Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Potential libertarian implications may stem from presidential sloth

When I previously wrote about the Obama Administration’s announcement that the Department of Justice would be taking a pass on litigating on behalf of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), I stated then I would not engage in analysis of the legislation itself as I recognized how easy of a divisive trap it was.

I stand by that observation still.

What has been slowly percolating in the back of my mind since then is a perspective on the implications President Barack Obama has created in terms of unintended consequences. This time, instead of pushing open the door to socialism wider he and his fellow party members – I believe – may have inadvertently bumped (or, perhaps, “nudged”) open another door that can lead America on a more libertarian path.

Making sense in this essay requires tying the new White House attitude on DOMA with its legal proceedings against the State of Arizona over SB1070.

With Arizona’s attempt to enact legislation authorizing state and local authorities to enforce immigration laws found in the U.S. Revised Code, the legislature and Gov. Jan Brewer were seeking to shoulder a burden that ought to have belonged to the federal government.

In response, the Obama Administration swiftly invoked the Supremacy Clause of Article VI of the United States Constitution and sued to block Arizona’s new law in federal court.

So, here, we have an instance where our federal executive branch openly flaunts its choice to not exercise authority granted to it by legislation. Not only that, it pursued litigation to block one of the states from doing so as well.

Since that whole brouhaha played-itself-out in front of the media, I took the opportunity to pick the brain of a gentleman named Kevin Hawley, who approached me last year and identified himself has having taught constitutional law, and then offered to answer my questions concerning such subject matter.

My inquiry following the SB1070 deliberation centered on the notion of, “What if the states counter-sued the federal government?”

The idea is rooted in the premise that the Constitution serves as a legally binding contract between the federal government in Washington, D.C., and the governments of the Several States. Therefore if the federal government jeopardizes the general welfare of any of the states and their citizens by deliberately failing to act on a federal statute, it stands to reason that would constitute a breach contract.

Demonstrating greater wisdom than I, Mr. Hawley swiftly shot the notion down. He explained that to maintain the balance created by the Separation of Powers the Judiciary retains the power to tell the Executive Branch it must cease and desist with an activity but it cannot compel (or dictate) it to engage in an activity.

Then, in February, the present administration became more brazen in its insistence that it enjoys the prerogative to pick-and-choose when it is going to enforce or uphold certain laws: the aforementioned DOMA.

Now enters the libertarian potential for (pro-)constitutional hijinx.

Since this administration has invoked the Constitution regarding federal supremacy to suppress a state law (SB1070) but then turned around and invoked it on a federal statute they claim falls outside its purview (DOMA), then what are the limits, really, to be found here?

Many libertarians have argued the pair of measures cited above are constitutionally questionable. However, a far greater percentage stands in agreement that there is much, much more emanating from D.C. that is unconstitutional as well.

Just ponder the possibilities if – by the Grace of God – we can elect a libertarian (preferably of the capital-L variety) to the White House next year.

After all, if the President of the United States is well within his or her authority to pick and choose when to enforce any given law, then wouldn’t the President also enjoy the same authority to arbitrarily shutter any Executive Branch office, agency, or even entire department?

If the current president may decide, “This law no longer suits my needs nor agrees with my sensibilities,” then what is there to stop a future president from padlocking the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of Regulatory Affairs and even the Internal Revenue Service and telling thousands of career bureaucrats, “Thank you for your time and dedication, here are some lovely parting gifts, and now beat it!

Bear in mind that, based on the Separation of Powers, when Congress writes and passes legislation which establishes new laws, appropriations, and agencies it merely authorizes the President to engage in these activities and expenditures…

…It cannot compel the President to do so.

Thanks to the American Establishment Left, the precedent to play this game already has been set.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

For Libertarians, dual role comes with the territory

Sometimes, a comment or sequence of events just seems to always standout in memory with unusual clarity. Such is the case with one explanation I heard last year from a friend regarding what he saw as the real difference between men and women when it comes to political activity.

He pointed out that when it comes to getting a political movement underway, women tend to be more task-oriented and focus on the nitty-gritty work which comes with it. All the while, men on the other hand are more likely to sit around and think deep thoughts and carry-on deeper conversations. In more pop culture-friendly terms, women are more inclined to “Walk The Walk” as opposed to “Talk The Talk.”

Based on that observation, he is insistent the Libertarian Party needs a lot more women to join its ranks.

