AreYouLiberal.Com
17Sep/14Off

Mainstream media, cover your eyes and ears: House Select Committee on Benghazi holds first hearing [live stream]

**Written by Doug Powers

The House Select Committee on Benghazi is holding their first open hearing today.

Here’s the schedule:

10 a.m.: Hearing begins.

10:01 a.m.: Democrats say all evidence presented so far fully vindicates the State Department, Hillary Clinton and the White House of any and all wrongdoing.

10:10 a.m.: First witness testifies.

11:30 a.m.: Trey Gowdy gets a stubborn witness to yell “you can’t handle the truth!”

6:30 p.m.: Network newscasts provide little more than passing mention of the story, if any at all.

I’m not sure what day former Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell will testify, but that should make for an extra special fireworks show from the Dem side of the room.

Below is a live stream. If that’s not working try here.

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

**Written by Doug Powers

Twitter @ThePowersThatBe

17Sep/14Off

Election 2014: Democrats Take the Lead on Social Issues, Obama Drags His Party Down

With less than 50 days until the 2014
midterm election, the race for the biggest prize—control of the
Senate—is running awfully close. Republicans, who are almost
certain to pick up several seats in November, ran ahead in most of
the forecasts throughout the summer.

But in recent weeks, Democrats have narrowed the gap. The
Washington Post’s
election model now gives Democrats a 51
percent chance to
hold the Senate
. The current RealClearPolitics no-toss-up map

projects
that Republicans will end up with 50 seats in the
Senate. Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight model gives Republicans a

53 percent chance
of picking up the Senate.

Essentially, it’s a dead heat, and despite early predictions of
a GOP wave, it looks rather like voters aren’t particularly
enthusiastic about either party this year. Obama’s approval ratings
are low, but Republicans don’t have much to run on except
disapproval of the president. In a variety of ways, it’s rough
terrain for both parties. 

Democrats increasingly have an edge on social
issues.
Opinions have shifted over the decades, and voting
coalitions have changed, and there are
multiple

signs
that, after decades in which social and cultural issues
favored Republicans, Democrats are finally gaining an edge. For one
thing, the party is highlighting its stances on contraception,
abortion, and gay marriage. In Colorado, for example, Sen. Mark
Udall’s campaign is built almost entirely on social issues. It
might even be working: Udall currently has a 3.7 point lead on his
opponent, Republican Cory Gardener, according to the
RealClearPolitics (RCP) poll
average
. But even if Udall loses, it’s clear that social
issues—and contraception in particular—are where Democrats feel
very comfortable fighting. That Democrats want this fight now, in a
midterm election with an older and more conservative electorate,
suggests that the politics are only going to shift further in their
direction in 2016.

The other sign that the ground is shifting is that Republicans
aren’t engaging on these fights—at least not like they used to. In
Florida, a swing state that frequently offers a glimpse of the
national mood, Republican Gov. Rick Scott declined to respond to a
question about same-sex marriage. Republicans are openly discussing
a
push to make contraception available over-the-counter
. Social
issues used to be the wedge concerns that Republicans used to split
Democratic voters.

President Obama is a drag on his own party.
There are two related parts to this. The first is that—and this
will be news to almost no one—Republicans really don’t
like the president, and they plan to vote accordingly. According to
a Washington Post-ABC News poll from
earlier this month
, 62 percent of Republicans say that when
they cast their votes for Congress later this year, one reason
"will be to express opposition to Obama."

That brings us to the second part, which is that Democrats
aren’t particularly enthusiastic about their own side.  Less
than half of Democrats—just 42 percent—say that their congressional
vote will be intended to support President Obama, according to the
same Post-ABC poll. Overall, as RCP’s polling average
shows, President Obama’s approval rating has been growing steadily
worse for more than a year (with a spike last fall during the
Obamacare exchange fiasco). RCP’s average now puts disapproval at
53.9 percent, two points shy of the high it hit in November of
2013. The big concern this election amongst Democrats is that their
voters simply won’t show up, hence Bill Clinton’s
message
in Iowa this week: Democrats should not sit this one
out. 

The economy isn’t great for Democrats—but Republicans
can’t seem to capitalize on it.
By most accounts, the
still-sluggish economy is the top issue for voters this year. And
yet in the states and races where it matters most, neither party
has the advantage. 

Politico
polled
likely voters in close races about which party was
trusted more to handle the economy and found respondents were
split: 36 percent picked Republicans, 36 percent picked Democrats,
and another 28 percent said they weren’t sure. Voters in
battleground states, which tend to be more conservative, may not
have a clear preference for which party they trust on the economy,
but a majority seem to be frustrated by President Obama’s handling
of economic issues: In the same
Politico
poll
, 57 percent disapproved of his "economic
leadership."

