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Views of Edward Snowden

Hillary thinks he’s a traitor. She recently said:

When he emerged and when he absconded with all that material, I was puzzled because we have all these protections for whistle-blowers. If he were concerned and wanted to be part of the American debate, he could have been…It’s sort of odd that he would flee…I don’t understand why he couldn’t have been part of the debate here at home. He could have quit, he could have taken whistleblower protection…

But to high school kids, he’s a hero:

[GWU admissions officer] Freitag skimmed the extracurriculars, read the first essay, rated it good. GW also asks students to list a role model and two words to describe themselves. As for herself, Freitag said, she would list “Martha Stewart/Tina Fey” and “sassy/classy.” This year, she’s seeing a lot of Edward Snowden citations.

So whose view is right? Hillary’s, or the schoolkids’?

I must say this much: I don’t believe Hillary for one second when she talks about “whistleblower protections”, like she always honors them. I think that Snowden may have been right to fear for his life (not only his freedom), if should stay in the U.S. and try to play that game. And after seeing the U.S. government grow hideously out-of-control in the last 6-8 years, I would rather know about the NSA spying, than not.

So, on present information, I think it’s possible for Snowden to be both traitor (on foreign payroll?) and hero.

UPDATE: Meant to blog on these items sooner. They speak to the losses of liberty and privacy that we have suffered, in the last few years.

Does Anyone Have a Problem with This?

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Yup.

Tax Day homily

Although this story focuses on California’s abuses, it shows how government gets its revenue in general: arbitrarily and with the power and willingness to ruin people’s lives.

In 1970, a young Southern California electrical engineer and inventor named Gilbert Hyatt filed a patent application for an innovative microprocessor chip…

Twenty years later…the U.S. patent office awarded Hyatt the patent…a multimillion-dollar windfall. He moved to Las Vegas, where he said he was a full-time resident before he received the earnings.

California’s Franchise Tax Board (FTB)…decided to seek $7.4 million in back taxes, claiming that he was still a resident of California when the money came in. That sounds like a simple enough dispute that could quickly be resolved, but what followed has been an ordeal that has consumed a good bit of Hyatt’s adult life.

…[for] a sum that now tops $55 million as interest and penalties have accrued…The tax authorities have been pursuing him through its administrative process. Tired of the endless investigations, Hyatt filed suit in Nevada court in 1998. California officials said they weren’t subject to an out-of-state tort lawsuit. California lost that argument in the Nevada Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court and the high court decision sent the case back to a Nevada district court, which awarded Hyatt nearly $400 million in damages after finding that the California authorities abused their power and invaded his privacy. That case is on appeal.

Hyatt believes that California officials are purposefully delaying. “Specifically, because of the 20 year delay Hyatt can no longer obtain a fair and full adjudication of whether he owes state taxes to California,” according to his lawsuit. “During this time, material witnesses have passed away, memories of witnesses have faded, and documents relevant and important to Hyatt are no longer available.” The board keeps assessing penalties…He suspects the tax board is waiting for him to die so that it can go after his estate.

Under California law, the Franchise Tax Board has the “presumption of correctness,” meaning that the onus always is on Hyatt to disprove what the tax officials say. And, he argues, they keep changing their stories and their allegations, thus resulting in more years of legal expenses and disputes…

To sum up – When dealing with the tax man in America today, you have:

  • No “innocent until proven guilty”.
  • No real “right to a speedy trial”.
  • Kafka-esque complexity and situations rigged for you to lose.

To anyone who wants to claim that our tax system is “voluntary”, or that government somehow isn’t a gun, or that taxation somehow isn’t a use of force on people (many conscientious tax-objectors are given long jail sentences): You’re just lying.

Meanwhile, Back at the DIABLO/Tea Party Wars

Posted by V the K at 4:01 pm - January 6, 2014.
Filed under: Constitutional Issues

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson is suing the Obama Regime for extra-legally exempting Congress and selected Cronies from Obamacare. He has this quaint, outdated idea that everyone should be equal under the law. Which naturally makes him a crazy-eyed extremist according to accusations hurled last September when some ‘Whackobird’ GOP senators tried to get the exemptions removed.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is suing the NSA over their massive collection of metadata from everybody, calling it a violation of Americans Constitutional Protection against unlawful search and seizure. Speaking on behalf of the GOP Establishment, New York DIABLO Congressman of New York responded by saying that Rand Paul was not fit to hold his office.

I suggest Pete King put his money where his mouth is and release all of his cell phone records back to the passage of the Patriot Act to the public; if collection of such data is really completely benign.