There is great truth to what he says. And, I’ll just come right out and say it: I can vouch for at least half of his premises through my own activity. If you look at my Facebook page, you’ll see a lot of blogs as well as links to various articles of libertarian, small-government interest and the occasional comment on world events.

Still, there is an important point I wish to raise on the topic. Circumstances in our society almost dictate that anyone who joins the Libertarian Party must to some extent be ready to wear the hat of “armchair philosopher.”

Among the general masses, when you invoke the words Republican or Democratic, there is an inherent understanding of where those two political parties stand (in theory, of course) on a host of issues and subjects.

This is a luxury we as capital-L Libertarians do not enjoy.

Last summer, shortly after returning to work from a layoff I was settling-in with my new coworkers on the assembly line when the topic of politics came up. One gentleman, known for being a staunch Republican, expressed his curiosity what my political leanings or affiliation were. Being a candidate for Congress at the time, I boldly and proudly informed him of my membership as a Libertarian – to which he replied, “So how liberal are you?”

It would take the next three months we worked together to explain and impart at least a little bit of understanding how the old one-dimensional, left-right paradigm was outdated (although, thankfully for him, not in those abstract terms).

All this laboriously leads me to my ultimate point. In the vast majority of conversations across this great land of ours, those who identify themselves with either major party don’t need to explain what that identity means. We Libertarians, on the other hand, almost invariably need to engage in some degree of discussion as to what our core principles are.

And that is not to say this is a negative development. Every opportunity to espouse the virtues of true liberty for all citizens is a potential seed of thought planted in the minds of those who will engage us in these conversations.

But, all those who will join our ranks as active, participating members of the Libertarian Party for the foreseeable future will need to be ready to accept that dual role. While the need for functionaries can never be fully met – no matter how successful we may become – the need for the additional skill of readily espousing what true liberty really means inevitably will come with the territory.

So, ladies, be prepared to roll your sleeves up and back down at a moment’s notice.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Unintended consequences revisited: when two laws create combined misery

As the Buckeye State’s Republican-controlled General Assembly and governor's mansion try to move forward in making Ohio a voter ID state, I am reminded of a previous hassle I recently endured with another state law.

Lawmakers bound to the Ohio Republican Party are pushing forward with HB159, which if enacted would be dubbed the “Ohio Fair and Secured Elections Act.”

This General Assembly house bill, which draws a harsh analysis from’s John Michael Spinelli, would require voters to furnish a state photo ID or other form of identification from a short list of options before being able to cast their votes in a primary or general election in Ohio.

In my opinion, this plan has the potential to hit a key snag given the newly-created potential difficulties of obtaining a new license or ID after you move into a new residence.

My prediction is misery will abound when these two measures collide at the expense of many Ohio residents.

I sent an e-mail to state lawmakers from the west-central region explaining the pitfalls of last year’s new ID law. Earlier this week, I received a postal-mail response from House Majority Floor Leader Matt Huffman.

Instead of transcribing portions of Representative Huffman’s letter I simply am attaching my e-mail response below – which includes references to his correspondence with me.

Toward the end, I make my case for how these two measures – one already on the books and one making its way through chambers – will likely combine to disenfranchise voters across Ohio.


Representative Huffman,

I received your letter and I appreciate your reply.

Expanding the list to include the signed lease for acceptable proof of new residence was a basic matter of common sense. I find it surprising it wasn't in the original language of the bill which has become this portion of the Ohio Revised Code's language.

Three suggestions (as you requested) when it comes to aiding the economically displaced residents who are being affected by this law would be to allow them to present a notarized letter signed by the individual(s) needing a new license and the person(s) with whom they now reside, allow mail which has the yellow forwarding sticker affixed by the USPS, as well as doing more to inform the public of this new law. In most circumstances, public notary services are free of charge so this also would be a common-sense update.

In the information you included in your letter, it is not clear at all whether forwarded mail is acceptable.

With my initial e-mail, I stressed the fact that my wife is disabled and just getting to the BMV is a significant undertaking. Going in and waiting in line means draining what little energy she is able to muster for such an evolution. These new proof of residency stipulations have the potential to adversely impact not only the disabled but also the elderly.

When my wife, Marcy, and I went to update our licenses we were completely caught unaware that day. In light of the fact she spent most of May (and much of June) in the hospital receiving treatment for leukemia she still needs to obtain a new license from the local BMV office.

