It is coming to the point that it is obvious that the terrorists have won. Why? Because they have provided government the excuse to intrude more and more into our lives and government is more than willing to use it. If this doesn’t bother you, you’re not paying attention:
Top U.S. intelligence officials gathered in the White House Situation Room in March to debate a controversial proposal. Counterterrorism officials wanted to create a government dragnet, sweeping up millions of records about U.S. citizens—even people suspected of no crime.
Not everyone was on board. “This is a sea change in the way that the government interacts with the general public,” Mary Ellen Callahan, chief privacy officer of the Department of Homeland Security, argued in the meeting, according to people familiar with the discussions.
A week later, the attorney general signed the changes into effect.
Of course the Attorney General signed the changes into effect. He’s as big a criminal as the rest of them.
What does this do? Well here, take a look:
The rules now allow the little-known National Counterterrorism Center to examine the government files of U.S. citizens for possible criminal behavior, even if there is no reason to suspect them. That is a departure from past practice, which barred the agency from storing information about ordinary Americans unless a person was a terror suspect or related to an investigation.
Now, NCTC can copy entire government databases—flight records, casino-employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students and many others. The agency has new authority to keep data about innocent U.S. citizens for up to five years, and to analyze it for suspicious patterns of behavior. Previously, both were prohibited.
Your activities are now presumed to be “suspicious”, one assumes, just by existing and doing the things you’ve always done. Host a foreign exchange student? Go under surveillance. Fly anywhere the government arbitrarily decides is tied into terrorists (or not) it is surveillance for you (can the “no-fly” list be far behind?). Work in a casino, go onto a surveillance list.
And all of this by unaccountable bureaucrats who have unilaterally decided that your 4th Amendment rights mean zip. In fact, they claim that the 4th doesn’t apply here.
Congress specifically sought to prevent government agents from rifling through government files indiscriminately when it passed the Federal Privacy Act in 1974. The act prohibits government agencies from sharing data with each other for purposes that aren’t “compatible” with the reason the data were originally collected.
But the Federal Privacy Act allows agencies to exempt themselves from many requirements by placing notices in the Federal Register, the government’s daily publication of proposed rules. In practice, these privacy-act notices are rarely contested by government watchdogs or members of the public. “All you have to do is publish a notice in the Federal Register and you can do whatever you want,” says Robert Gellman, a privacy consultant who advises agencies on how to comply with the Privacy Act.
As a result, the National Counterterrorism Center program’s opponents within the administration—led by Ms. Callahan of Homeland Security—couldn’t argue that the program would violate the law. Instead, they were left to question whether the rules were good policy.
Under the new rules issued in March, the National Counterterrorism Center, known as NCTC, can obtain almost any database the government collects that it says is “reasonably believed” to contain “terrorism information.” The list could potentially include almost any government database, from financial forms submitted by people seeking federally backed mortgages to the health records of people who sought treatment at Veterans Administration hospitals.
So they just exempted themselves without any outcry, without any accountability, without any review. They just published they were “exempt” from following the law of the land or worrying about 4th Amendment rights.
Here’s the absolutely hilarious “promise” made by these criminals:
Counterterrorism officials say they will be circumspect with the data. “The guidelines provide rigorous oversight to protect the information that we have, for authorized and narrow purposes,” said Alexander Joel, Civil Liberties Protection Officer for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the parent agency for the National Counterterrorism Center.
What a load of crap. If you believe that you’ll believe anything government says. Human nature says they’ll push this to whatever limit they can manage until someone calls their hand.
And, as if that’s all not bad enough:
The changes also allow databases of U.S. civilian information to be given to foreign governments for analysis of their own. In effect, U.S. and foreign governments would be using the information to look for clues that people might commit future crimes.
So now our government is free to provide foreign governments with information about you, whether you like it or not.
This isn’t a new idea – here’s a little flashback from a time when people actually raised hell about stuff like this:
“If terrorist organizations are going to plan and execute attacks against the United States, their people must engage in transactions and they will leave signatures,” the program’s promoter, Admiral John Poindexter, said at the time. “We must be able to pick this signal out of the noise.”
Adm. Poindexter’s plans drew fire from across the political spectrum over the privacy implications of sorting through every single document available about U.S. citizens. Conservative columnist William Safire called the plan a “supersnoop’s dream.” Liberal columnist Molly Ivins suggested it could be akin to fascism. Congress eventually defunded the program.
Do you remember this? Do you remember how much hell was raised about this idea? However now, yeah, not such a big deal:
The National Counterterrorism Center’s ideas faced no similar public resistance. For one thing, the debate happened behind closed doors. In addition, unlike the Pentagon, the NCTC was created in 2004 specifically to use data to connect the dots in the fight against terrorism.
