appointment of Supreme Court justices, ending pointless wars, staving off economic collapse, or fighting back socialism, the refrain from both sides is essentially the same each time it’s shared. It’s been the same since I started paying attention to elections in 1992 and neither George H.W. Bush nor Bill Clinton really spoke to me as they campaigned for President.

The idea that THIS YEAR will be what changes everything is an extension of a societal desire for immediate gratification…like the J. G. Wentworth commercials: “I WANT IT NOW!”

While a sense of urgency is necessary, things do not change overnight, nor will they even over a politician’s term. Patience and hard work bring the change we seek.

The slogan and rhetoric from the 2008 Obama campaign, “Change We Can Believe In,” tapped into the desire for immediate overhaul. What we saw over the last eight years wasn’t much change. It was a continuation of the same. The wars didn’t end. The cronies still got their goodies. Even Guantanamo Bay remains open and operational today.

Actual, sustainable change takes time. It is the result of many in their efforts to win over hearts and minds. It is not achieved in a single election, a new law, or a Supreme Court decision.

slow and steadyAs in the story I recounted in the Tell More Stories article a couple of weeks ago, slow and steady wins the race. That goes for growth as well, whether for an entire philosophy or certain aspects.

I’ve been on the inside as an elected official, and bureaucracy does move with the speed of molasses. In the winter. Uphill. Unless there is a manufactured urgency to DO SOMETHING, when a the square peg will be shoved into a round hole.

We haven’t won over the hearts and minds yet though. We have a long way to go in that regard. When large numbers of people begin to value freedom the same way that you and I do, we can focus our conversations there and on our path to electoral successes, if they are even necessary.

There is no silver bullet. We are building a movement for Liberty, and that growth doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s happening faster with each passing day.

Remember, politicians and laws don’t change hearts and minds, and we don’t win anything without those.

White House Sacks the Treasury in the Name of Corporate Welfare

in Economic Liberty, Healthcare, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Taxes by Alice Salles Comments are off

White House Sacks the Treasury in the Name of Corporate Welfare

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

Friday, one day before the President’s day holiday weekend, the Barack Obama Administration announced that $7.7 billion of taxpayer dollars would be allocated to Affordable Care Act insurers through the law’s reinsurance program.

From the Americans for Tax Reform website:

“For 2015 Obamacare reinsurance, the administration will pay out $6 billion raised from a fee on private health insurance and an additional $1.7 billion that under federal law belongs to the Treasury department.”

Seal According to pro-taxpayer organization, at least $1.7 billion of the $7.7 being used to cover insurers is being funneled illegally.

Doug Badger of the Galen Institute explains that ACA’s reinsurance program works by silently taxing every individual in America with health insurance. In 2015 and 2016, each individual with insurance is being allegedly taxed a total of $107. According to Badger, the program is designed to “prop up insurers that have agreed to sell Obamacare policies in the individual market.”

While the administration continues to claim that ACA is working, insurers that participate are losing money. But since the reinsurance program exists to cover the losses of the insurers, the administration seems to think keeping corporations happy with the deal is more important than following the law.

With the failure of the system, and with a growing number of consumers referring to alternative methods to have access to care, the administration is having to get creative.

According to the New York Post, not one dollar out of the $7.7 billion being promised to insurers should be taken from the Treasury under ACA law.

From the New York Post:

“The law states a fixed share ‘shall be deposited into the general fund of the Treasury of the United States and may not be used’ to offset insurance companies’ losses.

But the administration gave all of it to the insurance companies last year, and got away with that heist. So now they’re trying it again.”

While the administration projected it would be raising $12 billion for the ACA reinsurance program in 2014, it was $2 billion short. In order to handle the situation, the administration decided to keep the money from the Treasury, using it instead to hand it over to the participating companies.

The administration isn’t a stranger to this type of move. According to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, at least $8.5 billion in taxpayer money has already been illegally funneled to ACA’s corporate welfare programs.

Another initiative designed to shield insurers enshrined in ACA also seeks to secure the investment of insurers. The initiative is known as the Risk Corridor program, and it has also been tied to scandals in the past.

In 2014, insurers requested $2.87 billion in “risk corridors” payments, but the administration only offered 12.6 percent of that value.

