Author Archives: Jason Pye

Brief recap of the Libertarian National Convention

This was originally posted at my personal blog, JasonPye.com. Stephen Littau asked that I post it at The Liberty Papers. I currently work as Gov. Gary Johnson’s state director in Georgia and blog regularly at United Liberty.

Last weekend, I joined several hundred Libertarian Party members at Red Rock Casino and Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada for our national convention. It was a long one, probably a day or two too long, but still a lot of fun both politicking and hanging with friends.

The weekend opened without much fanfare. Candidates running for the party’s nomination were seeking “tokens” from delegates in order to appear in the debate and be considered on the floor to represent the LP.

Most of the first two days were consumed with the typical wrangling over the party by-laws and platform. There were some internal issues addressed, such as a dispute between two factions in Oregon where the body had to choose what delegation from the state to seat (some of those not seated in Oregon eventually made their way to Georgia, where we had spots open).

Working (click to enlarge)

These first two days were particularly stressful for me since I had to work three delegations to ensure their support for Gov. Gary Johnson. The campaign gave me Idaho and Iowa as my ultimate responsibilities, but I also spent some time lobbying members from Georgia — after all, that’s my home state. When I wasn’t working on delegates, I was either sitting in the pressroom (where there was Internet access) or catching up with old friends.

On Friday evening, Gov. Johnson and R. Lee Wrights squared off in a debate before convention delegates (you can watch it here). The 2008 debate saw a number of candidates with varying viewpoints of libertarianism and the direction of the Libertarian Party. The debate between Johnson and Wrights showed the clear differences in approach to politics. While Wrights was lobbing one-liners and soundbites to delegates, Johnson was discussing a more political approach. Some friends were complaining that Wrights was only interested in appealing to Libertarians, others said that, since this was our party’s primary, a more “red meat” approach was necessary; no different from Democratic and Republican campaigns.

Most, if not all, of the folks that I talked afterward said that both sides did well articulating their message, and that they hadn’t changed their minds.

War Room (click to enlarge)

Saturday was when delegates selected the party’s nominee. Four candidates were able to get enough tokens to be nominated — Gov. Johnson, Wrights, Carl Person, and Jim Burns. Each candidates received some time to make their case for the nomination. We had heard going into the convention that some delegates were resigned to Gov. Johnson winning the nomination, but wanted to give a nod to Wrights on the first ballot. That was the case with a few folks from Georgia, despite my overtures that were would only be one ballot and that they should get, even what they admit, on the winning team. Thanks to a few of the delegates from Oregon and another couple from Nevada being sat with us, Georgia went for Wrights in a 10 to 9 vote. The other delegations that were assigned to me, Idaho and Iowa, broke for Gov. Johnson.

Boom! (click to enlarge)

And while we may have lost Georgia, Gov. Johnson took the nomination on the first ballot with over 70% of the vote. Wrights received over 25%.

Now, one may think that the stress was off and that we were done with the real work, but that wasn’t the case. You see, in the Libertarian Party, we run candidates for vice president separately. Gov. Johnson let it be known before the convention that he wanted Judge Jim Gray as his running mate. However, Wrights saw the writing on the wall and was collecting “tokens” for vice president as well (he asked me when I saw him on Wednesday evening). Some of were actually nervous here. Wrights is a great guy, but those of us working on the campaign were tasked with rounding up votes for Judge Gray.

But despite a strong showing from Wrights, Judge Gray took the nomination for vice president with 59% of the vote.

That’s it, right? Work is done for the weekend. It time to go drink and gamble. Wrong. Chris Barron, Andrew Ian Dodge, Jenny Everett (a new member from Georgia), and I decided that it was time for a drink, so we headed down to Yard House, one of the fine establishments in the Red Rock casino. The body had moved on to officer elections, and after to speaking to my good friend, Brett Bittner, we had contended that Mark Rutherford would likely win the race for chair. We figured we all could just give him our proxies and have some fun. So, off we went.

Man, were we wrong. After our second round of drinks, we started hearing that there were some strange things going on. By our fourth round, friends were telling us to get back to the floor. By the time we got back, all hell had broken loose. Admittedly, I can’t give the play-by-play, but apparently, None of the Above (NOTA) was a strong candidate. All I can say is that I was incredibly frustrated, probably more than I have been when dealing with party politics or political campaigns. Because of time constraints, voting for chair was postponed until Sunday.

The reasoning for floor fight was because of shenanigans pulled before we even got to Vegas, such as charging a floor fee for delegates and having the convention roughly 15 miles away from the strip. Seriously, it cost around $50 to $60 for a cab ride from the airport or the strip. That was ridiculous.

