Thursday, July 31, 2008
Barr gives the example of McCain's double talk on taxes. Maybe the Straight Talk Express shold be called the Double Talk Express?
This all happened seven months ago and the police apparently still haven't held anyone accountable for this potentially deadly mistake. Unfortunately these "botched raids" are not all that uncommon and many do result in innocents dying (see Kathryn Johnston).
From the St. Paul Pioneer Press:
Eight Minneapolis police officers who raided the wrong house last year have been honored for their valor — and that's outraged a family that was shot at multiple times by the officers.
Three officers involved in the Dec. 16 raid received medals of valor from Police Chief Tim Dolan on Monday. Five others got medals of commendation.
Yee Moua said her family is "a mess right now," and her 9-year-old son, who saw the shooting, "still has nightmares and has needed therapy."
Police entered the home last December expecting to find a violent gang member. Instead, they found a 35-year-old homeowner, Vang Khang, who thought he was being robbed. Khang grabbed his shotgun to protect his six children and he shot at the officers through a bedroom door until he realized they were police.
The officers, members of the Minneapolis Police Department's SWAT team, were wearing protective gear and were not injured. But they returned fire.
Members of the family also were not physically injured. But the house was left filled with bullet holes and broken glass. Two days later, Dolan apologized and started an internal investigation to find out how the SWAT team wound up in an innocent family's house.
The investigation found the team had gone there looking for a gang member's guns after an informant gave investigators bad information. The investigation is ongoing, but Dolan said the SWAT officers have been cleared. Authorities are still looking into how the case was handled before the raid.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Of course these cameras are for "security" during the convention, but the city gets to keep them and will move some elsewhere in the city after the convention. These of course will be used to "enhance the safety" of St. Paul.
Some excerpts from an article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press:
The eyes of the world will be on St. Paul during the Republican National Convention, and so will the lenses of St. Paul police cameras.
Protesters and the American Civil Liberties Union aren't happy about it. They fear innocent people will be targeted.
The police, meanwhile, say they'll use the cameras to monitor security and traffic during the four-day convention.
"It allows us to have another point of observation," said police Sgt. Jack Serier, a manager for the camera project. "You may be able to verify information from ground communications and be able to tie in information from two or three people on the ground to get the whole picture."
There'll be more than 40 cameras, funded through a $50 million federal grant to the city, Serier said.
Meanwhile, other St. Paul police camera projects are under way.
Cameras were recently installed along University Avenue from near Minnesota 280 to Robert Street. They eventually will extend into downtown. When the Central Corridor project is complete, there will be about 25 cameras, Lynaugh said. The project was funded with a $1.2 million federal grant and a $300,000 donation from Target Corp.
The public can view live footage from these cameras in the lobbies of police headquarters on Grove Street and the department's Western District station on Hamline Avenue, Lynaugh said.
Later, people will be able to view live feeds from cameras by way of computer IP addresses the police make public, Serier said.
Samuelson said, in general, surveillance cameras haven't been as effective in deterring or solving crimes as police say.
"They tend to be up high so you get the back of someone's head," he said.
But Walsh said cameras have "had a profound effect" in Minneapolis and across the country.
"If we didn't have examples of this being effective, we wouldn't have invested in the Central Corridor and Port Authority grants the way we have," he said.
Profound effect? Really? Effect on what? Crime? England which has virtually covered every major city with cameras and is on its way to 2 million total cameras in the next 3 years is not exactly crime free. The cameras didn't prevent the London subway bombings or the famous kidnapping and murder of two-year-old James Bulger.
What is England now using the cameras for? Well they have added speakers so the watchers can scold people for littering.
For more on cameras in England see:
Some Camera to Watch Over You
'Talking' CCTV scolds offenders
Cameras will not bring real security, they will just bring about the total surveillance state and the total loss of privacy.
If it is okay to watch our every move in public, what will be done next for "safety and security"? We are already seeing various road checkpoints in the US supposedly for certain specific reasons such as seat belts, drunk driving and immigration. Why not just random checkpoints for no reason and warrant less searches of our cars and homes? Certainly they will catch a few criminals, so why not sacrifice a little privacy.
As Benjamin Franklin said:
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
The Dangers of Neo-Conservative Economic Policies
The dangers inherent in the foreign policy advocated by the neo-conservatives are well known. While many Americans have become increasingly aware of those dangers, far less attention has been focused on the dangers of neo-conservative economic policies. This issue is of critical importance right now, because many are mistakenly pointing their fingers at the free market as the culprit behind our current economic plight.
There are only a few in elected office who have any real loyalty to free markets and limited government. The agenda of neo-conservatives in the economy calls for a very active central government. Indeed, while there are some neo-conservatives who continue to use the rhetoric of limited government, and who oppose increases in the federal income tax as a way to maintain the political benefits that apply to those who talk about free markets, it is now the neo-conservatives who promote fiat monetary policies even more than those on the liberal left.
While I have been a strong proponent of cutting taxes on all Americans, and therefore supported the tax reductions offered by President Bush, the neo-cons argue that tax rate reduction alone is the key to “getting the government out of the way” of economic growth. Moreover, they invariably argue for tax reductions targeted toward the wealthy, and toward multinational corporations.
Over the years, I have offered several tax plans designed to assist hard working middle-class Americans to pay for their needs, whether these needs be health-care related, educational or to pay the costs of fuel. A few years back when I introduced one such bill, a prominent Republican approached me on the House Floor and asked, half in anger and half in amazement “why did you do that?” Shortly after that, the committee chairman at the time, also a Republican, sent out a release strongly attacking my tax cut bill.
So, while the liberal economic agenda includes more taxes and spending, the neo-con economic program simply looks to target some tax cuts to preferred groups, but ignore the economic big picture. The neo-con economic agenda is to “borrow and spend” and it is that agenda, even more than the tax and spend ways of many liberals, that has cast us in economic peril at this time.
Simply, on spending, the neo-cons and the liberals share views, just as they share similar views on foreign policy. While each side tries to claim the mantle of change, reality is that more of the same is not change.
The fiat monetary policy we now follow is the most significant factor contributing to our economic peril, and it is central to the neo-con agenda. As we hear new calls to empower the Federal Reserve Board, we should be aware that underlying all neo-conservative policies is the idea of monetary inflation. Inflation is the technique used to pay for the regulatory-state and the costs of policing the world.
John McCain Contradicts Himself on Taxes Again, Says Bob Barr
July 28, 2008 8:20 pm EST
Atlanta, GA -- “Where does John McCain stand on taxes?,” asks Bob Barr, the Libertarian Party candidate for president. “He was for higher taxes before he was against them. But now he seems to be in favor of them again,” notes Barr.
“Perhaps Sen. McCain has been in Washington too long to realize, but Americans pay far too much for government. The Tax Foundation says most of us spend nearly four months working for the government, and that doesn’t include the cost of government borrowing or regulation. Yet Sen. McCain opposed President George W. Bush’s tax cuts as being unfair. When he decided to run for president, he decided that he favored making the tax cuts permanent. Which is the real John McCain?,” Barr asks.
Earlier this year Sen. McCain said “no new taxes,” no matter what, but his economic adviser Carly Fiorina recently encouraged the Democrats to be “creative enough” to propose a tax hike on wealthier Americans as part of a Social Security plan. “McCain’s spokesman then insisted that the candidate believes ‘we can fix Social Security without raising taxes,’ but this weekend Sen. John McCain told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that ‘There is nothing I would take off the table’,” notes Barr. “That language is Washington-speak and is nothing less than an open invitation to the Democrats to propose tax hikes in the context of negotiations concerning the budget or Social Security reform. We all know how such bipartisan ‘compromises’ end—with spending going up and taxpayers paying more.”
“Taxes are too high. We must reduce the tax burden and make paying taxes less complicated. To do that we have to cut spending. We certainly cannot afford more multi-billion dollar bail-outs, like the housing bill just passed by Congress, with the president’s—and Sen. McCain’s—support,” says Barr. “Real change is never easy to achieve, but it will be impossible unless the next president refuses to support a tax increase, whether in the name of deficit reduction or Social Security reform.”
Sen. McCain has styled his campaign “the Straight Talk Express.” Unfortunately, notes Barr, “the McCain train has run off the rails yet again, as Tax Hike John has taken command. The American people deserve to know which John McCain they would be voting for in November. We can’t afford to elect another status quo politician, who thinks America’s basic problem is that Americans pay too little in taxes.”