My concerns here are not based on any misguided notion of Social Justice but out of concern for those who are placed in a situation of great difficulty just to be in compliance with state law. From my own experience, the manner in which the new law inhibited my ability to get a new license resulted in me having to pay a $20 late fee. My birthday was May 4 and this year I was due to renew my license anyhow. I was not able to procure an acceptable proof of residency until after the seven-day grace period.

Had I been forced to go longer without a renewed license and were I to have needed to interact with law enforcement during a traffic stop, this law could very well have resulted in me being cited for driving with an expired license – which I would have fought in court in light of the circumstances. In this hypothetical situation, should I have won such a court ruling, you and your fellow legislators may well have been looking at this law being tossed-out and needing to start from scratch in order to put something similar to it on the books.

The more I contemplate this law, the more obvious it is to me that when it was being crafted, proper thought had not been given to the fact that in this electronic age, more and more billing, payments, banking, and other such business are being handled online to reduce paper correspondence. Such as with the documentation I procured for getting my license renewed, I had to go to Spherion and get a pay stub in person with my new address on it. With everything that has transpired personally recently I was unable to attempt this sooner.

Adding to the comedy of the overall situation is the fact my bank requires its customers to furnish a new ID with their new address before it will update it on their accounts. Obviously, this policy by the bank is intended to reduce its customers' risk for fraud or identity theft.

In fairness, I understand completely why these hoops were put in place: to prevent the degree of voter fraud which took place in the 2008 general election and created significant embarrassment for Ohio; and to a lesser degree ensure the growing number of illegal immigrants in our state are unable to fraudulently obtain Ohio drivers' licenses and other false identification.

Speaking of the issue of voting, I am aware there is an effort as of late to add the requirement for presentation of identification at polling places on days of election. When you couple all the difficulties described above (and in previous correspondence) in simply obtaining a new Ohio license with this election fraud initiative, now we are approaching the risk of significant – if not widespread – voter disenfranchisement. The litigation from such a development alone would result in tremendous legal expenses for the state and further add to the embarrassment of Ohio.

I would hope at this point it is obvious that the (both potential and very real) unnecessary obstacles to Ohio residents begin mounting rapidly once this situation is given proper thought. The new law carries with it considerable unintended consequences for Ohioans. We should not have to jump through so many hurdles to – again – simply be in compliance with state laws.

Thank you for your time,

Don Kissick

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Who are the sheep?

There is a video making its rounds on YouTube produced by a group calling itself Exposing where its participants can be seen circulating a petition calling for right wing political commentators to be taken off the air.

The petition isn't real. It's merely a prop to get people encountered on the campus of Cal. State-Fresno to say on-camera
1) they want to see such media personalities taken off the air to "limit their free speech" and
2) then at some point express their support of the First Amendment to the Constitution and the principle of Freedom of Speech.

As already stated above, all the while the conversations are taking place these people are (more than) agreeably signing a petition with the purported aim of removing select individuals from the airwaves and cable television.

At this point, I'll have to admit to being slightly torn on this... with emphasis on "slightly":

These people were being to some extent baited into participating in the fictitious petition. For the student-age individuals, they can be cut a sliver of slack (just a sliver)...

...Youthful exuberance and all that...

But (and there's usually a big "but" with me when I play devil's advocate on videos and other items of this nature) everyone near my age range or older – who were all in favor of somehow getting limits in place on anyone's access to the airwaves – has no excuse for being ignorant of the basic principles of free speech.

Just as importantly, this production reveals another glaring hypocrisy among those who lean this far to the left:

They love, revel-in, and pat each other on the back for labeling listeners and viewers of conservative commentators as "sheep"; however, with a little pandering to their sociopolitical sensibilities they will agreeably apply their signature to whatever you stick in front of them when it's under the auspices of taking from those whom they dislike.

Who are the sheep, exactly?

Friday, June 17, 2011

LP: 40 years is enough -- end the War on Drugs

With today (June 17) marking the 40th anniversary of President Richard M. Nixon's declaration of the so-called War on Drugs, Libertarian Party National Executive Director Wes Benedict has released an astute assessment of where four decades of American drug policy has left our country. I would encourage everyone to read the LP's official statement.

