Trump Puts His Own Economic Agenda in Danger
Much has happened over the last week. It's worth considering where we are now.
The week started off very badly for Donald Trump when Congressional testimony by the NSA, the FBI, and Trump's own DOJ finally laid bare what we already knew: his wiretapping claims were fabricated. He followed this testimony with a string of dishonest and/or misleading tweets, which served only to compound the problem for his administration. Then the apparent source of his "information" on wiretaps, Andrew Napolitano, was suspended indefinitely from Fox News--because of his false wiretapping claims. To make matters even worse, the FBI director not only indicated that Trump's tweets were fabricated, but he also publicly confirmed (for the first time) that Trump's campaign is under a criminal investigation.
The situation had become so one-sided that Representative Nunes tried to throw Trump a little cover by claiming that Trump's team's communications had, in fact, been picked up by intelligence surveillance, an assertion that ran into trouble almost immediately. Nunes himself acknowledged that these collections were both "legal" and "incidental." The next day he found himself apologizing for handling the situation as he did, and the day after that, he walked back his comments overall. Now he just looks partisan and ridiculous.
Aside from the fact that Trump ought to apologize to all of us for wasting so much time with this, the bottom line is that the allegations were false, and the Trump administration needed a success--badly. That's not what happened though.
The most notable event--and probably the most consequential one as well--was the failure of Trump and establishment Republicans to replace Obamacare. The messaging that followed the bill's demise hasn't boded well for the future either.
I was furious that this situation was handled as it was because I deeply believe that Obamacare MUST be replaced. Obamacare did nothing to address the rampant fraud in, especially, Medicare. By the Obama DHHS's own admission, it has raised health care costs above where they would otherwise have been. It levies additional taxes, and it locks millions of Americans into appallingly high premiums that are rising at an even more appalling rate. Replacing the Affordable Care Act (which, ironically, makes healthcare even more unaffordable for many) was and is a high priority of mine.
The replacement bill needed to be one that took care of those who purchased health insurance on the ACA exchanges. It also needed to lessen the impact of our government's health care spending on our national debt. It had to protect those with pre-conditions, address fraud, and eliminate single-state monopolies. To accomplish lofty goals like this, two things were needed above all else: compromise and skilled negotiation.
Unfortunately, neither of those occurred. An element of the modern Republican Party views any compromise with Democrats as weakness and borderline un-American, which ensures that any substantial reform we undertake faces a very up-hill climb to passage. They've forgotten the wisdom of the greatest modern Republican President (and one of the greatest overall), Ronald Reagan: he famously said that he'd be happy to get 70 or 80 percent of what he wanted and just come back for the rest later.
In a further blow to Trump, who is a self-proclaimed "brilliant" negotiator, negotiation over the bill's contents went absolutely nowhere. It appears that Trump's idea of negotiation was to make only token changes to the bill and then to have Steve Bannon threaten, twist arms, and otherwise try to force Tea Party-style Republicans to vote for his flawed, establishment bill. (This is quite an empty threat coming from a President with fewer legislative achievements--none--than any other President at this point in a Presidency [even though his party controls both houses of Congress] and the lowest approval rating ever recorded for a President so early in a Presidency--37%.) The result was predictable: Trump and the establishment were defeated by the very strain of the Republican Party that worked to elect Trump in the first place, a result made all the more likely by Trump's demand that voting on the bill tax place on Friday before all potential avenues to reconciliation had been pursued.
Trump's response in the aftermath has been, honestly, appalling. First, he blamed the Democrats, which is odd since the Democrats don't have enough votes to stop bills in the first place. Then he blamed Republicans, even though he himself is a Republican who was involved in crafting this bill. (Interpretation: "Everyone who isn't named Donald J. Trump is at fault. Everyone who is named Donald J. Trump is not at fault.")
His position right now is to simply give up and stick with Obamacare. Really? Stick with Obamacare? Yes, his "great" plan now is to simply keep Obamacare "until it implodes" so that he can blame it on Democrats. Aside from the fact that it's difficult to imagine a more partisan position, it's even harder to imagine an outcome that would hurt more Americans or add more to our national debt than an Obamacare implosion. Our President is not paid to watch policies crash and burn. He is paid to proactively get ahead of problems and to fix them before they "implode." He and Republican Congressional leadership should role up their sleeves and get to work on a serious replacement bill right now.