What a surprise.
I’m sorry, I see no reason for an unaccountable Matthew Olsen or his NCTC to know anything about me or have the ability to put a file together about me, keep that information for five years and, on his decision and his decision only, provide the information on me to foreign governments at his whim.
I remember the time the left went bonkers about the “Privacy Act”. Here’s something real to go bonkers on and what sound do we hear from the left (and the right, for that matter)?
Colorado and Washington had referrendums on their ballots this past election day in which growing pot for one’s own use was legalized. Much like home brewing laws, users were given the go ahead to grow enough marijuana for their own, private use.
So what does that mean in the big scheme of things? Certainly it will mean that at a state level, given the new law, state and local police aren’t going to be looking for small time users or growers. And the Fed certainly doesn’t have the manpower to go after them.
But it’s unrealistic and unwise to expect federal officials to pick up the slack left by state law- enforcement officers who used to enforce marijuana prohibitions against pot users and small-time growers. Unrealistic, because it would require lots more resources.
Resources they don’t, frankly, have.
So here we have two states acting as sort of “labs” for freedom. You know, trying something out as we were told states should do under a “federal” system.
Now, you may not agree about this particular application, but that’s how this system was supposed to work, wasn’t it?
The next obvious question then is will the Federal government allow that to happen or will it attempt to stop it. My guess is even the Federal government knows it can’t stop it physically, so it will likely resort to legal means (i.e. somehow have the laws declared invalid, thereby again making Federal law supreme and requiring LEOs to enforce them). But that could be a very long and protracted process.
For once (is there a blue moon out there?) in a very long time, the Washington Post and I agree for the most part:
[W]e favor decriminalizing possession of small amounts of pot, assessing civil fines instead of locking people up. Also, for that reason and others, the Justice Department should hold its fire on a lawsuit challenging Colorado and Washington’s decision to behave more leniently. And state officials involved in good-faith efforts to regulate marijuana production and distribution according to state laws should be explicitly excused from federal targeting.
It’s not yet clear how a quasi-legal pot industry might operate in Colorado and Washington or what its public-health effects will be. It could be that these states are harbingers of a slow, national reassessment of marijuana policy. Or their experiment could serve as warning for the other 48 states.
For now, the federal government does not need to stage an aggressive intervention, one way or the other. It can wait, watch and enforce the most worrisome violations as they occur.
Where we disagree is the next to last sentence. If you’re going to stay out of it now, stay out of it later. You can’t “leave it up to the states” until you decide not too. And, it would be a nice decentralization of power – you know, federalism – which allow the states what they were originally supposed to enjoy – a certain level of autonomy (remember, the federal government was originally supposed to be mostly focused externally while the states, within Constitutional limits, pretty much looked after themselves.).
It would be a nice change from the constant attempts by the Fed to accrue power.
The Senate filibuster fight gins up – hypocrites to the left of us, hypocrites to the right … (Update)
Another example of why you can’t ever take anything a politician says at face value or believe them when they say they stand on ‘principle’.
For instance, consider the looming Senate fight over the filibuster.
Once a cause championed by a few Democratic senators, changing the filibuster has become a top priority for Senate Democrats who’ve repeatedly complained about Republicans blocking legislation from even being debated on the Senate floor. Reid noted on Monday that in his nearly six years as majority leader, he has faced 386 Republican-led filibusters in the chamber.
“We can’t continue like this,” a visibly frustrated Reid Monday said in a response to McConnell.
Of course the “visibly frustrated” Senate Majority Leader, Democrat Harry Reid, was one of those huge champions of the filibuster when he was a minority leader and then the new Majority Leader because he’d used it many times in his long political career:
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV):“As majority leader, I intend to run the Senate with respect for the rules and for the minority rights the rules protect. The Senate was not established to be efficient. Sometimes the rules get in the way of efficiency. The Senate was established to make sure that minorities are protected. Majorities can always protect themselves, but minorities cannot. That is what the Senate is all about.” (Sen. Reid, Congressional Record, S.11591, 12/8/06)
REID: “For more than 200 years, the rules of the Senate have protected the American people, and rightfully so. The need to muster 60 votes in order to terminate Senate debate naturally frustrates the majority and oftentimes the minority. I am sure it will frustrate me when I assume the office of majority leader in a few weeks. But I recognize this requirement is a tool that serves the long-term interest of the Senate and the American people and our country.” (Sen. Reid, Congressional Record, S.11591, 12/8/06)
REID: “I say on this floor that I love so much that I believe in the Golden Rule. I am going to treat my Republican colleagues the way that I expect to be treated. There is no ‘I’ve got you,’ no get even. I am going to do everything I can to preserve the traditions and rules of this institution that I love.” (Sen. Reid, Congressional Record, S.11591, 12/8/06)
REID:“…one of the most sacred rules of the Senate – the filibuster… It is a unique privilege that serves to aid small states from being trampled by the desires of larger states. Indeed, I view the use of the filibuster as a shield, rather than a sword. Invoked to protect rights, not to suppress them.” (Sen. Reid, Congressional Record, S.434, 1/5/95)
Yeah, well that was then and this is now. The “world has changed” as Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss said this week as he sought to duck out on his pledge of years past not to vote on raising taxes.
