Last week was certainly historic. In what sense depends upon your worldview. For those of us who believe in federalism, dual-sovereignty, and the rule of law, last week was a disaster that irreparably damaged our republic.
Forget about the issues. These rulings weren’t about Obamacare or gay marriage so much as whether a majority of nine people on a national ruling council can write law for 320 million Americans. Apparently, they can.
What recourse remains? Some have advocated taking our republic back to the drawing board:
A constitutional recourse to judicial tyranny is gaining momentum around the country. A Convention of States, called under Article V of the Constitution, can impose constitutional limits on the federal government’s power — limits that will ensure an end to the overreach we witnessed last week.
However, others warn that a Convention of States could just as easily be used to expand government power. Phyllis Schlafly writes:
Any new constitutional convention, called as allowed by Article V, would surely attract and include political activists with motives and goals diametrically different from those of [the political Right].
[Justice John Paul] Stevens’ most dangerous suggestion is to gut the Second Amendment. Stevens wants to reverse the Supreme Court decision that upheld our right to keep a gun at home for self-protection…
If Congress acquiesces in the states’ petitions to call an Article V convention, you can bet that rewriting the Second Amendment to allow gun control and to forbid private ownership of guns will be a top priority of many delegates. Would they succeed?
The problem with rewriting the Constitution today is that any new document or amendment would be the product of the same culture which has birthed modern tyrannies. A Convention of States called today would not boast attendance from men like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. It would instead host delegates committed to securing “rights” to stuff, further enslaving us one to another.
Besides, in a world where our Supreme Court can literally re-write laws, what makes us think new law will help? Our problem is cultural, not statutory.
Before the dead were buried from the cowardly murders of nine black people by a white supremacist in South Carolina, President Barack Obama politicized the tragedy to advocate for gun control. The president claimed in remarks to the press that Americans “will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.”
Economist and researcher Dr. John Lott took issue with that claim in a recent New York Daily News article. He wrote:
Obama overlooks Norway, where Anders Behring Breivik used a gun to kill 67 people and wound 110 others. Still others were killed by bombs that Breivik detonated. Three of the six worst K-12 school shootings ever have occurred in Europe. Germany saw two of these — one in 2002 at Erfurt and another in 2009 at Winnenden. The combined death toll was 34. France and Belgium have both faced multiple terrorist attacks over the past year.
After adjusting for America’s much larger population, we see that many European countries actually have higher rates of death in mass public shootings.
Lott provides more statistics to prove his point. He disputes the notion that stronger gun controls would somehow reduce mass public shootings.
Obama advocates expanded background checks. But background checks clearly would not have stopped either the Newtown or Charleston killings. In one case, the killer got his weapon from a relative; in the other, he appears to have passed a background check . Besides, such mass shootings are also almost always planned long in advance, giving the attacker plenty of time to figure out how to obtain a gun.
Lott thus acknowledges the role humans play in their actions. If someone wants to kill, they will find the means. Legal restrictions on weapons only disarm those who obey the law.
How difficult is it to keep weapons out of the hands of would-be attackers? The terrorists who attacked in France this January were armed with handguns, Kalashnikov rifles, an M42 rocket launcher, 10 Molotov cocktails, 10 smoke grenades, a hand grenade and 15 sticks of dynamite. So much for the laws prohibiting all of these items.
The drive to ban guns only emboldens and enables those who would harm the innocent.
There is a common thread: Many of these attacks occur in places where general citizens can’t carry guns. According to one of his friends, the Charleston killer initially considered targeting the College of Charleston but decided against it because it had security personnel.
This logical behavior on the part of attackers is common. It is abundantly clear from diary entries and Facebook posts that the shooters last year in Santa Barbara, Calif., and New Brunswick, Canada, passed on potential targets where people with guns could stop them.
Obama’s stance on gun control, shared by many including the presumed Democrat frontrunner to replace him Hillary Clinton, places law-abiding citizen in jeopardy. The real answer to mass public shootings is stated simply in the title of John Lott’s book – More Guns, Less Crime.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has led an effort to remove the Confederate flag from display on capitol grounds following the racially motivated murders of nine black people in Charleston. During an interview on the Fox Business Network, conservative commentator Ann Coulter suggested that Haley’s background disqualifies her from taking a stance on the issue. From Mediaite:
At one point, she said, “I’m appalled by––though, I really like to like Nikki Haley since she is a Republican. On the other hand, she is an immigrant and does not understand America’s history.”
[Host] Kennedy asked, “Immigrants can’t understand history?” Coulter responded, “Well, she doesn’t!”
As it turns out, Haley is not an immigrant. She is a South Carolina native.
Coulter’s comment would be ridiculous in either case. Since when must one be from a place to understand its history?
Coulter hails from Connecticut, yet speaks as an authority on the history of the South Carolina. By her own expressed logic, that’s impossible.
President Obama made headlines Monday after appearing on Marc Maron’s podcast to discuss race relations in the wake of nine murders committed by an apparent white supremacist in South Carolina. Using the n-word to make his point, Obama said that racism has not yet been “cured” in American society. Detailed by the Associated Press:
“Racism, we are not cured of it,” Obama said. “And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don’t, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior.”
When someone in a position of governmental authority talks about curing a social problem, it raises a number of questions. Chief among them is: what is meant by cure? Are we talking about somehow neutralizing racist thought? If so, how do we go about doing that? How does government prevent people from thinking certain thoughts?
If by “cure,”we instead mean neutralizing the unjust effects of racist actions, then we might be on to something. Indeed, the governmental response to the crimes committed in Charleston has been appropriate. The perpetrator was identified, pursued, arrested, and will be tried and held accountable if found guilty.
In the past, such justice has been allusive for victims of racially motivated crimes. There’s little government can or should do to prevent people from thinking bad thoughts. But when those thoughts metastasize into rights-violating action, the cure is a color-blind justice system.
The vile killing of nine black people at a church in Charleston has ignited fresh debate over the display of the Confederate battle flag on South Carolina’s capitol grounds. The question was presented over the weekend to several candidates seeking the Republican nomination for president.
