Through the lens of Ray Bradbury's dystopian novel, Fahrenheit 451, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) spoke to the crowd at last month's FreedomFest about the growing threat of government intrusion in individuals' lives and the continuous loss of Americans' liberty. Says Sen. Paul:
Last week I asked for a report. ...I wanted to know to what extent your privacy is being invaded. To what extent are they reading your emails? Reading and listening to your phone conversations without a judges warrant? And I can't tell you an answer because it's classified. It's classified how many times they're doing it. But what I think I can get away with saying is that when the government says it's a few hundred, it's closer to a gazillion.
Meanwhile, in a Washington Times column yesterday, Judge Andrew Napolitano expounded on Sen. Paul's speech and the dismal trend of government intrusion and secrecy:
The government gave Mr. Paul the distinct impression that it was afraid of our exercise of our personal freedoms and thus it needs to watch us as we do so. This is the same government whose stated principal purpose is to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, and thus personal freedom.
Norman Singleton is Rep. Ron Paul’s Legislative Director. He has worked for Dr. Paul since 1997. Once a month, Norm and I meet at Bailey’s Pub & Grill in Arlington, Virginia to discuss two subjects—pro wrestling and libertarian politics.
The first is the primary reason for our meetings. Bailey’s offers monthly WWE pay-per-views which we enjoy thoroughly over cold beer and chicken wings. It is by far the most serious subject we discuss.
Our discussions of libertarianism, or the Ron Paul-inspired “liberty movement,” to which Norm and I both belong, are always interesting. Norm is a diehard libertarian. I am more traditionally conservative. How radical we are in our politics sometimes differs. How practical we are in advancing what some might consider “radical” politics does not.
Austrian economist Murray Rothbard was one of the most brilliant libertarian minds of all time. Rothbard was also considered one of the most radical libertarians of his time. Today, Rothbard’s pure, unadulterated anti-statist philosophy is celebrated by libertarians as heroic and unequaled.
But Rothbard was also very practical about politics. Based on a recent discussion we’d had about the inevitable tensions that come with moving the liberty movement into the mainstream, Norm brought to my attention some old Rothbard columns from his personal collection.
While some radical libertarians eschew politics altogether, believing it compromises their philosophical purity, or that education alone will eventually bring a majority of people to the philosophy of liberty, Rothbard disagreed. He wrote in 1981:
I see no other conceivable strategy for the achievement of liberty than political action. Religious or philosophical conversion of each man and woman is simply not going to work; that strategy ignores the problem of power, the fact that millions of people have a vested interest in statism and are not likely to give it up… Education in liberty is of course vital, but it is not enough; action must also be taken to roll back the State...
The above quote should be of no surprise to anyone remotely familiar with Rothbard. My favorite aspect of Rothbard is that for his entire life, it was never enough to simply be more radical than his fellow libertarian—Rothbard wanted to take political action.
The year is 2012, and, shocking though it ought to be, there are still major public figures who don’t believe in the freedom to express your opinion without government reprisal.
The crisis in free speech was precipitated when Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy was asked about his company’s support for “traditional family” organizations. He responded, “Guilty as charged.” Further scrutiny of Chick-fil-A’s charitable donations found that over the last 10 years, the company has funneled as much as $10 million to organizations that oppose same-sex marriage.
The response to what some call bigotry has been intense. Many are calling for boycotts of the franchise. Others are calling for government sanctions against the company. According to the Chicago Sun, Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel vowed to block the company’s expansion in Chicago, saying on Wednesday that “Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago values. They’re not respectful of our residents, our neighbors and our family members. And if you’re gonna be part of the Chicago community, you should reflect Chicago values.” He continued:
What the CEO has said as it relates to gay marriage and gay couples is not what I believe, but more importantly, it’s not what the people of Chicago believe. We just passed legislation as it relates to civil union and my goal and my hope … is that we now move on recognizing gay marriage. I do not believe that the CEO’s comments…reflect who we are as a city.
Boston mayor Tom Menino, the first mayor to suggest he might block the franchise, sent a letter to Dan Cathy after hearing Cathy’s comments and learning that Chick-fil-A was looking for a location to open a branch in Boston. Menino told Cathy, “There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it.”
San Francisco mayor Edwin Lee has suggested that he might take the same stance as Emmanuel and Menino.
Without taking a position on the issue of same-sex marriage, this idea of government retaliation for free speech needs to be addressed.
The Russian Duma, its lower house of Parliament, approved the controversial bill unanimously on Wednesday. The measure would give the government the power to force site owners and Internet providers to shut down blacklisted sites. Supporters of the bill say it is aimed at curbing child pornography and sites that promote drug use or suicide.
We all know, of course, that this isn’t actually about stopping abuse of children; it’s about giving the Russian government more power to control and censor speech.