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
From Downsize DC:
We just won another victory (our 13th victory since 2006). The Senate killed S. 3297 yesterday. This massive bill, called the "Advancing America's Priorities Act," contained 36 completely unrelated measures. Sixty votes were needed to close debate and bring the bill to a final vote. It received only 52 votes -- there were 40 votes against.
This shows us something: There are many ways to defeat bad bills.
Senators can place holds on bills. This is what Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma did on many of the bills that were included in this package. That's why the Senate leadership decided to bundle them together to try to pass them as a group. We could win more fights by convincing more Senators to place holds on bad bills.
We could also win more often if we could cause more bills to fall short of the 60 votes needed in the Senate to permit a final vote.
We could win by getting the vote we want in one chamber of Congress, even if we lose the vote in the other chamber.
In many cases, we could win if we could just convince Democrats to vote like liberals on civil liberties, and Republicans to vote like conservatives on fiscal issues.
There are many different ways to win as we grow larger and stronger. In this case, by helping to defeat S. 3297 we saved taxpayers $10 billion!
We need to thank those Senators who voted against S. 3297, and spank those who voted for it. A complete roster of how the Senate voted is listed beneath my signature, in alphabetical order, by state. Check how your Senators voted, and then send them a message either thanking them or spanking them. You can send your message here.
Remember, if you get a white page, please hit Refresh, or Back and try again.
My Senators voted different ways, so here's what I sent: "I'm glad S.3297 failed. We don't need to spend $10 billion on questionable new programs at a time when the federal deficit is so large, and taxpayers are having trouble making ends meet. Thank you to Senator Voinovich for voting against this monstrosity. And I want to
encourage Senator Brown to stop voting for bloated spending bills, especially when they contain multiple unrelated proposals."
Please send your "thank/spank" message now. Remember to hit your refresh button if you get a white screen.
Thank you for being a part of the growing and increasingly victorious
Downsize DC army,
Here's how the Senate voted, in state alphabetical order:
Sessions (R-AL), Nay
Shelby (R-AL), Nay
Murkowski (R-AK), Nay
Stevens (R-AK), Nay
Lincoln (D-AR), Yea
Pryor (D-AR), Yea
Kyl (R-AZ), Nay
McCain (R-AZ), Not Voting
Boxer (D-CA), Yea
Feinstein (D-CA), Yea
Allard (R-CO), Not Voting
Salazar (D-CO), Yea
Dodd (D-CT), Yea
Lieberman (ID-CT), Yea
Biden (D-DE), Yea
Carper (D-DE), Yea
Martinez (R-FL), Nay
Nelson (D-FL), Yea
Chambliss (R-GA), Nay
Isakson (R-GA), Nay
Akaka (D-HI), Yea
Inouye (D-HI), Yea
Grassley (R-IA), Nay
Harkin (D-IA), Yea
Craig (R-ID), Nay
Crapo (R-ID), Nay
Durbin (D-IL), Yea
Obama (D-IL), Not Voting
Bayh (D-IN), Yea
Lugar (R-IN), Nay
Brownback (R-KS), Nay
Roberts (R-KS), Nay
Bunning (R-KY), Nay
McConnell (R-KY), Nay
Landrieu (D-LA), Yea
Vitter (R-LA), Nay
Kennedy (D-MA), Not Voting
Kerry (D-MA), Yea
Cardin (D-MD), Yea
Mikulski (D-MD), Yea
Collins (R-ME), Nay
Snowe (R-ME), Nay
Levin (D-MI), Yea
Stabenow (D-MI), Yea
Coleman (R-MN), Yea
Klobuchar (D-MN), Yea
Bond (R-MO), Nay
McCaskill (D-MO), Yea
Cochran (R-MS), Nay
Wicker (R-MS), Nay
Baucus (D-MT), Yea
Tester (D-MT), Yea
Burr (R-NC), Nay
Dole (R-NC), Not Voting
Conrad (D-ND), Yea
Dorgan (D-ND), Yea
Hagel (R-NE), Not Voting
Nelson (D-NE), Yea
Gregg (R-NH), Nay
Sununu (R-NH), Not Voting
Lautenberg (D-NJ), Yea
Menendez (D-NJ), Yea
Bingaman (D-NM), Yea
Domenici (R-NM), Nay
Ensign (R-NV), Not Voting
Reid (D-NV), Yea
Clinton (D-NY), Yea
Schumer (D-NY), Yea
Brown (D-OH), Yea
Voinovich (R-OH), Nay
Coburn (R-OK), Nay
Inhofe (R-OK), Nay
Smith (R-OR), Yea
Wyden (D-OR), Yea
Casey (D-PA), Yea
Specter (R-PA), Nay
Reed (D-RI), Yea
Whitehouse (D-RI), Yea
DeMint (R-SC), Nay
Graham (R-SC), Nay
Johnson (D-SD), Yea
Thune (R-SD), Nay
Alexander (R-TN), Nay
Corker (R-TN), Nay
Cornyn (R-TX), Nay
Hutchison (R-TX), Nay
Bennett (R-UT), Nay
Hatch (R-UT), Nay
Warner (R-VA), Yea
Webb (D-VA), Yea
Leahy (D-VT), Yea
Sanders (I-VT), Yea
Cantwell (D-WA), Yea
Murray (D-WA), Yea
Feingold (D-WI), Yea
Kohl (D-WI), Yea
Byrd (D-WV), Yea
Rockefeller (D-WV), Yea
Barrasso (R-WY), Nay
Enzi (R-WY), Nay
Monday, July 28, 2008
Edwin Rutsch: Have Conservative Values Failed?
Bob Barr: I'm not sure. The term "conservative values" means so many different things to so many different people. To me, what has utterly failed in the traditional conservative movement is any understanding of or respect for true individual liberty and our constitutional system of government, which was designed expressly to provide protection for individual liberty.
We now have a government which calls itself conservative, yet believes it's okay to spy on American citizens within their own country without a court order. We now have an administration which calls itself conservative and supports conservative values that believes it's okay to detain a citizen or non-citizen in this country and never give them access to courts to determine under habeas corpus if they are being held properly.
So if in fact respect for individual liberty, respect for the Constitution are conservative values, we certainly don't have that in Washington nowadays.
Edwin Rutsch: How about the Family Values?
Family values are part and parcel of the same notion of individual liberty. Where you have a Federal government, or in the cases of many of our state governments, state governments that want to tell individual citizens or the Federal government to override the decisions of the citizens.
For example, if the citizens of a particular state wish to legalize medicinal marijuana, or to change the definition of marriage in their state, why should the Federal government have any right, if in fact if it respects individual liberty and individual conservative values, have any power have any power to come in and override the position of the people of the state. Yet that's what we have in Washington. That's not conservatism. That's big government.
The value that is most important to me, is that which is most important, for example, to the great 20th Century philosopher Ayn Rand, and that is the value of individual privacy. As Ayn Rand said, the value of privacy, the notion of a person being freed from the interference of other people, is the essence of civilization.
And where you have a government that can come in and can invade your privacy, as Ayn Rand also said, you take away a person's freedom when you do that. That's the most important and fundamental of all values.
It's simply an understanding and a recognition that the notion of privacy in virtually everything you see and do government-involved-in nowadays -- whether it's surveillance cameras, whether it is wiretapping, whether it is trying to dictate to individuals or the states how one must behave, whether it's the government believing it can have access to our most personal financial and medical records without ever telling about it, or without showing a probable cause, it is under assault everywhere, and if we don't get a handle on it pretty soon, we'll lose the opportunity forever to do so.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
At this point I do not know what happened to this bill on July 26, 2008.
In a free country the government should not be able to mandate individuals to do things. Barack (Change is Just a Campaign Theme) Obama is a cosponsor of this big brother bill.
Here is a video from Amy Philo, founder of Unite for Life, one of the people opposed to this bill:
A letter written when the Mother's Act was a separate bill:
For years, the March of Dimes has warned not to use meds while pregnant. Why now encourage mothers to take drugs?
Please register this extreme objection to the proposed MOTHERS Act (S. 1375) which is now before you in committee. It is my earnest hope that you will immediately defeat this bill in committee. The bill has been brought to you under the guise of ensuring safety or support for new mothers- however, nothing could be further from the truth.
The bill was originally proposed in response to the death by suicide of Melanie Stokes, a pharmaceutical rep. who took her own life by leaping from a balcony several stories off of the ground. Contrary to popular understanding it was not post-partum depression that killed Melanie, but the numerous antidepressant drugs she was taking, which the FDA confirmed double the suicide risk.