The connecting thread of these lawsuits is pushback against the Obama Regime abusing power in a way that would have led to outrage had George W. Bush been found collecting everyone’s cell phone records or exempting Congress and selected cronies from legislation. It’s also striking how comfortable the Rockefeller-Rove wing of the GOP is with this power-grabbing.

Name that theme

Sometimes you’ll be scanning headlines at your favorite locations, and a common element will jump out at you. Consider:

The common element is, of course, the Left’s penchant for dictatorship and thuggery.

Help Brian Aitken

This story has been around for years, but I’m just catching up. Perhaps some of you are, too. It’s a horrifying example of modern-day tyranny. (And, not to plug Chris Christie who is not perfect, but Christie is helpful in it.)

Brian Aitken is a law-abiding citizen who legally bought guns in Colorado, legally transported them to New Jersey when he moved there to be near his young son, never did anything wrong or harmful with them; and was nonetheless arrested on highly questionable grounds, charged with felony possession (an initial charge was non-existent under New Jersey law), convicted under highly questionable jury instructions, and imprisoned under a seven-year sentence.

After he served four months in prison, Gov. Christie commuted his sentence, achieving his release. And the charges have been partially overturned.

But the damage doesn’t stop there. As if to compound the tyranny, a family judge denied Aitken practical access to his son – partly on the convictions, and partly on the supposed grounds that a father who owns firearms (or who might; Aitken actually doesn’t own anymore) is an automatic danger to his family. Never mind that gun ownership is in the Constitution.

This man’s constitutional rights have been severely violated. And when you hear Aitken tell his story, you understand that such things could happen to any responsible parents or gun owners – like, say, gay parents, or gay gun owners.

If you’re inclined, a donation can still help Mr. Aitken to publish his book and continue his legal battle to clear his name. The remaining charge/conviction on him is that he transported ammunition; as Aitken points out, a law that lets you keep a type of ammunition in your home, but not move it when you move your home, is arguably nuts.

Conservatives, gay politics, and lost opportunities

At the time of the Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage this summer, it seemed to me that by ruling as it did, the Supreme Court had involuntarily handed many conservatives a great opportunity to move beyond the issue of gay marriage in ways that they hadn’t in the past.  Instead of making it a social or cultural issue, many conservatives could have sidestepped the issue entirely by talking more about economic issues and questions of taxation and state-sponsored benefits instead.

After all, the plaintiff in the case which challenged the Defense of Marriage Act was moved to file suit largely because of the estate taxes she incurred when her partner passed away.  So instead of viewing  it as a social or cultural issue, they could have taken up the cause of greatly reducing estate taxes for all regardless of marital status.

While I’m obviously biased on the issue, it seems to me that running on an anti-gay agenda is not a winning issue for conservatives.  I recognize that social conservatives played a very big role in the Reagan revolution, and I acknowledge that social conservatives are still an important part of the base that the Republican Party needs to keep winning elections.  But I believe that there are ways to accommodate social conservatives without alienating other potential voters.  Talking about court appointments is one way of doing this, because one needn’t be a social conservative to believe that the court should focus more on applying and interpreting the actual intent of the Constitution rather than legislating from the bench.  Likewise, one can have an honest debate about tax policy and whether or not it is in the state’s interest to carve out special exceptions for marriage or whether the state should get out of the marriage business all together and just simplify the tax code instead.

There are some signs that more and more Republican are getting this message.  On September 11 of this year, Politico reported on a survey that showed that more and more Republicans are embracing libertarian views about government.  (Hat Tip: The Blaze.)

FreedomWorks commissioned a national survey of registered voters last month, shared first with POLITICO, that finds 78 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents self-identify as fiscally conservative and socially moderate.

It’s not that Republicans are suddenly self-identifying as “libertarians” and devouring Ayn Rand novels, but more that they seem to be embracing underlying libertarian priorities and views about the role of government.

The Politico piece goes on to quote the Republican pollster who ran the poll saying that more and more voters are disturbed by both the size and the intrusiveness of government in the Obama era:

Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway, who ran the poll, said she’s seeing a spike in voters who feel the government is too expensive, invasive and expansive.

“The perfect storm is being created between the NSA, the IRS, the implementation of Obamacare and now Syria,” she said. “People are looking at the government more suspiciously. They’re looking with deeper scrutiny and reasonable suspicion.”

