Above, Bill O’Reilly does an able job playing his default role, offering a boilerplate conservative argument in response to Hillary Clinton’s boilerplate complaints on income inequality. She says “the deck is still stacked in favor of those already at the top.” Bill warns that taxing the rich will endanger the economy.
What if Hillary’s opponents tried a different approach? Instead of denying her observation that the deck is stacked in favor of elites, roll with it.
Indeed, the deck has been stacked in favor of those with political pull. The Democrat Party, and Hillary Clinton in particular, stand shamelessly guilty of arranging a regulatory environment that favors their corporate friends.
It’s time to take the corporate-envy narrative away from Hillary. Snatch it from her. Then attack her with her own weapon. Then present a vision to unstack the deck by reducing the influence of those in power.
Six Somali-Americans were arrested Sunday and have since been charged with planning to fight for ISIS overseas. Notably, these were not downtrodden struggling kids who were handed a raw deal and grew bitter. On the contrary, each had a promising future at their fingertips and chose to abandon it to declare war on freedom. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:
It’s not clear how the six men, who range in age from 18 to 24, met or how well they knew each other, but it appears that their paths crossed again and again as they grew up in Minneapolis. After graduating from South High, Farah, Musse and Omar enrolled at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC). Farah and Musse majored in liberal arts; Omar was a pre-nursing student. Abdurahman, also a graduate of the Minneapolis Public Schools, enrolled at MCTC and studied computer support…
One of the men, in a conversation recorded by an FBI source, describes his disgust with living in the United States. “The American identity is dead. Even if I get caught, whatever, I’m through with America. Burn my ID,” he said, according to a transcript filed with the case.
They were raised in a condition of relative affluence, certainly compared to the rest of the world, and particularly compared to the lives they would have led if raised in Somalia. After experiencing such freedom firsthand, they made the conscientious decision to reject and destroy it.
This flies in the face of the seductive narrative that terrorism is fostered by poverty or exploitation. Terrorism is fostered by an evil ideology.
It’s 2015. We still can’t ride hover-boards or pilot flying cars. Worse yet, Minnesota consumers can’t buy liquor on Sundays. An archaic blue law remains on the books which bans such commerce on the Christian sabbath. An effort to repeal the ban has become perennial, failing session after session despite broad public support across party lines.
After committee chairs in the Minnesota state Senate refused to hear a bill to repeal the ban, an amendment to the same effect was offered to an omnibus liquor bill last week. The amendment failed, with Republicans and Democrats split both for and against the measure.
Facing heat for his vote against Sunday liquor sales, Republican state Senator Dave Brown took to his Facebook account expressing frustration:
Brown’s post was likely in direct response to yours truly. In testimony before the House Commerce Committee, speaking on behalf of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Minnesota, I had described the Sunday sales issue as a litmus test for determining whether elected representatives believe in individual rights and free markets. I also called out Brown by name in a social media post following the vote. I went on to describe the issue as “a line in the sand,” a phrase repeated by Brown in conversation with constituents.
Let’s consider this perspective offered by Brown. By his logic, constituents may not fairly condemn votes on issues of liberty so long as greater violations take place anywhere in the world. Since few issues claim the gravity of Islamic beheadings, this effectively means that constituents may not rightly complain about anything.
The best response to Brown’s claim comes from Craig Westover, retired journalist and former communications director of the Republican Party of Minnesota.
Brown and others of similar mindset think this is about buying booze. It’s not. It’s about the principles which Republicans campaign on, and whether activists and voters can trust that those principles will be applied to issues both grand and trivial. Indeed, if we can’t trust legislators to uphold principle on matters of lower priority, on what would we base expectations for issues of higher priority?
The excuses didn’t end there.
In the final analysis, according to Brown, Minnesotans don’t just need to wait until beheadings end in the Middle East before they can buy a beer on the sabbath. They also need to wait until business licensure and municipal liquor stores are abolished.
Missing from this order of legislative operation is an actual justification. Why do we have to wait? What is it about voting to end an archaic blue law that somehow prevents action on any other issue? Was Brown too busy fighting Middle Eastern beheadings to vote appropriately here?
Another brand of deflection was exhibited by Democrat state senator Jim Carlson:
— Jim Carlson (@SenatorCarlson) April 17, 2015
Don’t blame me! It was the committee chairs.
Right. Look, we all get how the game is played. The committee chairs answer to the leadership. The leadership answers to their caucus members. The whole process is set up to deflect responsibility and set up plausible narratives to excuse inaction or wrong action. It’s a tired old schtick that doesn’t impress anyone anymore. Voters expect better.
Lone Minnesota activist Dan McCall has taken to expressing his frustration with the political system by crafting parodies of government agencies and political candidates. Last year, he dodged attacks from the National Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security, each of which objected to his use of their agency logos in parody material.
Now McCall faces the wrath of those little-guy loving populists over at the Ready for Hillary PAC. Despite premising her campaign as an effort to empower the middle class, Hillary Clinton’s supporters have sicced their lawyers on McCall for expressing his First Amendment right.
The law stands on McCall’s side, as demonstrated in the previous NSA/DHS settlement. In light of that, the actions from Ready for Hillary PAC demonstrate disingenuous contempt for a lone citizen’s lawful political expression.
It has become fashionable among critics of law enforcement to prescribe the use of body cameras, ostensibly to hold officers accountable for their interactions with the public. The above clip regarding the right to record police concludes with a call for body cameras.