The risk corridor program works by redistributing funds from insurers that make money with the Obamacare exchange to insurers that don’t. Not knowing how sick their customers were going to be due to the new healthcare law and its mandates, insurers were not being able to set premiums realistically, making it hard for companies to turn a profit.

Despite falling short on the risk corridor payments, the administration decided to bail out insurers that weren’t making money off the exchanges last year. ACA chief Andy Slavitt, who’s also the former Vice-President for United Health, made the announcement in December of 2015, saying the federal government was going to bail out insurers and offer them the amount they had previously asked. Later, however, Congress blocked the $2.5 billion “risk corridor” payment. The effort was championed by several conservative and libertarian organizations that came together to urge Congress to act.

If nothing is done this time around, taxpayers will have to foot the bill and cover the $7.7 billion the administration has vowed

NSA Spied on Israel to Counter Criticism of Iran Deal, Communications with U.S. Lawmakers Intercepted

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

NSA Spied on Israel to Counter Criticism of Iran Deal, Communications with U.S. Lawmakers Intercepted

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

The National Security Agency is bracing for another heavy round of criticism. On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the controversial intelligence agency spied on Israeli leaders while the United States was ironing out a nuclear agreement with Iran. But the spying apparatus also captured communications between Israeli and members of Congress.

NSA

President Barack Obama and the NSA have already come under fire for spying on leaders of countries that are allied with the United States, such as Brazil, Germany, and Mexico. The White House was reportedly unaware of the NSA’s activities, which came to light in the summer of 2013.

President Obama, in early 2014, pledged to stop snooping on the United States’ allies. “The leaders of our close friends and allies deserve to know that if I want to learn what they think about an issue,” he said, “I will pick up the phone and call them, rather than turning to surveillance.” The only exceptions to the prohibition were countries that served a national security interest. Among them was Israel.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the NSA has continued to spy on Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is a fierce critic of the nuclear agreement that the United States worked out with Iran. Netanyahu brought his concerns against the deal to Washington in March during a speech to a joint session of Congress.

The intelligence received by the NSA, according to the report, was used to “counter” Netanyahu’s criticism of the agreement with Iran. Inadvertently or not, the NSA “also swept up the contents of some of [Israel leaders’] private conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups.”

The intercepts revealed that Israel was coordinating with U.S.-based groups to criticize the Iran deal. “The NSA reports allowed administration officials to peer inside Israeli efforts to turn Congress against the deal. [Israeli Ambassador Ron] Dermer was described as coaching unnamed U.S. organizations—which officials could tell from the context were Jewish-American groups—on lines of argument to use with lawmakers, and Israeli officials were reported pressing lawmakers to oppose the deal,” the report explained.

It’s unclear which lawmakers’ communications were intercepted by the NSA. But the report could reignite the already fiery debate in the halls of Congress and on the campaign trail over the intelligence agency’s snooping, as well as renewed criticism of the Iran deal and the Obama administration’s already stressed relationship Israel and Netanyahu.

Will Republicans Allow an Obamacare Bailout?

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

Will Republicans Allow an Obamacare Bailout?

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

One of the few bright spots in the government-funding bill passed last December was the inclusion of a provision that barred the Obama administration from using taxpayer dollars to bailout a little-known Obamacare program. Known as “risk corridors,” the program receives contributions from health insurance companies that make money from plans sold on the exchanges required by the law and redistributes it to those that experience losses.

Health Care

Congressional Republicans had targeted the program for repeal. In November 2013, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced legislation, the Obamacare Bailout Prevention Act, to do just that. “The American people are sick of Washington picking winners and losers, especially since the chosen losers often end up being taxpayers who foot the bills for Washington’s mistakes,” Rubio said at the time. “Washington’s bailout culture must end, and eliminating Obamacare’s blank check for a bailout of insurance companies is a common sense step to protect taxpayers when Obamacare fails.”

Lobbyists for insurance companies worried about congressional action against the program, which, according to the administration’s propaganda, is supposed to be deficit-neutral. Without the program, insurers’ lobbyists said, premiums would rise and drive consumers away from the exchanges, possibly leading to a dreaded “death spiral.” While the bill didn’t see any action in the Senate, Rubio reintroduced it in January at the beginning of the new Congress.

