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.

For frequent updates from Bearing Drift, check out its Facebook page, here.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Recent Articles on Bernie Sanders, Rick Santorum, & chickens

It has been quite some time since I provided a round-up of my recent interviews and articles on  So why not now?

Here, in reverse chronological order, are the pieces I have written since October 2014, with brief excerpts from each:

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders stumps for support in Charlottesville (May 13, 2015)

White House hopeful Bernie Sanders spoke to an enthusiastic audience in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Monday, May 11, laying out his policy vision and contrasting it directly with that of the Republican Congress and indirectly to that of his opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Sanders delivered his remarks to an overflow crowd at Trinity Episcopal Church, whose sanctuary has chairs for just 100 people. Another 175 or so squeezed into a basement room and the narthex....

In what is likely to become his standard stump speech, self-defined Socialist Sanders addressed a range of issues that were only related to the budget in the sense that they are items the government spends money on, such as free college tuition for students in public institutions and a multi-trillion dollar program to improve transportation infrastructure. He decried the Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United case and proposed public financing for federal election campaigns.
That article about Senator Sanders' visit to Charlottesville also included this video:

Poultry industry is trade-talk pawn of South African government, says analyst
(May 5, 2015)
After a presentation about South Africa's economy at the Cato Institute in Washington on May 4, the CEO of the South African Institute of Race Relations, Frans Cronje, suggested that this “playing chicken (literally)” represents a significant and troubling trend within South Africa's policy making circles.

In an interview with the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner, Cronje -- author of A Time Traveller's Guide to Our Next Ten Years (2014) -- explained that “South Africa is recording a trade deficit with every major region and country in the world except the United States and non-energy Africa, and that's only because of the generosity of AGOA.”

In the AGOA negotiations, he said, what we saw “was the chicken producers being used as a pawn by South Africa's Department of Trade and Industry.”

Think-tank head Jason Grumet reacts to Obama's mandatory voting idea
(March 19, 2015)
Grumet described his 2014 book, City of Rivals: Restoring the Glorious Mess of American Democracy, and, in a post-panel interview with the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner, he reacted to the president's idea of making voting mandatory, under the threat of punishment, for American citizens.

“There's a constitutional issue,” he said.

Compulsory voting, he explained, is “more of an aspiration than a practical solution. Like everything, there are pros and cons.”

Grumet conceded that “it would be terrific to have greater participation in a participatory democracy” but he pointed to problems in the country identified by President Obama as a potential model.

In Australia, he said, experience has shown that “the downside is a lot of people are essentially forced to vote who have no desire to participate in the process, no information about the process, and so there's a question about whether you dilute the quality of the voter pool.”

Former Senator Rick Santorum says homosexuals deserve protection (March 8, 2015)
First, Santorum, who is well known for his socially conservative positions with regard to gay rights, was asked whether it is appropriate for the U.S. Department of State to defend the rights of homosexuals in foreign countries where their lives might be threatened by anti-gay governments.

“We have to defend human rights everywhere,” Santorum replied. “If someone's life is threatened because of race, sexual orientation, or other [reasons], I think we have an obligation to stand up and defend that human right. I don't have a problem at all, if people's lives are in jeopardy, then we have an obligation to protect all people and their freedoms.”
That article also included this video of a press gaggle with Rick Santorum at CPAC:

Lamar Alexander honored for his work promoting civics, history education (March 5, 2015)
Alexander recalled that the subject of his maiden speech on the floor of the United States Senate “was the importance of teaching U.S. history in our schools so our children could grow up knowing what it means to be an American.” He noted that the lowest test scores for high school seniors “are not in math or science. They're in United States history.”

He conceded that “there's not much the federal government ought to try to do about that in local schools” because that kind of involvement at the local level is “not a very good Republican, federalist idea.”

He explained that he was inspired to sponsor congressional and presidential academies for school teachers, one from each state, to learn more about American history and how to teach it better.

Conservative icon Stan Evans dies at 80; remembered as 'present at the creation' (March 3, 2015)
Noting that Evans had been “present at the creation” of the conservative movement, he replied to a question about whether the movement today is more disputatious than in the past, or if it is in an unprecedented crisis.