It’s difficult to discern what the Republican party is
actually for at this point.
When conservative
flagship publication National Review runs an
unsigned editorial
pushing Republicans to propose an actual
governing agenda—to just have one, at all—you know there's a
problem. It's possible, of course, to find individual Republican
legislators—folks like Mike Lee and Rand Paul in the Senate, or
Paul Ryan in the House—who have strong, identifiable policy
commitments. But as a party, it’s hard to identify an agenda other
than opposing President Obama, and whatever it is he wants to do
(except, possibly,
escalate
American involvement in conflict in the Middle
East).

Look at the continuing resolution deal that’s moving through
Congress right now: As Nicole Kaeding of the Cato Institute

notes
, it takes a stand on almost nothing, extending the
authorization of the Ex-Im bank, declining to make the Internet tax
moratorium, and keeping discretionary spending levels constant.
Avoiding a serious shutdown fight was necessary after last year’s
fall showdown, but it’s hard to find an election-year agenda
anywhere.

To some extent, that just reflects the fractured and uncertain
interests of the party’s voters, who don’t quite seem to know what
they want either. But GOP voters haven’t exactly been given a lot
to latch onto in the Obama era. The long-promised
Obamacare replacement plan, for example, never arrived, and

now Republicans politicians don’t really know how to respond
to
questions about what to do with the law’s coverage expansion in
place. 

What we have, then, is a sort of "meh" election. Democrats are
attempting to turn out their base by pushing them to vote against
Republicans on social issues, and Republicans are attempting to
motivate their voters by focusing entirely on opposition to
President Obama. But there's almost no enthusiasm
for either party. 

17Sep/14Off

John Stossel: Make Immigration Easier

Conservatives rightly point out that America is a
nation of laws. No one should be exempt. That's why many oppose
amnesty and other paths to citizenship for illegal immigrants who
are here now. "If they want to be in America," the argument
goes, "they ought to return to their own countries and apply for a
visa legally.

"That sounds sensible, writes John Stossel, but what happens
when the immigrant does that, goes to the U.S. embassy and says,
I'd like to work in America legally? He gets paperwork to fill out
and is told to go home to wait. And wait.
Forbes investigation found that a computer
programmer from India must wait, on average, 35 years. A high
school graduate from Mexico must wait an average 130
years. 

We tell eager workers, "Do it legally; just wait 130 years"?
This makes no sense. We should make legal immigration easier, relax
the rules, and issue work permits, argues Stossel. Immigration
bureaucracy makes life harder not just for the immigrants but for
the rest of us.

View this article.

17Sep/14Off

Why Is the Pentagon Sending Grenade Launchers to College Campuses?

At least 117 colleges have acquired
surplus military equipment
from the Department of Defense,
according to a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher
Education
.

The surplus military gear was made available under a program
known as the 1033 program, which shot to public attention following
the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri.

Campus police departments have used the program to obtain
military equipment as mundane as men’s trousers (Yale University)
and as serious as a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle (Ohio
State University).

Modified grenade launchers were also acquired, by University of
Central Florida, and Hinds Community College, whilst at least 60
institutions used the program to obtain M-16 assault rifles.

Trousers and office supplies aside, why do campus police
departments require military equipment designed to withstand
roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Among those contacted by the Chronicle was Michael
Qualls, an associate professor of criminal justice at Fort Valley
State University, Georgia. In Qualls' view, there is no reason for
campus police departments not to gain access to military
equipment:

“If we continue on with the 1033 program, as those items become
obsolete at the military level and if they become available, why
not get ’em?” Mr. Qualls said. “It’s better to be prepared than not
prepared.”

However, one thing that the events of Ferguson showed was that
once police departments possess military equipment, they are
increasingly likely to use it. The improper use of such equipment
can further exacerbate tensions with law enforcement, and is
potentially disastrous.

America has already seen the disastrous consequences that can
occur when a militarized force clashes with students.  In 1970
it resulted in the death of four young college students, in what
became known as the Kent State massacre.

This senseless loss of life was recently used as
inspiration for a sweatshirt design
, in what was probably a
publicity stunt by Urban Outfitters. Regardless of your view of the
garment, it's a reminder of what is at stake when it comes to
police militarization.