However, good libertarian arguments against body cameras exist. Interacting with activists on social media, Minnesota state lawmaker Branden Petersen notes three competing interests which cannot be reconciled in an implementation of police worn body cameras (edited for format):
1) The only way body cameras can be free from corruption and editing by [law enforcement] is if all of the video is available via [Freedom of Information Act] request. This would not allow agencies to curate the film in ways that would continue to perpetuate the unfair favorable bias they currently get during internal investigations.
However, if this is the case it presents a significant privacy concern leading to issue #2) In the event police body cams were on 100% of the time (because it is the only way to ensure transparency) you would inevitably violate the privacy rights of homeowners and victims without their consent. Property owners should not have to consent to recordings in their premises without a warrant and individuals should not be required to be recorded anytime they interact with an officer.
Lastly, #3) Police body cams would represent the greatest expansion of the surveillance state we have ever seen. As we know, this data will be retained and mined to continue to increase the general monitoring capability of the state… [There] is no way to balance these issues without fatally compromising at least one…
The better solution is bolstering the right of the public to record the police by explicitly prohibiting police interference with such recording. Privately owned recordings don’t come with the same legal implications that Petersen notes regarding publicly owned ones.
Walter Scott’s shooting highlights illegal harassment of camera-carrying bystanders. http://t.co/hSrfDxJ9sQ
— reason (@reason) April 15, 2015
In light of recent comments offered on the Hugh Hewitt Show regarding federal drug laws, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie should be rejected as a candidate for president. Hear his plan for “cracking down” on marijuana above.
Forget marijuana. The plant is not the issue here. Federal drug laws represent an unconstitutional excess as much as Obamacare, Common Core, or the EPA.
Conservatives who support federal drug prohibitions because they generally oppose drugs have thus conceded the argument for federal intervention in every other area of life. A hypothetical Christie administration cracking down on citizens in Colorado and Washington for abiding by state law will prove no different than the Obama administration cracking down on states for defying his unconstitutional edicts.
It’s called the association fallacy, better known as guilt by association, and stands as a pillar of thoughtless partisanship. It goes something like this: if you agree with an avowed communist on a particular issue, you must be a communist.
Such has been the accusation leveled against yours truly for supporting a bipartisan effort in my state to restore voting rights to felons on probation or parole. Never mind the facts. Never mind the arguments. We’re going to simplify our analysis to whether we like the people on a particular side of an issue.
— Walter Hudson (@WalterHudson) April 15, 2015
Rand Paul has endured many association fallacies in the week since his presidential campaign announcement. He’s the candidate “closest to Obama,” didn’t you know? Such attacks prove shameful from the side of the political spectrum which claims to revere intellect over emotion.
Viewers may find the above video message encouraging. A young black South Carolinian describes a routine encounter with a white police officer during a traffic stop. No one was shot. No one was beat up. No one was treated unfairly. The incident is offered up as evidence that “not all officers are crooked.”
For nearly a month, community members in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center have been looking for a missing 10-year-old boy by the name of Barway Collins. Suspicion has surrounded the boy’s father, Pierre Collins, as authorities have cited his lack of cooperation in the case.
Sadly, young Barway’s body was found in the Mississippi River over the weekend. The case has since been designated a homicide, and Pierre has been named the primary suspect.
— MinneapolisMinnesota (@MinneapolisM) April 13, 2015
The Minneapolis school board will vote Tuesday on whether to renew a contract with the Minneapolis Urban League, an organization at the center of scandal regarding double-dipping between state and local governments. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:
The questions started after the Minneapolis School District awarded the Minneapolis Urban League as much as $800,000 a year for a program that never lived up to its promise of graduating the city’s most troubled high school students.
Then Minnesota legislators agreed to give the Urban League $300,000 a year for nearly identical work, paying some of the same staff to work with many of the same students the school district already was paying to help.
Now top state officials and Minneapolis school leaders are investigating whether the Urban League is getting paid twice for similar work.
“It’s alarming,” said Michael Goar, the Minneapolis School District’s interim superintendent. “When there is an issue that they are getting paid both [from the district and the state], then we have to look into it.”
That’s not stopping two Democrat state legislators from throwing even more taxpayer dollars at the group.
… Sens. Jeff Hayden and Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, are seeking to triple funding for the program to $1.8 million over the next two years.
The senators defend the Urban League’s work as essential to closing the city’s achievement gap between white and minority students, which is among the worst in the country.
The only problem with that rationalization is its defiance of objective reality. The Urban League program, known as the 13th Grade, has failed to make significant progress toward closing the district’s troubling achievement gap.
A disturbing discrepancy has been noted in accounts of a fatal encounter between South Carolina police and a black man shot multiple times in the back while fleeing.
— U.S. Dept. of Fear (@FearDept) April 8, 2015
The excerpt comes from the New York Times report on the shooting of Walter Scott. The video referenced can be seen below.
The rights-violating nature of many Black Lives Matter protests have obscured legitimate issues plaguing law enforcement. The apparent misrepresentation of relevant facts in the official report of this shooting raises questions. How often does such misrepresentation happen? How would we know? And what can be done about it?
Courtney Hoffman, a gay woman, has taken a remarkable stand for the freedom of association. After a pizzeria whose Christian owners said they would not cater a gay wedding was compelled to close after receiving threats, Hoffman supported their right to operate according to conscience with a personal donation. The Blaze reports:
Kris Cruz, a radio host and producer of “The Jeff Adams Show,” was the first person to flag Hoffman’s donation. He then contacted her through Facebook and she agreed to join them on the air Monday.
Cruz started with the “big question” — Why did she do it?
“My girlfriend and I are small business owners, and we think there is a difference between operating in a public market space and then attaching the name of your business to a private event,” she said. “Like, if we were asked to set up at an anti-gay marriage rally, I mean, we would have to decline.”