The language prohibiting the use of taxpayer funds for the risk corridors program that was included in the government-funding bill applied only to fiscal year 2015. It would have to be inserted into the bill for fiscal year 2016 for it to continue to apply. This is where it gets interesting. Insurers have filed more in claims than money that’s available in the program.

“On October 1, 2015, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced the total of collections and payouts under the risk corridor premium stabilization program for 2014. CMS announced that insurers have submitted $2.87 billion in risk corridor claims for 2014. Insurers only owe, however, $362 million in risk corridor contributions,” Health Affairs reported in October. “Thus payments in 2015 for 2014 will be paid out at 12.6 percent of claims, assuming full collections of contributions owed.”

In other words, the risk corridors program faces a more than a $2.5 billion shortfall. The only way to fill the gap is to transfer funds – i.e., taxpayer money – to cover the payments owed to insurers.

The House of Representatives is in the midst of working on the government-funding bill for fiscal year 2016. The current funding agreement expires on Friday, though lawmakers will likely pass an extension to give themselves more time to hammer out a framework. But without a specific language prohibiting the administration from using taxpayer money to make the risk corridors payments, taxpayers could be on the hook for what is, ostensibly, a $2.5 billion Obamacare bailout.

American Taxpayers on the Hook for $6 Million to Promote the Beautiful Albanian Countryside

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

American Taxpayers on the Hook for $6 Million to Promote the Beautiful Albanian Countryside

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

You’ve got to hand it to the federal government; they really know how to throw away taxpayers’ hard-earned money. Just last week, Congress passed a budget that increases spending by some $80 billion and raises the debt ceiling for the rest of Barack Obama’s presidency.

Albania

Of course, it’s too much to ask, apparently, that lawmakers and the Obama administration take an axe to some of the wasteful spending that could take some of the burden off of taxpayers. Take the $6 million the U.S. Agency for International Development plans to give to Albania to promote tourism in the tiny Southeastern European nation, which was recently the subject of by Sen. Rand Paul’s, R-Ky., “Waste Report.”

Albania’s economy is experiencing turmoil because of the economic crisis that has ravaged Greece, its neighbor to the south. In May, for example, the World Bank backed a five-year, $1.2 billion loan program to try to boost the country as it tries to enter the European Union. The United States is, apparently, pitching in to boost Albania’s burgeoning tourism industry.

“To restart their economy, the Albanian government is hoping to capitalize on the country’s tourism potential, but it is the U.S. taxpayer who is footing at least part of the bill,” Paul’s office explains. “Amazingly, tourism is already a major contributor to the Albanian economy. According to the grant description, tourism (in total) currently accounts for 17 percent of the nation’s economy.”

“By comparison, The World Travel and Tourism Council reports that tourism contributes 9.5 percent to the worldwide economy and 8.4 percent to the U.S. economy. This means Albania’s tourism economy, as a percent of GDP, is already larger than the U.S,” it adds.

The problem for the United States is that much of what we’re spending in terms of foreign aid, such as the $6 million to promote tourism in Albania, is part of the increasing river of red ink that flows from Washington.

Albania may be a beautiful country worthy of a visit, but that doesn’t mean American taxpayers should be footing part of the bill to promote it. The national debt – currently north of $18.5 trillion – keeps growing while the federal government doles out goodies for other countries.

Not to come across overly nationalistic here, because there are many wasteful and unauthorized domestic programs that taxpayers are compelled to fund. The guide should be the United States Constitution. After looking it over, one will be shocked – absolutely shocked to discover – that there isn’t a “Promote Tourism in Other Countries” Clause.

Prepare to Meet the New Republican Leaders; Same as the Old Republican Leaders

in Conservatism, Elections and Politics, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

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In an unexpected move, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced on Friday that he would resign his post and leave Congress at the end of October. His resignation came at a time when conservative members of the lower chamber were waging an internal battle to strip funding for Planned Parenthood, a women’s healthcare provider that performs abortions, which could’ve resulted in a government shutdown.