17Sep/14Off

FL Anti-School Choice Group Wants Catholic Judge to Recuse Herself

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A group called Fund Education Now wants a state circuit court judge to recuse herself from an education dispute because she’s Catholic.

Citing her own independent research, Kathleen Oropeza, the group’s president,filed a motion in an ongoing lawsuit in which she explains that Judge Angela C. Dempseyis unable to be impartial because of her association with Catholic “interests” and “her relationship with Catholic doctrine.”

The plaintiffs, an assembly of activist groups and private individuals, allege state government has failed in its constitutional duty to provide enough funding to establish a high-quality public education system. As a result, student performance has suffered, they say.

Oropeza says Dempsey can’t be fair because of her membership and board service with Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida, a socially active ministry, and a past speaking engagement at a Leon County private Catholic school that happens to accept tax credit scholarships for poor students.

Other alleged disqualifying factors outlined in the court document include an amicus brief filed by the Florida Catholic Conference — a group Dempsey has no direct affiliation with — relating to a previously failed attempt to establish a school voucher program.

Oropeza further says her “discover(y) of a Catholic strategy for saving Catholic education through Florida-style Opportunity Scholarships,” and a television news report indicating church cardinals and bishops were pushing vouchers led her to file the motion.

“Had I been aware of this relationship, I would have moved to disqualify her before she ruled in my case,” Oropeza said.

Read More on Watchdog.org.

 

The post FL Anti-School Choice Group Wants Catholic Judge to Recuse Herself appeared first on Daily Signal.

17Sep/14Off

New Ad Campaign Urges Cannabis Consumers to Learn From Maureen Dowd’s Marijuana Mistake

A new new public
awareness campaign
in Colorado, aimed at encouraging
responsible use of marijuana edibles, features a billboard that
alludes to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd's

famously unpleasant encounter
with cannabis-infused
chocolate:

Mason Tvert, communications director at the Marijuana Policy
Project, which is sponsoring the ad campaign, explains:

For decades, efforts to educate people about marijuana have been
led by government agencies and organizations that want to maintain
marijuana prohibition. Their campaigns have been characterized by
fear mongering, misinformation, and derision, and they have not
made anyone safer. Like most Americans, Ms. Dowd has probably seen
countless silly anti-marijuana ads on TV, but she never saw one
that highlights the need to "start low and go slow" when consuming
marijuana edibles.

Now that marijuana is a legal product like alcohol in some
states—and on its way to becoming legal in others— it needs to be
treated that way. That's where the Consume Responsibly campaign
comes in.

MPP highlights how far we've come in "A
Brief History of Marijuana Education in America
."

I
discussed
the special hazards posed by cannabis-infused foods
in a column last July. Short version: Edibles are indeed tricky,
but consumers are not as helpless as Dowd portrays them.

17Sep/14Off

Mary Landrieu Welcomes Hispanics to the New Democrat Plantation

5th Annual Children Uniting Nations Conference & Gala

For years the Democrats have operated their party like a plantation, where black voters in particular are expected to be present but not ever actually given anything in return. Now they appear ready to try the same trick with pro-immigration reform Hispanics, in the service of saving Mary Landrieu’s Senate career.

As I am sure you know, President Obama had planned to implement a sweeping and possibly unconstitutional amnesty via executive order, but balked at doing so when it turned out that such a move was deeply and profoundly unpopular with the public and would be likely to cost several Democrat Senators their jobs. In response the Congressional Hispanic Caucus agreed to hold off on causing trouble for Obama until after the election, but demanded that Obama take action prior to Thanksgiving. Obama’s response was, essentially, “that’s no good, Mary Landrieu may still be in a runoff.” Per the WSJ, the Hispanic Caucus has agreed to back off their Thanksgiving demand for the sake of Landrieu’s election chances.

The thing that ought to be really offensive to Hispanics is the blatantly cynical campaign that Mary Landrieu is running on immigration issues. As noted by The LIBRE Initiative, Landrieu is running blaring ads right now declaring that she “voted against Amnesty nine times.” Note, though, that if you actually check Landrieu’s voting record, she has repeatedly voted FOR comprehensive immigration reform which includes a path to citizenship – in fact, the only way to make Landrieu’s claim true is to count each of these votes as a vote AGAINST “amnesty.”

Landrieu is also claiming in her current ad campaign that she is a repeat backer of the border fence, when in fact she said on the Senate floor last year that the border fence was “dumb”:

It is insulting and degrading to ask people to wait on their policy preferences to save the career of a politician who is running on a platform of deliberately insulting their intelligence. But this is what the Democrat party has done to black voters for years, and now they are trying to play the same trick with Hispanics. It’s up to them to decide if they’ll stay on the plantation where the Democrats think they belong.

