Tuesday, August 30, 2016

From the Archives: Federal court strikes down Virginia same-sex marriage ban but stays order

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on February 13, 2014. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site was scheduled to go dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

Federal court strikes down Virginia same-sex marriage ban but stays order

In a case that involves a confusing mix of plaintiffs, defendants, and ex-defendants who have taken the side of the plaintiffs, a federal judge late on the eve of Valentine's Day struck down both Virginia's statutes prohibiting same-sex marriage and a state constitutional amendment that does the same

“The Court is compelled to conclude that Virginia's Marriage Laws unconstitutionally deny Virginia's gay and lesbian citizens the fundamental freedom to choose to marry,” wrote Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in a 41-page opinion. “Government interests in perpetuating traditions, shielding state matters from federal interference, and favoring one model of parenting over others must yield to this country's cherished protections that ensure the exercise of the private choices of the individual citizen regarding love and family.”

In the case of Bostic v. Rainey, Wright Allen (nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate in 2011) granted the plaintiffs request for summary judgment and found that “Va. Const. Art. I, § 15-A, Va. Code §§ 20-45.2, 20-45.3, and any other Virginia law that bars same-sex marriage or prohibits Virginia's recognition of lawful same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions unconstitutional. These laws deny Plaintiffs their rights to due process and equal protection guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

At the same time, Wright Allen stayed her order pending review by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Richmond.

In strong language, Wright Allen stated that the Commonwealth of Virginia's defense of its same-sex marriage bans failed to meet even the very low legal hurdle of rational-basis analysis

“Virginia's Marriage Laws fail to display a rational relationship to a legitimate purpose,” she wrote, “and so must be viewed as constitutionally infirm under even the least onerous level of scrutiny. Accordingly, this Court need not address Plaintiffs' compelling arguments that the Laws should be subjected to heightened scrutiny."

If there are any “legitimate purposes” behind the same-sex marriage bans, she argued, they “share no rational link with Virginia Marriage Laws being challenged. The goal and the result of this legislation is to deprive Virginia's gay and lesbian citizens of the opportunity and right to choose to celebrate, in marriage, a loving, rewarding, monogamous relationship with a partner to whom they are committed for life. These results occur without furthering any legitimate state purpose.”

Wright Allen's ruling follows similar federal court decisions in Utah and Oklahoma (which are cited in her opinion) and, most recently, Kentucky.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who made national headlines in January when he refused to defend the marriage laws and instead presented a brief on behalf of the gay couples seeking to overturn the ban, issued a short statement in advance of holding a press conference on Friday morning:

In a press release, Herring said that the district court's decision "is a victory for the Constitution and for treating everyone equally under the law. It is the latest step in a journey towards equality for all Virginians, no matter who they are or whom they love.”

Acknowledging the court's stay of its order, Herring noted that the legal process “will continue to play out in the months to come, but this decision shows that Virginia, like America, is coming to a better place in recognizing that every Virginian deserves to be treated equally and fairly.”

Herring's news conference will take place at 11:45 a.m. on Friday, February 14, in the auditorium of the Pocahontas Building at 900 E. Main Street in Richmond.

SUGGESTED LINKS

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring will challenge anti-gay marriage laws
Obama’s announcement prompts question, Is gay marriage a ‘new right’?
LP gubernatorial hopeful Robert Sarvis aims for marriage equality in Virginia
Libertarians praise Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling in DOMA case
Author David Lampo brings gay-rights message to conservative Republicans

Original URL:  http://www.examiner.com/article/federal-court-strikes-down-virginia-same-sex-marriage-ban-but-stays-order

Monday, August 29, 2016

From the Archives: Charlottesville entrepreneur Paul Jones sells non-lethal self-defense products

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on February 18, 2014. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site was scheduled to go dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

Charlottesville entrepreneur Paul Jones sells non-lethal self-defense products

Two decades ago, when Charlottesville business owner Paul Jones ran a shipping company near the University of Virginia, he heard from his part-time employees – mostly female students – that they had apprehensions about walking around town and across the UVA Grounds late at night.

After doing some research, Jones found a supplier of pepper spray and began to stock it in his store. Through word of mouth, pepper spray became a more popular product than any of the other items he sold in his store.

“I was selling thousands of pepper sprays,” he told the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner in a recent interview. “I was the only outlet in Charlottesville at the time.”

