Friday, April 28, 2017

Bob Barr

Bob Barr
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Bob Barr is a former Congressman who represented the citizens of Georgia’s 7th Congressional District in the US House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. Bob heads Liberty Guard, a non-profit and non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting individual liberty.

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judge

In D.C. Comic’s fictional “Bizarro World,” all things are done opposite of here on Earth. According to the “Bizarro Code,” inhabitants of the cube-shaped planet “hate beauty,” “love ugliness” and consider it illegal to “make anything perfect.” Ironically, here on planet Earth, many liberals – and a disturbing number of judges – subscribe to a similar Bizarro Code when considering matters involving the Second Amendment. To these Earth-bound Bizarro Code adherents, it should be — and in some cases is — illegal to legally exercise the fundamental, constitutionally-guaranteed right to possess a firearm.

While the Supreme Court, and a number of other courts across the country, have made progress in recent years in rolling-back some of the more onerous restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms, the trend is by no means uniform; especially regarding concealed carry.

For example, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled in January that mere lawful possession of a firearm poses a danger to society. Specifically – and incredibly – that court opined that there is an inherent risk in “a person who is armed even when the firearm is legally possessed.” While some may laud this ruling as a move to protect police officers facing armed suspects, its potential scope is far broader and more problematic.

The opinion opens the door for the search of any concealed carry permit holder, regardless of whether the individual ran a stop sign, was selling cocaine, or just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. In effect, this federal court of appeals decision means that simply exercising one’s Second Amendment right to possess a firearm negates that person’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

As Slate Editor Mark Joseph Stern noted recently, the real-world consequences of the Fourth Circuit’s “logic” did not take long to play-out in another federal Circuit — the 11th (which includes Alabama, Florida and Georgia). In March, that Circuit threw out a lawsuit against a Florida police officer who fatally shot an apartment resident who happened to be holding a lawful firearm when he answered the door late at night after the officer unexpectedly banged on the door.

The gun owner’s only “crime” was legally having a firearm in his hand, inside his home, when answering an unexpected loud knock on his door late at night.

This is far from the only example of such Second Amendment perfidy by judges in recent years. In 2015, Corey Jones, who possessed a lawful concealed carry permit, was leaving a band gig at 3:00 AM when his car broke down in an undesirable part of town. When a white van with tinted windows pulled in front of him and a man wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and a baseball cap exited, Jones apparently grabbed his firearm.  This move to lawfully protect himself was answered without warning by the plain-clothed law enforcement officer driving the van, shooting Jones dead.

These incidents hit close to home for all responsible gun owners; especially those who carry firearms for self-defense. These and many other such incidents illustrate not uncommon situations in which law-abiding individuals find themselves, and when having a firearm for self-defense is most needed. Yet, despite some progress on gun rights, a worsening problem within states and local jurisdictions due to wrong-headed court rulings, or simply bad police training, are placing gun owners directly in danger by criminalizing the very act of possessing a firearm.

The problem is made worse by the prevalence of data-sharing with so-called “Fusion Centers.” These largely unregulated centers take vast quantities of personal information on citizens that has been collected from both public and confidential sources, and disseminate it to law enforcement agencies at all levels across the country. Thanks to this growing, government-based “Dark Net,” firearms owners can look forward to more harassment; such as Maryland transportation police who stand accused of using concealed permit data that they apparently can access at the touch of a computer screen in their vehicles, to stop out-of-state drivers.

Rolling back this tide of anti-Second Amendment court decisions requires continued and aggressive efforts by the National Rifle Association (which is holding its annual convention in Atlanta this week) and other Second Amendment-focused civil liberties organizations.  They – and we — need to support the appointment and election of judges, police chiefs, sheriffs, state legislators,  and members of Congress who live in and understand the real world and our real Bill of Rights; and who are not beholden to some Bizarro World Constitution in which “shall not be infringed” means “shall be infringed.”

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My mom wouldn't buy me a new Playstation so I'm now an anarchist.

Listening to liberal college administrators waxing poetic from their ivory towers, one might conclude the greatest threat to higher education is not helicopter parents who turn students into helpless babes, or a chronic lack of civics education among incoming freshman, but rather “Diversity” — the new Holy Grail of post-secondary education. Campus bureaucrats have dumped millions of taxpayerdollars into “diversity training” materials and mandated courses based on theories such as one that concludes it is racist to expect punctuality in others. In this higher education alt universe, it is taught also that gender can take on any shape, form, or color. Deliberately missing from this world view of “diversity,” of course, is any notion of diversity in speech and thought.

