Thursday, April 09, 2009

Partisan Civil Liberties Disorder

I love political cartoons for their ability to sum up so much using so few words.

Major hat tip to Varangianguard, who directed me to this very recent Matt Bors comic:
This is what I've been on about lately! The hypocrisy of both Left and Right is absolutely on parade these days, as each winks at their own side's transgressions, while jumping up and down about the other side. Here's an idea: hold your own side to the fire. You might get something done!

Or, for a lack of cognitive dissonance, just back the Libertarians who are always pro-civil liberties.
New Podcast Posted

For LPIN Weekly Podcast #19, I took a different approach, reaching outside the roster of Libertarian Party leaders and recent candidates to Doug Masson, a Lafayette blogger and lawyer who has common ground with libertarians, especially on civil liberty issues, but is not a partisan Libertarian.

Several things occurred to me in leading me to ask Doug to sit down at the microphone.

1. One strategy employed by the Libertarian Party has been to court disaffected supporters of the party with majority power. For several years, it was a courtship of disaffected fiscal conservatives, as Republicans delivered smaller government rhetoric alongside exponentially growing budgets and bureaucracies. As power has shifted to Democrats, we are quickly seeing the delivery of pro-civil liberties rhetoric met with restrictive policy by the Obama Administration.

2. When you only talk amongst those who completely agree, the tendency to develop blind spots grows. I wanted to hear from someone outside the partisan-Ls in what ways the Libertarian Party is missing the opportunity to draw from the Left.

3. Doug's blog, Masson's Blog, is really excellent. It is the one on the Left that I read daily, without fail.

This and all podcasts are available via this archive link. You know what to do.

Many thanks to Doug for taking the time to sit down with me for this interview.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Today's Government Spending, Graphically Explained

If reckless spending is what got us into this mess, is more spending really the answer?

As Democrats were pointing out during campaign season, one of the great hallmarks of the glorious Clinton Adminstration was the SURPLUS left behind. Anyone think there's a snowball's chance in hell that the Obama Administration will measure up to Clinton's record? Bush's?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Obama Indistinguishable From Bush, Yet Again

Civil libertarians are getting a real good look at what Obama meant by 'change'. It means, 'status quo'. Cue up that line from that Who song, and read this item from the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
Friday evening, in a motion to dismiss Jewel v. NSA, EFF's litigation against the National Security Agency for the warrantless wiretapping of countless Americans, the Obama Administration's made two deeply troubling arguments.

First, they argued, exactly as the Bush Administration did on countless occasions, that the state secrets privilege requires the court to dismiss the issue out of hand. They argue that simply allowing the case to continue "would cause exceptionally grave harm to national security." As in the past, this is a blatant ploy to dismiss the litigation without allowing the courts to consider the evidence.

It's an especially disappointing argument to hear from the Obama Administration. As a candidate, Senator Obama lamented that the Bush Administration "invoked a legal tool known as the 'state secrets' privilege more than any other previous administration to get cases thrown out of civil court." He was right then, and we're dismayed that he and his team seem to have forgotten.

Sad as that is, it's the Department Of Justice's second argument that is the most pernicious. The DOJ claims that the U.S. Government is completely immune from litigation for illegal spying — that the Government can never be sued for surveillance that violates federal privacy statutes.

This is a radical assertion that is utterly unprecedented. No one — not the White House, not the Justice Department, not any member of Congress, and not the Bush Administration — has ever interpreted the law this way.
Ok, so I was wrong. Obama is worse than Bush. Yikes.

I guess power is so tempting, so delicious, that when the people around you build you up endlessly, you start to believe that even though that same power was dangerous in the other guy's hands, because you and you alone are righteous, the old arguments don't apply.

That's hypocrisy, of course. Pure civil libertarians like EFF are noting it. The partisan left seems defensive, not wanting to face up to the disappointment of the Administration not yet 100 days old. When you bought the lines "hope" and especially "change", you might have thought it could wane in time, as memory fades. But in less than 100 days? We're in for a long, rough ride.
Free Speech Under Attack

The wolf comes wearing sheep's clothing. American newspapers are faltering for their refusal to evolve (covered in this previous post), and here comes a US Senator, offering to 'help'. From Reuters report:
With many U.S. newspapers struggling to survive, a Democratic senator on Tuesday introduced a bill to help them by allowing newspaper companies to restructure as nonprofits with a variety of tax breaks.

"This may not be the optimal choice for some major newspapers or corporate media chains but it should be an option for many newspapers that are struggling to stay afloat," said Senator Benjamin Cardin.

A Cardin spokesman said the bill had yet to attract any co-sponsors, but had sparked plenty of interest within the media, which has seen plunging revenues and many journalist layoffs.

Cardin's Newspaper Revitalization Act would allow newspapers to operate as nonprofits for educational purposes under the U.S. tax code, giving them a similar status to public broadcasting companies.

Under this arrangement, newspapers would still be free to report on all issues, including political campaigns. But they would be prohibited from making political endorsements. (Emphasis supplied.)

From time to time, I feel the need to remind readers that I am a former Democrat. This becomes necessary because I so frequently write about things economic, and because I defend the free market as generally the best solution to issues surrounding exchange, I get pegged as a Republican of some sort.

No, I was a Democrat. My biggest issue was the 1st Amendment. So, the first big doubts I ever had with the Democratic Party came in the late 1980s, when Al Gore's wife, Tipper Gore, began railing against music with salty lyrics. It hit me like a total betrayal. I was always told by my fellow Dems that it was the Republicans who had fascistic tendencies. So, how to explain Tipper Gore?

So, this just looks like part of a continuum to me. Just as Republicans love to enjoy the reputation of being free marketeers and friends of smaller government, but aren't, Democrats love to enjoy the undeserved reputation of being steadfast defenders of free speech.

In either case, D or R, the commitment is to government control. This bill is an attempt to worm control into the newspapers, as government worms into anything- slowly, and in the guise of 'help'.

I'm glad there are no co-sponsors to date.

Note to my Democratic friends: Your party is becoming just as drunk with power as the Republicans were after the 2002 elections. Be on guard! You need to smack your party down, lest they go the way the Republicans went, crossing their base over and over again, especially on the things the base is correct about, to the extent that you eventually lose the entire middle.

Here's the text of the First Amendment, for those who need the refresher, including Senator Cardin:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (Emphasis supplied.)

Pretty simple.