Archive for July, 2013
July 19th, 2013 at 12:00 pm
This Week’s Liberty Update
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Center For Individual Freedom - Liberty Update

This week’s edition of the Liberty Update, CFIF’s weekly e-newsletter, is out. Below is a summary of its contents:

Senik:  The Next President: Who Best Compensates for Obama’s Failings?
Ellis:  After Zimmerman: In Defense of “Stand Your Ground” Laws
Lee:  Obama Ties Nixon for Lowest Public Approval at This Point in Presidency

Podcast:  How Media and Government Conspire to Protect the Status Quo
Jester’s Courtroom:  Not the Apple of His Eye 

Editorial Cartoons:  Latest Cartoons of Michael Ramirez
Quiz:  Question of the Week
Notable Quotes:  Quotes of the Week

If you are not already signed up to receive CFIF’s Liberty Update by e-mail, sign up here.

July 19th, 2013 at 9:07 am
Podcast: How Media and Government Conspire to Protect the Status Quo
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In an interview with CFIF, investigative journalist and filmmaker James O’Keefe, founder of Project Veritas, discusses his latest book, “Breakthrough: Our Guerilla War to Expose Fraud and Save Democracy,” and his experience with what happens when a young citizen journalist challenges some of America’s most powerful and protected organizations.

Listen to the interview here.

July 18th, 2013 at 5:10 pm
The Wages of Liberalism
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This story would be slightly less depressing even if we hadn’t all seen it coming for years:

Detroit on Thursday became the largest city in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy, as the state-appointed emergency manager filed for Chapter 9 protection.

Kevyn Orr, a bankruptcy expert, was hired by the state in March to lead Detroit out of a fiscal free-fall and made the filing Thursday in federal bankruptcy court.

A number of factors — most notably steep population and tax base falls — have been blamed on Detroit’s tumble toward insolvency. Detroit lost a quarter-million residents between 2000 and 2010. A population that in the 1950s reached 1.8 million is struggling to stay above 700,000. Much of the middle-class and scores of businesses also have fled Detroit, taking their tax dollars with them.

This, of course, doesn’t take the analysis back quite far enough. The population and tax base are symptoms, not causes. Why did people actually leave? Well, there were local officials intent on driving out part of the population on racial grounds, the dominance of unions that ended up choking the auto industry, overwhelming crime rates, and a spate of corrupt politicians.

For decades now, Detroit has been a laboratory of liberalism. Today’s news only makes explicit what many of us concluded long ago: the experiment has failed.

July 18th, 2013 at 12:55 pm
On Immigration, Rubio Seems to Lack Conviction

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is surprisingly mum about whether House Republicans should pass, amend or kill his signature legislative achievement this year: Comprehensive immigration reform that legalizes up to 11 million illegal immigrants before securing the border.

According to an interview with Politico, Rubio said the House GOP deserves “the time and space… to come up with their ideas about how to reform immigration – and I hope they will – but that’s up to them.” But while Rubio obviously wants to create some distance between himself and a bill that his conservative base hates, now is precisely the time to put his influence to work if he really believes that his immigration reform is the right thing to do.

As Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a co-author with Rubio on the bill says, “If he’s got some influence in the House, now is a good time to use it.”

That Rubio is refusing to gives the strong impression that much of his support for the Senate’s version of immigration reform is more about politics than policy. Now that his 2016 presidential aspirations look endangered because of his stance on immigration, the rising conservative is looking to bolster his image by talking about fiscal responsibility and social issues.

But the problem remains that his performance on immigration – for the bill when it seems to help him, against or at least ambivalent toward it when it hurts – indicates his most important criteria is whether a particular stance propels him closer to the White House.

That’s a fine way to operate if one is a paid consultant looking for any advantage to climb the ladder, but it’s the exact opposite of what people expect from a statesman. Rubio helped pass and craft the Senate’s immigration bill, so he either needs to defend it to the death or disown it for principled reasons. Enough calculating. Make a decision and own it.

July 18th, 2013 at 12:34 pm
Hoffa’s Son Helps ObamaCare Kill Teamsters

ObamaCare will kill the Teamsters union, and Jimmy Hoffa’s son is an accomplice.

Now, Hoffa’s heir is in full damage-control mode.

