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Courier Journal Op-Ed: Sen. Rand Paul | On his gun votes

April 24, 2013 in Politics & Elections

Every time I listen to the parents of the children who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary, I am profoundly sad. I have three boys and the grief and pain that a parent feels when their child is taken is hard to fathom. I can only imagine the magnitude of their grief.
I want to do what we can to prevent these horrific mass murders. I supported amendments that would have increased prosecution of felons attempting to buy guns. Last year, 15,000 felons tried to buy guns, but only 44 were prosecuted. This is inexcusable – a tragic lack of enforcing current law. I, along with other concerned legislators, tried to fix this problem.
I voted to punish states that don’t turn over the records of criminally convicted mentally ill individuals.
I voted for increasing the prison sentences of people who purchase guns and then transfer those guns to people who are ineligible to buy guns.
I have let the president know that I will work with him on any legislation that might help prevent shootings like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary. The disagreement is not over wanting to prevent tragedy, but how to do it.
The president wants to place restrictions and penalties on law-abiding citizens. I want to place and enforce penalties on the people who break the law.
If you want to stop future school shootings, you must first ask: What would have stopped this tragedy from occurring?
The young men who have been committing these mass murders are not deterred by death (most have willingly accepted death at the end of their rampage). Nor have they been deterred by the death penalty or life in prison.
I see no logical reason why they would be deterred by gun registration. In fact, almost 90 percent of crimes are committed with weapons bought illegally.
These sick young men choose gun-free zones to do their killing. These murderers don’t go to the local police station looking for a shootout. They go to places where no one is armed.
When I see the sad, grieving faces of parents who lost their children at Sandy Hook, I want them to know I want to do everything possible to try to prevent such a tragedy from ever occurring again. But the only proposal I know of to deter an armed madman is an armed defense. Many states are now legalizing concealed carry for teachers and principals. Some schools are hiring armed …read more

Source: RAND PAUL

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Sen. Paul Testimony on Constitutional and Counterterrorism Implications of Targeted Killing

April 24, 2013 in Politics & Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Rand Paul yesterday gave a written testimony before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, regarding ‘Drone Wars: the Constitutional and Counterterrorism Implications of Targeted Killings.’ Last month, Sen. Paul’s 13-hour filibuster highlighted this issue, as he noted then and now, that technology is not really the issue. Lethal force to repel active lethal force is not the issue. Rather, the argument is about the authority and constitutionality of executive executions-whether with a drone, sniper, or a spear-without due process and constitutional protections. Below is the text of his testimony for the record.

TEXT OF TESTIMONY:
Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Cruz, Members of the Subcommittee,

When I filibustered the nomination of John Brennan, I focused on whether the President has the authority to assassinate American citizens on American soil without trial or due process. My critics said I was being absurd because this had not happened yet. But that wasn’t the point. The point was whether or not it could happen in the future. The point was whether or not the President, the Attorney General or the head of the CIA believed that the Federal Government had such power.

The point was about the proper role of the Federal Government. The point was whether the Constitution still mattered.

If the Fourth and Fifth Amendments do matter, there was only one possible answer to my question: ‘No, the President cannot assassinate an American on American soil without due process.’ Needless to say, it took me a long time to get that answer. Even during a 13-hour-filibuster, I was never certain I would get that answer.

Today, we are here not to condemn the use of drones in a general sense. Drone technology certainly has its merits and has been useful against our enemies. But the potential for the misuse of drones, or lack of foresight in using them as a general policy-at home or even on the battlefield against terror suspects-raises important constitutional and national security concerns.

We now know that the President has a kill list, which has already included American citizens, such as terror suspect Anwar al-Awlaki. But even overseas, even traitors deserve some due process if they are American citizens, particularly if they are not actively involved in combat. If he was actively engaged in combat against our soldiers, there would’ve been no question-you take him out. But he …read more

Source: RAND PAUL

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Privatize the FAA!

April 24, 2013 in Economics

By Chris Edwards

Chris Edwards

The federal budget sequester is interfering with the air traffic control (ATC) system and snarling up air traffic. As usual, politicians are pointing fingers of blame at everybody but themselves. But politicians are the ones who have strapped the ATC system to the chaotic federal budget. And they’re the ones who have insisted on running ATC as a bureaucracy, rather than freeing it to become the high-tech private business that it should be.

The government wouldn’t be very good at running Apple Computer, and so it’s no surprise that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has major problems running the computer-intensive ATC business. To run smoothly and efficiently, our ATC system should be given independence from the government. We should privatize the system, as Canada has done very successfully.

The sequester mess is just the tip of the iceberg regarding the FAA’s problems. The agency, for example, has struggled with a big upgrade to its air traffic management system called NextGen. The upgrade will need a high degree of technical and management effectiveness to succeed. It’s not clear that the FAA is up to the challenge given its long history of screw-ups on technology projects.

To run smoothly and efficiently, our ATC system should be given independence from the government.”