The response on Twitter has been overwhelmingly positive, with some rare exceptions. Here are some:
— Red Millennial (@RedMillennial) April 7, 2015
I support the actions of #CourtneyHoffman. If we (LGBT Community) truly want acceptance, we must practice it!!!
— Brett Alan Sterling (@brettster81) April 7, 2015
#CourtneyHoffman My partner & I are so proud of you, Courtney! Angry progressive fascism is not the answer. People have the right to faith
— Danielle (@Danielle_Wedge) April 7, 2015
And the standout:
— Jacob Shaver (@Jacob_B_Shaver) April 7, 2015
This latest entry from Prager University, featuring author and economics professor Walter Williams, does a fantastic job demonstrating the practical benefit of the profit motive. Profit, so often vilified in the modern political discourse, makes civilization as we know it possible. Without the profit motive, the relative affluence of the twenty-first century would not exist.
What Williams doesn’t directly note, however, is the moral basis of profit. We shouldn’t abide profit-making just because it enables civilization. We should abide profit-making because those who work hold exclusive claim to the fruit of their labor.
Former U.S. senator and occasional presidential candidate Rick Santorum had some provocative comments for Face the Nation over the weekend. The Blaze reports:
In his interview Santorum distinguished between discriminating against a person and declining to take part or contribute directly to an activity that one’s faith indicates is wrong.
“No business should discriminate … because of who you are,” Santorum said. “But it should have the ability to say, ‘We’re not going to participate in certain activities that we disagree with on a religious point of view.’”
Why do defenders of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act keep trying to split this hair? Look, if you’re going to concede that government properly ought to prevent private discrimination, then you’ve lost this battle. There’s nothing magical about “a religious point of view” that transmutes discrimination into non-discrimination.
Instead, the point to be made regarding the RFRA is that each individual retains ownership over their life and any product of it. We are not slaves. We do not act at our neighbor’s command. We get to say “no” when asked if we will engage in relationship of any kind, including commerce. Period. End of story. No further explanation required.
Michele Bachmann may have retired from Congress last year. But that hasn’t kept her from making headlines. From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
… Bachmann is comparing President Obama to the mentally unstable co-pilot who authorities believe intentionally crashed his German airliner last week in the French Alps and killed everyone onboard.
In a posting Tuesday on her Facebook page she wrote, “With his Iran deal, Barack Obama is for the 300 million souls of the United States what Andreas Lubitz was for the 150 souls on the German Wings (sic) flight — a deranged pilot flying his entire nation into the rocks. After the fact, among the smoldering remains of American cities, the shocked survivors will ask, why did he do it?”
The paper goes on to note Bachmann’s reputation for “edgy public comments.” They make no attempt to address her underlying point: ignoring a hostile state’s defiant pursuit of nuclear weapons is like ignoring a rapidly sinking altimeter.
“Vote no. Don’t limit the freedom to marry.” So read lawn signs posted in opposition to a 2012 ballot measure which would have codified the traditional definition of marriage in the Minnesota state constitution.
The freedom to marry. That’s really just a particular application of the freedom of association, isn’t it? So what happened between then and now? Why are gay marriage supporters, who rested their case (and won) on the freedom of association, now so publicly opposing that very freedom when wielded by others?
Today’s Fightin Words podcast:
The media’s collective behavior toward radical leftist Senator Elizabeth Warren increasingly resembles that of a creepy older man hitting on a coed. Howard Kurtz has fun dwelling on the embarrassing trend.
The question is whether these persistent inquires proceed from a desperate desire to make news or a longing to give Warren’s racial socialism a grander platform. Warren is known to be President Obama’s preferred successor, a true believer who could come at Hilary Clinton from the left.
Maybe if reporters keep asking if she’s running, she’ll eventually say “yes.” Hold out that creeper hope.
Congressman John Kline, Republican chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee, has attracted the ire of many conservatives in his Minnesota district. One of them is Matt Erickson, a long-time party activist who took the stage at Kline’s district convention over the weekend to pitch a bid for treasurer.
What happened next can be seen above. After listing the many ways in which Republicans at all levels have failed to uphold expressed conservative values, Erickson reaches a point of total exasperation and resorts to profanity. He is subsequently booed off the stage.
Erickson’s defenders wonder why “a naughty word” proved more offensive to the assembled Republicans than the list of policy betrayals which preceded it.
The cognitive dissonance on display in reaction to Indiana’s newly signed religious freedom law staggers the mind. Nowhere is it more apparent than in the feeble effort to boycott the state in protest.
The Onion has a great piece which, intentionally or not, demonstrates the futility of organized boycotts, particularly on the scope being prescribed in this case.
… local man Ryan Schutz, 32, told reporters Monday that he’s torn between boycotting Indiana’s businesses and visiting Evansville’s Mesker Park Zoo. “This is definitely an important moment to take a moral stand, but on the other hand, they have a new sun bear that I really want to see—boy, this is real tough,” said a visibly anguished Schutz, noting that he definitely wanted to protest in solidarity with the state’s homosexual community while also stressing that it was a beautiful day out and if he got there early enough he’d be able to hand-feed oats to the Bactrian camel.
The real losers in a boycott are those who stage it, depriving themselves of desired values in an often unsustainable fashion. How long can one actually avoid commerce with an entire state?
Of course, the larger dissonance emerges from the concept of boycott itself. You can’t rationally protest discrimination with discrimination. By doing so, the protestors are actually affirming the validity of the law. Individuals have a right to apply their judgment and values to the question of whether to enter into or maintain relationships. That’s the point of the religious freedom law, and it’s the right exercised by those protesting through boycott.