It all sounds great so far from my perspective.  I think this is a direction that Republicans need to embrace to be able to win significantly in the future.
And then, there’s the sad case of Virginia.  I first heard of Ken Cuccinelli when he was elected Attorney General of Virginia in 2009, in an election that many viewed as a sign of trouble ahead for the Democrats in 2010.  I knew he had played a large role in fighting Obamacare and in bringing the fight to the Supreme Court, and so it seemed to me that he would have a good chance of being elected Governor of Virginia this year, especially since he is running against corrupt Clinton crony Terry McAuliffe.  Over the summer, though, I kept hearing that Cuccinelli was not doing well against McAuliffe in the polls, and I wondered why that might be.

Congress shouldn’t let Obama Pass the Buck On Syria

When I first heard that President Obama was asking Congress to vote on a resolution authorizing him to act against Syria, I thought he was doing the right thing, but then the more I considered the issue, the weaker I realized the move was. And the more political.

My gut sense is that Obama really doesn’t want to take action against the Syrian regime.

And perhaps he is hoping that this move will further divide Republicans. And a Republican Party at war with itself can’t do a good job taking the fight during in the 2014 election cycle.

And should a coalition of libertarian Republicans, partisans who put bucking Obama ahead of the national interest and dovish Democrats opposed to any flexing of American muscle manage to defeat the (unnecessary) legislative authorization, Obama will blame not his fellow Democratic, but the opposition Republicans for denying him the ability to act.

My advice to Speaker Boehner would be to ask all House Republicans to make statements similar to this one: “I don’t think the president needs our approval to act. (President Bill Clinton didn’t ask for congressional authorization before initiating airstrikes against Yugoslavia on behalf of Kosovo.) But, the president has asked for our permission. We are voting for the resolution to show we recognize his responsibility in the matter; we hope he will act in the best interest of the country.”

This at least would make it more challenging for Obama to blame Republicans. And the explanation would help prevent this from becoming a precedent, potentially hamstringing future presidents.

Obama could have delivered a speech similar to that Secretary Kerry gave.  And with that, authorized our armed forces to attack Syrian airbases.  Or he could have explained why it was not in our national interest to act.  Instead, he has advertised his indecision on the matter.  Never a good strategy for a leader.

ADDENDUM:  A test of Obama’s sincerity on the matter will be how aggressively he lobbies Congress on behalf of this resolution.  If he doesn’t actively lobby legislators to pass the bill, then he shouldn’t blame them for its failure.  (Bear in mind my word choice; “shouldn’t” doesn’t mean “won’t.”)

RELATED:  Shortly after posting this piece, I caught a related editorial in the Washington Times: (more…)

Liberal Logic on Display: Two Prime Examples

I’ve seen two examples this week of jaw-droppingly appalling liberal logic which, I figure, just have to be shared in the same way that unusual specimens belong in a museum.

The first one appeared in Salon on Tuesday, and it purports to be a treatise on the necessity of “positive” rights.  It says that the original Bill of Rights doesn’t go very far, and conservatives are foolish and “short-sighted” to insist that those rights are essential and shouldn’t be tampered with.  According to the author of the piece, Michael Lind, what we really need is to endorse FDR’s “Second Bill of Rights”–which includes things like the right to a job, to a good home, and to medical care and good health.  Lind writes: “FDR’s Second Bill of Rights, and similar proposals, are not intended to replace the original bill of rights, but only to supplement it. Progressives believe that we should have both the right to free speech and the right to minimal healthcare at public expense.”

Lind’s article uses both appeals to authority (FDR and Cass Sunstein) and some sleight of hand to avoid tackling the very real contention that we can’t demand “positive rights” at other’s expense without in some sense enslaving those who are tasked with providing or paying for those “rights.”

In a brief rebuttal at PJ Media, Stephen Kruiser cites his own, contrary authority:

The negative/positive rights debate is brilliantly explored by Richard A. Epstein in his book Mortal Peril. He begins with a general discussion but his focus is on American health care. He points out that the positive rights frenzy contains “certain remnants of a discredited socialism” and that “…the protection of these newly minted positive rights invests government at all levels with vast powers to tax, to regulate, and to hire and fire the very individuals whose rights it is duty-bound to protect.”

The story, of course, is one we’ve seen over and over. The government continues to bloat itself as the social welfare state grows and in the process more rights are trampled upon than created.

The title of Epstein’s treatise can apply just as easily to the second, even more stunning example of liberal logic, which I saw linked by several folks on Facebook today.  It’s an article in Slate entitled “If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person: A Manifesto.”  The idea behind the article by Allison Benedikt is that public schools are ruined because students whose parents care enough about educational quality to devote their own resources to education aren’t forced to remain in the public school system.

