Common Sense & An Open Mind

Advocating freedom of thought

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    "You must lay aside all prejudice on both sides, and neither believe nor reject anything, because any other persons, or description of persons, have rejected or believed it. Your own reason is the only oracle given you by heaven, and you are answerable, not for the rightness, but uprightness of the decision." T. Jefferson

Archive for the ‘curtailing freedom’ Category

A dangerous precedent

Posted by Free to Think on June 29, 2012

Today’s Supreme Court ruling on Obama’s mandated healthcare program has left me shocked and speechless. As stated by the Institute of Justice, “the Supreme Court has failed in its most basic duty,” abdicating  “its responsibility to enforce constitutional limits on government power.”

Possibly the saddest part about the willingness of Americans to relinquish their freedom and to expand our government is that it will not even achieve their intended goals. Our government has a 0% record of ever reining in the costs of anything, or ever creating a program with long-term economic sustainability.

 

Posted in curtailing freedom, Debt, Detrimental policies, Health care, Intrusive government, obama, Politics, supreme court, taxes | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Internet freedom at risk again

Posted by Free to Think on May 9, 2012

“CISPA is Big Brother writ large, putting the resources of private industry to work for the nefarious purpose of spying on the American people.”Rep. Ron Paul

Back in January I wrote a piece about SOPA and PIPA, the overreaching online piracy bills that threatened to censor free speech and invade our privacy in the name of fighting copyright infringement. Though I was celebrating the popular outcry that resulted in the bills being dropped by both houses of Congress, I warned that “SOPA and PIPA will likely return in some form.” As predicted, similar legislation has been introduced, and it didn’t take long.

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, passed in the House of Representatives last week and now heads to the Senate. Its stated purpose is to thwart the trafficking of pirated and counterfeit goods online.

Intellectual property theft is a huge problem. But many Internet and communications experts say that this legislation will not only be ineffective against copyright infringers, but could be easily abused by those who gather our personal information.

If enacted, CISPA would allow the government and technology companies to share confidential information about Internet users. The Electronic Frontier Foundation says that the bill “leaves ample room for abuse,” and that it would “cut a loophole in all existing privacy laws.”

What has sparked privacy worries is the section of CISPA that says “notwithstanding any other provision of law,” companies may share information with any other entity, including the federal government. By including this phrase, it’s possible for CISPA to nullify existing federal and state laws that protect our private information. “Notwithstanding any other provision of law” is so broad a term that in 2003 the non-partisan Congressional Research Service warned against using the phrase in legislation because of “unforeseen consequences for both existing and future laws.”

If CISPA is enacted, “part of the problem is we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen,” says Lee Tien, an attorney at EFF, which sued AT&T over the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program.

On April 26, twenty-two civil liberty organizations such as the ACLU signed a letter urging our legislators to vote against CISPA, stating, “We are gravely concerned that this bill will allow companies that hold very sensitive and personal information to liberally share it with the government, which could then use the information without meaningful oversight.”

Mozilla has also issued the following statement, “While we wholeheartedly support a more secure Internet, CISPA has a broad and alarming reach that goes far beyond Internet security. The bill infringes on our privacy, includes vague definitions of cybersecurity, and grants immunities to companies and government that are too broad around information misuse. We hope the Senate takes the time to fully and openly consider these issues with stakeholder input before moving forward with this legislation.”

Declan McCullagh, chief political correspondent for CBS subsidiary CNET, cautions that CISPA would allow any user’s personal information to be inspected by government agencies as long as companies agreed to share it. And already pledging their support is Facebook, Microsoft, Oracle, Symantec, Verizon, AT&T, Intel, and the trade association of T-Mobile, Sybase, Nokia, and Qualcomm.

Even without the privacy concerns, the effectiveness of this legislation is questionable.

“Imagine the resources required to parse through the millions of Google and Facebook offerings every day looking for pirates who, if found, can just toss up another site in no time,” points out the San Jose News in an editorial. “When political polar opposites like San Jose Rep. Zoe Lofgren and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul are both arguing against a piece of legislation, you know it must have serious problems.”

