Freedom In The States Thursday, Mar 28 2013 

Today, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University released their report analyzing freedom in the states. The report gives an overall score and then it further breaks it down into the best states for economic freedom, social freedom, and personal freedom. The report also measures such specific things as tax burden freedom, education freedom, and victimless crime freedom among many others.

Just a few things from the report: North Dakota was first in overall freedom, with New York dead last.

South Dakota was first in economic freedom, with New York dead last. Alaska was first in personal freedom, with Illinois dead last. You would be surprised a very red state was first and one of the bluest states in the country was last in the personal freedom category.

A few other things of note. South Dakota had the lowest tax burden while New York had the highest tax burden. Kansas was the top state in the “Find a Job” category which measured both labor freedom and occupational licensing restrictions. California was the worst state in that category. Florida led the nation in educational freedom while Maryland was at the bottom. Arizona has least restrictive gun laws while California had the most restrictive.

Check out the report to see where your state ranked. Hopefully it was better than my Louisiana which is sadly ranked #37, but that’s an improvement from #45 in the last report.

Gay Marriage Roundup Tuesday, Mar 26 2013 

Today, the Supreme Court is going to hear arguments in cases concerning the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 and federal government’s Defense of Marriage Act. Both laws outlaw same sex marriage and define marriage as one man and one woman.

What I’m hoping for out of the Supreme Court is first and foremost for DOMA to be struck down as unconstitutional. There is no authority for the Federal government to define marriage under the Constitution.

As for Proposition 8, it too be should be struck down, but how and why it should be struck down is key. This New York Times graph shows the possible scenarios that can happen with both cases. The two scenarios I lean toward are using the Equal Protection Clause to strike down the “separate but equal” civil unions/domestic partnerships and make these states that have utilized this “solution” to actually take a stand. President Obama agrees with me on this.

I wouldn’t also mind the decision on this issue by the Ninth Circuit to be upheld. They essentially ruled that because the California Supreme Court legalized gay marriage under the California constitution, that Proposition 8 was enacted in a mean spirited fashion targeting gays and thereby denying them equal protection and due process of the law. This would essentially only affect California.

What would be overreaching is striking down marriage laws in every other state in the Union. This would be a stretch of the Equal Protection Argument because many of these laws were not just targeting gays, but also polygamists and many others. While there maybe a public policy argument for revising marriage laws, this is a decision best left to legislatures and the voters of each state and not to judicial dictat. Yes, the result is important, but even more important is the process of achieving that result. There is more legitimacy to using the democratic and legislative process to achieve the goal of marriage equality than using 5 to 9 unelected bureaucrats to hand down a decision that was deliberated in secret. This is tantamount to “rule by experts” and is very undemocratic.

Finally, solving this through the democratic process will solve many of the controversial side issues that have arisen with this issue such as religious liberty protections and other conscience protections for those churches and businesses and others who oppose same sex marriage. The democratic process is often long and slow, but gradual change makes it more likely the change won’t be reversed and will become more accepted in time.

Conservatism Is Very Much Alive Monday, Mar 25 2013 

AJ Delgado had a piece in Mediaite asking whether or not conservatism was dead or not. She cites three major policy “defeats” as she sees them for conservatism this month.

1) Immigration reform is all but a foregone conclusion.

2) The gay marriage debate is essentially over.

3) The plan to defund ObamaCare — conservatives’ last stand after the Supreme Court failed to throw out the Act — is over

I think Miss Delgado misses a lot in construing all of these as catastrophic defeats for conservatives. A look at each issue on its own shows that it is not as catastrophic as it first appears.

Firstly, I wouldn’t put my money on comprehensive immigration reform becoming law. After Rand Paul outlined his position on the issue last week, he has been very careful to walk back certain aspects of it. Plus, the GOP House has shown exactly no interest in this issue. Finally, this is an issue that divides Democrats as well. Blue collar unions, African Americans, and many environmentalists want to kill immigration reform as well for their own reasons.

As for gay marriage, this is probably her strongest argument. Yes the gay marriage is over. It will become the law of the land in every state in the country within 20 years, if that. What conservatives need to is rebrand on this issue. What conservatives need to fight for on this issue is to make sure adequate religious liberty and conscience protections are in place for churches, businesses, adoption agencies and others opposed to gay marriage.

As for the fight against Obamacare, it is far from over. Why is the defeat of the Cruz amendment worse than the defeats of the various other GOP attempts to defund and repeal Obamacare that have occurred over the past 3 years? The American people still hate it three years later and many states are still refusing to expand Medicaid and establish exchanges. Finally, the Senate just voted overwhelmingly to repeal Obamacare’s medical device tax. While full repeal is off the cards until 2017 at the earliest, what will continue to happen is the steady chipping away of it over the next few years. Ultimately what will bring about the demise of Obamacare is its ever increasing costs.

Yes this is a dark time for the Republican Party and the conservative movement, but it is certainly not dead. Conservatism is actually just going through a change like it periodically does. The conservatism of 2013 is different than the conservatism of 1973. Different times and different issues require a different approach.