Boehner has long been a target of conservatives in the Republican Party who feel that he is disconnected from or doesn’t care about the concerns of the base. In January, at the start of the new Congress, 25 Republicans cast protest votes against Boehner, nearly throwing the election of the Speaker into a second round of voting.

“My mission every day is to fight for a smaller, less costly, and more accountable government. Over the last five years, our majority has advanced conservative reforms that will help our children and their children. I am proud of what we have accomplished,” Boehner said on Friday. “The first job of any Speaker is to protect this institution that we all love. It was my plan to only serve as Speaker until the end of last year, but I stayed on to provide continuity to the Republican Conference and the House.”

“It is my view, however, that prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution. To that end, I will resign the Speakership and my seat in Congress on October 30,” he added.

Jockeying for position in the House Republican Conference began before Boehner resigned. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., had introduced a resolution to vacate the Office of the Speaker before the August recess. Although the resolution wasn’t expected to get even a hearing, a motion from the floor could’ve been raised at any time and a vote would’ve been required. It was unclear if Boehner would’ve survived without Democratic support.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was thought to be Boehner’s heir apparent before the resignation, and not much has changed. Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla., the former Speaker of the Florida House, has announced that he’ll run as a conservative alternative, but no one believes he’ll mount a serious challenge.

The real race will be to replace McCarthy as Majority Leader. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., announced his bid for the top partisan post, as has House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga. Both are typically viewed as more conservative members of the House Republican Conference, but Price is likely to attract the most support from that wing of the party.

Still, don’t expect much to change with the new leadership team. Unless there is a serious about face on spending, civil liberties, and other big government policies that contradict the Republican Party’s supposedly limited government platform, the new House leadership will be the same as the old: Stale and weak.

Ammunition Against a Powerful Anti-Gun Rights Meme

in Liberator Online, One Minute Liberty Tip by Sharon Harris Comments are off

Ammunition Against a Powerful Anti-Gun Rights Meme

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

You see and hear this phrase over and over again in the media: “the gun lobby.”

Frequently it is prefaced by the word “powerful” as in “the powerful gun lobby.”

gun controlIndeed, Google “powerful gun lobby” and you’ll find thousands of matches. Here are some examples from recent news stories:

“The powerful gun lobby has thwarted repeated attempts at firearm reforms, even after a host of horrific shootings…”

“However, the powerful gun lobby and its supporters in Congress have blocked the proposed measures…”

“His efforts to overhaul the nation’s gun laws have been thwarted time and time again by the powerful gun lobby…”

This is an extremely effective propaganda phrase that has worked its way into common and unthinking usage by journalists, politicians, and the public. One reason it is so effective is that many people don’t even realize that it is propaganda. Yet it is.

The phrase creates a potent meme. It instantly conjures up the image of a sinister, wealthy, scheming gun lobby constantly acting in opposition to the wishes and best interests of the vast majority of Americans. A small but extraordinarily effective lobby that controls politicians to prevent the rest of America from winning the popular, reasonable, workable, common-sense gun control measures that would save lives and make everyone safer.

This subtle, devastating phrase portrays most American citizens as standing helpless and endangered before this tiny but unstoppable lobby that cares more about guns and profits than human lives.

Yet this is an utterly false picture. First, polls show that the majority of Americans favor gun rights over gun control. Opposition to gun control has increased in recent decades. Polls vary on specific issues, but in general, and especially concerning the more draconian gun-rights restrictions, a majority or near-majority consistently favors gun liberty.

So the “powerful gun lobby,” far from being a small group of elites manipulating the political system, actually represents, generally speaking, theanti views of a majority or near-majority of Americans.

Second, the “powerful gun lobby” phrase conveniently ignores a crucial point: there exists a very powerful and highly influential anti-gun lobby in America. This anti-gun lobby is massive, well-funded, very active, and enjoys huge support from some of the most powerful people and institutions in America. The anti-gun lobby includes presidents, members of Congress, other office holders, billionaire supporters (Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, George Soros, Nick Hanauer, for example), journalists, celebrities, think tanks, advocacy groups… Indeed, most of the work of the “powerful gun lobby” is in response to the ceaseless efforts of this anti-gun-rights lobby to limit gun rights or abolish gun ownership outright.