The post Mary Landrieu Welcomes Hispanics to the New Democrat Plantation appeared first on RedState.

17Sep/14Off

This Makes No Sense: Democratic Senator Wants to Make International Religious Freedom Agency More Partisan

With large-scale attacks against Christians by groups such as ISIS in Iraq, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and Al-Shabab in Somalia, religious intolerance has been much in the news lately. Christians, of course, are not the only religious group subjected to persecution. Whether it is Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims and Falun Gong in China, Baha’is and Jews in Iran, or Ahmadis and Hindus in Pakistan, religious intolerance around the world is rampant.

A small U.S. agency that monitors the state of religious freedom around the world and makes policy recommendations to the president, the secretary of state, and Congress is in danger of becoming more partisan and likely less effective, if the Senate adopts a bill that has been proposed by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.).

76 percent of the world’s population live in countries with  high or very high levels of restrictions on religion.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which was established by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA), is an independent, bipartisan, governmental entity, comprised of nine private sector commissioners of different religious backgrounds with expertise in religious freedom, human rights, and international affairs, who are appointed by the President, the leaders of the President’s party in Congress, and the leaders of the other party. They are assisted by a staff of policy analysts with expertise in different regions of the world and an executive director. Throughout the year, USCIRF commissioners engage in fact-finding trips, contact in-country sources and non-governmental organizations, and then make recommendations, contained in an annual report, about which countries engage in “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom,” thereby warranting the designation “country of particular concern” (which might subject that country to sanctions under IRFA).

The cover of USCIRF 2014 Annual Report. (Photo: uscirf.gov)

The cover of USCIRF 2014 Annual Report. (Photo: uscirf.gov)

Sadly, they are kept busy. According to USCIRF’s 2014 Annual Report, “84 percent of the world’s population identifies with a specific religious group,” and, according to the latest Pew study, religious intolerance around the world is at a frighteningly-high level with 76 percent of the world’s population living in countries with high or very high levels of restrictions on religion.

USCIRF also serves as a watchdog, emphasizing the importance of religious freedom and urging the administration to take aggressive action to urge countries to respect this fundamental human right. When the commissioners believe that an administration has not been zealous enough in its actions, as they often have during both Republican and Democratic administrations, they have been forthright in their criticisms, and they are similarly forthright in their praise on those rarer occasions when they believe it is warranted.

The Durbin bill would politicize the agency by creating a majority staff director and a minority staff director, representing the Democratic and Republican parties.

While commissioners can, and do, disagree with each other, sometimes vigorously, about how to designate a particular country in their annual report, their disagreements do not tend to break down along the usual lines of Democrat versus Republican or liberal versus conservative. They tend to break down, as one might hope, along the lines of each commissioner’s views about whether the country in question has done a better job of respecting the rights of people in that country to freedom of religion or belief since the last reporting period or whether conditions in that country have remained the same or deteriorated since the last reporting period. I have some insight into this process, having served as the General Counsel at USCIRF for a year-and-a-half, including the period when USCIRF was last reauthorized.

The House of Representatives recently voted to reauthorize USCIRF for another five years, along with some minor adjustments that should help USCIRF better fulfill its mission. In the Senate, however, things have gotten bogged down. On July 30, Durbin introduced S. 2711, which would reauthorize USCIRF for only two years, as if the problem will be gone by then. Even worse, the Durbin bill would politicize the agency by creating a majority staff director and a minority staff director, representing the Democratic and Republican parties, who would be empowered to hire additional professional staff members. It is hard to fathom how hiring overtly partisan staff members will help USCIRF address what is, and should always be, a bipartisan, really a non-partisan, issue.

In 1998, IRFA was passed overwhelmingly in the House (375-41) and unanimously in the Senate (98-0) before being signed into law by President Clinton. Religious freedom was one of the principles upon which our country was founded. Presidents and secretaries of state of both parties have stated that concern for the rights of people around the world to believe, worship and live according to their convictions is a fundamental human right and an integral part of our foreign policy. That right is in peril today throughout much of the world. When it comes to reauthorizing a small agency that punches above its weight in terms of highlighting this important issue and pointing out injustices and instances of intolerance wherever they occur, and urging our government to take appropriate action to rectify those injustices, wouldn’t it be better to just leave politics and partisanship out of it?

The post This Makes No Sense: Democratic Senator Wants to Make International Religious Freedom Agency More Partisan appeared first on Daily Signal.