As an activist contending for individual rights, beginning with the Tea Party movement in 2009 and continuing in and around the Republican Party in subsequent election cycles, I’ve noted increasing levels of apathy and disengagement. Oddly, it doesn’t seem confined to those on the right side of the political spectrum. Note how Occupy flamed out, how Tea Party rallies have become sparse and lightly attended. The hip trend has become “removing consent,” which is libertarian shorthand for taking your ball and going home.
Writing for Mother Jones, Tom Engelhardt attempts to piece together a functional explanation of this “moment”:
… this period doesn’t represent a version, no matter how perverse or extreme, of politics as usual; nor is the 2016 campaign an election as usual; nor are we experiencing Washington as usual. Put together our 1 percent elections, the privatization of our government, the de-legitimization of Congress and the presidency, as well as the empowerment of the national security state and the US military, and add in the demobilization of the American public (in the name of protecting us from terrorism), and you have something like a new ballgame.
If you can bring yourself to look past Engelhardt’s thinly veiled politics, his analysis of these trends transcends partisan ideological debate. Just as the Occupy and Tea Party movements cited many of the same complaints while prescribing vastly different solutions, this piece from Mother Jones acknowledges problems which should concern all of us — no matter our politics.
We really ought to rethink what constitutes being anti-war. In the meantime, the conventional definition of not liking wars and opposing their prosecution will have to do.
Among anti-war libertarians anticipating next year’s Republican presidential race, much ado has been made of the increasing hawkishness apparent from presumed candidate Senator Rand Paul. Writing for The Week, author Michael Brendan Dougherty lays out the underlying problem:
Some of what bothers libertarians is just politics itself. Ron Paul was an elected official, but was hardly a political figure. Part of the senior Paul’s appeal to his libertarian fans was his absolute purity. He was “Dr. No.” He would not vote for anything that did not meet his strict ideological standards. He did not engage in politics as a means of acquiring power or advantage over adversaries… Ron Paul didn’t ever let the work of coalition building or policy formation get in the way of a good argument. Rand Paul is not like this.
Indeed, he’s not. If his activities to date are any indication, Rand’s presumed run at the presidency will prove far more serious (as in far more geared toward actually winning) than any of his father’s campaigns. Part of that seriousness entails an alignment of foreign policy posture with the mainstream. Whether most libertarians like it or not, that means acknowledging existential threats to American citizens and acting like – as commander-in-chief – he’d actually do something about them.
That leaves libertarian Republicans to look at Rand’s colleague from Texas, Senator Ted Cruz, as a possible alternative. On that topic, Rare contributor W. James Antle III wrings his hands:
… even with all the libertarian criticism of Rand Paul lately…, my sense is that Cruz is far too hawkish on the Middle East at this point to pry the liberty vote away from his colleague from Kentucky.
Will libertarians hold the line on foreign policy and abandon their would-be candidates at next year’s caucuses and primaries, all but ensuring the nomination of a candidate even more hawkish? Or will a somewhat ironic form of libertarian practicality kick in to secure domestic policy gains?
Last week, the Black Lives Matter chapter in Minneapolis was up in arms over the use of the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag by a non-profit called Better Ed. The conservative education-policy group printed the hashtag and a black-fist image on mailers drawing attention to the achievement gap in Minneapolis and St. Paul public schools. The local Fox affiliate reported:
… the appropriation of the hashtag and fist image by an organization that has no people of color on its staff [has] drawn the ire of activists associated with Black Lives Matter…
Much of that ire came from University of St. Thomas law professor Nekima Levy-Pounds, who faces charges in connection with an unlawful protest by Black Lives Matter at the Mall of America on December 20. One of her tweets appears below.
— Nekima Levy-Pounds (@nvlevy) March 12, 2015
This week, Black Lives Matter has appropriated a hashtag created by the Mall of America for marketing. From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
A Mall of America social media campaign urging shoppers to share some of their favorite experiences at the Bloomington megamall was quickly hijacked by supporters of the group Black Lives Matter.
What began as a few messages reminiscing about Camp Snoopy on Twitter spiraled into an outlet for demonstrators and their supporters to commandeer the hashtag #itsmymall.
Double-standards have become a trademark of the Black Lives Matter movement. The manic transition from violating the Mall of America’s property right by staging the December protest, to claiming a property right over a hashtag, to then appropriating the mall’s hashtag for their own purposes is enough to trigger whiplash in a rational observer.
Becoming the first major candidate to officially enter the 2016 presidential race, Senator Ted Cruz got off to a rocky start Monday when his campaign message was eclipsed by controversy over his chosen venue. Reason blogger Robby Soave slammed both Cruz and Liberty University for piggybacking his announcement on top of a mandatory convocation assembly.
Liberty president Jerry Falwell responded to the controversy with a statement:
A fundamental part of the college experience is being exposed to a variety of viewpoints so students can better understand why they hold their own beliefs and be better prepared to defend them.
That’s all well and good. But this was not an educational presentation. This was a political rally. As such, it should not have been conflated with mandatory curriculum. One student described the move as “highly deceptive,” in that it conveys to the casual observer that all those in attendance support Cruz’s campaign.
That campaign may well deserve support. If so, it shouldn’t need to rely upon compulsion to secure an audience.
Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar has endured some heat from abortionists for voting in favor of a bill to combat human trafficking. The Associated Press reports:
The proposed measure, which had strong backing from members of both parties, stalled in the U.S. Senate last week when Democrats — including Sens. Klobuchar and Al Franken — say they discovered language in the bill that restricts federal funds for abortions and emergency contraception.