Nobody is suggesting that new moms do not ever experience mood swings, depression, or even psychotic episodes. The more important issue is what the effect of this bill will be and why nobody is addressing potential methods of prevention. Everyone knows how many young moms experience gestational diabetes, but who is addressing the even higher rate of gestational hypoglycemia, which often initially manifests as depression? This is a physical condition that is treated with diet and is exacerbated by antidepressants (which list hypoglycemia as a side effect).
To simply screen women for post-partum mood disorders and ensure that they get “treatment,” we would be setting families up for the expectation of tragedy and increasing the chances of that actually happening when we refer them to medical “professionals” who are oblivious to the negative mind-altering effects of psychiatric drugs. A popular opinion among medical caregivers these days is that “post-partum mood disorders” must be a sign of an underlying biochemical imbalance and would be corrected with drugs.
Current drugs used on post-partum women include SSRIs, atypical antidepressants, and even antipsychotic drugs. These pose a significant risk to the immediate safety and health of women as well as their children and families. SSRIs carry a black box warning for suicide and the most popular one, Effexor (the same med. Andrea Yates was taking when she drowned her 5 children), has the words “homicidal ideation” listed as a side effect. Nearly every recent case of infanticide which has made news can be clearly linked back to a psychiatric drug. These drugs endanger babies and mothers.
Additionally, the drugs can be extremely addictive and also pose a risk to nurslings or babies exposed in subsequent pregnancies. Some babies have died from SIDS linked to exposure from pregnancy or nursing; others have experienced coma, seizures, GI bleeding, heart defects, lung problems, and many babies died before reaching full term or soon after birth.
The bill does not address the fact that studies show that biological agents (antidepressants for example) cited in the bill and already prescribed to pregnant women can cause congenital heart birth defects where children have had to undergo open-heart surgeries to correct this. Also, some babies are being born with organs outside their bodies, requiring immediate surgery.
In closing I want to re-emphasize the total lack of any real answer to post-partum depression posed by this bill. If we can prevent post-partum depression or support moms through it, or offer proven SAFE and EFFECTIVE natural alternatives to dangerous drugs, then we should. However we should never, ever become party to a pharmaceutical campaign to push drugs on the public. We will set ourselves up for disaster if we allow an invasion into the privacy of every family in the country and suggest to our most vulnerable citizens that they might be mentally ill.
We must do everything in our power to protect innocent children, and giving their mothers addictive drugs which pose a significant risk of causing suicide and violence does not protect anyone. It does cause the child to become addicted while still in the womb and sets up drug dependence which can be lifelong.
We still have no idea what effect most drugs have on developing brains. It might take decades for the impact on the developing brain to become apparent.
For information on the research pertaining to the risks of antidepressants and other treatments for new moms and their babies, details about the Melanie Stokes case (or you can read the letter by Dr. Ann Blake Tracy at http://uniteforlife.org/MOTHERSact.htm#drtracymothersact), as well as information on prevention strategies and safe, effective treatments for post-partum mood disorders, please contact us.
New Mexico State Director of the ICFDA (http://www.drugawareness.org/home.html)
Mother of a victim of psychiatric drug-induced suicide and grandmother to a now motherless child
Dr. Ann Blake Tracy
Executive Director of the ICFDA
Author of Prozac: Pancaea or Pandora? Our Serotonin Nightmare
For more information visit Unite for Life
Restoring checks and balances in a Barr Administration:
Zoe Lofgren asked what Barr would do to restore checks and balances in a Barr Administration. Barr answered:
Well, it’s hard to know where to start. We’ve touched on every single area that the policies in a Barr Administration would be quite different from those in the current administration. The doctrine of “state secrets” would not be employed to hide embarrassing or improper acts by an administration. It would not be used to thwart the legitimate complaints, you know, seeking redress by American citizens for wrongs committed against and by the government.
Signing statements. I would certainly accept the challenge laid by your colleague, my former colleague, Walter Jones. Signing statements would not be employed to undercut the Congress and to move forward the notion that the Executive Branch is above the law. Executive privilege would not be used as a shield behind which to hide embarrassing or political information legitimately sought by the Congress.
The commander-in-chief power would be returned to its proper place, and that is not the power to make war or run the armed forces, but simply to carryout the administrative duty of serving as the chief and top officer in the military.
The FISA law would be adhered to and I would seek legislation to undo what I consider the unwarranted and constitutionally damaging expansion of foreign intelligence surveillance gathering on American citizens in their own country reflected in the legislation that was just passed by the Congress.
And then we’d look at my next week in office.
Barr shows the original bill of rights and then shows what it is becoming:
"The right of the people to be secure in persons, houses, papers and effects shall be delegated to the United States."
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Bob Barr's Opening Statement before the House Judiciary Committee's hearing on Executive Power & the Bush Administration
Olbermann noted a point Barr made in his oral testimony to the committee today about the postal service being more trusted than the government. Here is the exchange:
Olbermann: You pointed out also in the hearing today that four times as many Americans have more faith in the Post Office than have in the Justice Department. How do you propose to remedy that if things don’t change drastically in this country?
Barr: That was a very telling point that I made and I appreciate your mentioning that. That tells you how low we’ve sunk with this administration. That the most trusted institution of the government is the US Postal Service and one of the least trusted is the US Department of Justice. This is a prime reason why I’ve chosen to run for President of the United States on the Libertarian ticket and that is try and rekindle peoples faith in government and getting back to our constitutional roots and by reducing the power of the government it wields over the people and not continuing to increase it.
July 24, 2008 11:22 am EST
As America confronts a variety of domestic and foreign challenges in the future, it is essential that we preserve our prosperous, productive, and innovative economy. Without a strong economic foundation, it will be impossible for our nation to deal with the many serious financial, social, and environmental problems facing the U.S.
One of the most complicated and controversial issues facing America is global warming. Although temperatures have increased in recent decades, the scientific community has been unable to make definitive judgments as to the past cause or future course of climate change. Indeed, the models which predict problems in the future did not predict the lack of any temperature increase over the last decade. Unfortunately, many climate processes are not yet clearly understood.
Thus, we need to conduct more and better scientific research about climate change to assess likely problems in the future and develop appropriate solutions. More dialogue is key to understanding global warming and developing the best means of dealing with the important questions surrounding the phenomenon. This dialogue must include scientists from all sides of the issue, including those who are skeptical of the assertion that humans are primarily responsible for global temperature changes and that those changes pose a substantial danger to humanity.
Moreover, we must develop cost-effective policies which will not undermine the U.S. economy. So-called cap and trade legislation, recently rejected by the U.S. Senate, would do grievous damage to the American economy, threatening to create a permanent recession by reversing industrial growth and destroying millions of jobs. Attempting to adjust global temperatures by artificially cutting energy consumption would undermine the very prosperous and innovative market system upon which we must rely for answers to everything from health care to international poverty to environmental protection.
Our energy future must be built on a commitment to both find more conventional energy sources and expand use of alternative fuels. The U.S. has large deposits of petroleum, oil shale, and natural gas. Barriers to their development in the Outer Continental Shelf, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and other federal lands should be lowered or eliminated, which would provide Americans with a more secure source of energy over the short term and help bring down today’s high prices, which are causing such economic hardship to so many Americans. Such steps would also allow us to begin seriously considering and developing alternative sources of energy that will be essential in the long term.
The development of alternatives to fossil fuels would provide the country with many benefits, ranging from lower CO2 emissions to greater diversity of energy supplies. Given the failure of past government subsidy programs, this transformation can only be led by the private sector.
The government must remove regulatory barriers, which limit the development of alternative as well as conventional energy sources. Moreover, public officials should cease their demagogic attacks on the energy industry, which has made money only by finding, refining, and transporting gasoline, natural gas, and heating oil for the American people. Vote-minded legislators risk creating an environment in which companies are punished for doing good, which will only make them more reluctant to invest in all technologies and fuels, alternative as well as conventional.
Indeed, the challenge of promoting continuing energy innovation should cause us to reconsider other policies which discourage business investment and capital formation more generally. Americans for Tax Reform recently reported that the tax and regulatory burden rose at both the state and national level over the last year. America’s corporate income tax is one of the highest in the world, creating a self-inflicted economic wound. Congress now routinely votes for new spending programs for which we have no way to pay, putting our entire economic future at risk.
The challenges that we face are serious, but I am convinced we can find solutions. We are more likely to develop policies that simultaneously promote economic growth, expand energy supplies, and lessen any adverse effects of climate change, if we promote a genuine dialogue among contending factions. Although I do not agree with the tax and regulatory policies advanced by former Vice President Al Gore, I do believe his call for greater reliance on alternative energy could be given positive effect by American industry. Only the market economy can balance his passion with the reality of preserving the growing economy upon which our future—and that of our children and grandchildren—depends.
