April 18, 2014

Earth to Bill Maher: Edward Snowden isn’t the crazy one

GREENWALD-largeTAMPA, January 21, 2014 – Bill Maher interviewed journalist Glenn Greenwald following President Obama’s speech on Friday in which the president discussed his proposals to reform the NSA. Greenwald is the journalist who first reported on the information released by Edward Snowden on the government’s domestic surveillance activities.

While Maher was respectful of Greenwald and, to some extent, Snowden, he went out of his way to smear some of Snowden’s claims about the government’s activities as “completely nuts.” He also found it necessary to take a shot at Ron Paul, who wasn’t even involved in the issue at hand.

For Maher and too many likeminded people, anyone who doesn’t view the government as a benevolent force for good is a tinfoil-hat-wearing kook who believes all civilian life is the target of a massive conspiracy involving the government, secret societies, aliens, etc. Thus Maher’s retort, “Everyone in the government isn’t out to get you.”

That’s what’s known as “framing the debate.” You’re either with Bill Maher and President Obama or you’re with the kooks. You may also be somewhere in the middle, where Maher apparently places Snowden. It completely ignores the many other perspectives one might have, including that of most libertarians.

Libertarians don’t believe that the people who work for the government are evil. It’s the institution of government itself, a monopoly on the use of force that can martial the resources of the entire nation. That kind of power is dangerous even when used by good people with good intentions.

Read the rest of the article at The Huffington Post…

Obama’s proposed NSA reforms prove he doesn’t understand checks and balances

utah datacenterPresident Obama delivered a speech on Friday outlining his plans to address the widespread outrage over the domestic surveillance activities of the National Security Agency. However well-intentioned, the president’s proposals indicate he just doesn’t get the constitutional notion of delegated powers.

Implicit in the Fourth Amendment is the principle that the government should remain powerless unless and until an individual is reasonably suspected of having committed a crime. It isn’t even allowed to search one’s person or papers (viz. phone records, emails) to collect the proof it needs until it persuades a judge that it has probable cause.

The only reason the Fourth Amendment offers any protection is it prescribes an adversarial process. The judicial branch is predisposed to refuse to issue a warrant until the executive branch provides sufficient evidence of probable cause.

Read the rest of the article at the Daily Caller…

Obama’s NSA speech proves government can’t prevent terrorism in a free society

obama911TAMPA, January 18, 2014 – President Obama outlined his proposed reforms of the NSA’s domestic surveillance activities in a speech on Friday. The speech was at times eloquent and the president’s intentions appear genuine, but his recommendations for reform are inadequate. As long as the government is trying to prevent crime or terrorism in the future, it’s going to trample liberty in the present.

The president stated the crux of the problem during his speech:

“So we demanded [after 9/11] that our intelligence community improve its capabilities and that law enforcement change practices to focus more on preventing attacks before they happen than prosecuting terrorists after an attack.”

Freedom requires that the government not attempt to prevent anything. All powers granted to the government relate to crimes committed in the past.

The Bill of Rights rests upon this assumption. Rooted in what is now called the “libertarian” principle of non-aggression, the Fifth Amendment prohibits the government from using force against an individual until it has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual has committed a crime in the past.

The Fourth Amendment goes even farther, prohibiting the government from even searching an individual or his papers (e.g., phone records, e-mails, etc.) without probable cause that the individual has committed a crime in the past.

The entire Bill of Rights supposes that you are beyond the reach of government until you have actually committed a crime. That logically excludes the possibility of the government preventing anything, because the government must employ force against the innocent to do so.

Read the rest of the article at Communities Digital News…

Why Civil Libertarians Should Oppose Federal Civil Rights Charges in Kelly Thomas Case

r-KELLY-THOMAS-TRIAL-large570On Monday, a jury acquitted Officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli of charges related to the death of Kelly Thomas. Immediately afterwards, the FBI field office in Los Angeles announced that it would review the case to determine if federal charges would be brought against the officers.

The verdict was unpopular with civil libertarians, who cited the case as evidence of increasing police brutality, the result of a militarization trend in state and local police departments. They had hoped a guilty verdict would establish some accountability for officers who abuse their power.

They were correct to call attention to the case, but they should oppose federal charges against Ramos and Cicinelli. Affirming the authority of multiple governments to charge defendants with crimes for the same behavior loses the forest for the trees. While a conviction in federal court may feel good in this case, it further empowers the federal government to encroach upon state jurisdiction and weakens due process rights for defendants in general.