The appropriate analogy is not death, funerals, or even a birth announcement. The more appropriate analogy is the remodeling of an old house. We need to get rid of this shag carpeting, the popcorn ceilings, replace the fixtures, update the kitchens, and give it a new coat of paint. We probably also need to repair the cracked foundation and repair some of the wood the termites ate on. Finally, we may have to demolish that old shed in the backyard and we definitely have to put in some new landscaping to give the house some curb appeal. But overall, this old girl still has some good bones and will look great when we get done with her.

However, all remodeling jobs are messy but that’s okay because we’ll clean up the mess. Also, remodeling can be a long, difficult process but the results are worth it.

Conservatism is far from dead, but it is in dire need of a remodeling. Hopefully the resurgence of libertarianism, which Ronald Reagan once called “the very heart and soul of conservatism” can provide a large chunk of the design we were missing in this old house.

I, for one, can’t wait to see this old house when it’s done.

Pro Gay Marriage And Pro Religious Liberty Friday, Mar 22 2013 

Colorado today has passed a civil unions bill for gay couples. It essentially gives most of the rights of marriage, except for the word “marriage”.

The Colorado government, now completely run by Democrats, has done an about-face regarding civil unions for gay couples. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill allowing same-sex civil unions roughly a year ago after the same idea went down to defeat in what was then a Republican-led House. But last November Democrats won the House, having control of the Senate already, and the new alignment allowed the bill to be passed. It will go into effect May 1.

Most of the Republicans in the state government held fast against the measure because they wanted religious exemptions granted to those who oppose same-sex unions. Although churches are exempt, businesses and adoption agencies are now subject to the new law.

While gay couples should have the same legal rights as straight couples because we need to be encouraging committed relationships among homosexuals. Anything that helps build stable families is a good thing for society as a whole. In addition, I believe children in foster homes and orphanages should have the opportunity to live in loving homes, even if the parents are of the same sex. Ultimately, the ideal solution is to get government out of marriage but that may not be entirely possible.

However, there are some things we cannot throw away even as we expand legal privileges for homosexual couples and that is freedom of conscience and religious liberty. Any gay marriage or civil union legislation that does not have clear conscience protections for businesses and adoption agencies, among others, needs to be defeated and opposed by all those who believe in limited government and individual liberty. We cannot give legal privileges to a very small minority while depriving the right of freedom of conscience to religious believers.

Ironically, one of the reasons why I support gay marriage is to protect the freedom of conscience of those more liberally inclined churches and faiths to marry same sex couples and to have them have the same legal weight as heterosexual marriages. Can we truly call attacks on freedom of religion and conscience progress?

When government absolutely has to act, it must err on the side of individual liberty. Gay marriage should be no exception. While I do believe that we must grant the same legal privileges to same sex couples as we do heterosexual couples, we must protect religious liberty as well.

Police Want To See Your Text Messages Wednesday, Mar 20 2013 

Edited to correct S.R. Mann’s name

Law enforcement agencies want to require cellular providers under the force of Federal law to keep a record of all text messages in case they ever need them.

AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and other wireless providers would be required to capture and store Americans’ confidential text messages, according to a proposal that will be presented to a congressional panel today. The law enforcement proposal would require wireless providers torecord and storecustomers’ SMS messages — a controversial idea akin to requiring them to surreptitiously record audio of their customers’ phone calls — in case police decide to obtain them at some point in the future.

So the cops want a record of every single text message sent. What ever happened to privacy and being secure in our communications? How can people communicate if they know that a permanent record of the communication is being kept by a third party? This is an attack on the right to privacy.

“Billions of texts are sent every day, and some surely contain key evidence about criminal activity,”Richard Littlehale from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation will tell Congress, according to a copy (PDF) of his prepared remarks. “In some cases, this means that critical evidence is lost. Text messaging often plays a big role in investigations related to domestic violence, stalking, menacing, drug trafficking, and weapons trafficking.”

Yes, but most Americans are not criminals. There is no compelling need for the state to require a permanent record of all text messages sent.

Not only does Littlehale want a permanent record, he wants to access it without even getting a warrant in “emergency circumstances”.

Littlehale also proposed that any attempt to update ECPA include revised “emergency” language that would allow police to demand records from providers without search warrants in some cases.

Nowhere in the Constitution does it say due process can be suspended in “emergency circumstances”. This is simply a power grab by law enforcement.

As my colleague S.R. Mann wrote on Monday, civil liberties are what should unite all Americans. Our liberties are what make America exceptional. We shouldn’t throw them away based on fear.

The Iraq War, 10 Years Later and How I Was Wrong Tuesday, Mar 19 2013 

Today is the 10 year anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War. It is a good time reflect on what, if anything, was gained. It is also a time for those of us to learn about what, if anything, can we learn from the mistakes of the war.

I supported the Iraq War when it began. I looked at the evidence leading up to the war and I came to the conclusion, as most Americans did, that the regime of Saddam Hussein was in possession of weapons of mass destruction and that the status quo that was in place after the end of the Gulf War was simply unsustainable. Also, I was also intrigued by the possibility of bringing democracy to the Middle East to combat the appeal and vision of radical Islam. Furthermore, I do believe the Bush Administration sincerely believed that Iraq possessed WMDs. I do not think this was an attempt to steal Iraqi oil or other conspiracy theorist nonsense.