Both Klobuchar and Franken voted for the bill in late February on the Judiciary Committee. Franken has said he regrets his vote and believes the Republicans “slipped” in the abortion language, also called a Hyde Amendment. Klobuchar said she didn’t know the language was in the bill when she voted for it.
Two things stand out here. First, circumstances apparently arise whereby a legislator can vote on a bill without understanding what it does. That’s awfully problematic if we maintain that representative government ought to entail thoughtful consideration by our elected representatives.
The AP article deflects blame to an aide of Klobuchar’s who apparently knew the abortion language was in the bill and failed to tell Klobuchar about it. The unstated premise of that defense is that we ought to accept as routine the casting of votes by our legislators based not on a well-considered understanding of a bill, but based on a summary from their staff.
Maybe we could try writing bills that speak directly to single issues utilizing concise language so that our representatives – and We the People – can actually understand what is being voted on. Crazy, I know.
The second stand out from the AP’s reporting is their representation of the abortion language itself. They begin by correctly identifying it as a restriction on “federal funds for abortions and emergency contraception.” But subsequently refer to it as “abortion restriction.”
No matter what side of the abortion debate one comes down on, we ought to recognize that lack of subsidy does not constitute a restriction. You haven’t restricted me from eating lunch by refusing to pay for it.
The single greatest cultural barrier to the preservation and advancement of liberty is our reverence for sacrifice. We use the word in reference to things which are actually profitable transactions, like choosing to study for a test rather than go drinking.
The true meaning of sacrifice is exhibited by an author at Slate who thinks you should give up what’s best for your kids for the sake of an “eventual common good.” Allison Benedikt writes:
You are a bad person if you send your children to private school. Not bad like murderer bad—but bad like ruining-one-of-our-nation’s-most-essential-institutions-in-order-to-get-what’s-best-for-your-kid bad. So, pretty bad.
Note the nature of the transaction. Benedikt calls you to literally sacrifice what’s best for your kid. Your willingness to give your kid less makes you a better person, by her particular moral calculus.
This is what real-life altruism looks like. It’s not charity. It’s not being nice to your neighbor or helping around church or benevolence toward a stranger. Altruism is the irrational sacrifice of your life-affirming values – like the education of your children – for the alleged benefit of others.
I am not an education policy wonk: I’m just judgmental. But it seems to me that if every single parent sent every single child to public school, public schools would improve. This would not happen immediately. It could take generations. Your children and grandchildren might get mediocre educations in the meantime, but it will be worth it, for the eventual common good.
Benedikt can’t even define what this common good is, only that it won’t manifest for you or anyone you know. And really, that’s the whole point. The litmus test for whether something is truly sacrificial is that it must surrender something you value without redounding to your benefit. We’re not talking about investment. We’re not talking about some kind of legacy or inheritance. This isn’t about you and your children or grandchildren. This is about other people you don’t know or value supposedly benefiting from your self-inflicted loss. If we accept such moral claims upon our lives, we don’t deserve to be free.
If you can bring yourself to ignore the contextual inconsistencies between his rhetoric and his record of action, President Obama’s speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” march in Selma was pretty good. If you put aside the president’s bastardized definitions of words like “justice” and “freedom,” his observation that our American experiment plays out in continual societal change toward a libertarian ideal borders on insightful.
There was a snippet toward the end that stood out, however. As the president wove his 2008 campaign slogan into the tapestry of civil rights history, he expressed a sentiment precisely opposite that which should inform our thinking regarding Selma.
Because the single most powerful word in our democracy is the word “We.” We The People. We Shall Overcome. Yes We Can. It is owned by no one. It belongs to everyone. Oh, what a glorious task we are given, to continually try to improve this great nation of ours.
Confronted with this, my mind shifted to a lesser known novella authored by philosopher Ayn Rand entitled Anthem. Written in the first person, the story chronicles the struggle of a man living in a highly-controlled dystopian society which is so collectivized that each individual thinks of his self as “we.”
It’s the word “we,” and everything it represents when used in the manner that Obama wields it, which underscored the atrocities of Jim Crow. It’s collectivist thinking which enables and fuels racism in all is forms.
As Rand’s Anthem protagonist concludes:
The word “We” is as lime poured over men, which sets and hardens to stone, and crushes all beneath it, and that which is white and that which is black are lost equally in the grey of it. It is the word by which the depraved steal the virtue of the good, by which the weak steal the might of the strong, by which the fools steal the wisdom of the sages.
What is my joy if all hands, even the unclean, can reach into it? What is my wisdom, if even the fools can dictate to me? What is my freedom, if all creatures, even the botched and impotent, are my masters? What is my life, if I am but to bow, to agree and to obey?
One cannot judge a man by the content of his character without doing so individually. Thus the explicit goal sought by Dr. Martin Luther King, his resonate dream, requires us to dispense with “we” and deal solely in “I.” Individuals, not groups, exhibit character. Individuals, not groups, affect change for good or ill.
The appropriate call on this historic anniversary is not an appeal to “consensus,” as Obama makes. Rather, we each should seek a rational pursuit of life-affirming values. Reason defeats racism, as it does all forms of irrationality. Reason endows men both with the capability to judge character and to exhibit it. If we shall truly overcome the darkness which those who marched on Selma opposed, we will do so by individually embracing reason as our means of dealing with our reality and with each other.
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here.)
With no sense of irony to speak of, some of the biggest and most profitable companies on the Internet have succeeded in masking their pursuit of subsidy as a campaign for “an open internet.” Now, they stand ready to close the con. From the New York Times:
The Federal Communications Commission is expected on Thursday to approve regulating Internet service like a public utility, prohibiting companies from paying for faster lanes on the Internet.