Read the rest of the article on The Huffington Post…

$1.1 trillion budget deal doesn’t change fiscal cliff

Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

TAMPA, January 15, 2014 – The Associated Press reported today that Republicans and Democrats are ready to support a $1.1 trillion spending bill that would fund the federal government through its current fiscal year, which ends September 30, 2014. Citing a perceived mandate from voters to put aside their differences, Congress largely abandoned the superficial cuts remaining from sequestration.

Those widely reported “cuts” weren’t really decreases in spending. They were merely promises to increase spending less than planned.

Out in the real world, when an employee making $18.00 per hour gets a 5% pay cut, his new hourly wage is $17.10. That’s not how it works in Washington, D.C. When a federal program funded at $3 billion in 2013 is “cut,” it’s funded for $3.1 billion in 2014 instead of $3.2 billion.

What have been called “draconian cuts” and “gutting the military” by hysterical politicians and media are, for the most part, increases in spending that beneficiaries deem inadequate. Now, even that infinitesimal restraint is gone.

Depending upon which poll one cites and the wording of the questions in it, there is some evidence that the public was unhappy with last autumn’s government shutdown and desires more “bipartisanship” in Congress. Representatives on both sides of the aisle were eager to comply in an election year.

“There’s a desire to show people we can do our job,” said Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho.

However, no poll attempts to separate net taxpayers from net tax collectors. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the latter group would be unhappy with any interruption in government spending. A poll exclusively querying the former group may have yielded far different results.

Regardless of how any part of the public feels about federal spending, it is going to be cut dramatically. The fiscal realities that prompted sequestration and the shutdown have not gone away. Playing nice in Congress hasn’t changed that.

The federal government can only service its $16 trillion debt while its interest rate remains artificially low. The Federal Reserve has attempted to keep it near zero since 2008. It has only been successful because other buyers of federal debt have continued to buy while the Fed has pumped liquidity into the economy with its own purchases.

Should China, the Fed or any other buyer of federal debt cease or even significantly decrease its purchases, interest rates will begin to rise.

When interest rates rise on home mortgages, it hurts. When interest rates rise on $16 trillion, chaos ensues.

According to the White House’s fiscal year 2014 Budget proposal, interest in fiscal year 2013 was $220 billion or 6.2% of all federal spending. That was with interest rates below one half of one percent. It doesn’t take a Nobel Laureate to imagine what happens if the rate begins creeping up to the modest 3-6% levels of the last decade, much less the double digit rates accompanying the crises of the late 1970’s and early 80’s. Annual interest due on federal debt would increase hundreds of millions of dollars.

That would amount to de facto cuts in federal spending on everything else. We’re not talking about make believe “cuts” where spending is still more than the year before. We’re talking about hundreds of billions of dollars less available to spend than the year before. We’re talking about cuts.

Increasing tax revenues isn’t the answer because taxes revenues are already maxed out. The only real debate left on tax rates is whether the top rate on the wealthiest should be 33% or 39%, which is inconsequential to the debt problem. If tax rates are raised significantly overall, revenues go down. That’s already been proven.

So, the federal government tiptoes forward on a fiscal tightrope, dependent upon a set of artificially-created conditions that could change at any time. An overpriced stock market could crash on its own. China could decide to cease or decrease its debt purchases. A natural disaster could occur. Any of these could start the dominoes falling towards higher interest rates, recession for the economy and an unserviceable federal debt.

Even if none of the above occur, the end is inevitable. If printing money to buy your own debt were sustainable, the government could legalize counterfeiting and everyone would be rich. Sooner or later, economic reality will assert itself and the United States will be forced to consume less than it produces. The only question on federal spending is whether it will decrease due to a deliberate act of Congress or the way Greece’s did.

The current budget deal may provide an answer.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Fast food and retail employees are capitalists, too

fast_food_strikes_ap_img_1TAMPA, January 6, 2014 – It’s startling how pervasive Karl Marx’s worldview has become, even here in the supposed home of capitalism. Economists since Adam Smith have represented the division of labor with names for the different roles played by individuals within it at any given time.

But it was Marx who identified “capitalists” as vampires sucking the blood of victim workers. He didn’t use labels such as capitalist and worker merely to explain economic roles, but identified them as separate classes in a political struggle.

Without even realizing it, even pro-market Americans accept these assumptions and largely base their arguments upon them. When the debate devolves into one in which low income earners claim an entitlement to higher wages and high income earners respond by telling them why they don’t deserve higher wages, Marx has already won.

There is no difference between capitalists and workers. All workers are capitalists, even those currently making minimum wage in the fast food or retail industries.

