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FBI Issues Response to Sen. Paul’s Correspondence on Drones

July 29, 2013 in Politics & Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Rand Paul today received further correspondence from the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding his concern over the use of FBI surveillance drones on U.S. soil.
‘The FBI today responded to my questions on domestic use of surveillance drones by saying that they don’t necessarily need a warrant to deploy this technology. I disagree with this interpretation. However, given the fact that they did respond to my concerns over drone use on U.S. soil, I have decided to release my hold on the pending FBI director nominee,’ Sen. Paul said.
Text of the FBI response letter from today can be found HERE.
BACKGROUND
Sen. Paul initiated correspondence on June 20, with a letter to Director Robert Mueller that included questions regarding the FBI’s governance policy on using drones on American soil.
After receiving no response from Director Mueller for weeks, on July 9, Sen. Paul sent a second letter to Director Mueller requesting immediate action to address his questions.
Last week, the office of Congressional affairs at the FBI recently sent two responses, one classified and one unclassified, to answer Sen. Paul’s concerns. The content of the classified letter cannot be disclosed publicly, but a copy of the unclassified response can be found HERE.
The answers included in both letters were not sufficient to answering all of Sen. Paul’s questions, prompting him to send the following correspondence to the FBI on July 25.

### …read more

Source: RAND PAUL

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Do We Need New Climate Change Guidelines?

July 29, 2013 in Economics

By Jeffrey A. Miron

Jeffrey A. Miron

What, if anything, should the United States do about climate change?

One possibility, embodied in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, is to double-down on current policies, which include fuel economy standards for motor vehicles, efficiency standards for household appliances, subsidies for “clean” energies like wind and solar, mandates for biofuels like ethanol and carbon pollution standards for power plants.

‘Ideal’ carbon tax

By raising prices for gasoline, coal and oil, an ideal carbon tax causes substitution of greener alternatives, thus reducing carbon emissions, according to the Cato Institute’s Jeffrey Miron. Higher fossil fuel prices also incentivize research on alternatives.

These policies tend to reduce carbon emissions, but they are blunt instruments for achieving that goal. Enhanced fuel or energy efficiency standards impact new purchases of cars and appliances but not existing stocks. Subsidies for clean energy require government to be a venture capitalist, despite abundant evidence that government does this badly. Bio-fuel mandates do not appear to reduce carbon emissions because they deplete carbon dioxide-consuming forests. Carbon pollution standards for power plants are difficult to monitor and enforce.

What, if anything, should the United States do about climate change?”

More broadly, “command and control” policies do not readily balance emissions reductions against the costs of achieving these reductions. Some reductions are easy to achieve, while others are difficult, so an ideal policy obtains the biggest reductions from sources that require the smallest costs. Complicated rules imposed by bureaucrats at multiple government agencies do not lend themselves to this balancing.

An alternative approach is to replace all these command-and-control policies with a revenue-neutral carbon tax. That is, eliminate the entire command-and-control apparatus; increase or impose new taxes on fossil fuels; and lower other tax rates so as to leave tax revenue unchanged.

A carbon tax is far simpler to enforce than command-and-control policies. It is straightforward to compute the extra carbon cost generated by the tax, so this can be balanced against the estimated benefits of reduced carbon emissions. In addition, a carbon tax raises revenue, which means the U.S. could lower other tax rates while holding total revenue constant.

The economics of how best to address climate change is therefore clear. Why, then, has the U.S. not adopted this approach?

One possibility is that the scientific case for costly global warming is not compelling, but I’ll leave that aside for now. A second possibility is recognition that even ideal carbon taxation makes …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Chris Christie Does Bellyflop on NSA Spying

July 29, 2013 in Economics

By Gene Healy

Gene Healy

Rep. Justin Amash’s unsuccessful July 24 effort to defund the National Security Agency’s dragnet collection of Americans’ call records failed in a close vote, 205 to 217.