In an open letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), James P. Hoffa – son of the famous Teamsters boss and the union’s current General President – blasts the Obama White House for “shatter[ing] not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy[ing] the foundation of the 40 hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class.”

Hoffa is upset that after lending his union’s money and muscle to get ObamaCare passed, the Obama administration is refusing to carve out an exception for union-run health insurance providers. Absent the special treatment, union-run health insurance will become too expensive to offer. Without an attractive health insurance plan to offer its members, the Teamsters and every other union in their situation will lose one of the biggest incentives they have for retaining members.

Having exhausted their pleas to the White House for special treatment, Hoffa and company are turning their unfriendly fire on congressional Democrats. “Time is running out: Congress wrote this law; we voted for you. We have a problem, you need to fix it. The unintended consequences of [ObamaCare] are severe.”

As I explained in a recent column, the problem for Hoffa and his union brethren is that they failed to get the kind of concrete assurances from the Obama administration that are standard operating procedure when it comes to negotiating with private businesses.

That failure will cost them dearly.

July 17th, 2013 at 9:59 am
Ramirez Cartoon: The Media Addiction
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Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

July 16th, 2013 at 1:47 pm
New Poll: U.S. Coal Industry More Popular Than EPA
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Here’s something that might restore some of your faith in popular culture and the evolving American electorate.  According to a new Rasmussen survey, Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is less popular than the coal industry that it is trying to destroy:

Voters view the U.S. coal industry more favorably than the Environmental Protection Agency and are closely divided when asked if the Obama administration’s ultimate goal is to kill that industry.  Fifty-one percent (51%) of likely U.S. voters view the U.S. coal industry at least somewhat favorably.  The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 29% hold an unfavorable opinion of it.”

Along with Obama himself, it appears that his administrative agencies are paying a price for their continuing lawlessness.

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July 12th, 2013 at 3:41 pm
Napolitano Leaving DHS for UC Presidency

The Los Angeles Time is reporting that Janet Napolitano is resigning as Secretary of Homeland Security to become the president of the 10-campus University of California system.

Beyond the flashy headlines – first female to lead UC in its 145 year history, new compensation more than triple her DHS salary – Napolitano’s appointment heralds a new direction for higher education administration that doesn’t bode well for taxpayers: The rise of the politician-turned-university president.

The reason is simple. Most top-tier research universities are addicted to federal research spending. With Napolitano, UC leaders see a soon-to-be-former Cabinet member able to lobby effectively for increased cash flow.

“UC officials believe that her Cabinet experiences…will help UC administer its federal energy and nuclear weapons labs and aid its federally funded research in medicine and other areas,” according to the Times.

Contrast this with former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels’ presidency at Purdue – where the one-time private industry executive is getting large individual and corporate donations to fund the public university’s research expansion – and higher education may become the next arena where conservatives and liberals chart different paths on how to pay for education.

July 12th, 2013 at 3:30 pm
FCC Spectrum Screen Should Encourage Competition, Not Pick Winners and Losers
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Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a pair of sequential purchases:  (1)  Sprint’s purchase of the remainder of Clearwire’s spectrum, and (2)  the Japanese company SoftBank’s purchase of Sprint.  So far, so good.

Here’s the problem.  Those interrelated transactions presented the FCC with a perfect opportunity to reform the so-called “spectrum screen,” a tool that measures spectrum available for wireless use in order to ensure competition in the wireless market.  Unfortunately, the FCC failed to make any reform whatsoever to that spectrum screen framework, which will only serve to create even more regulatory uncertainty and discourage critical wireless infrastructure investment.

The screen framework has been, and can continue to be, a useful tool for assessing competitive effects of spectrum.  But until that framework is brought up-to-date to reflect all spectrum available and useable for mobile wireless services, the tool remains outmoded and flawed, effectively artificially picking winners and losers.

With the FCC’s inaction last week, a 2008 decision (the last time the FCC visited the spectrum screen issue) continues to guide spectrum aggregation policy.  In that decision, the FCC chose to ignore the bulk of Clearwire’s 2.5 GHz spectrum, counting only 55.5 MHz of it toward the screen.  By not revisiting the spectrum screen when it green-lighted last week’s transactions, the FCC continued to discount a large portion of spectrum available for wireless use.  It’s difficult to understand their rationale.