Delegate Nobody (click to enlarge)

Despite staying until the early hours of Sunday morning, I managed to pull myself out of bed for another day of voting. It got…crazy. During the midst of the voting, Chris was arbitrarily removed from the Missouri delegation along with a couple of other folks apparently for voting the “wrong way.” He’d been voting for Rutherford, but there had been some sort of behind the scenes wrangling going on — or at least, that’s the allegation — to ensure that the delegates seated in Missouri that didn’t actually live there (Chris is from DC, but their delegation was full) would no longer have their votes counted. Again, that’s the allegation, there is no way to prove it. But at the very least, it certainly doesn’t sound good.

In the end, Geoffrey Neale, a former LNC chair who hadn’t even put his hat in the ring until Sunday, defeated Rutherford and on the fifth round of voting that day, won the race for chair. Lee Wrights, who had lost bids for the presidential and vice presidential nomination the previous day, won the race for vice chair. Wrights is a good guy. I don’t know Neale, but everyone I know seems comfortable with him as chair. He certainly understands that he doesn’t have a mandate. Nevertheless, I have confidence that they will serve our party well.

Also, congrats to my good friends, Richard Schrade and Brett Bittner, who were elected to leadership posts. Schrade was elected as the Southeast regional alternate to the Libertarian National Committee. He’ll no doubt serve Georgia’s interests well. Bittner was elected to the Libertarian State Leadership Alliance (LSLA) at as At-Large Representative.

Lee Wrights (click to enlarge)

In case you can’t tell from the brief mentions above, the evening parties were pretty neat. I didn’t do much partying at the last two conventions. We did hang out with friends, but I can’t recall doing as much as we did last weekend. Good times where had (RIP #3102) and I got to meet some really cool people, including Rupert Boneham, who you may know from Survivor. He’s running for Governor of Indiana as a Libertarian. I also got to meet Roger Stone, a former GOP operative who recently joined the LP. Roger may never read this, but I learned a lot from him in limited interaction.

And let me just say that Chris Barron is a really cool guy. My liver blames him for the amount of adult beverages I consumed in Las Vegas. As an aside, I was happy to see so many younger Libertarians at the convention. That was really encouraging.

My body has finally recovered from the week of debauchery and stress. I managed to catch up on sleep by Wednesday, though I think it’ll be awhile before I drink again. You can see some pictures from the weekend at my Flickr page. Bruce Majors has also shared his photos from the convention.

Downsizing Government

Our friends at the Cato Institute, the only think tank in DC dedicate to personal and economic liberty, have launched a new site, DownsizingGovernment.org, committed to cutting waste from the federal budget.

From the press release:

The research on the site also exposes that many public outlays—though vigorously defended by the politicians who created them and the constituencies they purport to help—are remarkably ineffective at achieving their core aims.

“Some people have lofty visions about how government spending can help society,” said Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute and the project leader for DownsizingGovernment.org. “But the essays on this website put aside such bedtime stories about how government programs are supposed to work, and instead focus on how they actually work in the real world.”

DownsizingGovernment.org is an ongoing project that launches today with detailed information on five cabinet-level agencies: Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development. Subsequent departments will be added as they are completed in the coming months.

The site offers detailed examples of inefficiency, ineffectiveness, redundancy and corruption inside federal government agencies. It provides charts showing federal spending by department, federal aid to states and the number of subsidy programs.

You can follow Downsizing Government on Twitter @DownsizeTheFeds and you can become a fan on Facebook.

1776 Project

A friend has started an organization called the 1776 Project, which he’s kicking off today “hoping to inform and educate voters by promoting the values and principles of a Constitutional government.” Here’s press release explaining the motivation:

The 1776 Project stresses that our Constitution is the single most important civic document in governing our nation. Its provisions, protections and prescriptions are all that is necessary and sufficient to the operation of a good, just and efficient government.

Organizers of the 1776 Project reject the notion that rights are given by government, instead believing the Bill of Rights protects the basic, individual liberties that are derived from natural rights that promote the pursuit of happiness.

Further rejecting the idea that the Constitution can be interpreted and changed however any political party wants to suit their needs, the organizers of the 1776 Project believe the document that created this Republic can only be changed by the process specifically laid out in Article V of the Constitution.

“Government cannot provide happiness, that is not its purpose,” says Jorge Gonzalez, founder of the organization. “It is up to each one of us, as individuals, to pursue our own desires and versions of happiness. This is the only way that we can really be a country united in one purpose.”

The 1776 Project will be announcing more events and providing information, resources and offering solutions on how Americans can take back their government through peaceful revolution and community outreach. Organizers welcome anyone who agrees with these values, regardless of political party, to join the 1776 Project to bring back a Constitutional government.

Check out the organization’s website and get involved on Facebook and Twitter.