You have to love the Reid line about the Senate not being established to be efficient – see the budget. Going on 4 years without one. But you see, getting a budget passed would require Reid and the Democrats to compromise with the Republicans in order to achieve that 60 vote margin and, well, he’s just not willing to accomodate the minority despite his stirring words to the contrary about protecting the rights of the Senate minority, words, by the way, he’s likely to dismiss now.
And, as you hear the fight gin up, don’t forget the past words of other Democrats who will now call the GOP minority obstructionists and tell us all the filibuster is bad and has no place in the Senate. For instance, if we hear the President opining, it’s alway nice to remember his words on the subject for the brief period he was a Senator and take his words, on both sides of the issue, with a grain of salt:
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): “The American people want less partisanship in this town, but everyone in this Chamber knows that if the majority chooses to end the filibuster, if they choose to change the rules and put an end to democratic debate, then the fighting, the bitterness, and the gridlock will only get worse.” (Sen. Obama, Congressional Record, S.3512, 4/13/05)
OBAMA: “[T]he American people sent us here to be their voice… What they do not expect is for one party, be it Republican or Democrat, to change the rules in the middle of the game so they can make all the decisions while the other party is told to sit down and keep quiet.” (Sen. Obama, Congressional Record, S.3512, 4/13/05)
And, of course, that’s precisely what the Democrats and Obama want the Senate GOP to do – sit down and be quiet.
On any subject, you know little Chucky Schumer has an opinion:
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY) On Any Threat To The Filibuster: “The basic makeup of our Senate is at stake. The checks and balances that Americans prize are at stake. The idea of bipartisanship, where you have to come together and can’t just ram everything through because you have a narrow majority, is at stake. The very things we treasure and love about this grand republic are at stake.” (Sen. Schumer, Congressional Record, S.4801, 5/10/05)
SCHUMER: “We are on the precipice of a crisis, a constitutional crisis. The checks and balances which have been at the core of this republic are about to be evaporated by the nuclear option. The checks and balances which say that if you get 51% of the vote you don’t get your way 100% of the time. It is amazing it’s almost a temper tantrum… They want their way every single time, and they will change the rules, break the rules, misread the Constitution so they will get their way.” (Sen. Schumer, Congressional Record, S.5208, 5/16/05)
Yes, it was a “Constitutional crisis” in ’05. Now? Not so much. Speaking of temper tantrums, funny how one’s words can come back to haunt them, not that they care.
Finally, we have dandy Dick Durbin who also thinks it is time to change the filibuster rules, although in ’05, he had a completely different take on the subject:
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL): “Those who would attack and destroy the institution of the filibuster are attacking the very force within the Senate that creates compromise and bipartisanship.” (Sen. Durbin, Congressional Record, S.3763, 4/15/05)
DURBIN: The filibuster is “[one] of the most treasured and cherished traditions of the United States Senate.” “Many of us in the Senate feel that this agreement tonight means that some of the most treasured and cherished traditions of the United States Senate will be preserved, will not be attacked and will not be destroyed.” (Sen. Durbin, “Statement Of Sen. Dick Durbin Regarding The Agreement On Judicial Nominations In The Senate,” Press Release, 5/23/05)
It’s not so treasured any more, is it? At least not by Senate Democrats who were so enamored with it in ’05.
The point of course is obvious. Don’t ever believe anything any politician of either side says on any subject – ever. They’ll bail on it in a New York minute if they see political advantage in doing so. Pledges and “traditions” mean nothing to them.
If faith in government is built on trust, and trust is built on political leaders promising to do things and then keeping their word, trust in this government died quite a while ago.
And that’s sort of the crux of the problem isn’t it? We are represented by an amoral political class who doesn’t hold their word to mean anything and reserve the right to change their “principles” on the fly in an attempt to gain temporary political advantage.
We’re served by the worst political class I can remember.
The problem is we can’t blame them – we elected them, and, like Harry Reid and Saxby Chambliss, we’ve kept them in office for decades.
Unfortunately, when you don’t pay attention and you just tune in when it is convenient for you, you get exactly what you deserve in DC. This is just another in a long line of examples of that truth.