Thursday morning, New Jersey’s Chris Christie threw a punch at surveillance skeptics like the Michigan Republican: “This strain of libertarianism that’s going through both parties right now … I think is a very dangerous thought.” “These esoteric, intellectual debates” won’t mean anything when “the next attack” kills “thousands of Americans.” “I remember what we felt like on Sept. 12, 2001,” Christie declared.

My first thought was, “I take back everything nice I’ve ever said about him. Maybe he IS too obese to be president.”

Haven’t the arguments for unrestrained spying gotten any better over the last 11 years?”

My second was, haven’t the arguments for unrestrained spying gotten any better over the last 11 years? Talk to the “widows and orphans,” visualize a smoking crater, and write a blank check to the Security-Industrial Complex?

That, apparently, is the kind of debate over NSA spying that Christie’s pal, President Obama, “welcomes.” Just before the vote on the Amash amendment, the White House charged that “this blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process.”

That took some chutzpah: The debate Obama allegedly welcomes is only taking place because a former NSA contractor revealed that the administration had been lying to the public about bulk data collection. During the July 24 debate, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., one of the PATRIOT Act’s principal authors, reaffirmed that it was never intended to make every American’s call records “relevant” to terrorism investigations.

Contra Christie, the implications of the administration’s sweeping legal theory aren’t particularly “esoteric.” Last Tuesday, Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., explained: “If you know who someone called, when they called, where they called from, and how long they talked, you lay bare the personal lives of law-abiding Americans to the scrutiny of government bureaucrats.”

There’s nothing in the administration’s interpretation of the PATRIOT Act that limits bulk collection to call records. It could be used to vacuum up “medical records, financial records, or credit card purchases,” Wyden said, or for databases of “gun owners or readers of books and magazines deemed subversive” — it makes “the government’s authority to collect information on law-abiding American citizens essentially limitless.”

“Collect it all” is the mentality driving NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander, according to a recent Washington Post …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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With Its Foreign Policy, The Obama Administration Is Turning Hypocrisy into an Art Form

July 29, 2013 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

The U.S. backed military regime in Cairo is killing more supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi. Yet Washington continues to proclaim its inability to see a coup, so America’s aid money still flows. The Obama administration is turning hypocrisy into an art form. Unfortunately, the rest of the world is not fooled.

The great foreign policy illusion in Washington is that the U.S. government controls international events. Thus, the administration proclaims that it must continue to hand $1.55 billion annually to the generals in Cairo to preserve its influence. Yet when did America last exercise influence in Egypt?

Washington has provided almost $75 billion in foreign “aid” over the years, most of it since the 1978 Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel. The peace has been kept, but Egypt always had the most to lose from another war with Israel.

Beyond that, Cairo has consistently ignored American advice. Presidents Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak were authoritarians who made no pretense of promoting democracy or protecting human rights. When the revolution upended Mubarak, the administration successively backed the dictator, urged a negotiated departure, and supported his overthrow. The Egyptian people demonstrated not the slightest interest in what Washington desired.

Washington officials are never content to just shut up and stay home.”

President Barak Obama and his aides counseled the new Egyptian leader, President Morsi, to be inclusive, but he arrogated power to himself while failing to reform the economy. Then the administration unsuccessfully warned military commander Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi against staging a coup.

Since then Washington has urged the military ruler not to target the Muslim Brotherhood and risk driving it underground. He responded by shooting even more pro-Morsi demonstrators. “None of us can quite figure this out,” one administration official told the Wall Street Journal: “It seems so self-defeating.” Actually, it’s quite easy to understand: Gen. al-Sisi has taken Washington’s measure and sees no reason to pay the slightest attention to its wishes. American officials will do nothing other than wring their hands.

After all, they explain, if President Obama acknowledged the obvious, that a military coup had overthrown an elected government, and applied the law, which requires the cut off of U.S. aid, Gen. al-Sisi might ignore American advice. Oh, right.

It would have been better years ago had American officials simply shut up and done nothing. No money would have been wasted. Washington’s impotence would not have been demonstrated. The U.S. …read more

Source: OP-EDS