Closer to home, as Ohio tries to solve its own concerns with overcrowded prisons and the bloated costs of the state's criminal justice system -- and specifically corrections -- the War on Drugs continues to exacerbate that problem.

Kevin O'Brien highlighted this problem two years ago when he wrote in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, explaining (out of the more than 52,000 total prison population in the Buckeye State) on a year-to-year basis Ohio incarcerates more than 28,000 individuals, out of which nearly 16,000 are imprisoned for non-violent felonies -- these are crimes for which they are sentenced to a year or less -- and basic possession and "low-level dealing" account for roughly 5,600 of that annual imprisonment rate.

That was in 2009 and the numbers continue to rise.

Prison crowding and the inevitable skyrocketing costs that come with it are just two of the unintended-yet-avoidable consequences of the needless War on Drugs. There also are the tolls taken on families and communities across America. The cold, hard truth on drug-related violence is that only a small percentage of it is committed by individuals while they are under the influence. The violence associated with drugs that shatters our neighborhoods is conducted by those who make their living off of its continued prohibition.

A great deal of that could be forestalled just through legalization of naturally occurring substances such as marijuana, the raw coca leaf, and even poppy plants. To accomplish this, the long-held notions that marijuana (and other natural intoxicants) is a gateway drug to harder substances and leads its users down a path of criminal behavior need to be laid to rest. As with Prohibition following ratification of the 18th Amendment, once alcohol was driven into the shadows those who still desired to consume it went into the shadows in search of it.

And as common sense will tell us, it is in those shadows where the darker elements of our society -- and the harder drugs -- typically are found.

The same holds true for today's War on Drugs. As has been pointed-out on many occasions in recent years, once we begin to address drug addiction in the same manner as alcoholism -- that it is a disease as opposed to a criminal matter -- progress finally will be made on reducing its impact in America.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Majority Whip's stance on lawmaker pay cuts perplexing

Wednesday afternoon it was reported by Ohio News Network's Jim Heath that 78th District Rep. John Adams, Republican House Majority Whip, expressed his opposition to a proposed 5% reduction in pay for members of the state's General Assembly. The language for the cut in pay reportedly is part of an amendment introduced for the Senate's budget proposal and would amount to a little more than a $3000 decrease in salary beginning with the 129th General Assembly.

What is curious about Rep. Adams' stance is the basis for his argument against this cut. According to Heath, the Sidney-based legislator opposes it on the grounds "county officials, teachers, firefighters make more."

Considering how much of a staunch proponent Adams has been of SB 5, this comment invites the proverbial raised eyebrow.

And considering Ohio's budget deficit presently is in the billions, we must acknowledge that this situation is much like the fight to reduce the federal deficit: to get this done there can be no sacred cows in spending.

In light of our state's enormous budget gap in addition to the fact Mr. Adams so actively championed SB 5, I cannot help but find his supporting argument for his stance (shall we say) lacking.

Now, the manner in which SB 5 rolls-back collective bargaining power will not lead to base pay cuts or reductions in insurance coverage for public employees as union representatives have asserted. But, public employees will necessarily have to make very real contract concessions on future pay increases, insurance contributions, and pension pay-ins -- all of which are perfectly reasonable.

What does not seem reasonable is the idea -- in light of the enormous deficit Ohio is facing -- that anyone involved in drafting the above legislative measures would be unwilling to make their own corresponding concessions.

Rep. Adams' position on this particular item is reflective of a growing, broader nationwide concern with our elected officials: that they would deem it appropriate to pass one set of laws for themselves and another set for everyone else.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

When it feels like home

For a stretch of six hours, the worries of life melted away in pursuit of the fight over the worries of the world. And it felt good.

It was a light turnout in front of the Statehouse. But, it was an enthusiastic group which gathered in defense of liberty and the basic human right to live without the specter known as the force of government weighing on any of us.

I did not make my way there right away. I didn't want to leave my wife, Marcy, by herself for too long while she's doing chemotherapy at the OSU Medical Center. So, I arrived shortly before 2 p.m. I missed a few people who had already come and gone. And, the last vestiges scattered shortly before 3 when Richard, the gentleman who posted the dance party here in Facebook, got too dehydrated and feeling well-done in the sun to continue.

The gathering afforded me an opportunity to finally cross paths with a pair of liberty-driven political dynamos I've enjoyed the opportunity to get to know via Facebook, Valerie and Pádhraig, something to which I've looked forward for some time.