Nowhere does it occur to this genius that perhaps the real problems with the public schools have to do with the teachers’ unions or with the educational bureaucracy which has arisen at public expense.  No, according to this author, the solution to all the problems with the public school system is that if everyone has to go, they will get better because parents will demand it, even if some large number of kids who would or could have had better options has to be sacrificed for the sake of liberal mediocrity.  (You really do need to read the article to believe it is not some sort of ridiculous hoax.  Even the usually liberal crowd of commenters at Slate are put off by the article.)

A much saner, contrary view appeared several days ago (before the absurd Slate article was published) at the Sippican Cottage blog (hat tip Transterrestrial Musings).  The whole piece is worth reading, but this excerpt nicely encapsulates the tone of the piece:

You see, there are no public schools in America that I know of. They’re reeducation camps for people that weren’t educated in the first place, maybe, or little prisons, or pleasure domes for creepy teachers, or places where tubby women work out their neuroses about eating on helpless children at lunchtime — but there’s not much schooling going on in school. A public school is a really expensive, but shabby and ineffectual, private school that collects their tuition with the threat of eviction from your house.

To liberal “thinkers” like Allison Benedikt and Michael Lind, unfortunately, that sort of a situation apparently sounds like a “great society.”

On long discussions and gay-related policy news

Jeff’s brief post on Friday linking to a piece in The Onion has generated one of the longer discussion threads here in recent months at GayPatriot.  At the risk of mischaracterizing or oversimplifying it, much of the discussion has centered around the policy goals of gay activists of various stripes, as well as whether or not, criticizing or finding fault with some of those goals means one sympathizes with the aims of various anti-gay activists.

I think it is well-known to most regular readers that several of the contributors at GayPatriot, for instance, are either ambivalent or agnostic about the policy questions regarding same-sex marriage.  I, for one, feel that the courts are the wrong place for the argument over so-called “marriage equality” to proceed and that it is better taken up through the legislative process.  Likewise, I don’t feel that one needs to call it marriage if doing so antagonizes a significant portion of the populace who feel that marriage has a traditional meaning which they would rather not modify.  I’ve said before and I’ll say again that what we’re really talking about when we talk about same-sex marriage is a matter of  1). how the state recognizes a contractual relationship between two individuals, and 2). whether or not it has any business granting special privileges to those in a “traditional marriage” which it does not grant to others.  I’d argue that a debate that focused on the desirability of certain policy choices would be much more productive and much more worthwhile than one centered on emotional claims about “rights” and “equality.”  I’d also say that a more dispassionate debate about the implications of policy is more in keeping with both conservative and libertarian principles.

My aim today, though, is not to revisit that debate or to consider the implications of the recent Supreme Court decisions on those issues (though I’m still planning to do so in a future post), but to bring up some of the questions raised by the fact that today New Jersey became the second state (after California) to ban “conversion therapy” for gay youths.  My personal view on the issue is that “conversion therapy” doesn’t work in most cases and, to the extent that it is practiced, it should really only be viewed as an option for adults who choose to willingly commit to it.  In other words, New Jersey’s ban is in accord with my personal view on the matter, and yet, for philosophical reasons, I’m still bothered by some aspects of the legislation.

Neo-neocon expresses reservations similar to mine when she writes:

It is no use pretending that therapy—and the licensing of therapists by the state—is not at least partly a political endeavor subject to political fashion rather than a science. Nor should therapists be completely unrestricted. For example, therapists are already prohibited from sexual contact with patients—even willing patients, even adult patients—because it is considered inherently exploitative. But the most harmful practices that could be used by conversion therapists (for example, electric shock) could be banned without banning the entire enterprise. And as the articles point out, mainstream therapy organizations have already condemned conversion therapy and do not advocate it.

But apparently none of that would be enough for the advocates of this bill; the therapy itself must be defined by the government as inherently and unfailingly abusive (what’s next, taking children away from parents who don’t applaud and celebrate their gayness?) As the nanny state grows, so will these essentially political moves by the government. This bill opens the door for a host of governmental abuses in which the state dictates the enforcement of politically correct thought through the mechanism of so-called therapy, and therapists become the instruments by which the public is indoctrinated in what is currently politically acceptable and what is verboten.

Chilling, indeed.

At the risk of invoking the “slippery-slope” argument, I can’t see a way around the concerns that Neo-neocon expresses.  I’d have preferred to let the market regulate itself without getting the state involved in this way.  Once the state has weighed in on this question, though, where can we expect it to weigh in next, and will it ever stop trying to regulate the way parents raise their children?  I can’t see that it ever will.

It’s an unfortunate reality that many gay kids grow up in homes that are not especially loving, nurturing or supportive.   The state, though, is none of those things, either, no matter what the expressed intentions of lawmakers might be.  Increasing the reach of the state into individual lives should not be a comfort to any of us.