In defense of rhetoric…

In response to Brad’s post below, he fails to point out that the Obama Administration and Congress, with its seemingly (though not literally) infinite wealth, pushed the stimulus bill through with the explicit purpose of creating jobs and even presented the public with a graph showing unemployment with and without (pg. 5) the passage of the bill. Of course, those of us here at TLP and other likeminded blogs knew that the stimulus bill would be a failure and could possibly lead to more unemployment, if not immediately then definitely over the long term.

This isn’t a corporation building a skyscraper, it is the government errantly pouring $700+ billion into the economy, ostensibly taking money away from future generations to invest and create jobs. There is a difference between actual investment, such as a private corporation expanding, and waste, which is the very definition of government spending.

The Obama Administration absurdly claims that the stimulus bill has created 150,000 jobs. They offer no evidence to back up the claim, when in fact the economy has lost around 2.8 million jobs since the beginning of the year. It’s a win-win for Obama because, as Steve Chapman recently pointed out at Reason, the administration and majority in Congress can claim that the stimulus wasn’t big enough if the economy fails to recover or he can take credit for any rebound we may see.

I’m tired of Obama pulling everything he says out of thin air with absolutely nothing to show for it. Whatever the amount spent per job, and of course the costs of raw materials are included, it’s much more substantive that anything the Obama Administration has used a talking point for pissing away our future.

Was it a rhetorical point? Absolutely. I make no apologies for it.

US still likes the Constitution…sort of

Ramussen has a poll on the public’s perception of the Constitution:

Eighty-three percent (83%) of voters nationwide rate the U.S. Constitution as good or excellent, and there is little public support for changing the document.

However, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 44% believe the Constitution doesn’t place enough restrictions on the government. Only 10% hold the opposite view and say the nation’s governing charter places too many restrictions on government. Thirty-eight percent (38%) say the balance is about right.
[…]
Despite the desire for more restrictions on government, 93% of Americans say they would vote for the Constitution if it was on the ballot today.

Sixty-six percent (66%) say that no changes are needed in the document while 27% see a need for minor changes. Four percent (4%) believe major changes are required, and one percent (1%) want to scrap the document and start over again.

Too bad the meaning of the Constitution is often changed, misinterpreted or ignored by the judicial branch, which sidesteps the Article V process for amending the document.

Do Americans like the Constitution and it is written and can be easily understood or do they like the Constitution as they’ve learned it in government schools? That’s a question I’d like answered. You can sort of get your answer to that by this part of the poll:

Thirty-nine percent (39%) now believe that the legal system is too worried about individual rights over national security. Just 24% hold the opposite concern.

I don’t need to remind you what Ben Franklin said about trading liberty for securing.

Wasn’t the “stimulus” bill supposed to keep unemployment down?

Could opponents of the stimulus bill actually have been right? Take a look at the numbers of what the Obama Administration said unemployment would look like with and without the “stimulus” compared to what it is today.


Don’t forget that the ridiculous claim by Obama Administration that 150,000 jobs have been created (total job losses since the beginning of the year are more that 2.8 million) by the “stimulus” bill after spending $112 billion. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s $746k per job “created.”

H/T: QandO

Chrysler files for protection against taxpayers

Chrysler will not pay the $7+ billion it owes to taxpayers:

Chrysler LLC will not repay U.S. taxpayers more than $7 billion in bailout money it received earlier this year and as part of its bankruptcy filing.

This revelation was buried within Chrysler’s bankruptcy filings last week and confirmed by the Obama administration Tuesday. The filings included a list of business assumptions from one of the company’s key financial advisors in the bankruptcy case.

Some of the main assumptions listed by Robert Manzo of Capstone Advisory Group were that the Treasury would forgive a $4 billion bridge loan given to Chrysler in the closing days of the Bush administration, a $300 million fee on that loan, and the $3.2 billion in financing approved last week by the Obama administration to fund Chrysler’s operations during bankruptcy.

An Obama administration official confirmed Tuesday that Chrysler won’t be repaying the loans, though a portion of the bridge loan may be recovered by Treasury from the assets of Chrysler Financial, the former credit arm of the automaker which is essentially going out of business as part of the reorganization.

Are you the least bit surprised by this? And as if this weren’t bad enough, Chrysler will get more taxpayer money:

The Obama administration official said that other money being made available to Chrysler, such as the $4.7 billion that will go to the company as it exits bankruptcy, will be a loan that the government expects to be paid back. In addition, that loan will be secured by company assets, unlike the previous loans to Chrysler.

According to the filing, the company’s financial advisor also foresees the need for an additional $1.5 billion loan from the Treasury Department by June 30, 2010.

And I’m sure they’re going to pay it back. How does the saying go? “Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, shame on me.”