Take, for instance, the recent protest of Heather Mac Donald, a well-known journalist and current fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Her scheduled presentation earlier this month at Claremont McKenna College on law enforcement, was short-circuited by violent protestors. As in similar incidents, the demonstrators appeared to have no actual understanding of who Mac Donald was or what she advocated; believing simply that she was “pro-cop” and did not align with the protestors was sufficient for them to use violence to silence her.

Adding to the absurdity surrounding Mac Donald’s visit to Claremont McKenna, students at Pomona College, a member of the Claremont Colleges consortium, justified the protest of Mac Donald in a letter calling free speech “a tool appropriated by hegemonic institutions…[giving] those who seek to perpetuate systems of domination a platform to project their bigotry,” while labeling the search for truth – a fundamental premise of classical education – a “myth” of “white supremacy.” The utter stupidity of this argument would be laughable if not for the danger of its implications, in which violence is the inevitable and acceptable conclusion.

For proof, one need look no further than the recent violence at the University of California at Berkeley, instigated by radical leftist demonstrators in response to speech they declared unfit for their campus. Tragically, this scenario depicts the future of college campuses if permitted to flourish without opposition. Yet, even with the writing on the wall, this is exactly how many campus administrators across the country have chosen to respond – doing nothing. It is as if they hope by ignoring the problem, it will go away. In reality, this naïve, hands-off approach only emboldens the thugs.

Perhaps even more disturbing than the infuriating-but-predictable inaction of liberal college administrators is the complicity of government authorities in allowing this violent behavior to go unpunished. As noted in the recent Berkeley protests of Milo Yiannopoulos, police stood on the sidelines as liberal anti-fascist fascists (yes, here too irony is lost completely on them) turned the campus into a war zone. It does not take rocket science to understand how in the absence of any down side to using violence as a protest, violence continues to escalate; no surprise, then, that last weekend’s Trump rally at Berkeley ended in violence as masked thugs decided to put a stop to the event with force.

If students, and faculty, and administrators, and local law enforcement including police and prosecutors, all refuse to take this threat to free speech seriously, is it now appropriate for the federal government to step in? Trump was originally mocked for suggesting U.C. Berkeley should lose federal funding for refusing to address campus violence in response to free speech events; yet, what other option is there?

Clearly, conditions are not improving in higher education; in fact, all signs point to a worsening trend if corrective action is not taken immediately. Especially at public colleges and universities, protecting free speech is a fundamental duty of elected and appointed officials associated with such schools; including officials with the administration in Washington, the Congress, state governors and legislatures. If revocation of federal or state funding is what it takes to get the attention of college administrators, then that is what must be done for the sake of protecting the integrity of public institutions of higher education and those students who actually desire to learn.

It may also be time for Attorney General Sessions to task his Civil Rights Division lawyers to re-focus their Obama-era efforts targeting police officers, to campus officials at state-run colleges and universities who are using their authority to deny students the ability to enjoy the civil right of an education for which they and the taxpayers are paying.

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Congress is great at this game.

While President Donald Trump wasted little time after taking his oath of office to outline his vision to “make America great again,” Republicans in Congress have behaved more like a sleepy bear waking from nearly a decade of hibernation.

The latest example of this legislative yawn was the move by the House last week to “reform” internet privacy laws. In a typical “pass-the-buck” fashion, the House majority simply concurred in a vote by the Senate to overturn a 2016 decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that limited in a small way how Internet Service Providers (ISPs) could access and use browsing data for commercial purposes, such as selling it to third parties.

Last year’s ruling by the FCC, however, only applied to ISPs and not industry giants such as Google and Amazon; and, this was the public excuse on which the House GOP hung its hat to justify the precipitous vote to ratify the Senate action and nullify the rule.

Supporters of the measure, which included all but 15 House Republicans, claimed the Obama-era ruling was “unfair” because it only applied to ISPs, and not everyone else. They also argued in another inside-the-Beltway manner that it should have been a different federal regulatory agency – the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – that made the change. So, in what now seems to be the way Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Mitch McConnell are running things at the Capitol, when confronted with a substantive but important question of reforming and modernizing a complex issue – in this case, internet privacy — Republicans simply hit the “Easy Button,” call it a day, and return to the status quo.

If the excuse for this failure to address a timely and relevant issue sounds familiar, it should. Simply look at the failure by the GOP last month to take the time and devote the effort to develop, draft, present and explain to the American people a true repeal and replacement for Obamacare – rather than the Rube-Goldberg plan that neither repealed the underlying law nor replaced it with comprehensive, market-base provisions. Doing little is always easier than doing it right.

Many of today’s laws regarding data and personal privacy reflect technology from the 1970s and 1980s, long before the age of the internet cloud, search engines, and metadata. As such, they are woefully inadequate at addressing pressing practical and constitutional questions of personal privacy; this in an era when even a small sampling of an individual’s search history can reveal deeply intimate details of one’s life.

Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor perfectly captured this sentiment and the need for modernizing privacy laws in her concurring opinion in United States v. Jones, a 2011 case dealing with GPS tracking. Sotomayor argued a comprehensive re-write of our nation’s privacy laws; arguing quite correctly that the current approach “is ill suited to the digital age, in which people reveal a great deal of information about themselves to third parties in the course of carrying out mundane tasks.”

Rather than scrap the FCC ruling, and in turn one of the few positive steps for personal privacy in the modern era, Republicans should have seized the opportunity for the first true attempt to bring privacy laws into the 21st Century. It would have been a major victory for the GOP, demonstrating a vision for constitutional leadership that heretofore has been noticeably absent. Instead, congressional Republicans took yet another shortcut, putting off the hard work behind meaningful, comprehensive reform for another day that is likely never to come.

The missed opportunity is a reminder of Winston Churchill’s observation that, “men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.” Congress acts in much the same way — stumbling on opportunities for real change, but hurrying along before any real work is required of them. This is why advocates of privacy reform such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), and other like-minded groups must start applying serious pressure on the Congress – and continue applying pressure – in a concerted effort to force Congress to challenge the powerful lobbying arm of Silicon Valley and other vested interests. Privacy advocates must be prepared also to challenge federal law enforcement agencies on this matter; agencies that prefer to keep the laws and regulations under which they operate as vague and outdated as possible, in order to offer them maximum room to maneuver.

Left to its own devices, the Congress will do what it excels at — kicking the can down the road.

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At least some of them don't forget who they are.

Of all the muscles in the human body, none are perhaps more toned and strengthened than those in the index finger of moderate Republicans in Congress; particularly following the defeat of their high profile, “too-important-too-fail” health care legislation. There certainly was no shortage of finger wagging and pointing this week, following Speaker Paul Ryan’s decision to pull the GOP’s controversial “replacement” of ObamaCare due to lack of support within the ranks.

Supporters of the American Health Care Act, including the White House which demanded its passage “or else,” blamed everybody — from the House Freedom Caucus to the Cato Institute to Democrats — for its failure; except, of course, the moderates who cobbled together the faux repeal in the first place.

However, another – and far more accurate – way to look at defeating the AHCA by Republicans would be to say, “It’s about time!”

In national politics, on key issues especially, you rarely if ever, get more than one chance to pass something meaningful. If you allow the moderates/Establishment to convince you that you cannot let “the perfect to be enemy to the good” (a phrase I grew to loathe during my time in Congress after hearing it so many times from leadership), seldom does another opportunity come around; much less one to actually “get it right.”

Ever since George H. W. Bush pressed House Republicans to join in breaking his infamous “read my lips” no-tax-increase pledge, these have been the same empty promises force-fed to conservatives by moderates in Congress to goad them into supporting dreadful bills. And, almost always, conservatives are left holding the bag.

So, when it came time to line-up support on the AHCA, despite its manifest shortcomings as genuine reform, finally enough was enough for conservatives. Was this not the precise opportunity to “get it right” that was promised to them for years when it came to replacing ObamaCare with the conservative, free market reforms Republicans have claimed for decades are the key to fixing healthcare in America? Members of the House Freedom Caucus, Cato Institute, Freedom Works, Club for Growth and others were asking nothing more than for the GOP to uphold its end of the bargain, and not squander the opportunity with another permanent “temporary fix.”

Yes, passing genuine repeal of ObamaCare and replacing it with a free market based alternative would have been more difficult and time-consuming than what was proposed by Ryan and his team. It would have taken additional weeks, if not months, to draft, debate, and convince both their colleagues in the Congress and the public that government does not have a magic wand, and should instead give the private sector broader latitude to come up with solutions for efficiency and effectiveness. Yet, this is a fundamental duty of Republicans in Congress – to get it right – rather than taking short cuts, that while perhaps making things a little better is far from the true path needed to make things much better.

In this respect, conservatives were saying “No” because they wanted to stand up for what is right, rather than saying “Yes” just because House moderates wanted reelection material, or because an optics-obsessed White House could check off another campaign promise, regardless of what the end-product looked like. They were finally demonstrating what conservative voters have long wanted from Republicans in Congress – a willingness to stay true to the principles of the Party and the Constitution, even if it means going against Party leaders.

Standing up for these principles is not being anti-Republican, or not “living in the real world” as White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon suggests; it is simply refusing to be yet another rubber-stamp Congress similar to that which gave us No Child Left Behind, the USA PATRIOT Act, and the massively expensive prescription drug bill – just because a Republican president wanted such legislation passed.