Yet we seldom if ever hear anything about the “powerful anti-gun lobby.”

Which brings me to today’s communication tip. You can raise awareness of this — and begin refuting the ubiquitous and misleading “powerful gun lobby” meme — by simply using this phrase: “anti-gun lobby.” Or “the powerful anti-gun lobby.” Not in an argumentative or confrontational way, but in casual conversations about guns. Just drop it in:

“The anti-gun lobby is putting all their weight behind this new bill to outlaw private gun sales…”

“That’s the argument being made by the powerful anti-gun lobby. But as John Lott points out in his excellent book More Guns, Less Crime…”

I like the way “anti-gun lobby” parallels the familiar “gun lobby” phrase. This gets the attention of listeners.

Those who support gun freedom will find it refreshing to hear. Those who are undecided about the issue will find it intriguing. It will help cancel out the “powerful gun lobby” meme, help your listeners begin thinking outside the mental box that phrase creates, and open their minds to thinking further about other aspects of the gun issue.

Of course, use this along with the other rules of good libertarian communication, always remembering that our goal is opening minds and winning supporters, not engaging in fruitless arguments. (I discuss those rules, and many more ways to talk about gun rights, in my book How to Be A Super Communicator for Liberty.)

Your Electricity Rates May Necessarily Skyrocket

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

Your Electricity Rates May Necessarily Skyrocket

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

Back in 2007, during his initial run for the presidency, Barack Obama, then the junior senator from Illinois, said that his energy proposals would “bankrupt” a company looking to build a new coal plant. For consumers, he said, “electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”

As President, Obama has sought to implement those policies through legislation, though he has been largely unsuccessful. Since Obama can’t get his agenda through Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has, at the direction of the White House, promulgated regulations to clamp down on emissions from coal- and gas-fired power plants.

The EPA rule, which was formally rolled out on Monday, directs these plants to reduce their carbon emissions by 32 percent of 2005 levels over the next 25 years. “We only get one home. We only get one planet. There is no plan B,” Obama said in a speech hailing the new rule. “I don’t want my grandkids to not be able to swim in Hawaii, or not to be able to climb a mountain and see a glacier, because we didn’t do something about it.”

The alarmist rhetoric may be a nice touch, but the rule is going to have negative consequences that will lead to job losses. In April, the American Action Forum noted that 93 power plants, representing some 80,000 jobs, would be in jeopardy because of the rule.

“As we predicted, EPA’s proposed federal implementation (FIP) entails two emissions trading schemes. Of course, Congress has expressly and repeatedly rejected such ‘cap and trade’ schemes, which raises an obvious question: Why is it appropriate for EPA to impose major policies that were refused by Congress? In practice, emissions are virtually synonymous with energy use, and, as a result, EPA’s FIP is not inaccurately labeled an energy rationing program,” said William Yeatman, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “Talk about mission creep!”

Consumers, too, will feel the impact. Take, for example, the “clean coal” power plant in Kemper County, Mississippi. The $6.2 billion (originally $4.7 billion) plant, owned by the Southern Company, has been the hailed as example of what the administration hopes to see in the future. But the plant has been plagued by significant cost overruns, which were initially passed onto consumers in the form of a 15 percent rate hike. The Mississippi Supreme Court intervened in the matter and ordered refunds.

Consumers exposed to the EPA’s new climate rule may not be so lucky. It’s expected to cost as much as $479 billion between 2017 and 2031, and there’s no guarantee that it will have any measurable impact. Of course, this rule isn’t about climate change; it’s about controlling Americans who have no choice but to spend more of their money because of regulations that will boost favored businesses selling their products to plants hoping to comply with rules created by the fourth branch of the federal government.

Really, Almost Most Everyone in Congress Should be Thrown Out of Office

in Elections and Politics, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Really, Almost Most Everyone in Congress Should be Thrown Out of Office

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On Tuesday, surprisingly, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., filed a resolution to declare the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives vacant, which, he said, is meant to serve an expression of dissatisfaction with Republican leadership in the lower chamber.

Congress“It’s really more about trying to have a conversation about making this place work,” Meadows said, “where everybody’s voice matters, where it’s not a punitive culture.”