Cato scholar on SCOTUS appointments

Ilya Shapiro from the Cato Institute dives into the names of possible replacements for Justice David Souter:

[Obama] is under great pressure to appoint a woman, and the three leading female candidates are new Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Second Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor, and Seventh Circuit Judge Diane Wood. Kagan would be an almost-certain pick a year from now, but having been just confirmed to be the so-called Tenth Justice, she might be seen as too green for elevation. Sotomayor — because she is Hispanic and despite a mixed judicial record — was the odds-on favorite until the Court took up the employment discrimination case of Ricci v. DeStefano (argued just last week), an appeal of a bizarre opinion Sotomayor joined that denied the claims of firefighters who had been passed over for promotion because of their race. That leaves Wood, a renowned authority on antitrust, international trade, and federal civil procedure, whose age (58) suggests that this is likely the last vacancy for which she will be considered. Wood offers a seriousness of purpose and no ideological ax to grind, and is thus the best nominee supporters of constitutionalism and the rule of law can hope for at this time.

The Huffington Post has the shortlist of possible nominees, including Leah Ward Sears (who is from my home state of Georgia).

I guess it’s too much to ask for Janice Rogers Brown.

WSJ dares ask the question…

Tired of hearing about violence at the Mexico border, the false claims of firearms coming from the United States that fuel the violence and the imprisonment of citizens who are doing nothing other than trying to help patients with medical problems? If so, the Wall Street Journal has a solution to drug war blues:

An administration really open to “change” would consider a long-term solution to the problem — ending the market for illegal drugs by eliminating their illegality. We cannot destroy the appetite for psychotropic drugs. Both animals and humans have an innate desire for the altered consciousness obtainable through drugs. What we can and should do is eliminate the black market for the drugs by regulating and taxing them as we do our two most harmful recreational drugs, tobacco and alcohol.

Marijuana presents the strongest case for this approach. According to some estimates, marijuana comprises about 70% of the illegal product distributed by the Mexican cartels. Marijuana will grow anywhere. If the threat of criminal prosecution and forfeitures did not deter American marijuana farmers, America’s entire supply of that drug would be home-grown. If we taxed the marijuana agribusiness at rates similar to that for tobacco and alcohol, we would raise about $10 billion in taxes per year and would save another $10 billion we now spend on law enforcement and imprisoning marijuana users and distributors.

I’ve never even so much as smoked marijuana, though smelled it frequently during my days playing in bands, legalization (or at least decriminalization) should be on the table. It’s a position that prominent conservatives like William F. Buckley, Jr and George Will have supported.

States faced significant budget shortfalls this year while thousands of non-violent drug offenders sit in prison. If you look at it from an economic issue, legalization or decriminalization would help states significantly.

Social conservatives need to consider this point, legalizing marijuana is more popular than the Republican Party.

Dissent is not unhealthy, it’s patriotic

Dissent is “unhealthy”:

A top adviser to President Barack Obama takes a dim view of last week’s anti-tax “tea parties,” promoted by organizers in the spirit of the Boston Tea Party.

“The thing that bewilders me is this president just cut taxes for 95 percent of the American people. So I think the tea bags should be directed elsewhere because he certainly understands the burden that people face,” David Axelrod said Sunday.

The rallies coincided with the deadline to file income taxes, and gave people a chance also to voice frustrations about government spending and corporate bailouts.
[…]
Axelrod was asked on CBS’ “Face the Nation” for his opinion on what the show’s host described as “this spreading and very public disaffection with not only the government, but especially the Obama administration.”

Axelrod replied: “I think any time that you have severe economic conditions, there is always an element of disaffection that can mutate into something that’s unhealthy.”

“Unhealthy?” the moderator repeated.

“This is a country where we value our liberties and our ability to express ourselves. And so far these are expressions,” Axelrod answered.

These were peaceful protests were people displayed frustration, regardless of who co-opted or organized them, hundreds of thousands of people took time out of their day to express themselves. There is nothing unhealthy about that.

On a separate point. These “tax cuts” aren’t really tax cuts. It’s a direct spending program, according to the Congressional Budget Office (via FactCheck.org). A tax cut is a reduction in tax rates, not a check or tax credit.

Also, 95 percent of taxpayers did not get a “tax cut,” despite the talking points from MSNBC or CNN. The Tax Policy Center (again, via FactCheck.org) shows that 75 percent of taxpayers are affected. The average “tax cut” is $13 a week, which is marginal and not likely to help anyone once you factor in the rising cost of living, the increase in gas prices and rising property taxes.

You have to take the deficit into account, which will be a record this year at $1.8 trillion. You’re not cutting taxes unless you are cutting spending as well. It’s one of the great myths of the Bush Administration. Yes, he cut the tax rate, but he and his Republican cohorts effectively raised taxes on the next generation by spending liken drunken sailors.

