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No Labels Leaders Descend on Capitol Hill to Tout National Strategic Agenda

WASHINGTON, PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — No Labels leaders participated in a series of signature events on and around Capitol Hill, on Wednesday, to make the case for its National Strategic Agenda as a transformational idea that can help unite the country, shape the 2016 electoral debate and provide a proven framework for problem solving in the first 100 days of the next administration.

A day that began with former Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT), former Governor Jon Huntsman (R-UT) and other No Labels leaders testifying before the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee continued with a series of media briefings and training events for No Labels activists from across the country.

“We always hear political leaders talk about their desire to unite the country, but lately, there has been no plan for how to actually do it. The National Strategic Agenda is the how,” said No Labels National Co-Chairman Jon Huntsman. “As today’s events make clear, legions of people inside and outside Washington are recognizing that this simple and powerful concept can break the gridlock that has afflicted our government for far too long.”

“The National Strategic Agenda is based on a simple premise: To solve a problem – any problem – you need to set goals, get people to buy into those goals and put a process or plan in place to achieve them,” added No Labels National Co-Chairman Joe Lieberman. “This is the way any well-oiled organization runs. It’s the only way anything big in Washington has ever gotten done. And it is why the National Strategic Agenda is an idea whose time has come.”

At the Senate hearing, Lieberman, along with Huntsman, Co-Chair of the Loews Corporation Andrew Tisch and Merchants Metals CEO Andrea Hogan explained the urgency for a new National Strategic Agenda and painted an ambitious vision for how it could be implemented. This would include the next president, soon after inauguration, inviting leaders of both parties to Camp David to commence work on at least one of the four goals in No Labels’ National Strategic Agenda. These goals, which were chosen with input from the American people in a series of national polls No Labels conducted in 2014, are:

  • Create 25 million new jobs over the next 10 years;
  • Secure Medicare and Social Security for another 75 years;
  • Balance the federal budget by 2030; and
  • Make American energy secure by 2024.

A No Labels-backed resolution calling for a National Strategic Agenda based on these four goals (S. Res. 199) was introduced in the U.S. Senate on June 11th by Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and John Thune (R-SD). A companion resolution (H. Res.207) has been introduced in the House by U.S. Representatives Tom Reed (R-NY) and Ami Bera (D-CA), along with more than 50 co-sponsors from both parties.

Tisch and Hogan compared their experience in the private sector to the challenges facing the American government.

Said Tisch: “In business, as in government, the road to success is not so different. The first step is to identify a problem or an opportunity. The second step is to figure out how to solve that problem or seize that opportunity. Then, a goal is set that identifies the metrics and the timeline for success. And you hold your team accountable for meeting that goal. That’s how we succeed in our business. That’s how our government has succeeded in the past, whether it was winning a World War or sending a man to the moon.”

Hogan said she knew of “no business that can succeed long-term without a clear vision of what success looks like – a shared, goal-driven agenda of strategic imperatives – and a defined set of tactics aimed at achieving the organization’s goals.” She went on to marvel at the fact that in “the largest ‘enterprise’ in the world, the United States of America – all $17 trillion of it in economic output terms – operates precisely this way today.”

“We can’t allow this to be the case anymore,” Hogan concluded.

After the hearing, more than 100 No Labels citizen activists gathered for a No Labels luncheon that included media training while the No Labels’ leadership team hosted about 50 national political reporters at a luncheon nearby.

No Labels is running what it calls a “presidential campaign without a candidate” in New Hampshire and will convene the first-ever Problem Solver Convention in Manchester on October 12th, which is designed to attract independent voters and a number of leading presidential candidates from both parties.

“The next president will be a problem solver because the people will demand it,” said No Labels Executive Director Margaret Kimbrell. “Thanks to our extensive ground operation in New Hampshire, every presidential candidate will have to have a position on the National Strategic Agenda. And we’re confident that candidates will see that this idea is good for them and most important of all, good for our country.”

As further evidence that No Labels and the National Strategic Agenda is gaining currency among prominent political leaders in Washington and beyond, co-chairs Huntsman and Lieberman, as along with vice-chairs Al Cardenas and Mack McLarty, welcomed former U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), former U.S. House Majority Leader Representative Dick Gephardt (D-MO), former Governor John Engler (R-MI), former U.S. Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN), former U.S. Representative Tom Davis (R-VA), former U.S. Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) and Retired U.S. Navy Admiral Dennis Blair to the No Labels Advisory Board.

ABOUT NO LABELS

No Labels is a national movement of Democrats, Republicans and Independents dedicated to a new politics of problem solving. With a network of hundreds of thousands of citizens and local leaders across America and more than 70 allies in the U.S. Congress, No Labels has proposed reform ideas that have been introduced with support across the aisle, passed by Congress, and signed into law, including No Budget, No Pay. Find out more at www.nolabels.org.

American Exceptionalism: The Defining Question for Presidential Candidates

The most important question we can ask our presidential candidates in this rapidly approaching primary season is for their definition of American Exceptionalism. After six-plus years of an administration that has apologized for America, demoralized our American military, destroyed our status on the international stage, attacked America’s unparalleled entrepreneurial vigor, and assaulted our future path to prosperity, I’ve had enough. My daughters deserve better, your children deserve better, and the many men and women who sacrificed and died for the ideas our flag represents deserve better.

We are an exceptional nation, and Americans are an exceptional people, and we should never make any apologies for that. We are not only the economic breadbasket of the world, and the innovative idea factory of the world, but we are a beacon of freedom for other nations to follow. Yes, we’ve fallen short at times, but we’ve always gotten back up and emerged stronger.

We were born of a revolution where the odds of being victorious were incalculable. We conquered the scourge of slavery. We sent our fighting men and women to foreign shores to conquer fascism and communism. And we measure our national valor not by the conquered land we’ve acquired, but by the land we’ve returned to people we’ve set free from the shackles of tyranny in exchange for the blood of our sons and daughters. Our commitment to liberty and freedom as gifted by God, not man, is unique and has no equal on the world stage either now, or historically. Reagan recognized this, JFK recognized this, our military men and women recognize this and, most importantly, the overwhelming majority of Americans recognize this.

It’s time for an American renaissance. We’ve been through the economic travails and the international Barack Obama American apology tour and it’s time for an American president who will boldly stand, both at home and abroad, for a reinvigorated and vibrant American spirit, which shines brightly on the global stage. Our next president must passionately fight back against the idea that the United States of America can happily enter into an era of “managed decline.” I will be no part of any “managed decline” and our next President should reaffirm that an exceptional America will never decline, managed or otherwise, in this lifetime or in the lifetimes of the American sons and daughters to follow.

While I’ll be intensely focused on all of the candidate’s responses to questions on taxes, spending and the other important issues of our time, it’s their answers as to what makes America exceptional that will tell me if they can right America’s course. I ask you to join me in this mission to challenge our candidates for president, and everywhere else at the state and local levels, and to ask our future leaders what makes America exceptional. It’s not a gotcha question and I’m not looking for a candidate who can wax poetic in their response. I am looking for a candidate who can firmly, passionately and vigorously defend the axiom that this nation has been touched by the hand of God and has no equal, and that it’s not who we’ve been willing to fight with that has made us exceptional, but what we have been willing to fight for.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the Conservative Review. The featured image of Rick Santorum is by Tom Williams | AP Photo.

There Is No “Nationwide Crime Wave” — But Baltimore Is in Trouble by Daniel Bier

Heather McDonald’s Wall Street Journal op-ed “The New Nationwide Crime Wave” has exploded into the debate over police misconduct and criminal justice reform like a flash-bang grenade. It’s been discussed on numerous talk radio and cable news shows, and it’s been shared nearly 40,000 times on social media.

It’s a story engineered to go viral: It has a terrifying premise (crime everywhere is spiraling out of control!), a topical news hook (it’s all because of protesters!), a partisan bad guy (it’s all liberals’ fault!), and a weapons-grade dose of confirmation bias.

But there is no nationwide crime wave. It is completely manufactured by cherry picking data and misleading stats.