Sprint continues to advocate for its own interests, insisting that only one-third of its Clearwire spectrum should be included in the spectrum screen.  Sprint bought the remainder of Clearwire’s spectrum to pave the way for the SoftBank deal, to leverage the value of Clearwire’s network and to optimize Clearwire’s spectrum.  So while the FCC chooses not to tally all of Clearwire’s available BRS/EBS spectrum, SoftBank gained rights to the 2.5 GHz band.   In contrast, when AT&T previously acquired WCS licenses at 2.3 GHz, the FCC found that the spectrum was usable for mobile wireless services and made changes to the screen.

Curiously, the FCC’s order last week maintained that the three-way deal was not the appropriate vehicle for reviewing the spectrum screen because, from the Commission’s point of view, no spectrum was being swapped.  SoftBank, however, owns no U.S. airwaves.  Moreover, the FCC had previously ascribed Clearwire’s spectrum to Sprint.  Thus, the FCC oddly seems to believe that such an exchange of spectrum is not a transfer.

The FCC’s position not to adjust the spectrum screen in the recent transfer of spectrum to a Japanese owned company is disturbing, especially given that it is currently considering imposing—on an ad hoc basis—a spectrum screen on America’s two largest domestic wireless companies in the upcoming spectrum auction.

The spectrum screen, used properly and applied in a competitively neutral manner, can be a useful tool to protect competition in the wireless marketplace.  But the FCC should stop trying to exploit it to pick “winners and losers” in the marketplace.  Instead, the FCC should update its existing screen to ensure that it incorporates all available spectrum suitable for mobile wireless services.  Only then will it provide the market with the business certainty necessary to advance further infrastructure investment and wireless innovation.

July 12th, 2013 at 11:45 am
This Week’s Liberty Update
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Center For Individual Freedom - Liberty Update

This week’s edition of the Liberty Update, CFIF’s weekly e-newsletter, is out. Below is a summary of its contents:

Ellis:  ObamaCare Delays Will Increase Welfare Dependency
Lee:  Illinois Joins the Other 49 States, Finally Ends Blanket Prohibition on Right to Keep and Bear Arms
Senik:  Cutting a Check Vs. Cutting Costs: How Government Mismanages the Economy
Lee:  Dodd-Frank, ObamaCare, and the Erosion of the Rule of Law

Video:  Sequester for Thee, But Not For Me
Podcast:  President’s Climate Plan Undemocratic
Jester’s Courtroom:  Lawsuit Cools Down

Editorial Cartoons:  Latest Cartoons of Michael Ramirez
Quiz:  Question of the Week
Notable Quotes:  Quotes of the Week

If you are not already signed up to receive CFIF’s Liberty Update by e-mail, sign up here.

July 12th, 2013 at 11:07 am
Podcast: The EPA’s Assault on State Sovereignty
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In an interview with CFIF, William Yeatman, Assistant Director at the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center for Energy and Environment, discusses the Obama Administration’s climate agenda, its all-out war on coal, the Keystone Pipeline project and the EPA’s assault on state sovereignty.

Listen to the interview here.

July 12th, 2013 at 9:05 am
Video: Sequester for Thee, But Not For Me
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In this week’s Freedom Minute, CFIF’s Renee Giachino discusses how the political class in Washington continues to avoid the pain of sequester spending cuts while the rest of America is getting squeezed.

July 11th, 2013 at 6:33 pm
Jonah Goldberg on the Inconsistencies of Liberal Paranoia
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The reliably great Johan Goldberg’s newest column considers liberal outrage over the NSA surveillance scandal and comes to what strikes me as an utterly reasonable conclusion: if you’re a leftist who’s bothered by this sort of invasiveness, there’s a whole world of outrages awaiting you upon inspection of President Obama’s domestic record:

What I have a hard time understanding, however, is how one can get worked up into a near panic about an overreaching national-security apparatus while also celebrating other government expansions into our lives, chief among them the hydra-headed leviathan of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare). The 2009 stimulus created a health database that will store all your health records. The Federal Data Services Hub will record everything bureaucrats deem useful, from your incarceration record and immigration status to whether or not you had an abortion or were treated for depression or erectile dysfunction.