Edward Snowden: Pro or con?

Snowden continues to embarrass the U.S., especially the Obama administration.

He is threatening more leaks.

He has asked for asylum in Russia. Russia seems to be weirdly talking out of both sides of their mouths, as to whether they want him.

He has a statement, via Wikileaks:

On Thursday, President Obama declared before the world that he would not permit any diplomatic “wheeling and dealing” over my case. Yet now it is being reported that after promising not to do so, the President ordered his Vice President to pressure the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions.

This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile…

Bush says Snowden has damaged U.S. security, a viewpoint that I respect but don’t necessarily feel outrage about, since the surveillance programs are bigger now (than what I previously supported) and since, per the Washington Post at the link just given, U.S. officials are still lying about the extent of the programs.

Your view?

UPDATE: Snowden withdraws Russia request, is denied asylum by 9 countries, still looking at some others.

The gay marriage decisions & the gay marriage debate

I find it a somewhat delicious irony that on the day the Supreme Court hands down its gay marriage decisions, a day I had planned on blogging about the debate on gay marriage.  But, I had been planning that before knowing that on the actual day, I would be more focused on writing the first chapter of the second part of my epic.

I have long thought the debate on this important issue, this fundamental social institution, has long been particularly lame.  And from reading my Facebook feed, see that it has become ever more so, with all too many (but fortunately not all) treating the decisions not so much as constitutional interpretation and social policy, but as personal validation — as if they needed some government body to decide the “right” way so they can feel recognized.  But, that feeling of approval will fade.

That said, I have seen two statements on Facebook which do get at the meeting of the decision, from people on opposite sides of the political aisle.  And I’m sure that in due course, I will discover some thoughtful blog posts and editorials.  But, for now, while I have much to say about marriage, my mind is on my book.  At the end of May, I finished the first draft of the first part of the book (over 150,000 words) and spent the better part of this month revising it, having intended today to print out the whole thing and take it to a printer (so I can share it with friends).  (As I begin serious work on the second part.)

So, let me offer the meaningful Facebook post for your consideration.  My friend Harmeet Dhillon (my predecessor as president of the U-VA Federalist Society) offered this on the standing issue which served to overturn Prop 8:

As a political law practitioner, the broader implication of today’s Prop 8 ruling is 1) a narrow interpretation of standing and 2) apparently there is no recourse by the citizens if their elected constitutional officers (here, the Attorney General) simply refuses to enforce a law passed by the majority of voters. The former is likely an artifice of the Court trying to dodge a merits decision on a very controversial issue, but the latter severely undercuts the power of the citizen-sponsored proposition in California, regardless of subject matter or what political persuasion is affected. A sobering reminder that your vote on propositions sort of matters sometimes, while your vote on who is the Attorney General matters a whole lot. And not enough of you vote!

Our left-of-center reader Rob Tisinai gets that state recognition of marriage is about more than just “rights”: (more…)

One person, one vote

A democratic republic is not honest or fair unless it upholds the principle of “one person, one vote”. All Americans should want to uphold that principle, strictly.

But not all do. Both historically and today, some may benefit from the principle’s two enemies: discrimination and fraud. How do we best combat both discrimination and fraud, in our voting processes?

The Supreme Court has just struck down part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Superficially it sounds like some people could have just lost their voting rights or something, and Yahoo!’s coverage starts out in a mournful tone. But let’s consider the substance, on both sides.

Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, reauthorized by Congress for an additional 25 years in 2006, gives the federal government the ability to pre-emptively reject changes to election law in states and counties that have a history of discriminating against minority voters. The law covers nine states and portions of seven more, most of them in the South. The formula used to decide which states are subject to this special scrutiny (set out in Section 4 of the law) is based on decades-old voter turnout and registration data, the justices ruled, which is unfair…[because] many of these states now have near-equal voter turnout rates between minorities and whites.

“The coverage formula that Congress reauthorized in 2006 ignores these developments, keeping the focus on decades-old data relevant to decades-old problems,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the opinion. “Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”

The Justice Department used Section 5 of the law to block voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina last year…

The court has effectively now put the ball back in Congress’ court, writing in its decision that it is up to Congress to write a new formula that is based on current data. States or counties that fit the new formula could still be subject to federal “preclearance” of changes to their elections procedures…

The story there seems to be: In the 60s, they were justly worried about discrimination and passed a law giving the federal government a great deal of power over some States. Today, fifty years later, much (if not most) of the discrimination problem has receded, the States are worried about fraud, and have begun to pass voter ID laws to combat fraud. The Obama administration has used the 1965 law aggressively to block those fraud-fighting efforts. And Chief Justice Roberts, writing for a SCOTUS majority, has just said to knock it off; do a fresh study of the real problem.