Instead, they say that they are going to tackle tax reform. I am on board with this as well. The national debt is my top issue, but tax reform is a close second (besides, the two are closely linked). The first step down this path was Trump's budget submission, yet much to Democrats' delight, his budget included no entitlement reform--none! What kind of conservative declines to try to reform entitlements? This amounts to trying to cut tax rates at the same time you're trying to increase spending. No thank you. We should be cutting both tax rates AND spending.
I agree with the writer of the Bloomberg article I just shared here: when Trump was first elected, I felt that perhaps the best thing that would come of it is serious tax reform. I was confident about that. After observing what I have observed over the last two months--and especially over the last week--I must admit that my confidence in our enacting more-than-nominal tax and spending reform is no higher than 50%. Trump is not coming into that challenge from a position of strength. Nor, for that matter, is the GOP overall. This is crucial though, and I will remain hopeful.
I'm sure that many Democrats stand ready to excoriate me for this last bit, but there are two positive developments that are worth mentioning. Voter ID laws, which I firmly support, appear to be making a comeback, most recently in Arkansas. Trump's DOJ is helping to facilitate this. Additionally, more than 500 companies are expected to bid on Trump's border wall--another policy of his that I support. (I may write more on these two policy items later, but before anyone rushes to tell me how hateful and discriminatory I am, perhaps you could ask first why I feel as I do--if I've not yet written a post about them, that is.)
So maybe all isn't lost. Time will tell. Still, if we cannot reform our tax system or our spending, then I'm not sure how much the rest is worth anyway... One can hope.
The image above shows reveals how most governments inefficiently waste our tax dollars. It does not even count the wealth that goes uncreated due to regulations and restrictions.
We'll probably never know to what extent of our potential wealth goes uncreated but if you know at least one guy who really wanted to be a Barber but couldn't afford the $19,000 licensing and education requirements, then you know it happens.
Then there is the additional step after the government takes 25% where they create "quantitative easing" on their 25% turning it into 40% before spending it, and THEN redistributing. That's how it can claim it has "created" wealth.
Unfortunately this quantitative easing makes all of your dollars lose value due to inflation. The Federal Reserve AIMs for 2% inflation every year. This means if you have $100,000 saved up for retirement, in only 10 years, it's lost 20% of its value and it has the purchasing power of now only $80,000.
You are probably thinking, "Wow, that sucks! Where is my incentive to save up a large retirement nest egg?"
I will remind you that this is the AIM and STATED GOAL of the Federal Reserve. And it works great when you have a government with a spending problem. When the government actually gets around to paying off our debt (if ever ) they get to pay it off with heavily-inflated, lesser-valued dollars.
A true wealth-creating society depends on savings which is invested into innovation and growth.
Check this video out and see why only he principles of Limited Government and Free Markets can begin to change the current economic course we are on.
Have you seen/read the President's interview with Time magazine?
Honestly, I just don't know what to say anymore. He clearly has some sort of psychological issues that simply are not normal. The symptoms of it are everywhere:
-Extreme obsession with publicity
-Infatuation with himself
-No apparent qualms with indiscriminate lying
-Sensitivity on a level generally seen in children
-Robust sense of entitlement
-Elevation of loyalty to himself personally over capability (even at risk of ethics violations)
I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that he displays a number of character flaws that, frankly, would cause me tell my kids, "Don't be like him; don't be like the President."
In many ways, he doesn't seem to have developed mentally beyond childhood. His vocabulary appears to be quite small, and the way he thinks about himself and expresses his thoughts is very simple and basic. (He simply doesn't know how to speak publicly without using the same adjectives--"great," "huge," "stupid," etc.--over and over again. When describing North Korea's leader, he said that Kim is "behaving very, very badly," which is how children generally think. Kim's issues are far more complex than just "behaving badly," but this is the very simple-minded way Trump views complex problems that he doesn't understand.) To top it all off, he brags about not reading--again, something one generally sees in junior high and high school students.
He takes everything personally and simply cannot help but to respond to insults. Again, that's what children do. His own responses to insults frequently involve criticizing one's weight, appearance, intellect, etc. I feel as though I'm repeating myself here, but that's how children criticize each other. When he doesn't get what he wants, he whines and lashes out on Twitter, and I honestly do see that more frequently in people under the age of 18 than over it. Even this article itself contains a lot of evidence of this: saying, "I'm the President, and you're not" reminds me of "you're not my mom, so I don't have to listen to you!" This is the very simple way he sees things. He sees things so simply that he actually can't see that he sees things simply--even that escapes him.
I think he hasn't ever matured because he simply hasn't had to: he's always been rich. He doesn't understand the lower or middle classes because he's never been in either. He's been rich since he was born. He was occasionally dropped off at school in a limousine, which is very, very odd even for people far wealthier than he.
