Saturday, April 30, 2011

They touched her, she fought back

This last week proved a whirlwind.

On Wednesday, I came across a video made by former Miss U.S.A. Susie Castillo after undergoing an invasive pat-down search at the DFW airport. You can read the article and watch the video for yourself here.

A few thoughts as I have had time to sit back and digest the entire incident.

First off, I think the TSA provides the starkest, most obvious illustration of constitutional overreach today. Regardless of political orientation, most people intuitively recognize that x-ray scanners and pat-downs involving  genitalia touching crosses the line. If there is any hope in awakening Americans to the daily assault on their liberties, this is it.

That said, some people still don't get it.

"I am glad to get pat down if it means that everyone else will too. I also let my doctor 'violate' me for the same reason--to protect my health. As an American, I enjoy but do not exercise my right not to go to a doctor and not to fly. It is silly for me to insist that I have the 'right' to get on a commercial flight without proving I am a safe passenger," Daniel wrote in the comments section on the story.

Telling me the TSA doesn't violate my rights because I don't have to fly is a little like locking me in a room and claiming I'm still free because you didn't put me in a straight jacket.

The problem is that most people fail to see that rights and freedoms disappear little by little. I tried to illustrate this point to Daniel with a little sarcasm.

"You're right Daniel. I've completely changed my mind on this issue. In fact, I am going to lobby for pat-down searches on the nations sidewalk. After all, it's silly to insist that I have a 'right' to walk down the sidewalk without proving I am a safe pedestrian. Thank you for clearing this up for me."

He never responded.

This story got a lot of play. And I am excited that TAC got out in front of it. But I was a little disappointed with Castillo's response to the whole incident.

The hen lodged her complaint with the fox.

"Great convo with the Congressman! He had some great solutions to fix the TSA assaults. I'll talk about them in my interviews!" she posted on Facebook.

Not to take anything away from Susie, she showed a lot of courage standing up. She refused to simply submit. But appealing to the people who brought us the TSA to solve the problem of the TSA probably isn't going to be the most effective approach.

Here's the good news. As soon as I saw the video, I knew it could propel state TSA nullification bills (particularly in Texas) into the national spotlight. And on Friday, the AP ran a story.

You can read it here.

This goes to show, one person refusing to submit can make a major difference. Can you imagine what would happen if we ALL refused to submit?

“Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them." – Frederick Douglass.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The land of Oz

I love Washington D.C.

I should probably back up and clarify that statement.

I love the city of Washington D.C.

Always have.

I love the history. I love the museums. I love the memorials and monuments. And I’m not sure a better people-watching destination exists.

But the things that happen in D.C.?  Not so much.

I traveled to the capitol last week. I was invited to attend a forum on federalism hosted by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah). I arrived early in the morning and had half a day to kill, so I walked over to the Jefferson Memorial. It was extra cool because it happened to be Jefferson’s birthday. After that, I spent a couple of hours wandering through the Museum of American History and eventually made my way up to Capitol Hill.

I’ve traveled to D.C. numerous times, but this time, something struck me that I’d never really considered.

The entire city is designed to inspire awe.

Stone and marble dominate the landscape. Columns tower high over your head. Flags fly over every building. The Washington Monument reaches up, as if trying to touch the heavens. The Capitol dome dominates the skyline, perched up on the Hill.

D.C. stands as a physical manifestation of hyperbole.

Then there are the flocks of self-important people, constantly scurrying hither and tither. Traffic rushes past in a blur. Stony faced security guards armed with automatic weapons dot the landscape.

D.C. hums with power.

And I think that is how most people view D.C.- not only in a physical sense, but in what it represents as the U.S. Capitol.

Americans view it as the seat of power. The final authority. A sort of secular Mecca.

Doubt me? Watch how most American’s react to the notion of “federal charges.” State charges? Sure, that’s bad. But when you start talking federal charges, then you’re REALLY in trouble.

But for all of its grandeur, its impressive buildings and bustling activity, D.C. possesses only the power we the people gave it.

And when you read the Constitution – it ain’t all that.

D.C. is a great place to visit. But it will never solve America’s problems. It can’t provide what you need. And it’s not going make my (or your) life significantly better.

It’s time to pull back the curtain and see D.C. for what it really is. A little man pulling lots of levers, but limited by the power of the people through the Constitution.

If only we exercise that power.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Nullification - the rightful remedy.

A video created by the New Jersey Tenth Amendment Center.

The politics of personality

Over the last couple of days, I've noticed several blog and Facebook posts written by my libertarian leaning cohorts critical of Rep. Paul Ryan. They root their criticism of the Minnesota congressman in his support for the TARP bailout of 2008.

It's a legitimate criticism.

You can watch the video of his speech here.

But those who immediately poo-poo Ryan's budget  plan due on his lack of  "true" conservative credentials based on his TARP vote commit a logical fallacy. To say nothing good can ever come from Ryan because he enthusiastically supported bailouts two years ago simply advanced an ad hominem argument.

A did B, which was bad. A wants to do C. Therefore C must be bad.

Ryan doesn't represent me. I can't vote for him. My only concern is whether his budget plan is good or bad. If it's a good plan, I will support it, despite his less than stellar TARP performance.