17Sep/14Off

Kid With Laser Pointer Suspended Under Weapons Policy, Because Lasers = Guns

LasersReason readers know that students can get in
trouble for bringing guns to school (even accidentally). They can
also get in trouble for
writing clearly fictional stories
that mention guns. They can
also get in trouble for
folding paper airplanes
and
chewing Pop-Tarts
in such a way that the airplanes or delicious
pastries resemble a gun. "Lookalike" weapons are banned along with
actual weapons in most school districts.

Laser pointers also count as "lookalike" weapons, according to a
Westville, Indiana, school that suspended a 13-year-old boy for
allegedly waving one in the school parking lot. According to

The NWI Times
:

As it turned out, the 13-year-old boy was in possession of a
laser pointer, which police view as dangerous even if it's not
shaped like a firearm.

"They are very dangerous in and of themselves, but anytime you
have anything that looks like a firearm it's obviously a danger and
would be considered a credible threat,"  said LaPorte County
police Capt. Mike Kellems.

Very dangerous? Really? As far as I can tell,
no
one has ever been killed by a laser
. They might be annoying,
and you're not supposed to aim them at planes, but there's no way
they are "obviously" dangerous or a "credible threat."

The way the kid was caught is also telling. According the news
story, no one actually saw him with what was definitely a laser.
Rather, a nosy parent saw him holding "something she believed was a
gun." She went to the authorities—of course—and police searched the
kid's locker, finding nothing. Then the cops asked the boy's
mother, and she offered his laser pointer as a possible
explanation. The naive mother probably thought that would get him
off the hook.

The police didn't charge the kid with a crime, though he was
suspended for a full week. As far as "lookalike weapon" incidents
go, that's actually a fairly light punishment.

17Sep/14Off

Texas Wants to Execute Man Who Killed Home Intruder Who Turned Out to Be SWAT Member

Marvin Louis GuyAttempting to serve a search warrant by
entering a house through a window
got Killeen, Texas, Police
Detective Charles Dinwiddie shot in the face and killed last May.
 It was yet another SWAT raid organized for a purpose other
than the reason they were invented. The police had a search warrant
looking for narcotics at the home of Marvin Louis Guy, 49. They
decided to serve this warrant at 5:30 in the morning and without
knocking on his door. He opened fire on them, killing Dinwiddie and
injuring three others.

Though they found a glass pipe, a grinder, and a pistol, they
did not find any drugs. Former Reason Editor Radley Balko
took note
of the deadly raid in May at The Washington
Post
. A police informant apparently told them there were bags
of cocaine inside the house, which sounds a lot like
another familiar drug raid
in Virginia that got an officer
killed.

The Virginia case ended with Ryan Frederick in prison for 10
years despite his insistence he thought he was defending himself
against in home intruders. He may end up lucky compared to Guy.
Prosecutors in Texas are going to seek the death penalty against
him. KWTX offers a dreadfully written
summary
that says next to nothing about the circumstances of
the raid but gives Dinwiddie’s whole life story. Guy faces three
additional charges of attempted capital murder for shooting the
other officers. The story mentions the no-knock raid but fails to
explain why it happened or the failure to find any drugs.

A search for Guy in the
jail inmate locator
for Bell County, Texas, shows that he is
being charged only for the shootings. There are no drug-related
charges listed. He is being held on a bond totaling $4.5
million.

17Sep/14Off

U.S. Air Force Violates Constitution by Requiring Enlistees to Swear ‘So Help Me God’

Air Force OathIn a
letter
to the Secretary of the Air Force the secular humanist
group the Center for Inquiry (CFI) cites the case of an atheist
airman who was, allegedly, denied reenlistment because he refused
to utter "So help me God" when affirming his oath to defend the
Constitution. If that is the case, he stands on solid ground since
the Constitution in
Article 6
specifically states:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the
members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and
judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several
states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this
Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be
required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the
United States.

The oath is
specified by 10 U.S. Code Section 502:

(a) Enlistment Oath Each person enlisting in
an armed force shall take the following oath:

“I, XXXXXXXXXX, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will
support and defend the Constitution of the United States against
all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and
allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the
President of the United States and the orders of the officers
appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of
Military Justice. So help me God.”