Obama is only worsening an already dire situation. It’s not a problem we can just tax our way out of either, because you put economic prosperity at risk whenever you raise taxes. So tough choices will need to be made, but Obama isn’t going to make them. He’ll do what is politically popular, damn the future, and use it in his re-election campaign.

On Tea Parties and Republican hypocrisy

As you may already know, there will be nationwide protests on April 15th, Tax Day, to protest spending and tax hikes by the Obama Administration. These protests, referred to as Tea Parties, have taken place nearly every week since Friday, February 27th (yours truly attended the Atlanta Tea Party and was interviewed by Neil Cavuto on Fox News about the events) and have been gaining notoriety and slowly more people are attending. The protest here in Atlanta had around 300 people, not bad for a cold, rainy day. Other cities have seen as many as a few thousand people show up.

These protests serve do a purpose, despite what pseudo-libertarian talk show host, Neal Boortz, says or believes. They show that everyday Americans want less spending, less government and personal responsibility. However, they are at risk of being co-opted by Republicans who either stood silently or only gave passive criticism to the spending spree of George W. Bush.

Republicans do not realize the serious credibility problems they have when it comes to criticizing the economic policies of Barck Obama. According to a recent study from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, George W. Bush was the biggest spender in the last 30 years. The table to the right shows the massive increases in non-defense discretionary spending.

Sean Hannity, who will be attending the Atlanta Tea Party on April 15th, says he has criticized Republicans on spending. He has been more vocal of late about Republicans getting back to the supposed small government roots, but even he was only passive while the gross expansion of government was taking place.

Newt Gingrich and his group, American Solutions, recently announced that they were endorsing and supporting the protests. Gingrich has supported and lobbied for a $9 trillion expansion of Medicare and more recently, the Trouble Asset Relief Program (TARP or Wall Street bailout), which has resulted in trillions of taxpayers dollar being put at risk by a completely incompetent government. This is exactly the sort of spending that these protests are against. An argument can also be made, after reading Buck Wild: How Republicans Broke the Bank and Became the Party of Big Government, that Republicans began to lose whatever principles they claimed to have while Gingrich was Speaker of the House, something can be verified by the table above by looking at the growth in spending in the second term of Bill Clinton.

The involvement of politically polarizing figures will ruin and destroy the credibility of a good movement. Accusations of astroturfing surfaced immediately after the events on February 27th. This makes those accusations have substance.

Despite all this, concerned taxpayers should show up to these events to voice their disapproval at these economic policies that have lead us down an unsustainable path. There are several of these protests lined up on April 15th across Georgia. You can find a list here.

C/P: Atlanta Examiner

20/20 and Reason: “Bailouts & Bull”

Last night’s episode of 20/20 was one of the best I’ve ever seen. John Stossel took on several topics, such as taxpayer-funded bailouts, transportation, medicinal marijuana, universal pre-kindergarten and immigration. Many of the segments are based on and include footage from The Drew Carey Project from Reason TV. Stossel also interviews Drew Carey in some of the segments.

The they are six videos (five below the cut). The first one deals with bailouts. Stossel talks to 18 economists about why the “stimulus” was a bad idea. He asks House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer if debt got us into this recession, then why is creating more debt going to get us out? One economist says that one dollar taken out of the economy is one less dollar to be spent in the private sector.

The second video deals with transportation, and actually starts off in Atlanta (my hometown), and is based on this video from Reason TV. It highlights private toll roads built in Orange County, California, Paris, Chicago and Indiana.

This segment is on medicinal marijuana and Charlie Lynch and is based on this Reason TV video. Lynch owned a medicinal marijuana dispensary in California, which is legal under state law. He was arrested by DEA agents for helping sick people and is now awaiting sentencing, up to a hundred years in jail.

This is the segment on universal pre-kindergarten, a promise made by Barack Obama during his campaign. It’s based in part on this Reason TV video.

Here’s the segment on immigration, which is based on a Reason TV video. Stossel shows how the gate is useless because illegal immigrants still manage to get around it, either by climbing over it or cutting holes in it. Stossel talks to both Duncan Hunter and his son, Duncan Hunter, Jr., about why it is necessary. The younger Hunter asks Stossel, “What is it worth to the American people to not have another 9/11?” Stossel says the fence wouldn’t have stopped 9/11 (the 9/11 hijackers came in the country legally). Hunter says, “It may stop the next 9/11.” Gotta love the fear mongering.

Here’s the final segment of the episode. It talks about how easy it is to make it in American if you live within your means and is based on this Reason TV video.

Bush Administration considered free speech restrictions?