I feel as though he was always taught that he was special because he was a Trump and has always been taught to take what he wants--so he does. It's not clear to me that he's really ever earned anything himself. Someone else makes decisions at his company for him. Someone else wrote his books. Someone else wrote The Apprentice. Someone else negotiates on his behalf. Recently he's decided to take credit for using the tax code to his advantage, but, lo and behold, someone else (his CPA) does that for him too. I could go on and on, but it appears that someone else is responsible for most of what's behind his brand, while he sits by profiting from their efforts and from the name "Trump" and lives a lavish lifestyle. The few times when he appears to have taken real, major initiative, his efforts have led to fraud (Trump University) or bankruptcy (SIX times). Several people who've worked with him have said that he simply doesn't have an attention span at all. He just cannot stay focused. Others have said that he's just a "sign on the bottom line" kind of guy. When you consider all of this, it makes sense: he signs papers put in front of him. He's not a "thinker." Maybe it's an extreme form of ADD. Maybe not. It's certainly odd though, and it would be hard to argue that it's been an effective style so far. After all, his executive orders have either had no impact or have tossed out by the courts, and he's had exactly zero bills pushed through Congress.
Pointing to his wealthy, entitled background is only part of the cause though. After all, there are plenty of people who have always been fabulously wealth (e.g., Bill Gates--many, many times wealthier than Trump) who are wonderful people. In fact, MOST rich people are not like Trump. So there's something more--something chemically simply different about Trump's brain. What is it? Who knows. It's obvious though.
So I really just don't know. I could speculate all day long right here and never know the answer. It's clear that it's more than just fighting to put America first though. Something's being put first, but I'm not sure that it's America.
I hope no one interprets this as maliciousness. It is not. It's just an objective assessment of what I'm observing each day.
Editor's Note: Yes, it'd still be horrible with Hillary at the wheel as well!
A new Congressional Budget Office report projecting the effects of the House Republican leadership’s American Health Care Act weakens the case for the bill’s ObamaCare-lite approach, and strengthens the case for full repeal.
The CBO projects that over the next two years, the AHCA would cause average premiums to rise 15 percent to 20 percent above ObamaCare’s already high premium levels. The report raises the prospect that insurance markets may collapse under the AHCA, just as they are collapsing under ObamaCare.
It makes unreasonable assumptions about Medicaid spending; more reasonable assumptions could completely eliminate the bill’s projected deficit reduction. Finally, the CBO projects more people will lose coverage under the AHCA than under full repeal.
The AHCA purports to repeal and replace ObamaCare. In reality, it would do no such thing.
In a previous post, I wrote:
The ACHA retains all the powers ObamaCare gives the federal government over private insurance, gives those powers a bipartisan imprimatur, and therefore gives them immortality. Its repeal of ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion would likely never take effect. It fails to create real block grants in Medicaid, and preserves perverse incentives from both the “old” Medicaid program and the expansion. It would create an ongoing series of crises in the individual market, for which Republicans would take the blame and suffer at the polls, at the same time it would create pressure for more taxes and government spending. It’s hard to imagine what House Republicans were thinking.
Premiums and Market Stability
Full repeal, in particular repeal of ObamaCare’s health-insurance regulations, would cause premiums to fall for the vast majority of consumers in the individual market.
In contrast, the AHCA would increase premiums from their already high ObamaCare levels. “In 2018 and 2019…average premiums for single policyholders in the nongroup market would be 15 percent to 20 percent higher than under current law,” the CBO reported.
Like ObamaCare’s reinsurance program, it would hide a portion of the full premium by shifting it to taxpayers.
Premium increases of that magnitude could further destabilize ObamaCare’s health-insurance Exchanges. Adverse selection has already led to an exodus of insurers from the individual market. ObamaCare has driven every last insurer from the Exchange in 16 counties in Tennessee, leaving 43,000 residents with no health insurance options for 2018. In a thousand other counties around the country, the law has driven all but one insurer from the Exchange. Nearly 3 million people in those counties are just one carrier exit from being in the same position as those 43,000 Tennesseans.
The CBO posits that, nonetheless, “the nongroup market would probably be stable in most areas under either current law or the legislation.”
In most areas. Probably.
Supporters of the legislation note that the CBO projects the average premiums would then begin to fall after 2019. One reason is that the AHCA would end one of ObamaCare’s health-insurance regulations (actuarial-value requirements). Another is that the CBO predicts states would use the AHCA’s new Patient and State Stability Fund to subsidize high-cost enrollees.