However, I was wrong. I’m enough of a man to look at the evidence that has emerged in 10 years and more importantly the results of the war and acknowledge that I was wrong to support the Iraq War. I do not believe the war has served the interests of the United States. I also believe that the high losses, in both blood and treasure do not justify the results achieved.

The war has resulted in the deaths of nearly 4500 American troops, cost $1.7 trillion with costs expected to over $6 trillion in the next four decades. In addition, over 130,000 Iraqi civilians are confirmed dead as a result of the war with the war possibly causing the deaths of 4 times more. If you extrapolate that combined death toll to the same percentage of the US population, you would have nearly 6 and half million dead, or more than the population of the entire Houston metro area.

As for Iraq itself, yes Saddam Hussein is gone, but a Shi’ite lead quasi-Islamist regime with ties to Iran has come to power. Iraq is on the verge of a sectarian civil war. Iran has moved in and filled the power vacuum. Yes, many al-Qaeda inspired jihadists were killed in the sands of Iraq, but who knows how many more thousands were inspired to take up arms as a result of the war. Iraq’s infrastructure is still largely in ruins as reconstruction money provided by the United States was stolen or otherwise accounted for. Last but certainly not least, Iraqi civil liberties took severe damage as women’s rights were curtailed by the rise of radical Islam.

On the international stage, the Iraq War was even more of a disaster for US national interests. The aftermath of the Iraq War may have destroyed nuclear proliferation as a key component of US strategy as Iran and North Korea have accelerated their nuclear programs in order to deter US invasion. It was true that Libya ended its WMD program after the war, but the Obama regime foolishly made that a worthless achievement by pursuing a campaign to topple the Qaddafi regime in 2011. This equally foolish war of choice cemented in the minds of nations like Iran and North Korea that negotiating a disarmament agreement with the United States is foolish because the US will disarm them in order to topple their regimes.

What we should have is more honest reflection, especially by those of us who originally supported the Iraq War, and we need to admit we were wrong. We need to do this so that these mistakes will never be repeated again.

Finally, although I do believe that the mission in Iraq was harmful for American interests, I still thank the hundreds of thousands of brave American and Allied soldiers for their honorable service and honor their sacrifices. I also keep the families of those fallen and those wounded in the war, even if we cannot see their scars, in my prayers.

I hope all Americans can separate the policy of their government from the brave men and women who serve their country and give them the respect, honor, support, and thanks they deserve.

The Obama Regime Wants To Spy On You Wednesday, Mar 13 2013 

The Obama regime is drawing up final plans to create a massive database and give access to it to government agencies. What will be in this new database?

The Obama administration is drawing up plans to give all U.S. spy agencies full access to a massive database that contains financial data on American citizens and others who bank in the country, according to a Treasury Department document seen by Reuters.

The proposed plan represents a major step by U.S. intelligence agencies to spot and track down terrorist networks and crime syndicates by bringing together financial databanks, criminal records and military intelligence. The plan, which legal experts say is permissible under U.S. law, is nonetheless likely to trigger intense criticism from privacy advocates.

I guess due process and asking a judge for a warrant to get this information is apparently a thing of the past in this new “changed” America. With the continuing reckless disregard of the Constitution and traditional American liberties by the Obama regime, at this point the University of Chicago should offer full refunds to anyone who ever took a Constitutional law class taught by Barack Obama. But I digress.

The database is compiled by banks and other financial institutions who report “suspicious financial activity” to the Treasury Department.

Financial institutions that operate in the United States are required by law to file reports of “suspicious customer activity,” such as large money transfers or unusually structured bank accounts, to Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).The Federal Bureau of Investigation already has full access to the database.

However, intelligence agencies, such as the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, currently have to make case-by-case requests for information to FinCEN.

The reason for this is because intelligence agencies are not law enforcement agencies. Under the law, law enforcement has to present its evidence in a court of law and the evidence can be challenged by the defendant. Intelligence agencies have usually one purpose in mind when the acquire evidence, destroy the target. To put it simply, it is the job of intelligence agencies to help kill people. There is no court of law or due process. Why do the CIA and the NSA need access to the financial information of millions of ordinary Americans? Is the country really that much more unsafe by making the CIA and NSA request the information on a case by case basis?

The government’s mentality since 9/11 is grab as much power as it can in the name of “security”. This is the reason why going to the airport has the same intimacy level as a high school makeout session. This is why the government claims the authority to indefinitely detain American citizens and to even kill them without due process. This is why hundreds of thousands of innocent Aghanis and Iraqis and many others have died. The United States government has taken as much power as it can to increase its control over the lives of Americans and indeed over as many other human beings around the world.

Enough is enough. We need to stand up to the Homeland Security State. It started last week with Rand Paul’s filibuster in the Senate. It is up to us as activists and patriots to continue it. We need to become as skeptical of government power in all aspects of our lives as we are of government power in the economy. It is very difficult to regain freedom and liberties once they have been lost. We need to act now before we lose more of our God given liberties.

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