“Everyone’s being baited with this question as if somehow that has anything to do whatsoever with running for president,” Huckabee said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”My position is it most certainly does not.”
While other candidates offered generic deference to “the people of South Carolina,” Huckabee took a bolder stance, framing the issue in the context of the office he seeks. It shouldn’t matter what the president thinks a state ought to do in a matter that falls outside federal jurisdiction. As a candidate for president, expressing an opinion one way or the other implies federal intervention. It’s one thing to say the Confederate flag issue should be decided by the people of South Carolina. It’s another to specify why. By doing so, Huckabee stood out.
She’s no longer a member of Congress, or a candidate, but House Tea Party Caucus founder Michele Bachmann continues to raise money as if she’s campaigning. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:
…the former Minnesota congresswoman is still raising cash and spending lavishly, dropping $300 on limousines in New York right around Thanksgiving and staying last fall at the luxurious L’Ermitage hotel in Beverly Hills, where most rooms go for $400 a night or higher.
Records show Bachmann for Congress spent roughly $25,000 in the last three months of 2014 on airline tickets, a private club membership and pricey dinners in Washington D.C., Los Angeles and New York. Her campaign even paid $470 to renew the plates on a vehicle in St. Paul last December — weeks before she stepped down from office.
The piece paints a picture of fiscal hypocrisy:
A fierce advocate for balancing the federal budget, Bachmann has consistently carried campaign debt.
Records show that she has chipped away at her debts to campaign vendors, mostly accountants and telemarketing companies, gradually paying down the $30,328 she owed in March, 2014 to about $1,900 at the end of last year. But she accrued more debt early this year and owed about $4,000 to vendors, according to April filings.
Bachmann has $1.6 million cash on hand.
Whether Bachmann’s fundraising and money management proves atypical for a recently retired member of Congress remains an open question. One thing is for sure, even after leaving office, Michele Bachmann still attracts criticism from her many detractors.
The dead have not yet been buried, and already President Barack Obama, along with Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and others, have begun leveraging the criminal shooting of church-goers in South Carolina against law-abiding gun owners nationwide. From the Associated Press:
Obama, who knew the pastor killed in the Charleston attack, said he has been called upon too often to mourn the deaths of innocents killed by those “who had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.”
“Now is the time for mourning and for healing,” the president said. “But let’s be clear. At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it.”
The president went on to bemoan “the politics of this town,” referencing the inviability of strict federal gun control laws. Gun restrictions have trouble getting passed even when Democrats hold majorities in Washington. Obama, who stands closely protected each and every day by armed Secret Service agents, would nevertheless like to deprive law-abiding citizens of the right to protect themselves.
Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul wrote Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal that he seeks to “blow up the tax code.” By that, he means that he wants to abolish the current federal revenue infrastructure and replace it with a 14.5% flat tax. WSJ reports:
The plan would eliminate payroll taxes on workers, as well as gift and estate taxes and all duties and tariffs. His flat tax would apply to all personal income, including wages, salaries, dividends, capital gains, rents and interest. It would exempt the first $50,000 of income for a family of four.
There are additional exemptions and credits Paul would include, amounting to a flat tax that’s not so flat after all. No doubt, if the plan were implemented, it would only be a matter of time before additional exemptions and credits started to creep in. Eventually, we’d end up with a system not unlike what we have now.
That said, there may be something to be said for pushing the reset button on the tax code. At least there would be some relief in the short to mid term.
“The Left’s bad ideas about science are more harmful than the rights.” That’s the claim by John Stossel in commentary written for Reason:
The conflict conservatives have with science is mostly caused by religion. Some religious conservatives reject evolution, and some oppose stem cell research.
But neither belief has a big impact on our day-to-day lives. Species continue to evolve regardless of what conservatives believe, and if conservatives ban government funding of stem cell research, private investors will continue the work.
By contrast, the left’s bad ideas about science do more harm.
Stossel points to policies informed by technophobia, from concerns about climate change to fretting over genetically modified crops. Such policies do affect our day-to-day lives, increasing our cost of living, thwarting the advancement of civilization, and causing countless deaths in the third world.
That said, the focus should be less on which side of the political spectrum has worse ideas about science, and more on whether a politician’s ideas about science should affect us at all. A candidate’s view on evolution or climate change shouldn’t matter, because the job he’s applying for shouldn’t include dictating scientific beliefs.
Just once, I would love to hear a candidate respond to a question about their view on evolution with a declaration that their opinion doesn’t matter. The job of government is to protect individual rights. Among those rights are the freedoms of association and speech, which leave us free to accept or reject scientific claims and live accordingly.
The Senate overwhelming passed an amendment offered by Senators Dianne Feinstein and John McCain that reinforces existing policy banning the use of torture by the CIA. From the Associated Press:
Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the measure would permanently ban the CIA from using any tactics that the military cannot use and will prohibit the CIA from hiding detainees from the Red Cross.
“If enacted, the amendment will be a historic step towards helping ensure that the federal government never again uses torture and abuse,” Anders said.
Well, at least publicly.
Torture may not be the best way to fight terrorism. Unfortunately, unless we’re willing to replace torture with a World War II style total war against Islamic totalitarianism, innocent Americans will remain at risk.
Corinthian College was a for-profit educational institution that went under after years of inquiries into allegations of fraudulent recruitment practices. Staff at Corinthian allegedly “falsified job placement rates and used unscrupulous marketing practices,” as reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Now the Department of Education has announced that they will discharge certain student loan debts incurred to attend Corinthian on a case-by-case basis. Republican Representative John Kline, who chairs the House Education and Workforce Committee, joined Democrats in a statement supportive of the ruling. Others, including Kline’s Minnesota congressional delegation colleague Keith Ellison, think the ruling didn’t go far enough. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who announced the decision, called upon congress to further regulate for-profit educational institutions to avoid similar scenarios in the future. From the Tribune:
“To members of Congress: Students and taxpayers need action to strengthen accountability,” Duncan said. “This has to be a wake up call to Congress …They shouldn’t want to stand behind guys where there is so much deception … and waste of taxpayer dollars.”