Republicans had aspired to counter any such regulation with legislation, but conceded on Tuesday that they lack the bipartisan support necessary to get such a bill passed.
As a result, when the FCC moves forward with regulating the internet, big businesses will be legally empowered to violate the free association rights of Internet service providers and compel subsidy from everyone else online.
The FCC plan would let the agency regulate Internet access as if it is a public good. It would follow the concept known as net neutrality or an open Internet, banning so-called paid prioritization – or fast lanes – for willing Internet content providers.
… an avalanche of support for [the FCC] plan – driven by Internet companies as varied as Netflix, Twitter, Mozilla and Etsy – has swamped Washington.
Since the cost of providing bandwidth to these companies will not change, Internet service providers will be forced to make up the difference by charging their other customers more – customers like you. Either that, or they’ll have to trim costs somewhere else, which could translate to lost jobs and hampered innovation.
Beyond the blatant violation of free association and the negative economic impact, establishing the legal perception of the Internet as “a public good” sets the stage for further rights violations in the future. If the Internet is public, it’s not yours, and you won’t be able to claim ownership over your activity on it. At the whim of regulators or legislators, your online relationships, your online speech, and your online property will each be subject to disruption or seizure.
It’s a sad day for liberty. The world’s most practical example of market success is about to be leashed to Washington cronies.
This story may twist your political instincts in a knot. On the one hand, it’s an effort to limit government intrusion in the marketplace. On the other, it’s an assault on local control. From the Associated Press:
A Missouri lawmaker who also leads an association of grocery stores is trying to stop cities and towns in the state from restricting the use of plastic bags, bucking a national trend toward banning their use to help the environment.
The move comes as the city of Columbia, the home of the University of Missouri, considers a ban that would prevent grocery stores from offering plastic bags and would impose a 10-cent charge on paper bags.
Legislation by a state representative, who also serves as a board member of the Missouri Grocers Association, would stop that. A House panel is set to vote on the bill Tuesday.
At issue is local control, said Columbia City Councilman Ian Thomas, who is in favor of a ban on plastic bags but said it might take time to gain more community support.
“The state ban on city bans is an enormous overreach,” Thomas said. “It’s important for individual cities that maybe have a different political outlook or a more progressive tendency to be able to approve this kind of legislation.”
How’s that for an argument? A state ban on local bans is an overreach. Cities should be free to ensure their residents aren’t.
This particular appeal to local control ignores the fundamental principle upon which local control rests. That principle is individual rights. Generally speaking, people ought to be free to decide how to live their lives. When we talk about local control, that’s what we’re referencing, not an unfettered ability for local officials to bully their constituents.
The purpose of checks and balances, whether the horizontal checks of different branches or the vertical checks of different levels, is to limit the ability of government to exceed the consent of the governed. Indeed when we examine the history of racial relations in this country, spanning everything from the Civil War through the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we note a recurring theme of higher levels of government acting to check the excesses of lower ones.
So when Councilman Thomas evokes local control in defense of his effort to limit the liberties of his constituents, he echoes the appeal to state’s rights used to defend the atrocities of Jim Crow. Put simply, you can’t rationally appeal to a “right” to violate rights.
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here.)
It’s the kind of headline that makes you look twice. Is this guy for real? Is this from The Onion? Then you realize that indeed Time editor at large Jeffrey Kluger actually wrote “Facebook Must Shut Down the Anti-Vaxxers”:
[They] do their work at the grass-roots, retail, one-on-one level. Convince Mother A of the fake dangers of vaccines and you increase the odds that she won’t vaccinate Child B – and perhaps Children C, D, or E either. And every unvaccinated child in her brood increases the risk to the neighborhood, the school, the community – the entire herd…
One thing that would help – something [Facebook head Mark] Zuckerberg could do with little more than a flick of the switch, as could Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and the other bosses of other sites – is simply shut the anti-vaxxers down. Really. Pull their pages, block their posts, twist the spigot of misinformation before more people get hurt.
The very idea of muzzling any information – even misinformation – will surely send libertarians to their fainting couches. Similarly, people who believe they understand the Constitution but actually don’t will immediately invoke the First Amendment. But of course they’re misguided. Is Facebook a government agency? No, its not. Is Zuckerberg a government offical? No, he’s not. Then this is not a First Amendment issue. Read your Constitution.
Of course, Kluger is right about the First Amendment. Facebook’s banning or blocking of any user for any reason is not a free speech issue in the constitutional sense. That’s an important point to make in a context where mishandling of constitutional rhetoric is commonplace.
Be that as it may, Kluger’s suggestion remains a free speech issue in the cultural sense. The reason we have a First Amendment is because we believe on principle that ideas should succeed or fail in open discourse on their merits. To wield a platform on the scale of Facebook to mute one side of a conversation on public policy violates that principle, even if it doesn’t violate the law, and even if such action remains Zuckerberg’s unquestioned right.
Indeed, we might apply Kluger’s argument to any form of discrimination. For instance, we could say that white restaurateurs should be able to deny service to black customers. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and similar state laws notwithstanding, such discrimination remains constitutional for the same reason Facebook banning anti-vaxxers would be. Restaurants aren’t government agencies either.
Yet, we rightly balk at the notion of such discrimination, and most of us would socially censure anyone who engaged in it. The same free association right which Kluger urges Zuckerberg to employ against anti-vaxxers can be employed by others against Kluger and Time. It’s offensive to suggest that people need to be silenced, and offers one of the weakest of possible arguments against their position – the argument from intimidation.
Kluger and Time ought to be ashamed of themselves for publishing this piece, and Zuckerberg would do well to ignore it.