There are reasons to doubt this prediction. First, it assumes the Exchanges survive the ensuing adverse selection and make it to 2020. Second, the Patient and State Stability Fund would not reduce premiums. Like ObamaCare’s reinsurance program, it would hide a portion of the full premium by shifting it to taxpayers. So even though the CBO reports that the portion of the premium that consumers see would fall 10 percent by 2026, it is not accurate to say premiums would fall. We don’t know if the full premium would fall or rise after 2019, because the CBO isn’t telling us.
On paper the AHCA cuts taxes and government spending. But it also sets forces in motion that could undo those gains.
The CBO projects the AHCA would reduce federal spending by $1.2 trillion over ten years and reduce tax revenues by $883 billion, for a total reduction in the deficit of $337 billion. That certainly makes the bill appear attractive. Until you look at the details.
Take the bill’s Medicaid provisions. The CBO projects the bill would reduce Medicaid spending by $880 billion. The reduction would come both from phasing out ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion, and from changing how the federal government pays for each state’s Medicaid program.
I doubt these savings will materialize. In my previous post, I wrote:
True enough, the CBO bases those projected spending reductions on assumptions I do not find reasonable.
For instance, the CBO assumes that under current law, some number of the 19 states that have refused to implement ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion would do so. The AHCA reduces the cost to states of implementing the expansion. But rather than assume even more states would implement the expansion under the AHCA, however, the CBO assumes no states would. That makes no sense.
The AHCA would reduce the risks to states of implementing the expansion. Prior to or absent the AHCA, states face the risk that Congress might reduce the enhanced federal funding ObamaCare provides states for Medicaid-expansion enrollees. Such a change would mean states would go from paying 10 percent of the cost of the expansion to paying 50 percent of the cost. A five-fold increase. The AHCA eliminates that risk by holding expansion states completely harmless with respect to Medicaid-expansion enrollees who enroll prior to 2020. It would guarantee states would continue to pay only 10 percent of the cost for every Medicaid expansion enrollee, even after the bill would “repeal” the expansion by barring new enrollments starting in 2020.
The CBO score confirms the folly of the House Republicans’ approach, and that there is no reason not to repeal ObamaCare in full.
The cost of expanding Medicaid would go down, yet fewer states would do it. And here I thought demand curves slope downward.
If I’m correct that more states would expand Medicaid and go on an enrollment binge prior to 2020— and especially if those decisions pressured Congress to scrap “repeal” of the expansion—the CBO’s projected savings from the AHCA would prove too optimistic. If just half of the projected Medicaid savings fail to materialize, that would wipe out all of the AHCA’s presumed deficit reduction.
If states game the new per-enrollee matching grant system of federal Medicaid funding, even more of those presumed spending reductions would evaporate.
Likewise, if the AHCA were to create even more instability in the individual market, it would create even more pressure for additional taxes and government spending to stabilize the market. Even more of the AHCA’s projected savings would disappear.
In January, the CBO projected that completely repealing ObamaCare, without a replacement, would increase the uninsured by 23 million people by 2026. The agency projects the AHCA’s non-repeal approach would increase the uninsured by even more—24 million people. As my colleague Josh Blackman notes, there is ample reason to believe the CBO models overstate the coverage gains achieved by ObamaCare’s individual mandate, and the coverage losses the agency projects would follow its repeal.
Even so, the CBO score confirms the folly of the House Republicans’ approach, and that there is no reason not to repeal ObamaCare in full. Like it or not, the CBO’s estimates of coverage impacts are the ones ObamaCare’s defenders and the media will cite. If Republicans are going to take the same amount of heat either way, they might as well do the right thing and do a full repeal.
Republicans could then repurpose the $361 billion they planned to spend on tax credits on expanding tax-free health savings accounts—a reform that would drive down health care prices for the poor, that Congress can enact via reconciliation, and that does not divide ObamaCare opponents like tax credits do, not least because HSAs do not subsidize abortion like tax credits do. They could convert Medicaid into an actual system of block grants, giving states the flexibility to target Medicaid funds to those who still could not afford the care they need.
Reprinted from Cato.
Michael F. Cannon is the Cato Institute’s director of health policy studies.
This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.
Countable posted a new video today titled, "Impeach the President!" Rhetoric or Reality? Embedded below.
Following in the footsteps of the media's 'Hysteria over Everything' campaign, calls to impeach Trump are bubbling up in the media. The push for impeachment is a political tool to tarnish the reputation of the sitting president because it serves multiple functions.