Lost amid reaction from government bureaucrats and politicians is any acknowledgement of their role in inviting the Corinthian fraud. True regulation is a function of the market. If your only means of parting a customer with their hard-earned money is providing a value in exchange, then fraud becomes a bad long-term business strategy. If, however, you can part a third-party (like a taxpayer) with their money without consent, fraud becomes much more attractive. That’s what the federal government has done with its education subsidies, including federal student loans.
Under the guise of helping students, fueled by the notion that every kid is somehow owed a post-secondary education, the federal government rains taxpayer dollars upon institutions who enroll qualifying students. Since the students in question are usually fresh from the nest and wholly disconnected from the experience of paying back a loan, they tend to see only the goal and disregard the long-term consequences of embracing loans as their means.
In a free market where government loans did not exist, the behavior of both for-profit institutions and students would be regulated by their respective self-interest. Students may not be competent to judge how much debt they should take on. But loan officers working for private banks would be. They would take a look and things like the economic value of a chosen major, then consider whether loaning a student money to pursue that path would prove profitable in the long-run. In turn, colleges and universities would stand incentivized to provide a better product, because that’s the only way they could attract financing for their students.
Put simply, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Representatives John Kline and Keith Ellison ought to be looking in the mirror. They are the problem. They are the reason the education market is not properly regulated, not for lack of bureaucratic rule-making, but due to how their subsidies distort market signals. The effect upon students is devastating, with graduates debt-laden and unemployable in the name of “getting a degree.”
Forgiving student loan debt will not solve that. Eliminating government subsidies will.
It’s fair to say that part of the American Dream entails the occasional hard-earned vacation to a popular tourist spot. Perhaps you want to take the kids to Disney World, or visit family on the other side of the country. Perhaps, in order to position yourself to take such trips, you first need to engage in business travel. Either way, your pursuit of happiness just got more difficult thanks to President Barack Obama and his Environmental Protection Agency. From the New York Times:
The Obama administration on Wednesday said it would regulate greenhouse gas emissions from airplanes, a move that could significantly strengthen President Obama’s environmental legacy, but also present major new challenges for the airline industry.
The Environmental Protection Agency found that emissions from airplanes endanger human health because of their contribution to global warming. That finding does not yet impose specific new requirements on airlines, but instead requires the agency to develop the new rules…
…the airline industry contends that it has already worked aggressively to reduce fuel use and increase efficiency, and that demands to do even more could raise costs. Airlines are looking into new technologies and alternatives like carbon-neutral — but expensive — biofuels.
A natural market incentive exists to use less fuel and run a more efficient operation. That’s real regulation, market regulation. The bureaucratic variety is neither necessary nor welcome.
This news stands as yet another example of how the green movement threatens far more than it claims to protect. Earlier this year, the chief greenhouse gas scientist at NOAA told a public radio audience that combating anthropogenic climate change would require reducing carbon emissions to zero. In practical terms, that means ending human civilization.
Why is it so difficult to argue against this nonsense? Would you treat cancer with a bullet to your head? When will American society wake up to the fact that the solutions presented by green fascists eclipse alleged problems in destructive consequences?
It’s a great headline over at Politico: One voter shows up at Santorum event in Iowa. It’s not entirely accurate, as the article goes on to clarify that four voters were present by event’s end. But either way, it doesn’t look great for Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum.
How embarrassed should the former senator and his campaign be? Some context helps. The campaign stop in question took place in a town with a population of 300. Perhaps it would help to know how similar events in the same town have been attended. Perhaps the Santorum campaign should be picking better spots for their events. Then again, they say it’s all part of the plan.
“It’s not glamorous, and you’re not out there raising money, but you’re doing what the money is ultimately supposed to do — getting votes,” Santorum told the [Des Moines] Register. “This is a lot more fun than being on the phone raising money…”
He drew a slightly larger crowd in nearby Panora, Iowa, when 10 people showed up to ask him questions about his positions at a telecommunications company…
“People don’t understand. One guy in there said, ‘I’ll speak for you at the caucus,’” Santorum said. “That’s maybe eight votes that you wouldn’t otherwise get. Eight votes can make a big difference, as I know.”
So is this grassroots retail politics, or a major embarrassment for a presidential candidate?
Lindsey Graham may have trouble securing support among fellow Republicans for his 2016 presidential aspirations. But that isn’t stopping him from looking beyond traditional constituencies to grow the party’s base. From the Associated Press:
The South Carolina senator calls himself a “traditional marriage kind of guy.” But he says he “can only imagine the torment that Bruce Jenner went through” before becoming a transgendered woman. He hopes that, now, she’s “found peace…”
Graham says if Jenner wants to be a Republican, she’s welcome. And he says if she wants a safe country and a strong economy, she should vote for him.
Jenner notably declared herself a Republican in an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer earlier this year. So there’s apparently no need to convert her. That said, if Graham and other Republicans want to expand non-traditional constituencies, they should start by highlighting how conservative-libertarian principles apply to each person’s life regardless of demographic distinctions.
Transgendered individuals have as much to gain from the preservation of liberty as anyone else. The right to pursue happiness as defined by the individual should be protected, as should the freedom of association that enables people of like mind to engage in consensual relationships.
Alabama almost became the first state in the union to do away with marriage licenses. A bill passed the state senate, but failed in the house, which would have eliminated licenses in favor of contracts between those “legally authorized to be married.”
It’s an idea which many have been floating since the debate over gay marriage began, particularly in libertarian circles. Why do we need a license to get married? Should relationships require government approval? Or should government recognize any relationship formed by consenting adults, and protect the rights of the individuals within as it would in any contract?
Unfortunately, the Alabama effort fails to advance that conversation. The move to abolish marriage licenses isn’t informed by the principle of free association so much as a desire to sidestep an anticipated Supreme Court decision. Had the bill become law, it could have effectively maintained a ban on gay marriage in Alabama. From The Daily Caller:
In January a federal judge overturned Alabama’s legal and constitutional bans on same-sex marriage, but Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore almost immediately told probate judges they don’t have to adhere to the ruling, because the only federal court Alabama must adhere to is the U.S. Supreme Court. (RELATED: Alabama Chief Justice Defies Federal Court On Gay Marriage)
In March the Alabama Supreme Court ordered probate judges to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses, but in May the federal court again ordered the judges to issue the same-sex licenses. That ruling is on hold, however, until the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage expected this month.
