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12/16/14

Bill of Rights Day

By Grant Davies

I thought it was appropriate to "celebrate" Bill Of Rights Day in light of the recent (and not so recent) violations of our rights by our own government.

One of the most egregious violations occurred this week when the House of Representatives passed a bill called Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2015  that allows government to spy on you in violation of the Fourth Amendment. As it is described on Rep. Justin Amash's FB page; "Sec. 309 provides the first statutory authority for the acquisition, retention, and dissemination of U.S. persons’ private communications obtained without legal process such as a court order or a subpoena."

It should be noted that 99 members of that august body voted Nay on the bill. Many of them (55) were Democrats. For that vote they should be congratulated even if they regularly vote to violate your rights. 44 Republicans also voted against it. The rest sold your rights down the river.

Here is a short report on the event by Ben Swann. You probably won't see this reported very many other places. It is followed by a short article about the state of our Bill of Rights by Tim Lynch of the Cato Institute. So spend a few moments listening and reading the offerings so you can tell your friends what's happening to them while they concentrate on meaningless tripe in the rest of the media.




Today is Bill of Rights Day.

By TIM LYNCH 

Today is Bill of Rights Day. So it’s an appropriate time to consider the state of our constitutional safeguards.

Let’s consider each amendment in turn.

The First Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech.” Government officials, however, have insisted that they can gag recipients of “national security letters” and censor broadcast ads in the name of campaign finance reform.

The Second Amendment says the people have the right “to keep and bear arms.” Government officials, however, make it difficult to keep a gun in the home and make it a crime for a citizen to carry a gun for self-protection.

The Third Amendment says soldiers may not be quartered in our homes without the consent of the owners. This safeguard is one of the few that is in fine shape – so we can pause here for a laugh.

The Fourth Amendment says the people have the right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures. Government officials, however, insist that they can conduct commando-style raids on our homes and treat airline travelers like prison inmates by conducting virtual strip searches.

The Fifth Amendment says that private property shall not be taken “for public use without just compensation.” Government officials, however, insist that they can use eminent domain to take away our property and give it to other private parties who covet it.

The Sixth Amendment says that in criminal prosecutions, the person accused is guaranteed a right to trial by jury. Government officials, however, insist that they can punish people who want to have a trial—“throwing the book” at those who refuse to plead guilty—which explains why 95 percent of the criminal cases never go to trial.

The Seventh Amendment guarantees the right to a jury trial in civil cases where the controversy “shall exceed twenty dollars.” Government officials, however, insist that they can impose draconian fines on people without jury trials.

The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishments. Government officials, however, insist that a life sentence for a nonviolent drug offense is not cruel.

The Ninth Amendment says that the enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights should not be construed to deny or disparage others “retained by the people.” Government officials, however, insist that they will decide for themselves what rights, if any, will be retained by the people.

The Tenth Amendment says that the powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states, or to the people. Government officials, however, insist that they will decide for themselves what powers they possess, and have extended federal control over health care, crime, education, and other matters the Constitution reserves to the states and the people.

It’s a disturbing snapshot, to be sure, but not one the Framers of the Constitution would have found altogether surprising. They would sometimes refer to written constitutions as mere “parchment barriers,” or what we call “paper tigers.” They nevertheless concluded that having a written constitution was better than having nothing at all.

The key point is this: A free society does not just “happen.” It has to be deliberately created and deliberately maintained. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. To remind our fellow citizens of their responsibility in that regard, the Cato Institute has distributed more than five million copies of our pocket Constitution. At this time of year, it’ll make a great stocking stuffer.

Let’s enjoy the holidays but let’s also resolve to be more vigilant about defending our Constitution. To learn more about Cato’s work in defense of the Constitution, go here. To support the work of Cato, go here.

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12/12/14

We Need Fewer Laws

Editors note:

The following is republished here by express permission of Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute. It appeared on his blog International Liberty on Dec. 11, 2014. One of the main reasons I decided to repost it here is because of Dan's elegant description of the reason he is a libertarian instead of a conservative. It's something I have had to explain on many occasions, but I've never done it as well as he has in just a few short sentences.

"Which is a good description of why I’m a libertarian notwithstanding my personal conservatism.

I don’t like drugs, but I’m not willing to let someone else get killed because they have a different perspective.

I don’t like gambling, but I don’t want another person to die because they want to play cards.

I don’t like prostitution, but it’s awful to think someone could lose his life because he paid for sex."

The rest of the post is worth your time as well.
Grant Davies

We Need Fewer Laws: Over-Criminalization Hurts the Innocent and Empowers Government