UPDATE: Apparently the WSJ and I are on the same wave-length today:
One of the more amazing post-election spectacles is the media celebration of Republicans who say they’re willing to repudiate their pledge against raising taxes. So the same folks who like to denounce politicians because they can’t be trusted are now praising politicians who openly admit they can’t be trusted.
If Republicans in Congress want to repudiate the pledge, they are free to do so at any time. They could even quote Edmund Burke’s line that a democratic representative owes his electors his best judgment, not a slavish fealty to majority opinion. But that would mean saying they didn’t mean it when they signed the pledge. So they are now busy pretending that Mr. Norquist is a modern Merlin who conned them into signing the pledge and must be eliminated before they can do the “right thing” and raise taxes.
Republican voters know that elections have consequences and that Mitt Romney’s defeat means there will be policy defeats too. But they will give the House and Senate GOP credit if it fights for its principles and drives a hard bargain. The voters are also smart enough to know that Republicans who focus on Mr. Norquist are part of the problem.
But apparently, for some, it’s too much to ask our politicians to stand by their word. Apparently, principles are only important when these people say they’re important. At other times, they’re very malleable or can be thrown to the side and rationalized away. And in this case, the rationalization apparently says that political necessity now requires that a crumb be thrown to “public opinion”.
With other people’s money, of course.
Eric Posner wants us to understand that we “value” freedom of speech much too much. Because, after all, the rest of the world doesn’t see it the way we do, and thus, one gathers from his article, we should become more like them. In the title to his article he says we “overvalue” the right of freedom of speech. Here’s what the hoary whisper of oppression sounds like:
This is that Americans need to learn that the rest of the world—and not just Muslims—see no sense in the First Amendment. Even other Western nations take a more circumspect position on freedom of expression than we do, realizing that often free speech must yield to other values and the need for order. Our own history suggests that they might have a point.
He goes on to give examples of our history where government has been less than supportive of the right.
Notice what he values more than free speech? Order. I wish I had a dollar for every pop-gun totalitarian whose clarion call was for “order” over other rights.
You see one of the acknowledged problems with freedom is it’s messy. That’s right, people get to make choices you don’t agree with and, even more importantly, get to act on them without your permission.
That’s just too “messy” for some, like Posner. Instead we sh0uld voluntarily curtail our freedoms to placate mobs and murderers half a world away because they choose to become violent over something someone said.
Posner spends the rest of the article trying to defend his premise and sound reasonable. Interestingly it devolves into a secondary attack on conservatives who apparently use this wretched overvalued freedom to oppose such wonderful and valuable things like hate speech laws and political correctness.
Make no mistake about it, at bottom, this is an appeal for speech codes and legal remedy for speech those like Posner find to be “invaluable” for whatever reason – in this case “order”.
Putting this to the old libertarian test, i.e. “freedom = choice”, it flunks. It limits or removes choice in the face of mob violence half a world away. It gives in to people who chose to be violent.
Anyone with more than a day on this earth knows that such a move would only encourage more acting out by those mobs. They sack an embassy, we clamp down on our own rights. Any time they can dictate a limiting of our freedoms with their actions we essentially play right into their hand and they win. For some reason, those like Posner can’t see the dark hand of al Qaeda and other violent radical Islamic gangs behind this. And the first thing these cut-and-run cowards suggest we do is limit our freedoms to placate those who would willingly kill us if given the chance?
We’ve been told for some time that violent crime in America is actually at its lowest point since the 1970s.
But we’re also being told by a certain element that gun deaths are out of hand and we need to reconsider tightening our gun laws.
So lets take one of those “perspective” looks shall we?
First a chart that takes us through 2004 showing murders by firearms:
As an aside, the Assault Weapons ban was in effect from 1994 to 2004. Assault weapons would be found under “other guns”. You’ll note that “other methods” and knives, for the most part, were involved in more murders than “assault weapons” (further note that not all “other guns” were “Assault Weapons”, but may have been hunting rifles or shotguns). Rifles of any sort just aren’t the usual weapon of choice for murders.
Also note that murders of all types have been trending down over the years. If you hit the link in the first sentence, it will show you that in 2004 the number of violent crimes per 100,000 was 463.2 and in 2010 it had fallen to 403.6.
If you add handguns and “other guns” from the chart in 2004, you see approximately 10,500 to 11,000 murders by firearms.
The most recent FBI figures show just 358 of the 8,775 murders by firearm in 2010 involved rifles of any type.
By the way, the article that was pulled from noted that in 2010, more people were beaten to death by fists (758) than were killed by “other guns”, aka rifles of any sort.
Michael Wade does the math:
So, based on these two sites (http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_households_are_in_the_US)(http://www.gallup.com/poll/150353/self-reported-gun-ownership-highest-1993.aspx) there were approximately 115 million households in 2010, and between 41% and 49% (depending on how you do the numbers) had firearms in them.