Starting The Belvedere Company
Fast-forward to 2014, when Jones was looking for a new enterprise he could pursue in retirement.

“I was looking to start a company that would deal mostly on-line but the big struggle was finding a product that I really liked, that I really believed in, and could use [myself],” he explained.

He looked at and dismissed “pills and lotions and potions for weight loss and virility and those types of things,” when he remembered “how I used to sell pepper spray, lots of pepper spray.”

That was when he considered non-lethal self-defense products and started The Belvedere Company, an on-line retailer that sells not only pepper sprays but burgler alarms, whistles, surveillance equipment, safes for storing valuables, and other self-protection items.

“That's what I want to sell,” Jones said. “It helps people. It makes people safe. Since I believe in it, it's easier for me to sell.”

These are the same products he uses himself and gives to his own children and stepchildren for their own self-protection.

Easy to use
“I like everybody to be safe,” he explained. “I can make money helping people to be safe. To me, it was a no-brainer.”

The non-lethal self-protection products The Belvedere Company sells are easy to use, Jones noted. “You don't have to be physically strong or fast or nimble, but you have to be willing to use it and you have to be alert and aware of your surroundings all the time.”

Even though he hopes to make a profit selling self-defense products, Jones cautions that “the number one way to defend yourself is to avoid problems. Don't go into a dangerous situation.”

The best way to stay safe, he says, is not “to put yourself into a position that's like walking down a dark alley at night in a strange city. There's no sense doing it if you can avoid it.”

However, he adds, “if you have to be out alone – and you can be in a safe place and still be attacked – the big thing is you have to have your weapon with you. If it's at home, it's not going to help you.”

Alternative alarms
For those who are wary of using something like pepper spray, which might blow back after being used against an attacker, Jones offers alternatives like whistles and alarms on The Belvedere Company's web site.

“We've got 'screech alarms,'” he pointed out, which “emit high-decibel sounds that sometimes scare away an attacker and other times just draw attention to you, which an attacker doesn't want. He doesn't want attention drawn to him if he's assaulting someone.”

In addition to self-defense products, Jones also sells instruction manuals, such as The Facts About Defense Sprays and How to Use Them to Bring Criminals to Their Knees, which he calls “a long title for a short book.”

That book, Jones said, “will give you the self-confidence to use any of our self-defense products, whether you are going to use a pepper spray or not.”

The Belvedere Company, which Jones calls a “one-stop shop for personal security products,” sells to customers in the Charlottesville area, elsewhere in Virginia, and – with a few minor exceptions – in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

SUGGESTED LINKS

Federal court strikes down Virginia same-sex marriage ban but stays order
Civil liberties lawyer John Whitehead recalls Beatles' social, political impact
'Proselytizing for freedom,' Robert Sarvis bids for U.S. Senate in Virginia
Privileges, immunities, gun rights: Charlottesville lawyer Buddy Weber discusses the 14th Amendment
Podcaster Adam Kokesh talks about NSA spying, gay marriage, and Justin Bieber

Original URL: http://www.examiner.com/article/charlottesville-entrepreneur-paul-jones-sells-non-lethal-self-defense-products

Sunday, August 28, 2016

From the Archives: Attorney Bruce Fein discusses NSA lawsuit, DHS spying, and FCC intrusions

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on February 21, 2014. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site was scheduled to go dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

Attorney Bruce Fein discusses NSA lawsuit, DHS spying, and FCC intrusions

Constitutional attorney and former Reagan administration official Bruce Fein spoke in Charlottesville on Thursday, February 20, about his book, Constitutional Peril: The Life and Death Struggle for Our Constitution and Democracy, at a forum sponsored by the Rutherford Institute and hosted by the Barnes & Noble at Barracks Road Shopping Center.

In an interview with the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner just before his presentation, Fein said he would also comment on events since the book's 2009 publication, events that illustrate how “violations of the constitution have become so chronic that they numb the public and even elected officials to the danger we encounter as we move toward what I call 'one branch tyranny' – secret government, [with] everything subordinated to a risk-free existence and absolute executive power.”

Since writing the book, he said, “ we've inched even further along that perilous path.”

NSA spying
One example came with the revelations that the National Security Agency has been engaged in domestic spying against American citizens. In response, Fein has been working with U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) on a law suit against President Barack Obama filed as a class action “on behalf of every single American who's made a phone call in the last five years.”