H. Res. 385, which is non-privileged, has absolutely no chance of passage in the normal legislative process. It would never get out of committee, for example. Republican leaders would never allow that to happen. Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, against whom the resolution is directed, dismissed the tactic at a press conference on Wednesday.

There is another way, however. Meadows or any other member of the House could make a privileged motion from the floor, however, which would require a vote within 48 hours. Considering that 29 Republicans voted against Boehner in the election for Speaker in January, it’s quite possible that a few defections, provided the original group sticks together, could throw House Republicans in turmoil.

H. Res. 385 is a strongly worded condemnation of Boehner’s tenure as Speaker, which began in January 2011, listening several infractions that necessitate removal. “Whereas the Speaker has, through inaction, caused the power of Congress to atrophy, thereby making Congress subservient to the executive and judicial branches, diminishing the voice of the American people,” the resolution states. “Whereas the Speaker uses the power of the office to punish Members who vote according to their conscience instead of the will of the Speaker.”

“Whereas the Speaker uses the legislative calendar to create crises for the American people, in order to compel Members to vote for legislation,” the resolution continues. “Whereas the Speaker does not comply with the spirit of the rules of the House of Representatives, which provide that Members shall have three days to review legislation before voting,” it adds before declaring the office of the Speaker vacant.

Still, the resolution, whatever Meadows meant by it, does make one think. Boehner’s lack of respect for process or the strong-arming of members may bother the North Carolina Republican, but let’s go further. Most on Capitol Hill, regardless of party, have little regard for the rules and limitations on the federal government defined in the Constitution or the individual liberties protected by the Bill of Rights.

Really, why stop at Boehner? That’s not a knock against Meadows. His complaints are about the process by which the House is run, and they are entirely valid and worthy of discussion.

Looking at the bigger picture, there may be a handful of members who’ve stayed true to their oaths of office. Others have passed laws to spy on Americans, expand government to impose mandates on states and the American people, created a fourth branch of government – the regulatory state – that promulgated rules that were never approved by lawmakers, and plunged the nation further and further into debt by doling out money for programs that are blatantly unconstitutional.

For too long, Americans have allowed politicians to scare us with crises – including the Great Depression, World War II, and the War on Terror. “Don’t just stand there, do something!” we cry, while the great document that protects or liberties from government is erased word by word. We’ve signed our liberties away in favor of purported economic and national security.

Of course, no member of Congress is going to thrown his or herself out of office, but we do have a serious problem in the United States. It doesn’t begin or end with Boehner. Ultimately, it begins with “We the People.” It’s truly a sad state of affairs.

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.

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

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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.

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.

Don’t be surprised when Garland is used as an excuse to renew the Patriot Act

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

Don’t be surprised when Garland is used as an excuse to renew the Patriot Act

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

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.

Spy

“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.

Two government panels – President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board – have since determined that NSA’s domestic spying programs have not played a role in thwarting terrorist attacks.

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 attacker lied to federal authorities. He was convicted in 2010 of making false statements and sentenced to three years of probation. He was, however, able to avoid being placed on the “no-fly” list.

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.

Major New Bill to Legalize Marijuana for Medical Use Now in U.S. Senate and House

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States — CARERS — Act is Legalize Marijuana for Medical Usethe most comprehensive medical marijuana bill ever introduced in Congress.

It was introduced last month by Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and just last week in the House by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Rep. Don Young (R-AK).

The CARERS Act will do the following:

  • Allow states to legalize marijuana for medical use without federal interference
  • Permit interstate commerce in cannabidiol (CBD) oils
  • Reschedule marijuana to schedule II (thus acknowledging marijuana has medicinal value and making marijuana research far easier)
  • Allow banks to provide checking accounts and other financial services to marijuana dispensaries
  • Allow Veterans Administration physicians to recommend medical marijuana to veterans
  • Eliminate barriers to medical marijuana research

“Reforming our nation’s failed drug policies is one of the few issues Democrats and Republicans can agree on,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “The tide is quickly turning against marijuana prohibition and the War on Drugs in general.”