Truthfully, I've not studied the plan deeply enough to form a firm opinion. I do know this. Ryan's is the only plan I've seen that even attempts to tackle the entitlement problem in a politically viable way.

Sure, the principled part of me says just do away with Social Security, Medicare and all of the other federal entitlements. The fed far overreaches its constitutional authority running such programs.

But as they say, Rome wasn't built in a day. And we simply can't just go in an eliminate a program that millions of people depend on.

Is Ryan's plan the best way to go about solving the problem? I'm not sure. But I do know his vote on TARP has absolutely nothing to do with his budget plan.

It just goes to show how deeply personality plays into our politics. We refuse to consider good ideas from those not on our "side", and tow the line when "our" guy starts pushing a real stinker.

Here's an idea. Let's take personalities out of the equation. Let's evaluate policy on its merits. Let's accept or reject an idea based in its potential to advance our principles, not on the person or party advocating it.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Guest post: Plutocracy

As the communications director for the Tenth Amendment Center, my religious beliefs aren't relevant.

Granted, my faith informs my political ideology, but the TAC principle - follow the Constitution every issue, every time, no exceptions, no excuses - stands regardless of your faith in God or lack thereof.

But as a Christian, I am always interested in how faith and government do and do not work together. I came across a blog post by a friend, Tom Baker. I think he makes a poignant observation for those of us who call ourselves followers of Christ. For those of you who don't, I think his observation on the current state of our government bears consideration.

I can see God in socialism. Now, don't get mad about that. Hear me out before you label me some crazy pinko. I can see a lot of grace in socialism, or the ideal of socialism. After all, what is grace if not inherently socialistic? In grace we are all made equal regardless of who we are or what we have done. What is grace if not socialistic? In grace there is no inequity. In grace we are rewarded not based on who we are or what we have done but instead we are rewarded based on God's love for us, for all of us. In grace we are all equal and loved equally based on our inherent worth to God as God's children. This does seem a bit socialistic, doesn't it?

But I can also see God in capitalism. After all, God is a Liberator. In grace Christ sets us free. Capitalism ideally guarantees freedom to pursue economic interest without interference from an oppressive regime. God is nothing if not for freedom and against oppression. Sure, we should be concerned for others. Sure, we should be concerned for the poor. And in fact, in Christ we have been set free in order to do that. Grace frees us from the mandate of the law and binds us in freedom and love. We are free to love our neighbors and care for the needs of those less fortunate without any oppressive force dictating what we must do and how.

Where I do not see God is in plutocracy. A government of the rich and powerful, by the rich and powerful, and for the rich and powerful is antithetical to righteousness, justice, and freedom. A government where money and power buys influence and preferential treatment is as far removed from God as anything imaginable.

The Right fears that we will lose our freedom if we have a more socialistic safety net to provide for the needs of the poor and the powerless. The Left fears that we will lose concern for the poor and for righteousness and justice if we do not have a system in place that ensures some measure of equality. While both sides fight each other over these concerns we have become a plutocracy.

And God is nowhere to be found there.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How did the framers understand equality?

I always find it interesting when I stumble across oft quoted concepts in older writings.

Listen to conservative talk radio or read “right” leaning opinion for any amount of time, and you will likely come across the phrase, “The founders were talking about equality of opportunity, not equality of outcomes.”

I’ve been reading View of the Constitution of the United States by St. George Tucker, a prominent patriot and jurist. His writing on the Constitution was considered vital reading for law students and legal thinkers in the early 1800s, and provides valuable insight into the original meaning of the Constitution and the thinking of the framers.

Tucker explains the idea of equality as the framers understood it. His understanding meshes nicely with the modern view expressed by most libertarians and conservatives.

By equality, in a democracy, is to be understood, equality of civil rights, and not of condition. Equality of rights necessarily produces inequality of possessions; because, by the laws of nature and of equality, every man has a right to use his faculties in an honest way, and the fruits of his labor, thus acquired, are his own. But some men have more strength than others; some more health; some more industry; and some more skill and ingenuity, than others; and according to these, and other circumstances the products of their labor must be various, and their property must become unequal. The rights of property must be sacred, and must be protected; otherwise there could be no exertion of either ingenuity or industry, and consequently nothing but extreme poverty, misery and brutal ignorance.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Nanny staters

The Montana legislature is considering repealing its medicinal marijuana laws.

I don't really care one way or the other what they do in Montana. I'm not a marijuana advocate. I have never smoked weed. Don't want to smoke weed.

But I am a freedom advocate.

I believe people should remain free to choose for themselves what they put into their bodies, especially when it comes to treating illnesses. And quite frankly, I'm sick and tired of self-righteous politicians presuming to tell everybody else what is or isn't good for them.

Nanny state Montana Sen. Rowlie Hutton, (R-Havre) exemplifies the breed.

"Sometimes the most compassionate answer you can give is no, you don't need this."

With all due respect to Sen. Hutton, but who the hell is he to decide what constitutes compassion? Or to decide what another person does or doesn't need? And who is he to presume to hover over the citizens of his state like some kind of mother hen protecting them from the falling sky? 

Thanks Hutton,  but I can buy my own helmet.