Sen. Albritton’s bill would avoid the issue altogether by scrapping marriage licenses for everyone in the state. If the Supreme Court rules that states must issue same-sex marriage licenses, Alabama could avert the ruling by saying it doesn’t issue any licenses.
Bill sponsor Republican Senator Greg Albritton told the Decatur Daily that he wanted “to remove the state out of the lives of people.” In order to accomplish that, his bill would have to recognize any contractual relationship, not just those “legally authorized.”
In the market for a new home? Looking for something with a little bit of character, something that will go over well at your next cocktail party? Have three quarters of a million to spend? If so, there’s a perfect place for you in the great state of Minnesota. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:
The Maple Grove home once owned by former Gov. Jesse Ventura and occupied by his family is up for sale.
The 5,100-square-foot residence backs up to a pond and sits on 1-plus “manicured acres” at 9978 Walnut Grove Lane, southeast of Brockton Lane and 101st Avenue. It’s priced at $719,900.
Ventura has not lived in the home for several years. He spends much of his time these days south of the border in Mexico.
Not long ago, six men from a Muslim Somali community in Minneapolis were arrested for attempting to leave the country and join ISIS as terror fighters. The backgrounds of these men were notable, as each held the potential to excel at productive endeavors and create a life of abundance and happiness. These were men who chose, conscientiously, to reject freedom and prosperity in favor of death and destruction.
A filmmaker named Ami Horowitz visited the Ceder-Riverside community which these men called home to ask Muslims on the street whether they preferred to live under American law or Sharia law. He also asked for their views on the freedom of speech and insults against Mohammed.
The answers he received, documented in the video above, demonstrate that the six men arrested for conspiring to join ISIS were not anomalies. Rather, they were predictable products of their culture, a culture which America has welcomed into its gates.
Old comments recently brought to light have Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee in the headlines. Speaking to the trend in our society toward integrating transgendered individuals into opposite-sex facilities, Huckabee stated the obvious. From Politico:
“For those who do not think that we are under threat, simply recognize that the fact that we are now in city after city watching ordinances say that your 7-year-old daughter, if she goes into the restroom cannot be offended and you can’t be offended if she’s greeted there by a 42-year-old man who feels more like a woman than he does a man,” Huckabee, in an apparent reference to transgender rights, said in a speech to the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville earlier this year. The remarks were first reported on Tuesday by BuzzFeed News, which found them in a video that was uploaded last week to World Net Daily’s YouTube channel.
“I wish that somebody would have told me in high school that I could have felt like a woman when it came time to take showers in P.E. I’m pretty sure I would have found my feminine side, and said, ‘Coach, I think I’d rather shower with the girls today,” Huckabee said to laughter and applause.
These comments are somehow newsworthy. We now live in a society where suggesting that boys ought not shower with girls has become controversial.
Note how Politico evokes “transgender rights” as the issue, presupposing that Huckabee stands opposed to said rights. Of course, the real rights dynamic in play favors Huckabee’s position.
Transgendered individuals hold the same rights as any other individuals, including the right to free association, a two-way street that requires mutual consent. To the extent “transgender rights” as defined by radical activists prescribe forcing association upon unwilling parties, they violate rights rather than uphold them.
The importance of opposing the Patriot Act and similar rights-violating policies rationalized by terrorism can be seen in whom those policies target. When we think of “the terrorists,” images of foreigners hiding in desert caves come to mind. However, the overwhelming majority of people targeted by government surveillance efforts are not only innocent, they’re us.
In the wake of the Patriot Act’s expiration, news drops that the Justice Department will study the social media use of “far right” organizations and individuals, ostensibly to prevent terrorism. The Washington Free Beacon reports:
The Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ) awarded Michigan State University $585,719 for the study, which was praised by Eric Holder, the former attorney general, earlier this year.
“There is currently limited knowledge of the role of technology and computer mediated communications (CMCs), such as Facebook and Twitter, in the dissemination of messages that promote extremist agendas and radicalize individuals to violence,” according to the NIJ grant. “The proposed study will address this gap through a series of qualitative and quantitative analyses of posts from various forms of CMC used by members of both the far-right and Islamic extremist movements.”
The study draws more upon right-wing forums than upon the corners of the web inhabited by Islamist extremists.
The groups the study will target remain undisclosed. We can assume, based on government action to date, that domestic groups with unconventional political views will come under scrutiny. Apparently, sovereign citizen groups whose members seek to be left alone present the same threat to national security as ISIS.
The hubbub surrounding recent comments by Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul regarding the origin of ISIS has been deafening, reviving old accusations of isolationism. But the more you listen to Paul, the less accurate that characterization becomes.
Watch this interview with Paul on Hardball with Chris Matthews. If you’re in a hurry, just hang through the first three minutes.
Paul talks about less intervention in the Middle East. That’s the part everyone hears, and many characterize as head-in-the-sand denial of threats against the United States. But Paul adds more that very few seem willing to acknowledge.
There is a good chunk of the Republican Party who thinks that we should think before we act, that war is not always the answer, that war may be the last resort – not the first resort, that we have to defend ourselves – we have to have a strong national defense. But sometimes, we’ve intervened in the Middle East, and sometimes we’ve had unintended consequences.
Regardless of one’s foreign policy predisposition, are these comments really all that radical? Is there a constituency out there for war as a first resort? Can anyone honestly claim that they’re have not been unintended consequences from military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan? Would it be a crime to apply some thought to future military adventures?
I don’t say we leave [the fighting to the Arab states]. I’m more than willing to be a part of the fight. I think providing air support is reasonable, providing armaments to those who are willing and able to fight. So I would provide armaments to the Kurds as well.
In fact, I’d go one step further. I’d promise them a homeland and a state. But I would do it in conjunction with talks with Turkey. It would have to be a three-way discussion.
This is not isolationism, not by any objective measure. It’s not even non-interventionism in the strictest sense. It’s simply less intervention, measured intervention.
Why then do Paul’s critics insist upon portraying his views otherwise? It’s easy to argue against a strawman of pre-WWII isolationism. It’s less so to argue against a nuanced view of measured action in defense of national interests.