Apparently, up until last October the Air Force had permitted
its members to omit the phrase "So help me God" from its oath. The
CFI acknowledges that the 10 U.S. Code Section 502 does not appear
to make any part of the oath optional, but notes that the U.S. Army
regulations
state:

A commissioned officer of any Service will administer the Oath
of Enlistment in DD Form 4 orally, in English, to each applicant.
Make a suitable arrangement to ensure that the oath is administered
in a dignified manner and in proper surroundings. Display the U.S.
flag prominently near the officer giving the oath. The words “So
help me God” may be omitted for persons who desire to affirm rather
than to swear to the oath.

The Army clearly and correctly recognizes the primacy of the
U.S. Constitution over statutory law. It is notable that the 1789
enlistment oath that remained in effect until 1962 eschewed any
mention of a deity. The Army website tracing the history of the
1789 oath reports:

It came in two parts, the first of which read: "I, A.B., do
solemnly swear or affirm (as the case may be) that I will support
the constitution of the United States." The second part read: "I,
A.B., do solemnly swear or affirm (as the case may be) to bear true
allegiance to the United States of America, and to serve them
honestly and faithfully, against all their enemies or opposers
whatsoever, and to observe and obey the orders of the President of
the United States of America, and the orders of the officers
appointed over me."

Let's go back to that. If the Air Force is requiring its
enlistees to swear to God, it is violating the Constitution that
its members swear or affirm to defend.

17Sep/14Off

Zane Kesey and the New Merry Pranksters’ Acid(-Free) Tests

A technicolor dream bus called "Furthur"
captained by a man named Kesey is zigzagging across the country.
It's no coincidence that exactly 50 years ago, a nearly identical
magic trip took place.

Zane Kesey is the son of American literary and cultural icon,
Ken Kesey, who participated in early government tests with
psychoactive drugs like LSD, wrote the powerfully
anti-establishment novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's
Nest
, and then gathered on a busload of folks who called
themselves Merry Pranksters and travelled the country experimenting
with drugs, playing avant-garde music, and spreading love and
mischief. Kesey and his gang were integral bodies in the
constellation of American counterculture, whizzing around and often
colliding with Beatnik-era survivors like Neal Cassidy, budding
writers like Hunter Thompson, groups like the Hells Angels, and
yet-unknown bands like The Grateful Dead.

Zane, who has the same mountain man frame and infectious smile
as his father, thinks a lot of that stuff was pretty cool, so this
May he launched a Kickstarter campaign and raised more than enough
funds to do the trip again. Wearing an electric-blue zebra-stripe
carnival-prize pimp hat and a day-glo-splattered jumpsuit, he
rolled into the college town of Kent, Ohio this Monday and
explained his aim:

On the surface we're doing the 50th anniversary trip
and just going out and doing a bus trip and having fun, but deeper
down we're setting out to see what that seed has blossomed into and
how much of the '60s is still out there and whether it's thrived or
shriveled on the vine and so far we're seeing a lot of really good
stuff.

The nutshell of the '60s and almost what made it fall apart is
[the idea that] all you need is love. And if you got everyone on
that same page it would be a beautiful world. Not everybody got on
that page. I'd still like to get everybody on that page.

Another part of the goal is to raise interest and money for a
long-delayed restoration project of the original Furthur bus (there
are several), to preserve that piece of American history. He and
his pranksters stop in cities for jam band shows, play some music
of their own, and sell blotter paper. Zane makes it clear, the
paper is just art. It's drug free and so is the bus.

He's never had a taste for LSD and says that although drugs can
be liberating, they were not an unequivocally positive feature of
the movement his father started. "It's really important for us not
to have that in the trip. And 'don't do drugs' is not necessarily
our message. As long as you do all the steps you did before, you
dress up crazy and act crazy and have psychedelic music and lights
and everybody's having fun, it can be just as much fun."

His intrepid fellow travelers seem to agree. They range in age
from "Pinky," who just turned 21, to some older souls who almost
certainly qualify for Social Security. Brendan, who says he's "an
outlaw in spirit" just joined the bus this week, claims he traveled
all the way from Iraq to part of the fun. All decked out in hippie
and raver attire, they enjoy having dance parties going down the
highway.

Asked about their best experiences so far on this journey, many
said they couldn't single any out.

"Every day is the most interesting day with the pranksters,"
says Matt, who serves as documentarian for the trip. "They're going
to be friends for life." For him, "a big part of the message is
showing that we can go even further in another 50 years" in terms
of developing music, the arts, and the freedom to be "outgoing and
creative and not caring what people think about you."

They're warm, if elusive, individuals. Some of them like
"Thumpah" go by their prankster nickname instead of their given
name. He wants to "prank at free will and allow people to think
that which isn't really is, but at the same time in very humorous
gesture." Far out.