McDonald selects a handful of cities and quotes statistics to show that crime is exploding in “cities across America” this year:

In Baltimore… Gun violence is up more than 60% compared with this time last year, according to Baltimore police, with 32 shootings over Memorial Day weekend. May has been the most violent month the city has seen in 15 years.

In Milwaukee, homicides were up 180% by May 17 over the same period the previous year. Through April, shootings in St. Louis were up 39%, robberies 43%, and homicides 25%. …

Murders in Atlanta were up 32% as of mid-May. Shootings in Chicago had increased 24% and homicides 17%. Shootings and other violent felonies in Los Angeles had spiked by 25%; in New York, murder was up nearly 13%, and gun violence 7%.

Does this blizzard of numbers show a “nationwide crime wave”? No.

As John Lott points out at FoxNews.com,

Overall, the 15 largest cities have actually experienced a slight decrease in murders. There has been a 2 percent drop from the first five months of 2014 to the first five months of this year. Murder rates rose in eight cities and fell in seven. There is no nationwide murder wave.

Murder rates fell dramatically in some of these cities. Comparing this year’s January-to-May murder data with last year’s, we find that San Jose’s murder rate fell by a whopping 59 percent; Jacksonville’s fell by 31 percent; Indianapolis’ by 28 percent; San Antonio’s by 25 percent; and Los Angeles’ by 15 percent.

Even in the cities where murder is up compared to 2014, other categories of crime are down. New York, for instance, has had more murders but fewer burglaries and robberies. LA’s other violent crimes may be up, but murder is down.

She also implies that police are being attacked and killed more than ever: “Murders of officers jumped 89% in 2014, to 51 from 27.”

This 89% statistic is a deeply misleading view of the facts. Yes, 51 officers were murdered in 2014, compared to 27 in 2013. But 2013 was the safest year for police since World War II. It had the fewest shooting deaths for police since1887.

If you compare 2014’s 51 murders to other recent years, it’s not exceptional. In 2012, there were 48 officers killed. In 2011, it was 72. Over the last couple decades, the rate of police murders (and indeed work-related deaths from all causes) have fallen by nearly half, as have assault and injuries of police.

There’s another reason why McDonald quoted last year’s statistics for officer deaths when all of her other figures come from this year: officer shootings are down 27% so far this year.

Just like her other statistics, if she had given any context at all to the 89% figure, it wouldn’t have fit with her narrative of rising violence.

But never mind — as the author of this story, McDonald knows the cause of this fictitious trend: the “Ferguson Effect.”

The most plausible explanation of the current surge in lawlessness is the intense agitation against American police departments over the past nine months.

By her account, an “incessant drumbeat against the police” is behind the nonexistent “wave” of crime and violence against cops.

But this is also a myth. Public support for police has not waned. Gallup’s polling shows that confidence in law enforcement has been steady since the early 1990s.

That hasn’t changed, even after the protests against police abuse around the country. A Huffington Post/YouGov survey from April 2015 showed that 61% of Americans have a “great deal” or a “fair amount” of trust in their local department; 21% said “not very much,” and only 14% had “none.”

There is no national crime wave. Big cities are not facing a “surge of lawlessness.” There is no “war on cops.” The public hasn’t turned against the police.

So what’s going on in Baltimore? McDonald isn’t wrong about the spike in crime there. Baltimore City really is facing a breakdown in law and order.

Alex Tabarrok notes that police have made 40% fewer arrests since the start of the protests and the filing of criminal charges against six cops involved in Freddie Gray’s death.

As arrests have declined, crime has soared.

Tabarrok writes,

Not all arrests are good arrests, of course, but the strain is cutting policing across the board and the criminals are responding to incentives.

Fewer police mean more crime. As arrests have fallen, homicides, shootings, robberies and auto thefts have all spiked upwards.

Homicides, for example, have more than doubled from .53 a day on average before the unrest to 1.35 a day after (up to June 6, most recent data) – this is an unprecedented increase – and the highest homicide rate Baltimore has ever seen.

It’s not just murder. Shootings are up over 250%. Robberies are up 64%. Car thefts are up 42%.

It’s reasonable to assume that the increase in crime is at least partially related to the decline in police activity — criminals respond to incentives just like everyone else — but why aren’t police making arrests?

The answer might be found in the “De Blasio Effect.”

New York saw a similar “work stoppage” — that is, an unofficial strike — by the NYPD during its feud with Mayor De Blasio over his critical comments about the death of Eric Garner.

The NYPD retaliated: Arrests fell by 56% and criminal summonses fell by 92%, until the mayor made up with the department and police work resumed.

Kevin Drum speculates that BPD’s precipitous decline in arrests is a similar reprisal against the indictment of the officers involved in Freddie Gray’s death.

It’s certainly possible that has something to do with it, but officers appear to be genuinely spooked. About 130 cops were injured in the riots — that’s about 4.5% of the city’s officers down over the course of a week. That’s almost twice the rate of injury the average department sustains in a whole year.

Cops are understandably worried. Peter Moskos, a former BPD officer, says, “In Baltimore today, several police officers need to respond to situations where formerly one could do the job. This stretches resources and prevents proactive policing.”

There’s another issue: when crime spikes, police can be overwhelmed. Cases build up, and as new reports pour in, less and less time can be devoted to the old ones.

Most murders in Baltimore this year have gone unsolved. BPD’s clearance rate for homicides has fallen to just 40%, and the surge in killings can only make things worse.

Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said the rise in killings is “backlogging” investigators, just as the community has become less engaged with police, providing fewer tips.

Tabarrok is worried that a new equilibrium for crime could emerge in Baltimore. If crime continues to rise, clearance rates will fall further, detectives will get more backlogged, and it gets even harder to solve the next case. And if the probability of being caught and punished goes down, criminals will commit more crimes.

With luck the crime wave will subside quickly but the longer-term fear is that the increase in crime could push arrest and clearance rates down so far that the increase in crime becomes self-fulfilling. The higher crime rate itself generates the lower punishment that supports the higher crime rate

It’s possible that a temporary shift could push Baltimore into a permanently higher high-crime equilibrium. Once the high-crime equilibrium is entered it may be very difficult to exit without a lot of resources that Baltimore doesn’t have.

Some people see criminal justice reform as being anti-cop or “soft on crime,” but it’s not. Reform enables police to do a better job, which reduces crime — and that makes them and their citizens safer.

The best thing that Baltimore can hope for is that cops get back to work and start solving crimes. The best way to do that is for the community to engage with law enforcement.

Communities’ trust in police is key to fighting crime, and right now the BPD doesn’t have it. The Baltimore Sun has documented in excruciating detail the department’s history of corruption and excessive force, writing: “The perception that officers are violent can poison the relationship between residents and police.” And that leads to tips not given, 911 calls not dialed, and witnesses failing to come forward.

Real, credible reform, combined with accountability for misconduct and a strong commitment to community safety, is the best and probably only way to rebuild the relationship between citizen and cop and to turn crime around in Baltimore. The city and the police must embrace the task; they won’t accomplish it without each other.


Daniel Bier

Daniel Bier is the editor of Anything Peaceful. He writes on issues relating to science, civil liberties, and economic freedom.

Nudging Voters to Make the Right Decisions by Julian Adorney

In politics, as in commerce, consumers cannot always be trusted. Sometimes they’re duped, or foolish, or just make decisions for the wrong reasons. That’s when we need government to step in and take the decision out of their hands.

I propose the passage of the Control and Help Upgrade the Market in Politics (CHUMP) Act to eliminate the inherent flaws in the political market.

A little nudge

Many intellectuals realize that consumers need to be nudged toward certain decisions.

This idea, called “libertarian paternalism,” consists of bureaucrats “self-consciously attempting to move people in directions that will make their lives better.”

Take cigarettes, for example. Consumers aren’t rational enough to research the dangers of cigarettes on their own, so governments insist that tobacco companies include graphic warnings to “nudge” people away from buying them. This light touch retains for users the option to buy cigarettes but gently moves them toward a wiser decision.