Slipped into a transportation omnibus bill during the waning moments of the legislative session, a new provision will soon take effect in Minnesota, steeply increasing the fine for texting while driving. From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
The fine for the first offense is $50, but that has risen to $225 for subsequent violations. With court costs, the fine could exceed $350, said Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis…
As a reminder, the law makes reading, composing or sending emails or text messages illegal. It’s also against the law to access the Internet while a vehicle is in motion or part of traffic, including stopped at a traffic light.
Could this signal a trend parallel to ever increasingly legal consequences for driving while intoxicated? It’s a easy win for politicians, municipalities, and law enforcement agencies. The former garner brownie points for bolstering public safety. The latter two gain increased revenue and further justification for budgets, staff, and so forth.
Like driving under the influence, texting while driving is certainly dangerous. People who cause harm to others due to such negligence should certainly face civil and criminal penalties. But at what point does the response to reckless behavior cross the line from genuine rights-protection to draconian rights-violation? Should we ruin someone’s life, as a DUI can, because they might have ruined another’s?
Senator Rand Paul, candidate for the Republican Party’s nomination for President of the United States, “is not just the rarest of his kind, he is literally the only one.” So one commenter responded to an editorial in The Washinton Post declaring Paul’s candidacy dead on arrival. Dana Milbank writes:
The libertarian Kentucky senator’s new book, “Taking a Stand,” came out Tuesday, and it is chock-full of lines that would position Paul well — if he were running against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.
Milbank goes on to cite excerpts which opponents may easily characterize as “liberal.” Because that’s how we think about public policy these days, in a mindless partisan binary with no nuance or depth.
Ironically, Paul’s book is subtitled “Moving Beyond Partisan Politics to Unite America.” To move past our current constitutional crisis, we must transcend simplistic political labels and focus on the effect that policies have on people’s lives. We must do so irrespective of whether the policy came from our chosen political party.
I was recently told of a local Republican candidate for a state house seat who showed up to a venue to give a speech. He was greeted at the door by an event coordinator who hurried him to a packed room of eager activists. He proceeded with a fiery stump, going on at length about the excesses of government and the importance of personal liberty. The audience ate it up, applauding line after line. As he left, he realized that he’d walked into the wrong venue. He had addressed a union meeting where Democrat candidates had been expected.
The moral of the story: when ideas are stripped of their partisan packaging, they succeed or fail on their merit. That’s the point that Paul is trying to get across. It’s too bad that so many in either party would rather remain paralyzed in partisan posturing.
For many years, the national conventions of the two major political parties have served less as true conventions and more as coronations of presumptive nominees. While state, congressional, and local conventions frequently deal with contested races for party endorsement, they do not attract the same level of media attention as national conventions. Perhaps for that reason, the national conventions have increasingly become prolonged television commercials for the parties’ presumptive nominees.
Supporters of Ron Paul shook up the status quo during the former congressman’s two bids for the Republican nomination. In 2012, a significant delegation of Paul supporters made their way to Tampa. In particular, Minnesota sent a delegation of unbound delegates who overwhelmingly supported Paul. Coincidentally, the RNC made changes to their rules affecting future conventions that would restrict states like Minnesota from sending unbound delegates.
The Republican Party of Minnesota has sought a waiver from the rule change. A final decision has been made, as reported at MinnPost:
The Republican National Committee has ruled that the Minnesota Republican Party’s presidential preference poll — scheduled for March 1, 2016— must bind its national delegates proportionately to the winners.
This bit of intra-party arcana is important because it could help the state GOP’s efforts to be a bigger player in 2016 presidential politics, though it has also served to dismay activists who believe the rule imposes national control over grass-roots activities.
State Republican Party Chair Keith Downey says that conducting a binding poll at the Republican precinct caucuses will put the national spotlight on Minnesota along with other states holding caucuses that day – “a mini-Super Tuesday,” he calls it.
And since the ballot is binding proportionately, Downey believes, “it protects the upstart candidates who can sustain their candidacy without having to win outright. My opinion is that this is actually a better situation for grass-roots activists … who may prefer an outlier.”
“All the Republican presidential candidates will take Minnesota more seriously,” he said.
It remains unclear how bound delegates will be disposed if the candidate they are bound to drops out of the race. There may still be unbound delegates at the national convention in that event. But how delegates will be bound and to which candidates remains a mystery, at least until the state party figures out the details.
Do elected representatives serve the interests of every person in their district, including illegal aliens and others ineligible to vote? That’s the question to be considered by the United States Supreme Court later this year. The Minneapolis Star Tribune describes the potential policy change as “a major shift in how political districts are drawn nationwide.”
Since the 1960s, the high court has enforced the “one person, one vote” rule to require that election districts be roughly equal in population. This rule is based on the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment and it is applied to all election districts, whether for members of Congress, state legislators, county supervisors or local school boards.
At least once a decade, these districts may be redrawn based on new census data. The U.S. Census Bureau seeks to count the total population, including noncitizens and immigrants in the country illegally.
In its appeal, the Project on Fair Representation based in Austin, Texas, says the districts should be balanced based on the number of eligible voters. The group sued on behalf of Sue Evenwel, a leader of the Texas Republican Party. She lives in Titus County in east Texas, where her state Senate district had 533,010 citizens of voting age in 2011. However, another Senate district had 372,000 citizens of voting age.
The appeal in Evenwel vs. Abbott argues that her right to an equal vote is being denied because Texas officials relied on the census data to balance the districts.
Critics predictably portray the effort as voter suppression, though it remains unclear how the drawing of a political district keeps anyone from voting. The real question is whether those who are eligible to vote have equal representation under the status quo, or whether that matters.
Sarah Silverman recently posted the above via her WhoSay page, retweeting “Rand Paul. Republican. Presidential candidate. Pragmatist. Thinker. Knob.” Clearly, the factually challenged comedian takes issue with Senator Paul’s description of “free healthcare” as slavery.
At first blush, the comparison may seem extreme. However, at root, it proves accurate. If your neighbor claims a right to the service you provide, you have no right to deny them access to that service. Fundamentally, a “right” to healthcare proves no different than a plantation owner’s “right” to cotton-pickers.