Scotty, a.k.a. "Dontcha Know," says one of their favorite
recurring pranks is to tell someone who looks rather serious, "Hey,
you dropped something." The person looks down. "Oh, you dropped
your smile!"

"I hate seeing people all depressed and driving in their boring
cars and going to their boring jobs and thinking we have to be on
this path. It doesn't have to be like that," says a young woman
named Enthusiastic. She's a 7th grade teacher and wants
to "show kids that they can change the future" by "taking back our
freedom and really using it. Making new music, exploring new ideas.
Going further forever."

It's a tall order to capture and recreate the energy, optimism,
and absurdist humor that shaped American counterculture 50 years
ago, but today's pranksters come at with a palpably genuine
attitude, and they do succeed.

The tour is making stops in Maine and Rhode Island, and then
they're heading, rumor has it, for a stop in San Francisco before
parking the bus back on the Kesey property in Oregon.

17Sep/14Off

“If it was wrong not to protect the consulate in Benghazi, then it’s wrong not to protect the consulate in Erbil.”

In an interview with Nick Gillespie, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)
explains why he supports limited military action in Iraq:

While the beheadings of U.S. citizens James
Foley and Steven Sotloff
 are a factor, he says, Paul is
especially insistent that protecting the U.S.
consulate in Erbil
, Iraq is a major cause for ongoing concern.
Erbil is near Mosul, a city overrun by ISIS with relative ease, he
says, and it's of paramount importance that the United States
protect its diplomatic personnel in Iraq.

"If it was wrong not to protect the consulate in Benghazi, then
it's wrong not to protect the consulate in Erbil," he says.

In the same conversation, Paul also reiterates his commitment to
congressional authorization of all warmaking, the need to stay out
of Syria, and why Middle Eastern countries must be the ones who
bear the biggest burden in defeating ISIS.

View this article.

17Sep/14Off

Is Constitution Day Constitutional?

I don't agree with everything in Dahlia Lithwick's
Constitution Day column
, but I agree about this:

"Well, why can't we just make a law against flag burning?" "Because that law would be unconstitutional. But if we change the Constitution—" "Then we could make all sorts of crazy laws!" "Now you're catching on!"You say you've never heard of
Constitution Day™, a federally mandated holiday. Well, that is
probably because it's only been a federally mandated holiday since
2004, when Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia invented it in much
the same fashion that all of our greatest national festivals have
come about: He tucked it into a massive appropriations bill. The
relevant rider of the Omnibus Spending Bill of 2004 amended Title
36 of the United States Code (Patriotic and National Observances,
Ceremonies, and Organizations) by substituting "Constitution Day"
for "Citizenship Day."

Constitution Day commemorates the signing of the U.S. Constitution
on Sept. 17, 1787, and also celebrates "all who, by coming of age
or naturalization, have become citizens." The law itself provides
that all educational institutions receiving federal funds—which
means virtually all of them—must offer up some sort of educational
program about the Constitution. It also requires that the head of
every federal agency offer each employee educational and training
materials about the Constitution on that day. If Constitution Day
falls on a weekend, as it did in 2005, 2006, and 2011, it is
observed on the contiguous weekday.

Now, mandating the nationwide teaching of the document that
protects the most fundamental American freedoms may itself be
unconstitutional, as Nelson
Lund
and the
Heritage Foundation noted back in 2006
. But, of course, that is
just one of those idiosyncratic things that makes the holiday so
special.

If you follow the Heritage and Lund links, you'll see
strict-constructionist arguments of a sort that Slate
writers do not usually endorse. I'm not complaining; it's just odd
that this, of all possible issues, is where the site would find
room for those ideas. I suspect Lithwick just couldn't resist the
#SlatePitch contrarianism of suggesting Constitution Day is
unconstitutional.

Whether or not she's right about the legal question, I don't
think federal education mandates are a good idea. In this case, the
mandate has the additional problem of being confusingly vague,
especially since "all educational institutions receiving federal
funds" is an awfully broad category. And that leads us to my
favorite detail in Lithwick's article: "In 2005, when the law
first went into effect, massage schools and cosmetology programs
evidently flew into a collective panic over how to meet its
requirements."

Bonus link: From the Yes, Libertarians Like To Argue
About Things You Thought Were Settled files, here is
Reason's 1987 debate, "Did
the Constitution Betray the Revolution?
"

17Sep/14Off

A. Barton Hinkle: We Need More Innocence Commissions

According to a study published in the journal of
the National Academies of Sciences, more than two-thirds of all the
innocent people on death row have yet to be exonerated.