The Bush Administration weighed restrictions on the First Amendment, according to a recently released memo:

In perhaps the most surprising assertion, the Oct. 23, 2001, memo suggested the president could even suspend press freedoms if he concluded it was necessary to wage the war on terror. “First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully,” Yoo wrote in the memo entitled “Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activity Within the United States.”

This claim was viewed as so extreme that it was essentially (and secretly) revoked—but not until October of last year, seven years after the memo was written and with barely three and a half months left in the Bush administration.

At that time, Steven Bradbury, who headed the Office of Legal Counsel throughout Bush’s second term, concluded that Yoo’s statements about overriding First Amendment freedoms were “unnecessary” and “overbroad and general and not sufficiently grounded in the particular circumstance of a concrete scenario,” according to a memo from Bradbury also made public Monday.

Kate Martin, the director for the Center for National Security Studies, a Washington think tank, said the newly disclosed memo by Yoo and Robert Delahunty, another OLC lawyer, was part of a broader legal reasoning that gave President Bush essentially unfettered powers in the war on terrorism. “In October 2001, they were trying to construct a legal regime that would basically have allowed for the imposition of martial law,” said Martin.

John Yoo is also responsible for other abuses of executive power.

Yoo cited a quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes, the Supreme Court Justice that most epitomizes collectivism, “[w]hen it comes to a decision by the head of the state upon a matter involving its life, the ordinary rights of individuals must yield to what he deems the necessities of the moment.” According to John Yoo, the Constitution and Bill of Rights do not apply in time of war.

You can view the section of the memo dealing with the First Amendment here.

A Tenth Amendment victory?

This may be the only time that President Obama doesn’t try to undermine the sovereignty of individual states granted by the Tenth Amendment, but I’ll take it:

Drug Enforcement Administration agents this week raided four medical marijuana shops in California, contrary to President Obama’s campaign promises to stop the raids.

The White House said it expects those kinds of raids to end once Mr. Obama nominates someone to take charge of DEA, which is still run by Bush administration holdovers.

“The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws, and as he continues to appoint senior leadership to fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects them to review their policies with that in mind,” White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said.

Medical use of marijuana is legal under the law in California and a dozen other states, but the federal government under President Bush, bolstered by a 2005 Supreme Court ruling, argued that federal interests trumped state law.

Unfortunately, people like Charles Lynch (his story has been covered by Reason) are facing jail time for operating legally under California state law, but against federal laws (Lynch was convicted on federal charges).

Another point to be made is that Obama actually shares common ground some of the “conservative” members of the Supreme Court who voted in favor of state sovereignty in Gonzales v. Raich. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his dissent, “Our federalist system, properly understood, allows California and a growing number of other States to decide for themselves how to safeguard the health and welfare of their citizens.”

The Democrat is more for “state’s rights” (I don’t like that term) than his Republican predecessor. Who would of bet on that?

A not so brilliant idea

Welcome back to the New Deal:

A stimulus package may be a lifeline for the nation’s economy, but it could be a death sentence for a lot of cows.

Lawmakers are looking for ways to use the forthcoming stimulus bill to help dairy farmers, and the number one priority is to dampen milk supplies and prop up prices. Translation: reduce the nation’s dairy herd.

In case you didn’t know, during the Depression the federal government paid farmers to destroy their crops to artificially increase agriculture prices, some “10 million acres of crops and 6 million farm animals,” according to Jim Powell.

And people wonder why FDR is criticized for worsening and prolonging the Depression.

H/T: Red State

Security theater and online predators

Maybe, just maybe, lawmakers around the country, including here in Georgia, have overreacted with regards to internet predators:

The Internet may not be such a dangerous place for children after all.

A high-profile task force created by 49 state attorneys general to look into the problem of sexual solicitation of children online has concluded that there really is not a significant problem.

The Internet Safety Technical Task Force was charged with examining the extent of the threats children face on social networks like MySpace and Facebook, amid widespread fears that older adults were using these popular Web sites to deceive and prey on children.

Here in Georgia, legislators are taking extraordinary steps to “protect” children from online predators.

A new law that went into effect at the beginning of the year requires anyone labeled as a sex offender to turn over all online usernames and passwords:

Georgia joins a small band of states complying with guidelines in a 2006 federal law requiring authorities to track Internet addresses of sex offenders, but it is among the first to take the extra step of forcing its 16,000 offenders to turn in their passwords as well.

A federal judge ruled in September that a similar law in Utah violated the privacy rights of an offender who challenged it, though the narrow ruling applied only to one offender who had a military conviction on sex offenses but was never in Utah’s court or prison system.
[…]
State Sen. Cecil Staton, who wrote the bill, said the measure is designed to keep the Internet safe for children. Authorities could use the passwords and other information to make sure offenders aren’t stalking children online or chatting with them about off-limits topics.