Paul paints a dramatic picture of doctors and other healthcare professionals being pulled out of their homes and compelled to work at the point of a gun. While that may not literally happen under Obamacare, force has been applied to set prices, limit and compel relationships, and tax individuals for services provided to others.
Slavery offends by denying individuals their right to live their life for their sake. That’s the crime. When we recognize that, we realize how prolific slavery actually is, and how rapidly the institution has expanded despite exaggerated reports of its demise.
A police officer in Minneapolis has been charged with nine counts in an indictment handed down by a federal grand jury on Wednesday. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:
Patrol officer Michael Griffin, 40, has been the subject of 22 complaints, only one of which has been sustained by the Minneapolis Police Department.
Griffin is charged in the indictment with depriving the men of their civil rights, falsifying reports and committing perjury in testimony in two lawsuits filed against him.
The suits resulted in $410,000 in payouts by the city to the litigants and their attorneys.
Griffin happens to be black, a fact which informed this reaction:
“I do hope that we are not looking at a double standard by federal authorities because there have been a number of cases involving white officers over the last five years where federal authorities appeared to show no interest,” said civil rights activist Ron Edwards, a former president of the Minneapolis Urban League, who sits on a police oversight committee appointed by Police Chief Janeé Harteau.
Edwards stops just short of suggesting that Griffin should get a pass on account of his race.
“It is so hard and difficult to get a person of color, African-Americans, into law enforcement in this state,” [Edwards] said. “This was a young man who came into the department with high expectations. Something went wrong. He lost his vision of what he wanted to do.”
Perhaps Edwards intent was to suggest that white officers similarly accused ought to face similar indictments. That’s the best-case scenario. Either way, we can see that grand jury decisions regarding police misconduct can be spun as racist no matter how they come out.
It’s been clear for weeks now that Minnesota’s Democrat governor Mark Dayton wants a government shutdown. He’s been openly pining for it, not bothering to mask his naked partisan desire to blame Republicans going into next year’s election season.
The regular legislative session concluded late Monday night. As the deadline for the session approached, Governor Dayton repeatedly moved the goal posts on education funding, demanding ever more spending and full funding of universal preschool for four-year-olds.
The preschool piece has been a “priority” for Dayton despite widespread bipartisan opposition to the idea. Officials in the school district in which I live, which already deals with challenging fiscal issues, have told me they wouldn’t know where to put the new students if preschool were mandated by the state. But practical issues like that don’t concern Dayton, who sees universal preschool as a chance to both define a personal legacy in his second term and stick a thumb in the eye of House Republicans.
Tuesday, Dayton indicated he would make good on a threat to veto an education bill passed by the legislature because it does not include universal preschool. His veto will necessitate a special session during a time when capitol renovations leave the legislature with nowhere to meet. But Dayton says the inevitable special session was triggered by Republicans for not including his “priority.”
There’s only one problem with that narrative. Dayton’s fellow Democrats control the State Senate, and passed the same bill he’s about to veto. The Senate’s passage has been spun by some as a reaction to pressure to end the regular session on time. However, the reality is that many Democrats stand as skeptical of universal preschool as most Republicans.
The drama indicates that Dayton thinks voters will ignore the facts and buy his manufactured narrative of partisan intransigence. Even liberal allies in local media remain skeptical of that strategy’s chances.
Nebraska might be the last place you would expect to overturn the death penalty. A highly conservative state where Republicans dominate, Nebraska may nonetheless join a growing list of states which have abandoned capital punishment.
The trend has emerged from a shift in the application of philosophical principles. An increasing number of conservatives have come to regard capital punishment as antithetical to their vision for government. From the New York Times:
Sen. Colby Coash, a conservative who is a sponsor of the bill [to eliminate the death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment], said he had come to believe that opposing capital punishment aligned with his values as a Republican and a Christian conservative.
“I’m a conservative guy — I’ve been a Republican my whole life,” he said. “… Some people see this as a pro-life issue. Other people see it as a good-government issue. But the support that this bill is getting from conservative members is evidence that you can get justice through eliminating the death penalty, and you can get efficient government through eliminating the death penalty.”
The point about efficiency seems to get much traction these days. The cost of running a death row convict through an appeals process is cited as wasteful. Procuring the drugs necessary for lethal injection is considered difficult.
This new way of thinking about the death penalty reflects a larger flaw in modern conservative/libertarian thinking, which emphasizes the size and cost of government without regard to its purpose. But we can’t talk about government waste outside the context of government’s purpose. First, we must determine what government is for. Only then can we evaluate whether its cost and scope proves excessive.
We have government to protect individual rights and administer justice. That is its end. Whatever cost that purpose requires, we should pay it. Whatever size government needs to maintain liberty, we should happily sustain it.
Opposition to the death penalty is not pro-life. One does not support life by tolerating its degradation and destruction. Rather, it’s the death penalty that’s pro-life. The death penalty affirms the value of life by eliminating those who show no regard for it. Opposing the death penalty conveys a lower regard for the value of life, a tolerance of unmitigated evil. There’s nothing conservative about that.
It’s one thing to take an abstract stance against the death penalty in a hypothetical laboratory. However, as the recent death sentence doled out to the Boston Marathon bomber in liberal Massachusetts indicates, the appropriateness of executing heinous murderers becomes clear when you see one.
It’s become a perennial drama. Divided government, at either the state or federal level, reaches an impasse in legislative negotiations which triggers a shutdown of government operations. Nobody claims to want it. Yet everyone seems to shape their strategy around it, with each party hoping the other will take the brunt of the blame from frustrated constituents.
Minnesota’s regular legislative session will end tonight at midnight. The chances of Democrat governor Mark Dayton reaching agreement with House Republicans stands next to nil. From all accounts, Dayton wants it that way. As the session deadline has loomed closer, the billionaire department store heir has moved the goal posts on education funding again and again. Most recently, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports Dayton will veto an education bill “if it only includes $400 million in new money for schools.”