First, it reinforces the confirmation bias in half the nation who voted for the other guy/gal. Everything the other team does is evil and the presence of the Impeach Trump headline reinforces them that they are the correct team, the moral team.
Secondly, it allows for political opposition to create their Lists of Evil. Every President has had this. Compare:
If you opposed George W Bush you could easily rattle off:
Both presidents lined the pockets of the military industrial complex. Both destroyed individual civil liberties. Both increased the size and scope of government. Both doubled the national debt.
If you naturally agree with one list and resist the other maybe it's time to 'diversify your portfolio' and find more outlets of information. Neither party is interested in the behavior of the President unless he belongs to the opposing party. In the political spectrum, there is not much difference between Democrats and Republicans, despite the common belief that they are the only two choices and polar opposites.
This cognitive dissonance is reinforced by our news sources and partisan commentary. Most people don't get their news from actually reading Bill texts, policy papers or hear multiple sources from differing viewpoints. This becomes evident when they attempt to make their voices heard. As you read, you can hear the talking points relentlessly drummed out since November, mostly conjecture, assertions and falsehoods.
Here are a couple gems from real citizens whose vote has the same equal voting power as yours:
One citizen is delusional enough to think there is a pathway to impeachment and restoration of Democratic Party rule:
The writer’s proposed solution is that everyone simply agree with the writer.
Unfortunately, our biases have reinforced the influence of the two-party system. Until we shake out cognitive dissonance and re-examine events and policies, we will continue to get the leaders we deserve. The true solution to escaping the influence of the opposing political party is limit the government so that the politicians that do slither into office can't impact our lives as easily. Instead of a system where you are trying to force someone to live by your desires, and half your life suffering from their policies, the system needs to limit the power of every part of government.
Instead of Left and Right, a better critique focuses on Liberty. Both parties have expanded the government and increased taxes, regulations, and passed laws that limit your liberties. These policies limit your freedom, your choices, your behavior and your power as a citizen. Ask if the bill your representative is writing is going to make life easier, ask what the cost will be, examine the impact that similar laws have had. Focus on the content, and not the originator. A government should not be about one group winning while another loses. In focusing on liberty, we aim for the win-win in politics.
In contrast, the hyperbolic calls for impeachment are about a person, not an office, not an idea, and not a policy. Such calls stop dialogue, stop negotiations, and widen the divide as people take sides instead of meeting in the middle.
"Get the equivalent of a Ph.D. in libertarian thought and free-market economics online for just 24 cents a day."
Tom Woods has been tremendous in advocating for the teaching and spreading of libertarian ideas and principles. He has even pushed others to start their own blogs to keep the press on these ideas.
The list below is a collection of blogs, podcasts, publications and websites that he is owed direct credit (or blame) for their launch. You'll find a lot of similar blogs that support the same principles we write about here at libertyLOL.com.
You'll also find some that represent the author's other passions outside of the Liberty message. Feel free to peruse and support these sites however you can!
DMR: A large number of people were fired from their jobs after missing work to take part in the "day without immigrants" protests. They're surprised, which surprises me.
Their firings are not the result of politics; rather, they're the result of the normal operation of businesses. Companies have to make examples by holding people accountable, lest all employees start thinking that they can just fail to show up on any given day without consequence.
If you're not incapacitated and simply decide that you don't want to go to work--especially for shift work and/or for time-sensitive positions--then you're running the risk of being fired. There's no exception for those who want to go protest. If you're going to miss work for any reason and do not use vacation time, sick leave, holidays, etc., then you're running the risk of being fired.
Companies pay people to do jobs, not to protest. You protest on your own time. If you want to protest, do it on a day off. Do it on a holiday. Do it using vacation time. Don't do it on your company's dime, and DEFINITELY don't do it on the taxpayer dime.
This idea that people are entitled to their jobs and paychecks when they miss work as long as they missed work for their own ideas about social justice must end. Take a look at your company's leave policy, to which you agreed when you accepted the job offer. I am confident that it doesn't say "vacation time must be used when you plan to miss work unless you plan to miss work to take part in any protest of your choosing."
Companies are not welfare dispensaries. They're not entitlement institutions, and they're not "safe spaces." They're the real world: they're bottom-line organizations. You should be aware of this before you accept a job offer. If you want to protest, do it the right way. If you have no vacation time to use and it isn't a holiday, then don't protest unless you have the clear permission of your supervisor.
This is also unfair to your co-workers who honored their obligations to be at work. They have to take up your slack when you're suddenly out of the office without permission or warning. That should be kept to a minimum and should never happen due to a reason like "I just preferred to do something else with my time today" (unless you're using your vacation time, which should have been de-conflicted).