We need to move this idea into the political marketplace. Under the CHUMP Act, government will be empowered to nudge voters by asking them to read a few positive facts about certain candidates before they vote. Like cigarette buyers, voters will still be free to choose their candidate. We’ll just be offering a little guidance.

MoveOn.org recently put this idea into practice, releasing a poll with positive statements about Elizabeth Warren (and no statements about any other candidate). Warren won the poll by several points. That’s the political market at its best.

Subsidizing good ideas

We have long realized that unregulated markets produce the wrong distribution of resources. As Senator Bernie Sanders recently argued, why should we have 23 brands of deodorant when we can’t feed our children? Or, to put it another way, why does Kim Kardashian always have a show while NPR struggles to make ends meet? The market may reflect the desires of consumers, but it leads to the wrong outcomes.

We deal with this market failure by subsidizing NPR. But we don’t just need better shows; we need better politics, too.

For that reason, the CHUMP Act will subsidize some political groups. Judging by Sanders’s poll numbers, many Americans don’t care for big-government rhetoric. But so what? All that means is that there’s insufficient demand for his views. Some ideas, like NPR’s brand of reporting, are downright unpopular in the market. But we need them. What’s wrong with helping them along?

Certain policies, or rather the candidates who endorse them, should be subsidized. Each candidate should be rated on a scale of 1 to 100 (or from Ted Cruz to Bernie Sanders) and receive funding equal to $5,000 multiplied by their score. Hillary Clinton might score a 55, and receive $275,000 in subsidies for her presidential campaign. Sanders, who might score a solid 100, would receive $500,000. Who can say that money wouldn’t be put to good use educating Americans on the benefits of bigger government?

Cruz, as the scale suggests, would score 0 and receive no funding. Some ideas just shouldn’t be encouraged.

Banning bad politics

We need more than subsidies for good ideas: we need to protect people from themselves. Again, the blueprint lies in commerce, where wise bureaucrats protect people from businesses like Lyft, Airbnb, or Tesla. No matter how much people may say they like these companies, some products and services are just bad all around. I don’t care if you want to take an Uber. It’s too expensive, it’s disruptive, and its rating system is deeply flawed. If your city has banned ride-sharing services, it’s doubtless for your own good.

In the same vein, why should the government stand idly by while underinformed voters succumb to the rhetoric of extremist malcontents? We need to step in to save these misguided folks from themselves. They may say they want lower taxes or fewer regulations, but that’s only because they don’t understand the long-term consequences of casting their votes for smaller government.

But what about freedom?

Now, some naysayers may claim that political and commercial markets are different, that we should subsidize companies but not ideas. They claim that political freedom, the ability to choose freely between competing political ideas, is sacrosanct.

But a century ago, during the dark ages of the Lochner era, we said the same thing about economic freedom: “freedom of contract” was a right enshrined by the Supreme Court. Can you imagine if we still lived in an era where economic freedom was recognized as inviolable? It would be a nightmare of worker exploitation, child labor, and Kardashian shows. The Supreme Court struck down this freedom for the good of us all.

Right now, this “libertarian moment” we’re in is as dangerous as the Industrial Revolution was before reformers curbed its excesses. We no longer have child labor, but we do have people who want to eliminate welfare. We have reduced exploitation, but we still have extremists claiming that health care is not a right.

These residual reactionary views remain with us because we still believe that the political consumer’s choices are sacred. But that belief allows demagogues to be elected with no thought to the consequences.

Like toddlers who refuse to eat their veggies, some people just don’t know what’s good for them. We need to help them make the right choices. Political freedom is no more sacred than economic freedom — and should be dispensed with as easily, for the good of us all.


Julian Adorney

Julian Adorney is Director of Marketing at Peacekeeper, a free app that offers an alternative to 911. He’s also an economic historian, focusing on Austrian economics. He has written for the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Townhall, and The Hill.

The Feds vs. Reason.com Commenters by Ryan Radia

Our friends over at the Reason Foundation, a venerable libertarian think tank and publisher of Reason magazine, recently received a grand jury subpoena from a federal prosecutor in New York, reports Ken White at Popehat.

The subpoena demands that Reason disclose “all identifying information” it has regarding six pseudonymous users who posted comments about the death and afterlife of a federal judge on Reason’s Hit & Run blog.

These comments came in response to a May 31 post by Nick Gillespie about the trial and sentencing of Ross Ulbricht, who was convicted in February of running an Internet-based narcotics and money laundering platform known as Silk Road.

In late May, Judge Katherine Forrest, who sits on the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, sentenced Ulbricht to life in prison. This sentence was met with mixed reactions, with many commentators criticizing Judge Forrest for handing down what they perceived as an exceedingly harsh sentence.

A few Reason users, some of whom may have followed Reason’s extensive coverage of the fascinating trial, apparently found Ulbricht’s sentence especially infuriating.

One commenter argued that “judges like these … should be taken out back and shot.” Another user, purporting to correct the preceding comment, wrote that “it’s judges like these that will be taken out back and shot.” A follow-up comment suggested the use of a “wood chipper,” so as not to “waste ammunition.” And a user expressed hope that “there is a special place in hell reserved for that horrible woman.”

Within hours, the office of Preet Bharara, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, sent Reason a subpoena for these commenters’ identifying information “in connection with an official criminal investigation of a suspected felony being conducted by a federal grand jury.”

This doesn’t mean a grand jury actually asked about the commenters; instead, in federal criminal investigations, it’s typically up to the US Attorney to decide when to issue a subpoena “on behalf” of a grand jury.

The subpoena demands from Reason information about the six users, including their email and Internet Protocol (IP) addresses — which, if disclosed, could enable the government to uncover the true identities of the commenters, perhaps after another round of subpoenas are sent to the users’ respective Internet Service Providers.

Popehat’s Ken White is quite troubled by the government’s decision to issue this subpoena. Ilya Somin, writing at The Volokh Conspiracy, also objects to the subpoena. So do the Cato Institute’s Tim Lynch and Techdirt’s Mike Masnick, among many others.

I too find it quite concerning. Even if this subpoena is valid under current law — more on that angle in a bit — the government made a serious mistake in seeking to force Reason to hand over information that could uncover the six commenters’ identities.

Unless the Department of Justice is investigating a credible threat to Judge Forrest with some plausible connection to the Reason comments at issue, this subpoena will serve only to chill hyperbolic — but nonetheless protected — political speech by anonymous Internet commenters.

And if Reason decides to stand up for its users’ rights, the resulting court battle will amount to a waste of federal law enforcement resources that could instead help bring actual criminals to justice, as Tim Lynch reminds us.

To be sure, I have no problem with the feds seeking to locate and prosecute people who actually threaten to commit murder — which, if transmitted in interstate commerce, is a federal crime under Title 18 USC. § 875.

Threatening to kill a federal judge is especially problematic; assassinations of federal judges do happen from time to time. As such, it’s only natural that law enforcement takes such threats seriously.

Yet, while the comments identified in the subpoena are undeniably vile, they’re also protected by the First Amendment, and rightly so. Hyperbolic political statements have a long history in the United States.

For instance, Ken Shultz notes that Martin Luther King, Jr., once said that “the hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.” Sound familiar?

As for the comments about shooting a federal judge, consider the Vietnam War-era prosecution of Robert Watts for “knowingly and willfully threatening the President.”

At age eighteen, Watts said that if he were forced to join the military and “carry a rifle,” then the “first man I want to get in my sights is L.B.J.” The Supreme Court reversed his conviction, finding that Watts had merely “indulged” in a “kind of political hyperbole.” Id. at 708.

Although these statements, like the Reason comments quoted above, are understandably offensive to many listeners, causing offense alone is no basis for outlawing speech. To the contrary, “a function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute,” as the Supreme Court has noted. Indeed, speech can sometimes “best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger.”

As for the hyperbolic comments posted on Reason about Judge Forrest, they are plainly not “true threats,” but mere “angry bluster,” as Ken White explains in detail.

