Home » Congress

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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.


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

Supporters of the NSA’s domestic spying programs say that a vast data collection effort is needed more than ever to prevent terrorist attacks in the United States, but they are unable to point to any specific example of foiled terrorist plots through these unconstitutional, privacy-violating programs.

In June 2013, Gen. Keith Alexander, then the Director of the NSA, claimed that the spying programs prevented “potential terrorist events over 50 times since 9/11.” Testifying before a Senate committee in October of the same year, Alexander backtracked after Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) grilled him for misleading the American public.


“There is no evidence that [bulk] phone records collection helped to thwart dozens or even several terrorist plots,” said Leahy. “These weren’t all plots and they weren’t all foiled. Would you agree with that, yes or no?” he asked the NSA chief.

Alexander, realizing he had been put on the spot for peddling misinformation, simply replied, “Yes.”

Of course Alexander was more honest than his colleague, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who lied about the NSA domestic surveillance program in a March 2013 Senate hearing. He was accused of perjury, although the allegation went nowhere in a Congress filled with pro-surveillance members.

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!)

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.”

Ron Paul: My New Year’s Resolutions for Congress

in Liberator Online by Advocates HQ Comments are off

(From the Libertarian’s New Year’s Resolutions section in Volume 19, No. 27 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

In late December 2012, as he approached retirement from Congress, Ron Paul presented some New Year’s resolutions for his fellow members of Congress to ponder. 

If anything, they’re more relevant today than ever, and we’re pleased to share them with you. 

* * *

Ron PaulAs I prepare to retire from Congress, I’d like to suggest a few New Year’s resolutions for my colleagues to consider. For the sake of liberty, peace, and prosperity I certainly hope more members of Congress consider the strict libertarian constitutional approach to government…

In just a few days, Congress will solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against ALL enemies, foreign and domestic.  They should reread Article 1 Section 8 and the Bill of Rights before taking such a serious oath. Most legislation violates key provisions of the Constitution in very basic ways, and if members can’t bring themselves to say no in the face of pressure from special interests, they have broken trust with their constituents and violated their oaths. Congress does not exist to serve special interests, it exists to protect the rule of law.

I also urge my colleagues to end unconstitutional wars overseas. Stop the drone strikes; stop the covert activities and meddling in the internal affairs of other nations. Strive to observe “good faith and justice towards all Nations” as George Washington admonished. We are only making more enemies, wasting lives, and bankrupting ourselves with the neoconservative, interventionist mindset that endorses pre-emptive war that now dominates both parties.

All foreign aid should end because it is blatantly unconstitutional. While it may be a relatively small part of our federal budget, for many countries it is a large part of theirs — and it creates perverse incentives for both our friends and enemies. There is no way members of Congress can know or understand the political, economic, legal, and social realities in the many nations to which they send taxpayer dollars.

Congress needs to stop accumulating more debt. U.S. debt, monetized by the Federal Reserve, is the true threat to our national security. Revisiting the parameters of Article 1 Section 8 would be a good start.

Congress should resolve to respect personal liberty and free markets. Learn more about the free market and how it regulates commerce and produces greater prosperity better than any legislation or regulation. Understand that economic freedom IS freedom. Resolve not to get in the way of voluntary contracts between consenting adults. Stop bailing out failed yet politically connected companies and industries. Stop forcing people to engage in commerce when they don’t want to, and stop prohibiting them from buying and selling when they do want to. Stop trying to legislate your ideas of fairness. Protect property rights. Protect the individual. That is enough.

There are many more resolutions I would like to see my colleagues in Congress adopt, but respect for the Constitution and the oath of office should be at the core of everything members of Congress do in 2013.

VIDEO: Congress Makes Christmas Come Early: Did Uncle Santa Bring YOU a Gift?

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Libertarian Christmas Video Bonanza section in Volume 19, No. 26 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

The $1.1 trillion budget just passed by Congress sure bought lots of gifts and presents for everyone.

Everyone, that is, who’s connected to the feds. The rest of us have to pay… while Congress plays Santa to its cronies and benefactors.

Watch this stunning video and see where some of that trillion bucks is going. Then circulate this video far and wide.

Approximately 1:30 minutes. From Reason TV, written by Nick Gillespie, produced by Meredith Bragg

VIDEO: Grandma Got Indefinitely Detained

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Libertarian Christmas Video Bonanza section in Volume 19, No. 26 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Yikes! In seasons past, Grandma only had to worry about getting run over by a reindeer. But these days…

Grandma got indefinitely detained now
coming home to visit Christmas Eve
You could say she had a right to counsel
but some folks in the Congress disagree…

Internet sensation Remy delivers a timely tune about Christmas, Homeland Security, and the joys of… civil rights abuses. Another instant holiday classic from the funny minds at Reason TV, about 2 minutes 25 seconds.

December 5 is Repeal Day

in Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 23 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

In 1929, Senator Morris Sheppard of Texas — author of the Eighteenth Amendment that created alcohol Prohibition, known as “the father of national Prohibition,” and the leading supporter of Prohibition in Congress — boasted:

“There is as much chance of repealing the Eighteenth Amendment as there is for a hummingbird to fly to the planet Mars with the Washington Monument tied to its tail.”