Staton said although the measure may violate the privacy of sex offenders, the need to protect children “outweighs a lot of the rights of these individuals.”

“We limit where they can live, we make their information available on the Internet. To some degree, we do invade their privacy,” said Staton, a Republican from Macon. “But the feeling is, they have forfeited, to some degree, some privacy rights.”

Lawmakers are already using regulatory takings to force these individuals out of their homes, without any compensation whatsoever. I guess they shouldn’t have any privacy either, nor the presumption of innocence.

Politicians want to give the appearance of “doing something,” many times without any regard for personal rights and liberties. There is a line that a legislature cannot cross when it comes to privacy. The Fourth Amendment protects the rights of all individuals, including those who have paid their debts to society, to be “secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Legislatures cannot continue to look the other way and cry “judicial activism” when courts strike down constitutionally questionable laws relating to sex offenders, which has happened in November of last year and as recently as last month, and could very well happen with this new law.

H/T: Reason

Is Palin a reformer and fiscal conservative?

One thing I am hearing right now is that Sarah Palin is a fiscal conservative. The Club for Growth released a statement on a potential Palin VP candidacy that praises her stance on earmarks and support for opening ANWR.

Fighting earmarks and opening ANWR are important, but they are only half the battle.

When the Alaska Creamery Board decided to close the state-owned Matanuska Maid Dairy, she objected. She couldn’t fire Creamery Board members, so she fired members of the Alaska Agriculture Board who in turn replaced Creamery Board members. The Matanuska Maid Dairy remained open, jacked up milk prices and eventually closed anyway after substantial losses. Only then did Palin believe that it should be sold to a private company. Unfortunately, the state received no bids for the diary and taxpayers were stuck with a loss.

John McCain has been critical of Barack Obama’s plan for a windfall profits tax on oil companies, correctly citing that it would hurt potential oil exploration in the United States and increase dependence on foreign oil. Criticism should be point toward Sarah Palin as well.

Palin signed a windfall profits tax into law last year that has taken $10 billion from oil companies. Part of the plan, as conservative blog Hot Air noted earlier this month, is very similar to a plan pushed by Barack Obama:

Palin’s plan looks similar in concept to Barack Obama’s plan. The state gave Alaskans $1200 checks from oil revenues as a one-time bonus to pay for increased fuel prices, a move Palin pushed. That echoes the Obama plan to send one-time rebates to taxpayers, funded by similar levies on oil companies.

However, the results in Alaska should warn the rest of the country about pursuing this policy. Already oil companies have stopped drilling on state lands, thanks to the tax burden Alaska imposes. It should be cheaper to drill and extract from these areas, but the oil companies have decided to focus their investment instead on the Gulf, where the costs and risks would normally be higher. In Alaska, the government takes 75% of the price on a barrel of oil at current prices, which gives them no incentive to work there.

Then there is ethics. She has made a name for herself as a reformer. Palin demanded answers from and openly criticized Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens when he was indicted. She was right to do so. As far as I’m concerned, Stevens is a crook for more things that what he was indicted for. It turns out that she may have ethics issues of her own.

Walt Monegan, former Alaska Department of Public Safety Commissioner, claims that he was pressured by Palin and individuals close to her pressured him to fire State Trooper Mike Wooten, who happens to be Palin’s former brother-in-law. Monegan was eventually fired by Palin:

Monegan said phone calls and questions from the Palin administration and the governor’s husband, Todd Palin, about trooper Mike Wooten started shortly after Monegan was hired and continued up to one or two months ago.

The governor herself also had a brief conversation with him about Wooten in February, Monegan said.

The new assertions from Monegan, who has been mostly silent on his abrupt firing July 11, conflict with what the Republican governor said earlier in the week. She said she never put pressure on the commissioner to fire her sister’s ex-husband and no one from her office had complained about Wooten. She has also said replacing Monegan with Kenai Police Chief Chuck Kopp had nothing to do with Wooten. She has offered little explanation for the dismissal.
[…]
Monegan said he still isn’t sure why he was fired but thought that Wooten could be part of it. “I don’t know that it’s all of it. … I worked at the pleasure of the governor,” he said.

I’m sure more will come out about Palin in the coming months. I don’t know why conservatives are jumping up and down about Palin. She doesn’t seem all that great. She may support transparent government, but that does not make someone a fiscal conservative.

Note: Jason Pye is on the staff of Libertarian Presidential nominee Bob Barr.