In other words, while the NSA can tell if you searched the Web for “Viagra,” the Hub will know if you were actually prescribed the medication and for how long. Yes, there are rules for keeping that information private, but you don’t need security clearance or a warrant to get it.

Then there’s the IRS. We already have evidence of abuse there. For instance, the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage, had its tax returns and private donor information leaked to the news media last year, presumably in order to embarrass Mitt Romney (he gave the group $10,000) and others during the presidential election.

And yet, worrying about NSA abuse is cast as high-minded, while worrying about Obamacare or the IRS is seen as paranoid. Why?

The answer, it seems to me, lies in the ideological priors of those doing the complaining. Unlike conservatives, liberals default to an essentially benevolent view of government and those that populate it — unless they happen to work in fields concerned with public safety, such as the military, intelligence, or law enforcement.

For my money, they all deserve scrutiny. But the track record also shows that the government officials who give the left night terrors are the ones that tend, on balance, to be the most responsible. Why? Well, I’d argue because they’re the only ones who retain a sense of that abstract virtue known as duty.

July 11th, 2013 at 2:39 pm
Boehner: Delay the Employer and Individual Mandates

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is using a populist line of attack to show how delaying ObamaCare’s employer mandate will harm individuals and families that don’t get an exemption, according to Politico.

“If you’re a software company making billions in profits, you’re exempt from Obamacare next year,” he said. “But if you’re a 28-year-old struggling to pay off your student loans, you’re not.”

“If you’re a big bank or financial company, you don’t have to comply with Obamcare,” Boehner added. “But if you’re a single parent trying to make ends meet, there’s no exemption for you.”

To level the playing field, Boehner is scheduling back-to-back floor votes in the House next week to delay both the employer and the individual mandate. The move would pose a dilemma for Democrats looking to support President Barack Obama’s policy, but unable to justify exempting businesses but not families and individuals too.

This strikes me as a good strategy. It’s past time for Democrats to own ObamaCare and all its flaws.

July 11th, 2013 at 1:00 pm
The Supreme Court’s Real Prop. 8 Legacy

As usual, Troy puts his finger on the essential issue in an otherwise complicated matter. Writing with John Yoo for City Journal recently our Senior Fellow explains how the Supreme Court’s ruling in California’s Prop. 8 case – that the official proponents of the traditional marriage law have no standing to defend it when state officials refuse – will have a chilling effect on direct democracy, and with it, dash any hope of checking radical leftwing politicians.

“Regardless of how one feels about gay marriage as a policy matter, the Court’s ruling creates a chilling legal precedent for the future of direct democracy—that is, passing laws by popular vote. The opinion dictates that any law that an electorate passes can be invalidated if it is challenged in court and the state’s constitutional officers refuse to defend it. This amounts to an executive-branch veto for laws approved by an electoral majority. Direct democracy is far from perfect; it often oversimplifies issues and insulates voters from the consequences of their policy choices. At its best, however, it allows popular majorities to tighten the reins on out-of-touch politicians. The Prop. 8 ruling loosens those reins.

“All conscientious Californians should be disturbed by the sweeping implications of the Prop. 8 ruling, but it augurs especially poorly for the state’s shrinking cadre of conservatives. With every statewide elected office and both houses of the state legislature controlled by Democrats, only the initiative process gives California conservatives a real chance to have their voices heard. As a result of the Court’s ruling, California liberals now have a mechanism by which to frustrate this last meaningful check on their dominance. The state’s future will only grow dimmer, and the Supreme Court will deserve the blame.”

The entire article can be read here.

July 9th, 2013 at 7:05 pm
Resistance, on the Grapevine
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Make what you will of the fact that the most provocative stories in the Washington Post come from the Style section, but this one is a doozy:

KERMAN, Calif. — In the world of dried fruit, America has no greater outlaw than Marvin Horne, 68.

Horne, a raisin farmer, has been breaking the law for 11 solid years. He now owes the U.S. government at least $650,000 in unpaid fines. And 1.2 million pounds of unpaid raisins, roughly equal to his entire harvest for four years.

For what offense has our scofflaw earned the contempt of the state? I’ll tell you, but you should probably take a moment to get any sharp objects out of your immediate vicinity:

He said no to the national raisin reserve.

“I believe in America. And I believe in our Constitution. And I believe that eventually we will be proved right,” Horne said recently, sitting in an office next to 20 acres of ripening Thompson grapes. “They took our raisins and didn’t pay us for them.”