That’s a minimum of 57.5 million arms (if we assume one firearm per household, which we know isn’t even close to the right number).
If we then assume that each of the 8,775 murders was committed by a separate firearm from a different household each time (again, an assumption we know is wrong but increases the number of households involved), then approximately 0.015% of American households who owned guns were involved with murder by firearm in 2010.
Again, these assumptions make that percentage much higher than it actually is since (a) undoubtedly more households have firearms but don’t report them, (b) households with firearms will typically have more than just one, and may have several, (c) one firearm likely accounted for more than one of the 8,775 murders, and (d) the vast majority of the murders were likely committed with firearms that were illegally possessed!
Even so, slightly more than one one-thousandth of one percent of gun owners is the highest amount you are going to be able to implicate in murder by firearm, despite all the generous assumptions made in favor of the gun control side.
That does not speak to a winning argument IMHO.
No it sure doesn’t, not that they won’t try anyway. Additionally, when you do the math about chances of being a victim of firearm murder, the figure 312.8 million is what you need to divide into the 8,775 yielding a terrifying 0.000028% chance of being a victim of a firearm murder in 2010 (if you’re a gambler, though, move to Chicago and you can quickly reduce the odds).
In fact, you’re much more likely to die from one of these causes than a gunshot murder:
Chance of dying from any kind of injury during the next year: 1 in 1,820
Chance of dying from intentional self-harm: 1 in 9,380
Chance of dying from an assault: 1 in 16,421
Chance of dying from a car accident: 1 in 18,585
Chance of dying from any kind of fall: 1 in 20,666
Chance of dying from accidental drowning: 1 in 79,065
Chance of dying from exposure to smoke, fire, and flames: 1 in 81,524
Chance of dying in an explosion: 1 in 107,787
Life is perilous, but for the most part, not because of guns.
As someone recently said, we don’t need gun control, we need idiot control. Not sure how we control the idiots, but I’m sympathetic to the idea. Statistically though, the number of firearm murders per year simply doesn’t justify any renewed call for banning or restricting the sale or possession of firearms.
As you might imagine, it has consequences, and, given this situation, it is very hard to pretend the consequences are unintended. Why? Because even a 5th grader could have predicted this outcome:
In a startling allegation, the president of the union representing Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers claimed illegal immigrants are "taking advantage" of a new directive allowing some undocumented residents who came to the U.S. as children to stay in the country. Union boss Chris Crane said the policy ends up allowing illegal immigrants to avoid detention without any proof — particularly so-called "dreamers," or those illegal immigrants who would benefit under the "DREAM Act" proposal, which Congress has not passed but the administration has partially implemented.
"Prosecutorial discretion for dreamers is solely based on the individual’s claims. Our orders are if an alien says they went to high school, then let them go," he said at a press conference with GOP senators. "Officers have been told that there is no burden for the alien to prove anything. … At this point we don’t even know why DHS has criteria at all, as there is no requirement or burden to prove anything on the part of the alien.
"We believe that significant numbers of people who are not dreamers are taking advantage of this practice to avoid arrest," he said.
Whether or not you agree with the immigration laws of the country, executive fiat is not the method the Constitution outlines as legitimate redress. And, unsurprisingly, those illegals who would benefit, even if not actually eligible, will exploit an opportunity such executive fiat presents.
According to Chris Crane, that’s precisely what is happening.
The allegations from the union were expressed in unusually blunt terms Thursday.
George McCubbin, president of the National Border Patrol Council union, said the Department of Homeland Security has made it impossible for agents to do their jobs.
Crane said it’s led to disorganization and "confusion" at ICE.
Not that ICE hasn’t had its share of confusion in the past, but now, it is even more difficult to do their jobs.
Crane cited one case in which, he said, an immigrant facing criminal charges was let go under the policy. Further, he complained that officers are "under threat of losing their jobs" if they defy the policy.
Anyone who thinks this is how our system should work needs to re-examine the Constitution. One branch creates the laws (legislative) and one branch enforces the laws (executive). If you don’t like a law or want it changed or repealed then it’s back to the legislative branch. And no, inaction by the legislative branch doesn’t mean the executive branch can arbitrarily ignore the law or decide it’s not going to enforce it. Not and still be a Constitutional republic.
I’m on record saying our current immigration system sucks. There’s no reason in this day of cyber advances that we couldn’t have the slickest and quickest system on earth. And yes, I hold Congress directly responsible for the inactivity that has led to the mess at the border.
But that doesn’t give the executive license to ignore laws or selectively enforce them. Kings do that, not presidents, and we have no kings. We just have a president who thinks he’s one.
