Every once in a while -- some would say in a long, long while -- the federal government comes up with a good idea. For my Baby Boomer generation, many would say the Apollo Space Program merits such classification. More recently, though on a much smaller scale, airline travelers might suggest the TSA Precheck Program and its Global Entry cousin are examples of successful and timely government initiatives.
Bob Barr | All Articles
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Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He was known as a staunch advocate for limited government and individual liberty — passions which continue to be the hallmark of his post-congressional work as a practicing lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia, and as a widely-read and listened to public speaker and columnist. His reputation in support of individual privacy earned him the moniker “Mr. Privacy” from the late New York Times columnist William Safire. Bob has published three books, including one that recounts his leadership in the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton, “The Meaning of Is.” Bob also teaches a course on constitutional law and public policy at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School and serves as Chairman of Liberty Guard, Inc. a non-profit and non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting individual liberty.
Elon Musk is a skilled and successful entrepreneur; certainly one of the best at finding ways to make taxpayers fund his business ventures, from Tesla electric cars to “green energy” solar panels. Like many individuals who cultivate and maintain a high public profile, however, Musk benefits also from having a cadre of individuals in the media who like him, and will write glowing stories about him without regard to objective journalistic standards. A recent article by Justin Bariso caught my eye as a perfect example of this sort of adulatory journalism.
Last month, former Congressman Barry Goldwater, Jr., namesake of the man who came to help define the modern conservative movement with his 1964 presidential candidacy, addressed the state legislature in Indianapolis about a pending bill that dealt with how energy users are charged if they employ solar energy devices. Goldwater, who self-identifies as a "conservative," was in the Hoosier State not to advocate for a free-market approach, but rather as a member of a growing group of so-called conservatives who have become so beholden to -- or enamored of -- solar energy technology, that pressing for protective legislation and government subsidies has come to define for them "conservative governance."
Ten months ago, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, a highly talented prosecutor who I hired as a young Assistant United States Attorney in Atlanta many years ago, issued a written directive requiring federal prosecutors to seriously begin holding individual corporate lawbreakers accountable. The so-called "Yates Memo" sought to end the long-favored practice by the Department of Justice of permitting individuals within corporations (both employees and officers) to escape personal criminal liability for their misdeeds, in favor of holding the corporate entity liable.
Thanks to the federal government's constant overreach and deference to international organizations such as the United Nations, many Americans have become increasingly distrustful of government institutions and officials. Meanwhile, government officials seem to have become increasingly distrustful of individual liberty, a distrust that manifests itself in a number of bizarre and frightening ways.
“Why can’t we all just get along” is the rhetorical lament by which the recently deceased Rodney King will be remembered. “Why can’t they just leave things alone,” however, is the question by which California legislators are defined. Never content to simply enforce laws and regulations on the books --- of which there are enough to keep authorities busy for generations to come --- legislators in this once-golden state continue their constant search for ever more ways to complicate businesses, social relationships and public services.
The Supreme Court’s recent decision upholding portions of Arizona controversial immigration law already has been at least temporarily overshadowed by the decision a few days later upholding Obamacare. However, the immigration decision, which grants broad powers to local law enforcement to inquire into the immigration statuses of people they stop, establishes a major precedent expanding police powers that should not be overlooked or forgotten --- especially not by those who claim the mantle of conservatism.
By upholding Obamacare, the Supreme Court --- a court nominally "conservative" and supposedly "non-activist" --- has driven the final nail into the coffin of limited government. Some conservatives may find solace in the fact that the majority opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts (appointed to the high court by George W. Bush) did not find Obamacare’s individual mandate justified by the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, but they’re kidding themselves if they think such analysis will provide any basis on which to limit the damage wrought by this decision.
Like my hometown Atlanta Braves, the Justice Department is in a slump. The controversial “Fast and Furious” scandal has been the focus of Washington politics for weeks, and may come to a head this week if the full House votes to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt. The problems at the Justice Department, however, run deeper than this single crisis.
Earlier this week, the House Oversight Committee recommended that the full House find Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over materials relating to the Fast and Furious investigation. Clearly, the contempt proceedings are a high-caliber shot across the bow of the Obama administration. But this is not yet a full-fledged constitutional crisis pitting the executive branch against the legislative branch. Whether it will become one remains to be seen.
President Barack Obama’s carefully timed immigration announcement may be good or bad public policy, depending on your position on the political spectrum. But any way you look at it, it is bad constitutional policy.
Technology can be a wonderful thing. Thanks to the efforts and money of skilled individuals and private investors, virtually every one of us can communicate instantly and constantly by phone, video and computer, interact with friends on social media sites, get directions, listen to our favorite artists and watch movies --- all on a single, small device. Such technologic convenience, however, comes at a potentially high price in terms of personal privacy.
State governments from California to Massachusetts and city councils from San Francisco to New York City enact nanny-state measures with such regularity that many of those measures go unnoticed (New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s recent move to ban large soft drinks being an exception). But in recent years, traditionally conservative states and municipalities have begun to enact their own nanny-state laws. This troubling new trend is a reminder of how much power those who prefer government control to individual freedom have in this country.
Emulating its federal counterpart, the Washington state legislature recently passed legislation that, while well-intentioned, endangers constitutionally protected online activity. The intended target: sex-related website postings. The unintended target: owners of websites that would be forced to comply with state regulations so burdensome that they would effectively be put out of business.
For conservatives and libertarians, those elected officials who exercise power wisely, prudently and with restraint deserve to be known as good public officials. By this standard, Michael Bloomberg is easily one of the worst mayors in the country --- if not the worst.
In recent years, Americans have been repeatedly reminded that the level of "political discourse" in Washington is at an all-time low. This may, of course, be true. But what is equally true --- and perhaps more important --- is that the level of oratorical eloquence in Washington has declined significantly in the past few years, as a recent study from the Sunlight Foundation confirms.
The demonization of George Zimmerman and the deification of Trayvon Martin continues.
Unlike some provisions in the Constitution which require reference to outside material, such as the Federalist Papers, to clarify the Framers’ intent, the mandate in Article I requiring a decennial census is crystal clear. Section 2 directs the government to count the number of people within the United States every 10 years, period.
Late last year, Congress ignited a firestorm of protest among conservatives and liberals alike when it took up a provision in the normally uncontroversial National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The problematic language permits the indefinite detention of persons suspected of engaging in “terrorist” actions within the United States, including American citizens. The provision is clearly averse to our Bill of Rights and, like most bad ideas emanating from Washington, it refuses to die.