He explained that “the NSA since 2006 has been collecting, without any suspicion of wrongdoing, the telephony metadata on every single American's phone calls. That means they get the number you dialed, your own number, the duration of the call, and perhaps where the location is.”

The NSA collects this information, he said, even though the agency has “no suspicion at all that you're engaged in any kind of wrongdoing, that what you're doing has anything to do with foreign intelligence.”

The agency justifies its spying with the belief that, “by collecting this data, at some future point, they may be able to connect your phone number with a foreign phone number that has some possible connection with international terrorism.”

'Dragnet surveillance'
This, Fein said, “is a dragnet surveillance of staggering proportions” yet in the eight years since the program was initiated, “there have been no uses of the program that have resolved a single terrorism investigation.”

The argument of the lawsuit is that the NSA's metadata collection “violates the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures,” he said. “You have a right to keep your metadata free from government surveillance and the fact that your phone company has it doesn't mean that you've expected the government to have it. The government can put you in prison; the phone company cannot.”

The resolution sought by the lawsuit is “to get a judicial order requiring the NSA to expunge from their database, which is perhaps the largest database in the history of the world, all of this telephony metadata, and forbid it from being collected in the future.”

If the lawsuit succeeds, he explained, “it would expunge all of the information that now hangs over everybody's head like a sword of Damocles.”

Collecting license plate data
Fein also commented on a recent news story that the Department of Homeland Security had put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) to track the location of every vehicle's license plate in the United States. (The RFP was later withdrawn in the face of public opposition.)

Even though the program was suspended, he said, “we can anticipate there'll be efforts to use surveillance drones to capture where Americans are 24 hours a day, if they step outside their home.”

This is, he explained, “all part of what I call the psychology of a risk-free existence. That's the bane of any republic because liberty can't persist without some risk.”

The DHS example shows how “the government feels that they should try to gather all information at all times about everything we do because it at some future time it might be connected with an international terrorist investigation, which again turns the whole idea of liberty on its head,” Fein explained.

“We have an inherent right to be let alone, just because we're human beings,” he said, “and that right can be disturbed only if the government can advance a compelling reason to think you're engaged in some kind of wrongdoing or have information relevant to some wrongdoing or antisocial behavior.”

Americans are not required to explain to the government “why we want to be let alone,” Fein explained, because “it's just inherent of being an American, and that has been turned on its head. The government now assumes that they have the right to get every [bit of] information they can conceive about you.”

FCC in TV newsrooms
Fein also commented on a program proposed by the Federal Communications Commission – also withdrawn in the face of public opposition – that would embed investigators in every television newsroom to determine how reporters decide what stories to feature on their broadcasts.

That kind of activity by the FCC, he said, “It is an outrage. We would expect that in Russia or China or maybe in Belarus.”

The FCC's proposal, he said, violates the understanding that “the government never has a right to impair anyone's privacy -- to look at anything that Americans are doing – unless they have, at the outset, some plausible basis to think wrongdoing is underway.”

In a republic, Fein said, “the people censure the government; the government does not censure the people.”

He concluded the interview by quoting Thomas Jefferson, who said: “When the government fears the people, you have liberty. When the people fear the government, you have tyranny.”

Unfortunately, Fein asserted, “we are approaching the latter, unless we change that trajectory very quickly.”

Bruce Fein also appeared on WCHV-FM's “Inside Charlottesville” with Coy Barefoot on the same evening he spoke at Barnes & Noble.

SUGGESTED LINKS

Rutherford Institute asks local lawmakers to speak out against drones
Rutherford Institute endorses Charlottesville marijuana resolution
Charlottesville lawyers compile rules against ‘politically correct’ Xmas
Charlottesville civil liberties lawyer assesses 2012-13 Supreme Court term
Charlottesville entrepreneur Paul Jones sells non-lethal self-defense products

Original URL: http://www.examiner.com/article/attorney-bruce-fein-discusses-nsa-lawsuit-dhs-spying-and-fcc-intrusions




Saturday, August 27, 2016

From the Archives: Immigration laws may make United States poorer, says economist Daniel Lin

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on February 22, 2014. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site was scheduled to go dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

Immigration laws may make United States poorer, says economist Daniel Lin

America is, “on average, poorer” because immigration laws limit the number of willing workers who can come to the United States and offer their services to willing employers.