I wrote last week about the lunacy of a tax system that created the conditions that led to the death of Eric Garner in New York City.
But I wrote that column in the context of how high tax rates lead to tax avoidance and tax evasion. Let’s now zoom out and look at the bigger picture.
Using the Garner case as a springboard, George Will explains that we have too many laws.
Garner died at the dangerous intersection of something wise, known as “broken windows” policing, and something worse than foolish: decades of overcriminalization. …when more and more behaviors are criminalized, there are more and more occasions for police, who embody the state’s monopoly on legitimate violence, and who fully participate in humanity’s flaws, to make mistakes. Harvey Silverglate, a civil liberties attorney, titled his 2009 book “Three Felonies a Day” to indicate how easily we can fall afoul of the United States’ metastasizing body of criminal laws. Professor Douglas Husak of Rutgers University says that approximately 70 percent of American adults have, usually unwittingly, committed a crime for which they could be imprisoned. …The scandal of mass incarceration is partly produced by the frivolity of the political class, which uses the multiplication of criminal offenses as a form of moral exhibitionism. This, like Eric Garner’s death, is a pebble in the mountain of evidence that American government is increasingly characterized by an ugly and sometimes lethal irresponsibility.
I don’t know if Americans actually do commit three felonies each day, and I also don’t know if 70 percent of us have committed offenses punishable by jail time, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to learn that these numbers are correct.
They may even be understated.
Indeed, when I share horrifying examples of government thuggery, these generally involve brutal and over-zealous enforcement of things that oftentimes shouldn’t be against the law in the first place.
This Eric Allie cartoon is a good example, and definitely will get added to my collection of images that capture the essence of government.
In other words, George Will wasn’t exaggerating when he wrote that, “American government is increasingly characterized by an ugly and sometimes lethal irresponsibility.”
Writing for Bloomberg, Professor Steven Carter of Yale Law School has a similar perspective.
I always counsel my first-year students never to support a law they are not willing to kill to enforce. …I remind them that the police go armed to enforce the will of the state, and if you resist, they might kill you. I wish this caution were only theoretical. It isn’t. …It’s not just cigarette tax laws that can lead to the death of those the police seek to arrest. It’s every law. Libertarians argue that we have far too many laws, and the Garner case offers evidence that they’re right. …it is unavoidable that there will be situations where police err on the side of too much violence rather than too little. Better training won’t lead to perfection. But fewer laws would mean fewer opportunities for official violence to get out of hand.
Amen.
A just society should have very few laws, and those laws should be both easy to understand and they should focus on protecting life, liberty, and property.
Sadly, that’s not a good description for what now exists in America. Professor Carter explains.
…federal law alone includes more than 3,000 crimes, fewer than half of which found in the Federal Criminal Code. The rest are scattered through other statutes. A citizen who wants to abide by the law has no quick and easy way to find out what the law actually is — a violation of the traditional principle that the state cannot punish without fair notice. In addition to these statutes, he writes, an astonishing 300,000 or more federal regulations may be enforceable through criminal punishment in the discretion of an administrative agency. Nobody knows the number for sure. Husak cites estimates that more than 70 percent of American adults have committed a crime that could lead to imprisonment. …making an offense criminal also means that the police will go armed to enforce it. Overcriminalization matters… Every new law requires enforcement; every act of enforcement includes the possibility of violence. …Don’t ever fight to make something illegal unless you’re willing to risk the lives of your fellow citizens to get your way.
Which is a good description of why I’m a libertarian notwithstanding my personal conservatism.
I don’t like drugs, but I’m not willing to let someone else get killed because they have a different perspective.
I don’t like gambling, but I don’t want another person to die because they want to play cards.
I don’t like prostitution, but it’s awful to think someone could lose his life because he paid for sex.
This Glenn McCoy cartoon summarizes what’s happening far too often in this country.
P.S. Since this has been a depressing topic, let’s close by switching to some good news.
I’ve previously explained why I’m somewhat optimistic on the future of the Second Amendment. Well, the folks at Pew Research have some new polling data that bolsters my optimism.
Here’s one result that put a smile on my face.
And here’s a breakdown that’s also encouraging. Note how blacks have become much more supportive of gun rights.
I guess this means “Stretch” and “R.J.” have a lot more support than just two years ago.
And it’s worth noting that cops have the same perspective.
In other words, these are not fun times for gun grabbers.

12/10/14

Time Machine?


By Seth

Time machine? Sadly, no.

The news reported recently that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac plan to offer programs to allow young home buyers to buy a home with as little as 3% down to make it easier to buy a home.

Hmm…I thought for sure this was a headline from 1995, but no. It’s from December 2014.

Do they not remember how this ended last time?

Why not start a program that teaches financially responsible behavior young home buyers can use to save up a sizable down payment so they can truly be homeowners and not just renters with a deed.

I know why. That doesn't sound as good.



This commentary was originally posted to the excellent blog Our Dinner Table by our guest contributor Seth. It's like all of his contributions; on point and to the point. 

Addendum:


12/9/14

Liberals are Angry at Gruber

I love it when I see liberals eating their own.

They claim they are indignant because Dr. Jonathan Gruber called the American people stupid in his many public remarks over the last few years. But the real reason they are angry at him is because he told the truth about purposeful lying to the people.

And as this goofy Democrat, Elijah Cummings, admits in a huge slip of his own; “But worst of all, Dr. Gruber’s statements gave Republicans a public relations gift." *






* edited for clarity

But worst of all,” the ranking member concluded, ”Dr. Gruber’s statements gave Republicans a public relations gift in their relentless political campaign to tear down the ACA and eliminate healthcare for millions of Americans!”

11/26/14

Different Types of Whistle Blowers

By Grant Davies

Recently there have been two cases of people blowing the whistle on the US government for wrongdoing. Both cases exposed significant violations of the public trust, not to mention the rights of the citizens.

Both people who exposed the wrongdoing deserve credit for helping the American people. All the citizens are better off knowing what is really going on and how the government deceived them.

One, Edward Snowden, seems to have had the intention of doing so for what he thought of as his duty as an American. The other, Jonathan Gruber, seems to have done so inadvertently and for all the wrong reasons, even if those reasons are not very clear to me. I could speculate about what motivated him, but I'm not sure that would be helpful or enlightening.

Meanwhile, in both cases the government is scrambling to respond. Below is a video that shows some of what the response to the Gruber truth telling has been.
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Hat tip to Carl Holzhauser for submitting the video.