Civil libertarians and liberals justifiably find this
outrageous. Conservatives should, too. After all: For every
innocent person sitting behind bars, there’s a guilty perp walking
around free, laughing his head off at the sap who took the fall for
him—and the boneheads who made it happen. What’s the solution? It
would be a good start, argues A. Barton Hinkle, if every state
followed the lead of North Carolina and established its own
Innocence Inquiry Commission. It’s time to start righting the
wrongs of our broken criminal justice system.

View this article.

17Sep/14Off

What’s Behind the Assault on the First Amendment

The Constitution turns 227 years old today. To “celebrate” the occasion, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev, tried to gut the First Amendment.

Last week, he and other Senate Democrats proposed an amendment, related to electoral fundraising and spending, that would have considerably restricted the free speech rights of Americans.

Thankfully, the proposed amendment did not even make it out of the Senate. Unfortunately, the pernicious logic behind it has become a staple of liberal discourse and will continue to threaten one of the cornerstones of our constitutional order.

>>> Read The Heritage Guide to the Constitution

We may all be equal at the ballot box, advocates of speech restrictions say, but the rich use their wealth to obtain outsized political influence. Billionaires and corporations are buying elections by flooding the airwaves with their ads. Legislators are then beholden to those who helped put them into office. We must act, they argue, not to restrict speech, but to save democracy itself.

Those who want to limit free speech in the public square are in effect saying that the American people can only deliberate about political issues with governmental supervision.

To address the problem, the proposed amendment would have allowed Congress and the states to regulate how money was raised and spent “by candidates and others to influence elections.” By this standard, nearly any issue advocacy could be construed as trying to “influence elections.” Both the state and federal governments would therefore have the power year-round to silence people and associations they deemed to have already spoken enough.

The unstated assumptions behind the amendment are particularly telling. They reveal much about the twin pillars of the Left’s elitist worldview: a deep-seated distrust of the American people, coupled with an almost unshakeable faith in the powers of the state to act impartially on behalf of the common good.

Those who want to limit free speech in the public square are in effect saying that the American people can only deliberate about political issues with governmental supervision. Congress and the states must create a regulatory regime to oversee what is said in the public square. Only then can the people be trusted to pass judgment on the issues confronting the country.

Without the benevolent care of their elected (and unelected) overlords, the American people would simply vote for whoever ran the most ads. They would not deliberate. They simply would take their cues from whoever made the most noise.

Elected officials and their bureaucratic minions, by contrast, are inured from such pressures. They can be counted on to act on behalf of the common good. They have no interests distinct from those of the people. They are not members of a ruling class but, rather, “public servants.”

What’s more, they cannot be swayed by any outside pressure. The siren songs of for-profit corporation and shadowy outside groups have no effect on their impartial deliberations, implies the Left. The people may be dragged hither and tither by the winds of political advertising—but not our elected officials or the employees of the Federal Electoral Commission.

World History Archive/Newscom

James Madison, World History Archive/Newscom

The Left’s iron law of politics—“money corrupts democracy”—somehow does not apply to a whole class of people who are to be entrusted with vast undefined powers to “regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.” That they may use these powers to silence incumbents is nothing to worry about.

It doesn’t take a public service announcement on human nature to see what is wrong with this set-up. If money corrupts, then it corrupts everybody. Elected officials and bureaucrats are just as prone as anyone else to fall prey to special interests when drafting laws or issuing regulations.

A limited, constitutional government creates fewer opportunities for special interests to exert their influence than does a sprawling administrative state.

Must we then resign ourselves to a corrupt politics? Is there nothing we can do “to protect the integrity of the legislative and electoral processes,” as the failed amendment aspired to do?

Human nature being what it is, a definitive solution is not to be expected. The causes of what the father of the Constitution James Madison called “faction” and what we call “special interests” are “sown in the nature of man.”

Rather than exempt some from the pull of faction, the wiser course would be to limit the avenues for mischief. A limited, constitutional government creates fewer opportunities for special interests to exert their influence than does a sprawling administrative state.

Liberals have misdiagnosed the root cause of our democratic deficit: The Framers’ federated republic has been superseded by an omnipotent administrative state that is unmoored from the Constitution and beholden to myriad special interests. It chugs along, largely unaffected by electoral outcomes. Congresses come and go, but the administrative state endures and grows.

In this sense liberals are right that people’s votes matter less. Amending the Constitution to concentrate even more power in the government would only make matters worse.

The post What’s Behind the Assault on the First Amendment appeared first on Daily Signal.