Frankly, I think Chick-fil-A has jumped the shark by taking a position at all on a social issue. The purpose of their business, I assume, is to sell sandwiches.
However, they have taken one and it is controversial.
Viva la free speech. Welcome to America.
What is just as controversial however, are government entities deciding to take action based on the company’s exercise of its right to free speech.
This is where I totally disagree. This is none of any government’s business. None.
I think Mike Krempasky has it just about right, and this is one of those “let’s put the shoe on the other foot” moments where you have to do a little thinking about how you’d react if such a thing was done to an entity which said something you agree with:
For those of you cheering the mayors of Boston and Chicago for taking such a courageous stance against the creeping horde of Chick-fil-A stores because of the speech and beliefs of its leadership – WHAT THE H#!! IS WRONG WITH YOU?
I presume you’d be outraged and maybe even scared of your government if some arch-conservative mayor or city manager just declared that Ben and Jerry’s stores would no longer be granted building permits.
I’m sure you’d head to the barricades if a governor of state decided that only Republicans or only Democrats were allowed to operate businesses in that state just because of how the voters choose politicians.
If *you* don’t like the values of a company, than *you* shouldn’t shop there. And then you should spend your energy, attention, and yes – money (yay Citizens United!) to encourage your friends and community not to shop there. But enlisting the help of government to punish your competitors, your enemies, or even just those you find distasteful? Rewarding the politicians willing do so so? Might as well just start distributing Little Red Books.
I disagree with the Chick-fil-A stance (and from a business standpoint, find it abysmally stupid, but hey, it is their company and in a free society, they, like Ben and Jerry’s, are free to do stupid things). As Mike points out, I disagree with much of what the owners of Ben and Jerry’s have publicly said. I also have the ability to do something about that and have. Because, the right to free speech doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences. It just means government can’t levy them.
One thing I have never done nor would ever condone is government action or intervention –at any level – in reaction to a social stance by a business. Instead, I have simply never, ever knowingly put a spoonful of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream in my mouth nor bought a single ounce of it. I’ll most likely punish Chick-fil-A the same way. There are lots of choices out there.
But government at any level has no business at all involved in this – none – and anyone who says they should be involved has got to realize the ramifications of such a demand. It could, at some point, be used against some business you support. And you wouldn’t have a moral or ethical leg to stand on in protest against such action.
Freedom of speech is there to protect the speaker from government. Its biggest test comes with speech we don’t agree with.
In the case of Chick-fil-A the calls for government action (and the threats by government against the business) are in contravention of that right and fail that test.
Those calling for government action against speech they don’t agree with be should be ashamed.
My how things change over the course of 200+ years.
Back at the beginning of this experiment, people rejected a large and intrusive government. They’d been the victims of one and threw off that yoke. They acclaimed freedom as their goal and chose liberty as their battle cry.
When they finally got around to forming their own government, they carefully wrote a document which I’m sure they figured was an iron-clad guarantee that this country’s future would never see the same sort of tyranny they’d suffered under.
I just wonder what they’d think of this sprawling, debt ridden and intrusive mess we have now? I wonder what they’d think of over half the population getting some sort of compensation from government.
I wonder what they’d think of a Supreme Court Chief Justice more worried about what they’ll say about him and the court on the cocktail circuit and in the media than he is about upholding the Constitution, his sworn duty. I think I know.
And I’m pretty sure I know what they’d think of this:
Our nation’s current debt, nearing $16 trillion, and our annual budget deficit of $1.2 trillion, indicate that our government’s addiction to spending is nowhere near its limit.
Of that $16 trillion debt, the U.S. owes more than $5 trillion to foreign nations, an all-time high. So much for independence. We’re now a debtor nation, and unless we get our fiscal house in order, that debt will endanger our nation’s prospects for long-term growth.
If that sounds alarmist, consider this: In August 2011, Vice President Joe Biden visited China. This wasn’t just any diplomatic visit — it was the supplication of a debtor, in which Biden undertook to reassure our Chinese debtors that their investment is sound.
Biden assured his hosts that they had "nothing to worry about" when it comes to the U.S. honoring its obligations. It wasn’t the first time a high-ranking U.S. official has had to offer soothing words to our creditors, and at this rate it won’t be the last.
Let’s be clear. This administration isn’t the cause of all that debt. It’s just the latest (and the worst) to add to it, to the point that our debt now stands at more than our GDP. We are indeed a debtor nation.
That’s not at all how this began is it? Nor was that ever the plan.
I’m also pretty sure I know how they’d feel about the level of intrusion government now routinely practices (and increases) in this country. For example:
IRS officials on background tell FOX Business the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on health reform gives the IRS even more powers than previously understood.