Last year Bloomberg reported: “More than one-third of the 30 contracts critical to building a new U.S. air-traffic system are over budget and half are delayed, a government audit concluded. Eleven of the 30 contracts underpinning the so-called NextGen system exceed projected costs by a total of $4.2 billion, according to a Government Accountability Office report released today. Fifteen of the contracts are behind schedule by an average of four years, the GAO report said.”

The FAA has long been plagued by such problems. Privatizing the FAA would give leaders of the ATC system the flexibility they need to improve on such dismal performance. Independence from the federal budget would also allow for improved financial management and the ability to expand revenues steadily as the demand for ATC services grows.

Canada provides an excellent model for U.S. reforms. Canada’s ATC system is run by the nonprofit corporation Nav Canada, which is separate from the government. Like any private business, it raises revenues from its customers to cover its operational costs and capital investments. <a target=_blank …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Conspicuous Frugality: Is Cheap the New Cool?

April 24, 2013 in Economics

By Dalibor Rohac

Dalibor Rohac

Economists from Thorstein Veblen to Richard Layard or Robert Frank have worried about the implications of status-seeking behavior. If one’s utility depends, say, on his earnings or consumption relative to his peers, then earning more or consuming more imposes a negative externality on other people. Hence, the argument goes, a progressive tax on income, or a tax on luxury consumption, can enhance welfare because it discourages wasteful status seeking. How compelling is this story in what appears to be an increasingly post-materialist society?

In two excellent posts, Jerry Brito shows how the modern economy enables people to maintain high standards of living while spending less. Because of improvements in the technology of production or retail, people are able to enjoy more leisure without hurting their material standards of living. In other words, markets make frugality less painful than in the old days. With cheap and stylish clothes from Zara and organic food from Trader Joe’s, who needs expensive stores?

According to Jerry, when people pick Zara suits over Brioni, and food trucks over lunches at Michelin-starred restaurants, they do so in order to enjoy more time off work. One would thus expect people to trade luxury items against more leisure. They should be grumpy about the inconvenience of eating a masala dosa served on a plastic plate but appreciate that it comes with the benefit of more free time. Data seem to agree — average working hours in OECD countries have been decreasing over the past decade.

The embrace of frugality seems to be an elite phenomenon, and may not extend beyond large cities and folks with university degrees.”

Yet, anecdotal evidence from both sides of the Atlantic seems to suggest that something deeper may be going on. When the era of cheap Chinese manufacturing started, English-speaking elites didn’t seem particularly cheerful — at most, they grudgingly acquiesced to the new low-cost alternatives that had reached Western markets. In the present era, in contrast, they embrace frugality as something cool. What is more, we see culturally-induced frugality in areas where there have been few fundamental shifts in the underlying supply chain.

One of our favorite culinary personalities seems to be making her living by educating people how to use leftovers in the kitchen. Food trucks and simple ethnic dining are becoming genuinely exciting dining options — not just …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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South Korea's Growing Nuclear Flirtation

April 24, 2013 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

During Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent trip to East Asia, Chinese and U.S. officials reiterated their strong commitment to a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula. North Korea is clearly the principal threat to that goal, since Pyongyang has already conducted three nuclear tests, including one in February of this year. Some experts speculate that the DPRK already has enough fissile material to build several bombs, and leaks from a U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency report in mid-April indicated that the North may now have the ability to shrink the size of a nuclear device sufficiently to create a missile warhead. Although the report added that such a nuclear-armed missile would have “low reliability,” it sparked a flurry of concern in the United States and throughout East Asia.

A less obvious, but increasing, possibility is that South Korea might dash hopes of keeping the Peninsula non-nuclear. Two opinion polls taken in South Korea, including one by Gallup Korea, after the North’s February nuclear test found that more than 64 percent of respondents favored Seoul developing its own nuclear deterrent. It was not an entirely unprecedented result. Following the North Korean attack on Yeonpyeong Island in 2010, polls also showed a surge in public support for an independent deterrent.

It’s pertinent to recall that South Korea had an active nuclear program during the 1970s under strongman Park Chung-hee. Only massive pressure from Washington induced Seoul to terminate that program. But nervousness in South Korea has been building steadily since the United States and the other participants in the Six-Party talks have been unable to get Pyongyang to relinquish its nuclear objectives.

The bottom line is that unless both China and the United States change their strategies, the goal of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula will slip away.”

A pro-nuclear attitude seems to be slowly spreading within South Korea’s political class as well as among the general public. Although President Park Geun-hye (ironically, the daughter of the man who originally flirted with building an independent deterrent) has rejected any nuclear ambitions for her country, there has been a noticeable increase in statements from major political figures and opinion shapers in recent months taking a very different position.

The most outspoken politician thus far on the nuclear issue is Chung Mong-joon, and Chung is not some inconsequential, fringe player. Not only is he a member of the South …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Vultures of Capitol Hill

April 24, 2013 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

Apparently there’s no need for a massive criminal investigation. Congress has already discovered what was behind the Boston Marathon bombing — the sequester.