We must address the issue of climate change, but do so realistically, recognizing the importance of simultaneously expanding energy supplies and maintaining economic growth. Our greatest strength in confronting the problems of the future is our free market economy. Only by reducing government barriers to private research and development are we going to achieve the innovative, even transformational, changes necessary in the years and decades ahead.
Friday, July 25, 2008
TESTIMONY BEFORE THE HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE BY BOB BARR - July 25, 2008
Mr. Chairman and distinguished Members of this Committee, on which I was privileged to serve throughout my eight years as a Member of the House of Representatives, it is an honor to appear today to speak on the importance of the separation of powers in the federal government as a tool for protecting the people’s liberties. Many vital issues confront our nation, but few are more important than repairing and maintaining the constitutional bulwarks that guarantee individual liberty and limit government power.
Mr. Chairman, today I appear as a private citizen, and also as a former Member of this Committee and as a once-again practicing attorney. I am also honored to be serving as the presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party.
It is axiomatic that no matter how much power government has, it always wants more. While the executive branch under George W. Bush has taken this truism to new heights, it is not unique in its quest for power. Unfortunately, the other branches of government have failed to do enough to maintain the constitutional balance. Particularly disturbing has been Congress’ recent reluctance, in the face of aggressive executive branch claims, to make the laws and ensure that the laws are properly applied. This failure has inhibited the operation of the separation of powers, necessary to provide the checks and balances which undergird our system of constitutional liberty.
CHECKS AND BALANCES
The Constitution employs several techniques to preserve our liberties and privacy. One is to limit federal authority to enumerated powers. Another is to explicitly restrict government power, most notably through the Bill of Rights. The Founders also used the basic structure of government to protect the people from abuse, relying upon federalism, dividing power between state and national governments, as well as the separation of powers within the federal government itself.
The latter concept goes back to ancient Greece and was explicated by such political philosophers as John Locke and most famously by Baron de Montesquieu, who was much studied by America’s Founders. Many countries have implemented the same principle, though with different government structures, ranging up to six branches in Germany. In the U.S. the Founders established the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The result is intentional inefficiency: the three branches are expected to constantly check and balance each other.
For instance, James Madison declared in Federalist No. 51: “the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others.” He went on to explain that, “[i]n framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” This means “the constant aim is to divide and arrange the several offices in such a manner as that each may be a check on the other.”
Despite the inevitable problems which will afflict any political system, the original constitutional scheme has worked extremely well. Although the relative power of the different branches has varied over time, checks and balances have always operated.
More than two centuries have passed, and the constitutional limits on both the legislative and judicial branches remain robust – at least in theory. The president appoints and the Senate confirms judges, for instance. Presidents veto legislation and administer the laws, while the judiciary assesses the constitutionality of and interprets statutes.
In contrast, however, the constitutional constraints on the executive branch have eroded, with some breaking down substantially or entirely. The process has been underway for many years, but has greatly accelerated since 2001. In particular, President Bush and his appointees have used his power as commander in chief—of the military, not American society, it should be noted—to disregard congressional authority and override explicit constitutional provisions. Indeed, since 9/11, the president has let few opportunities slip by without reminding us that he is not only commander in chief but also a “wartime president,” and to argue that this status justifies whatever new power he claims to possess and wishes to utilize.
The president’s authority is substantial, but limited by law. The Constitution directs him or her to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” However, Congress is vested with the sole power to legislate, thereby determining the laws to be executed. Moreover, the president’s administration of the law is constrained by the Bill of Rights, including the Fourth Amendment, which bars searches and seizures absent a warrant based on probable cause. Further, though the president by the nature of his office has a lead role in shaping foreign and military policy, the Constitution shares powers in these areas between the legislative and executive branches.
Since the nation’s founding, Congress and the executive have struggled for supremacy. The 20th Century witnessed a steady if irregular expansion of presidential authority, which has carried over into this first decade of the 21st Century. The role of the president as the military’s commander in chief has taken on increasing importance as it has been used to justify the aggrandizement of the executive’s authority at the expense of that of both Congress and the judiciary. The issue is not just an abstract struggle between different government officials. Rather, this expansion of presidential power has increasingly put the people’s liberties and privacy at risk.
One of the most important expansions of executive authority has been transforming the president’s power to conduct a war into that of starting a war. Congress is vested with the sole power to declare, meaning to start, war; the Constitution’s framers explicitly intended to diverge from the British system and vest the authority to initiate war with the many in the legislature rather than the one in the executive. The Constitution also empowers Congress to create the military and enact rules governing both the military and the conduct of war. Although the constitutional convention changed the term from “make” to “declare” to allow the president to respond to a surprise attack, and the president’s authority to conduct war as commander in chief suggests that Congress cannot second guess his tactical judgments, he is to exercise all his powers within the larger framework created by the legislative branch.
Yet modern presidents increasingly assert their unilateral authority to bomb and invade other nations, without legislative approval, and to conduct military operations for years even after the original circumstances giving rise to a congressional authorization to use force have changed. This trend did not originate with the Bush administration, but has continued and grown under it. For instance, in 2002 President George W. Bush insisted that Congress not tie his hands, and refused to acknowledge the constitutional necessity of winning legislative approval to invade Iraq. Rather than make the decision for or against war, Congress transferred discretion to initiate war against Iraq to the president.
After launching the Iraq invasion in 2003 based on a 2002 congressionally-passed resolution to do so, the current administration has rejected the argument that a multi-year occupation violates Congress’ authorization of force, which legally controls the executive’s war objectives. The president also has resisted congressional oversight of its objectives and policies, which is an essential aspect of Congress’ authority. Although acknowledging that Congress controls the budgetary purse strings, the president and his aides have fought any attempt to condition appropriations—conveniently bundled in “emergency” supplementals in order to reduce the opportunity for legislative review.
EROSION OF LIBERTY
The administration has attempted to use the same commander in chief power, as well as Congress’ Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), approved after 9/11, to trump constitutional protections for civil liberties and privacy. Yet the Constitution does not create a national security exception to the Bill of Rights or separation of powers, and no member of Congress imagined that voting to authorize the use of force abroad simultaneously authorized the president to engage in unspecified and otherwise unconstitutional conduct at home. There is no basis for the argument the president’s authority as commander in chief in effect swallows and trumps the rest of the Constitution.
For instance, the administration undertook warrantless surveillance of Americans without court order or supervision. Conducted by the National Security Agency, the program was inaugurated shortly after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and was inaccurately dubbed the Terrorist Surveillance Program, since in fact it targeted American citizens with no reason to believe they were engaged in any actions involving terrorism. The eavesdropping directly violated even the relaxed warrant requirements of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Under Republican control, Congress unashamedly refused to conduct serious inquiry into the obviously improper NSA surveillance program. Unfortunately, the GOP majority put partisan comity ahead of fidelity to the law and Constitution. Although more members of the Democratic majority, which took over in January 2007, indicated concern about administration lawlessness, this Congress recently caved in to administration demands and amended FISA to grant the government unprecedented power to surreptitiously spy on the phone calls and emails of American citizens in our own country, based on nothing more then a belief they are communicating with someone not in the U.S. The measure also granted immunity – retro-active and prospective — to telephone companies which aided government law-breaking.
Thus did a genuine need to modernize certain of FISA’s technical provisions—for example, to reverse the court interpretation that monitoring calls sent by modern routing mechanisms through the U.S., even though both parties were located abroad, required a court order—became an opportunity to greatly expand the law’s reach. The result is to make virtually every international call or email subject to monitoring without court oversight. Thereby carving out an entire class of communication from constitutional protection is a breathtaking decision with the potential to do enormous damage to the very meaning of the Fourth Amendment and to the essential foundation of limited government. This law also has effectively neutered the oversight role the Congress or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court should play in this area.
Similarly extravagant has been the administration’s claimed right, as an adjunct of both the president’s constitutional warpowers and the AUMF, to designate American citizens arrested in America as well as alleged terrorists captured overseas as “enemy combatants” beyond the reach of the U.S. Constitution and courts. The detention of combatants captured in battle is a natural adjunct to war, but not the suspension of all constitutional and legislative oversight of the executive’s power to imprison anyone it claims to be a combatant for as long as it desires. The argument that the president has the unique power to suspend basic constitutional guarantees, including the “Great Writ” of habeas corpus, whereby a person has a fundamental right to be brought before a court to determine the lawfulness of his or her detention or deprivation, is particularly dangerous in the midst of a potentially endless “war” where the American homeland is considered to be a — and perhaps the chief — battlefield.