The remarks, he notes, were not directed to the Judge, or reasonably calculated to reach her; instead, they appeared on a libertarian political blog notorious for its trash-talking commentariat. The comments lacked any specifics about a specific person’s plans to actually carry out an act of violence; instead, they merely expressed a general desire that a particular person be killed.

And while courts have held on occasion that hoping for someone’s death without evincing a desire to personally kill them can be a true threat, this requires some “causal connection” between the statement and the desired outcome. Again, the Reason comments don’t come close to meeting this threshold.

In short, even if the six Reason users are indicted on federal criminal charges, the First Amendment means the government is all but guaranteed to lose (barring the unlikely scenario the US Attorney’s office is sitting on some damning evidence it hasn’t disclosed).

If the commenters didn’t break the law, then, why can the government use its subpoena power to force Reason to hand over whatever personal information it’s collected about them? Because, as Ken White frets, the US Attorney’s power to issue grand jury subpoenas is so broad that, in most cases, they can be quashed only “when they are irrationally burdensome … or for an improper purpose.”

Moreover, a grand jury — which, again, is typically just another word for “federal prosecutor” — is afforded “wide latitude” in investigating potential crimes, and the “law presumes, absent a strong showing to the contrary, that a grand jury acts within the legitimate scope of its authority.”

And when a grand jury subpoena is “challenged on relevancy grounds the motion to quash must be denied unless the district court determines that there is no reasonable possibility that the category of materials the Government seeks will produce information relevant to the general subject of the grand jury’s investigation.”

What about a grand jury subpoena that implicates First Amendment interests?

In theory, “where values of expression are potentially implicated,” a district court should act with “special sensitivity” to “prevent the chilling effect” of “prosecutorial abuse,” in the words of the Fourth Circuit.

In practice, however, courts are extremely reluctant to quash a federal grand jury subpoena on First Amendment grounds. For instance, the District Court for the District of Columbia held in 2011 that “merely issuing a subpoena to uncover the identity of the speaker so that the police can ascertain whether a threat is valid cannot be deemed a Constitutional violation.”

Where does all of this leave us? Reason could move to quash the subpoena — or at least petition the court to limit its scope to identifying information about the more threatening commenters — on the basis that, absent additional evidence that its commenters’ identities are related in any way to some criminally actionable threat, enforcing the subpoena would undermine Reason commenters’ constitutional interest in anonymity while generating information of “negligible value to the government.”

However, because Reason probably could not show the US Attorney is acting in bad faith, or that complying with the subpoena would be unduly burdensome, Reason’s chances of prevailing if it chooses to fight back are not good. That’s a problem for all of us.

This piece first appeared at CEI.org.


Ryan Radia

Ryan Radia is an Associate Director of Technology Studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. He focuses on adapting law and public policy to the unique challenges of the information age.

Politics According to The Bible

politics bibleWant to run a nation right? Listen to what God says about it! “Politics According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture” by Wayne Grudem.

ABOUT POLITICS ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE

A variety of perspectives exist within the Christian community when it comes to political issues and political involvement. This comprehensive and readable book presents a political philosophy from the perspective that the Gospel pertains to all of life, so Christians should be involved in political issues. In brief, this is an analysis of conservative and liberal plans to do good for the nation, evaluated in light of the Bible and common sense.

In this ground-breaking book, recognized evangelical Bible professor Wayne Grudem rejects five mistaken views about Christian influence on politics: (1) ‘compel religion,’ (2) ‘exclude religion,’ (3) ‘all government is demonic,’ (4) ‘do evangelism, not politics,’ and (5) ‘do politics, not evangelism.’ He proposes a better alternative: (6) ‘significant Christian influence on government.’ Then he explains the Bible’s teachings about the purpose of civil government and the characteristics of good or bad government.

Does the Bible support some form of democracy?

Should judges and the courts hold the ultimate power in a nation?

With respect to specific political issues, Grudem argues that most people’s political views depend on deep-seated assumptions about several basic moral and even theological questions, such as whether God exists, whether absolute moral standards can be known, whether there is good and evil in each person’s heart, whether people should be accountable for their good and bad choices, whether property should belong to individuals or to society, and whether the purpose of the earth’s resources is to bring benefit to mankind.

After addressing these foundational questions, Grudem provides a thoughtful, carefully-reasoned analysis of over fifty specific issues dealing with the protection of life, marriage, the family and children, economic issues and taxation, the environment, national defense, relationships to other nations, freedom of speech and religion, quotas, and special interests. He makes frequent application to the current policies of the Democratic and Republican parties in the United States, but the principles discussed here are relevant for any nation.

Baltimore Lawmakers, Not its Citizens, Are the Problem

Sadly, what’s happening in Baltimore shouldn’t surprise anyone.

You cannot have an environment where the political leaders leverage chaos for personal political gain and expect those on the side of law and order to sweep in and win the day. The real tragedy here is the growing fear now residing in the hearts of the good citizens of Baltimore, those being subjected to daily threats of deadly violence because of the disturbing and irresponsible actions of its political elite.

Baltimore Shooting Stats
Baltimore Arrests Stats

By now, most of us know the name Freddie Gray. But how many of us know the name Eladio Bennett or Kester Browne? And, how many of us have heard the name Shaquil Hinton? These are but a few of the more than 50 lives taken before their time since the death of Freddie Gray, yet their lives and untimely passing have drawn but a sliver of the attention paid to Freddie Gray.

We can’t help the good citizens of Baltimore, and America’s many struggling inner cities, if we are afraid to shine a spotlight on the real problem. The problem is an organized far-left cabal, which has hijacked the party of JFK, and an opposing political party with few leaders willing to confront them. The organized far-left has accurately calculated that they can leverage chaos and use it to place blame, and divide us into their (not our) pre-selected racial, cultural, religious, gender, and sexual preference silos. They also use this blame strategy to highlight the fictitious failings of our system of government, bed-rocked in freedom and individual liberty. Then, once the division and blame propaganda has set in, with few in the mainstream media willing to fight back against this narrative, they propose a better way “forward” where, conveniently, they are empowered, not you.

The new “way forward” relies on more of your money going to them through higher taxes and expensive government programs. It takes away your ability to make basic health care decisions for your family, and it orders your child to attend the school they choose, not the one you choose. If you were designing a system to fail then you couldn’t design it any better than this “way forward.”

It’s not just the political penalty we pay, where we lose control over our money through their relentless push for government empowerment subsequent to a crisis, we can also lose our lives. The complete lack of leadership in Baltimore and the constant apologies for lawbreakers who were given “room to destroy,” while ensuring an expedited rush to judgment for the police officers involved in the Freddie Gray incident, has broken what has made this country the global, historical exception; fidelity to process. Process, and the rule of law and order, has enabled us to prosper economically and become a global example for freedom and liberty. When this process breaks down and we become a country of rule by discretion, rather than rule by law, the entire system breaks down and it filters down to the police officers on the street.

Having been a law enforcement officer with the N.Y.P.D. and the U.S. Secret Service I have seen first-hand the dangers law enforcement officers knowingly face every day for little money, and even less accolades. All these men and women ask is that the cities and towns they have pledged to protect and serve grant them the same process and legal rights as the citizens they protect. I don’t know what happened behind those doors of the van Freddie Gray was placed in and, if it turns out that the officers involved committed a crime, then they should be prosecuted. But, when far-left legal scholars and conservative thought leaders agree that the charges leveled against the police officers by Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby were political, and not firmly based on evidence, then we have a serious problem.

Police officers are an intelligent lot and they see this street justice prosecution as a direct attack on their ability to fight crime. Police officers are given tremendous discretion to combat crime and do their jobs and they are not legally mandated to arrest every person for every violation of the law they witness. I can imagine a scenario where many of these formerly discretionary police actions for non-violent, nuisance-crime-type activities, are not happening because the officers feel that the city of Baltimore will not be on their side if a police action for public urination turns into a use-of-force scenario. Sadly, it is this man or woman, who is engaged in this nuisance crime, and who is not confronted by law enforcement, that is typically the one who walks out of the alley and robs, rapes or kills someone.

