Monday, May 25, 2015

Recent Articles from Bearing Drift: free speech, marijuana, & domestic spying

As many readers know already, I am a contributor to Bearing Drift, which uses the tagline "Virginia's Conservative Voice."  When I appear on Coy Barefoot's radio show on WCHV-FM, he identifies me as a writer for Bearing Drift as well as for this web site.

I have not previously done a round-up of my Bearing Drift articles but, seeing how I have done the same for, it may be worthwhile to start doing that periodically.

Here are my recent contributions to Bearing Drift, in reverse chronological order, dating to December 2014, with brief excerpts from each.

In Virginia, what's the difference between a barber and a rent-a-cop? (April 30, 2015)

Virginia lawmakers and regulators should be embarrassed.

According to a 2012 report from the Arlington County-based Institute for Justice,
Virginia is the 11th most broadly and onerously licensed state. It has the eighth most burdensome licensing laws, requiring aspiring practitioners to pay $153 in fees, lose 462 days — more than 15 months — to education and experience and take one exam. Sixteen of the 46 low- to moderate-income occupations Virginia licenses are commercial construction contractors and account for much of the state’s ranking.
A 2015 study from the liberal Brookings Institution notes that more than 20 percent of Virginia jobs require either licenses or certifications by the state...

24th annual Jefferson Muzzle Awards announced tonight (April 20, 2015)
We all recall Thomas Jefferson’s quip: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” No doubt, if Jefferson were alive today, he would include blogs as well as newspapers — and perhaps even cheekily elevate blogs above newspapers.

Each year the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression celebrates its namesake’s birthday by awarding the Jefferson Muzzles to malevolent or stupid government officials or agencies that violate the spirit and the letter of the First Amendment by preventing or punishing speech.

Conservative movement co-founder Stan Evans passes away (March 3, 2015)
M. Stanton Evans, one of the founders of the modern conservative movement, has died at 80. Evans was a Loudoun County resident but was better known for his involvement in national politics than Virginia affairs.

Evans graduated from college in 1955, after helping organize what became known as the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, still the largest conservative organization serving university students with intellectual ammunition.

For 60 years, Evans worked alongside William F. Buckley, Jr., Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, and others in building the conservative movement and giving it its strength and character. He was “present at the creation” by drafting the Sharon Statement, which was the founding document of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) and animated the conservative movement for 40 years or longer.

NPR interviews Del. Rich Anderson about privacy concerns (February 23, 2015)
Anderson explained his concerns about how police are able to take “thousands and thousands of photographs” of license plates “every hour.” By piecing that information together, he said, “they are certainly able to determine the whereabouts, the habit patterns, the associations, the interests, and all those sorts of personal things that, I think, most American citizens would rather be protected.”

He said the use of license plate readers “creates an ill-at-ease sort of response among the many citizens with whom I have spoken. It’s just an inherently American quality that we have an expectation of privacy.”

Anderson noted that he had patroned a bill this year that limits the period of time law enforcement can keep the data collected by license plate readers.

Poll shows majority of Virginians favor marijuana law reform (January 28, 2015)
It’s noteworthy that even “self-identified conservatives and Republicans” support legalizing medical marijuana. Question 23 of the survey, which asks about decriminalization in general, shows that 54 percent of conservatives and 52 percent of Republicans support the idea.

Four years ago, former Delegate Harvey Morgan (R-Gloucester), a retired pharmacist, introduced legislation similar to Ebbin’s bill. The effort failed but Morgan told me at the time that “almost everyone thinks it’s the right thing to do. Many people say legalize it and tax it” in addition to decriminalizing it. He added that he foresaw wider support emerging because “the cost — not only to the individual but the cost to our court system — is unbelievable with marijuana enforcement.”

Two years ago, while he was running for governor, former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli also expressed interest in the federalism implications of states’ decriminalization efforts.

Jim Gilmore for President? (January 25, 2015)
Former U.S. Senator Jim Webb is not the only Virginia politician exploring a possible presidential bid in 2016. Former Governor and Attorney General Jim Gilmore (also a U.S. Senate candidate in 2008) was in Iowa this weekend doing all that one expects from a potential candidate — especially seeking out opportunities to talk to national news media.

Governor McAuliffe's voting machine proposal needs rethinking (December 22, 2014)
Sunday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch carried an op-ed piece of mine in which I take issue with Governor Terry McAuliffe’s recent proposal to provide $28 million in funding to Virginia counties and cities to buy new, up-to-date voting equipment — on the condition that all the localities buy the same hardware and software.

I argue that election security and protection against fraud is better served when each locality can purchase its own equipment, based on its own assessment of the needs of its voters and the capabilities of its election officials. A variety of voting systems is a deterrent against those who seek to alter the results of elections by hacking into the machines.

Congress votes to expand domestic spying powers (December 11, 2014)
Only two members of Virginia’s delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives voted against the Intelligence Authorization Act for fiscal year 2015, which includes a provision to expand the executive branch’s authority to spy on American citizens and to monitor our communications.

The two Virginia representatives who voted to protect citizens’ privacy were Dave Brat (R-VA7), the state’s newest Member of Congress, and Morgan Griffith (R-VA9, in photo).

The provision to expand communications surveillance authority was inserted by Senate Democrats and discovered at the eleventh hour through the due diligence of Representative Justin Amash (R-Mich.), who warned his colleagues about it in a letter circulated shortly before the bill came to a vote.

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