Remember Kelo

“The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is no force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. Property must be secured or liberty cannot exist.”- John Adams

Monday is third anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling Kelo v. New London. The reason I am writing about this today is because it will likely be overshadowed by the decision in the District of Columbia v. Heller case, which involves the Second Amendment. A case which is equally important to any individual who values Liberty.

Here is some background on Kelo v. New London, in case you are unfamiliar with it. The City of New London, Connecticut sought to redevelop the Fort Trumbull neighborhood in hopes of increasing the city’s tax base (“economic development”). Several property owners refused to sell to the city, including Susette Kelo, and condemnation proceedings were started by New London Development Corporation, a private body acting on behalf of the city. Ms. Kelo received her condemnation notice the day before Thanksgiving in 2000.

On June 23, 2005, the Supreme Court dealt another blow to the Bill of Rights. The majority (opinion written by Stevens, joined by Breyer, Ginsburg and Souter with Kennedy writing a concurring opinion) ruled that taking private property for economic development and to increase the tax base is a “public use.” This ruling gave local government nearly unlimited power to take private property though eminent domain and give it to a developer to increase the tax base of the city. The court considers this to be a perfectly reasonable example of the “public use” clause of the Fifth Amendment.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in dissent, “Something has gone seriously awry with this Court’s interpretation of the Constitution. Though citizens are safe from the government in their homes, the homes themselves are not.”

Contrary to what John McCain’s recent comments on Boumediene v. Bush, Kelo has paved the way for local governments essentially steal land at an unprecedented rate. The Institute for Justice noted just one year after the Kelo decision was announced “more than 5,700 properties nationwide [had] been threatened by or taken with eminent domain for private development.” Compare that to around 10,000 instances of Kelo-style takings from 1998 to 2002.

Kelo is not the first case dealing with property rights to come before the Supreme Court. Property rights had been protected until the Progressive Era. In 1954, the court ruled in Berman v. Parker that displaced 5,012 people, nearly all were African-Americans, from their homes in a DC neighborhood.

In court’s decision, Justice William Douglas deferred power to Congress and the District of Columbia (judicial deference) and expanded the purposes where eminent domain could be used:

The concept of the public welfare is broad and inclusive. The values it represents are spiritual as well as physical, aesthetic as well as monetary. It is within the power of the legislature to determine that the community should be beautiful as well as healthy, spacious as well as clean, well balanced as well as carefully patrolled. In the present case, the Congress and its authorized agencies have made determinations that take into account a wide variety of values. It is not for us to reappraise them.

By the way, this is the same court that issued the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Something that certainly cannot be disputed is how use of eminent domain impacts the poor and minorities.

Then in 1984 the Supreme Court ruled in Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff that a Hawaii law, the Land Reform Act of 1967, was an acceptable use of eminent domain. This law allowed renters to take property from their landlords. In her opinion, another example of judicial deference and the rational basis test, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote:

This Court will not substitute its judgment for a legislature’s judgment as to what constitutes “public use” unless the use is palpably without reasonable foundation. Where the exercise of the eminent domain power is rationally related to a conceivable public purpose, a compensated taking is not prohibited by the Public Use Clause.
[…]
The mere fact that property taken outright by eminent domain is transferred in the first instance to private beneficiaries does not condemn that taking as having only a private purpose. Government does not itself have to use property to legitimate the taking; it is only the taking’s purpose, and not its mechanics, that must pass scrutiny under the Public Use Clause.

Rehnquist, often referred to as an Originalist, joined the majority this decision and ironically, O’Connor’s dissent in Kelo has been praised, but her opinion in Midkiff was actually cited as precedent by the majority.

Since Kelo 42 states have enacted some sort of protection for private property rights, some stronger than others. Florida easily has the strongest of any state.

I wrote commentary for the Georgia Public Policy Foundation last year about what had taken place in our state since the Kelo ruling and the need for more constitutional protections for property owners. The statutory law passed by the Georgia General Assembly was very good, but the constitutional amendment left the door wide open for future abuse. There are no actual protections for property owners in the amendment nor is the term “public use” defined. It points back to “general law,” which is set by the legislature and can be changed at anytime during a legislative session by a simple majority vote. An attempt to patch this massive hole in the amendment was defeated by two votes in the State Senate.

Needless to say, there is still much work to do in Georgia.

We need to press our elected officials at all levels of government and remind them that property is sacred. We do not spend our lives laboring to provide for ourselves and families only to have the government come and take the most sacred of our rights from us. Simply put, property rights are not subject to a majority vote.

We also must challenge progressivism and “cult of the collective.” We as individuals have natural rights that cannot be infringed upon by govternment.

“When ‘the common good’ of a society is regarded as something apart from and superior to the individual good of its members, it means that the good of *some* men takes precedence over the good of others, with those others consigned to the status of sacrificial animals.” – Ayn Rand

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