This seems to be a bill whose time has come. Polls show roughly three-quarters of Americans support legalizing marijuana for medical use. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have laws that legalize and regulate marijuana for medicinal purposes. Twelve states have laws on the books or are about to be signed into law by their governors regulating cannabidiol (CBD) oils, a non-psychotropic component of medical marijuana which some parents are utilizing to treat their children’s seizures. Four states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for non-medical use.

“This legislation is a game-changer,” said Michael Collins, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. “It is worth noting that senators with a national profile are championing this issue. Ending the war on medical marijuana is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.”

The Drug Policy Alliance has created a web page where supporters of the bill can send an email to their senators urging them to cosponsor it.

Libertarians Cheer New “Surveillance State Repeal Act”

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Two congressmen have introduced bold bipartisan legislation that will fully repeal the police-state 2001 U.S. PATRIOT Act and substantially roll back the U.S. surveillance state that has metastasized in recent years.

Repeal the Surveillance StateThe Surveillance State Repeal Act (H.R. 1466) was introduced on March 24 by Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Thomas Massie (R-KY), and it offers a great opportunity for Americans to restore lost liberty and privacy in one swoop.

“The warrantless collection of millions of personal communications from innocent Americans is a direct violation of our constitutional right to privacy,” said Rep. Pocan. “Revelations about the NSA’s programs reveal the extraordinary extent to which the program has invaded Americans’ privacy.

“I reject the notion that we must sacrifice liberty for security — we can live in a secure nation which also upholds a strong commitment to civil liberties. This legislation ends the NSA’s dragnet surveillance practices, while putting provisions in place to protect the privacy of American citizens through real and lasting change.”

“The Patriot Act contains many provisions that violate the Fourth Amendment and have led to a dramatic expansion of our domestic surveillance state,” said Rep. Massie. “Our Founding Fathers fought and died to stop the kind of warrantless spying and searches that the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act authorize. It is long past time to repeal the Patriot Act and reassert the constitutional rights of all Americans.”

Libertarians and other defenders of civil liberties have cheered the bill.

The Surveillance State Repeal Act will:

  1. Repeal the 2001 U.S. PATRIOT Act, which among other things contains the telephone metadata harvesting provision by which the NSA has justified collecting phone information on millions of Americans.
  2. Repeal the FISA Amendments Act (which contains the email harvesting provision), with the exception of the provisions regarding FISA court reporting and WMD intelligence collection.
  3. Protect whistleblowers: Make retaliation against federal national security whistleblowers illegal and provide for the termination of individuals who engage in such retaliation.
  4. Ensure that any FISA collection against a U.S. Person takes place only pursuant to a valid warrant based on probable cause (which was the original FISA standard from 1978 to 2001).
  5. Retain the ability for government surveillance capabilities to be targeted against a specific natural person, regardless of the type of communications method(s) or device(s) being used by the subject of the surveillance.
  6. Retain provisions in current law dealing with the acquisition of intelligence information involving weapons of mass destruction from entities not composed primarily of U.S. Persons.
  7. Prohibit the government from mandating that electronic device or software manufacturers build in so-called “back doors” to allow the government to bypass encryption or other privacy technology built into said hardware and/or software.
  8. Increase the terms of judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) from seven to ten years and allows their reappointment.
  9. Mandate that the FISC utilize technologically competent Special Masters (technical and legal experts) to help determine the veracity of government claims about privacy, minimization and collection capabilities employed by the U.S. government in FISA applications.
  10. Mandate that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) regularly monitor such domestic surveillance programs for compliance with the law, including responding to Member requests for investigations and whistleblower complaints of wrongdoing.
  11. Explicitly ban the use of Executive Order 12333 as a way of collecting bulk data, which pertains to the collection and storage of communications by U.S. Persons.

Make no mistake: The bill faces an uphill battle in Congress. FreedomWorks chair Matt Kibbe called upon its 6.9 million members to fight for the bill, and created a web page where supporters of the bill can easily email this message to their representatives.

Libertarian Party chair Nicholas Sarwark called on all Americans who love liberty to create a grassroots campaign to support the Surveillance State Repeal Act, to contact their congressmen and women and urge them to support H.R. 1466, and to spread this message through social media and whatever other means possible.

In fact, Sarwick’s only complaint was that the bill, sweeping though it is, doesn’t go far enough.