Edward J. Black, president and CEO of the Computer & Communication Industry Association, writes that, “Ironically, it would do little to stop actual pirate websites, which could simply reappear hours later under a different name. New America Foundation predicts that this legislation would instigate a data “arms race” requiring increasingly invasive practices to monitor users’ web traffic.

Over 650,000 have signed an Avaaz.org petition against CISPA. Click here to add your voice.

 

Posted in constitutional rights, curtailing freedom, Detrimental policies, Freedom of Speech, Intrusive government, Politics, Ron Paul | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Who is advocating a War on Medicinal Marijuana?

Posted by Free to Think on April 27, 2012

Conservatives claim they believe in economic freedom.

Liberals claim they believe in social freedom.

Yet both Republican and Democratic administrations have demonstrated their belief that a proper use of federal power and resources is to lock up medicinal marijuana providers who opened legal businesses in their state.

In 2003, California passed Senate Bill 420, legalizing cannabis for health reasons. The Medical Marijuana Program,  administered through the California Department of Public Health, requires a recommendation from a physician for the use of medicinal marijuana. The bill requires that the MMP be fully supported through application processing fees.

Back in 2008, when California was fighting against a Bush administration attempt to disable state medical marijuana laws, U.S. District Court in San Jose held that the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution bars federal drug laws from subverting state medical laws.

Despite this, according to the Drug Policy Alliance,  in the past few months “at least 16 landlords in California received letters stating that they are violating federal drugs laws and that state law will not protect them.”

The Obama administration also does not seem deterred by the fact that the U.S. Constitution grants the federal government no authority to override state laws on the matter of illegal substances. But the difference is that on the campaign trail and in the White House, Obama had pledged that he was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state [medical marijuana] laws.”

Says Joe Elford, chief counsel with marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, “President Obama must answer for his contradictory policy on medical marijuana.”

If you’re tired of the duplicity from both parties regarding the failed ‘War on Drugs,’ Downsize DC gives you the opportunity to let your congressmen know: click here to help stop the hypocrisy.

Posted in constitutional rights, curtailing freedom, Detrimental policies, George W. Bush, Intrusive government, Medicinal marijuana, obama, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

New bill suspends passports of delinquent taxpayers

Posted by Free to Think on April 5, 2012

A bill that could allow the federal government to prevent Americans who owe back taxes from traveling outside the U.S. is one step closer to becoming law.

Slipped into Senate Bill 1813, a Democratic-based bill to “reauthorize Federal-aid highway and highway safety construction programs, and for other purposes,” this legislation also includes a provision that would allow for the “revocation or denial” of a passport for anyone with “certain unpaid taxes” or “tax delinquencies.”

The story does not appear to be covered on the national level by any mainstream news organization. But yesterday a Los Angeles CBS station reported that the bill, sponsored by local LA Senator Barbara Boxer, doesn’t appear to have “any specific language requiring a taxpayer to be charged with tax evasion or any other crime in order to have their passport revoked or limited — only that a notice of lien or levy has been filed by the IRS.”

After clearing the Senate on a 74 – 22 vote on March 14, SB 1813 is now headed for a vote in the House of Representatives, where it’s expected to encounter stiffer opposition among the GOP majority.

As I discussed in yesterday’s blog, rarely are stories about legislation that increases the power of our government found in the mainstream press. But I’ve found several, including the story below, from Prison Planet, a website that I’d highly recommend you add to your bookmarks.

Posted in constitutional rights, curtailing freedom, Detrimental policies, Intrusive government, Media bias | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Why is the Healthcare Program being pushed again?

Posted by Free to Think on March 19, 2010

President Obama is postponing his long-scheduled trip to Asia for yet another attempt at passing his health care agenda. Meanwhile, leading Hill Democrats are scurrying to resolve disputes through a host of rewrites. Yet to be decided is how to subsidize health insurance coverage, and whether there are sufficient votes to pass the bill.

If Obama’s healthcare plan failed to pass just a few short months ago, why put the press back on again?

Because this time the administration is trying to muscle the law through using two new tactics. The first is called “budget reconciliation”. This requires only the approval of a simple majority in the Senate and prevents opponents from killing the bills through filibusters. In the Senate’s customary procedure the time for debate is unlimited, and if a minority of 40 senators refuse to stop talking, then you need 60 others to vote to shut them up so the bill can come to a vote.