The IRS now gets to know about a small business’s entire payroll, the level of their insurance coverage — and it gets to know the income of not just the primary breadwinner in your house, but your entire family’s income, in order to assess/collect the mandated tax.
Plus, it gets to share your personal info with all sorts of government agencies, insurance companies and employers.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. "We expect even more lien and levy powers," an IRS official says. Even the Taxpayer Advocate is deeply concerned.
As government takes more and more control of your lives, it intrudes deeper and deeper into them:
The TAO [Taxpayer Advocate Office] says that the “IRS will need to determine a taxpayer’s compliance with the individual [insurance] mandate and assess a penalty if coverage is inadequate.”
However, the penalty isn’t based on just your personal net income. The penalty will be based on an entirely different number that is more than just your paycheck earnings — your ‘household income.’
“This determination is based on a concept of ‘household income,’” TAO has said, adding, “this may differ from the income reported on the taxpayer’s return, because it is a composite of all of the income reported by members of a taxpayer’s household — information that may not be readily accessible to the IRS."
If the IRS finds you have fallen short of the law, it would hit you with a penalty tied to your household income (which may be that of an individual or several family members).
Under the new health law, the IRS penalty would be based on “modified adjusted gross income,” not adjusted gross income that you normally report at the bottom of the first page of your tax form 1040, before you take deductions or personal exemptions.
The modifications add back in things like non-taxable interest and excluded foreign income to this number.
Health reform’s insurance mandate says if you do not have “adequate” insurance, you’ll have to pay a fine as part of your tax return. If your business doesn’t provide “affordable” coverage, that business may have to pay a fine to the IRS, too, as part of its tax return filings.
The TAO has noted Americans must now tell the IRS under the new law:
*Insurance plan information, including who is covered under the plan and the dates of coverage;
*The costs of your family’s health insurance plans;
*Whether a taxpayer had an offer of employer-sponsored health insurance;
*The cost of employer-sponsored insurance;
*Whether a taxpayer received a premium tax credit; and
*Whether a taxpayer has an exemption from the individual responsibility requirement.
The TAO has warned: “This is different from the type of information the IRS typically deals with, and some taxpayers may feel uncomfortable about sharing it with the IRS.”
In fact, it is incumbent upon you to prove to the IRS that you have “adequate coverage”, whatever that ends up meaning. And:
The TAO has also reported that “obtaining this new information will require the IRS to communicate with entities and government agencies that it may not deal with now,” including:
*New state-run insurance exchanges;
*Insurance companies; and
*Government insurance programs.
But remember the sales pitch – government will make health care simpler, more cost effective and better.
Congratulations to all the simpletons out there who bought into this scam and ended up foisting this intrusive monstrosity on the rest of us. In fact, thanks to all, who through out the 200 years it has taken us to to get to this point, worked so hard to achieve it “for the common good”. </sarc> Nice mess you’ve given us.
As for the rest of you, happy Dependence day!
I’ve read all the pundits and listened to all the talking head elite tell us how incredibly nuanced and subtle the Chief Justice was by approving the law as a tax. In fact one described him as “"a chess master, a statesman, a Burkean minimalist, a battle-loser but war-winner, a Daniel Webster for our times."
I say “BS”. He sold out. He ended up being more worried about the perception of the court and his legacy than upholding the Constitution of the United States. And I’m not the only one who feels that way. The Wall Street Journal also throws a punch or two at Roberts:
His ruling, with its multiple contradictions and inconsistencies, reads if it were written by someone affronted by the government’s core constitutional claims but who wanted to uphold the law anyway to avoid political blowback and thus found a pretext for doing so in the taxing power.
If this understanding is correct, then Chief Justice Roberts behaved like a politician, which is more corrosive to the rule of law and the Court’s legitimacy than any abuse it would have taken from a ruling that President Obama disliked. The irony is that the Chief Justice’s cheering section is praising his political skills, not his reasoning. Judges are not supposed to invent political compromises.
"It is not our job," the Chief Justice writes, "to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices." But the Court’s most important role is to protect liberty when the political branches exceed the Constitution’s bounds, not to bless their excesses in the interests of political or personal expediency or both. On one of the most consequential cases he will ever hear, Chief Justice Roberts failed this most basic responsibility.
Precisely. And Roberts caved. From the lecture the court got from Obama during a State of the Union address till now, he became a cautious old lady more concerned with his reputation in perpetuity than serving the people and the Constitution he swore to uphold.
That, as the WSJ says, is “more corrosive to the rule of law and the Court’s legitimacy” than anything he could have done. He didn’t have the spine to take the heat from a controversial but proper decision so he took the easy way out. He threw away his integrity for popularity and peace. A judicial Chamberlin if you will.