The Libertarian Party of Ohio's annual cookout drew a good crowd. There's still a fire in people's bellies to press-on despite the excessive anti-ballot-access measures voted-on by the state legislature. Since the last cookout, the brain trust in Washington, D.C., has piled another $1 trillion of debt on our shoulders. We're still ready to challenge the obsolete status quo.

The highlight of this year's cookout was a new feature conceived by Bob Bridges: auctioning-off opportunities to put a pie in the face of a party leader. The scheduled lineup consisted of Central Committee Chair Luke McKellar, Political Division Director Michael Johnston (also serving on the Central Committee), Central Committee Vice Chair Bob Bridges, and Executive Committee Chair Kevin Knedler.

Kevin was able to draw the highest overall bid for the pleasure of donning a face-full of whipped cream. But, just when it appeared that portion of the festivities were done, our Allen County Libertarian Party Treasurer Paul Hinds called out of the blue, "I'll pay $20 to put a pie in Don's face!"

I can only imagine what the look on my face must have been at that moment. Before I was able to process what I'd been thrust into, higher bids began erupting out of the crowd all around me.

And so I said, "Hey, if I can have a good laugh at others getting pied, then I can take one too."

When it was all said and done, for someone who wasn't on the pie-flinging docket I somehow elicited the second-highest winning bid: which was called by Josh Winkler.

While all this was playing out, I received a call and voicemail from Libertarian Party (National) Central Committee Chair Mark Hinkle, who thought so highly of my most recent blog -- dissecting local regulations of distributing meals to the homeless in Orlando and Houston -- that he was seeking permission to publish it at the LP Website blog.

After hearing the message, I felt compelled to share it with everyone who was still there. At that point I commented, "As if my head couldn't get any bigger," to which someone in the crowd replied, "So we'll need a bigger pie pan next year."

All in all, it was a good day for liberty in Ohio. And, I can't thank everyone enough for making me feel at home as a Buckeye.

When I got back to Marcy's hospital room, all that bluster and ego stimulation melted away upon seeing the one with whom I hope to spend the rest of my life feeling awful and looking so uncomfortable. Cancer just has a way of making you feel less effusive.

But that's OK. I feel at home. And, it feels good to be a Buckeye.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Can I get seconds on my portion of Big Government?

For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Matthew 25:35,36

What would you say if I told you – depending on where you're at – you could go to jail for feeding homeless people?

If you possess a lick of common sense, your reply would likely include an expletive (or two) insinuating I was attempting to excavate livestock waste in your general direction.

Unfortunately, I'm not full of it. Down in Florida, three people were arrested recently for doing just that.

An article in the June 2 edition of the Orlando Sentinel detailed the roundup, which took place in one of the city's parks. The trio reportedly are members of an organization which calls itself Orlando Food Not Bombs. Two of the members posted the $250 bail shortly after their arrests; one – Keith McHenry – is reported to have chosen to forego bail and "let the legal process take its course."

McHenry, according to the Sentinel, is a co-founder of the International Food Not Bombs movement.

Worse yet, the arrests in Orlando are not an isolated story but may be indicative of a trend in American cities. It would seem the latest great new wave of public policy is the War on Individual Charity.

I read a story similar to this out of Houston months ago. There was a couple there who were told by authorities they had to cease and desist home-cooking meals and passing them out to the homeless people in the city as they found them – Progressive do-gooders were unhappy that they hadn't gone through all the health department inspections of their home kitchen and other credentialing.

A representative of the local Health and Human Services Department who spoke with the Houston Chronicle insisted the city had to look out for the public health and wellbeing of the homeless by enforcing controls for public food safety in all situations of food distribution.

So, the ultimate logic is it's better to increase the homeless' risk of starvation (or at the very least malnutrition) than have to worry about whether or not the less fortunate might or might not be exposed to the same risk of food-borne pathogens as they otherwise might be by going to a food pantry and getting the same food from there that they'd be getting from a Good Samaritan who bought those exact same food items at their nearby grocery store and cooked it for them.

But, all is not lost for the Houston couple. According to another government paper pusher there, instead of taking it upon themselves to do charitable work they could avoid the hassle by signing-up with one of the local-government-approved non-profits.

Yes, scoop-me-up another healthy serving of Nanny State, please!!