The reconciliation process, by contrast, limits debate to 20 hours. It was instituted to ensure that minority obstruction couldn’t block important business like passing a budget or reducing the deficit. Many on Capitol Hill agree that it’s been misused. But House Democrats and the White House quickly seized on it as a way to advance a top administration priority that lacks the 60 votes needed to clear the Senate otherwise.

According to Judd Gregg, ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, “That would be the Chicago approach to governing: Strong-arm it through,” he said. “You’re talking about the exact opposite of bipartisan. You’re talking about running over the minority, putting them in cement and throwing them in the Chicago River.”

The second method Obama is using is the popular practice of sweetening unpopular programs by attaching them to completely unrelated bills that are believed to have majority support. In this case, the health care bill is being combined with a student aid measure.

The student aid bill would require the government to originate student loans, eliminating the role of banks and other private lenders in government loans. Just last week Obama proposed that this measure would save the government billions of dollars, which could then be used to award higher Pell Grants. But a Congressional Budget Office report indicated that this measure would actually not save the government any money at all, and Thursday Democrats changed their proposal to include no increases in Pell Grants over the next two years and only a modest increase over the following five. Nevertheless, Democrats are confident this will be a popular program, particularly since they are taking the power out of the hands of bankers, who are not in danger of winning any popularity contests.

With many of the crucial details of the health care plan still under consideration, this situation is a perfect illustration of two big problems that I’ve address before: 1) passing gargantuan laws without adequate time for research and reflection by Congress nor public engagement, and 2) combining two unrelated subjects into one bill in order to pass unpopular measures.

Currently, President Obama is pulling out all the stops. On Monday, he marched out Natoma Canfield, a cleaning woman who has leukemia and had to drop her health insurance because she couldn’t afford it. Listen, this is a tragedy no doubt, but certainly not proof that his healthcare proposal is the solution. I can easily find a young person who was orphaned and crippled at the hands of a drunk driver. He would be a pretty sympathetic character, but not evidence that Prohibition should be reinstated and automobiles outlawed. I really do believe that Obama is sincerely, fervently convinced that he has the answer. But he has yet to address that there are alternatives he refuses to consider, or to show any serious deliberation as to the ways in which his plan could make things even worse.

According to the White House, the new legislation would restrict how insurance companies dole out coverage to customers and require most people to carry policies. MSNBC reports that the government would finance extended coverage to 30 million uninsured Americans by slowing the growth of Medicare and raising taxes. Wait, am I missing something? Exactly how do they plan to slow the growth of Medicare unless they cover less for current recipients, or if they cover fewer recipients? Will we “finance coverage to the uninsured” by creating more people in need?

If the White House forces this legislation through, is there nothing to be done?

 

No, the fight will not be over. Georgia joins Ohio, Florida and a number of other states considering state constitutional amendments to effectively nullify any future national health care plan.

New Hampshire recently introduced a bill proposing a state amendment that confirms the right to “enter into private contracts with health care providers for health care services and to purchase health care coverage.” It would also prohibit the state legislature from requiring health insurance or imposing any fine or penalty for not having coverage.

And Governor C.L. Otter of Idaho became the first state chief executive to sign a measure requiring his attorney general to sue the federal government if Congress passes health care reform that forces Americans to buy insurance. Similar legislation is pending in 37 other states.

So, will this latest attempt at a federal healthcare program pass?

Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey says, “They can probably force this through,” but predicts that it will be at a steep political price at next November’s elections. He argued that the president’s plan will “destroy the most creative, innovative health care system in the world.”

I agree, and believe what I’ve been predicting for at least a decade is finally coming to pass. The general public is waking to the realization that what we need is more political choice and more responsible laws that do not rely on government intrusion in our private lives. According to a Fox News poll, “Four in five voters disapprove of the job Congress is doing — and the voting public’s ire is not reserved for one party.”

Let your legislators know how you feel!

 

Posted in curtailing freedom, Detrimental policies, Health care, Intrusive government, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »