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12/22/10

The FCC’s Net Neutrality Power-Grab

The Federal Communications Commission today moved in to regulate the Internet, which is the wonder of the modern age exactly because the FCC hasn’t been able to get its hands around its throat.

Don’t just take it from me and others at The Heartland Institute. Some guy named Steve Wozniak wrote in The Atlantic that the little tech company he helped found named Apple would have never had a chance to fundamentally transform our economy and our everyday lives if the rules the FCC just imposed were in place years ago.


I believe this is the end of the Internet as we know it....

at Somewhat Reasonable.com

Jim Lakely is the director of communications at The Heartland Institute.

Filed By Grant Davies

12/20/10

The Defeat of the Fed - Real Hope for Change at Christmas

Many of you read my recent piece titled  Fed Bans Christmas at Payne County Bank which appeared on this site on 12-17 and also was published on The Humble Libertarian blog this morning. It was well read (for this smallish blog), and well commented upon via email. At least more than usual. I attribute that partly to what I would call the "Don't mess with my Christmas" syndrome. 

It was a piece that struck nerves, and for good reasons. Not the least of which was the willful violation of our first amendment rights by the government whose main function is supposed to be defending them.  But thankfully it became the first part of a "bad news/good news" story.

The good news part is what has happened since that story became known. Ever since the story made the rounds of the Internet, the people picked up their cyber pitchforks and when the Fed saw the mob coming they backed off. That's right, the Fed changed their policy and seem to have admitted that they have no legitimate power to make the Payne County Bank stop celebrating Christmas. The crosses, the verses and the buttons are back at the bank. You can read that news item here.

It's good news as long as we learned the lesson that we can have an effect on the thuggish behavior of megalomaniacal government employees. And we have started the process of taking back our country and insisting that our rights be respected. It's a small (but important) step on that journey to be sure, but as Dr. Walter E. Williams has said to his students, "Keep in mind that even if you only take baby steps, sooner or later you will reach your destination." So let's all reach around and give ourselves a slap on the back for this little victory in what promises to be a very long struggle to regain our rights.

At the same time we need to press the issues every chance we get and never knowingly elect any office seeker who is not totally committed to returning our country to its rightful small government, constitutional roots.That commitment should be our gift to our children and grandchildren this holiday and all the rest of those we have left.

So Bah Humbug to those who think they can take our right to worship and pervert it to their twisted vision of a PC world.  And Merry Christmas to us because this certainly qualifies as good tidings!

12/17/10

Fed Bans Christmas at Payne County Bank - 1st Amendment Alert

When I write semi-clever blog titles it is usually with the intention of "hooking you in" so I can blather on about some topic or the other. But this one is a little more serious even if some may accuse it of being slightly over the top.

This morning the Drudge Report carried a link to a story and news video from an Oklahoma news station which told the story of the Payne County Bank's run-in with the feds over their overtly religious celebration of a Christian holiday.

You know the one. It's the same one that has been renamed a hundred different things over the last few decades by the politically correct, the militantly secular, or the pitifully ashamed Christians in our society.

It's Christmas, not a "winter festival" or other PC happening. And despite the fact that many other folks celebrate parts of it, it's still a Christian holy day. 

As the above image explains, the US Congress (or its extensions such as the federal reserve) may not legally make a law (or regulation) which establishes a religion or prohibits the free exercise of one.

If the news report is correct, there is no doubt whatsoever that the described events fit the bill on this one. This isn't so called "public" property we are talking about here, it's a private enterprise and the celebration doesn't violate the rights of anyone.

According to the report, the bank had a "Bible verse of the day on it's web-site, crosses on the teller’s counter and buttons that say "Merry Christmas, God With Us." The examiners from the Kansas City Fed said they are "inappropriate."  Which may make you wonder, what exactly is appropriate for a religious holiday?

The Bible verse of the day on the bank's Internet site had to be taken down and the buttons taken off and the crosses removed.

The story went on to say "Specifically, the feds believed, the symbols violated the discouragement clause of Regulation B of the bank regulations. According to the clause, "...the use of words, symbols, models and other forms of communication ... express, imply or suggest a discriminatory preference or policy of exclusion."

"The feds interpret that to mean, for example, a Jew or Muslim or atheist may be offended and believe they may be discriminated against at this bank. It is an appearance of discrimination."

Normal people are not offended by religious practices of those of different faiths. But even if there are some, or even many who are, in this country you are not allowed to interfere in those practices as long as they violate no laws. Are we then to conclude that it is against the law to practice our religions openly in public at private businesses?

Do observant Jews have to remove their yarmulkes if they work in a bank? Do Muslim female bank tellers have to remove their Hijab? This is the kind of concern that was scoffed at by those who advocate a large intrusive government when these "regulations" were first put into place.

What makes this different from any other private business? Because it's a bank in question? What about your local pub?