In short, politicians and government are the problem in Baltimore, not the citizens. Nothing will change in Baltimore until the political leaders, who worship at the altar of big government are replaced by those who believe that the future of Baltimore is in the hands of the liberty of its citizens, fidelity to the rule of law, order and process, and not the permission of its government.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the Conservative Review. The featured image of the Mayor of Baltimore is by Patrick Semansky | AP Photo.

Who Ignores the Principle of Scarcity? Progressives and Politicians by Sandy Ikeda

Everyone has a theory of the way the world works, a way of connecting cause and effect. Without it, we wouldn’t know how to start the day: “If I wake up at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow, I should make it to work on time. And then…”

Our theories, the rules and principles by which we interpret the world, help us to think and plan, but they also constrain our thinking and planning to some degree. That can be a good thing, as long as our theories conform reasonably well to the real world. We understand, for example, that the best way to exit the 10th floor of a building is not necessarily to step out of the nearest window.

For economists who study human action in the real world, one of the principles we cannot ignore is that scarcity exists — to get more of one valuable thing, you will have to give up some of another valuable thing. In fact, you could say that not understanding the nature and significance of scarcity is the hallmark of someone who isn’t an economist, or is a very bad one.

In everyday life, it’s usually impossible to ignore the existence of scarcity. For most of us, it’s pretty obvious that time and money aren’t unlimited, and that if we want a bigger house we’ll probably need to earn more by giving up some leisure time and working more. In a free market, one without arbitrary political power and aggression, the economic reality of scarcity is a “hard constraint” that’s always good to keep firmly in mind when making plans.

Economics versus politics

But tracing out the more subtle and far-reaching implications of scarcity in a given set of circumstances is a skill that takes a lot of training and practice, which of course not everyone has done or, really, needs to do.

As Murray Rothbard puts it,

It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a “dismal science.” But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in the state of ignorance.

Unfortunately, politics sorely tempts us to act irresponsibly. Politics is essentially about acquiring and using political power  — the initiation of physical violence. If the first principle of economics is that “scarcity exists,” then far too often the first principle of politics is, “ignore the first principle of economics!”

In the absence of legal privilege or persecution, people in a free market have to deal with scarcity’s hard budget constraint. But in the world of politics, people can try to immunize themselves against scarcity by making others pay for the things they want for themselves or for their cronies. Politics is the realm of the “soft budget constraint,” which may have prompted Margaret Thatcher to say, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

Unfortunately, the same could easily be said for garden-variety politics almost everywhere today.

Principles versus consequences

This suggests perhaps another way of differentiating libertarians from the progressives of the left. For libertarians, economic principles constrain ourthinking. For progressives, economic reality constrains their outcomes.

What I mean is that when progressives, for instance, demand that people pay ever-higher minimum wages to those who work for them, they ignore the hard reality that someone, often unseen, must bear the cost of their “compassion,” and that those others are mostly young and unskilled workers that employers will now find too costly to employ. Or, an employer may cut back on nonwage payments they previously used to compensate their employees, making the employees worse off.

But because libertarians from the outset tend to be more mindful of economic principles, they are better able to shape their proposals, at a minimum, so as not to harm the very people that progressives aim to help. Libertarians are less likely to be disappointed when their policies confront economic reality. As someone once said, “Economics is the art of putting parameters on our utopias.” Scarcity is one of those parameters.

(Some may be reminded of Thomas Sowell’s distinction between “constrained vision” and “unconstrained vision,” which, however, I believe focuses more on one’s view of human nature: whether it is perfectible or not perfectible.)

Innovating within constraints

Faced with poverty, unhealthy working conditions, criminal violence, and a host of other persistent socioeconomic problems, we’re often admonished by the left to think beyond capitalism, to think creatively “outside the box.” Why not try to change those parameters or remove some of them altogether?

Well, even musical geniuses from traditions as different as classical, jazz, and rock must learn the rules of their genre before they can break through and go beyond them. Before he pioneered bebop, Charlie Parker had first to master the saxophone and the musical conventions of his day. Only then could he push outside mainstream jazz. To color outside the lines, you need to know where the lines are.

Moreover, scarcity is not a man-made thing that can be unmade purely by human willpower or by wishing it away. We have to account for it when we confront the real world. Otherwise, we risk personal failure or perhaps much worse. None of this means, though, that we can’t dramatically reduce scarcity and address those problems.

Sometimes there are free lunches. It’s possible to push that constraint outward and reduce scarcity through efficiency (getting more out of less) or, more importantly, through innovation (creating something of value that didn’t exist before). Henry Ford, Estee Lauder, and Norman Borlag significantly reduced the scarcity of cars, cosmetics, and food — to a world of ordinary people within the constraints of physics, chemistry, and economics.

We can get to where we want to go faster when we can see the road.


Sandy Ikeda

Sandy Ikeda is a professor of economics at Purchase College, SUNY, and the author of The Dynamics of the Mixed Economy: Toward a Theory of Interventionism.

In Defense of Private Property: Mises and Aristotle by Jeffrey A. Tucker

I’ve just reacquainted myself with two seminal texts: Aristotle’s Politics and Ludwig von Mises’s Socialism. Though written nearly two and a half millennia apart, it’s remarkable how these two gigantically important treatises parallel each other.

They both come to the defense of property and realistic forms of political order in the face of all kinds of dreamers, fanatics, and would-be dictators. A central contribution of each book is to defend the institution of private property against its enemies, who, both Aristotle and Mises knew, would smash all that is wonderful about life.

They took different pathways toward the same goal. Aristotle focused on what makes people happy and permits the realization of the virtuous life. But he had very little conception of economics, and his theory of property was problematic, to say the least. Mises, on the other hand, focused on economic science, and presented a far more coherent vision of property, freedom, and economic growth.

Even so, they cover the same basic territory. What kind of social and political order is most conducive to human flourishing, and what is the role of private property and private life in this order?

Aristotle spoke of the impossibility of the realization of self under common ownership.

“In a state having women and children common, love will be watery; and the father will certainly not say ‘my son,’ or the son ‘my father.’ As a little sweet wine mingled with a great deal of water is imperceptible in the mixture, so, in this sort of community, the idea of relationship which is based upon these names will be lost; there is no reason why the so-called father should care about the son, or the son about the father, or brothers about one another. ”

The absence of ownership, then, leads to the disregard of one’s own life and the life of others. “How immeasurably greater is the pleasure, when a man feels a thing to be his own,” Aristotle writes, “for the love of self is a feeling implanted by nature and not given in vain…”

Everything is at stake: benevolence, gifting, appreciation, and even love. “There is the greatest pleasure in doing a kindness or service to friends or guests or companions, which can only be rendered when a man has private property,” writes Aristotle. “The advantage is lost by the excessive unification of the state.”

These are hugely profound insights. To be sure, Aristotle’s conception of private property is seriously marred by his defense of slavery, and he is reluctant to admit women into the realm of citizens who deserve what we call rights today. To read this material, one must always keep in mind how lost the contributions of the Enlightenment truly were on the ancient philosophers. They knew nothing of universal rights, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. Still, given that proviso, we can see Aristotle working his way toward a coherent theory of the social order.

He goes further to condemn looting of property through the political system. “If the poor, for example, because they are more in number, divide among themselves the property of the rich, is not this unjust? … if this is not injustice, pray what is?” The reverse is also true, he wrote. It would be unjust for the rich to use their power and wealth to pillage the poor.

Aristotle repeats his injunction and summarizes: “I do not think that property ought to be common, as some maintain, but only that by friendly consent there should be a common use of it; and that no citizen should be in want of subsistence.”

Mises took this whole analysis much further. The first third of Socialism presents a complete theory of social order and the place of property within it. He treats property not as an ethic or plan from the top but as a technology, something created out of social consensus and made necessary by the existing of material privation.