Jacob Sullum at Reason gives you the rest of the bad news:
The Journal notes that the tax power endorsed by Roberts is no less sweeping and dangerous to liberty than the Commerce Clause argument he rejected. "From now on," it says, "Congress can simply regulate interstate commerce by imposing ‘taxes’ whenever someone does or does not do something contrary to its desires." Worse, as I pointed out last week, the tax trick allows Congress to dispense with claims about interstate commerce altogether. As long as a mandate is disguised as a tax (and as long as it does not violate explicit limits on federal power such as those listed in the Bill of Rights), "because we said so" is reason enough.
Mandates “disguised as a tax” give Congress almost limitless power to control your life. That is the power Roberts handed our elected officials.
Oh, but the apologists say, that will never happen. They’d never abuse that power. Yeah, a little lesson in history. When the Constitutional amendment for the income tax was being debated some wanted to put a 2% limit on it. “Don’t do that,” the others said, “it will encourage Congress to immediately go that high.”
And here we are.
The Congress no longer need wrestle with intrusion in your life via the Commerce clause. Justice Roberts just gave them an infinitely easier route that doesn’t require a Constitutional check. He effectively removed the Court from its role in protecting you from increasing government intrusion.
And clever politicians will find a way to use that power he handed them when necessary. Don’t you ever doubt that.
As for Roberts. I have little or no use for a man who sits on the bench of the Supreme Court and puts politics in front of the Constitution he’s sworn to uphold.
George Will has a column out today declaring that conservatism won “a substantial victory” yesterday:
Conservatives distraught about the survival of the individual mandate are missing the considerable consolation prize they won when the Supreme Court rejected a constitutional rationale for the mandate — Congress’s rationale — that was pregnant with rampant statism.
The case challenged the court to fashion a judicially administrable principle that limits Congress’s power to act on the mere pretense of regulating interstate commerce. At least Roberts got the court to embrace emphatic language rejecting the Commerce Clause rationale for penalizing the inactivity of not buying insurance:
“The power to regulate commerce presupposes the existence of commercial activity to be regulated. . . . The individual mandate, however, does not regulate existing commercial activity. It instead compels individuals to become active in commerce by purchasing a product, on the ground that their failure to do so affects interstate commerce. Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority. . . . Allowing Congress to justify federal regulation by pointing to the effect of inaction on commerce would bring countless decisions an individual could potentially make within the scope of federal regulation, and — under the government’s theory — empower Congress to make those decisions for him.”
If the mandate had been upheld under the Commerce Clause, the Supreme Court would have decisively construed this clause so permissively as to give Congress an essentially unlimited police power — the power to mandate, proscribe and regulate behavior for whatever Congress deems a public benefit. Instead, the court rejected the Obama administration’s Commerce Clause doctrine. The court remains clearly committed to this previous holding: “Under our written Constitution . . . the limitation of congressional authority is not solely a matter of legislative grace.”
The court held that the mandate is constitutional only because Congress could have identified its enforcement penalty as a tax. The court thereby guaranteed that the argument ignited by the mandate will continue as the principal fault line in our polity.
I’m sorry, I’m just not feeling it. What part of the “tax” isn’t “pregnant with rampant statism”? Why did John Roberts feel compelled to save the mandate by helping the administration identify it as a tax?
And more importantly, since when did taxation go from simply being a means for funding the functions of government to a means of incentivizing/controlling behavior? To me that’s what approving the mandate as a tax has sanctioned. We make fun of the nannies who want to control what we do, eat, say, etc. This precedent just sanctioned a method of doing so. It says it is okay to coerce desired behavior through taxation.
Perhaps, as Will opines, it will limit the Commerce clause which is already insanely overstretched in application. Maybe it finally does draw a much brighter line around the clause, at least marginally.
However, the downside is worse than any upside. The ruling essentially sanctioned the state’s requirement to purchase health insurance and gave it the okay to “tax” those who don’t comply. I’m sorry, you may want to play the word game with them and call it a tax, but it is clearly identifiable to me as a penalty.
That’s just wrong.
One of the more interesting ironies is that within the same ruling the Court found that the Federal government was being coercive toward the states by requiring they comply with the new Medicaid mandates or lose their current Medicaid funding.
How is that anymore coercive than the “tax” required to be paid if an individual decides not to purchase health care insurance?
Taxation as a mechanism of control and/or enforcement of desired behavior is as coercive as the part on Medicaid which was struck down by the court. At least in my opinion.
There may indeed be a silver lining in the ruling as Will outlines. But a “substantial victory”? It sounds like David Axlerod trying to spin the Wisconsin results as a huge win for Obama and trouble for Romney, doesn’t it? If this was a “substantial victory”, then so was Pearl Harbor.