“Other times were infinitely worse,” he said, “because we didn't have the resources or the positions of strength we have now,” noting the low point of the movement may have been the 1964 presidential and congressional elections, when Barry Goldwater lost to Lyndon Johnson in a landslide and the Democrats won their largest majority in Congress since the 1930s.

In contrast to those years in the wilderness, Evans explained, 50 year later “we have a Speaker of the House, a Republican majority in the House. There are 30 Republican governors. We have 24 states that have one-party rule, governor and the legislature of the same party, all Republican,” compared to just 12 states controlled by Democrats.

“The list goes on,” he continued, but cautioned that “we're not using the position of strength we have. We're not fighting hard enough.”

African ambassador calls for 'peace, love, and understanding' in D.C. speech (February 22, 2015)
Referring to Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker's 2012 book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Ambassador Moussa-Adamo noted that “we live in the most peaceful era of human history. Not only are there fewer wars now than there were even in the recent, 20th-century past, but there are fewer violent crimes such as assault and murder.”

He added that this is true not only in the industrialized, Western democracies like Europe and North America, but also in so-called developing countries of Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

Nonetheless, he said, statistics that say violence is reduced to record low levels is small comfort to the victim of terrorism or sexual assault.

Virginia General Assembly passes bipartisan bills to legalize industrial hemp
(February 12, 2015)

“The United States is the largest consumer of hemp products in the world,” says Virginia libertarian activist Nicholas Cote, “but it is the only industrialized country that prohibits farmers from growing hemp.”

Despite this, Cote is optimistic that change is on the horizon. Last week, both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly approved bills to allow the licensed cultivation of industrial hemp, following the lead of legislatures in Kentucky and North Dakota. The bill in the House of Delegates (HB 1277), sponsored by Del. Joseph Yost (R-Blacksburg), passed on a vote of 98-0. The Senate bill (SB 955)sponsored by state Senator Roz Dance (D-Petersburg), passed on a vote of 32-5.

In a recent interview, Cote -- who heads up the advocacy group, Right Way Forward Virginia -- told the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner that the bipartisan nature of the support for these bills is heartening, but he is disappointed that Virginia's congressional delegation has not stepped up to the plate.

Index of Economic Freedom shows global progress for 2015, while USA loses ground (February 2, 2015)
Florance noted that people are surprised to find out that the United States is not in the “free” category, and does not even have one of the ten most free economies in the world.

“The United States is actually twelfth,” she said, “in the mostly free category and it falls behind countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Chile, Canada, and even a very small African country, Mauritius.”

That last country, she explained, is “an island but still part of sub-Saharan Africa and it is actually ranked tenth – so a very tiny economy is actually ranked more free than the United States.”

In the past two decades, according to the annual Index of Economic Freedom, the world as a whole has become increasingly free. The United States is something of an exception in that it has become less free.

Top 10 most-read Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner stories of 2014
(December 31, 2014)

Interviews with the three U.S. Senate candidates – Republican Ed Gillespie, Libertarian Robert Sarvis, and Democrat Mark Warner, who narrowly won re-election in November – were among the top ten, as well as an assessment of David Brat's surprise victory over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the Republican primary. Early in the year, conservative activist Grover Norquist correctly predicted that the GOP would gain control of the Senate.

Gay marriage, Governor Bob McDonnell's indictment on federal corruption charges, podcaster Adam Koresh's views on NSA spying, and the self-defense products sold by entrepreneur Paul Jones rounded out the top ten most-read stories by the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner.

Barry Goldwater 'absolutely' was a libertarian, his son explains (December 30, 2014)
Goldwater, who represented California in Congress from 1969 to 1983, explained that his father remained an icon of the Republican Party despite differing from social conservatives on contentious issues.

In the senior Goldwater's view (and his son's, too), “whether you're gay or a lesbian is a personal thing. It's no business of the government. And abortion, a woman who is carrying this baby – that's her decision, not the government's,” said Barry, Jr. “He was pretty consistent with his libertarian and conservative views when it came to such things as social issues.”