The extension of the division of labor provides more opportunities for growing wealth, and, eventually the creation of money, which is the key to rational economic calculation in a modern economy. Without private property in capital goods, writes Mises, there is no hope for making sense of the main material challenges society faces.

We know about the opponents of Mises’s views. He was surrounded by an academic class of philosophers and economists who were generally sympathetic to the ideals of socialism. “Socialism is the watchword and catchword of our day,” he wrote. “The socialist idea dominates the modern spirit. The masses approve it. It expresses the thoughts and feelings of all; it has set its seal upon our time.”

Later in the book, Mises addresses prevailing religious ideas at the time, which had turned decisively to favor the socialist idea. He took them apart, one by one, showing that most of the religious thinkers of his day had no conception of the practical need for a thriving society to have modern economic institutions rooted in private property ownership.

Mises takes his argument further to point out that the end of property really is the end of freedom. Every would-be tyrant excoriates private property, not because communism would be great for the people but because private ownership is a barrier to the tyrant’s power and control. In its absence, power rules and there is nothing like freedom. Without private property, there can be no free press, freedom of religion, or freedom of association.

The parallels with Aristotle’s book are uncanny. I’m trying to think of the problems Aristotle faced in the 4th century, BC. There was the epic influence of Plato and his many pupils. Plato wrote, whether ironically or not, in favor of a communist utopia with no property, no families, no ownership, no private life, and he found this to be the only society that is consistent with justice and social harmony.

Aristotle took on Plato, who was representative of the first group of enemies of property in all times: the highly educated philosophy elite. So it ever was and ever shall be.

In addition, in Aristotle’s time, there was an official religion that was stable and reliable and he urged people to be faithful to it. It served the ruling class but it was not utterly insane. But the world must have been populated with self-proclaimed prophets everywhere, people serious about jazzing up the population with some frenzied dream. Always and everywhere this seems to have included the socialist idea. If we could just throw all things into the commons, all human division would disappear and utopia would appear!

This group, the mystics and spiritual dreamers, then, was the second group of enemies of property. Then and now.

But there was still another dangerous force in the land: would-be tyrants. They lie to people. They come to power through promises of democracy. They use the destabilization of revolution to displace one government and push a much worse one. Despots resent the private life of the people that ownership makes possible. They proclaim the wonders of common ownership, but the result of their visions is always the same: more power to the dictators.

We really do face a choice. We suffer under the tyrant’s boot or we uphold the sanctity of private ownership. Aristotle discerned this in the 4th century, BC. Mises drove the point home with his marvelous book of 1922. They lived in radically different times and spoke from a different perspective. But their concern was the same. Ownership and freedom are inseparable ideals, both in their times and in ours.

Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Digital Development at FEE, CLO of the startup Liberty.me, and editor at Laissez Faire Books. Author of five books, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World.

Take the Politics out of Money

You have to admire the moxie of a man that flies a gyrocopter on the Capitol lawn and risks being shot Capitol Police to protest corruption and demand campaign finance reform.

Laudable though his intentions may have been, campaign finance laws are less about reform and more about protecting incumbents from challengers. If we truly wish to reform government, we should be less concerned with getting the money out of politics and more concerned with getting the politics out of money.

The government spends gigantic amounts of money and regulates large swaths of economic activity. These actions create powerful incentives for affected interests to lobby politicians for privileges. As long as the political process has the power to create and destroy fortunes, people will compete to manipulate the system. This incentive problem is inherent to politics and cannot be eliminated by campaign finance reform.

Such “reforms” mean little else than incumbent politicians writing the rules today for the elections they will run in tomorrow. No one should be surprised when they write rules that subtly shift the odds in their favor. One example is the rules limiting individual contributions.

These rules force candidates to draw small amounts of money from a large pool of donors. Incumbents have the advantage of name recognition and established fundraising networks. The longer they have been in office, the more developed this network will become.

These rules benefit incumbents by putting challengers and unknowns at an immediate and even greater fundraising disadvantage, making it hard for them to get the traction to even have a shot at the election.

If someone wants to run outside the current two party duopoly, they put themselves at a huge fundraising disadvantage because third parties lack an established fundraising network. The clichéd version of politics is a smoke filled room where billionaires quaff brandy, but the reality is that the support of the existing party structure is much more important than any one donor. No outsider can appeal to the Elon Musks or Mark Zuckerbergs of the world to fund their campaigns against such entrenched networks. By keeping individuals’ money out of politics, we are ensuring politics as usual.

Campaign finance rules strengthen the role of political parties in choosing candidates. Political parties are not obligated to support everyone that runs under their name. If the goal is reform, one must recognize that political parties benefit from the status quo because they were instrumental in creating it.

What this means is that anyone that strays too far from the party line risks losing indispensable party support. (Former Sen. Jim Bunning’s career was cut short in this way when his own party leadership deliberately torpedoed his fundraising.) Campaign finance rules can have the impact of forcing candidates to work with political parties, thereby strengthening the power and influence of the party system.

Under the guise of creating a level playing field, the current system instead rewards those that find (or create) loopholes and push the envelope on what is legally permissible. Unexpected campaign contributions are the performance enhancing drugs of modern politics. Lobbyists gain power when they find creative ways to circumvent the law and funnel large amounts of money to candidates in need, gaining the perfectly legal influence and access to affect policy.

This is also why those who can bundle contributions are so valuable and why their downfall can create such a ruckus. While small increases in spending have a negligible effect on outcomes, someone that can exploit a loophole or bend the law can raise substantially more funds than an ethically constrained competitor.

Lastly, we must remember that even if a rule is ideal in theory, humans must enforce it. As the newly elected Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker made many political enemies. In retaliation, a prosecutor convinced a judge to authorize home invasions and police raids of prominent Walker supporters.

Such incidents should serve as a reminder that the law is a cudgel that those with power will use to bludgeon those without, given the opportunity. Lois Lerner and the IRS targeted the tea party because complex rules allow for such discretionary abuse. Grassroots organizations now need lawyers just to get off the ground. Incumbents use these rules to their advantage, strangling opposition in the cradle.

As long as politicians remain free to reward their friends and punish their enemies, they will never want for a gourmet meal or a drinking buddy. The problem of corruption is a symptom of the disease of big government.

Politicians control so much of the economy, either outright or indirectly, that those with the most to gain will always find a way to persuade politicians that what’s in their interests is the same as to what’s in the public interest. Campaign finance laws are just the insult to injury: extra power introduced to a system that is supposed by “reformed” by its exercise.

The solution to politicians being bought is to ensure that they have less power to put on auction.

Stewart Dompe

Stewart Dompe is an instructor of economics at Johnson & Wales University. He has published articles in Econ Journal Watch and is a contributor to the forthcoming Homer Economicus: Using The Simpsons to Teach Economics.

Global Warming? The Pope is Wrong

I have devoted the better part of more than two and a half decades speaking out against the charlatans that have created and maintained the greatest hoax ever imposed on modern man. At the heart of this hoax has been the United Nations environmental program and at the heart of that program is an agenda to initiate a massive redistribution of wealth from industrialized, successful nations to those who have suffered, as often as not, from being ruled by despots of one description or another.

It is with profound sorrow and disappointment that I must now speak out against Pope Francis, the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics, whom observers have noted has “a green agenda.” He has become an outspoken advocate on environmental issues, saying that taking action is “essential to faith” and calling the destruction of nature a modern sin.

Before proceeding, let me note that I am not Catholic. My thoughts regarding the Pope are rooted in my knowledge of the long record of lies, false predictions, and claims by various environmentalists over the years.

When the Vatican announced it would hold a conference on April 28 called “Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity: The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development”, I wondered why the Vatican is not holding a conference to organize the protection of Christians—particularly in the Middle East—against the wholesale genocide that is occurring. The Pope is not alone in this. There appears to be little urgency in addressing a threat comparable to the Holocaust of the last century that consigned six million Jews to death for being Jews.