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here.)
In a move more reminiscent of Texas Senator Ted Cruz than Ohio Representative John Boehner, the House Speaker has pursued a strategy to defund President Obama’s executive action on immigration, leveraging funding for Homeland Security in the process.
Bloomberg News reports:
House Speaker John Boehner said he’s prepared to let funding lapse for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and blame Democrats if the Senate fails to pass a House-backed bill for the agency.
The Homeland Security Department faces a shutdown of nonessential operations if Congress does not reach agreement before current funding ends on Feb. 27.
When asked if he was prepared to let the funding lapse, the Ohio Republican said, “Certainly. The House has acted. We’ve done our job.”
Predictably, Democrats stand poised to blame Republicans in the event of a partial government shutdown.
“He will be responsible for shutting down a large part of the government,” [New York Sen. Chuck] Schumer said in a statement. “The American people will perceive it that way, and his party and the country will suffer for it.”
Adding to that sentiment is everyone’s favorite me-too moderate, Senator John McCain:
“The American people didn’t give us the majority to have a fight between House and Senate Republicans,” McCain said on Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “They want things done. We cannot cut funding for the Department of Homeland Security. We need to sit down and work this thing out.”
In a fight between John McCain and John Boehner, which one represents the establishment? After recently claiming that he was Tea Party before it was cool, Boehner is now positioning himself to look the part.
Has he actually grown a spine, or is this too little too late? Where was this defiant opposition to Obama’s executive action when the Congress passed the Cromnibus? Does this move win you over?
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here.)
It seems we’ve yet to learn our lesson regarding the futility of prohibition. The limitation of sinful but otherwise victimless behavior results only in the ballooning of government bureaucracy and the suppression of economic activity.
Minnesota presents us with a prime example. From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Less than two years after Minnesota raised its cigarette tax to one of the highest in the country, cigarette smuggling has become a growing business in the state. Now officials want more money to combat the problem.
Minnesota Department of Revenue officials seized or assessed untaxed tobacco products in more than 40 percent of the 374 retail inspections conducted through the first three quarters of last year. Before the cigarette tax jumped $1.60 per pack, or 130 percent, retail inspections found untaxed tobacco products only 8 percent of the time. The agency typically conducts 700 inspections a year.
It’s no wonder why increasing taxes to such a draconian level would invigorate the black market. Artificially hiking costs doesn’t change demand. When suppliers exist willing to meet that demand at a price reflecting true economic value, you’re going to see a black market.
Rather than reconsider the wisdom of the tax hike, the state reacts as states typically do, doubling down on the policies which created the problem. The Tribune continues:
Acting on the recommendations of a 2014 tobacco enforcement report, the agency said it needs $1 million annually for 11 new inspectors to crack down on cigarette smugglers and retailers selling untaxed tobacco products. Officials also want enhanced penalties for lawbreakers and a new state license for tobacco retailers that would give the tax agency authority to revoke permits.
In other words, they want to spend tax dollars to fix a problem created by raising taxes. Sounds like par for the course.
Those 700 inspections per year don’t come cheap. Those are government resources dedicated toward the prevention of economic activity rather than the preservation of individual rights – spending money to prevent people from making money. That’s the very definition of counter-productive.
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here.)
It should go without saying that Fourth Amendment protections extend to electronic communications and data. Why would we be secure in our “persons, houses, papers, and effects” but not our phones, tablets, laptops, and clouds? Yet, when the question has come before the courts, rulings have been inconsistent.
Seeking to bolster data privacy rights in Minnesota, state legislators have crafted a bill which would provide voters with the opportunity to amend the state constitution. From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
The heart of the amendment is just four words, proposing to add “electronic communications and data” to Section 10 of the state Constitution, which guarantees “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures.” If approved, the amendment would be placed on the 2016 November election ballot.
Opponents of bill, cognizant that opposing Fourth Amendment protections is bad politics, have taken to arguing that the proposed change is “unnecessary and redundant.”
Although the bill cleared its first House committee Tuesday, it faces a more significant hurdle in the Senate, where one instrumental leader says data privacy questions have already been resolved by the courts. Sen. Ron Latz, [Democrat]-St. Louis Park, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, refused to give the bill a hearing last month, saying he prefers to avoid legislating by constitutional amendment when he believes electronic data is already protected.
“I never shut the door completely on things, but my inclination right now is we have enough heavy lifting on our plate this legislative session in terms of real policy changes,” Latz said. “To take our limited time that we have on something which, from my perspective, is unnecessary and redundant would not be a wise use of our public resources.
Latz makes it sound like he and his senate colleagues would be digging the Panama Canal by hand. How many “resources” does it take to pass a simple non-controversial bill providing voters with an option to bolster their protections? What could possibly be more important than protecting citizen’s fundamental rights? Isn’t that what government exists to do?
Rep. Dave Pinto, DFL-St. Paul, pointed out that [relevant] cases [the ACLU] referenced are ones where the Supreme Court said a warrant is necessary to search electronic data.
“I get concerned about amending our constitution to clarify things that the courts are already doing,” he said. “I think we need to be careful about that sort of thing.”
Why? What’s the danger? Are we going to be too secure? Will the courts feelings get hurt?
These are feeble arguments which fail to justify the continued obstruction of this bill. Folks like Latz are expending more “resources” opposing Fourth Amendment protections than it would take to passively allow their passage.
The question is why.
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here.)
The national conversation raging over vaccination in the wake of a recent measles outbreak has conflated two issues which properly ought to remain separate.
Are vaccinations safe and effective? Should they be mandatory?