There is nothing in Article II of the Constitution which provides that the president is the military’s commander in chief, to suggest that he thereby gains the power to suspend any law and any constitutional provision at his discretion. Indeed, the very next section reminds the president that at all times he has a responsibility to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,” with no hint of an exception whenever he decides he is acting as commander in chief. In Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (1952), the Supreme Court rejected a similar claim by the Truman administration — that the president’s powers as commander in chief allowed him to seize steel mills despite Congress’ refusal to authorize such an act.
Nor is it plausible that Congress believed that by authorizing military action in response to 9/11 it was empowering the president to deny American citizens their constitutional rights at home. Authorizing military action overseas does not logically mean authorizing every conceivable use of surveillance, arrest, and imprisonment by the federal government at home. Indeed, if the administration had believed this theory at the time, there would have been no reason for it to have proposed the Patriot Act, since all those powers, too, should have been included in the AUMF. Equally important, Congress itself only has the authority to suspend—and only if our country is invaded or faced with overt “Rebellion”—not eliminate, habeas corpus. Congress cannot authorize the president to limit that right in additional circumstances.
Another example of a direct presidential assault on the separation of powers, and thus the constitutional structure undergirding our free society, are presidential signing statements. Throughout history, signing statements have been used to thank supporters, provide reasons for signing a bill or express satisfaction or displeasure with legislation passed by Congress. Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton all used signing statements to express constitutional and other objections to legislation, influence judicial interpretation, and otherwise advance policy goals.
President George W. Bush has more aggressively – to an historically unprecedented degree — employed the presidential signing statement to challenge or deny effect to legislation that he considers unconstitutional, but nonetheless signs. As the Congressional Research Service reported last year, a much higher share of President Bush’s signing statements have contained a constitutional challenge, and they “are typified by multiple constitutional and statutory objections, containing challenges to more than 1,000 distinct provisions of the law.” This tactic, adds CRS, is “an integral part of the administration’s efforts to further its broad view of presidential prerogatives and to assert functional and determinative control over all elements of the executive decision making process.”In scores of cases President Bush has claimed that legislation has improperly interfered with presidential authority.
In a democracy, such assertions of power—most fundamentally the underlying failure to comply rather than the explanatory signing statement—do not happen in a vacuum. They affect the careful balance of power in our system of government. The executive branch is not free to unilaterally change that balance; our Constitution requires legislative and judicial involvement in lawmaking to ensure public debate and oversight and to guard against centralization of power.
Article I of the Constitution gives Congress the power to make the laws. Under Article II, the president has the duty to ensure that the laws are faithfully executed. The Constitution also provides that if the president objects to a proposed law, he can veto it. This gives Congress the chance to override his veto, enacting the law despite his opposition, or to sustain his veto, and then work to address the president’s objections. A president may also challenge a law he believes to be unconstitutional in court.
Instead, the current president, especially, has used signing statements, and a refusal to enforce the law, as a sub rosa form of unreviewable veto, usurping the power of Congress and aggrandizing the power of the executive.
Another tool of executive aggrandizement has been the doctrine of executive privilege. No where spelled out in the Constitution itself, the claim has been advanced by presidents starting with George Washington. The doctrine is most persuasively rooted in national security, but presidents often have more generally contended that confidentiality is necessary for the operation of the executive branch.
Although the argument at its core is not without force, executive privilege has become an all-purpose shield and boilerplate excuse to hide embarrassing and potentially incriminating information from Congress and the public. That a claim for executive privilege had to be balanced with other interests was evident in 1807 when Aaron Burr, on trial for treason, sued President Thomas Jefferson to produce a supposedly exculpatory letter. Chief Justice John Marshall rejected Jefferson’s argument that disclosure risked public safety and ordered the president to comply. In 1974 the climactic case of United States v. Nixon confronted President Richard M. Nixon’s attempt to use the claim of executive privilege to avoid having to turn over evidence of criminal misbehavior to Watergate special prosecutor Leon Jaworski. The Supreme Court unanimously acknowledged a generalized right of confidentiality, but ruled that this privilege must yield to other government interests, most notably the criminal process. The order that he yield up the tapes recording his Oval Office conversations led to his resignation.
Other presidents have relied on the doctrine to shield their operations from scrutiny. The Clinton administration avoided disclosure of the deliberations of the president’s health care reform task force because First Lady Hillary Clinton was considered to be a government employee under the relevant legislation. This admittedly strained interpretation allowed the courts to avoid ruling on the question of whether executive privilege applied to conversations between government officials and people outside of government.
As in other areas, the Bush administration has even more energetically sought to keep information about many of its activities, even those with no sensitive national security implications, from public view. For instance, the administration resisted a request for disclosure, based on legislation covering “advisory committees,” of the names of participants and results of discussions by members of the Vice President’s National Energy Policy Development Group. The administration lost in the lower courts, but was partially upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, which sent the case back to the District Court for reconsideration. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ultimately refused to order disclosure based on its interpretation of the relevant statute, based on the fact that several government officials served on the Group.
Elsewhere the administration’s case for secrecy has been more frivolous and less well received. For instance, the administration attempted to keep secret visitor logs detailing Christian leaders who visited the White House and vice president’s residence. Earlier this month the D.C. Circuit distinguished this case from the energy group decision and ruled that the logs were not the property of the White House—which took custody from the Secret Service (part of the Treasury Department) in order to thwart a request under the Freedom of Information Act—and ordered their release.These cases centered on statutory interpretation. The Bush administration also has more directly used the doctrine of executive privilege to resist disclosures to Congress, even as part of investigations of potential executive wrong-doing. For instance, at a recent hearing of this Committee, Karl Rove refused to appear, based on advice of the White House Counsel, to discuss his role in possible meddling in Justice Department prosecutions. Last year White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers similarly refused to obey committee subpoenas to appear to discuss the firing of U.S. attorneys; the House voted to hold them in contempt.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has been investigating the White House’s involvement in the disclosure of Valerie Plame’s employment by the CIA. In June Chairman Henry Waxman pointed out to Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey that “In his interview with the FBI, Mr. Libby stated that it was ‘possible’ that Vice President Cheney instructed him to disseminate information about Ambassador Wilson’s wife to the press. This is a significant revelation and, if true, a serious matter. It cannot be responsibly investigated without access to the Vice President’s FBI interview.” However, in an echo of the Watergate controversies, Mukasey refused to comply, citing fear of “the chilling effect that compliance with the committee’s subpoena would have on future White House deliberations.” The White House cited executive privilege in refusing to turn over the FBI interview, even though the vice president’s chief of staff had been convicted of perjury.
In an extraordinary twist on the doctrine of executive privilege, the Bush administration announced last year that it would not allow any U.S. Attorney to pursue a contempt citation on behalf of Congress. By attempting to control federal employees who also are officers of the courts, the administration attempted to place itself beyond effective accountability by any person or institution. Mark Rozell of George Mason University termed this position “astonishing” and “a breathtakingly broad view of the president’s role in this system of separation of powers. What this statement is saying is the president’s claim of executive privilege trumps all.” Indeed, if sustained, Rozell added, this position will allow “the executive to define the scope and limits of its own powers.” As a result, the House has filed suit to enforce its subpoena, the first such lawsuit in history.
“STATE SECRETS” DOCTRINE
Another doctrine used by the executive branch to the detriment of the constitutional separation of powers is the so-called “state secrets privilege.” According to this doctrine, the executive branch refuses to release information in court cases on the grounds that disclosure would harm “national security.” First recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1953, the doctrine has been treated as well-nigh absolute by some judges.
In this case, like many others, there is an obvious basis for shielding sensitive information in extraordinary instances from public view, even to the detriment of a valid lawsuit. However, again, a legitimate doctrine has been twisted to frustrate cases that might expose government wrong-doing and executive misconduct. As a result, government accountability, and redress of wrongs suffered by individuals as the result of government action, have suffered greatly.
For instance, Khalid El-Masri filed a civil case against the U.S. government in a case involving “extraordinary rendition,” in which the government illegally detained Mr. El-Masri in a case of mistaken identity. The trial court judge accepted the government’s claimed “state secrets privilege,” which thwarted disclosures necessary to prosecute the case. A similar result was reached in a similar case by Canadian Maher Arar, who was deported, based on false information, by the U.S. to Syria (he was a dual citizen), where he was apparently tortured. The Bush administration also invoked the state secrets privilege to defeat lawsuits challenging the government’s unlawful FISA surveillance program.