I frankly do not know what is meant by “the moral dimensions of climate change.” Climate change is something that was occurring long before there was a human population on planet Earth. It is the measurement of the previous global cycles through which the Earth has passed for billions of years. It is profoundly natural. Applying a moral dimension to it makes no sense whatever.

As for “sustainable development”, that is a term that environmentalists use to deny any development that benefits the human population.

Environmentalism is deeply opposed to the use of any energy resource, coal, oil, natural gas, as well as other elements of the Earth we use to enhance and improve our lives with habitat of every description from a hut to a skyscraper. Over the last five thousand years we have gone from being largely dependent on wood to the use of fossil fuel energy that keeps us safe against nature—blizzards, floods, hurricanes, forest fires, et cetera.

At the heart of environmentalism, however, is a deep disdain and antagonism to the human race. From its earliest advocates, one can find allusions to humanity as “a cancer” on the Earth. The Catholic Church has been an advocate for the human race, most notably opposing abortion that kills humans in the womb. Its charitable work is legendary.

To grasp how far the forthcoming conference is from the most basic beliefs of Catholicism, one need only take note of the persons scheduled to speak. They include the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, the leader of the institution in which the hoax of global warming was created and advanced. Another is Jeffrey Sachs, the director of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, another voice for global warming, but neither is going to tell those attending the conference that there is no warming and that the Earth has been a natural cooling cycle for the past eighteen years, tied entirely to a comparable cycle of the Sun.

The Green’s response to the voices of those scientists who courageously spoke out to debunk their lies has been to denounce and try to silence them. There is no science to support the global warming hoax.

The one-day summit will include participants from major world religions. The Pope will issue an encyclical on the environment later this year.

Is there a religious or spiritual aspect to opposing the forthcoming conference and encyclical? One need look no further than Genesis. In a Wall Street Journal commentary, William McGurn drew the lesson that it offers “a reminder that God’s creation is meant to serve man—not man the environment.

Quoting Genesis 2:15: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” concluding that “the Earth is to be worked and that this work and the fruit it bears are also blessed.” The spiritual truth to be drawn from this is that man is the steward of the Earth. That does not mean its resources should be abandoned because of bogus claims that the Earth is doomed.

McGurn reminds us that “it is the have-nots who pay the highest price for the statist interventions so beloved the Church of St. Green.” There are more than a billion on Earth who do not have any access to electricity which, in addition to hydropower, is generated by coal, oil and natural gas. Lacking the means to deter the impact of insects and weeds on agriculture, much of the Earth’s annual crops are lost. Lacking access to the beneficial chemicals that protect humans from the diseases transmitted by insects, millions die needlessly.

The Heartland Institute, a free market think tank is leading the effort to alert people to the dangerous message of the Vatican conference because “many people of faith who are familiar with the science and economics of climate change are worried this event will become a platform for alarmism over a controversial scientific issue” noting that “there is no scientific ‘consensus’ on whether there is any need to reduce mankind’s use of fossil fuels.”

The conference agenda is “profoundly anti-poor and anti-life” says the Institute. Plainly said, the Vatican conference incomprehensively would advocate policies whose only result would be the reduction of human life in order to “sustain” the Earth.

“These unnecessary policies would cause the suffering and even death of billions of people. All people of faith should rise up in opposition to such policies.”

The Heartland Institute is sending a team of scientists and climate policy experts to Rome where they will be joined by Marc Morano of the think tank, CFACT. Says Morano, ‘Instead of entering into an invalid marriage with climate fear promoters—a marriage that is destined for an annulment—Pope Francis should administer last rites to the promotion of man-made climate fears and their so-called solutions. This unholy alliance must be prevented.”

© Alan Caruba, 2015

Hillary Clinton Thinks Common Core “A Good Idea”

Hillary Clinton was in Iowa today, campaigning.

According to The Guardian’s live blog coverage by Tom McCarthy, Hillary Clinton is sympathetic towards “the plight of Common Core.”McCarthy reports::

Clinton bemoaned the plight of Common Core educational standards, a good idea she said had been taken hostage by the political debate.

Implicit in Clinton’s message is that Common Core would have been just fine except that it became entangled in politics.

Get a clue, Hillary: Common Core was birthed in politics.

But I think you know that.

The National Governors Association (NGA) is one of two organizations that holds the Common Core copyright. That right there is a problem for a so-called “state led” education initiative.

Then there is U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan using federal money to pay for two Common-Core-associated testing consortia– and announcing as much in 2009, before there even was a Common Core.

Never mind that the other Common Core copyright owner, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), has a CEO, Gene Wilhoit, who thought it would be a good idea to ask billionaire Bill Gates in 2008 to bankroll Common Core.

Politically-connected edupreneur David Coleman– who did business in 2002 (the early days of No Child Left Behind) with Arne Duncan during Duncan’s time as CEO of Chicago Public Schools– was with Wilhoit when he asked Gates for his money.

Then, a few years later, Wilhoit moved on from CCSSO and was replaced by former Pearson associate, Chris Minnich.

Following his CCSSO retirement, Wilhoit conveniently joined Coleman’s Common-Core-centered for-profit-gone-nonprofit, Student Achievement Partners.

And Coleman moved on to become the president of an assessment company, College Board.

So, you see, Hillary, Common Core was never “not political.”

On June 12, 2015, my book on the history, development, and promotion of Common Core, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, will be released.

Clinton should read it.

But back to Iowa.

At least Hillary publicly admitted her sympathy for Common Core.

This puts her on the same side as another 2016 presidential hopeful: Republican Jeb Bush.

However, according to McCarthy’s report of Clinton’s campaign kickoff in Iowa, Clinton plans to dodge directly addressing education in her campaign:

Clinton laid out four campaign planks: 1) revitalizing economy 2) supporting families 3) getting dirty $$ out of politics 4) defending against threats seen and unseen

Surely she knows that she will be asked again and again– and again– about Common Core and its lead-balloon, federally-funded consortium tests.

Clinton will have numerous occasions to “bemoan its plight.”

RELATED ARTICLE: Common Core Ties to Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia [+video]

Politics Is Violence: Force is a means specific to the state

These are selected passages from a series of lectures given by Max Weber at the end of 1918 to the Free Students Union of Munich University and published the following year. The passages are from the essay “Politics as a Vocation.”

The State

“Every state is founded on force,” said Trotsky at Brest-Litovsk. That is indeed right. If no social institutions existed which knew the use of violence, then the concept of “state” would be eliminated, and a condition would emerge that could be designated as “anarchy,” in the specific sense of this word. Of course, force is certainly not the normal or the only means of the state — nobody says that — but force is a means specific to the state.

Today the relation between the state and violence is an especially intimate one. In the past, the most varied institutions — beginning with the Sippe [clan, kindred, extended family] — have known the use of physical force as quite normal. Today, however, we have to say that a state is a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.

Note that “territory” is one of the characteristics of the state. Specifically, at the present time, the right to use physical force is ascribed to other institutions or to individuals only to the extent to which the state permits it. The state is considered the sole source of the “right” to use violence.

Politics as Power

Hence, “politics” for us means striving to share power or striving to influence the distribution of power, either among states or among groups within a state.

This corresponds essentially to ordinary usage. When a question is said to be a “political” question, when a cabinet minister or an official is said to be a “political” official, or when a decision is said to be “politically” determined, what is always meant is that interests in the distribution, maintenance, or transfer of power are decisive for answering the questions and determining the decision or the official’s sphere of activity. He who is active in politics strives for power either as a means in serving other aims, ideal or egoistic, or as “power for power’s sake,” that is, in order to enjoy the prestige-feeling that power gives.

Like the political institutions historically preceding it, the state is a relation of men dominating men, a relation supported by means of legitimate (i.e., considered to be legitimate) violence. If the state is to exist, the dominated must obey the authority claimed by the powers that be.

Professional Politicians

Today we do not take a stand on this question. I state only the purely conceptual aspect for our consideration: the modern state is a compulsory association, which organizes domination. It has been successful in seeking to monopolize the legitimate use of physical force as a means of domination within a territory.