For completeness, let’s look at Justice Ginsburg’s objections. The Yahoo! article continues:

In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg writes the “sad irony” of Roberts’ decision is that it strikes down the key part of the Voting Rights Act because it has been so successful at preventing racial discrimination. “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet,” she writes. Ginsburg also slams the court’s majority for relying on turnout and registration rates “as if that were the whole story” and ignoring so-called second-generation laws and regulations designed to make it harder for minorities to vote…

But Roberts didn’t throw out preclearance; he only said, re-validate its basis to make sure it’s fair, before you use it again. Ginsburg’s imagery, of throwing out your umbrella in a rainstorm, is vivid but possibly misplaced. She assumes that we live in a racial “rainstorm” whose intensity is virtually unchanged from the 1950s/60s. But if that were so, we would not have an African-American President.

On the above information, I’m with Roberts: while problems of discrimination may remain, and any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress should indeed take a fresh look at the real problem. Congress should not make a lazy assumption that this is still the 1950s or 60s, nor that efforts to fight the problem of voter fraud must automatically be illegitimate.

Snowdemania

Via Zero Hedge, Republican former VP Dick Cheney comes out against Edward Snowden:
YouTube Preview Image
I’m interested by several aspects of his remarks.

First, there is what Cheney didn’t say: Cheney apparently did not call Snowden a liar. I’m not sure if that puts Cheney at odds with Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who said last week:

“[Snowden] was lying…He clearly has over-inflated his position, he has over-inflated his access and he’s even over-inflated what the actually technology of the programs would allow one to do. It’s impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do.”

Rogers’ language is a bit slippery: He plants the word “lying” but doesn’t indicate that Snowden was lying about the most crucial revelations, namely, the extent of NSA surveillance of people’s phone records and Internet activities. Between that and Cheney’s apparent silence on the same, I will take the NSA surveillance revelations as ‘confirmed’.

Rogers and Cheney do both call Snowden a “traitor” and suggest that he is a front for someone else; perhaps China. They are not the first to wonder if he’s a front. I figured that Snowden could be acting for an NSA higher-up (who opposes the surveillance programs); but I never totally ruled out (and still don’t) that Snowden could be acting for China. It struck me as a bit odd, from the beginning, that Snowden is holed up with a foreign power which delights in the embarrassment to the U.S. here, and as well, benefits from it.

Anyway, Cheney goes on to strongly defend the NSA surveillance; he suggests it would have prevented the 9-11 attacks, and takes a ‘trust us’ type of stance.

I disagree with Mr. Cheney. I do so respectfully; he’s a great American, and there are two sides to every story. I come down on the Rand Paul / civil liberties side of this one. The current extent of surveillance goes well beyond anything I ever defended the Bush-Cheney administration doing.

And the Obama administration’s other scandals – for example, their IRS / Tea Party scandal, or their multiple spy-on-the-media scandals, or multiple occasions when they happily manipulated classified info for political gain, and/or lied to the American people – have, by now, proven that they (the Obama administration) are profoundly unworthy of trust.

UPDATE – Some tidbits from the last several days:

UPDATE: NSA surveillance has provoked disagreement among the scholars at Cato. Here is a lengthy piece from Julian Sanchez, discussing many legal details from a viewpoint I agree with.

“Government data mining matters”

A couple of opinion pieces. First, from Legal Insurrection:

…I’m also concerned with what could be done with the information gathered about American citizens not suspected of a crime if put into the hands of politicians and political groups, and bureaucrats who work for or are sympathetic to such politicians and political groups.

The threat, oddly enough, is proven by the [present] leaks…If some government employee who has sworn to keep information secret is willing to leak [it]…for (allegedly) good purposes, what’s to stop that person from violating his or her oath by leaking data-mined information…for other than good reasons…?

…The issue goes beyond the NSA programs. Obamacare is a form of data mining. Obamacare will put into the hands of the IRS medical and health information of an unprecedented level.

And from Reason:

…everything and everyone are relevant to everything, because anything could yield some clue that could conceivably solve some crime. But that view is the same one that justified those general warrants from King George III.

The problem with indiscriminate [surveillance] of homes and effects is not that it’s ineffective in finding wrongdoing. It’s that the innocent people should not be punished in the pursuit of the guilty….

The danger isn’t (just) in what’s being done with the surveillance databases now; it’s in the fact that they exist, i.e., what could be done with them – and will be, sooner or later. Especially under an administration as power-hungry, deceptive and corrupt as Obama’s.