Although judges can order, and have ordered, disclosure of disputed documents and other information to them for in camera screening, too often courts have given inordinate deference to executive branch claims. But the privilege should be treated as qualified, not absolute. A government refusal to allow judicial inspection could be met with forfeiture of the case. Congress could assist the judiciary by holding hearings and drafting legislation clarifying the authority of judges, procedures to be used to adjudicate executive claims of state secrecy, and sanctions to be imposed for the executive branch’s refusal to comply.
Unfortunately, Congress has been at least impartially complicit in this and other presidential “power grabs.” It repeatedly has acquiesced to President Bush’s unilateral actions. It has failed in its constitutional obligation to make the laws and to oversee the executive branch to ensure that the latter properly implements the laws passed by Congress.
Enforcing presidential compliance with the law is not easy, especially since a pattern of executive law-breaking has been established. However, the people—the citizens in whose name this House and the rest of the government act—can and should insist that those elected president, this coming November and in the future, respect the separation of powers and other constitutional limits on their authority.
Taking an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” requires no less.
Moreover, the legislature has many tools at its disposal to promote respect for the nation’s fundamental law. It can enlist the courts, of course. It can use its power to hold oversight hearings, backed by the power to subpoena and hold executive officers in contempt. It can refuse to confirm presidential appointments.
Most fundamental is its power to control appropriations. Congress can shape funding in the relevant area to encourage compliance with the law. Moreover, broader retaliation, though less desirable, is another possibility. For instance, the Reagan administration’s attempt to thwart explicit congressional guidelines over federal contracting led to a vote by this Committee to defund the Office of the Attorney General. A compromise was reached: Congress funded the Attorney General’s Office while the administration complied with the law.
The most important requirement is that Congress treat seriously its responsibility to uphold the Constitution. Neither the Bill of Rights nor the separation of powers are self-enforcing documents or principles. The legislative branch has a critical role to play.
The Constitution creates explicit guarantees for individual liberty and limits on government power out of the recognition that even the best-intentioned public officials working to achieve the most public-spirited aims make mistakes. That surely has been evident during the so-called “Global War on Terror,” in which more than a few innocent people have been not just detained, but also imprisoned and tortured. The Bill of Rights and the separation of powers are not mere technicalities, but essentials of our government and our entire system of ordered liberty.
I know this Committee understands that the president’s quest for intelligence and desire for flexibility, legitimate as they are, should not be allowed to serve as a subterfuge for circumventing constitutional protections for liberty and restrictions on presidential power. U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth, appointed by President Ronald Reagan, has reminded us that, “[w]e have to understand you can fight the war [on terrorism] and lose everything if you have no civil liberties left when you get through fighting the war.”
The temptation to cut constitutional corners is not the province of any one party. Rather, it grows when one party controls both the executive and legislature. Then party comity sometimes overrides institutional differences, as it did most recently between 2001 and 2006.
But our constitutional system, and its commitment to limited government and individual liberty, is based both on a series of explicit guarantees that constrain the use of government authority, and a structure that divides government authority. As such, the separation of powers, with the checks and balances expected to naturally follow, is the bedrock foundation of American constitutional government. It is a foundation clearly in danger of crumbling.
This checkpoint is about 60 miles from the border. Notice the police state logic used by officer Villanueva. He is checking you out because he doesn't know your not a criminal. Your impeding him doing his job. The "officer" then removes the driver by force.
I visited Communist East Germany, they had internal checkpoints also. Is this what we have become? Just another police state? What happened to needing reasonable suspicion being needed for a police stop.
Washington DC seems to be the worst place for violation of individual rights. Who would have thought.
Here the police have limited access to the Trinidad neighborhood of Washington DC. They stop people to see if they have any "right" to be in the neighborhood.
So now the government has the authority to determine where you can go? If that is the case then this is no longer a free country.
Here the government refuses to let people go back to their own homes after the floodwaters had receded. While cordoning off an area to keep out looters after a disaster is a reasonable measure, it is absurd to keep out those who live in the neighborhood.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
From the Wall Street Journal:
Jan Perry, a Los Angeles city-council member, is spearheading legislation that would ban new fast-food restaurants like McDonald's and KFC from opening in a 32-square-mile chunk of the city, including her district. The targeted area is already home to some 400 fast-food restaurants, she says, possibly contributing to high obesity rates there -- 30% of adults, compared with about 21% in the rest of the city. Nationally, 25.6% of adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
With the ordinance, Los Angeles is tapping into a tougher attitude toward fast food that is emerging at city halls around the country. Cities have begun banning ingredients, regulating menu information and now dictating whether restaurants are healthy enough to open in their communities. Advocates say the measures are crucial in the fight against obesity, diabetes and other diseases and health conditions. Foes say the rules go too far, violating important freedoms.
Where will this end?
Either you are in control of your life or you are not. Apparently many people today do not believe they should control their life.
Many area residents say they support the ban -- even those who patronize the restaurants regularly. "It's a good idea," particularly for children, says Rafael Escobar, 69 years old, as he bites into a McDonald's sausage breakfast burrito. He thinks the move might encourage other types of food businesses to come into the neighborhood.
If you don't like the restaurants in your area, don't go. Go to the grocery store, buy healthy food items and pack your own lunch. Quit turning your life over to the government. Freedom requires responsibility. How have we become a nation of so many who do not want to be responsible for themselves?
Personally I believe the root lies in the government schools and the media. Children are taught that the government exists to do good. Laws are passed to protect us. What is missing is any lessons in the dangers of government. Oh yes, Nazi Germany may be mentioned, but well that was in Germany not here.
Anytime there is any type of "crisis" the mainstream media demands government action! Even when government was the cause of the problem in the first place. The current economic problems are a perfect example. Rather than examining how the government was responsible for the mess we are in, the media instead calls for more government rules and regulations.
The following quote, attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller, while dealing with Nazi's oppression of groups of people, can also be expanded to include activities or choices. We need to remember that even though a particular restriction may not apply to us, if we allow them, someday the government will restrict something that does affect us.
When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.
It baffles me why so many people accept the idea that democracy is a good thing, that some how the majority should decide things. As this video points out, a lynch mob is a democracy. A lynch mob is not a good thing.
This is the fallacy of collectivism or the common good. Once a government is set up for the common good, then no individual is safe, especially minorities or anyone different. If the government is set up for the common good, then an individual has lost their right to choose the life they wish. The individual no longer owns there life, they become a slave to the majority in society.
I am a minarchist, a believer in limited government. In an ideal world there would be no government, because none would be needed. Unfortunately there will always be those who seek to take advantage of others and this why we need some government.
With apologies to my no state friends I agree with this video that anarchy will inevitably lead to a totalitarian state taking over.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Congressman Ron Paul discusses the bill and what a terrible deal this is for the common individual. Paul also reveals that the bill provides for a furthering of big brother intruding on our privacy. The bill requires that all mortgage brokers will now be fingerprinted and that all credit card transactions will be reported to the IRS.
Libertarian Presidential candidate Bob Barr's press release on the matter:
July 21, 2008 3:25 pm EST
Atlanta, GA -- “Citizens of Washington, D.C. and firearms rights organizations must be prepared to file a quick and clear challenge to the new Washington, D.C. gun control law designed to keep them disarmed,” says Bob Barr, the Libertarian Party candidate for president. “The City Council is attempting to flout the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Heller that explicitly affirmed an individual’s right to own firearms. The Council is disingenuously doing this by appearing to legalize gun ownership while restricting the right into ineffectiveness.”
For instance, explains Barr, “the District of Columbia will continue to ban semi-automatic weapons, the most common kind of handgun in America. Moreover, residents will be required to keep their guns unloaded and either disassembled or disabled with a trigger lock. Unfortunately, most criminals aren’t going to give homeowners the courtesy of waiting for them to make their weapons operational before striking.”
In contrast, the Chicago suburbs of Morton Grove and Wilmette are moving to eliminate their handgun bans in response to suits filed by firearms advocacy organizations including the National Rifle Association, on whose board Barr sits. “It may be for only tactical political purposes, but these two communities are showing a willingness to comply with the law of the land lacking in Washington, D.C.,” observes Barr. “It has long been said that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. As Washington, D.C.’s latest attack on gun owners demonstrates, that remains the case even after the Supreme Court rules in your favor.”
“Heller is merely the first step in the battle to protect our constitutional right to own firearms. All Americans have a stake in ensuring enforcement of this most fundamental guarantee of individual liberty and limited government,” says Barr.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
July 21, 2008 10:46 pm EST
Washington, DC -- "Americans thought they slew the dragon of inflation years ago, but it seems to be back, with the biggest monthly increase in the consumer price index in 26 years," observes Bob Barr, the Libertarian Party candidate for president. The CPI hike was led by rising energy and food prices. "Inflation is an insidious tax on economic productivity and prosperity, as we learned nearly 30 years ago in the midst of Carter-era stagflation.