In doing what they did last week, the conservatives sent a message to the Establishment that principles do actually mean something; and that at least a significant number of Republican members will stand firm in that regard.

The lack of “loyalty” by the Freedom Caucus that the President decried immediately following Ryan’s pulling the vote last Friday was in fact a welcome exhibition of “loyalty” to true Republican principles, and to the Constitution-based responsibility of the House of Representatives that is independent of the presidency even if the occupant of that office happens to be of the same political Party as the majority.

Hopefully, congressional leaders and the White House will come to understand this, and see it as an opportunity to begin actually reining in government rather than expanding it. One can at least hope.

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Welcome to the Geek Squad, how may I report you?

Having computer problems? You may want to think twice before picking up the phone to call for a repair. According to recent court documents filed in federal court in California, a simple hard drive replacement could lead to your arrest.

It may sound far-fetched, but the Federal Bureau of Investigations is being forced to explain an uncomfortably cozy relationship between its agents, and those of Best Buy’s electronics servicing team, Geek Squad. Specifically at issue is evidence that the FBI actively worked with Geek Squad employees to train them on how to identify and report suspicious computer files during service calls; going so far as to allegedly offering a bonus of $500 for evidence leading to criminal charges against a customer. In some cases, this snooping by private contractors had nothing to do with the original repair requests; amounting to a clear invasion of privacy and breach of trust, with the full blessing – if not encouragement – by law enforcement officials.

The damning article about the case, USA v. Mark Rettenmaier, by OC Weekly reporter R. Scott Moxley, notes that Geek Squad employees worked “under the direction and control of the FBI,” and that the FBI sought “training of the Geek Squad Facility technicians” to help them better sniff out illegal material in the course of servicing computers and other technology, including the use of “highly specialized computer-intrusion tools” that would appear to be less for repairs than outright spying on customers they were supposedly there to help. However, even without such devices, a search through one’s personal files by a trained computer technician would be almost impossible to detect, or notice, without standing directly over their shoulder the entire time.

Given Geek Squad’s massive, nationwide footprint of more than 20,000 employees, and its (once solid) reputation of trust among consumers, it is easy to see why this private “Peek Squad” would be an enticing ally for federal law enforcement. With unfettered access not just to its customers’ homes, but computer hard drives containing huge amounts of highly personal and often sensitive data, Geek Squad employees and others like them have an unprecedented opportunity to surreptitiously mine this data (or copy it for later inspection) for suspected wrongdoing; all without having to worry about the pesky hindrances of the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment prohibition against such unreasonable searches and seizures.

Certainly, and as Best Buy has emphasized in defending itself against these accusations, private contractors have an obligation to report illegal material found during the normal course of their service requests. Such reports have been allowed by courts if the private entity “happens to have found” evidence and turns it over to law enforcement. It becomes a completely different matter, however, when the government is doing more than passively receiving evidence of a possible criminal offense from an outside source; as here for example, if law enforcement is directing or training these individuals to operate as de facto agents. In such circumstances, courts have held that the outside workers, such as computer repair technicians, are serving in effect as government agents and are subject to Fourth Amendment search and seizure provisions.

This is not the first time federal law enforcement has attempted to enlist outside, “Fourth Amendment proof” agents for surveillance. A decade ago, it was revealed the Department of Homeland Security wanted to train firefighters and utility workers in surveillance; taking advantage of their expanded ability to enter homes without warrants. However, the use of computer repair employees demonstrates an entirely different level of disregard for the rule of law.

Consequently, Best Buy, which should have seen the blowback suffered by Verizon four years ago for similar allegations of dubious collusion with government spooks as reason for stopping this partnership with the FBI dead in its tracks, now faces a devastating hit to one of its few remaining competitive advantages in the marketplace. Though, if its perilous relationship with the FBI proves to be every bit as disturbing as painted by the OC Weekly, such a blow would be entirely justified, and, hopefully, would serve as an example to others that ethics is not to be sacrificed just because the FBI gives them a pat on the back and a check in their wallet.

Not only does side-stepping the Fourth Amendment threaten innocent people with false accusations of wrongdoing (can Geek Squad employees tell the difference between a parent’s photo of their children from genuine child pornography?), the use of private citizens to surveil their fellow citizens completely guts one of the last remaining vestiges of personal privacy in today’s society. Americans should nothave to worry that that the computer repair person with whom they contract may be a secret spy for the government.

If the government receives a green light from the courts to continue this practice, it may very well be the event horizon into total State control, which no “reboot” or “reformatting” will ever fix.

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2017 Starts with a bang for gun rights.