Try sitting down there for a brew and informing the bartender that you are offended or don't feel "included" because he has a "Merry Christmas" banner up on the back bar. Then tell him he will have to remove it because his regulator will pull his liquor license if he doesn't. Then see how long it takes Bruno on the next stool to change your seating arrangement.

This is a ski jump folks, not a slippery slope. Have a nice Winter Festival.

12/15/10

Let's All Celebrate Parchment Barrier Day!

You are probably asking, what the heck are you talking about now? I get that a lot when I write these attention getting headlines.

A "Parchment Barrier" was the way the founders of our country described documents such as the Constitution and the first ten amendments to it, the Bill of Rights. (Today they might be referred to as "Paper Tigers" according to Tim Lynch of the Cato Institute.)

The founders knew all along that you can't really enforce these documents if the people who take an oath to defend them decide to ignore them. After all, they have most of the guns and most of the inclination to use them. Having said that, so far in this republic the preferred way of ignoring them has been legal circumvention instead of citizen execution. It's a distinction with a real difference.

The real name of the celebration du jour is Bill of Rights Day. And it's important to remember it on this day so we can try to figure out what went wrong and perhaps how to get back to the original intent of the provisions found in it. I have kicked around the idea of listing the usurpations to our rights for quite a while but, "if you're snoozin' you're losin'" as they say and I slept on it one too many nights because someone beat me to it today.

That person is the above named Tim Lynch and he does it much better than I probably could so I'll just keep my place a block behind the parade and let you read his excellent piece titled simply "Bill of Rights Day" which was published at Cato-at-Liberty this morning.

It is posted below (with the author's permission) in it's entirety for your convenience. Tim provides excellent links in the original article to demonstrate his points.  You may not enjoy having your rights violated but I think you will enjoy the article.
 

Bill of Rights Day



Since today is Bill of Rights Day, it seems like an appropriate time to pause and consider the condition of the safeguards set forth in our fundamental legal charter.

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, insist that they can enact laws concerning television and radio broadcasting, and even pamphlets!

The Second Amendment says the people have the right “to keep and bear arms.” Government officials, however, insist that they can make it a crime to keep and bear arms.

The Third Amendment says soldiers may not be quartered in our homes without the consent of the owners. This safeguard is doing well–so we can pause briefly here for a laugh.

The Fourth Amendment says the people have the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. Government officials, however, insist that they can treat airline travelers like prison inmates by conducting virtual strip searches and crotch inspections.

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

The Sixth Amendment says that in criminal prosecutions, the person accused shall enjoy a speedy trial, a public trial, and an impartial jury trial. Government officials, however, insist that they can punish people who want to have a trial. That is why 95% of the criminal cases never go to trial.

The Seventh Amendment says that jury trials are guaranteed even in petty civil cases where the controversy exceeds “twenty dollars.” Government officials, however, insist that they can impose draconian fines against people without jury trials.

The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishments. Government officials, however, insist that jailing people who try in ingest a life-saving drug 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 to be reserved to the states, or to the people. Government officials, however, insist that they will decide for themselves what powers are reserved to the states, or to the people.

It’s a depressing snapshot, to be sure, but I submit that the Framers of the Constitution would not have been surprised by the relentless attempts by government to expand its sphere of control. The Framers themselves would often refer to written constitutions as mere “parchment barriers” or what we would describe as “paper tigers.” They nevertheless concluded that putting safeguards down on paper was better than having nothing at all. And lest we forget, that’s what millions of people around the world have — nothing at all.

Another important point to remember is that while we ought to be alarmed by the various ways in which the government is attempting to go under, over, and around our Bill of Rights, the battle will never be “won.” The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. To remind our fellow citizens of their responsibility in that regard, the Cato Institute has distributed more than four million copies of our “Pocket Constitution.” At this time of year, it’ll make a good stocking stuffer.

Finally, to keep perspective, we should also take note of the many positive developments we’ve experienced in America over the years. And for some positive overall trends, go here. Let’s enjoy the holidays but also resolve to be more vigilant about our liberties in 2011.

12/14/10

You Really Must Buy a Chevy Volt

No, this isn't an ad for the new Government Motors car, the Chevy Volt. In fact, the idea that anyone (not intellectually impaired) would actually buy one of these $41,000 turkeys with their own money is preposterous to me. Unless, of course, they MUST  because it became against the law not to buy one.

The whole concept would have been ridiculous to even contemplate until just over a year ago. That is when the same government who took over GM, fired the president of the company, refused to pay off any of the bond holders who lent the company money, gave a huge ownership stake to their union buddies and started making political donations back to themselves decided that you really MUST buy health insurance as part of their takeover of the US healthcare industry.