In the Bush 43 days, I believed that the government was only after real terrorists. But because of Obama’s IRS/Tea Party scandal specifically, I now know otherwise. That scandal has proven that the government’s motives are not pure.

And thus the NSA revelations, while they may be a non-scandal by themselves, they do carry the whiff of all of Obama’s other scandals. Because all of them fit together in a disturbing pattern. I am not against responsible counter-terrorism; I am against Obama’s pattern.

Surveillance updates

Lots of news this weekend on the NSA (phone surveillance) & PRISM (Internet surveillance) revelations. (Some info on how PRISM works from the Silicon Valley side of things, here.)

As these revelations dominate the headlines, perhaps they do obscure other important Obama scandals like Benghazi, IRS / Tea Party, DOJ spying on AP, Pigford, the many EPA scandals, and more. But I say, look at the bright side. There are plenty of revelations to come in those other scandals, so it’s probably temporary.

And, although it’s bad that the Obama administration is so scandalous: given that it is, it’s good that so many of them are coming to light. If some voter doesn’t care about scandal X, they may well care about scandal Y. Even a good chunk of Obama’s left-wing base who may approve of his IRS abusing the Tea Party, is disturbed that he has gone from criticizing to defending the NSA’s activities in spying on ordinary Americans.

So, meet Edward Snowden, now receiving media attention as the NSA whistleblower. I found the whole article interesting. One minor detail which caught my eye is that Snowden sounds like a disillusioned Obama supporter:

…the election of Barack Obama in 2008 gave him hope that there would be real reforms [of CIA and NSA activities], rendering disclosures unnecessary. [Snowden] left the CIA in 2009 in order to take his first job working for a private contractor that assigned him to a functioning NSA facility…It was then, he said, that he “watched as Obama advanced the very policies that I thought would be reined in”, and as a result, “I got hardened.”…”you can’t wait around for someone else to act…”

By the way, it looks like Obama means to prosecute the recent leaks. If he does, let’s remember that he will be carrying out the law.

Having said that: The difference between Candidate Obama and President Obama on these issues is astounding, even to a seasoned cynic. Here’s Obama from 2007:

[The Bush] administration also puts forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand. I will provide our intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to track and take out the terrorists without undermining our Constitution and our freedom. That means no more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime. No more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest…

Now click here for some video of Obama hemming and hawing about how we should all trust the Congressional and judicial oversight of these massive surveillance programs. (more…)

Today’s Appalling Facebook Meme

Wow, just wow, is about all I can say in response to this piece of leftist rationalization which I saw today on Facebook.  It goes without saying that we’d be hearing something VERY DIFFERENT from this fellow if there was a Republican president.

The message here boils down to: freedom doesn’t matter, liberty doesn’t matter, rights don’t matter, and the most important role for government is to stand for “social justice.”  Here’s the link, but I’ve quoted the whole thing in its appalling entirety below:

Things I’m more worried about than my phone being tapped:
Global warming. The richest 1% controlling more wealth than the bottom 50%. Homelessness. Gutting the food stamp program. The rich hiding several Trillion untaxed dollars. Secretaries paying more in taxes than billionaires. Politicians being bought and sold. Malaria and starvation. More people per capita in prison than any other country. The “war” on drugs. More black men in prison than in college. Rising cost of education and health care. The rise of extremism. The continued oppression of women. The general lack of compassion in the world. The degree to which we all blame our problems on others and close our eyes to our own irrationality.
That more people are outraged by a small loss of privacy than any of these other issues.

Should I add “People who write in sentence fragments” to his list of outrages more “worrisome” than a government which spends all its time monitoring its people, or is that just my pet peeve?

Not surprisingly, the best responses to this kind of thing date to the founding of the Republic.  We’ve always got the classic from Benjamin Franklin: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

But in this context, where the message is to sacrifice liberty for “social justice,” I think Sam Adams might be better, though trying to choose just one passage that is appropriate is rather like an embarrassment of riches.  I have long admired this one:

If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.

Perhaps this one is better: “If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.”

And just in case the Obamalaise is getting to you, here’s one worth repeating regularly: “Nil desperandum, — Never Despair. That is a motto for you and me. All are not dead; and where there is a spark of patriotic fire, we will rekindle it.”

Scandal news

All via HotAir.

UPDATE: There seems to be controversy over Pfeiffer’s remark on the IRS scandal, “The law is irrelevant.” Here is his full quote, for context:

“I can’t speak to the law here. The law is irrelevant. The activity was outrageous and inexcusable, and it was stopped and it needs to be fixed so we ensure it never happens again.”