That was one of the points made by economist Daniel Lin during an interview with the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner after he delivered a lecture at the University of Virginia on the topic, "Who Wins? Who Loses? The Economic Effects of Immigration."

Educated at UCLA and George Mason University, Lin teaches economics at American University, where his research interests include the industrial organization of entertainment industries, the theory of the firm, and the antitrust implications of various theories of competition. His lecture at UVA was sponsored by Young Americans for Liberty and the Institute for Humane Studies.

“Most of the discussion about whether we should allow more immigrants” into the United States, Lin said in the interview, focuses on the question, “Is the increase in well-being that we see for the immigrants, is that enough to justify the fact that Americans suffer?”

'Foreigners benefit us'
Even if you don't “say that foreigners are worth just as much as Americans,” he continued, “you can say that we should focus on Americans first.”

Still, Lin added, “what this discussion is missing is: Do we really know what's happening to Americans? And are we really paying attention to how much foreigners benefit us when they come here?”

The purpose of his lecture, he said, was to point out how “we're not really sure about either of those things. It turns out the effects on Americans, when we allow more foreigners, are not conclusively negative.”

Some “respectable economists,” he explained, argue that “when we allow more foreigners in, it allows more Americans to specialize in higher-wage jobs, to do more,” and the wages of Americans “go up.”

Complementing Americans
Part of the reason for this is complementarity, meaning that immigrants do jobs that free up Americans to do other jobs, often jobs that pay higher wages and are more productive.

“When we see workers coming in,” Lin explained, “we often think that they directly compete with all Americans, but that's not quite correct. When new workers come into this country, they are also complements to American workers.”

He offered the example of someone who is a programmer or a scientist.

“If you have that person mow his own lawn, or cook his own food, or make his own clothes, he's going to have to take time away from being a scientist [or] being a programmer,” he said.

If, instead, someone else performs those tasks, the American “can focus more time on being a scientist, being a programmer, and do more work, be more productive,” Lin explained. “The helper is not a direct competitor to the scientist or the programmer or the teacher or researcher, whatever.”

The immigrant is instead “a complement, who makes that person [the American] better off. That is why you don't see people who are hiring nannies or gardeners recoiling when they do that. They're not forced to do those things. They want to do those things. It's the laws that are trying to prevent those things from happening.”

The people “who are doing the hiring and the people who are doing the working,” Lin pointed out “both benefit when they are allowed to contract with each other.”

Making Americans poorer
Having laws that impede immigration into the United States makes everybody poorer, he explained.

“The current laws allow foreigners to come in but it is a trickle compared to the number of people who want to come in and the number of people who Americans want to hire,” Lin said.

“If you look at the waiting list for visas” for people who want to work in the United States, which are often multiple-years long, Lin said, “we certainly can conclude that America is, on average, poorer because we block these types of contracts from happening – these exchanges from happening.”

When people who want to work in the United States “are being prevented from coming here and the Americans who would benefit from having these extra workers are not allowed to have those benefits,” he argued, “we certainly do see Americans on the whole being poorer than otherwise they would be.”

The stereotype that immigrants are hard-working and ambitious is “rooted in truth,” Lin said, because of “selection bias” that comes from people who are “willing to overcome the cultural differences, the language differences, moving apart from [their] home town [and] family,” in order to come here to work, as well as who are “willing to put up with a lot of bureaucracy” to get that “golden ticket” permitting them to work in the United States.

SUGGESTED LINKS

Charlottesville entrepreneur Paul Jones sells non-lethal self-defense products
What is the DREAM Act, and why is it important? A conversation with Claire GastaƱaga
Omidyar Network's Karol Boudreaux offers optimistic view of African economies
Economist Peter Boettke deflates candidates’ concept of ‘energy independence’
James Robinson discusses 'why nations fail' at George Mason University

Original URL:  http://www.examiner.com/article/immigration-laws-may-make-united-states-poorer-says-economist-daniel-lin

Friday, August 26, 2016

From the Archives: GOP can regain control of Senate in 2014, says strategist Grover Norquist

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on March 9, 2014. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site was scheduled to go dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

GOP can regain control of Senate in 2014, says strategist Grover Norquist

Republicans can regain a majority in the U.S. Senate in the 2014 general election and even Virginia Democrat Mark Warner is vulnerable, said strategist Grover Norquist in an interview at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which ended its three-day run on March 8 in suburban Washington, D.C.

Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and author of Leave Us Alone: America's New Governing Majority, told the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner that he was encouraged by the CPAC turnout of more than 11,000 participants, including “a majority of people under 25,” which he characterized as “extremely, extremely healthy.”

'Dull roar'
In contrast to past years, he said, “the whining is down to a dull roar.” In terms of content – speeches and panel discussions – “we've really covered a whole host of broad center-right issues.”

Overall, Norquist said, "I'm pleased, I'm happy. It's going well. People are excited. We've got all these Senate races and the candidates are being highlighted, so it's good stuff.”

With regard to the prospects of the Republican Party taking control of the U.S. Senate this year, Norquist is optimistic.

Gaining a GOP majority is “more likely than not,” he said.

Republicans “need to pick up six for control. There are seven that look very, very good.”

The likely pick-ups are in “overwhelmingly Republican states with weak” Democrats holding those Senate seats, and there are “competent Republicans running."

Seven probable pick-ups
Norquist ticked off the names of the seven states: “Alaska, South Dakota, Montana, West Virginia, North Carolina, Louisiana, and Arkansas.”

In each of those seven, he said, there is “a fine candidate who's been nominated or will be nominated” and in “each of them, the Democrat is not as strong as they might like.”

All those states, he added, were won by Mitt Romney in 2012 with a margin of more than ten percent, and they have all been trending Republican “where our guys are pulling ahead.”

In addition to those likely seven pickups, Norquist continued, “you have a series of states like Michigan, where all polls have the Republican candidate ahead.”

He also mentioned New Hampshire, “where the Republicans have a real shot” and Iowa, “where you have to decide who the Republican [nominee] is but they all poll OK against” the Democrats' candidate.

In Iowa, he averred, “I suppose it's possible to nominate the guy who could lose” but in Colorado, “we have a weak Democrat and a [Republican] congressman who wasn't going to get in” has now entered the race, “clearing the field – so Colorado is in play with every reason to think we could win that one.”

Worrisome Georgia and Kentucky
There are two Republican-held seats to worry about, however.

First is Georgia, “because if you nominate the wrong guy, you could lose that, but there's a runoff, so I don't think they will nominate the wrong guy.”

The other is Kentucky, “where some people think [Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell should have passed a bunch of laws with 45 Republicans because they haven't learned to count.”

Instead, “they think it's because he's a liberal that he hasn't been able to beat the guy [Majority Leader Harry Reid] with 55 votes with [McConnell's] 45 votes. There are many things, perhaps, to criticize Mitch McConnell on. Not being able to win votes in the U.S. Senate with 45 [Republicans] is not one of those things you can fairly whine about.”

Still, Norquist cautioned, McConnell has “been damaged by his challenger in the primary. I'd keep an eye on that seat but I think Republicans should be able to take the Senate.”

Virginia's vulnerable Warner
Even in Virginia, where popular former Governor Mark Warner is seeking re-election to the U.S. Senate this year, Norquist sees reason for Republicans to be hopeful.

Warner is vulnerable, he said, basing his assessment on having spoken with the incumbent Senator at a recent event in Washington.

“I ran into Mark Warner at a party the other day and, he said, [he] wasn't in Davos” for the annual global economics conference because Republican challenger Ed Gillespie is running for office.

“'So I'm here,'” Norquist quoted Senator Warner.

Gillespie, who has three rivals for the GOP nomination (Tony DeTora, Shak Hill, and Chuck Moss) “is a competent candidate,” he explained. “He can raise money. He's uniting the party.”

Norquist concluded that, “with any sort of a good Republican year,” Virginia has “a Senate seat that Gillespie could win and Mark Warner could lose.”

Warner will face Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis in the November election, as well as the eventual Republican nominee, who will be chosen at a convention in Roanoke on June 7.

The full audio interview with Grover Norquist will be available soon on Bearing Drift radio, The Score.

SUGGESTED LINKS

Grover Norquist surveys the 2012 political and legislative landscape
Grover Norquist discusses congressional government and GOP candidates
LNC executive director Wes Benedict takes Libertarian message to CPAC
GOProud’s Jimmy LaSalvia talks about CPAC and gay conservatives
'Proselytizing for freedom,' Robert Sarvis bids for U.S. Senate in Virginia

Original URL: http://www.examiner.com/article/gop-can-regain-control-of-senate-2014-says-strategist-grover-norquist