Even before doctors had finished treating the wounded, several senior Democrats told Politico that “the attack shows why Congress should’ve stopped automatic spending cuts from taking hold in March.” In particular, House minority whip Steny Hoyer pointed to the bombing as evidence that “we need to invest in our security” and not “pursue any irrational policies of cutting the highest priorities and lowest priorities by essentially the same percentage.” Democratic Policy Committee chairman Xavier Becerra went on to claim that the sequester had also hindered the response to the bombing. “We know that first responders are being cut,” he claimed, although there is little real evidence of such cuts. “We know that community police [are] being cut. We know that health-care services, especially emergency health-care services, are being cut.” Anonymous White House sources leaked that they were concerned about “the impact of the sequester on the short-term capabilities and long-term operations of homeland security.”

Former congressman Barney Frank went even further, linking the bombing to tax cuts and the entire movement for limited government, pointing out that “no tax cut would have helped us deal with this or will help us recover. One imagines one of the Tsarnaev brothers suddenly announcing, “They’ve just cut federal spending by less than 2 percent. Quick, go get the bombs.”

Politicizing a tragedy is not just bad manners, but bad policy.”

Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel once famously said that you should never let a crisis go to waste. President Obama and congressional Democrats have been quick to follow his advice. One need go no further than the president’s exploitation of the Newtown tragedy to see this principle in operation. There’s no reason to believe that there won’t be an attempt to use this horrible event similarly.

Not that Republicans have been immune to the temptation. Defense hawks are already seeing Boston as an excuse to avoid making scheduled defense cuts. But most defense spending has nothing to do with fighting the type of terrorism that we saw in Boston. What are we going to do: Fire a drone missile into Boston? Invade Dagestan?

Others have already called for more surveillance and new restrictions on privacy or civil liberties. But before we install a camera on …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Supreme Court Saves Our Privacy? Media Sleeps

April 24, 2013 in Economics

I’d feared that, after George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and, even worse, Barack Obama, the Fourth Amendment’s protection of our personal privacy had nearly vanished. But on April 17, a majority of the Supreme Court, ruling in Missouri v. McNeely, remembered a fundamental liberty we lost during the British occupation that helped ignite the American Revolution.

It should also be noted that the ruling was largely ignored by the pell-mell media in all of its forms.

As John W. Whitehead of the Charlottesville, Va.-based Rutherford Institute (“Dedicated to the defense of civil liberties and human rights”) put it in the organization’s news release headlining this vital decision: “Fourth Amendment Victory: Citing Bodily Integrity, U.S. Supreme Court Prohibits Police From Forcibly Taking Warrantless Blood Samples From DUI (driving under the influence) Suspects” (rutherford.org, April 18).

Whitehead had also filed an amicus brief before the court on behalf of the defendant in Missouri v. McNeely.

Here’s the case: While driving erratically in October 2010, Tyler McNeely was pulled over by a Missouri state highway patrolman, who arrested him on suspicion of drunk driving and took him to a hospital to undergo a blood test for alcohol content. McNeely didn’t want to subject himself to a blood test, but the officer ignored him and had his blood drawn anyhow. Based on the results of the blood test, McNeely was then charged with driving under the influence.

It’s worth noting that Justice Sonia Sotomayor, writing for the majority of the court in upholding McNeely’s refusal to consent, described the forced extraction of a person’s blood as:

“An invasion of bodily integrity (that) implicates an individual’s most personal and deep-rooted expectations of privacy.”

Crucial to the outcome of this case, as Whitehead emphasizes, is “at no point did the officer attempt to obtain a warrant authorizing the extraction.”

As I’ve previously stated, Sotomayor is a valuable addition to our highest court because of her consistent critical thinking. It is quite a contrast from the rigid, self-righteous prejudgments of Justice Samuel Alito. I have her full judgment in this case, and it is illuminating — not only for legal scholars but also for the citizenry at large — to see how she reached her conclusion, which differs from many drunken driving prosecutions.

The Fourth Amendment forbids “unreasonable searches and seizures,” thereby first requiring a warrant from a judge to establish probable cause for a search. Sotomayor points out that there is “expeditious processing of …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Sen. Paul Statement on Domestic Drone Use

April 24, 2013 in Politics & Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Rand Paul released the following statement this evening following erroneous reports of a change in his position on the use of domestic drones.

‘My comments last night left the mistaken impression that my position on drones had changed.

‘Let me be clear: it has not. Armed drones should not be used in normal crime situations. They may only be considered in extraordinary, lethal situations where there is an ongoing, imminent threat. I described that scenario previously during my Senate filibuster.

‘Additionally, surveillance drones should only be used with warrants and specific targets.

‘Fighting terrorism and capturing terrorists must be done while preserving our constitutional protections. This was demonstrated last week in Boston. As we all seek to prevent future tragedies, we must continue to bear this in mind.’

…read more

Source: RAND PAUL