Cato Institute panel discusses obscure but pivotal gay civil rights case (November 24, 2014)
Although these events took place decades ago, Rauch said, “this is not ancient history. The principle is alive today.” Linsky noted that the current work of the Mattachine Society of Washington is a “testament to history itself,” because it is “giving voice to individuals who couldn't stand up for themselves.”

Noting the progress over the past several decades – including legal gay marriage in the majority of states, the end to the gay military ban, and other legal achievements – Rauch said that ONE Inc. v. Olesen is “the most important civil rights case we've ever had” as gay people and it put gay men and lesbians “on the path to freedom,” because it provided the legal foundation to talk about ideas and to “transmit those ideas at a great personal risk.”

After a series of questions and answers with the audience, moderator Walter Olson noted the importance of the discussion, which has broader applications than simply gay Americans. It demonstrated, he said, how “freedom of expression” assists the liberation of “historically marginalized groups” and their individual members and that, ultimately, suppression of speech and the press harms those groups by depriving them of their capacity to argue for their own dignity and civil rights.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe touts Virginia film industry at Charlottesville movie fest
(November 6, 2014)

Big Stone Gap was filmed entirely in its namesake Virginia mountain town and stars Jenna Elfman, Jasmine Guy, Ashley Judd, and Patrick Wilson. All four actors and Trigiani spoke at a press conference at the Paramount Theater prior to the film's screening, and Governor McAuliffe made a surprise appearance as it ended.

McAuliffe took that opportunity to boast about Virginia's film industry and the economic benefits it generates.

“We are so excited about our film industry,” he said, pointing to figures from 2012 that indicate there was “about $380 million of economic activity here in the Commonwealth,” creating 3,000 jobs.

Virginia Senate hopeful Robert Sarvis talks about U.S. policy toward Africa
(November 1, 2014)

The role of African countries as transit ports in the international illicit drug trade is something that also concerns Sarvis, and he has a solution for it.

“Our drug war has undermined the rule of law and civil society in Latin America,” he noted. “That's also happening in Africa. It's also undermined our efforts in Afghanistan over the past decade.”

Whether in Africa or elsewhere, he explained, “the problem is our war on drugs and anything that we can do to move away from our prohibitionist mentality is going to undermine the violent gangs and organized criminal enterprises that we created” through current drug policy dating back several decades.

Sarvis said that legalizing marijuana in just two states, Colorado and Washington, has already had an adverse effect on drug cartels operating in Mexico.

“We can have beneficial effects around the world by changing our policy at home on drugs,” he asserted.

Monique Luiz, 'Daisy Girl' from controversial 1964 campaign ad, speaks at UVA (October 15, 2014)
For more than four decades, Luiz did not acknowledge that she was the girl in the ad. In 2009, however, she discovered that another woman was claiming to be her and was trying to capitalize on the TV spot's notoriety. Luiz came forward with documentation that she was the authentic “Daisy Girl” and subsequently was interviewed by Mann for his book, which is how she came to appear at UVA this week.

When she auditioned for the part, neither she nor her parents knew that DDB was making a political ad. She stood out among the many little girls who tried out because of her red hair, and also because her father was persistent.

“I think it was my father who sold them” on the idea “that I could do it,” she recalled. “He pretty much said, 'I can't guarantee anything but she'll try.'”

Economist Adam Smith looks at the 'Bootleggers & Baptists' phenomenon (October 14, 2014)
Smith explained that the term “bootleggers and Baptists” originated during alcohol Prohibition in the 1920s, when “you had bootleggers and Baptists with aligned interests” even if they did not realize it.

Baptists, he explained, proclaimed “Down with legalized distribution of alcohol!” because they saw drinking as morally detrimental. Bootleggers, too, proclaimed “Down with legalized distribution of alcohol!” because Prohibition raised the price of illegal liquor and fed more profits to the bootleggers.

“It was a boon to the bootleggers,” Smith explained, “and the Baptists were kind of oblivious to that situation.”
A full, reverse-chronological listing of Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner articles can be found here.