When the U. S. Supreme Court issued its seminal rulings in Heller (2008) and McDonald (2010), finding that the Second Amendment does in fact guarantee an individual right to keep and bear arms that must be recognized by the states, many Americans felt like the issue of the Second Amendment had finally been settled in America. Unfortunately, as we would quickly see in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere — it was only the latest chapter in what has become an endless battle for the natural right of self-defense.

Take, for instance, the District of Columbia’s post-Heller “fix” to its unconstitutional gun laws — forcing citizens to obtain a license to carry firearms outside their home, but failing to provide any mechanism by which to obtain a license. In other jurisdictions, including Illinois and Seattle, officials attempted to create de facto gun bans by increasing the cost of ownership through taxes and fees, regardless of the impact on minority citizens. Former President Obama, too, had his own way of side-stepping these otherwise clear Supreme Court rulings, and employed the resources of numerous agencies and departments — most of which have no colorable jurisdiction over firearms, such as the FDIC and CDC – in an often unnoticed drive to undermine the 2nd Amendment.

You have to give gun control advocates points for being clever; which is what makes a recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit all the more frightening.

Despite the clear, well-reasoned rulings in Heller and McDonald, the 4th Circuit took the exact opposite approach in upholding Maryland’s “assault weapon” ban; and, in doing so, created an entirely subjective litmus test for what types of guns could be regulated by the State. The appellate Court found that Maryland’s ban of 81 firearms was “legal” because the guns were “weapons of war.” This conclusion is beyond laughable, insofar as U.S. military versions of such civilian firearms are capable of fully automatic fire, which the civilian versions at issue in the court case are not.

The Fourth Circuit justices, like Bill Clinton with his 1994 “assault weapons” ban, chose to base its decision not on facts, history, or common sense, but on whether the firearms at issue “looked” like military-style firearms. “La La Land” wins again.

As Justice Clarence Thomas noted in 2015, “if a broad ban on firearms can be upheld based on conjecture that the public might feel safer (while being no safer at all), then the Second Amendment guarantees nothing.”

Perhaps now the Supreme Court might finally hear a challenge to these arbitrary bans on semi-automatic weapons, after passing on several post-Heller requests for clarification on the issue.

However, despite this ludicrous Fourth Circuit ruling, there have been some positive developments for gun rights. Last week, President Donald Trump signed a bill from Congress that stopped a proposed rule change made in the twilight of the Obama Administration, requiring the Social Security Administration (yet another agency employed by Obama in his war on guns) to report to the FBI citizens deemed “mentally defective,” so as to prevent them from owning firearms — without any due process before depriving them of this constitutional right. The fear, and rightfully so, is that this list of disqualifying factors of gun ownership would include non-impairing conditions, such as eating disorders.

Another bill aimed at protecting innocent Americans from having their rights arbitrarily curbed is the “Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017,” a version of which has been introduced in both the House and Senate. The Act intends to create a national system of reciprocity among states for holders of concealed carry permits, eliminating the fear and uncertainty for law-abiding individuals when traveling through states like Connecticut, California, and Maryland. Finally, travelers may be able to exercise their right to self-defense without having to worry about being slapped with a felony simply because they crossed a state line. But this battle is far from over.

Finally, the long-awaited “Hearing Protect Act” may reach the president’s desk this year after failing to do so in 2015. The bill, H.R. 367, would eliminate a $200 fee associated with buying a silencer; but more importantly, remove regulatory hurdles that have kept most law-abiding citizens from purchasing such items since 1934. Liberals, convinced the reality of guns is what they see in a Hollywood movie, are in hysterics; but the truth is silencers (more properly known as “suppressers”) muffle, but do not eliminate, the report of a firearm being fired, so as to protect the hearing of the shooter and those in the vicinity.

The first weeks of Trump’s presidency have been filled with at least a few wins for the Second Amendment. However, it is more important than ever to be vigilant about the counter-efforts of gun control advocates, who remain very much alive and well in both houses of Congress — and in both parties— and in state legislators from coast to coast.

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Don't go away mad . . . just go away.

In July 2009, Harvard Professor Henry Gates, Jr., an African American, was arrested by Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley, who is white, following a heated interaction between the two men. The incident should have gone largely unnoticed as a local, isolated incident in which both men shared equal blame for allowing a trivial matter to escalate into an arrest. Nevertheless, when President Barack Obama caught wind of the confrontation and weighed-in on the incident at an unrelated press conference a week later, the issue rocketed into national headlines. The president eventually invited both men to the White House for a photo-op, sit-down conversation in what became known as the “Beer Summit.” The national media fawned over such a “cool move” from Obama, just months into presidency; and the stage was set.

None, however, thought to question why the President of the United States was intervening in a purely local matter in the first place.