Those of us who weren't consumed with excitement running up our legs over the recent election of Hopama and Company knew at the time that the whole scheme was unconstitutional (to say nothing of being completely immoral.)  But having seen GW Bush sign a clearly unconstitutional repeal of the first amendment (McCain/Feingold) and the Supreme Court of the US uphold the government taking of one lady's property in order to give it to connected real estate developers (Kelo v. City of New London), we also knew that the mere fact that something is unconstitutional doesn't mean much anymore.

That is, until yesterday when at least one rational federal judge decided that he agreed with us that the provision of the 2700 page Obamacare nightmare which mandated that citizens must buy government designed and approved health insurance was indeed unconstitutional. When Judge Henry E. Hudson made that ruling yesterday in the Commonwealth of Virginia's lawsuit against the federal government, he became the first stumbling block for the law on it's road to the Supreme Court of the US where the legal part of the citizens' resistance to the takeover will be decided.

So it occurred to me that while we wait for this legal drama to play out it might be time to think about what it will mean if the court decides that the government can force you to buy something it feels will be beneficial to others. Why not start with the (coal powered) electric car that Government Motors is pushing with $7,500 of taxpayer money in the form of tax rebates? I mean, even if it didn't help others, lots of people might buy a $41,000 car if they could get their neighbors to pay the first $7,500. But why take the chance that they might not when you can simply pass a law saying they MUST? (As in T. H. White's ant colony, "Everything Not Forbidden is Compulsory.")

After that the precedent will be set and the people may be forced to buy orange juice and health club memberships to supplement their health insurance. If so, they can drive to the mandatory health club in their mandatory Chevy Volts and live in mandatory good health until they finally die. Death being the only thing which is truly mandatory in a constitutional United States.

12/7/10

Tax Deal - A Mixed Bag


Compared to ideal policy, the deal announced last night between congressional Republicans and President Obama is terrible.

Compared to what I expected to happen, the deal announced last night is pretty good.

In other words, grading this package depends on your benchmark. This is why reaction has been all over the map, featuring dour assessments from people like Pejman Yousefzadeh and cheerful analysis from folks such as Jennifer Rubin.

With apologies to Clint Eastwood, let’s review the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Read more of Dan Mitchell's article
at Cato-at-Liberty.org

Dan Mitchell is a Senior Fellow at The Cato Institute

Filed by Grant Davies

12/4/10

Jefferson Would be Rolling Over In his Cookie Dough

On Friday while I was visiting with friends in Chicago's loop at our yearly  "Friends of Berghoff" Christmas gathering, the US House of Representatives was busy saving our children again.  Thank goodness for that holiday blessing.

 And it's good to know that even while I was exercising my God given right to eat and drink all the wrong things in the wrong quantities, Congress was exercising it's unconstitutional power to keep school kids from growing up as fat and unhealthy as I am.

The reference is to the narrowly passed "Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010” which now moves on to the Senate where the "greatest deliberative body in the world" will consider whether it wants to lame duck it into existence before deciding if the people are going to get the largest tax increase in history pushed up their donut holes on Jan 1st.

The wonderful legislation was being pushed by Michelle Obama who took time out from scolding her husband for sneaking cigarettes in the hallway of the Oval Office. (While it's not as bad as the cigar tricks that took place there in a previous health conscious administration, it's still not a good example for the kids whose health is being saved by keeping them from having any sweet treats while learning how to adjust their bicycle helmets in school.)

According to an article by Ben Boychuk titled "When Bake Sales Are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Bake Sales" on the blog site Somewhat Reasonable,  "Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest says the bill is aimed at curbing daily or weekly bake sales or pizza fundraisers that become a regular part of kids’ lunchtime routines. She says selling junk food can easily be substituted with nonfood fundraisers."

It's hard to argue against better nutrition for school children, particularly if you agree that everyone should eat more sensibly, so I won't. My frustration is with the idea that the federal government nanny has any legitimate constitutional reason whatsoever to stick their noses into decisions that are already being made by local school administrators and the parents of the children. My sense is that it's a combination of overreaching for power and the desire to help the people who should be making these decisions kick their responsibilities onto someone else so they don't have to face the parents who will be incensed by the intrusion.

Bake sales and pizza days aren't the only things which will be taking a sick day when these nanny staters declare something unhealthy. Your rights are taking a turn for the worse as well and I don't think there is anything about healing our broken rights in the twenty-four hundred page Obamacare law we swallowed without any sugary soda to wash it down with either.

12/2/10

EPA Delivers Holiday ‘Sucker Punch’ to U.S. Economy

While you were getting ready for the Thanksgiving holiday, the Environmental Protection Agency was cooking up a turkey of its own — a new “permitting guidance for greenhouse gases” that is unconstitutional and would extend the reach of Obama’s EPA into how nearly every American business may operate.

 It’s nothing less than a sucker punch to the U.S. economy, and an end-run around failed “cap-and-trade” bills that would deliver cap without the trade.


at Somewhat Reasonable.com 
 
 
Jim Lakely is the the director of communications at The Heartland Institute.
 
 
Filed By Grant Davies