Not only was the June increase in the CPI a recent record, but "wholesale inflation over the last year ending in June jumped 9.2 percent, the biggest increase since 1981," explains Barr. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke admitted that inflation was likely to be "temporarily higher" in the coming months.
"Unfortunately, the government bears much of the blame, since the Federal Reserve's continued cuts in interest rates and increases in the money supply> have naturally inflated the general price level," says Barr. "In its desperate attempt to bail out the housing industry and spur business investment, the Federal Reserve appears to have infected the entire economy with the inflation virus."
"Federal Reserve policy has reached a dead end, since the Fed can ill afford to continue pressing interest rates lower, further stoking the fires of inflation and undercutting the value of the dollar. Yet the housing market remains depressed and the long-feared recession may finally arrive on our economic doorstep," notes Barr.
"There is no painless way to avoid market adjustments to past mistakes. But we should learn the obvious lesson that there is no free lunch, government cannot magically grow the economy and create jobs. Instead, manipulating the interest rate and money supply has resulted in significant costs for all Americans," explains Barr. "Turning the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve into bail-out agencies of last resort for everyone from Bear Stearns on Wall Street to the housing industry, along with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, compounds the problem.
"It is very important to maintain price stability," Mr. Bernanke told congress recently. "So it is," says Barr. "But the only way to do that is to end the government¹s attempt to micro-manage the economy, while protecting companies and industries from the consequences of their mistakes. If we don¹t change current policy -really change it - resurgent inflation will be just one of many economic charges that we will all have to pay."
The Rally for the Republic is our premier event and the official kickoff to the Campaign for Liberty. Ron Paul will be headlining the event with a speech that will define our place in history. Musicians and speakers will fill the line-up for this all day event at the Target Center.
Tickets go on sale Friday‚ July 25 @ 10AM CST. All tickets will cost $17.76 so you can afford to bring the whole family.
Two internationally renowned musicians will headline the musical portion of the show. They will join rock star Aimee Allen‚ NBC’s Tucker Carlson‚ Barry Goldwater Jr.‚ Gov. Gary Johnson‚ conservative stalwart Grover Norquist‚ former Reagan deputy Attorney General Bruce Fein‚ presidential historian Doug Wead‚ and many other special guests to be announced soon.
This promises to be the most spirited and provocative political event of the year
Here is a video showing that Al Gore still does not practice what he preaches:
I guess the Gores are better than the little people they wish to lord over. I'm sure the excuse for the two Lincoln Town Cars and the SUV is that the Gores need protection. Can't they armor plate a Prius?
Monday, July 21, 2008
Now a version of this bill has been introduced in the Senate. More on that from Downsize DC:
Subject: Great news on the "Enumerated Powers Act"
The "Enumerated Powers Act" (H.R. 1359) would compel Congress to identify their Constitutional authority for every law they pass. It wouldn't stop them from passing bad laws, but it sure would highlight the fact that most of what they do has no Constitutional authority at all.
We pretty much know what they would do. They would have to invoke the so-called "general welfare clause," which is really just the preamble to the Constitution, or the "commerce clause," which was really intended to foster free trade between the states. It would become very embarrassing very quickly, and we could pound them about it constantly.
When we last reported to you the "Enumerated Powers Act" had 47 co-sponsors in the House. Well, now it has 52. But there's even better news . . .
Senator Tom Coburn introduced a Senate version (S. 3159) on June 19th, and 22 out of 100 Senators have already signed-on as co-sponsors. This is an incredible level of support that has come about very quickly.
Why are so many politicians sponsoring legislation that would serve to cast Congress in a poor light?
One possibility is that lots of them really would like to stick closer to the Constitution, but feel constrained by the Congressional leadership and the perverse incentives by which Congress operates. We're not saying this excuses their un-constitutional votes, but it could explain some of them.
That's why we've crafted proposals such as the "Read the Bills Act," the "One Subject at a Time Act," and the "Write the Laws Act." If we could just change the incentives by which Congress operates, we could also change the outcome.
The "Enumerated Powers Act" could be a small but important part of this.
Another possibility might be because you've been asking them to do so! So here's what we need to do now . . .
* If your Rep. or one or more of your Senators is a co-sponsor, please thank them (we've provided a list of co-sponsors below my signature).
* If one or more of your elected representatives is not on the list, ask them to please become a co-sponsor
You can send your message here.
Thank you for being a part of the growing Downsize DC Army.
Here's the list of co-sponsors in the Senate . . .
Sen Allard, Wayne - 6/19/2008
Sen Barrasso, John - 6/19/2008
Sen Brownback, Sam - 6/19/2008
Sen Burr, Richard - 6/19/2008
Sen Chambliss, Saxby - 6/19/2008
Sen Cornyn, John - 6/19/2008
Sen Crapo, Mike 11788 - 6/19/2008
Sen DeMint, Jim - 6/19/2008
Sen Dole, Elizabeth - 6/19/2008
Sen Ensign, John - 6/19/2008
Sen Enzi, Michael B. - 6/19/2008
Sen Graham, Lindsey - 6/19/2008
Sen Grassley, Chuck - 6/19/2008
Sen Hutchison, Kay Bailey - 6/19/2008
Sen Inhofe, James M. - 6/19/2008
Sen Kyl, Jon - 6/19/2008
Sen McCain, John - 6/19/2008
Sen Sessions, Jeff - 6/19/2008
Sen Sununu, John E. - 6/19/2008
Sen Thune, John - 6/19/2008
Sen Vitter, David - 6/19/2008
Sen Wicker, Roger F. - 6/19/2008
Here's the list of co-sponsors in the House . . .
Rep Akin, W. Todd [MO-2] - 3/6/2007
Rep Barrett, J. Gresham [SC-3] - 12/5/2007
Rep Bartlett, Roscoe G. [MD-6] - 3/6/2007
Rep Bilbray, Brian P. [CA-50] - 3/5/2008
Rep Bishop, Rob [UT-1] - 3/6/2007
Rep Boozman, John [AR-3] - 4/24/2007
Rep Broun, Paul C. [GA-10] - 2/13/2008
Rep Burgess, Michael C. [TX-26] - 6/9/2008
Rep Burton, Dan [IN-5] - 3/6/2007
Rep Cannon, Chris [UT-3] - 2/25/2008
Rep Conaway, K. Michael [TX-11] - 3/6/2007
Rep Cubin, Barbara - 3/5/2008
Rep Davis, David [TN-1] - 3/27/2007
Rep Doolittle, John T. [CA-4] - 3/5/2008
Rep Duncan, John J., Jr. [TN-2] - 3/7/2007
Rep Feeney, Tom [FL-24] - 4/24/2007
Rep Flake, Jeff [AZ-6] - 3/6/2007
Rep Foxx, Virginia [NC-5] - 3/6/2007
Rep Franks, Trent [AZ-2] - 3/14/2007
Rep Garrett, Scott [NJ-5] - 3/6/2007
Rep Gingrey, Phil [GA-11] - 3/6/2007
Rep Gohmert, Louie [TX-1] - 3/6/2007
Rep Goodlatte, Bob [VA-6] - 9/7/2007
Rep Heller, Dean [NV-2] - 8/1/2007
Rep Hensarling, Jeb [TX-5] - 12/12/2007
Rep Herger, Wally [CA-2] - 3/6/2007
Rep Hoekstra, Peter [MI-2] - 12/4/2007
Rep Johnson, Sam [TX-3] - 12/4/2007
Rep Jones, Walter B., Jr. [NC-3] - 3/31/2008
Rep Kline, John [MN-2] - 12/12/2007
Rep Lamborn, Doug [CO-5] - 3/6/2007
Rep Mack, Connie [FL-14] - 12/12/2007
Rep Marchant, Kenny [TX-24] - 3/6/2007
Rep McCotter, Thaddeus G. [MI-11] - 3/6/2007
Rep Miller, Jeff [FL-1] - 3/6/2007
Rep Musgrave, Marilyn N. [CO-4] - 12/12/2007
Rep Myrick, Sue Wilkins [NC-9] - 3/6/2007
Rep Paul, Ron [TX-14] - 3/6/2007
Rep Pitts, Joseph R. [PA-16] - 10/25/2007
Rep Poe, Ted [TX-2] - 3/12/2007
Rep Price, Tom [GA-6] - 3/5/2008
Rep Roskam, Peter J. [IL-6] - 6/3/2008
Rep Sali, Bill [ID-1] - 12/5/2007
Rep Sensenbrenner, F. James, Jr. [WI-5] - 5/15/2008
Rep Smith, Lamar [TX-21] - 4/23/2008
Rep Souder, Mark E. [IN-3] - 4/9/2008
Rep Stearns, Cliff [FL-6] - 5/23/2007
Rep Tiahrt, Todd [KS-4] - 4/24/2008
Rep Walberg, Timothy [MI-7] - 3/9/2007
Rep Wamp, Zach [TN-3] - 4/4/2008
Rep Weldon, Dave [FL-15] - 5/1/2007
Rep Westmoreland, Lynn A. [GA-3] - 3/6/2007
Congressman Ron Paul explains the problems that result from fiat money in the following commentary:
The Latin term “fiat” roughly translates to “there shall be”. When we refer to fiat money, we are referring to money that exists because the government declares it into existence. It is not based on production or earnings, and not backed by any commodity. It is solely based on trusting the government. Fiat money is exchanged in the economy as long as there is faith in the government that issues it.