Of course, as the next eight years demonstrated, the “Beer Summit” was just the beginning of a pattern of executive interference in state and local issues, particularly when such opportunities afforded the Department of Justice a chance to exert greater federal control over local law enforcement. The theatrics of the Obama Administration were almost laughably predictable, not only in their timing – often before even local officials had a handle on the facts and circumstances – but the politically charged nature of the White House responses as well. Rarely, if ever, did Obama (or his attorney general) miss an opportunity, no matter how small, to stand on the Administration’s bully pulpit and lecture the masses about improving race relations, the need for greater gun control, or other Kum-ba-ya, feel-good solutions to the “moral outrage du jour.”

To be fair, while the Obama Administration raised the level of this pattern of presidents injecting themselves into myriad local “crises” to an unprecedented level, the troubling phenomenon also was practiced by his predecessor, George W. Bush. Perhaps, reeling from the flack taken during the 2005 Hurricane Katrina catastrophe in New Orleans, in which Bush was accused of not “responding” fast enough or with sufficient “compassion” to the disaster, the White House thereafter took to inserting itself into virtually every local weather event. This did not go unnoticed by governors, who today look for any excuse to rush out and declare a “state of emergency” in hopes of catching a little of the spotlight and triggering the federal money spigot for their states.

“Example,” President George Washington once commented, “whether it be good or bad, has a powerful influence.” So it seems with not just what the president says, but when, and why. Herein lies the problem.

Liberals constantly used the Oval Office for emotional validation of their marches and public outrage. And, craving the adoration from his base, not to mention relishing another chance to thump the GOP in the press, Obama was more than happy to oblige. But, the president of the United States, cannot, and should not, allow himself to be pulled into every “national conversation” or social fray that seemingly erupt now on an almost daily basis. The job of the President is to manage the affairs of the nation. It should go without saying that a good Commander-in-Chief does not have the time to concern himself with incidents that are highly localized, or ephemeral dialogues amounting to nothing more than shouting matches between partisan camps on social media. Not only are these distractions, but they lower the stature of the office to nothing more than just another political pundit.

It also sets a bad example, and bad precedent, for executive leadership at the state and local levels. For example, two professors at Clemson University in South Carolina recently staged a hunger strike to protest the university president’s “silence” on condemning President Donald Trump’s travel ban. What does running a public university have to do with a partisan debate over accepting refugees? Nothing, but there is now an expectation that any “leader” must weigh-in on any issue at any time, no matter how relevant to their specific duties or legal jurisdiction.

The president of a university has no more right to lecture the president of the United States on refugee programs than the U.S. [resident has to lecture a local police chief on community policing tactics.

Rather than rushing to have a soundbite for every issue, true leaders – especially the president – should try a different tactic; keeping their mouths shut (and logged-off from their Twitter account), and intervene only on issues of true national importance, and within their domain. Even in politics – or, perhaps especially in politics — silence can be golden.

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Though constitutional literacy remains appalling low among U.S. citizens (and, sadly, even among many members of Congress), most Americans have a general understanding and respect for the 230-year-old document. Nevertheless, and despite all the internal and external challenges our nation has faced from the very outset of its existence, American citizens are still (largely) free to pursue life, liberty, and prosperity.

This is no fluke, but in fact is due to the Constitution’s clearly defined, written parameters in which a government must operate, along with designed checks and balances among and even within its branches. Both factors work to ensure no individual, agency, or branch can act arbitrarily, or declare itself the supreme authority on the law; all are beholden to the Constitution’s sovereignty.

That is, at least, how our Founding Fathers intended it to work, which is why the recent actions of rogue government employees involved with America’s secret surveillance panopticon, are truly frightening.

Here is what we know. Retired Gen. Michael Flynn, President Trump’s national security advisor, resigned last week after media reports of phone calls between him and a Russian diplomat occurring in the month before he formally took his position – calls he denied to the F.B.I. However, the media’s discovery of the calls was not the result of hard work by the Fifth Estate to uncover leads and evidence. Rather, the retired general’s demise reportedly was the direct result of illegal leaking of classified government surveillance information by up to 10 “current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls.” Given both Trump and Flynn’s rocky reputation within the Intelligence Community, revenge, rather than public service “whistleblowing,” appears to have been the motive for the leak.

Take a minute to let that sink in. Unelected bureaucrats feloniously took highly sensitive information, collected in secret surveillance programs for national security purposes, to launch a political assassination of a presidential aide, simply because they could. And, should this insubordination go without punishment, the ramifications threaten the very foundations of constitutional rule-of-law.

Given the extent of today’s surveillance state, it is perhaps not surprising Flynn’s phone conversations were recorded in a government database; after all, our government has long monitored calls into and out from the Russian Embassy (as we did the Soviets during the Cold War). And, thanks to Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama, both of whom vastly expanded the government’s surveillance powers, the recording of Flynn’s calls – regardless of what intelligence program or tool ultimately captured the recording – was likely “legal.”