Dayton’s banking on a hunch that Republicans will take the blame for a contentious special session and potential government shutdown. He’s “vowing that House Republicans would pay the biggest political cost” in that scenario. That’s what passes for leadership in Minnesota at the moment, triggering shutdowns on the belief political opponents will be blamed.
Why is this even a thing? You might think, with the amount of frustration that these standoffs cause for all parties concerned, there would be some proposal to reform how the budget process works so that negotiations never take place under the specter of a shutdown. If or how that would work legally, I leave to the experts. But such a proposal would quickly sort the disingenuous partisan operatives from the statesmen.
The script needs to flip on the green crowd. The mainstream media typically frames our ongoing debate on the subject of climate change as noble climate scientists on one side against flat-earth-preaching “deniers” on the other.
In a segment of NPR’s “All Things Considered” from earlier this month, host Melissa Block played denier’s advocate in an interview with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief greenhouse gas scientist Pieter Tans. Following up on Tans’ claim that we’ve reached a “global carbon dioxide level milestone” and that the recently measured amount of carbon dioxide hasn’t been seen in millions of years, Block presented a counterpoint:
BLOCK: Now, wouldn’t some people say though that if this same level was reached three or four million years ago, that that indicates climate change isn’t man-made, this happened before?
TANS: Well, yes, climate has changed before dramatically. In most cases though, the pace of that was very, very slow. What is really special about modern times is that human activity on the geologic time scale is like an explosion.
Typically, this is where the debate on climate change pivots, on the question of whether human activity presents a catastrophic threat to the environment. However, a later comment from Tans suggests that we ought to shift the focus from whether there’s a problem to the whether we can afford the proposed solution. Check this out (emphasis added):
BLOCK: And what would it take to reverse the carbon dioxide concentration levels that you’re seeing now?
TANS: See, that is really at the core of why we have made so little progress. The problem with CO2 in particular is that climate – forcing of climate change by CO2 depends not so much on the rate at which we are emitting it. It depends primarily on the total amount of CO2 that we’ve emitted since pre-industrial times.
The implication is that if we want to stop this, we have to bring the emissions back down to zero. That is a very tall order. I mean, I can understand why there is reluctance to take this on seriously. Of course, it’s still in our power to make it much worse. So if we can’t stop emitting at a very aggressive pace, the risks for future generations are much larger.
Zero. In other words, we need to put a halt to human civilization.
Excellent. That’s the debate I want to have. Let’s go out and ask the American people whether they’re so concerned about anthropogenic climate change that they’re willing to freeze to death next winter, assuming they don’t starve before that. Every single aspect of civilized human life produces carbon emissions directly or indirectly. So what Tans is saying, in essence, is that humans have to go.
That’s where the climate change debate needs to shift, away from whether human activity causes it to the more relevant question: so what if it does? What does climate change matter if the prescribed solution is ending human civilization?
As racial tensions have ratcheted up in recent months, triggered by incidents of actual or perceived mistreatment of black men by law enforcement, fresh consideration has been afforded to what it means to be black in America. As a black Republican activist and office-holder, I retain a unique perspective. My existence, and the existence of others like me, makes one side of the debate uncomfortable. After all, it’s hard to maintain a stark whites-versus-blacks dichotomy in a world with black and biracial Republicans.
In my encounters with radical black activists, my skin color has commanded no respect. Blackness, it would seem, means how you think, not how you look. A new study seems to confirm this. The Washington Examiner reports:
The study… searched through the demographic details of 3,300 African-American voters in the 2010 election, when the GOP had nearly three dozen black House candidates running, part of the Republican Party’s push to attract minority voters.
But the authors, political scientists from Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Chicago, found it didn’t help. “Republican efforts in recruiting black candidates were ultimately unsuccessful at mobilizing black voters,” the study said.
Since 1981, the GOP has focused on expanding the black vote beyond single digits — and mostly failed.
The study did find that having a black Republican in the race pushed more African-Americans to the polls, but mostly for Democrats. The highest turnout, 75 percent, occurred when both party candidates were black, followed by when only the Democrat was black, at 73 percent, and 62 percent when only the Republican was black.
That last bit seems particularly telling. The highest turnout among blacks occurs when both parties’ candidates are black, but benefits the Democrat, suggesting that black voters feel compelled to rebuke black Republicans running against black Democrats. The study concluded that “nothing the Republican Party does, even nominating African-American GOP candidates, works to win them over.”
The political ramifications of the study prove disturbing, but not as much as the cultural ramifications. Politically, the study suggests that Republicans might as well write off blacks as a potential constituency. Culturally, the study indicates that “being black” in the eyes of most African-Americans means holding a certain set of beliefs. Black is a worldview, not a skin color.
If that’s actually how most blacks view blackness, it tells us something significant about the ongoing race debate. If race is a worldview rather than a skin color, then racism is objecting to that worldview rather than objecting to skin color. This explains why anyone who rejects the Marxist undercurrent of the Black Lives Matter movement can expect to be labelled racist, even if they happen to be black.
Whenever you hear government apologists claim that budgets can’t be cut lest the poor wither and die in the street, remind them that the federal government and the state of Hawaii effectively just set $235 million ablaze. The state’s Obamacare insurance exchange will be shuddered this month after failing to attract enough enrollees to become financially viable. From Americans for Tax Reform:
While the exchange has struggled since its creation, it is not for lack of funding. Since 2011 Hawaii has received a total of $205,342,270 in federal grant money from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In total, HHS provided nearly $4.5 billion to Hawaii and other state exchanges, with little federal oversight and virtually no strings attached.
Despite this generous funding, the exchange has underperformed from day one. In its first year, Hawaii enrolled only 8,592 individuals – meaning it spent almost $23,899 on its website for each individual enrolled. Currently over 37,000 individuals are enrolled in Hawaii’s exchange – well below the estimated 70,000 enrollees that is required to make the website financially viable. Unfortunately, taxpayers will have to hand out an additional $30 million so that Hawaii can migrate to the federal system.
That’s fundamentally no different from lighting a huge stack of money on fire. At least The Dark Knight’s Joker had the decency to only burn his half.
Think of it, $235 million that came out of household budgets and business accounts, $235 million that won’t go into investments or be spent supporting businesses and funding jobs. It’s a scandal for which no one anywhere will apparently pay a price, just the taxpayers who already have.