If your absence led to the closing of a business that day, then you probably harmed ALL of your co-workers, many of your customers, and the business itself. This is why companies can't tell all of their employees to feel free to miss work without warning whenever they want as long as they're out protesting. What are supervisors to do now, start taking roll call at all the local protests? That's ridiculous. If companies let employees get away with this, then you'd suddenly have many, many employees who could always find a good protest or two to attend somewhere. There would be those who'd never let a good protest go to waste. Jobs are not hobbies to which you show up only when you feel like doing so.
This is not an anti-protest post. It's an anti-entitlement post. A person who can't imagine being fired for missing shift work without permission is a person who feels entitled to his job. There is a right and a wrong way to do everything worth doing. Go protest, but do it the right way.
Imagine you are in the middle of your typical day-to-day activities. Maybe you are driving, spending time with family, or working. If you are like most people, your phone is at your side on a daily basis. Little do you know that, at any time, police and law enforcement could be looking at information stored on your phone. You haven't done anything wrong. You haven't been asked for permission. You aren't suspected of any crime.
Police have the power to collect your location along with the numbers of your incoming and outgoing calls and intercept the content of call and text communication. They can do all of this without you ever knowing about it.
How? They use a shoebox-sized device called a StingRay. This device (also called an IMSI catcher) mimics cell phone towers, prompting all the phones in the area to connect to it even if the phones aren't in use.
The police use StingRays to track down and implicate perpetrators of mainly domestic crimes. The devices can be mounted in vehicles, drones, helicopters, and airplanes, allowing police to gain highly specific information on the location of any particular phone, down to a particular apartment complex or hotel room.
Quietly, StingRay use is growing throughout local and federal law enforcement with little to no oversight. The ACLU has discovered that at least 68 agencies in 23 different states own StingRays, but says that this "dramatically underrepresents the actual use of StingRays by law enforcement agencies nationwide."
Information from potentially thousands of phones is being collected every time a StingRay is used. Signals are sent into the homes, bags, and pockets of innocent individuals. The Electronic Frontier Foundation likens this to the Pre-Revolutionary War practice of soldiers going door-to-door, searching without suspicion.
Richard Tynan, a technologist with Privacy International notes that, “there really isn’t any place for innocent people to hide from a device such as this.”
The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution states that, “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
The StingRay clearly violates these standards. The drafters of the Constitution recognized that restricting the government from violating privacy is essential for a free society. That's why the Fourth Amendment exists. The StingRay is creating a dangerous precedent that tells the government that it's okay for them to violate our rights. Because of this, freedom is quietly slipping out the window.
Law Enforcement is using StingRays without a warrant in most cases. For example, the San Bernardino Police Department used their StingRay 300 times without a warrant in a little over a year.
In 2010, the Tallahassee Police Department used a StingRay in a warrantless search to track down the suspect of a crime. A testimony from an unsealed hearing transcript talks about how police went about finding their target. The ACLU sums it up well:
"Police drove through the area using the vehicle-based device until they found the apartment complex in which the target phone was located, and then they walked around with the handheld device and stood ‘at every door and every window in that complex’ until they figured out which apartment the phone was located in. In other words, police were lurking outside people’s windows and sending powerful electronic signals into their private homes in order to collect information from within."A handful of states have passed laws requiring police and federal agents to get a warrant before using a StingRay. They must show probable cause for one of the thousands of phones that they are actually searching. This is far from enough.
Additionally, there are many concerns that agents are withholding information from federal judges to monitor subjects without approval - bypassing the probable cause standard laid out in the Constitution. They even go as far as to let criminals go to avoid disclosing information about these devices to the courts.
If the public doesn’t become aware of this issue, the police will continue to use StingRays to infringe on our rights in secret and with impunity.
Olivia Donaldson is a recent high school graduate that is currently opting out of college and participating in an entrepreneurial program called Praxis.
This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.
Just because the President is from the 'other team' doesn't mean you should act hysterical in response to his every action. Doing so just makes you a hack.
Before one starts typing a post on Facebook, the field says "What's on your mind?" How very fitting: that's exactly the question I want to answer right now.
President Barack Obama's historic Presidency came to its conclusion this past month. He boarded Marine One (temporarily "Executive One") for the last time and flew directly over My wife and I. I must admit that, as I watched his helicopter fade into the distance, mixed feelings washed over me.