Some are blaming the recent shakeup in the markets to “whining” or financial fear-mongering, which misses the whole point. History has shown that fiat money, or “faith-based currency” always fails, because when governments claim this power, they always behave irresponsibly.
When government has the ability to create and spend all the money it wants, priorities shift, and the concept of budgeting, as most Americans know it, loses all meaning. Hand a teenager a credit card, and tell him there is no limit and no accountability for what he spends, and the effect would be the same. You see, this problem is not unique to our government. It is a predictable outcome based on human nature, and we’ve seen variations of what we are experiencing now happen over and over throughout history. I didn’t have a crystal ball or a fortune teller when I predicted this 3, 7, or even 30 years ago. Actions have logical consequences. The government becomes the reckless teenager with the credit card, and in the end, the taxpaying citizens get the bill. What happens after that is never pretty.
This is why our founding fathers considered, but decidedly rejected the creation of a national central bank. They understood that governments, even the best of governments, cannot control spending. Even the current administration, which promised strict fiscal responsibility, has had to increase the national debt limit by 65 percent to keep up with its spending sprees. Every dollar created and spent by government makes the dollars in your pocket worth less and less. Eventually any currency controlled by government will be debased to worthlessness, and will wipe out the savings of the citizens who put faith in that currency.
Hard currencies, on the other hand, force governments to remain in check, strictly limited to the revenues they can raise from the country’s economic health. This is also an incentive for government to stay out of the way of productivity. The hyper-regulation in today’s economy demonstrates that this is no longer the case. What does it matter if the economy is crippled and the tax-base eroded, if government can create whatever dollars they need to keep the special interests happy?
We have been building economic castles on the sand, and the tide is coming in. The answer is not to bring in more sand, but to move to more solid foundation.
So yes, it is true that many are complaining about our economic trouble, but our economic trouble is not caused by their complaining. Many are being forced to wake up to the predictable troubles associated with faith-based currency. As more people notice the hardships, more will lose faith.
We are long overdue for a course correction and I can only hope that this awakening translates to a solid approach to currency reform.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
The previous videos in the series are:
Part I - The Nature and Origin of Human Rights
Part II - Individualism Versus Collectivism (Group Supremacy)
Saturday, July 19, 2008
The growth of nuclear energy in the United States suffered a double whammy in 1979 with the almost simultaneous occurrence of the Three Mile Island accident and the release of the movie The China Syndrome.
The Three Mile Island accident, which is most significant accident in the nuclear power industry in the United States, in retrospect was a very minor incident that resulted in zero deaths or injuries. However, it was used by anti nuclear activists to basically kill off any new nuclear plants in this country.
Jane Fonda, the star of The China Syndrome, used the incident to campaign against nuclear power and promote her movie. Most of the opposition to nuclear power comes from irrational fear, a fear that is fed by those opposed to nuclear power.
Many people who formerly were opposed to nuclear power are now strong supporters of it. Among these people are:
Patrick Moore, a co founder of Greenpeace, who stated in a September 2006 appearance before the U.S. House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development:
In the early 1970s, I believed that nuclear energy was synonymous with nuclear holocaust, as did most of my Greenpeace compatriots.
That’s the conviction that inspired Greenpeace’s first voyage across the North Pacific coast to protest the testing of U.S. hydrogen bombs in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.
But a lot has changed in the 35 years since then, and my views have changed along with these new circumstances.
As a co-chair of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition along with Gov. Christy Todd Whitman, I make it known often that I strongly believe the rest of the environmental movement needs to update its views, too, because now—more than ever before—nuclear energy is the electricity source that can save our planet from another possible disaster: potentially harmful climate change.
James Lovelock, known for proposing the Gaia hypothesis, in which he postulates that the Earth functions as a kind of superorganism. Lovelock states:
“The important and overriding consideration is time; we have nuclear power now, and new nuclear building should be started immediately. All of the alternatives, including fusion energy, require decades of development before they can be employed on a scale that would significantly reduce emissions. In the next few years, renewables will add an increment of emission-free energy, mainly from wind, but it is quite small when compared with the nuclear potential.”
Stewart Brand, founder, publisher, and editor of The Whole Earth Catalog. Brand states:
“Now we come to the most profound environmental problem of all … global climate change. Its effect on natural systems and on civilization will be a universal permanent disaster. … So everything must be done to increase energy efficiency and decarbonize energy production. Kyoto accords, radical conservation in energy transmission and use, wind energy, solar energy, passive solar, hydroelectric energy, biomass, the whole gamut. But add them all up and it’s still only a fraction of enough. … The only technology ready to fill the gap and stop the carbon dioxide loading of the atmosphere is nuclear power. … It also has advantages besides the overwhelming one of being atmospherically clean. The industry is mature, with a half-century of experience and ever improved engineering behind it. … Nuclear power plants are very high yield, with low-cost fuel. Finally, they offer the best avenue to a ‘hydrogen economy,’ combining high energy and high heat in one place for optimal hydrogen generation.”
Much is always made about the issue of nuclear waste and what to do with it.
The United States only generates about 20% of its electricity from nuclear. Here is a sample of the percentage of electricity generated by nuclear power in other countries:
So why don't these countries have a problem of nuclear waste storage larger than the US? It is because they recycle their nuclear waste. Something that was banned in the US during the Carter Administration. The ban has since been lifted, but US policy still opposes recycling.
About 95% of nuclear waste can be recycled and reused. Using recycling, France estimates that all the nuclear waste generated to provide electricity for a family of four, for 20 years, can be stored harmlessly in a glass cylinder the size of a cigarette lighter.
Here are some more facts about nuclear energy from the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition:
Nuclear energy is:
Nuclear energy is an environmentally clean option to produce electricity choice – it produces no harmful greenhouse gases suspected to cause global warming and no gases that could cause ground-level ozone formation, smog or acid rain.
Nuclear already accounts for 73 percent of the nation’s emission-free electricity generation and needs be used in compliment with other renewables. Alternative renewable energy sources are important, but can only take us so far – wind and solar can be unreliable and geothermal power isn’t well-suited for all applications. The other major sources of emission-free electricity are hydroelectric plants, which provide 6.6 percent of our nation’s electricity; wind energy, 0.4 percent; and solar energy, 0.01 percent.
Safe and Secure
Nuclear energy is a safe choice. For example, you would have to live near a nuclear power plant for more than 2,000 years to get the same amount of radiation exposure that you receive from a single diagnostic medical x-ray.
Nuclear energy is secure. A two-day national security simulation in Washington, D.C., in 2002 conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) concluded nuclear plants “are probably our best defended targets,” with the industry spending $1.2 billion in security since September 11, 2001.
Affordable and Reliable
With rising energy costs a concern for every American, nuclear energy is an affordable and reliable economic choice for electricity. Nuclear power has the lowest production cost of the major sources of electricity. Nuclear plants are the most efficient on the electricity grid and their costs are more predictable than many other energy sources.
Nuclear energy brings economic benefits. From new jobs around new plants to adding $500 million a year to the economy for each new plant brought on line, nuclear plants bring significant economic benefits. Additionally, employees at the plant earn an average of 36 percent more than average earnings in the surrounding communities, so the jobs are high-paying. Perhaps that is why an opinion survey, conducted by Bisconti Research Inc., found that 76 percent of Americans living in close proximity to nuclear power plants are willing to see a new reactor built near them.
Nuclear power is a technology that exists now. Nuclear energy can fulfill all of our electrical needs now and into the future. The fuel is readily available in the United States. It is safe and clean. It is recyclable. It is very affordable. In short there is no good reason not to use nuclear power.