When President Obama told American business owners that they didn’t build their own success, he shifted the credit to government for providing things like infrastructure and public schools. Now, he’s attributing success to another factor – dumb luck. From the New York Times:
Speaking to a gathering of faith leaders at Georgetown University, Obama said …his unsuccessful effort to raise taxes on hedge fund managers is an example of the refusal by conservatives to compromise for the benefit of the poor…
“If we can’t ask from society lottery winners to just make that modest investment, then really this conversation is for show,” Obama said. He added later, “If we can’t bridge that gap, I suspect we are not going to make as much progress as we need to.”
That single comment defines the president’s economic worldview. Success doesn’t come to those who act rationally in pursuit of their values. It doesn’t come from hard work performed intelligently. No, it comes from the roll of a die.
There’s a lot more code language in the clip from the Georgetown “poverty summit” embedded above. Obama lamented successful Americans “divesting” from “the commons” by sending their children to private school or working out in private clubs. He claims these acts of free association and pursuit of happiness foster an “an anti-government ideology” which endangers “those things which draw us together.”
It all adds up to a vision of America as a place where success is unearned and exploitative. The president thus prescribes punishing the successful and discouraging individual achievement.
It’s an argument both perennial and perpetual. On one side, Republican partisans argue that activists should temper their expectations in recognition of “political reality.” On the other side, hardcore activists demand absolute fealty to principle, threatening to challenge straying incumbents in endorsement and primary contests.
It’s a national debate, as well as a local one. As the regular legislative session in Minnesota builds toward its abrupt close on May 18th, one of the state’s most active Republican operatives reminds activists that elections have consequences. On his Residual Forces blog, Andy Apilkowski recalls that the mixed nature of state government prevents Republicans in the lower body from accomplishing much:
Here’s the thing I want my fellow conservative and center right friends and allies to remember. Republicans are going to lose the budget debate in terms of our principles, and we can’t disown [our party’s incumbents] because we think they caved.
No seriously. Some people are expecting, nay, DEMANDING across the board cuts in spending, reduction in the size of government, and ground breaking reforms OR ELSE. (shakes fist)
… Republicans lost the Governor’s race [in 2014]. That means, any desire to repeal MNSure [the state’s Obamacare-compliant health insurance exchange], cut tax rates, and freeze Government spending (yes, I know, even a freeze is not good enough for some) would be impossible as [Democrat governor] Mark Dayton was reelected…
We actually lost the ability to win the budget negotiations on election day last year…
… So friends on the right. Please measure your expectations this week and don’t lash out at our friends on the right for not passing laws in line with our principles because it was never possible.
As a Republican who began as a Tea Party activist and has transitioned into a nascent politician, I can appreciate Aplikowski’s point. Any strategy, political or otherwise, must account for reality. Certainly, a Republican majority in one body of a state legislature can not unilaterally set public policy.
That said, I would submit that very few disgruntled conservative activists genuinely expect the passage of limited government bills without limited government majorities in control. Frustration with the Republican status quo does not proceed from an expectation of magical outcomes.
In truth, activist frustration rises from a perception that electing Republicans will not necessarily result in limited government. Evidence to that effect continues to build, suggesting that disowning bad Republicans may be a necessary prerequisite to securing desired outcomes in the long run.
It’s true that limited government legislation cannot be achieved without a supportive legislative majority and a willing executive. That’s a political reality.
Here’s another political reality. Rarely does legislation pass on a strict party vote. There’s usually a mix of Republicans and Democrats voting for or against any given bill.
Another political reality is that politicians are self-interested creatures drawn inexorably toward the center, to a place of atrophy and maintenance of the status quo. That is unless acted upon by an outside force that threatens their comfort and status.
These latter realities suggest that merely voting Republican (or Democrat, if you’re a partisan on their side) will not achieve your legislative goals in the long run. On the contrary, if you can be relied upon to support Republicans no matter how they behave, your desires will be ignored as candidates instead appeal to voters whose support proves more conditional.
That’s political reality.
There is no choice between practicality on the one hand, and principle on the other. If you care about principle, you must hold your party’s incumbents accountable in order to be practical. Otherwise, if you cannot ensure that elected Republicans will support Republican principles, there’s no practical reality-based reason for voting Republican.
Appearing on the “All Star Political Panel” segment of Twin Cities Public Television’s Almanac on Friday, I fielded a question from host Eric Eskola regarding a newly proposed Freedom of Conscience bill presented by a Minnesota state representative earlier in the week. Referencing that morning’s episode of the Fightin Words podcast, Eskola asked why I thought this attempt at securing religious liberty for Christian business owners was doomed to failure.
In short, I noted that the argument for Freedom of Conscience rests upon shaky rhetorical ground. It seeks to preserve the freedom to deny service in a very limited context, conceding that such freedom shouldn’t exist in any other context. If people have the right to apply their judgment to their relationships, that right applies to all relationships, whether personal or commercial, and whether motivated by religion or not.
Former state senator Ellen Anderson, who sat with me on the panel, took exception to my interpretation. She noted that similar rationale has been used in the past to argue for a right to discriminate against customers on the basis of race.
Unfortunately, the segment had to end there. Given the opportunity to further the discussion, I would have argued that true tolerance requires us to allow that which we disapprove of. Indeed, private racial discrimination should be legal. Hate cannot be overcome with rights violations. It can only be neutered by removing coercion from human relationships. In a world where no one may legally take from or harm another, hatred simply doesn’t matter.
As it stands, my defense of freedom provoked the ire of gay rights activist Steven Lewandowski, who took to Twitter offering rebuke:
— Steven Lewandowski (@612Lewandowski) May 9, 2015
It remains unclear what news item or aspect of business changes the fundamental right to freedom of association, which gay rights activists rode to victory in their successful campaign for gay marriage in Minnesota. “Don’t limit the freedom to marry” read lawn signs peppering the Twin Cities in the fall of 2012 when voters considered an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Apparently for some, that freedom to choose with whom one associates only matters in the context of gay marriage.
— Walter Hudson (@WalterHudson) May 9, 2015