The national raisin reserve might sound like a fever dream of the Pillsbury Doughboy. But it is a real thing — a 64-year-old program that gives the U.S. government a heavy-handed power to interfere with the supply and demand for dried grapes.

It works like this: In a given year, the government may decide that farmers are growing more raisins than Americans will want to eat. That would cause supply to outstrip demand. Raisin prices would drop. And raisin farmers might go out of business.

To prevent that, the government does something drastic. It takes away a percentage of every farmer’s raisins. Often, without paying for them.

This, by the way, is not a novel approach for the feds. Back in 2007, George Will noted the practical realities that had galvanized the otherwise moderate (then)Senator Richard Lugar to oppose farm subsidies:

Time was, Riley Webster Lugar, a Hoosier farmer, vociferously disapproved of the New Deal policy of killing baby pigs to control supply in the hope of raising prices. When his son Marvin ran the family farm, if a cashier giving him change included a Franklin Roosevelt dime, he would slap the offending coin on the counter and denounce the New Deal policy of supporting commodity prices by controlling supply — by limiting the freedom to plant.

Today, Marvin’s son Dick is carrying on two family traditions — running the farm and resenting the remarkable continuity connecting today’s farm policies with the New Deal’s penchant for economic planning. The grandson, now 75, is again trying to reform what Franklin Roosevelt wrought.

Lugar is gone from the Senate now, but let’s hope that members of Congress taking up a monstrosity of a farm bill can find the time and will to carve up all provisions that irrationally demand artificial scarcity as a means to abundance.

July 9th, 2013 at 1:33 pm
ObamaCare’s Impact on Immigration Reform

The best indicator of what someone will do tomorrow is what they’re doing today.

Applying this principle to the Obama administration’s abuse of power regarding the implementation of ObamaCare, key members of the House GOP see no reason to expect a different outcome with comprehensive immigration reform.

Conn Carroll summarizes the growing sentiment:

“They have shown no respect for traditional Constitutional separation of powers,” Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., told National Review’s John Fund about the impact of the ObamaCare delays on the immigration debate, “and that makes it difficult to pass laws where the fear is that they will simply ignore the parts they don’t like.”

Carroll goes on to write that, “Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, who is on the House Judiciary Committee and had been a member of a bipartisan group working on immigration reform, echoed Roe’s concerns on Meet the Press. ‘In fact, if you look at this ObamaCare debacle that they have right now, this administration is actually deciding when and where to actually enforce the law. And that’s what some of us in the House are concerned about. If you give to this administration the authority to decide when they’re going to enforce the law, how they’re going to enforce the law… what’s going to happen is that we’re going to give legalization to 11 million people and Janet Napolitano is going to come to Congress and tell us that the border is already secure and nothing else needs to happen.’”

That’s exactly right. Members of Congress can negotiate all they want among themselves about a pathway to citizenship, security triggers and the like, but unless there is a change in the current president’s management style, all such agreements and understandings are worthless. As President Obama clearly showed by suspending enforcement of ObamaCare’s employer mandate last week, the law as written is merely a starting point for executive policy making.

July 9th, 2013 at 9:47 am
Ramirez Cartoon: On the Jobs Report
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Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

July 8th, 2013 at 9:10 am
Podcast: A Supreme Review of the Highest Court
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In an interview with CFIF, Megan Brown, Partner at Wiley Rein LLP in Washington, D.C., discusses the U.S. Supreme Court’s latest term, some of the Court’s key cases and decisions, and a sneak peek at the next term.

Listen to the interview here.

July 3rd, 2013 at 3:50 pm
Happy 4th: Poll Shows Americans Still Favor Limited Government by 3-1 Margin
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As a nation founded on the principle of limited government, we can head into this July 4 weekend grateful that principle remains in favor.  According to a Rasmussen poll released today, Americans prefer a government that is too limited to one that is too powerful by an overwhelming 3-to-1 margin:

More Americans than ever (63%) think a government that is too powerful is a bigger danger in the world today than one that is not powerful enough. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 21% disagree and think a government that is not powerful enough is a bigger danger. Seventeen percent (17%) are not sure.”

There is still hope in the world’s last, best hope.  Happy birthday, America.