So the FCC chair said that Russia has moved in a “troubling and dangerous direction” because “The world’s experience with the Internet provides a clear lesson: a free and open Internet promotes economic growth and freedom; restricting the free flow of information is bad for consumers, businesses, and societies.”
Man, America is such a champion for freedom — holding everybody accountable to the same high standard we always follow.
The controversy over the bill, and in particular the Wikipedia blackout, is reminiscent of the battle earlier this year in the United States over anti-piracy legislation. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) would have allowed the U.S. government to cut off access to sites dedicated to copyright infringement, and critics claimed it amounted to Internet censorship.
Like to sell stuff on eBay? You might be a Romney voter — and you’re probably very highly engaged politically. Like xckd and Tumblr? You’re totally in the Obama camp — but a bit less likely to exhibit political interests, at least if your Facebook likes are any indication. Over the past few months, we’ve crunched countless “Likes” from thousands of users of Trendsetter, our first-of-its-kind platform that ties together polling, social influence data, and consumer preferences. We’ve used it to map the politics of the social web, analyzing the political partisanship of the user bases of various social properties. Using predictive modeling of Facebook likes, we tied political preferences and engagement to one’s choice of social media, and this bubble graph is the result.
Hmm. I'm not sure that I'd explain the conservative and libertarian perspectives on the Constitution quite so differently. I think he's got the libertarian perspective right, but I'd say that the conservative description might better fit neocons. Anyone else agree?
Learn more about the video and the project it's part of here.
David Boaz of the Cato Institute has a great list up at HuffPo of President Obama's "accomplishments." A selection:
Most troops in Afghanistan. The United States had about 30,000 troops in Afghanistan during 2008, the last year of President Bush's term. By the end of 2010, President Obama had increased that number to almost 100,000. It's down to about 88,000 now, which still might surprise people who recall candidate Obama's ringing antiwar speeches of 2008.
Most medical marijuana raids. In March 2009 Attorney General Eric Holder said that the Justice Department would end the Bush administration policy of raiding medical marijuana distributors that violated federal statutes as long as the dispensaries appeared to be complying with state laws. Beginning later that year, however, as Lucia Graves reported at The Huffington Post,
"The administration has unleashed an interagency cannabis crackdown that goes beyond anything seen under the Bush administration, with more than 100 raids, primarily on California pot dispensaries, many of them operating in full compliance with state laws. Since October 2009, the Justice Department has conducted more than 170 aggressive SWAT-style raids in 9 medical marijuana states, resulting in at least 61 federal indictments."
Federal agents have seized property of landlords who rent space to medical marijuana dispensaries and have threatened to prosecute state employees who carry out state laws on medical marijuana.
Most drone strikes. President Obama doesn't like the way the Bush administration treated prisoners at Guantanamo, so he's taking fewer prisoners. The Obama administration has carried outat least 308 covert drone strikes in Pakistan, more than five times the 44 approved under Bush.
I knew Obama had increased the number of troops in Afghanistan, but I guess it hadn't registered with me that he'd more than tripled them. Also, more drone strikes than Bush! Not much of a peace president -- but then, you hopefully realized that before this post. Read Boaz's full article here.
Angela Keaton, who is director of operations at Antiwar.com, recently gave a great interview in which she said, among other things, this:
Daily Bell: What is your sense of the world today? Who is primarily behind most major wars today? Is it NATO and the West?
What is going in the Middle East? Please give us your reactions to the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc.
Angela Keaton: Here’s where you ask variations on all the same questions, which is the key to the answers.
1. When we discuss power, we are discussing people who behave badly. These people sometimes find their interests aligned. No dark conspiracies needed. People should watch old t.v. soap operas, read classic novels or observe children. That would be far more helpful in understanding the hows and whys.
2. People are pack animals besotted with hierarchy. We adore status, class and categories, the last of which allows us to stick things in boxes without having to think critically or use the most basic discernment. It also allows for the one true and real conspiracy: language. “Women,” “The Gays,” “The Arabs,” “The Jews” don’t exist. Only individuals exist. Mock Ayn Rand all you wish but the concept of the individual as something real and vital is not only morally righteous but would be a consequentialist step toward peace. Recognizing individual human dignity makes bombing and torturing people more difficult.
3. Treat someone poorly long enough and he or she will eventually react either with passive-aggressive resentments or with direct action.
The TSA search requirements may no longer be the only restriction on travel in the US. According to this article on MSN Money, new legislation is looking to prevent Americans from leaving the country if they owe more than $50,000 dollars in taxes. The legislation in question is Senate Bill 1813, which passed the Senate back in April 74-22. If passed, the law would revoke the passports of people who owe the IRS large sums of money.