For many, their answer to the first question determines their answer to the second. Such is the case with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, who told Bill O’Reilly on Monday that government ought to force vaccinations upon unwilling parents. From The Blaze:
When O’Reilly claimed that about 90 percent of parents “do the right thing” in getting their children vaccinated, Kelly said 10 percent is still too many parents allowing their children to remain unvaccinated.
“This is going to be a big issue for politicians going forward, because it’s about Big Brother. But on the other hand, some things do require some involvement of Big Brother,” Kelly responded.
It’s unclear how Kelly’s sentiment differs substantially from any call to apply government force against individual judgment “to protect all of us.” She says that some things require the involvement of Big Brother, but fails to articulate any standard by which to determine what those things are.
It’s not as though abstaining from vaccination is the only way that others’ choices affect our environment. If we’re willing to forcefully vaccinate for an alleged common good, where do we draw the line? By what principle? Why not forcefully sterilize for the common good? Why not dictate people’s diets or force them to exercise? If eliminating disease takes primacy over individual rights, why not wholeheartedly embrace eugenic prohibitions and mandates?
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently evoked a “balance” between “giving people the option” to vaccinate and “addressing parental concerns.” Of course, there is no balance between choice and non-choice. Either vaccinations are mandatory or they are not.
Whether or not vaccination should be mandatory should not be coupled to the question of whether or not vaccinations are safe or effective. These are two separate matters. By conflating the two, we lend credence to the “progressive” notion that government may properly impose upon individual judgment wherever some community benefit is perceived. And if we concede that, we concede the entire concept of rights.
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here.)
Should school districts be able to raise taxes without voter approval to provide for critical maintenance needs? Legislators in Minnesota from both sides of the aisle think so. From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
A longstanding school funding law allows 25 Minnesota school districts to raise residents’ property taxes for maintenance funds without direct voter approval. The rest of the districts… don’t have that luxury. That’s led to a big gap in funding among districts for things like carpet replacement, security upgrades and heating and cooling modernization.
State Sen. Kevin Dahle [a Democrat] wants to change that arrangement, extending the taxation power to districts statewide. He and other bill proponents call it a matter of fairness. Most of the 25 districts on the list are in the [Twin Cities] metro area…
The disparity can lead some schools stuck with poor facilities that can distract students, proponents say, and siphon funding away from things like teachers and textbooks.
“It’s not fair. A building ages the same across the state,” said state Sen. Karin Housley, a Republican who represents Forest Lake and co-authored the Dahle bill.
The bill from Dahle, a Northfield Democrat, would require Minnesota to chip in funding for districts with lower property tax bases to help equalize their take. A state facilities working group estimated last year that requirement would cost Minnesota about $300 million in its first three years.
That’s too much state spending for Rep. Steve Drazkowski, a Republican from Mazeppa. The chairman of the House Property Tax and Local Government Finance Division said lawmakers shouldn’t take taxation decisions out of voters’ hands.
Dahle and others say voters would still have a say because they elect school board members. Drazkowski dismissed that. He suggested another way to make things fair: stripping the 25 districts of the ability to tax without a ballot question.
Drazkowski has it right. If fairness is the goal, then restore the right of voters to determine whether their taxes will be raised. Don’t strip that right from everyone statewide.
As proves typical whenever government officials seek more of our money to spend, they paint an image of freezing children distracted from learning. We’re meant to perceive a dichotomy between fixing such problems (by raising taxes) and neglecting them (by not).
In this case, the bill’s sponsors imply an even starker dichotomy. The issue isn’t raising taxes so much as who gets to decide whether they are raised. What proponents of this bill are really implying is that voters won’t raise their own taxes to address critical maintenance issues, that voters will let their own children freeze.
There are two appropriate responses to that. First, if we suspend our disbelief long enough to imagine such a thing would ever happen, so what? If voters don’t want to raise their own taxes, they’ll live with the consequences. That’s their prerogative.
Of course, the notion that voters would let their kids freeze before raising revenue proves dubious on its face. In truth, voters may simply demand prioritization of some needs above others.
That’s what school districts want to avoid. So we get pitched the specter of money diverted from “teachers and textbooks,” as if that’s the only place it could come from.
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here.)
In a struggle which proves emblematic of similar fights in states across the nation, Minnesota Republicans have long sought an end to teacher tenure. Currently, seniority trumps performance, qualification, and merit whenever layoffs occur. From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Eliminating so-called last-in, first-out protections has been… opposed by many [Democrats], who count the teachers’ union Education Minnesota among its staunchest allies and who say there is value in keeping experienced teachers in the system.
But dissension has developed in the ranks. One prominent Democrat state senator has broken with her party to author a bill that would remove seniority protection.
Sen. Terri Bonoff said Thursday that “It is my belief that really in every profession merit ought to be what gets someone hired, promoted or kept. I believe especially in a profession where our teachers play such an important role in shaping the lives of our young people that we want to make sure the very best teachers are in every classroom.”
Predictably, the Education Minnesota teachers’ union criticized the move, calling for more spending as an alternative.
“Constantly improving the quality of teaching… is a goal Education Minnesota shares with many lawmakers and parents, but this relentless focus on layoffs won’t help any teacher get better,” Denish Specht, president of the union, said in a statement.
Specht said that lawmakers instead should designate more money – beyond the $75 million the state already has committed – to fully fund the evaluation process.
It’s an odd claim, the notion that removing seniority protection won’t help teachers get better. Perhaps Specht could demonstrate how protecting teachers from objective evaluation once they reach a certain level of seniority makes them better.
Common sense tells us that vulnerability to competition incentivizes any worker toward greater performance. It’s nice to find at least one Democrat who agrees.