This serves as a chilling reminder that we apparently have reached the point in the “Deep State” in which no electronic communication – even internal government communications — is safe from government snooping; nor is there any confidence that once monitored, the substance of a communication will be safe from someone in the bureaucracy sharing it for purposes other than reasons of genuine national security. The Obama Administration’s decision in its final days to further loosen the rules on what intercepted data the National Security Agency can share with other agencies, only makes this treacherous environment even more prone to exploitation.

In the past, intelligence personnel at the NSA have been accused of sharing nude photos of innocent civilians it intercepted through its surveillance programs. Of course, such childish misconduct pales in comparison to that when in 2014, CIA personnel were caught hacking Senate computers, for no other reason than they felt the Senate had wronged them regarding a sensitive document.

Flynn is just the latest victim in a disturbing pattern of reckless and defiant behavior from individuals embedded in the Intelligence Community who are unwilling to heed the rule of law, and who act to further their own interests above those of even the President of the United States or Congress.

Herein lies the most concerning issue. When unelected, nameless bureaucrats send a warning shot across the bow of the White House, it presents a serious problem that cannot simply be ignored or dismissed as an isolated incident. In addition to vigorously pursuing the individuals behind the felonious leaking of Flynn’s phone calls, Congress and the Trump White House should see this incident as proof that America’s secret surveillance programs are in desperate need of an overhaul; and that Washington should be reining in these programs, not expanding them as many are advocating.

Intelligence officials may fancy themselves as above Congress or the White House, but they are not above the law. It is high time they are given a hard constitutional rap on the knuckles.

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Of the many words to describe Donald Trump, “measured” and “precise” are not among them. This, of course, is not necessarily a bad thing for a larger-than-life figure like Trump. His grandiose demeanor and over-the-top rhetoric is not only responsible for his celebrity status and immense wealth, but his political fortunes as well.

The hallmark of the 2016 Trump presidential campaign was Trump’s broad, sweeping pronouncements about the “sad” state of America; on issues from immigration to terrorism to outsourcing, and more. His ability to channel populist angst about the failures of the Establishment to address the real problems facing Americans was masterful, especially considering his solutions to such problems were no less vague and simplistic. The tactic worked, and Trump won the election. However, that was the campaign, in which exaggerated rhetoric and bite-sized solutions are a candidate’s stock-in-trade.

Serving as president of the United States, however, is far different; or at least it should be. A sure sign of this is the hullabaloo over Trump’s executive order regarding the temporary halt of refugees from foreign countries, and a pause in travel for residents of seven countries considered terrorist hotspots. On intentions alone, the executive order was both a reasonable and a practical first-step to ensuring America’s national security interests were not being sacrificed in the name of globalist altruism. Given Europe’s ongoing battle with domestic terrorism due in part to the flood of refugees from the Middle East, it would have been irresponsible not to immediately review our policies in this regard.

Yet, as the saying goes, the road to Hell — or in this case the federal court system — is paved with good intentions . . . and, poor execution.

Such seems to be the case with the so-called “travel ban” executive order. Instead of working with the various federal agencies involved with immigration policy — prepping them on the incoming changes and soliciting their advice for its implementation — the Trump White House reportedly rushed its release; giving little notice to Homeland Security and failing to have the policies properly reviewed by the Justice Department. The final result of what should have been a noteworthy policy change was mass confusion, mass protests, and a continuing court battle over its constitutionality.

The White House did itself no favors with the release of the order or in its subsequent explanations; using terms like “extreme vetting” to describe the changes, without ever defining what, exactly, “extreme vetting” actually means.

For starters, “vetting” is not a legal term, so its use to describe changes to a legal process only muddies the water. Secondly, the federal government (and the president in particular) already possesses broad powers to police America’s borders and ports of entry. Such powers include warrantless searches of persons, luggage, or vehicles; powers which the president or those agencies involved can change or expand anytime, without issuing an executive order or calling on Congress for legislative authority.

Furthermore, the Obama Administration frequently asserted the government’s right to inspect and detain electronics from all persons traveling into the United States, and to copy any information stored on those devices. Add to this the fact that U.S. Customs and Border Protection recently started collecting social media account information for those applying for travel to the United States, and you have an extremely robust “vetting” process already in place.

Thus, outside of any updates to the internal processes of the State Department and other agencies involved in approving refugees or foreign travelers, the government already has at its disposal a broad arsenal of “extreme vetting” powers. So, if the changes were, in fact, behind-the-scenes, why was this not explicitly detailed by the Trump Administration when announcing the policy, rather than brushing aside the changes with overly simplistic and utterly meaningless terminology?