Just three years later, alcohol Prohibition was… repealed.

I love that quote. Those of us fighting to end the War on Drugs can take heart from it.

When Sen. Morris made his declaration, Prohibition had been a part of U.S. law for nearly a decade. It must have seemed to many to be a permanent fixture of American life.

Certainly no one could have guessed that the country was just a few years away from ending the disaster of Prohibition.

That makes me wonder. Are we perhaps closer today to ending today’s Prohibition — the War on Drugs — than we realize? Might an extra push from the growing liberty movement be all that is needed to accomplish this?

Prohibition - H. L. MenckenFriday, December 5 is a great time to ponder such thoughts. It’s the 81st anniversary of Repeal Day, the glorious day America ridded itself of the disastrous failure of alcohol Prohibition. Repeal Day should be publicized and celebrated by libertarians and other friends of freedom every year.

Like the War on Drugs, alcohol Prohibition was supported by many people for the highest motives and with great confidence in the government’s ability to successfully shape and mold society and individuals. The abuse of alcohol was (and remains today) a serious problem. Banning alcohol seemed, to millions, a reasonable way to handle this problem.

Prohibition began on January 16, 1920. America’s most famous evangelist, Dr. Billy Sunday, boldly proclaimed:

“The reign of tears is over. The slums will soon be only a memory. We will turn our prisons into factories and our jails into storehouses and corncribs. Men will walk upright now, women will smile and the children will laugh. Hell will be forever for rent.”

Some communities even shut down their jails, confident that they would no longer be needed.

Of course, it didn’t work out that way.

In a Cato Institute study (highly recommended) entitled “Alcohol Prohibition Was a Failure” economist Mark Thornton sums up the bitter fruit of this disastrous policy:

“Although consumption of alcohol fell at the beginning of Prohibition, it subsequently increased. Alcohol became more dangerous to consume; crime increased and became ‘organized’; the court and prison systems were stretched to the breaking point; and corruption of public officials was rampant. No measurable gains were made in productivity or reduced absenteeism. Prohibition removed a significant source of tax revenue and greatly increased government spending. It led many drinkers to switch to opium, marijuana, patent medicines, cocaine, and other dangerous substances that they would have been unlikely to encounter in the absence of Prohibition.”

And what about crime? “According to a study of 30 major U.S. cities, the number of crimes increased 24 percent between 1920 and 1921. …thefts and burglaries increased 9 percent, while homicides and incidents of assault and battery increased 13 percent. … violent crimes against persons and property continued to increase throughout Prohibition.”

Prohibition also created a massive prison state. “By 1932 the number of federal convicts had increased 561 percent, to 26,589, and the federal prison population had increased 366 percent. … Two-thirds of all prisoners received in 1930 had been convicted of alcohol and drug offenses, and that figure rises to 75 percent of violators if other commercial prohibitions are included.”

Sound familiar? Alcohol Prohibition offers a powerful, profound and easily understood example of the dangers of government social engineering. It’s a lesson Americans need to hear.

Celebrate and publicize Repeal Day this week. Some day — perhaps sooner than we dare think — we’ll have another Repeal to add to the celebration.

They Said It… With Judge Napolitano, Seth Meyers, and More

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 19, No. 20 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

OBAMA’S ILLEGAL WAR: “The war against the Islamic State is now illegal. The War Powers Resolution of 1973 gave President Obama 60 days to gain consent from Congress and required him to end ‘hostilities’ within 30 days if he failed to do so. This 90-day clock expired this week.” — Bruce Ackerman. professor of law and political science at Yale University, “Congress must act as Obama’s war against the Islamic State hits an expiration date,” Washington Post Nov. 7 2014.

MEET THE NEW BOSS, SAME AS THE OLD BOSS: “In case you didn’t notice, the new Congress is likely to be closer to President Obama’s views on executive power, surveillance, transparency.” — post-election tweet from journalist Conor Friedersdorf, Nov. 5, 2014.

Judge Andrew NapolitanoTWEEDLEDUMB AND TWEEDLEDUMBER: “The two major political parties are more alike than they are different. On the two paramount issues of our day — war and debt — they are identical. With the exception of Democratic progressives and Republican libertarians, the two parties stand for perpetual war and perpetual debt. Both stances increase the power of the government, and each invites present and future destruction.” — Judge Andrew Napolitano, “More Culture Wars,” syndicated column, Nov. 6, 2014.

COINCIDENCE? “New Hampshire has among the least restrictive gun laws in the U.S. and the lowest homicide rate of any state.” — tweet from the Free State Project, Nov. 11, 2014.

YOUR FBI FILE: “Nearly one out of every three American adults are on file in the FBI’s master criminal database. … Over the past years, prompted by changing police tactics and a zero-tolerance attitude toward small crimes, authorities have made more than a quarter of a billion arrests, the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates.” — reporters Gary Fields and John R. Emshwiller, “For More Teens, Arrests by Police Replace School Discipline,” Wall Street Journal, Oct. 20, 2014.


Seth Meyers“It’s been announced that a Union soldier who fought at the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War will be awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama over 151 years after his death. Even better, he finally got an appointment at the VA hospital.” — Seth Meyers, “Late Night With Seth Meyers,” Nov. 6, 2014.

Page 1 of 212