On the one hand, I felt cautiously hopeful. I did not vote for Obama in 2008, nor did I vote for him in 2012. Politically, I am conservative; thus, Obama and I harbored deeply divergent policy positions. I opposed Obamacare, opposed his enormous fiscal deficits, opposed many of his immigration measures, and so forth. I felt that, from a policy perspective, it was time for change in Washington, D.C. I was--and remain--ready for a conservative approach to governance. Uncertainties about his successor notwithstanding, this is why I felt cautiously optimistic.
On the other hand, feelings of what I can only describe as remorse also welled up in me. As I said, Obama's Presidency was historic, and he came into office on a wave of, for many, hopeful optimism. To this day, the 69 million votes he received is a record. His Electoral College victory margin was substantial, and the 10 million votes that separated him and John McCain easily represent one of the top-ten largest popular margins ever. He received more opposing-party votes than anyone since Ronald Reagan. His second inauguration was the second largest in history--second only to his own first inauguration, which drew more people to D.C. than Donald Trump's, both of George W. Bush's, and one of Bill Clinton's added together. His "movement" remains the largest in recent memory.
I think that when he came into office he was a bit naïve and idealistic, believing that he could change more than a President actually can. He did eventually grow into the Office's constraints, however, and adopted a more pragmatic approach to governing during his final years in office--especially in matters of foreign policy. (This has nothing to do with his policy positions; rather, it's a statement about his approach.)
This is a long preamble leading into why I felt a bit of remorse. Barack Obama was subjected to some of the most withering criticism I've ever heard. I've heard much criticism of Obama's policies, and I largely agree with it. Unfortunately, I've also heard unbelievable personal insults hurled his way. I've heard people criticize him and even his family because of the color of their skin. I've heard fellow conservatives say that they "hate" him. (This sentiment appears to still be running strong: during Trump's inaugural parade, I heard several of his supporters telling each other that they "literally hate Hillary Clinton.") I've heard him called the anti-Christ. I've heard Obama's opponents accuse him of selling out his country. I've even observed conservatives openly rooting for him to fail--more times than I could ever count. (In my view, this last issue is both immoral and unpatriotic.)
This underscores a reprehensible inability on the part of many to separate "Obama the policy setter" from "Obama the man." In my view, "Obama the policy setter" was not a total success. I simply do not believe that liberal policies are in the best interest of this country, but that is where my disapproval of him ends: my differences with him are purely matters of policy--nothing more.
"Obama the man" is above reproach; I genuinely believe that he is a very good person and that he set a wonderful personal example for all Americans. He harbored and displayed a deep devotion to his family, appearing at all times to have been a committed and proud husband and father. Obama conducted himself professionally and always had a calm, even hand on the tiller. He did not deserve the vicious venom hurled at him, but he handled it with grace and dignity. Admirably, he did not respond by leveling the same type of insults at his detractors. He is simply a good, nice person. The way in which he comported himself is an example of which all Americans should be proud. Indeed, we should thank him for it.
So I'll admit that I actually feel a bit badly about it--sad even. He and his family devoted eight years of their lives to the service of our country. They received unbelievably raw, personal insults for the duration, yet all of them appear to have taken the high road every time. I don't delight in hating people, so I see the Obamas for who they were: good, well-intended people who, misguided though their policies frequently were, arrived on the White House front steps on January 20, 2009 sincerely hoping to make a positive difference for our country.
For that, I thank them. For the ugly insults, I apologize to them. I wish President Obama nothing but the best in his well-deserved retirement.
It's no secret that even though I am a proud Republican and a genuine conservative, Donald Trump was far from my first choice. That said, I choose to give him a chance. What other option is there really? I remain hopeful that we will now have effective, pragmatic, conservative governance--effective, pragmatic, conservative governance that benefits all Americans, that leaves no one out.
Going forward, I hope that everyone will consider what I've said here and will consider separating the President's character from the President's official actions. If both deserve condemnation, then condemn them. If they don't though, then do not conflate the two simply because it feels good to your baser side.
Give our leaders and their families--no matter their political positions--the same respect you would ask for yourself and for your families. If you're still attacking the Obamas, then you're wrong. If you're burning trash cans and cars in the street, then you're wrong. We must change the tone in this country, and we conservatives must admit that our own conduct and words have not lived up to the ideal. It is incumbent, starting right now and regardless of the past, on both sides of the political divide and on our entire electorate to commit ourselves to a more respectful approach to dialog--even if it appears that our efforts are not reciprocated.