Regardless whether one agrees or disagrees with the changes made by the executive order, Administration officials, if not Trump himself, have a responsibility to clearly and precisely explain significant policy changes. There is a practical reason for this, as the chaos following the immigration policy illustrated. So-called “Green Card” holders were left stranded in airports — a result that allowed the liberal judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to hang their hat in finding Trump’s Order unconstitutional.

If the White House will not define its policy changes, others will, including Democrats looking for any chance to undermine the legitimacy of the Trump Administration. That is exactly what happened here; and guess with which narrative the Mainstream Media ran?

Trump has already proven detractors of his abilities as Executive-in-Chief wrong with several of his cabinet picks, not to mention his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Avoiding stumbles like his immigration executive order, by keeping in mind that he is no longer on the campaign trail, will help him keep this momentum and out of unnecessary controversies; otherwise, further unnecessary challenges and set backs will result.

Thoughts? Comment below.

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Liberal policies on campus have created this chaos.

On today’s college campus, there are two types of speech; that which is deemed acceptable by liberal administrators, faculty, and students — and everything else. It is this rigid standard of so-called “free speech” that conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos encountered last week when attempting to deliver a speech at U.C. Berkeley. Instead of being greeted by non-violent protesting and intellectual “counter-speech” — both constitutionally protected and acceptable means by which to address content others may find objectionable — Yiannopoulos had to be rushed to safety as violent thugs began destroying campus property in hopes of canceling his speech, in full view of campus police who refused to intervene in the chaos.

U.C. Berkeley once was a model of free speech and expression; now it serves as a disgraceful reminder of how low the First Amendment has fallen in Higher Education. And, liberal professors and administrators, like those at U.C. Berkeley, have only themselves to blame.

For decades, higher education has been the refuge of aging hippies and radical liberals lured by the prospect of shaping young minds, hopefully after their own; and, thanks to tenure, free from the risk of being fired for overstepping their bounds. Under the guise of academic freedom — a once-sacred centerpiece for classical education — these prima donnas were given a long leash, and allowed to inject a blatant liberal bias into their curriculum. Many of these Leftist professors then moved into administrative roles, where they went to work just as they did in the classroom to shape school policies – restrictive speech codes, sexual harassment policies with no due process, so-called “free speech zones” – in pursuit of the idyllic liberal campus filled with harmony, diversity, and tolerance. Except something went terribly wrong.

Beneath this thin veneer of campus unity was a system deliberately engineered to oppress intellectual content. In the early years, this primarily targeted traditional liberal bugaboos: conservatism, Christianity, and free market economics. Today, however, the toxic influence of identity politics has greatly expanded the “verboten” list, with demands that “trigger warnings” be given to any content that might make students uncomfortable; and speech seen as overly “white,” “straight,” or “patriarchal” is derided as “privileged,” and not worthy of debate, much less First Amendment protection. This is especially true of content labeled as “hate speech” – a liberal catchall term, with absolutely no legal basis, for particularly objectionable speech; but which is designed intentionally to deceive others into thinking the speech is not protected by the Constitution, making it easier to censor.

As this new political correctness on campuses took hold, administrators, who had encouraged or at least tolerated such an environment, suddenly found themselves on the defensive against protesting students; being forced to back down to their demands or risk being ousted for their perceived “betrayal.” Talk about being hoisted on your own petard.

The events at Berkeley were made worse by an apparent lack of effort to put a stop to the destructive violence intended to censor Yiannopoulos. Not only did the lack of action by campus authorities put lives at risk as the riots swelled without resistance, but this so-called “restraint” on the part of police – especially if ordered from campus administrators – gives the impression that such action is actually tolerated in practice, even if verbally condemned.

If – as now seems apparent — we can no longer count on University administrators to act on behalf of their students and the taxpayers that fund these public institutions, then the need for outside action is warranted. This is why President Trump’s response should follow that of then-Governor Ronald Reagan, who acted swiftly and forcefully to stop similar campus unrest in the 1960s. Considering the vast taxpayer dollars appropriated to colleges and universities across the country, Congress also must become involved; Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks should be forced to appear before the House and Senate Oversight Committees, whose members should demand answers as to why the response to scores of violent thugs by campus law enforcement was “hands off;” not to mention that no individuals or groups have yet been held responsible for nearly $100,000 in damage.

The brute censorship of free speech at U.C. Berkeley and other campuses across the nation must stop. The integrity of America’s higher education depends on it. It is the duty of people like Dirks to ensure this occurs, and if he and other college administrators refuse to do so, then Trump, Congress, and state officials have a duty to students and the taxpayers to make it happen.

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