To this end the state has combined the material means of organization in the hands of its leaders, and it has expropriated all autonomous functionaries of estates who formerly controlled these means in their own right. The state has taken their positions and now stands in the top place.

During this process of political expropriation, which has occurred with varying success in all countries on earth, “professional politicians” in another sense have emerged. They arose first in the service of a prince. They have been men who, unlike the charismatic leader, have not wished to be lords themselves, but who have entered the service of political lords. In the struggle of expropriation, they placed themselves at the princes’ disposal and by managing the princes’ politics they earned, on the one hand, a living and, on the other hand, an ideal content of life.

Again it is only in the Occident that we find this kind of professional politician in the service of powers other than the princes. In the past, they have been the most important power instrument of the prince and his instrument of political expropriation.

Politics as Violence

The decisive means for politics is violence.

Whoever wants to engage in politics at all, and especially in politics as a vocation, has to realize these ethical paradoxes. He must know that he is responsible for what may become of himself under the impact of these paradoxes. I repeat, he lets himself in for the diabolic forces lurking in all violence. The great virtuosi of acosmic love of humanity and goodness, whether stemming from Nazareth or Assisi or from Indian royal castles, have not operated with the political means of violence. Their kingdom was “not of this world” and yet they worked and still work in this world. The figures of Platon Karataev and the saints of Dostoyevski still remain their most adequate reconstructions. He who seeks the salvation of the soul, of his own and of others, should not seek it along the avenue of politics, for the quite different tasks of politics can only be solved by violence.

The genius or demon of politics lives in an inner tension with the god of love, as well as with the Christian God as expressed by the church. This tension can at any time lead to an irreconcilable conflict. Men knew this even in the times of church rule. Time and again the papal interdict was placed upon Florence and at the time it meant a far more robust power for men and their salvation of soul than (to speak with Fichte) the “cool approbation” of the Kantian ethical judgment. The burghers, however, fought the church-state. And it is with reference to such situations that Machiavelli in a beautiful passage, if I am not mistaken, of the History of Florence, has one of his heroes praise those citizens who deemed the greatness of their native city higher than the salvation of their souls. If one says “the future of socialism” or “international peace,” instead of native city or “fatherland” (which at present may be a dubious value to some), then you face the problem as it stands now. Everything that is striven for through political action operating with violent means and following an ethic of responsibility endangers the “salvation of the soul.”

ABOUT MAX WEBER

Max Weber (1864–1920) was a German sociologist, philosopher, and political economist. He is often cited, with Émile Durkheim and Karl Marx, as one of the three founders of sociology.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) calls Nancy Pelosi “Mind-Numbingly Stupid”

The 2012 video interview on Fox News Greta Van Susteren with Rep. Trey Gowdy is re-circulating on the internet. In the interview Rep. Gowdy questions former Speaker Pelosi’s comments accusing Republicans of using Congressional investigations to suppress the vote. As 2014 is an election year and ongoing Congressional investigations into activities of the IRS, NSA, DOJ, EPA, Benghazi and others, it is expected that Democrats, like Pelosi, may play the 2 of Clubs again? Or the race card?

The Blaze reported in 2012, “Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) responded to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s claims that Republicans were only going after Attorney General Eric Holder in the ‘Fast and Furious’ investigation in order to further an imaginary GOP agenda of voter suppression, calling the assertion ‘mind-numbingly stupid.’”

[youtube]http://youtu.be/S9CiTTVLh3g[/youtube]

The Blaze states:

“You know my friend Allen West said the race card was the last card in the deck. I think former Speaker Pelosi has opened up a new deck and has found the 2 of clubs. I could not believe it when I heard her saying that. Is that all you have to come back with?” Gowdy told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren Thursday night.

“Is that the best you can come up with, is that we got together in this grand scheme to suppress votes and I’m sure she didn’t say southern states but that’s what she meant,” he added.

At this point, Gowdy was letting it fly and saying exactly what he, and likely many others, think about Pelosi’s bizarre claim.

He went on: “It’s really beneath the office of a member of Congress to say something that outrageous and the fact that she was once the Speaker is mind numbing. I honestly, and I have heard a lot in my 16 years as a prosecutor, I couldn’t believe the words coming out of her mouth. But keep in mind, Greta, this is the same woman who said she could have arrested Karl Rove any day she wanted. So I don’t know what was wrong with her yesterday or today or whenever she said that, but I would schedule an appointment with my doctor if she thinks that we are doing this to suppress votes this fall. That is mind-numbingly stupid.”

RELATED COLUMN: Obama’s Race-Baiting Harms Black Youths

FL Middle school quiz asks – “What Kind Of Party Animal Are You?”

Dr. Fran Adams, Superintendent of Indian River County School District

“I was contacted tonight by a group of parents wanting answers. This quiz (survey) below was given to Ms. [Megan] Kendrick’s 7th grade Pre-AP Civics class last week at Storm Grove Middle School in Indian River County,” writes Laura Zorc, SE FL State Coordinator for Florida Parents Against Common Core (FPACC).

The What Kind of Party Animal Are You? quiz states: “Take this quiz to get a sense of which party, the Republican or the Democrat, is the better fit for you. Remember, you do not have to pick a party – you may remain Independent. You may also change your party.”

Question #1: “I would support a government increase of my taxes if the money were used to pay for expanded health and social programs.”

Question #2: “I think the government should impose stricter limits on access to guns.”

Question #3: “I believe organized prayer should be kept out of schools. Having students pray is a violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

Question #4: “I would support drilling for oil in a wildlife refuge to help reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil.”

Question #5: “I believe that looking out for U.S. interests abroad must come first, even if that means the U.S. takes action without the approval of the United Nations or our allies.”

Question #6: “I believe if you have nothing to hide, theres no reason to worry about government surveillance. It would not bother me if my government listened in on my personal phone calls as long as the surveillance was helping to catch terrorists.”

Question #7: “I believe the government should relax regulations on immigration and find a way for law-abiding illegal immigrants to stay in the U.S. legally and pay taxes.”

NOTE: The answer choices for each question are – Agree (one point), Not Sure (two points), Disagree (three points).

According to Jennifer Idlette-Williams, Principal of Storm Grove Middle School, “The survey What Kind of Party Animal Are You? came from page 14 of the Junior Scholastic Magazine, which is a state approved resource for Florida’s mandatory Civics state curriculum. All three of the Civics teachers at Storm Grove use the survey, and other Indian River middle schools have used it. No grades were attached to the survey and no names were linked to the survey. There was no parental opt out for taking the survey as it is part of the state approved curricula.” Principal Idette-Williams noted, “Students could create their own political party animal. One student created a frog, which can live in the water or on land. This student would be comfortable with both parties.”

What kind of a party animal are you

Quiz used in Civics class. For a larger view click on the image.

According to Zorc, “The students were told that they could not take this Quiz/Survey home, they had to complete [it] at school. One student felt that they must consult with ‘his or her’ parent and did not feel comfortable filling it out. In other words the student had to ‘smuggle it out’ as described to me. (NOTE: Child is afraid of getting in trouble and we will can not disclose identity of child)”

Zorc states, “After you read this quiz/survey, as a parent you will be appalled by material being taught. Parents are outraged at the way the questions are presented.” See teacher’s weekly agenda to notice that this assignment is Common Core State Standards aligned.

“Parents want an explanation to why a ‘civics’ (a study of the theoretical practical aspects of citizenship, its rights and duties…) curriculum aligned to Common Core State Standards is being taught? The FL DOE had been emphatic that CCSS is only going to be taught in English Language Arts and Math only. Secondly, parents want to know ‘who’ approved this curriculum material being taught?” asks Zorc. According to the school principal the FLDOE approved the use of this material.

Parents, concerned citizens and members of FPACC plan to attend the September 24th Indian River County School Board meeting to ask that this material be removed from the public school district curriculum.

EDITORS NOTE: WDW – FL has calls into the school district and school board requesting information including who authorized the use of this quiz, what other schools have used it and how is the data from the quiz used. We are awaiting a reply and will post an update.