Read the rest of the article at Communities@ Washington Times…

It’s not affordable and Obama doesn’t care

Obama_desk_s640x427TAMPA, January 3, 2014 – Two days ago, Americans rang in the first New Year in its history in which they were required to buy a private company’s product, regardless of their wishes. Predictably, the bloom was already off the rose, even for supporters of this debacle.

The reality that the Affordable Care Act will make insurance premiums go up and eliminate existing health plans whether members liked them or not had already set in. As for those 45 million uninsured we heard so much about four years ago, 44 million of them presumably remain uninsured under the ACA. That the website can’t handle the traffic is likely providing cover for millions of Americans who just aren’t interested in complying.

The lion’s share of blame has been focused on President Obama, but that is really counterproductive. Despite his name being forever attached to “Obamacare,” Obama really had little to do with creating it. He didn’t write the bill. He probably hasn’t even read it.

Read the rest of the article at Communities@ Washington Times…

Duck Dynasty A&E dispute proves Civil Rights Act obsolete

Duck_Dynasty_s800x265TAMPA, December 20, 2013 – Immediately after A&E put Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson “on hiatus,” the blogosphere exploded with reactions. Liberals decry Robertson’s alleged bigotry. Conservatives defended his right to free speech and freedom of religion.

99% of the commentary is wrong, of course. First, Robertson’s comments were not bigoted. Robertson merely quotes the Bible on homosexuality. He then says that it is not for humans to judge anyone. That is reserved for God.

You can’t be prejudiced if you don’t judge. He believes homosexuality is a sin, but nowhere does he indicate that anyone should be treated differently, either by the law or by individuals, because they are homosexual.

This has nothing to do with freedom of speech or religion, either. Those principles relate to government suppression of speech and religion. The government hasn’t threatened Robertson.

In fact, A&E’s response was the textbook libertarian answer to this kind of dispute. A&E’s management, representing the stockholders, exercised their own right to freedom of association. They have a right to terminate their business relationship with Robertson for any reason, provided it does not violate the contract they signed with him.

Read the rest of the article at Communities@ Washington Times…

What Bible is Pope Francis reading?

popeTAMPA, December 18, 2013 – There has already been a lot said about Pope Francis’ EVANGELII GAUDIUM, in which he is critical of free markets. Reactions by Christian proponents of capitalism have ranged from respectful disagreement to full-on denial that he was critical of the market at all.

The latter group is not facing reality. While having since clarified that he is not Marxist, the pope clearly rejected the laissez faire approach to the market in favor of the highly regulated, redistributionist model promoted by the left. His offering is chock full of the usual sophisms leftists use to justify overriding freedom of choice in exchanges of property.

There is no need to address each of the pope’s arguments against free markets from a purely economic perspective. Tom Woods has already done this thoroughly during his December 6 episode of the Tom Woods Show, “Pope Francis on Capitalism.”

What is more surprising than the pope’s leftist economic ideas is his ability to ignore the overtly pro-capitalist themes in the gospels themselves. Jesus’ teaching consistently holds capitalists up as heroes. He never once even hints that the government should direct economic affairs.

The misconception that Jesus’ message is anti-capitalist probably stems from the same confusion that pervades all leftist thinking: the inability to distinguish voluntary from coerced human action. Jesus often exhorts his followers to voluntarily give to the poor. Nowhere in the gospels does he suggest that the Romans or the vassal Jewish government should be empowered to tax the wealthy to provide for the poor.

Tax collectors are de facto sinners, remember?

Read the rest of the article at Communities@ Washington Times…

Mr. Obama, tear down this data center

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Get the tee shirt here!

datacenterTAMPA, December 17, 2013 – A federal judge’s ruling Monday confirmed what a majority of Americans already knew. The National Security Agency’s indiscriminate gathering of data on every phone call made in the United States is unconstitutional. Calling the government’s data gathering technology “almost Orwellian,” Judge Richard Leon said that James Madison would be “aghast” if he knew the government was encroaching upon liberty in such a way.

According to USA Today, he also pointed out another thing most Americans already knew. The program never has and likely never will prevent a terrorist attack.

“Given the limited record before me at this point in the litigation — most notably the utter lack of evidence that a terrorist attack has ever been prevented because searching the NSA database was faster than other investigative tactics — I have serious doubts about the efficacy of the metadata collection program as a means of conducting time-sensitive investigations in cases involving imminent threats of terrorism,” the judge said.

The judge limited his ruling to the plaintiffs in the case, leaving constitutionality open for other courts to decide in other cases. The ruling is expected to be the first of many, with an expectation that the issue may eventually find its way into the Supreme Court.

Read the rest of the article at Communities@ Washington Times…