“The Libertarian Party would like to see all aspects of government mass surveillance ended, including complete elimination of the secret FISA court whose work issuing warrants for terrorist and criminal suspects can be easily assumed by existing federal courts,” said Sarwark. “But this bill is a good first step.”

They Said It… With Ron Paul, Seth Meyers, and More

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 20, No. 10 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

DRUG PROSECUTORS RUIN LIVES:
Ethan Simon“Every time I opened a file [as a drug case prosecutor], I ruined a life. You can get over an addiction, but not a conviction. … The War on Drugs has failed in every respect and exacerbated every problem it was called on to fix.” — Ethan Simon, Bernalillo County, New Mexico assistant district attorney 2008-2011, now a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), speaking at the University of New Mexico School of Law, February 26, 2015.

AUDIT THE FED: “Perhaps the real reason the Federal Reserve fears a full audit can be revealed by examining the one-time audit of the Federal Reserve’s response to the financial crisis authorized by the Dodd-Frank law. This audit found that between 2007 and 2010 the Federal Reserve committed over $16 trillion — more than four times the annual budget of the United States — to foreign central banks and politically influential private companies. Can anyone doubt a full audit would show similar instances of the Fed acting to benefit the political and economic elites?” — Ron Paul, “Don’t Be Fooled by the Federal Reserve’s Anti-Audit Propaganda,” March 8, 2015.

NET NEUTRALITY: A “SOLUTION” LOOKING FOR A PROBLEM: “At the most fundamental level, net neutrality is a solution looking for a problem. There currently aren’t any companies paying ISPs for favoritism, and no clear indication that any will. Plus, even if they did, Internet speeds are increasing at an exponential rate, making the argument irrelevant. To illustrate this point, the University of Surrey in the UK is testing 5G Internet that will give mobile phones terabit speeds, faster than even the best fiber optic Internet connections today. At that speed, full-length movies in high quality would download in a split second. Spinning wheels in front of videos will be a thing of the past, no matter how much any company pays another. Yet, the FCC will still be able to regulate the Internet as it pleases, even if there is no longer a need for the regulation (if a need for the regulation ever existed in the first place).” — Jack Enright, “Net Neutrality: A solution looking for a problem,” Students For Liberty blog, March 4, 2015.

Seth MeyersNOBODY LIKES CONGRESS: “Today during his speech in Washington, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly referred to Congress as ‘my friends.’ It was a move that had many in Congress Googling the word ‘friend.’” — Seth Meyers, March 3, 2015.

DO WHATEVER YOU WANT, AS LONG AS… “A modern liberal is someone who doesn’t care what you do, as long as it’s compulsory.” — conservative author and icon M. Stanton Evans [as quoted by George Will], who died March 3, 2015.

Obama: U.S. Currently Fighting Wars in 14 Countries

in Liberator Online, War by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 2 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

The War Powers Resolution requires the President to report twice a year to Congress on U.S. military operations being conducted overseas without a congressional declaration of war.

President Obama filed his latest such report on December 11.

The report went virtually unmentioned in the mainstream press. Yet in it, Obama reports the startling, little-known fact that “the United States has deployed U.S. combat-equipped forces” in no less than… 14 countries.

As Daniel McAdams of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity summarizes: “In other words, the U.S. government is at war in 14 countries!”

Here’s the list:

  • Afghanistan
  • Troops Around the GlobeIraq
  • Syria
  • Somalia
  • Yemen
  • Cuba
  • Niger
  • Chad
  • Uganda
  • Egypt
  • Jordan
  • Kosovo
  • Central African Republic
  • Tunisia

The list does not include countries in which the U.S. is engaged in covert activities, or where U.S. troops are stationed in non-combat positions, or where the U.S. has participated in joint exercises with military allies, which, together, would probably include most countries in the world.

Asks the Ron Paul Institute’s McAdams:

“Where else would the neocons have the U.S. military deployed for the next half-year report? Iran? Ukraine? Russia? North Korea? We can only imagine their wish list. Meanwhile, the $1 trillion spent annually on the military is quickly bankrupting the country, making us new enemies every day, and as a result making us less, not more, safe.”

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