I think that all too often we feel so disconnected from our President and so passionate about our political positions that we forget that the President isn't just the President. Just like us, he is also a father, a husband, a friend, and a human being with feelings, hopes, dreams, and so forth. From now on, let's try to reacquaint ourselves with the Golden Rule.
DEAR MR. REPUBLICAN: We are spending far, far too much time talking about executive orders, whether temporary travel bans are legal, who the Secretary of the Army should be, and so forth. I'm ready to hear policy discussion about some of the truly major issues facing our country. If Republicans are going to make dramatic changes in areas of truly fundamental consequences, then time is not on our side.
Among these issues are...
(1) THE NATIONAL DEBT
Our debt load now exceeds the size of our entire economy and is, for all intents and purposes, not possible to pay off. It is still possible to manage, though, again, time is definitely not on our side on this one. In my opinion, this is the most important and urgent issue facing the United States: our national debt is weeks away from topping $20 trillion BEFORE interest--an amount that no human being can truly wrap his mind around. This still is not being addressed, but the tangible impacts of it are already being felt, especially in Federal Reserve rate planning.
Obamacare should be repealed and replaced--not just repealed. You cannot repeal legislation like Obamacare without a plan for replacing it, and you MUST ensure that those who've spent their own hard-earned dollars purchasing insurance through the exchanges are taken care of. This is now the most expensive sector of our economy, and its costs have accelerated in the wake of the Affordable Care Act's passage in 2010. We keep hearing that action will be taken. The only problem is that we still have no evidence of this action or even a rough idea as to the strategy.
(3) JOBS AND WAGES.
Work force participation remains at near-record lows. Millions of people simply are not looking for jobs. Part of this problem is wages: They started to rise somewhat two or three years ago, but the rate of increase was always too slow. Now wage growth appears to have slowed once again. There are solutions to this problem, and Republicans have good ideas here. What is the hold-up?
(4) TAXES AND REGULATION.
Our corporate tax code is the most noncompetitive on the entire planet. Our individual tax code, though not quite as noncompetitive, is insanely complex, extremely expensive to comply with, and impossible for any one person to understand in its entirety. The number of regulations is absolutely ballooning and is now having a negative material impact on entrepreneurialism--the very bedrock of our economy and the number 1 pillar underlying "the American Dream." Campaign promises by both Trump and GOP members of Congress to enact reform in these two areas were frequent and loud. What's happened? Trump signed an executive order requiring two regulations to be eliminated for every new one enacted--an order so vague and ham-handed that it probably will have no effect at all. Arbitrary executive orders won't solve this problem. It's time for Congress to wake up from its continuing decade-long slumber and send true reform legislation to the Oval Office for a signature.
(5) GENERAL GOVERNMENT INEFFICIENCY.
It remains far too difficult to fire federal employees who underperform. (To my federal employee friends, in no way do I intend to imply that most federal employees under-perform, though when it happens, we all know that not much can be done about it.) There remains far too much redundancy; a Congressional study found that hundreds of agencies were doing the same jobs as other agencies. Changing policies can take many years. Government technology and software is always out of date--sometimes decades so. In short: we are not efficient, and we are not nimble. That wasn't a major problem in the pre-high-tech world. In the dynamic, fast-paced, high-tech world of the 21st Century, however, that is absolutely debilitating. Where's the reform?
Perhaps rather than the national debt, I should have said that this issue is the most urgent one. Why? Well, it prevents our being able to solve these other issues--including the national debt. Trump and Congressional members of the GOP said that they would govern "for everyone" and that they wanted "unity." I've seen no evidence of this in practice. By the same token, Democrats have been almost impossible to work with during confirmation hearings (the only area in which they've had much impact so far). It's not clear that if the GOP extended an olive branch to them now, they'd take it. Bipartisanship is a two-way street, though it was to start somewhere. I'm happy to have it start with Republicans. Unfortunately, I can't even say that this is a stillborn hope because it doesn't appear to even have been conceived.
This post is not an attack on Donald Trump. In reality, most of these are issues on which Congress must take action. In order to truly solve any of them, Congress is indispensable. Where are they? At this point, it seems as though Congress is like government, only with frequent nap times, copious recess, and interminable bloviating. It is, however, incumbent on Trump to help set a policy direction, and it is important that Democrats engage themselves constructively as well. In short, blame can be cast all around--on both sides of the aisle and on all three branches of the federal government.
I'm tired of partisan bickering over minor, short-term issues though. I'm ready to tackle major issues. I'm ready to tackle long-term issues. I'm ready to work together. After all, a government that works well works for all. A government that doesn't work well, works only for a precious few entrenched interests. Let's make it work well.
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