Superficially, Pfeiffer said: The IRS activity was outrageous, regardless of whether it was illegal. Which sounds like taking the high road.

But Washington-speak is notoriously indirect. Pfeiffer may have been saying: The administration/DOJ is giving NO focus to the question of legality, as we intend to have no prosecutions.

To make my view clear: On current information, there should be prosecutions. If the Obama administration won’t send malefactors to court, then the Obama administration isn’t serious about repairing the scandal’s profound moral damage. As Gabe at Ace points out, “…the most obvious of crimes related to the IRS scandal [is] the public release of confidential information, something punishable by up to a year’s jail time.”

UPDATE: Per ABC, Pfeiffer later tweeted “Before folks quoting me out of context get too far ahead of themselves, of course the law matters, IRS conduct is wrong even if legal.”

Again, note Pfeiffer’s posture. While expressing outrage over what the IRS did, he carefully plants the suggestion that it might have been legal – which would mean that no prosecutions are needed. Sorry Mr. Pfeiffer, I don’t think so.

When will liberals see?

Only days ago, Obama gave a speech in which, rather than warn us against tyranny, he warned us against the people who go around warning us against tyranny.

The IRS revelations only get worse: From the Washington Examiner yesterday (via Ed Morrissey this morning), we learn that the IRS demanded of a pro-life group – under “perjury of the law”, the IRS staffer’s words – that it not engage in legal Planned Parenthood picketing. And required another pro-life group to furnish detailed plans on its constitutionally-protected speech activities.[1]

This is the same IRS that Obama has been beefing up to enforce Obamacare by demanding ever-greater private information of citizens.

The AP snooping scandal speaks for itself. Now from the GP comments, V the K reminds us of something Obama said in 2008:

We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.

Video here.[2]

In these disparate data points, I see a pattern: Obama wants to be a tyrant – while pretending not to. My question is, do liberals really not see the pattern?

I know that some liberals have begun seeing it – and will, for example, condemn the IRS actions – but others don’t. The other day, I noted Julian Bond saying that he thinks conservative groups deserve the IRS harassment. The execrable Bill Maher has joined the fun there.

Obama maintains his democratic pretense by periodically declaring the goodness of his intentions. For example: yes, the other day he called the IRS actions “inexcusable”.

But a troubled President Nixon, as well as actual tyrants like Chavez and worse, also frequently declared their own goodness. So many of Obama’s other words, policies, and actions of his underlings point in a direction opposite to his self-declared goodness. Do liberals really not see? Or are they part of the pretense; de facto pro-tyranny?

—————-
[1] (I don’t know the ins and outs of these tax-exemption laws, but I thought that as long as a group would refrain from electioneering for parties/candidates, it would get a pass.)
[2] Students of history will note that the Fascists also believed in having powerful civilian, national security forces, and will be troubled by the weird applause that Obama’s liberal audience gave him for proposing it.

Leading Democrats teach the opposite of the Constitution

Speaking to students at Ohio State University on May 5, President Obama said:

Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems. Some of these same voices also do their best to gum up the works. They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave and creative and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham, with which we can’t be trusted.

Obama said, in effect: Disregard people who worry about tyranny. We can have government do the things that they warn against, without it being tyranny, because we are such wonderful people – so well-intentioned – that it isn’t tyranny, when we do it.

Get it? So, when Obama has his administration lie to Americans so he can win re-election, or when he takes an increasing share of people’s incomes, or requires people to engage in private commerce that he happens to want (Obamacare mandate), or eliminates their rightful choices in the free market, or uses the IRS to obstruct his opponents and violate their privacy, or uses the Justice Department to snoop on reporters, or uses the EPA to extort fees from opponents (that progressive groups don’t have to pay – hat tip V the K), it’s not tyranny. Because it’s Obama doing it, and by his account, he can be trusted.

But the Framers of the constitution thought otherwise. They believed in checks and balances. They *were* those people who “warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner.” They founded America, by “gumming up the works.”

Perhaps Obama doesn’t know that the Framers set up the United States as a republic under a limited government, precisely because they knew that all governments tend to degenerate into tyranny. Or perhaps Obama is unaware of his own party’s President Andrew Jackson, who said that “eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty.”

Obama implies that people who warn us of tyranny are distrustful nihilists. Our only choice, Obama implies, is between continuing the crony-social-fascist gargoyle of a government that he now leads – and harmful anarchy. A typical Obama false choice (flowing from a typical Obama straw man), I’m pretty sure it has the Framers rolling in their graves.

So much for Obama. But there’s more! Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee recently said: (more…)